Title: An Authentic Derivative
Author: Caleb Coy
Genre: Self-Published, Millennials, Philosophy, Intro to Adulthood, Struggling Artist Stories
Personal Score: 6/10
An Authentic Derivative is Caleb Coy’s first novel, self-published with the help of an indiegogo crowdfunding campaign. It tells the story of Neil Oberlin, an artist new to the Nashville scene trying to make money as a freelance designer. Indie rocker Garrett Sedgwick, a somewhat controversial cult figure almost more myth than man, offers Neil a chance to design his new album cover. Unfortunately for our narrator, this pushes him into the stressful and dramatic world of secret identities, old flames, and over-excitable music bloggers.
Oberlin acts as an observer and commenter on the world and his generation. While the novel follows a loose plot, jumping from thread to thread, the bulk of the text is a series of philosophical mini-essays and musings on topics ranging from religion and faith to identity and society at large. Every event sparks a monologue that only the reader is privy too. In some ways, Oberlin is a ghost in his own narrative. While he interacts with friends and clients and responds to events, he tends to avoid and defuse situations, staying as distant as possible, rather than approach them head-on, a trait that he even makes reference to in parts of his discussion. While reading, I had the recurring thought that Oberlin is the quintessential stereotype of the Millennial generation: obsessed with the pursuit of a valuable, “authentic” life while utterly disenchanted with the state of the world. Fittingly, Oberlin falls under the designation of hipster, that character type most associated with Millennials, allowing him, ironically, to loftily discuss the use and pursuit of irony while concomitantly declaring a search for authenticity. Whether intentional or not, such musings, combined with Oberlin’s jaded self-awareness, sometimes take on a parodic tone that manages to be both sincere and biting.
My favorite part of the novel is its use of the internal meme “No Promo,” which doubles as a bit of meta-narrative. The phrase is described as an inside joke among the Nashville population, but not everyone knows where it came from, and even those that do don’t understand its meaning or intent. Yet it’s a ubiquitous slogan slipped into casual conversations and dwells in the public consciousness. By the time you finish the novel, you have an awareness of its use and can easily see where it would fit into your everyday life. If this novel becomes a cult hit, “No Promo” will probably become a widespread phrase among those in the know. We are a generation of memes and epithets who have all seen the gif of a cat sliding into an empty box. “No Promo” as a phrase is like the expression of a Millennial hipster mindset conveniently packaged in the trademark form of our communication. It only really needs an associated cat gif to be complete. Coy’s use of images such as this are a testament to the level of planning he put into the work.
Philosophical, satirical, heartfelt, and humorous, An Authentic Derivative is a well-thought first offering from Caleb Coy. While the plot and characters are often just convenient backdrops to segue between different discussions, and the use of the “lovelorn tortured artist” trope admittedly strikes as tired and cliche, the insights and analysis are the main focus of the piece anyway, and he presents them in a developed voice and intentional style. Overall an enjoyable read with a strong mind behind it.
If you’re interested in purchasing An Authentic Derivative, you may do so here: