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Monday, March 28, 2016
2:07 pm edt
The Forty Watt Flowers
In its overnight
journey from Philadelphia to Atlanta, the Silver Crescent pauses on a long siding just outside Athens, GA to allow two freight
trains to rumble pass by on the main line. I think it quaint that a southern community named itself after a major city in
Greece and while a passenger many times on the train myself, I wondered what life would be like in what seemed to be, at least
from my roomette’s window, a sleepy, dusky town.
Little did I know Athens was – and still is –
not only the home of the University of Georgia, but a hubbub of rock n’ roll, blues, jazz, and all alternative music
in-between. It is the birthplace of such famed groups as R.E.M and the B-52’s. But not much has been written about the
electrifying culture and broiling atmosphere until two years ago when C. M. Subasic, a talented Canadian playwright, wrote
the definitive novel about starting a band and making it big on the music scene. The Forty Watt Flowers is a refreshingly frank exposé of Athen’s musical sub-culture, delving into the complexities of what it
takes for a band to make it big.
A transplant from the north, young Trisha is relatively new in the community.
Struggling with deep hurt, guilt, and misunderstanding, she searches for importance in her life beset by family and boyfriend
issues. In her quest to create “something meaningful,” she decides to start an altrock band, bringing together
four other young women; each one a unique individual with her own set of divergent issues, quirks, talents, and problems:
a black Canadian bass player; a hard-nosed Latino drummer; a spoiled, selfish “southern belle”; and a shy, withdrawn,
wealthy recluse who breaks out of her shell to become their lead singer. Together they form the Forty Watt Flowers in the
hopes of lighting up the music world with their talents.
The band becomes a mini-cosmos of creativity mixed
with complex relationships that threaten to tear it apart.-Trisha is their leader who, mired in her own insecurities, is the
most mature of its members. As the well-constructed plot progresses from the band’s first rehearsal in a beer-soaked
seedy garage to their dreamed-of gig at the prestigious 40 Watt Club, she becomes their leader, mentor, band-promoter, and
This is a well-tuned debut novel from a very talented, seasoned writer. A noted editor and publishing
consultant in her own right, Subasic couples her easy-read writing style with a vast knowledge of music, empathetically probing
in-depth the finer points of inter-personal relationships. Writing with a light touch and often a jaundiced tongue-in-cheek,
she uniquely twists common phrases into fresh, new usages. Her style, not quite hip-hop jivey, is pert and to the point. Through
her characters, she often waxes eloquent philosophies, and slams home poignant observations like a musician playing finely-tuned
instruments. There are only two flaws in this otherwise exceptional story: some of the lyrics are hard-to-grasp and somewhat
arcane, and some of the songs lack basic structure.
However, taken as a whole, The Forty Watt Flowers is, in totality, a literary song unto itself and well worth reading.
J. McInerney, the host of this Literary Blog, is
an author, poet, and librettist. Her currently published works include a novel, a book of spiritual inspirations,
volumes of poetry, stories
for children (of all ages) and
a variety of children's musicals. Her titles include:
Hose, Hook & Ladder: A Novel of Phoenixville during World War I
Columbia Hotel: A Novel
of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
the Schuylkill Monster: A Novel of Phoenixville in
The Prisoner's Portrait: A Novel of Phoenxville during World War II
Rainbow in the Sky
of Oreigh Ogglefont
The Basset Chronicles.
Cats of Nine Tales
Water: A Collection of Poems
Exodus Ending: A
Collection of More Spiritual Poems
We Three Kings
Beauty and the Beast
Peter, Wolf, and Red Riding
Originally from the New York metropolitan area, June currently lives near Valley Forge Park in Pennsylvania with her constant and loving companions, FrankieBernard and Sebastian Cat. She
is currently working on her sixth novel.