Ambient Parking Lot, by Pamela Lu.
ISBN 9780976736431 (2011) $14.95
Part fiction, part earnest mockumentary, Ambient Parking Lot follows a band of musicians as they wander the parking structures of urban downtown and greater suburbia in quest of the ultimate ambient noise, one that promises to embody their historical moment and deliver them up to the heights of their self-important artistry. Along the way, they make sporadic forays into lyric while contending with doubts, delusions, miscalculations, mutinies, and minor triumphs. This saga peers into the wreckage of a post 9/11 landscape and embraces the comedy and poignancy of failed utopia.
Pamela Lu is also the author of Pamela: A Novel and The Private Listener, a chapbook from Corollary Press. Pamela: A Novel is on the decade’s bestsellers list from Small Press Distribution. Portions of Ambient Parking Lot were previously published in Chicago Review and Harper’s. Her writing also appears in the anthologies Bay Poetics and Biting the Error, and has been published in periodicals such as 1913, Antennae, Call, Chain, and Fascicle. She lives and works in the San Francisco Bay Area.
…a smart and lyrical document of an imagined avant-garde, a sort of Spinal Tap for conceptual music fans. While the novel is, as its back cover claims, earnest, it’s also hilarious and oddly touching given the absurdity of the band’s recording and performance of parking lots, a music that “emitted a low earthly growl, privileging bass-level amplitude over quais-narrative pop disappointment”–Matthew Kirkpatrick, Drunken Boat
I chuckled and tick-marked at record speed, drunk with the spot-on parody and ridiculous brilliance of her lines. What I love about Lu’s work is her sharp wit, subtle delivery and deadpan hilarity–Jai Arun Ravine, Lantern Review
Lu’s book looks at the cerebral struggle of artmaking and of ambient music: as struggle between the problems of the language of individual and the language of the collective. What to do with the parking lots flips into what to do with the disaster victim? How can we transform the highways becomes how can we give automobile drivers a secure voice?–Devin King, Make Magazine
The Ambient Parkers are sincere, almost naively so, unwilling to “play the game” … but willing to try it out. They are somehow self-important and self-deprecating at the same time. They are every independent band as they confront the specter of commercial and critical success, as they grapple with their image and then grapple with consciously grappling with their image. It’s dizzying, really, and hilarious.–Cooper Berkmoyer, San Francisco Bay Guardian
In the end, Lu suggests that despite the absurdities and shifting metamorphoses inherent in human effort, the greatest grace and sense of humanity comes from attending, from recognizing that the deathly silence we fear is in fact fully populated and alive once we quiet ourselves. By the novel’s end, ambience takes on new meaning, and doesn’t require our torturously theorized amplifications but graces us when we quietly acknowledge it.–Sueyeun Juliette Lee, Constant Critic