Alumnus publishes e-book ‘Robert’s Rules of Karaoke’
By Shannon Draucker, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Wednesday, February 22, 2012
A Dartmouth alumnus will soon make his mark on the literary scene, as the debut novel of Elliot Ohlansky ’04 will be released later this month by recently established e-book publishing company The Write Deal. Ohlansky’s novel, titled “Robert’s Rules of Karaoke,” tells the story of two recent college graduates navigating bachelorhood in Boston and New York.
Olshansky choses a unique stage for his two main characters: The protagonist, Rob, and his best friend, Chuck, are hooked on the karaoke bar scene. Rob and Chuck have the karaoke world completely figured out. They know what pubs are the best and what Top 40 tracks will help them win the local ladies. Experts in the karaoke world, Rob and Chuck have applied the knowledge they acquired through their karaoke habit to compile a list of the “Rules of Karaoke,” which is a detailed catalog of which tunes to sing and which to avoid.
Olshansky clearly did his research on the 20-something social scene. He aptly captures what some have called a new genre of “guy lit.” Much of the novel chronicles the casual atmosphere of the karaoke bar, and Ohlansky successfully captures the average “two guys in a bar,” but with a unique karaoke obsession.
Olshansky’s integration of his broad musical knowledge into the narrative elevates the text from a mediocre account of two bachelors’ romantic conquests and bad Friday nights singing into a microphone. He references artists from the Barenaked Ladies to Queen and songs including “Sympathy for the Devil” and “Baby Got Back.” Readers later learn that Rob actually has a decent knowledge of music theory, as he cites musical terms like coda.
The karaoke angle is well thought-out, as it provides a unique context for Olshansky to more deeply illustrate his characters. At one point, Rob ponders how, “When you see someone sing, you learn a little bit about that persons’s tastes, and a bit about personality, too.” He insists that karaoke allows people to “get a little more information, so it’s not just about whether you’re fit for a GQ cover.” Rob, an anchor on a local newscast, also insists that performing in karaoke bars helps him cope with the fact that no one watches him on television.
Although there is no Dartmouth-related content in the novel — the colleges mentioned in the book are Boston University, Boston College, Harvard University and Cornell University — Olshansky certainly hints at his days in Hanover when he throws a few anti-Harvard quips into the narrative.
Olshansky’s novel also sneaks a wide range of sports knowledge into the plot. Rob is an avid hockey fan, a plot point that arose from Olshanksy’s days writing about Dartmouth hockey for The Dartmouth, according to Olshansky. Olshansky’s current experiences as a sports journalist for the New York Hockey Journal and New York Daily News allowed him to offer a unique and informed perspective on hockey, a sport not often discussed in novels. His dynamic portrayal of the BC/BU rivalry and the legendary Beanpot tournament provide both a humorous and painstakingly accurate look into the intensity of college sports in Boston.
He vividly paints the Boston social scene from the male perspective. Rob and Chuck go to sports bars such as The T and John Harvard’s, visit Harvard Square and attend a Boston Pops concert at the Hatch Shell on July 4. Parts of the novel certainly deal with less interesting male issues, such as Rob’s annoyance with his overbearing mother, his feelings of inferiority to his best friend and his uncertainty about the perfect moment to drop the “L-bomb” to his girlfriend. Olshansky adds a unique angle to many of these plotlines, however — for example, the girl with whom Rob falls in love is an artsy, purple-haired photographer for the Village Voice, not exactly the type of girl one would picture with a hockey-loving BU grad.
“Robert’s Rules of Karaoke” represents a quirky and unique take on a slice of young adult life about the post-graduate world. Olshansky’s novel paints a refreshing picture of two average but interesting dudes who hang out at bars, sing karaoke and like sports. College students and graduates will appreciate Olshansky’s honest, humorous and engaging take on bachelorhood in the big city.