Xstabeth: David Keenan’s rock ’n’ roll fairy story and Muse myth is a triumph

Shaggy dog story is quixotic achievement but takes shallow view of women

Tautly edited, the sheer stylistic euphoria of Davud Keenan’s form seems to breathe itself to life. Photograph:  Roberto Ricciuti/Getty Images

Tautly edited, the sheer stylistic euphoria of Davud Keenan’s form seems to breathe itself to life. Photograph: Roberto Ricciuti/Getty Images

Let me tell you about Olivia Newton-John’s broken zipper. It’s one clue left unsolved by David Keenan in his transcendent shaggy dog story, Xstabeth. The novel is a quixotic achievement by one of our most exciting writers. As a rock’n’roll fairy story and myth about the Muse, it’s a triumph. I was less enamoured by its view of women.

The title refers to the LP created accidentally by failing musician Tomasz in a club in St Petersburg, resuscitating his career. The story of how Xstabeth becomes a cult album, haunting her creator, is narrated by Tomasz’s devoted daughter, 19-year-old Aneliya. In Slavic languages, her name translates as angel, a hidden clue.

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