Picks and Pans Review: Rock Me

updated 03/06/1989 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/06/1989 01:00AM

by Marcelle Clements

"When I go onstage to sing, it's like the rush people experience when they take heavy dope," Janis Joplin once said. "I get stoned from happiness. I want to do it until it isn't there anymore." Casey, the rock star heroine of this affecting first novel, feels exactly that way. But such intense highs are rarely available for free, and Casey, who is pushing 40, is just beginning to understand what hers have cost. After 20-odd years in the limelight, she is overly fond of drugs and alcohol and so addicted to mass adulation she can't sustain more intimate relationships, or imagine any other mode of existence. "The first half of my life was too exciting," she says, "for me to make do now with leftovers." Burned out and confused, she seeks solace and rejuvenation on a Hawaiian island, where her former bandmate and onetime lover, Michael, has been quieting his own demons with the help of his eerily tranquil new girlfriend, Leslie. But instead of peace, Casey encounters disturbing reminders of her past and yet another potential addiction: renewed lust for the unavailable Michael. Clements, a journalist and longtime companion of Steely Dan founder Donald Fagen, writes convincingly about the rock and roll subculture's narcissism and offers provocative meditations on love, jealousy and the differences between the '60s and the '80s. ("I wonder what I would have said," Casey muses at one point, "if someone had told me, around 1968 or '69 or so, that all the kids I knew who used to think that the reason to get up in the morning was principally to blast off on whatever drug they could get their hands on would one day be paying 75 bucks an hour to specialists in stress management.") She also imbues the Casey-Michael-Leslie triangle with so much erotic energy that it keeps the book going on its own. Though the ending is too abrupt to resolve the tensions Clements has set up, Rock Me is a very promising debut. (Simon and Schuster, $17.95)

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