Publication Date: Jan 26, 2016
List Price US $17.95
Trim Size (H x W): 5.5 x 8.25
List Price US $16.99
In this debut novel, a ghostwriter of the memoirs of a reclusive folk music icon—part Woody Guthrie, part Bob Dylan—attempts to glean fact from fiction, only to discover the deeper he digs into the musician’s past, the more his own past rises to the surface
Despite his fame, Eli Page is a riddle wrapped in a myth, inside decades of mask-making. His past is so shrouded in gossip and half-truths that no one knows who he is behind the act. Jack Wyeth, a budding writer, joins Eli in Galesville, a small town on the border of New York and Vermont, only to learn that the musician’s mind is failing. As he scrambles to uncover the truth, Jack is forced to confront his own past, his own hang-ups, and his own fears. At the same time, he falls for a local artist who has secrets of her own, he becomes linked to a town controversy, and he struggles to let go of his childhood idols and bridge the divide between myth and reality.
Set against a folk Americana aesthetic, Lay Down Your Weary Tune is an emotionally charged exploration of myth-making, desire, and regret, and the inescapable bond between the past and present.
Excerpt from Lay Down Your Weary Tune
It’s been two months, nineteen days, and twenty-one hours since Eli was last seen, walking alongside the road in a wild summer storm. Several witnesses reported that he was stumbling, unfazed by the headlights, detached from all earthly endeavors.
The river went over its banks that night. The town flooded, as it’s prone to do when the heavens break open. After the water receded, the village put aside its differences and worked with a common purpose: find the lost man. We employed bloodhounds to catch his scent, sifted through every inch of the Battenkill from Galesville to Easton, swept the land from the village proper to the fairgrounds. Found nothing. No sign of him. The national media grew restless. With their awkward satellite trucks, they reported on the search while peddling Eli’s legacy, prompted by obituaries written well before Eli Page disappeared. Seven weeks in, attention spans fizzled, the bloodhounds caught a new case, volunteers dwindled, and I was left wondering how it could have ended the way it did.
Time marches on and we all wait for some sort of revelation. We look for miracles in the small things. We look for answers in wool caps and leather satchels, but answers are hard to come by these days.
So here I am, slumped over the harvest table in the center of Eli’s farmhouse, a house that has been a port in the most frustrating and beautiful storm of my life, and I’m determined to write it all down, to contribute in some small way to our collective understanding of Eli Page and maybe, just maybe, provide a note of truth to a composition famously built on lies.
“An examination of art, fame, and authenticity.” —The Boston Globe
“[A] richly textured novel about folk music…Belcher brings the folk music scene to life, but best of all is his ability to craft a cast of memorable characters.” —Publisher’s Weekly
“Appealing…Mingling elements from both literature and the blues, Belcher has crafted a memorable tale about how the masks and myths we create can become prisons that ultimately disconnect us from ourselves.” —Library Journal
“This story will pluck countless heartstrings.” —Booklist
“W.B. Belcher’s debut novel evokes the legend and timelessness of a true folk song. In the town of Galesville he weaves together a carefully crafted, mysterious, and epic world of characters whose stories will keep you guessing until the very end. A folkloric treasure trove and a great read.” —Jocelyn Arem, author of Caffe Lena: Inside America’s Legendary Folk Music Coffeehouse
“A heartening, timeless, and stirring song for the ‘perfectly broken.’ Beautifully thrownback. Openhanded. True. W.B. Belcher is my kind of writer.” —Matthew Quick, New York Times bestselling author of The Silver Linings Playbook and Love May Fail
“As beautiful and artfully constructed as an old guitar, Lay Down Your Weary Tune feels both familiar and wholly original. William Belcher’s debut is a highly readable wonder.” —James Scott, author of The Kept
“Like Russell Banks and Richard Russo, W.B. Belcher’s warm, lyrical prose brings to life the upstate New York I know and love so well, and even more, he does it with the clarity, compassion, and humor of a master storyteller. A terrific debut novel.” —Chris Millis, author, screenwriter, and executive producer of Small Apartments
- When speaking of Eliza, Eli Page tells Jack, “That’s all I had of my daughter. The name” (p 343). What is the importance of names in this novel? Is there any significance to Jack’s name?
- On page 237 Eli tells Jack “I wasn’t who they wanted me to be.” Who is the “they” Eli is referring to? Does Jack have certain expectations of who Eli should be? Does Eli live up to them? How does Jack’s knowledge or idea of who Eli is change over the course of the novel?
- Jack says of his father, “John James Wyeth was an idea, a waking dream” (p 302). Who else in Lay Down Your Weary Tune is an idea? Do any of the characters ever become more than “an idea,” and if so, how?
- On page 164 Jenny tells Jack, “I have to play the part.” Why do you think Jenny feels she has to maintain a role that is not the reality of who she is? Who created the role for Jenny, and whom does the role appease or please? Describe the ways other characters in the novel, such as Casey, Eli, and Jack, play designated roles.
- Jack twice calls Eli a “trickster” (see pp 46, 368). In what ways does Eli fulfill the archetype of the trickster? At the end of the novel Eli disappears. Do you believe he’s still alive?
- How are Jack and Eli similar? How do they help each other and change together over the course o the novel? On page 340 Eli tells Jack “That’s what I’ve got to give.” What does Jack give to Eli? To Jenny?
- On page 322 Jack observes, “[Jenny had] endured far worse and with far more grace.” Why do you think this novel is narrated by Jack and not by Jenny, or Eli himself? How might the novel have changed if another character were narrating it?
- On page 356 Jack says, “I guess we’re all forced to make decisions—some of them pan out, others don’t.” What choices does Jack face and what decisions does he make?
- On page 284 Jack compares being a storyteller to being a liar. What do you make of this, considering his object in writing about Eli is to “provide a note of truth” (p 5)? Do you think Jack himself could be a trickster?
- Are there any musicians or artists who have influenced your life the way Eli Page has influenced Jack’s? If you could spend some months living with an artist, who would it be and why?