Wonderland by Stacey D’Erasmo
Reviewed by Katie P.
Stacey D’Erasmo’s latest novel, Wonderland, is about a rock star, but it’s not about rock and roll. Or, it is about rock and roll, in that it’s actually about family, and memory, and love, and sex, and death. This is a novel about what motivates a musician to walk on stage and put everything they’ve got to give on display in front of a crowd of strangers—which is to say, about what motivates any of us. D’Erasmo offers a very specific, personal account of a musician’s life, and in so doing offers insight to anyone who has ever wanted something, or missed something, or glimpsed something flickering just out of sight in their peripheral vision without being able to look straight at it.
Wonderland’s narrator and protagonist, Anna Brundage, is staging her comeback tour. She’s still not sure what made her famous in the first place, but she knows how a perfect show makes her feel, and she knows what she’s reaching for every night when the lights come up and the whole world is the size of her band, her guitar, and the sound of her own voice. D’Erasmo writes her story in the form of the journal Anna keeps on tour. Some passages read like prose poetry, as Anna writes about the present, the past, and even an imagined alternative to the life she has. Anna’s life, both as a child and an adult, is one full of artists, of wanderers in search of an altered world. D’Erasmo’s gift for unique description of this strange, grand way of life is what most makes Wonderland sing. She describes what it feels like when the art goes right, and what it feels like when it goes wrong. She describes Anna’s manager as “looking, as usual, like he died two days ago.” D’Erasmo understands that making music is only a very small part of what goes into making music, and she fills in the gaps between curtain calls artfully and compassionately. Every description is carefully chosen, and strives to capture the un-captureable alchemy of ambition and creation and waiting for the muse that drives every day of Anna’s life.