Brad Zellar’s latest novel is ready to roll
By Tim Ramsey
Full disclosure. I’m a borderline Brad Zellar fanatic. He has been writing and editing Among Us Twin Citizens for decades. It caught the attention of several key local publications and was published in the New York Times Magazine, Paris Review, and Opening. The Merriam Park resident has also published four books and multiple collaborations with renowned photographer Alex Soth. And, he was co-owner of the Rag and Bones bookstore.
Prestigious local publisher, Coffee House Press, has just published Zellar’s latest novel, Until the wheels fall off.
It’s a homecoming novel. The main character, Matthew Carnap, has returned from the Twin Cities to the fictional town of Prentice in southern Minnesota. He seeks out his stepfather Russ who ran a local skateboard in Prentice, Screaming Wheels, which was, as Russ said, an amazing opportunity to blast some music.
Matt Carnap had an unconventional upbringing. He never knew his biological father, bonded with Russ, and couldn’t stand his mother’s last partner. Uncles, town characters, and Russ were Matt’s real beacons. Russ connected the deepest. The Skating Wheels rink was their chance to create, or “cure”, the Gold Standard list: Dylan, The Clash, Joni Mitchell. CCR, Booker T and the MGs. Johnny Cash. Lucinda Williams. Otis Redding.
Matt’s teenage years could have been unconventional. The same goes for this unconventional, strange, energetic, deep and beautiful book.
Russ said how he felt about the music he played for Screaming Wheels skaters. Matt learned from him how to spin records and later how to select tapes. They knew what kept people on the rink and what moved them or what seated them.
Matt and Russ separated for years. They’re brought together by Rollie, one of the wealthy uncles you’d never know, who bought Gene’s United Skates in nearby Hollandale with one business plan: to have Russ and Matt run it.
It’s all part of the beautiful and wacky moving story that is this novel. A genuine and touching love story ~ Matt and Veronica is also included. Russ tells Matt that because of Uncle Rollie’s support, they don’t have to worry about the bottom line. “It will be a public service…retro entertainment.” We will have everything. A new “rattling window” sound system, a refinished rink surface, and lighting that provides “the dazzling ambiance associated with the best rinks”. And then the “gold standard” playlist.
Veronica said it could all be something like a really good church. Russ said it is “the spirit of living creatures in the wheels forever or when the wheels fall off”.
Until the wheels fall ends with more Russ: “Who’s ready to get upset?” Who is ready to vibrate and levitate? Who’s ready to ride?
This book is ready. This book rolls.