Travel. Read. Travel. Read. Rinse. Repeat. And in the case of alt.punk by Lavinia Ludlow, don't just rinse, scrub, a lot, compulsively, until your skin is cracked and peeling off. But in a good way. There are so many things to react to in Ludlow's debut novel, Hazel, the protagonist's rampant germaphobia, which at times left us feeling nauseous ourselves, a first for sure; the endlessly raw, and wrongly creative sex; the crushing, or is it, numbing drug usage and alcohol abuse; the commentary on mental health, music, and all things female; the snapshot of life on the road as a groupie, or is it girlfriend, of an indie band, but even with all that going on, there was a line near the end of the book that we responded to in particular:
"He peers up at me with bloodshot, shitfaced eyes. His belt tightened around his right biceps, there's a live syringe teetering between the pads of his jittering fingers, and a cigarette dangles limply in the corner of his mouth. "When did you start smoking?" I ask.
And we responded to this because somewhere in that passage is the essence of the whole story, a story that may or may not represent an entire incredibly over-educated and politically astute generations' ennui and lack of opportunity, lets call them Millenials, but regardless, is certainly a generation that seems to know all too much, and be all too jaded, yet still gets hung-up on something comparatively mundane if they consider it evil or corrupt, something we would add that has rarely slowed down most members of Generation X. In this passage its heroin use, and in another it could be something like fisting, yet somehow that's all fine enough, but cigarette use, now that's disheartening. There's a lot to explore there, here, and there's a lot to explore in this book, a debut novel in all the ways great debuts can be, like a brain dump that not only introduces just the right amount of flair and confidence and mastery of language, but still somehow also becomes a window into a slice of the world you don't quite know enough about, if you even quite knew it existed quite like this in the first place.