Imperfect Solo by Steven Boykey Sidley

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Imperfect Solo by Steven Boykey Sidley

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: Florence Holmes
Reviewed by Florence Holmes
Summary: The dark story of a Hollywood antihero.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 271 Date: September 2016
Publisher: Blue Mark Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781910369135

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The whole human endeavour is based on the ability to judge others. So says Farzad, the overweight, monobrowed Iranian psychologist who acts as (unofficial) philosopher and analyst to Boykey Sidley's antihero Meyer. Meyer is not hesitant in his judgements, from women to music to his CEO, and Imperfect Solo could be said to orbit Meyer's intense desire for one of the jazz greats to judge his own sax solo as damn pretty. However, as the title suggests, events unfold outside Meyer's control and despite his house's position under the d of the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles, his life is far from that of a Hollywood hero.

In fact, it can be a struggle for the reader to feel sympathetic towards Meyer at all. The callousness with which he treats his girlfriend, Krystal, coupled with his frequent objectification of women when with his friends, makes it difficult to like Meyer at times. His drug use and long, aimless drives with the music on full blast push the reader further away from him, as he tries to escape the messiness of his life. Farzad talks to Meyer about the unthreaded life, where lives are seen as tapestries and Meyer's threads are tangled, obscuring any coherence or beauty in the picture.

However, Meyer's less attractive qualities are partially mitigated by the four guiding lights in his life; his deceased twin sister Rebbe, his first ex-wife Grace, his son Innocent (mothered by Grace) and his daughter Isobel (from his second ex-wife). In his relationship with these characters, the reader sees a softer side to Meyer, both more nurturing and more aspirational than that which comes through from his third person consciousness, or when he is with his friends. With his children in particular, the narcissistic front Boykey portrays Meyer as presenting to the world all but disappears, and we see the sorrowful discrepancy between the man Meyer wants to have been, and the man he has been and is.

The litany of past relationships and children seem to age Meyer so that it is always a surprise to be reminded that he is only forty. In many novels, this age would be portrayed as one of optimism and possibilities. For Meyer, however, it appears to be a downhill slope, with little hope of further success in his career, music or relationships. Worryingly, his son is teetering on the brink of going down the same path, embarking on a wild and drug-fuelled youth which will leave him physically and emotionally hollowed out by middle age. The depressing send of perpetual failure is enhanced by the novel's fast pace, as if time is running through the characters' fingers like sand, especially towards the end when an astonishing number of big events occur within a matter of days. This is somewhat unbelievable but easily forgivable in its ability to serve the plot and Meyer's shift in his relationship with dread, which is really about his relationship with life itself.

Further reading suggestions: Indignation by Philip Roth, The Music Instinct: How Music Works and Why We Can't Do without it by Philip Ball

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Buy Imperfect Solo by Steven Boykey Sidley at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Imperfect Solo by Steven Boykey Sidley at


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