a novel, by Christian Bauman
(Melville House, 2008)
“Bauman is an incredible writer. [In Hoboken] is one of those books – like Lethem when he’s cooking, or Chabon at his most vibrant – when every line snaps and propels you forward.” – Paul Constant, The Stranger
“Bauman doesn’t so much conjure a soulful time and place as inhabit them, ushering readers into his good-vibe rock ’n’ roll novel with hilarious dialogue and a terse but loving homage to gritty Hoboken.” – Joanne Wilkinson, Booklist
“In Hoboken is a novel soaked in a love of place. And what's better, at least for any reader born west of the Monongahela River and tired of reading endless love letters to streets and neighborhoods in New York City that we've never heard of, Bauman never takes for granted that we also already know and love his city. Rather, Bauman is the perfectly engaging host, driving us around and pointing out the ballparks, the memorials, the beloved landmarks, before pulling over and dragging us into the diner with the best coffee on the planet. He lets us in on all the local characters, the gossip, and the prejudices. It may be tragic that the end effect is that I don't know if I ever want to set foot in Hoboken. I want to go on believing that everything in the city is just as he's described it. I don't want to run the risk of tracking down that diner, squeezing my way up the counter and then not have anyone bark at me, ‘We playing games here?’ This third novel feels like Bauman hitting his stride.” – Jen Crispin, Librarything.com
The son of a feminist icon and a folk singer whose suicide gained him cult status, Thatcher Smith was born potential royalty in New York’s music scene. Instead, he keeps his parentage secret first by disappearing into the army then by taking his guitar across the river to working class Hoboken, New Jersey to form a band. There, amidst the dive bars and all-night diners of 1995, Thatcher and his friends struggle to make meaningful music in a culture turning away from it. A wicked sense of humor is key for the motley crew: Marsh, the beloved, polio-stricken local rock and roll kingpin; lesbian songwriting chanteuse Lou, to whom Thatcher is both deeply attracted and loves like a sister; James, guitar virtuoso, daytime World Trade Center employee, and owner of the floor Thatcher sleeps on; and locals like Orris, the overweight, half-blind, mad prophet of Hoboken’s west side, and patient at the mental-health clinic where Thatcher is a clerk. As in Roddy Doyle’s The Commitments and Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, music is the heart of the story, but in In Hoboken the place and the people are what make it vibrantly come alive.
“While the book is a work of fiction, it aptly captures the early music scene—namely the musicians who came to Hoboken with little else but a dream and a guitar strapped over their shoulders.” —Hoboken Reporter