Monday, November 21, 2011

Review: Just a Few Seconds

Title: Just a Few Seconds
Author: Nemo James a.k.a. Derek Newark
Genre: Autobiography/Memoir
Price: $9.95
Pages: 266
ISBN: 978-0956798602
Publisher: Derek Newark Publishing
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed By: Cheryl Anne Gardner

Description: A Story From The Hidden World of Music and Beyond Derek dreamt of becoming a professional musician from the first time he picked up a guitar following a talent contest disaster. Thought of by his friends as being the person most likely to make the big time he turned professional but was continually side tracked by the need to earn a living from music. His journey takes him all over the world from private gigs for the rich and famous to the roughest pubs. Starting in the late sixties when heavy rock was born, through to the 1980's and 90's when discos and electronics decimated live music in dance halls. An amusing and heartrending story of perseverance showing how the road to success can lead us down the strangest of paths.

I don't normally like reading memoirs of any sort simply because most of them are of the "I went here and did that and met these people and they were like this, then I went here, did that and it didn't work out, so I went here and did that ... over and over again and over again." Most memoirs tend to lack the flare and fiction writer’s finesse that I normally like in my reading material, and this is really no exception. If you like memoirs like Running with Scissors then you will find this autobiography interesting but not all that entertaining. It's frank, sometimes funny, but for the most part, the futility makes it kind of a depressing read. You want Derek to succeed, but even in the end, he never really attains the level of musicianship and fame the reader hopes for him.

Just A Few Seconds is the story of Derek Newark, and it charts his rather muddled path as he tries to make it in the music business. If you are looking for sex, drugs, and rock and roll, you will not find it here. This isn't the memoir of a rock star, it's the story of an average guy who has a passion for music, but for the most part, he just can't seem to make it work as a self-sustaining lifestyle/profession. Many musicians, and I know quite a few, will be able to relate to the struggle, as will the indie author.

Newark is a self-taught guitar player who struggled with reading music, so you do have to admire his stamina. He perseveres when most people would have called it a day and just given up. From dance halls to failed garage bands, from rough London pubs to ski resorts, and from private parties to nursing homes, Derek survived it all, making little to nothing for his efforts over many years. Failed business, failed relationships, and mounting credit card debt would have been enough disappointment for most people, but through it all, Derek always seems to find his way back to music, which is inspiring, if not a little crazy. It's the life and times of a working musician: the session guys, the backing bands, the wedding entertainers, the cruise ship musicians, and the guys who play the local pubs. Not glamorous. The pay is shit, and the music business as he describes it has a lot of similarities to the book publishing industry: rejection, rejection, rejection.

“There are two types of musicians: those who are famous and those who are not. But while there is a mountain of material written about the famous, there is almost nothing written about the unknown ones. Whilst no musician ever sets out to become unknown, most have it thrust upon them,” said James. “It is an absurd notion that only famous musicians have stories to tell.”

Despite the constant failure -- and not just as a composer -- Derek Newark struggles on through failed racquetball clubs, failed restaurants, and failed relationships of all sorts. For most, the defeat would have been too much to bear, especially having to move home and live with your parents as a grown man, but Newark always remained optimistic. In this story, everything really did happen for the best, and there was always another opportunity around the corner. The crap opportunities counted as much as the good ones in Newark's book.

"Yes, it's been quite a journey. I failed in nearly everything I did and yet always loved life and ended up enjoying the kind of success that the rich and famous only dream about. All that effort and hard work and yet it was nothing more than blind luck that brought about my success. No amount of talent or hard work can replace luck."

As for the read, there were enough serious grammatical issues that it became somewhat of a frustrating endeavor. Newark seems to have a comma aversion complex, which made the rereading of sentences necessary a lot of the time. That said, the chapter titles were very funny, even if the linear timeline felt bogged down by repetitive details. "Cheeserat & Gorilla" was probably my favorite chapter because it had the absurdist flare I tend to go for.

All in all, If you're looking for a celebrity autobiography, you won't find it here. If you're looking for a fiction writers poetic flare and sense of the absurd, you also won't find that here, but if you are looking for an honest look at the life of a struggling want-ad musician, then you will get that in spades. It's a working Joe story, a light hearted reflection of a work-a-day guy. If you like that sort of thing, then you won't be disappointed. Success is what you think it is, and Derek Newark seems to have found his.

Derek Newark a.k.a. Nemo james now lives in Croatia with his wife and family. If you want to read more about his life, his book titled Croatian Diaries will be released in December 2011.

1 comment:

Library Diva said...

It sounds like an interesting concept, actually. There are reams and reams of books that succeed in concept but fail in execution, but I'd still be willing to pick this one up.

It's an interesting point. There are all kinds of ways to succeed in a business like music or acting. The average person tends to think of someone like Taylor Swift or Julia Roberts when measuring success in those arenas. But what about the people in that Christmas musical revue you're taking your children to this season, or that party band that seems to make an appearance at every single festival, benefit and $2 drink night the area has to offer? That's success too, even though it's not what people dream of when they decide to puruse acting or music.