Told through the eyes of a ten year old boy, Theo by Ed Taylor, relates a tale of 1980’s rock excess and Theo’s attempt to negotiate a life akin to normality. Theo lives in a shambling Long Island mansion with his mother, grandfather, minder and assortment of hangers on. His father, Adrian, is a shambolic rock star whose lifestyle is reminiscent of a spoilt 80’s rock star.
Disorganisation is the order of the day and Theo is the placid observer taking note of the continual and growing madness which surrounds him. Frieda, his mother is a promiscuous drug addict, who really cannot cope with the fact that she has a son to raise and certain maternal responsibilities. She takes Theo out of school, thinking he would be better off at home. Unfortunately school was the one place where Theo could interact with the normal everyday world.
Decadence and excess are seen as ordinary. Throughout the house couples have casual sex and drink and drugs are freely available. Theo often wonders what it would be like to live a normal life with normal parents. Food, when it is available is often stale, dog faeces lie about the floor for days and often Theo must forage clean clothes for himself. If things seem disorganised now they take a far worse turn when his father arrives to record his latest album. Welcome then to the unenviable world of the child of a rock star.
Theo is Ed Taylor’s debut novel and paints a picture of a set of people caught in the celebrity rock culture of the 1980’s. This is warts and all tale of bacchanal excess taken to an extreme. It is also a story of innocence and fragile understanding on behalf of Theo, of the world about him. A strength of the novel is that the narrative holds together and remains coherent. Minor characters such as Mingus or Gina who are in fact hangers on are given a sympathetic portrayal and in many ways take the place of Theo’s distracted parents.
The arrival of Adrian, Theo’s father, heralds what is rock excess in its extreme. Adrian whose lifestyle can only be inspired by Ozzy Osbourne is a disorganised musical genius. His return sees life in the house degenerate to an extent reminiscent of Rome during the time of Nero. An attempt by Adrian to shower Theo with affection through a profusion of gifts is comical but also displays a lack of understanding of what Theo’s real needs are. In the end the recording of the album is abandoned and the band agree to leave it till another day.
We should be envious of Theo. The son of a beloved rock star for whom money is no object. The world is his to play with. He only has to ask and his father will provide for all his material goods. His other needs however are sadly lacking. By the end the overriding emotion we have for Theo is pity.
Any Cop?: Theo is a fascinating novel, simply told which will elicit both sympathy and admiration from the reader.