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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Book Club Review: One Hit Wonder by Charlie Carillo

In our celebrity saturated society even those thought long forgotten, idols from our youth who glimmered for just a summer, leaving us with a singular hit song that resonated in the public sending ripples through the pop culture pool, even they become relevant and interesting once more.

In Charlie Carillo's new book One Hit Wonder, we follow Mickey DeFalco, a Queens native who hit it big with his sappy yet melancholy ballad 'Sweet Days' as he returns home an utter failure and total has-been. In his shoes we feel what it's like to be loved and adored for that one contribution to people's lives.

An aging fan hooking up with her teenage fantasy. Bitter former classmates still toiling at menial jobs at home. The girl that was loved and lost, inspiring those epic refrains. These are the people around Mickey that marvel at his achievement and fall from grace. They hold him at a distance, as something other than themselves.

Through flashbacks we're shown even more moments of awkward celebrity. From playing a cruise ship to kids birthday parties, no indignity is spared, and Mickey just casually walks his way through each of them, only passionate and excitable when clinging to his last shreds of dignity.

There's something to Mickey's boy-like demeanor and passive aggressive nature that really shines in the prose. This feels like a real person who could neatly slide into our pop song past. His parents are peppered with sentimental details that make them so true to life. You can see their past as Mickey grew up in their home.

The whole book is littered with truths. About life, love, family. Just lines tossed out here and there that feel like universal truths, spit out by a wiseass Queens kid in a 38 year old's body. The concept of hitting bottom and trying to resurface, flailing about in inconsistency of actions, taking the easy route when available, this is how people behave.

And then there's lost love. Idyllic in memory, which taints all reality about him, making it all a joke, another tragedy heaped upon the pile. How do you react when all you want is the girl, but instead are given fame and fortune? You self-destruct of course. Spiral to the bottom and find yourself again.

The book is very well written and consistent in its tone, with more than a few twists and turns that feel like the randomness of life, rather than the structure of plot. Not to give spoilers, but there is a happy ending there, but it may not exactly come as you'd think it would.

I have yet to read Carillo's other novels, but from this book I imagine he's got more than just this one song to offer.

Check out Charlie Carillo's website or his other book RAISING JAKE.

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