With humor, wit and the occasional contemplative moment, Lee Oser’s The Oracles Fell Silent follows a literary man Richard Bellman as he navigates a bizarre and sometimes dangerous situation involving has-been rock stars and the associated schemers and schemes.
The premise of the novel is that Richard Bellman is hired to help washed-up British invasion star Ted Pop to write his memoirs. Over the course of a summer he gets to know the rock star, furthers a dubious courtship with Ted’s daughter Lexie, and probes a key mystery of Ted Pop’s past, the death of Ted’s other–some say better–musical half, Johnny Donovan.
Schemes of various sorts (involving real estate, rock journalism, and other things) complicate Bellman’s summer job, and he gets a whiff of just how shady has-been rock stars can get. In following all these things, Oracles takes up multiple themes and threads about rock and roll, love, religion, and a search for the Good, both for Bellman and everyone else, and tracks them all pretty well from start to end, retaining a sense of whimsy and wonder throughout.
The prose is fun and flowing, if occasionally too descriptive. My only real complaint was that the way certain words were censored–I gather it was an in-universe trait of the narrator–broke up the flow for me.
Oser’s characterization is generally on point. On the whole I found the men written slightly better, but the whole cast is solid. Even the dog! And more, even the characters who you expect to be stereotypes are well fleshed out enough to serve their purpose, and there is no easy line drawn between the “good people” and “bad people.”
In Bellman’s adventure we find ourselves struck by a few truly spiritual moments, and Bellman’s own musings on humanity and salvation are humorous even if the subject matter is heavy.
The day I finished reading this I immediately lent it to a friend so that she could have a turn with Richard Bellman and his bonkers rock and roll adventure.
I just started up reading stuff from Wiseblood Books last year, so I’ve got some catching up to do, but I’m looking forward to reading his next book, Oregon Confetti when I can get around to it. If you like fiction and you’re looking for a place to jump into Wiseblood’s corpus, this is a good choice.
Image: Wiseblood Book’s website. Used with permission. See the book’s webpage here.