De rode loper
A contemporary tragicomedy about fame and loneliness
A born loser from a city in an eastern province is the protagonist of the new novel by Thomas Rosenboom, one of Dutch literature’s most refined stylists. The Red Carpet charts the life and times of a proud underachiever, ‘constantly on the move without getting anywhere.’
Lou Baljon’s story begins with his friendship with the illustrious members of Shout, an unsuccessful cover band. He becomes their faithful roadie and we follow him through the free-wheeling seventies, the gritty eighties and the hectic nineties until his career as a recording engineer ends when the band breaks up. He finally finds his calling as the owner of a cinema in which audience members can admire themselves on the screen.
‘Narcissism is the disease of our age,’ Baljons’s only childhood friend Eddie says. To his mind, the world suffers from ‘an endless longing for attention and admiration, but how do you get that if you have no talent?’ The gap in the market – symbolic of this hankering after an artificial, unfounded fame – is the red carpet of the title, derived from the Oscars, which gives every non-entity a sense of self-importance.
The Red Carpet is a satire containing wonderful vignettes of marginal pop musicians, vain dignitaries and reluctant profiteers. At the same time, the novel offers a profoundly sad portrait of a naive, shy man who yearns for love and friendship while not being capable of it himself: ‘He’d only snacked at love, or stood in the kitchen and eaten out of the pan, but now he was forty-two years old and it was time to sit down at a table – but with whom?’
In Lou Baljon, Rosenboom adds a new anti-hero to his pantheon of do-gooders adrift in an indifferent and absurd universe. He is a man behind the times, who realizes that his ideals no longer fit the age he is living in. Rosenboom’s work puts forward a case for good manners, and for success and fame when it is earned. He is a man with a mission, even though that mission is dated. Paradoxically enough, this is what makes his story so urgent.