Thursday, September 5, 2013

Book review, literary panache: Pepperland, by Barry Wightman

Product Details

Pepperland by Barry Wightman
Running Meter Press
c. April 2013
$9.99 eBook; $19.99 Print
Genre: historical fiction

I am in a strange place as I read Pepperland. I am transported to a vague recollection of my father coming home to announce the assignation of President Kennedy, of wearing granny dresses and wire rims in grade school during the hippy movement, of wondering what Kent State was about, of seeing welcome banners in the neighborhood when a son returned from Viet Nam and the resulting devastation, and of being in college and watching the movie Billy Jack and wondering what I could protest when the world was trying to put the seventies behind it and going corporate.

Set in the late sixties, Pepperland revolves around  Martin, “Pepper,” Porter, a man who wanted “to bang on the drum all day,” as the song says, instead of using his considerable talent and college degree in computer programming to bring in the big bucks of corporate America, possibly losing his soul in the process. Instead, he explores a relationship with a woman he met at school in Ann Arbor, “Fights the good fight and makes a difference,” as one of his professors challenges, by putting together a rock band and fighting to be heard. Avoiding entropy is a theme as the reader follows Pepper while he finds his lost love in a Playboy club, works through the childhood death of a younger brother, and records his music.

Set in “Tracks” the story unfolds like an LP. It reads almost like a memoir, or an epitaph of changing times, making me wonder if we let go of that era a little too quickly. Like Harold Crick’s watch in Stranger Than Fiction, Pepper’s guitar pick sends subtle messages, reminding Pepper to follow the dream. I am a step out of place, as I laughed at Tony Orlando, but for those who appreciate the music and musicians of the sixties, Pepperland will play like a much-enjoyed echo of an era that isn’t lost, just resting at the back of the mind.



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