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Way Too Fast: An American Reckoning
Blending biography, memoir, musical studies, and innovative storytelling techniques, Farmer invites readers into the world of the first-rate but little-known guitarist and songwriter Danny DeGennaro, exploring through DeGennaro’s life and music a turbulent era where genius can so often languish in obscurity, all while celebrating the pleasure of seeing “one of the best bands on earth play in a local bar for free.” Born in 1955, Danny DeGennaro was raised in Levittown at the infancy of suburban life in America. His supportive father, a member of the then-booming post-war industrial middle class, could provide the means to nurture his musical talent. “Perhaps no generation in American history had been born into such limitless-seeming promise,” Farmer writes, and throughout he ties that promise to DeGennaro’s own.

Through his adolescence, DeGennaro dazzled with his performances at casual gatherings and in bands, then won a devoted fandom after joining the band Kingfish in 1979. Farmer twines elements of memoir throughout this portrait, touchingly recounting first meeting DeGennaro as Farmer grieved his wife’s sudden death in 1993. First, he heard DeGennaro’s guitar, coming from a waterfront bar in New Hope, “a sound that is as sad as the world, as sad as everything you’ve lost, because it is also as beautiful.”

DeGennaro “inspired loyalty” among many, Farmer writes, and he offers deep dives into those relationships. The story of Farmer and DeGennaro come together again in a happier time in the author’s life nearly twenty years later, when he finds the guitarist having suffered both in health and career. Readers will cheer on DeGennaro in his battle for his sobriety to the bitter end, which comes too soon, with his murder in 2011. This elegiac, formally inventive work examines shifts in culture over a generation, plus changing views of war, the invasion of drugs, and always, no matter the circumstances, the life-affirming power of music.

Takeaway: This innovative biography and memoir celebrates a singular guitarist and his passing era.

Great for fans of: Jim Abbott’s Jackson C. Frank: The Clear, Hard Light of Genius, Steven Blush’s Lost Rockers.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A-
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A