Concert-loving time travellers tinker with past at their peril
Musical time warp turns the tables in Mo Daviau's debut novel.
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When news broke of David Bowie’s death last month, devastated fans consoled themselves by playing his music and sharing favourite YouTube videos. Those who were lucky enough to see Ziggy Stardust live recalled witnessing one of rock ’n’ roll’s all-time greatest performers.
For devoted music lovers, the desire to relive a favourite show or witness a concert from a band’s early days comes with fandom. In her debut novel Every Anxious Wave, Portland, Ore., author Mo Daviau takes that fantasy a step further when her character, a thirty-something bartender named Karl Bender, discovers a wormhole in his closet that launches people back in time to see musicians like Queen and Elliott Smith do their thing on stage.
Of course, time travel has consequences. When Karl accidentally transports his friend and business partner Wayne back to the year 980 instead of 1980, he enlists the help of Lena Geduldig, a young, music-geek astrophysicist who wears her damaged past like an impenetrable suit of armour.
The plot shifts into an unlikely love story, and a reminder that messing with the past isn’t always such a great idea.
The book’s concept came to Daviau — who grew up on Sassy magazine, and was a college-radio DJ at Smith College during the 1990s — as she was at home alone one night, feeling sorry for herself.
“I had this idea that if I just cranked a song up loud enough I could break the space-time continuum and be transported back to 1995 and make different adult life choices for myself,” she says. “I turned it up, but of course it didn’t happen.”
From the beginning Daviau knew she wanted a male protagonist, but not a typical “dude.”
Karl — a former guitarist in a 1990s alternative band that enjoyed a certain amount of success — initially comes across as emotionally stunted, but he grows to become Lena’s caregiver, despite how much she fights him off.
“I wanted to write a feminist novel from a male perspective,” she says.
Pulling together Every Anxious Wave, published by St. Martin’s Press, required eclectic research. As an icebreaker at parties and bars, Daviau would ask people “if you could go back in time to see any rock show what would it be?”
Thanks to a friend with a post-doctorate in astrophysics, she learned about the Einstein-Rosen Bridge, a hypothetical method of folding time, though she was never too concerned about its intricate mechanics, considering that Karl never really questions how the wormhole works.
“A lot of my hardcore sci-fi friends have taken me to task — that it’s a weakness in the book that there’s not a lot of explanation of the science behind it,” she says, laughing. “I do cheat a little with his first-person voice.”
As for her own rock ’n’ roll time-travel fantasies? Daviau answers without hesitation: “The first-ever R.E.M. show in 1980 in Athens, Ga. The other would be the time I saw my favourite local Austin, Texas, musician Davíd Garza play at the Continental Club ... He gave me a sweaty kiss on the cheek, and said, ‘Hey girl, good to see ya.’”
Sue Carter is the editor at Quill & Quire magazine.