Townshend has been working on this as part of a multimedia project for more than a decade, which might explain why the melodramatic narrative reads more like a treatment than a novel, a sketchy outline weighed down with lengthy exposition, stilted dialogue, flimsy characters, an awful lot of tell and not very much show. The plot is absurd, but then no more so than the plot of Tommy, which took flight thanks to the music. First conceived as a rock opera, The Age of Anxiety cries out for power chords and soaring choruses to bring it to life.
It could have done with more editorial guidance: there are convincing passages when Townshend writes about being on stage, heroin and the psychedelic whorls in a bed’s greasy headboard, but real imaginative flashes are hobbled by a rambling narrative and improbable dialogue. The energy and vision behind this book might be better expressed in music or film; judged as a conventional novel it’s a bit of turkey, but there’s a monster in here that wants to get out.