Vexation Lullaby by Justin Tussing
Winner of the 2017 Maine Literary Award for Fiction
“With a perfect ear and dry tongue, Tussing nails the ragged star Jimmy Cross and his populist poetry, but his central subjects are two men who become entangled with his never-ending tour.... Their stories converge with a sweetness that feels earned.” —Boris Kachka, Vulture's “8 Books You Need to Read This April”
“Justin Tussing's second novel is a clever, satisfying story about the struggle to find meaning in the lives we've made for ourselves.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“It's precisely [the] role musicians play in defining and preserving who we are that receives the attention in Justin Tussing's inviting second novel, Vexation Lullaby.... A novel that reminds us that looking to celebrities and mass culture for the answers to the all-important questions of who we are will, in the end, only ever lead us astray. Still, we can always look to Justin Tussing.” —Simon Chandler, Electric Literature
Peter Silver is a young doctor treading water in the wake of a breakup—a man whose girlfriend called him a "mama's boy" and whose best friend considers him a "homebody," a squanderer of adventure. But when he receives an unexpected request for a house call, he obliges, only to discover that his new patient is aging, chameleonic rock star Jimmy Cross. Soon Peter is compelled to join the mysteriously ailing celebrity, his band, and his entourage, as they travel from state to state. On the road, the so-called " first physician embedded in a rock tour" is thrust into a way of life that embraces disorder and risk rather than order and discipline.
Trailing the band at every tour stop is Arthur Pennyman, Cross's number-one fan. Pennyman has not missed a performance in twenty years, sacrificing his family and job to chronicle every show on his website. Cross insists that "being a fan is how we teach ourselves to love," and, in the end, Pennyman does learn. And when he hears a mythic, as-yet-unperformed song he starts to piece together the puzzle of Peter's role in Cross's past.
Can the analytical doctor loosen up? And will Pennyman, "The Restless One," ever settle down?
Trade paperback original with french flaps.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Justin Tussing is the author of the Ken Kesey Award-winning novel The Best People in the World, and his short fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, Triquarterly, and A Public Space, among other periodicals. He is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and currently directs the University of Southern Maine's Low-Residency MFA Program in Portland, Maine.