So what sparked the concept behind Crit?
A few different things. At one end was a set of experiences I had doing rock criticism for CityLife and Las Vegas Mercury. Wading through music of questionable quality can sometimes try your soul, and though I was always a critic of good faith and enthusiasm, I often thought, what happens to really burned-out rock critics?
The second thing was a story I wrote about a lounge singer in the ’90s—he’s still around actually, Cook E. Jarr. I had this spin-off idea: What if there was a lounge singer that was so bad that he became a figure of legend.
And the third thing was, I always wanted to take the worst things about Las Vegas aesthetically—that we’re the capital of the world when it comes to impersonations and rip-offs and themes that are imported from somewhere else—and turn them into a positive thing, maybe even a redemptive thing.
The Amazon description of the critic character describes him as “tired of hating everything on principle.” Is Crit, in part, a condemnation of under-generous criticism?
It’s kind of about when having an opinion about something ceases to be a question of making a fair assessment of a work of art or when it becomes a marketed sort of packaged experience. That’s what Gabe Sack is. He doesn’t even listen to music anymore; he just reviews it by looking at the covers. That’s sort of his rebellion, his reaction at being turned into this sort of dark celebrity who’s known for hating everything. What he really thinks doesn’t even matter. He doesn’t even know what he thinks anymore.
Was there a specific inspiration for Gabe?
- By Andrew Kiraly, $15.
Not really. I’m like an old modernist in a way. I like creating characters that seem real, and I like telling stories. I’m a big fan of trying to create that fictive dream, where you’re really involved in the story. And a lot of contemporary literature is very commentary-driven, especially right now. It seems like what’s en vogue is the novel about what a consumer-branded commercial society we’re living in, and I didn’t want to write a book where the idea was at the fore, I wanted to write a good story. And if there’s kind of a cool idea at the core that’s kind of a bonus.
The way I imagine this book, it’s a fun read with some intriguing ideas and some pretty dazzling writing, if I do say so myself.