Although this novel is a purported oral history of the title character, a mysterious avant-garde musician, hers is the one voice we never hear. Instead, as we seemingly learn about this fictional pianist-composer we are treated to a revealing — and at times hilarious — satire of the music business, fame, and the cult of personality ... Much of the humor in this short comic novel is broad ... Inside jokes abound, particularly in the testimony of experts who can supposedly offer insight into Geffel or her exceedingly odd compositions, which apparently emanate directly from her emotions ... Other jokes are a little more welcoming to a wider readership ... At times the humor wears thin. The one-note recitals, particularly by the hypercerebral musicologist and self-important critic, become repetitive, even in this relatively short work. By the time Hajdu wields the critical doubletalk to tackle another issue — whether if great art can be created by someone who is happy — it is too little too late. A perennial debate among critics and fans of a certain sort, this question is left largely unresolved, though Hajdu does use it to hint at Geffel’s fate. What we learn, instead, is how all of us view each other as extensions of ourselves, for our own dreams and purposes, and, ultimately, how mysterious art and the act of creation really are.
Hajdu has fun name-dropping real-life artists ... and making light of academia in the satirical mix. This may remind some readers of Rick Moody’s work (one of his stories takes the form of liner notes), while the enigmatic Geffel has elements of Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, Laurie Anderson, and Lou Reed. Hajdu has created a weird and strangely wonderful fictional evocation of New York’s 1970s and 1980s underground music and art scenes.
The story unfolds as oral history, delivered mostly by those who celebrate their stake in [Adrianne] —her clueless parents, a controlling self-styled boyfriend—resulting in a portrait that’s as much about the exploitation of the gifted as it is about the gift of music, of the artist’s exterior situation as it is of the artist’s interior world. Hajdu is excellent at articulating the vitality of Geffel’s music while leaving what it actually sounds like to our imagination ... A reverberant and eye-opening portrait of an artist going her own way and finally saving herself