The Rotters’ Club

I’ve been reading Jonathan Coe’s The Rotters’ Club. It’s a novel set in 1970’s Birmingham, England. It takes a coming of age story and weaves through it such themes as unionism, the National Front, the coming Thatcher years, progressive rock, punk rock, and the IRA. At one point, a link is made between the death of socialism and the death of prog-rock:

He giggled like a little maniac, and stared at me for a second or two before running off, and in that time I saw exactly the same thing I’d seen in Stubb’s eyes the day before. The same triumphalism, the same excitement, not because something new was being created, but because something was being destroyed. I thought about Philip and his stupid rock symphony and I swear that my eyes pricked with tears. This ludicrous attempt to squeeze the history of countless millennia into half an hour’s worth of crappy riffs and chord changes suddenly seemed no more Quixotic than all the things my dad and his colleagues had been working towards for so long. A national health service, free to everyone who needed it. Redistribution of wealth through taxation. Equality of opportunity. Beautiful ideas, Dad, noble aspirations, just as there was the kernel of something beautiful in Philip’s musical hodge-podge. But it was never going to happen. If there had ever been a time when it might have happened, that time was slipping away. The moment had passed. Goodbye to all that.

It jumped right out at me as a piece of great writing, even though I hate prog-rock. I recommend it. And it’s on sale at Chapters.

And looky! They made it into a movie.


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