Friday, June 20, 2014

Solomonic Decisions and Capricious Events: Review of Sex, Drugs and Opera by Roland Orzabal

Blending farce, social commentary, and alternative histories, Roland Orzabal's highly enjoyable new novel, Sex, Drugs and Opera, offers an intriguing look at a 1980s pop star in his midlife years who decides to offer his vocal chords a workout as an opera singer.  His motive is to be on a television show in which rock singers compete for their ability to belt out an aria.

Orzabal is, of course, co-founder of the popular band Tears for Fears, and delightfully makes use of his behind-the-scenes knowledge of the music industry to enliven his story.  He also knows much about opera, shedding insight into that world as well.  There is much excellent wordplay.  The protagonist has the fitting name Solomon Capri.  Throughout the novel he and other characters find themselves needing to make solomonic decisions amidst capricious events, such as unexpected deaths, attempted suicides, life-altering disabilities, and giant holes in the ground that trap innocents.  His band is aptly named "Fortune Favours the Brave," with initials FFTB, something like TFF (Tears for Fears) in reverse, and playing up the idea of keeping cool during tragic events (turning misfortune into fortune).

As a scientist, I enjoyed Orzabal's sly reference to Schrödinger's cat paradox, when Solomon briefly doesn't know if his dog is alive or dead due to the calamitous nature of said hole-in-the-ground.  Indeed that knowledge turns out to be one of the critical junctures in the story--a fork linking various parallel possibilities.

Up until the time of the story's events, Solomon seemed stuck in a rut--frozen in time because of the untimely death of his fellow band member Fran.  His wife Jenny, made wealthy by her family feminine hygiene product business, coldly tramples over his aspirations.  The invitation to the television show inspires him to seek out an elderly opera coach, setting in motion a string of events that would change his life.  Curiously his level-headedness emerges from deep inside him and he ends up making sound life decisions, after a few distractions relating to the book's title.

All in all, Sex, Drugs, and Opera is an entertaining, thought-provoking read.  Highly recommended!

Available at:
Sex, Drugs and Opera - Kindle Version