Needle in the Groove
Jeff Noon  
Needle in the Groove Image Cover
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Publisher:Anchor Books
Purchased On:2006-03-19
Date Added:2006-03-19
Summary: we make music down there, all the week/and I have to say, away from the club, the band is even better/we make a noise like I've never known, just this one great stripped-raw channel of searching out/for the first time in years, I'm actually playing something/all the smalltown dregs of flair get magnified and yer know what, I can't help falling in love with the whole idea of being brilliant/to be myself at last, lost in the rhythm
Needle In The Groove, Jeff Noon's fifth novel, follows his short story collection Pixel Juiceand confirms him as one of the most inventive and exciting of modern British writers. Set, like his previous books, in a slightly futuristic, reimagined Manchester (where, in this novel, streets are named after musicians and bands such as Joy Division, The Fall, 808 State and A Guy Called Gerald), the book follows Elliot Hill, a bass player and ex-junkie trudging the pub-rock circuit, who is invited to join a new band: fusing DJ artistry, voice and rhythm section, the group's hypnotic groove creation is augmented by a startling new recording technology. The band seems bound for success--until one of them vanishes. Elliot's subsequent search draws him into a secret history of music that stretches back 40 years and into his own past.
Noon's admitted affinity for music over literature as a source for inspiration takes concrete form here: the book takes the idea of the remix as it's formal--and thematic--principle. Where William Burroughs, in the 1950s and '60s, looked to collage--to formal innovation in the visual arts--as inspiration for his textual cut-ups, Noon's spur for rethinking modern prose is the revolution in music in the last two decades: the sample, the mix and the manipulation of sound provide the lexicon and grammar for his experiments with language. Although by no means the first to rethink writing in this way (Kodwo Eshun's "conceptual engineering" in More Brilliant than the Sunor Simon Reynolds' take on dance music in Energy Flashapply sonic invention and mixology to music criticism), Noon's use of musical techniques genuinely attempts to extend the possibilities of fiction. Love, desire, the metaphoric architecture of literature are all reimagined through his "liquid dub poetics": by taking near-clichés of fiction--the tensions between father and son, the (bizarre) love triangle--and subjecting them to the interference of linguistic experiment, Noon balances a compelling, straight narrative against the warped logic of the mix. It reads like a technologised, nervy version of Modernist stream of consciousness, punctuated by the backslash, that ubiquitous partitioner of URLs and familiar of Web-surfers everywhere. Pulp fiction meets dub? Just get into the groove. --Burhan Tufail