Dance Prone, David Coventry

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

The blurb puts it best - "DANCE PRONE is a novel of music, ritual and love. It is live, tense and corporeal." For many who were around in the mid 1980's, immersed in the counter culture of hard-core post-punk, indie rock with its wildness and weirdness, there are going to be bells ringing, and maybe some uncomfortable recognition. It's ultimately a novel about trauma, delivered in a series of brutal, almost dance like moves, with events blurring, just as they would have for central character Conrad - who spends a lot of time drunk, drugged, struggling.

With half the story being about events in the 80's, the sexual assault and wounding by gunshot of two members of the band intertwined with current day 2019, focusing in the later timeline on repercussions, mostly done by way of reflection and consideration.

It's written in a fluid, rolling, rhythmic yet frequently discordant sort of a manner, reflecting that drunk, drugged viewpoint of, at the very least, Conrad. Protagonist, band member, victim who is pretty well out of it for the entire time that the band is touring, working the far edges of the music industry, reflecting the style of music in a lifestyle of risk, and little financial reward. Veering into poetic, almost stream of conscious style, it's hard not to feel some hat tips going on here to writers like Cormac McCathy and Jack Kerouac.

Having said that is, this didn't quite read like On The Road for more recent generations, and that might say a lot more about the age / reflections of this reader than it does about the book itself. The characters are complicated, multi-dimensional beings in a furry, fuzzy world. The act of reflection is sometimes illuminating, and at other times self-indulgent to the point of teeth endangering. There is obviously an attempt here to get inside musical thinking - and there's definitely something there in the fluidity of the style, and those rapid switches from musicality to discordance that felt like it was reflecting something about the indie rock scene. Or at least I think that's what's going on - whatever it is, is somewhere a little outside my descriptive ability.

There were times that I really loved DANCE PRONE and really thought I knew what was going on, was inside it's world, and then there were times, perhaps a little too reminiscent of too many 80's parties, where I felt like a complete outsider, no idea what everyone was talking about, missed which boat it was that we were all supposed to be disdainfully rejecting.

Definitely going to be a book that divides opinion, and it may even be one of those books that sits neatly in the generation divide or specifically within your own particular set of interests. Having said that, there are glimpses into the impacts of violence and abuse that were very moving. Perhaps it's a book for readers who are looking for something profoundly different.

Book Source Declaration
I received a copy of this book from the publisher or author.
Year of Publication

1985. Neus Bauen, a post-hardcore band from Illinois, are touring America, on the brink of fame. When one member of the band is sexually assaulted and another is wounded by a gunshot, these two cataclysmic events alter the course of the band’s four members’ lives forever.

Decades later, amongst the sprawl and shout of Morocco, some of the band are reunited. There they attempt to piece together what happened to them during the lost years between their punk-infused days and nights on the road, and the world they find themselves in today.

Dance Prone is a novel of music, ritual and love. It is live, tense and corporeal. Full of closely observed details of indie-rock, of punk infused performance, the road and the players’ relationship to violence, hate and peace.

Set simultaneously during the post-punk period and the narrative present of 2019, Dance Prone was born out of a love of the underground and indie rock scenes of the 1980s, a fascination for their role in the cultural apparatus of memory, social decay and its reconstruction. 

Review Dance Prone, David Coventry
Karen Chisholm
Wednesday, November 24, 2021

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