We live in a world of heroes and villains. A world filled with people searching for a purpose-driven life, and others determined to fill those lives with manufactured moments and mediocre meaning. In his brand new novel The Sabbatical, author Frederick Pinto crafts an impeccable story which is told through the prism of the music industry. From beginning to end we are taken on a fascinating journey of one man who uses the very industry he helped to revolutionize as a means of escaping from his life’s broken record pattern of excess and self absorption which had been driven not only by the engine of his intelligence, but as he eventually learns, his ego as well.
Charles was an icon of the music business, and in six years he managed to transform a small Montreal-based music startup into the giant known as PlayLouder — the ultimate resource for discovering new unsigned musical talent. Charles was the envy of nearly ever man alive: young, gorgeous, rich, famous, and powerful. That is until the day he lost everything when his company was overtaken by the executive snakes he personally brought under his wing years before. Faster than your iPod can get erased by a zap of fateful electricity, Charles was zapped himself from the company he built with his bare hands.
As he begins to slowly pick up the pieces of his life, he not only encounters a string of characters old and new, but he also sets off on a journey both literal and metaphorical. It is a journey which takes him from his life in Montreal, to the bowels of music biz power in New York, to the seedy underground of Prague, to the most dangerous corners of Rio de Janeiro. Along the way he not only experiences some bouts of self-destruction as he picks up these pieces of his life and his identity, he also begins to question the pieces themselves. During a trip to New York where he meets up with some old friends from his university days — who have since become some of the biggest execs in industry — he meets up with his friend Shelley during one of her events where she’s showing off the next big group, Dark Knights, which she describes as a critique of Bruce Wayne as the modern man. “[Batman’s not saving lives] to restore a healthy society. He does it because his parents got murdered when he was a kid. He’s self-centered and psychotic. He’s got all the money in the world, but his only friends are Alfred and Robin — basically the help, right? His refuge is his Bat Cave of toys and enlightenment. And even if he beats the bad guys his life won’t change. He’ll still be a tormented loner.” In many ways this is a brilliant description of Charles himself.
It could be argued that Charles’ intentions for PlayLouder had somewhat of a heroic purpose when he founded the company: to create a platform where modern man could temporarily escape his pathetic and ever-declining existential status and enjoy the greatest of all arts — music. A platform free from the manipulating forces of opinion and curation of Pitchfork which has completely destroyed the purity of modern independent music (SEE ALSO: “Stabbing Pitchfork: Brilliant, Scathing Review Of How Pitchfork Is Destroying The Soul Of Indie Rock“). But in doing so he ended up creating the exact opposite of his intentions when the huge music labels began one-by-one to dig their claws into his company for a piece of its magic.
When you’re young, rich, and powerful, being surrounded by sycophants is not a problem at all — so long as you are ten steps ahead of them and know the game better than anyone else. But even a young mogul wakes up sooner or later to realize that a life of narcissism and power has no meaning. In a world where even the search for enlightenment has fallen victim to an industry as well, with millions of people around the world are propelled on their journeys towards self-fulfillment by an often unnoticed force of self absorption, the path towards the light is now infinitely more complex, yet understandably somewhere in the middle between these two extremes.
Charles’ inner conflict is a universal one, in the sense that as human beings we are blessed with the most powerful gift in the universe — consciousness. But unfortunately, consciousness comes with a huge price in the form of a dance. The dance between our right-brained impetus “I am at one with all energy and Mother Nature Herself”, and our left-brained “I am” which constantly informs us that we are separate individuals from everyone and everything around us. This White Knight vs. Dark Knight battle will always be the underlying force which drives not only our individual lives but our civilization at large. For Charles, a man who has spent far too many years feeling way too big in his ego-based left side, is not looking to move to the right 100% where he will feel “Mini” and at one with everything forever. Like all of us, he’s searching for a harmony between both. A search for a place where we don’t just get to play louder, we get to love louder as well, using our lives as instruments of beauty, compassion, and transformation.