Friday, November 6, 2009

"Flying Saucer Rock and Roll" by Howard Waldrop

First things first: apologies for not posting yesterday. I went straight from work to a movie ( Where the Wild Things Are, which I highly recommend), and, by the time I got home, it was too late and I was too tired. So. . . yeah. . .

On to today's short story. I have to say that "Flying Saucer Rock and Roll" is brilliant. It's a wonderful celebration of the underdog and of 1950s to early 1960s acapella rock. It's also a great look into life in the New York Projects during the early 1960s (which, sadly seems to be awfully similar to what life is like in poor neighbourhoods today), and if filling with richly fleshed-out characters.

The one part of the story I don't quite understand is the inclusion of UFOs. I suppose it does provide a sort of escape from a hard life for the central character, Leroy. It also provides an interesting twist two an otherwise common, The Commitments-like story (although, to be perfectly fair, this story, which was published in 1984, predates Roddy Doyle's novel by a full three years). However, I'm not sure it's entirely necessary. There's already enough charisma; enough raw story here to ride to a satisfying conclusion without the UFOs. Perhaps Waldrop has a good reason for their inclusion. Or perhaps he simply set out to write a Science Fiction piece because that's what he likes to write, which, now that I think about it, is also a good reason for writing something. I'm not sure.

This is also not to say that the UFOs detract from the overall quality of the story. I think this element, like all of the other elements in the short story, is executed quite well. I'm just curious about why Waldrop chose to go this route when other, equally viable, but more common, routes would have been available to him.

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