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Anything Goes

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Anything Goes chronicles a year in the life of twenty-year-old Jesse, a sometimes bassist, sometimes lead guitarist in a traveling rock and roll band known as Anything Goes. Based in Nashville, the band’s leader Perry organizes long tours for the band where they play at a succession of rough and tumble bars; the band members always refer to each club as the Black Cat, no matter what city they’re playing. Performing on the road strains relationships in the band, however, as guitar talent Chris constantly vies with Perry for control. Although Jesse initially seems a calm and collected narrator, it isn’t long before readers realize he too is haunted by demons. Abandoned by his mother as a baby, Jesse has been raised by his abusive, alcoholic father, escaping him only when Jesse’s best friend and the drummer in the band, Allston, coached him in the martial arts. Doubting his ability as a musician, Jesse nevertheless initially attempts to follow Chris’s lead and play the role of the rock star by occasionally attempting to pick up girls and drink himself into a stupor.

Anything Goes differs from the traditional rock and roll story of burn out and tragedy, however, in that ultimately it is a novel about redemption. Having begun attending Alcoholics Anonymous, Jesse’s father presents Jesse with a restored vintage Mustang, and introduces him to Estelle. Before long, Estelle has joined Anything Goes under the stage name of Stella Houston, and on the virtue of her voice the band can suddenly achieve goals previously unattainable. As the band struggles to survive the stresses of the road, Chris’ abrupt departure, fights, and eventually Perry’s arrest, Jesse must also deal with his father’s attempts to reestablish a relationship with him. Jesse slowly learns to relinquish the past and to realize, too, where his own talents lie as both a musician and a man.