Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Saved By Rock 'n' Roll: Fat Kid Rules the World

As K. L. Goings’s Fat Kid Rules the World begins, Troy, narrator and eponymous fat kid, has his life—like The Velvet Underground’s Jenny—saved by rock ‘n’ roll. Here, rock ‘n’ roll arrives in the guise of Curt, semi-homeless, semi-drop out, and musical legend around Troy’s school.

These two are joined together in their outsider status. Overweight, hopeless, and bouncing endlessly back and forth between friendless school and home with an ex-military father and jock brother, Troy is verging on suicidal when he meets Curt. Curt is hungry, penniless, and tired, but is truly concerned when he sees Troy’s desperation. Curt calms Troy down and Troy buys Curt a meal. This chance meeting sets the stage for the continuation of the developing friendship, each able to fill in something the other desperately needs. Deciding to form a band, their hours of rehearsal become a space in which Troy learns to find self-confidence from within and Curt finds some of the stability lacking in his own life. While nothing is perfect by the end, two of life’s rejects manage workability and maybe a little hope.

Going employs a clever stylistic means of subtly allowing the reader to experience Troy’s alienation from himself. Every major event is punctuated with conscious narration layered on top of the already first-person narrative: “Fat kid hallucinates cool friend,” “Irresponsible fat kid waits for junkie friend.” Troy’s conception of himself is tied so tightly to how he imagines others see him that even in telling his own story he continually recasts himself as an external figure.

Curt is never well defined, because we see him through Troy’s eyes. Yet it is fitting for him, both as someone who floats in and out of Troy’s life without routine, and for what he provides Troy. Shelter, food, clothes, a hot shower – the stability Troy allows Curt are solid and tangible. But the confidence, assurance, and value that Curt teaches to Troy are just as hard to pin down as the waifish guitar player himself.


Sarah Stevenson said...

Great review of an excellent book. I read this one a while ago. The idea of music, and creative expression in general, and its power to save people is really a powerful theme--something the author gets across without being preachy, too.

Anonymous said...

I loved this book, too, and I thought the character of Curt was very well done. I think we've all known people like that--charming, talented people who just can't keep it together consistently.