Nester, God Save My Queen, Soft Skull Press -- Reviewed by Maria Garcia
God Save My Queen is one part obsessed fan tribute and two parts Whitmanesque exaltation of the human. What is it about our obsessions that define us? In this book, which could be alternately titled, Confessions of a Catholic Boyhood, (oh yeah, this title has already been taken by Eggers, I mean, McCarthy) we find pieces of the author, Daniel Nester, that are both brutal and tender in their honesty.
It is in the author's dumb green fields of youth that we finally find Ferlinghetti's rebirth of wonder in places as unlikely as a drag show in New York City, though perhaps this is the likeliest place to find enchantment.
Nester vacillates between detail-oriented songsterism and self-referential poetry to produce philosophical ruminations. He connects his own illness with that of Queen's guitarist, Brian May and says
Oh, and did I mention Nester has his own vocabulary? There is something of the Romantic quest at the heart of this book. It is a journey into the depths of each song ever put out on vinyl by Queen, and also the very essence of the hero's journey where the hum of Queen's feedback warms up the audience to receive the words of Nester. When trying to describe this book to friends I have found that there are reoccurring concerns that come up.
Myth Number One: you do not have to be a Queen fan to appreciate this book. Of the British rock bands of this period, I am more of the Led Zeppelin, Clash, Sex Pistols variety, and not a Queen fan. But, the references and juvenile male excitement are more often than not contagious, such as when Nester describes the cover to News of the World,
And I am brought back to the singular space of history that this album represents, and perhaps this is one of the strengths of the book, its ability to analyze the milestones of life without a trace of sentimentality. In this age of too much information, we simply cannot stomach that which dissolves our teeth in sweetness.
Myth Number Two: you have to be an anal "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin" type to get all the musical references. I'm not this person, though I did listen to my guitarist cousin argue that Jimmy Page was better than Jeff Beck for three hours one time. Though Nester does tread the line of musician-speak geekdom when he says things like:
We may be learning about the band in minute detail, but it is the beauty of language that speaks loudest, even to those of the post-vinyl generation. The book speaks to that which is lost and may never come around again. Like Freddy. Born in Zanzibar, Farrokh, a gay man who flaunted his gayness onstage while never really stepping outside of the closet of Reagan's eighties.
Myth Number Three: If you've never been obsessed by a band you won't like it. O.K. who hasn't been obsessed by a band? This book is an act of creation that will forever tie the author to his obsession. I'm jealous. Could my own book to Morrissey be far behind? But there's more here. There's atonement with the father,
Here we have Queen bringing the author to an understanding of self as his father's son. But enough of my pop psych 101-ing. Suffice it to say that this book is much more than you think it is going to be. It is a mirror of a slender shaft of history that when we look in it we see, perhaps, traces of ourselves.