Go Now

Stephanie Zacharek reviews Richard Hell's novel "Go Now".

Published June 21, 1996 7:00PM (EDT)

The big problem with "Go Now," the debut novel by legendary punk rocker Richard Hell ("Blank Generation"), is that it wants so badly to be Jim Carroll's "Basketball Diaries" that its sense of self burns away completely, leaving a trace about as memorable as the brown gunk in the bowl of a junkie's spoon.

The story follows Billy Mud, a burned-out New York musician, heroin addict and sex nut, who's hired by a rich businessman/rock impresario to drive a '57 DeSoto back east from California and to write about the experience. Billy's ex-girlfriend Chrissa will go along, taking pictures to accompany his prose. Billy spends most of the trip trying, halfheartedly and fruitlessly, to straighten out, and he litters the novel with musings that are flung at us like Ding-Dong wrappers from a car window: "I am vertiginous with the outpouring of tainted self-conscious atmosphere from inside me infecting and stripping the exterior, but worse having no effect on it at all."

When the novel lurches into Billy's final act of sexual depravity, we're probably supposed to be shocked and sickened as well as wrung out with compassion for this hopeless soul -- but by that point, we've been so flogged by his raw nerve endings that we can't feel much of anything ourselves. Hell's contribution to punk history is assured; this book just isn't part of it.

By Stephanie Zacharek

Stephanie Zacharek is a senior writer for Salon Arts & Entertainment.

MORE FROM Stephanie Zacharek

Related Topics ------------------------------------------