Lance Rally is a wide-eyed, fresh-faced youth on the fringe of college in the late 1980s; his family’s legacy of producing bright, exceptionally-successful men has all the signs of continuing with his apt educational pursuits. But among the many things he expected college life to open up for him, heartbreak, failure and a staggeringly personal coming-of-age journey were not among them. He did not expect to see his GPA reach an all-time low; he did not expect for a wildly imaginative punk rocker to become his best friend; and he did not expect to lose his heart to a beautiful student and an evocative Goth girl, all among the pulsating rhythms of some of the most ground-breaking music of the era. As Lance grapples with the realities of life and the pressures of college he also comes to terms with who he really is; a personal self as defined by his own ideas – no longer a subject of the expectations of his family, the presumptions of his friends, or the trends of mainstream culture. Through his story, Robb Skidmore’s debut novel The Pursuit of Cool, Lance survives the dating scene, hazy drug-infused adventures, and ultimately reaches self-realization through his own keen intellect and the music that reaches through the stereo to pluck at his heartstrings.
The Pursuit of Cool is a triumphant novel in author Robb Skidmore’s depiction of the 1980s and its iconic musical scene as experienced through the bright eyes of a young man coming to understand himself. Skidmore pays impeccable attention to his writing skill, effortlessly crafting his engaging story through the language of truly expressive and vibrant prose. The era comes to life instantly from the book’s opening scene at Lance’s high school senior prom and the image holds steady, evolving as Lance’s interest in pop culture evolves through the formative and life-changing college years. As Lance first experiences euphoria at the hands of a song from The Ramones so the reader feels the pull and the importance of music’s meaning in the novel. Lance’s guide through the riotous array of album covers comes in an unlikely form: Ian LaCoss, the punk rock warrior with big dreams of being an actor. While Lance has arrived at college grounded, with lots of plans and few adventures under his belt, LaCoss makes it his mission to open the freshman’s mind to the untold possibilities of the world, and it’s through this unlikely and endearing friendship that I thought the novel hit its highest, most pleasing notes.
Dedicatedly, Skidmore’s characters take on their lives as dreamers in a uniquely rebellious way that rings true of their tumultuous, colorful era, and the author goads them to follow through with their pursuits despite pitfalls, break-ups and break-downs along the way. Skidmore infuses the journey with a full and vibrant cast of richly-imagined, original characters who support Lance or offer hurdles, making his journey all the more memorable. What results is an experience as moving and thought-provoking to its reader as it is to its hero; it was an experience that refreshed my perspective and awakened my assumption of what it means to embody that illustrious, all-knowing (and somehow maybe even oxymoronic) cool. The Pursuit of Cool is a read I would highly recommend whether you’re itching for the nostalgia of a dynamic era, if you’re looking to experience the ‘80s for the first time in a truly genuine way, or if you simply enjoy getting lost in a rich and engaging story.
Title: The Pursuit of Cool
Author: Robb Skidmore
Genre: period drama, literary fiction
Publisher: TMiK Press
Release date: April 5, 2012
Provided by: Robb Skidmore (C/O)
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