Camden Joy: Fiction as Criticism
June 21, 2011 1:11 AM   Subscribe

"The more David Lowery read of Joy's novel, the more upset he became. Lowery could no longer ignore the fact that the book's main character bore his name, played in his bands and lived his damned life. It was him. And it was most definitely not him." Boy Island is a fictionalized account of Cracker's first tour, written by a fictitious character.

Camden Joy's book takes strange liberties with the story of the breakup of Camper Van Beethoven and formation of Cracker. Most notably, it makes Camden Joy himself the band's first drummer. The novel juxtaposes a fictional story of Camden's coming to terms with homosexuality with an (also mostly fictional, apparently) account of the band's exploits on tour.

Lowery threatened to sue HarperCollins, resulting in a tiny edit to Boy Island's disclaimer. "With the exception of those persons appearing under their own names, albeit at times in fictitious circumstances, all other characters are imaginary."

In a way, Boy Island was a culmination of the Camden Joy project. His early work - posters, essays, and rants dispersed around New York and other cities - played with identity and the lines between music criticism, memoir, fiction, and lying. (Read his Fifty Posters About Souled American and an excerpt from The Last Rock Star Book Or Liz Phair, a Rant).

In 2002, Joy was heralded by Rolling Stone as "one of the great rock writers of our age." But now - fittingly, perhaps - the persona seems to have completely vanished. More recently, he's been writing about baseball under his real name, Tom Adelman.
posted by roll truck roll (31 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I knew Real Person Fanfic existed. A local street press wrote a fictionlized account of Jack and Meg White's first meeting, which was really sweet, and I know similar stories exist for bands like The Beatles. But to write something like this about a marginal figure who people may find out about from the book is beyond that. It's like how The Boy with the Arab Strap still haunts Malcolm Middleton. It's pretty much wrong.

And that is why I will no longer be writing my epic Craig Finn/Brian Fallon buddy comedy.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 1:33 AM on June 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

Camden Joy, from the "Glorious Noise" interview: at the time, I was astounded by Lowery’s vehement determination to miss the point, although in retrospect it should have been no surprise. No character is able to appreciate what a novelist puts them through in a book, I suppose.

I'm not sure whether Tom Adelman doesn't understand why this is disturbing for David Lowery, or just doesn't care. Either way it's too bad Lowery has to go through this.
posted by dubold at 1:59 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

I get the feeling Boy Island will fail to live up to the promise of its title.
posted by londonmark at 3:33 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Couldn't Adelman have just named all the "real" characters something else? I understand there are precedents.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:48 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Is there some recent development in all of this? The links all look like they date from ten years ago or more. The book was published in 2000.
posted by blucevalo at 5:04 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Is there some recent development in all of this?

Rome fell a long time ago, but it's still interesting.
posted by Etrigan at 5:14 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Should have published this in France, RPF is perfectly legal there. Also, should have changed the names.
posted by subdee at 5:36 AM on June 21, 2011

This is again proof that when one person or a group of people does something new and interesting and note-worthy, there will always be a long line of hacks who ride their coat-tails and get notoriety for five seconds doing so.

Camden Joy sounds like a really creepy soul. David Lowery should have every reason to steer clear of this mess however he can while still keeping himself whole.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 5:38 AM on June 21, 2011

The only remarkable thing about this is that people think it's remarkable; it's the musical version of Mary Sue fanfic. Hell, I've been doing this in my head for years--imagining that the Beatles decide to add a keyboard player (me, of course) and end up touring much more in their later years and don't break up until 1979. It was great! Never mind that I was six when the Beatles broke up.

As for this "Camden Joy", never heard of him, even though Ira Glass and Sarah Vowell did. I'd read some of his stuff, but instead I've decided to start working on my memoir of playing with Joan Jett and the Blackhearts instead. Stay tuned for the scene in which Joan and I hook up with Sigourney Weaver.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:51 AM on June 21, 2011 [6 favorites]

What the world needs now is more stalker fiction like I need a hole in my head.
posted by foldedfish at 6:36 AM on June 21, 2011 [8 favorites]

imagining that the Beatles decide to add a keyboard player (me, of course)

I saw you guys at a Day on the Green in Candlestick 76, it was epic.
posted by doctor_negative at 6:57 AM on June 21, 2011 [5 favorites]

Rome fell a long time ago, but it's still interesting.

The post isn't about the fall of Rome.
posted by blucevalo at 7:03 AM on June 21, 2011

If you listen to Sarah Vowel's TAL interview it seems she calls bullshit on Camden and the word stalker is used over and over.
posted by photoslob at 7:12 AM on June 21, 2011

Oh, I wish I hadn't read that. The real, true part about "have sex with the fattest girl you can find as a joke while on tour" (which band guy admits to) - I don't care which of the guy's bands did that, it's put me off Camper Van Beethoven for ever now, and I really did like that album with "Take The Skinheads Bowling". Yuck.
posted by Frowner at 7:16 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Frowner, if it makes any difference, it was Johnny Hickman who admitted to the "tonnage" game (while in an earlier band), and Johnny Hickman was never in Camper Van Beethoven. The album with "Take the Skinheads Bowling" could be enjoyed unblemished.
posted by dlugoczaj at 7:40 AM on June 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Rome fell a long time ago, but it's still interesting.

The post isn't about the fall of Rome.

It's about something that at least some people are finding interesting. If you don't, FIAMO. Or use the Back button that comes on every browser these days. Either thing would be a far better use of everyone's time and effort -- yours included -- than your threadshitting.
posted by Etrigan at 7:44 AM on June 21, 2011

I saw a short story of Joy's in an anthology ten years ago, and thought it was a bowl of ass then. So I take great pride in being OG on not liking this clown.
posted by COBRA! at 7:45 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Day's on the Green were held at Oakland Coliseum.
posted by humboldt32 at 7:50 AM on June 21, 2011

bah *Days*
posted by humboldt32 at 7:56 AM on June 21, 2011

I met Dave Lowery after a show back in the early nineties, after Camper van Beethoven had broken up and before he started Cracker. I think he was just touring around on his own, trying to sell off the rest of the CvB t-shirts he had boxed up in his van. The show was great, I bought a t-shirt, and he politely stayed long after the show was over and the club had cleared out, answering our questions and humoring our fanboy ways. I came away thinking he was a truly decent and down-to-earth guy. Sucks that he has to put up with this kind of crap.
posted by ga$money at 8:21 AM on June 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

The real life David Lowery is more interesting than the fictional David Lowery, which doesn't reflect well on Camden Joy's writing.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 8:48 AM on June 21, 2011

The post isn't about the fall of Rome.

Take The Saracens Bowling
posted by Trurl at 9:04 AM on June 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

"Love is simply a word. It joins separate things. Lyndon and I, though you would disagree, agree that we do not properly love one another anymore. Because we ceased long ago to be enough apart for a 'love' to span any distance. Lyndon says he shall cherish the day when love and right and wrong and responsibility, when these words, he says, are understood by you youths of America to be nothing but arrangements of distance.... Lyndon is being haunted by his own conception of distance, David. His hatred of being alone, physically alone, no matter atop what--the area of his hatred in which your own devoted services have been so invaluable to us--his hatred of being alone is a consequence of what his memoir will call his great intellectual concept: the distance at which we see each other, arrange each other, love. That love, he will say, is a federal highway, lines putting communities, that move and exist at great distance, in touch. My husband has stated publicly that America, too, his own America, that he loves enough to conceal deaths for, is to be understood in terms of distance."
posted by xod at 9:50 AM on June 21, 2011

Hey, Cracker thread. I have really been enjoying this video.
posted by procrastination at 10:07 AM on June 21, 2011

Definitely not here to play thread-guard. But I thought I'd just say that I've read most of Joy's books, and I like them quite a bit. I framed the thread this way not to make it a referendum on whether he was a creep, but because it's a great demonstration of a lot of the things going on in his writing: author as character, fictional memoir, etc.

And yeah, the last thing published under the name Camden Joy was Lost Joy in 2002 (it's a collection of his posters and pamphlets from the 90s), so this is all in the past. I now realize that the post doesn't make that very clear; sorry about that.

I haven't read either of the baseball books, but I'd like to check them out sometime.
posted by roll truck roll at 10:25 AM on June 21, 2011

Puts me in mind of Ballard's "Why I want to Fuck Ronald Reagan," Delillo's Libra, Wallace's "Lyndon" (as quoted above) and, uh, Shakespeare.
posted by xod at 11:30 AM on June 21, 2011

Not long after that, Joy became a genuine darling in the incestuous, back-slapping world of rock criticism...His diatribes and rants, one of which was titled "Freedy Johnston Must Die," were copied and circulated throughout the tiny congregation of music journalists.

Man, even if you lived through it, it's so hard to imagine a world where opinions about Freedy Johnston were grounds for notoreity. I understand all the words but they just make no sense.

And then add to that his basically choosing to die on the hill of the authorship of a potentially damaging, libelous screed about a band that, let's face it, for whatever their modest charms, are a pretty small footnote in terms of larger cultural significance. It's all very weird.
posted by anazgnos at 1:23 PM on June 21, 2011

Puts me in mind of Ballard's "Why I want to Fuck Ronald Reagan," Delillo's Libra, Wallace's "Lyndon" (as quoted above) and, uh, Shakespeare.

Those people were already huge cultural figures. Someone might have only heard about this band from that book.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:30 PM on June 21, 2011

Agreed. And that seems somewhat interesting aesthetically, but for me, not at all as an ethical or legal issue.

As far as I have been able to wrap my mind around the content of this absolutely excellent post, it's as if Robert Coover had been a rogue member of Oulipo, time traveled to the 90s and got stuck.
posted by xod at 7:35 PM on June 21, 2011

imagining that the Beatles decide to add a keyboard player (me, of course)

I saw you guys at a Day on the Green in Candlestick 76, it was epic.

It was probably Klaatu and you were just drunk.
posted by smithsmith at 9:16 PM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Interesting. For some reason, I've been going through a phase lately where I've been watching one Beatles biopic after another--Backbeat, Nowhere Boy, The Birth of the Beatles, In His Life. It's struck me as each one struggles to hit all the "plot points" of their mythology--the fight where Stu Sutcliffe got kicked in the head, the meeting in the church basement where Paul points out that John's been using banjo chords and then plays twenty flight rock, the bus audition of George Harrison, poor Julia Lennon hit by the driver with a learner's permit, the fight over 5-year-old John Lennon in Blackpoole--how it's clear that no one really thinks of these things as something that happened anymore. And then that starts to spread, to touch people who aren't even really famous. Stu Sutcliffe himself, dead before the Beatles made it big. Pete Shotton. Their parents.

I keep having to remind myself that these were people; they were PEOPLE. I can only imagine how weird it is to read a book about yourself and have to remind yourself of that.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:06 PM on June 21, 2011 [4 favorites]

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