Arts & Culture
1:11 pm
Tue May 21, 2013

Book Revels in Twilight of Rock Music, Dawn of Information Age

Among other revolutions, the early 1970s saw the dawning of one age – the computer revolution – and the sunset of another – an age of innocence in the rock music industry.

It's at that intersection where readers find the protagonists at the center of Milwaukee area writer Barry Wightman's new novel, Pepperland.

Barry Wightman and his new book, Pepperland.
Barry Wightman and his new book, Pepperland.
Credit Boswell Books

The story takes the reader through the late 1960s and into the 1970s, showing the shift in the nation in regards to technology and the music industry.

Protagonist Pepper Porter composes songs and sings in a band. In college, Pepper met Sooz Frommer, a student fighting the gender wars as the only woman in the school's computer department.

When the characters reunite after college, Sooz is working on an algorithm that will mark the beginning of personal computers and the Internet. But she has a history that is trying to catch up with her: she was once part of the radical Weather Underground.

All the while, Pepper is trying to pursue his music career, searching for the elusive "it."

"It. What is ‘it’?” Wightman asks. “It’s the hard-to-describe magic, the pleasure burst that comes from anything. It can come from music, come from reading a book, closing a sales deal. It’s that really cool feeling, that cosmic ecstasy.”

But while Pepper is searching for "it," he finds himself attracted to Sooz's work - and Sooz herself.

Balance is a key theme for Wightman, the balance between science and the arts, and what is right and what is wrong. It's a theme close to home for Wightman, who has a technology background but also plays in a rock-n-roll band. The novel's title is based on a Beatles reference in the movie Yellow Submarine, and the book is chock  full of references to the music industry and popular culture that influenced Wightman's early adulthood.

Wightman will be doing a reading and book signing at Boswell Books on Tuesday, May 21st at 7 PM.

(Written by Eleanor Peterson and Stephanie Lecci)