Horse’s Neck

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The Who set new standards for recklessness and fast living with their trashing of their instruments and the destruction of their hotel rooms. One would think that there would be plenty of material to draw upon, but these tales are, for the most part, less than satisfying.

Townshend states in the preface that these works are somewhat autobiographical, so it is safe to assume that certain events in the tales will sound familiar to those who followed Townshend and The Who. “Pancho and the Baron” concerns the death of a friend and fellow musician (Keith Moon?) whose demise brings the realization to the narrator that he, himself, has survived. In “Winston,” Townshend writes of a fellow musician’s reaction to John Lennon’s death, and several of the stories feature a musician named “Pete” as one of the characters.

One of the better stories, “The Plate,” deals with a detective’s erotic obsession with a disturbed young woman and her tale of murder. The story is fraught with sexual tension that builds and then ends in a disturbing conclusion. From what is known publicly about Townshend, this tale seems the least autobiographical. Perhaps that is why it works: it is not as self-consciously told.

Townshend is best known for his songwriting. Hits such as “My Generation” and the rock opera “Tommy” have brought him much-deserved recognition. These stories, however, seem underdeveloped and disappointing. In some of the descriptive passages, the prose becomes too flowery, almost to the point of distraction. Stories such as “Thirteen” and “An Impossible Song,” both centering on the image of horses, seem too self-consciously artsy.

Fans of Townshend’s music, especially those who listen closely to the lyrics, may find some of HORSE’S NECK to their liking, but his music is ultimately more satisfying than these cryptic tales.