Book Review: 2008 Texas Book Festival

An unconventional examination of one experimental artist's life and untimely death

2008 Texas Book Festival

In Heaven Everything Is Fine: The Unsolved Life of Peter Ivers and the Lost History of New Wave Theatre

by Josh Frank with Charlie Buckholtz
Free Press, 352 pp., $25

Peter Ivers, host in the Seventies and early Eighties of the L.A.-based music and sketch comedy cable show New Wave Theatre, is not exactly a household name. No matter. Part-time Austinite Josh Frank and Charlie Buckholtz have written a compelling portrait in In Heaven Everything Is Fine, the story of Ivers' years as host of the groundbreaking program and his life leading up to his still-unsolved 1983 murder.

At the time of his death, Ivers was just gaining recognition as the creative force behind a community of artists, musicians, comedians, and filmmakers, including David Lynch, Harold Ramis, and Chevy Chase, all revolving around New Wave Theatre. "Peter lived at the epicenter of a perfect storm of artistic endeavor," Frank writes in the prologue.

Frank and Buckholtz have come up with a clever structure for their biography, befitting to the bizarreness of their subject. The book opens with a "Selected Cast of Characters," a list of everyone included in the text and their relation to Ivers. Franks notes that readers can follow symbols in the book to a website that features Ivers' songs and videos. Interspersed throughout are pages of direct quotations from detectives who worked on the case, called "Case Files," as well as quotes from family, friends, and colleagues, dubbed "Close-up."

Most of the time, this approach propels the story – except when it doesn't. The direct quotations, for example, are indicated by rather jarring changes of font. An afterword written by a detective is redundant. This is small stuff compared to the whole, however. Frank and Buckholtz have a novelist's knack for getting into Ivers' mind; the last chapter reads more like fiction than biography. If the point of nonfiction is to incite curiosity, this book succeeds. I found myself, following Frank's suggestion, watching clips between chapters.

Cultural Collisions
Saturday, Nov. 1, 2-3pm
Capitol Extension Room E2.016

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Peter Ivers, Texas Book Festival

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