Tom Alt’s memoir, 8-Track Flashbacks, is the equivalent of a new band on the scene, which produces an album that has one or two decent songs, but as a whole does not stand on its own. At 113 pages, it is sized more like a novella than a novel. It is a story of growing up in the 60s (and early 70s). Ironically, most of the story takes place before 8-tracks were popular.
Alt grows up in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, a few miles west of Milwaukee. His father leaves, and his early childhood involves sports, girls, drinking, and more girls – not all that dissimilar for boys of almost any era.
A key events almanac for each year of the decade introduces the chapters, though the events listed and the songs referred to are largely isolated from the stories contained in the chapters.
There are some very well-written passages, some vignettes that might cause the reader to recall that time of their life or that era in general. Perhaps some from the Midwest will relate to the sports teams, towns, or liberalism of the University of Wisconsin. However, there is a depth to the account that is missing. The characters exist but the reader does not really get to know them sufficiently to bond with them.
Because of the vagueness, it is difficult to get to the main point of why this memoir might stand out as one to read. It is hard to distinguish if this is supposed to be about the era, growing up, heartache or survival – too many important issues are introduced and then left dangling. More time is spent on Alt’s high school years, which basically comes across as a boy clowning around and skating by. His relationship with his mother and siblings probably should have been more prominent in the story; his college relationships; draft status and subsequent failed physical; and other portions of the story are glanced over a bit too hastily.
The book can be read in one sitting or as time permits. It’s not a bad book. It’s just not a great book.
A review copy was provided by the author. 8-Track Flashbacks is also available as a Kindle Edition and Nook Book download.
Dave Moyer is the author of Life and Life Only: A Novel. He has recently completed a second novel.