Mercury astronaut

Poet Daniel Nester takes a bizarre, deeply personal cruise through Queen’s discography

Who hasn’t windmilled around their living room at least once in
CHAMPIONS” in a wild-eyed, manic frenzy, all the while pointing
mockingly at a friend you’ve just crucified for the third straight time
at Stratego? And who can’t shamefacedly admit that they’ve mashed
out air power chords on an air flying V guitar while rocking out to the
uptempo section of “Bohemian Rhapsody”? I mean, whether you
are/were an impressionable AM radio casualty or a budding audiophile
überfan/Mensa poet laureate, everybody knows the music of Queen to some
degree. It is inescapable, it permeates all living tissue, it exists in
multiple dimensions and it transcends time itself. Or perhaps you think it is

Either way, I was the former (the AM radio casualty) while author Daniel
Nester is quite obviously the latter (the Mensa poet laureate).
Nester’s obtuse Queen tribute God Save My Queen, upon first read, seems
more like a bizarre, self-aggrandizing pat on the back than a salute to the
band—an infuriating non-read if you’re expecting a breezy
tell-all or a glorified coffee-table fanzine. Upon closer examination,
however, it becomes clear that Nester’s book is a complex puzzle and
once a few of the pieces are in place, the larger picture reveals itself.

To glean any insight from God Save My Queen, you simply can’t be a
passive reader. DAMN IT! This is challenging shit, so put down that smoothie
and pay attention. All of the casual flippers who pawed through my copy of
the book had the same “What the fuck is this supposed to be?”
reaction. At first I shrugged in agreement, but now I smugly nod. You may not
find out why Mercury grew that outrageous Muppet mustache, but you will be
enlightened nonetheless. Nester has laid open a cryptic diary and allowed us
to peep voyeuristically at his candid coming-of-age revelations. It’s a
baffling mix of pontification, trivia and lyrical analysis, all superimposed
upon an exhaustive, song-by-song chronology of Queen releases. Nester has
drunkenly ridden roughshod over all expectations and you are the duct-taped
hostage in his trunk.

The secret to God Save My Queen is that Nester invites the reader to join
in his own personal experience of the Queen discography. There, the
cat’s out of the bag. Y’see, by reading about Nester’s
poetic, song-by-song reflections on Queen’s music you can’t help
but reminisce yourself. So it’s okay that you wanted a striped unitard
in Grade 7. And it’s alright that you and your friends drunkenly held
flashlights under your chins and reduced beautiful Queen arrangements to
hamfisted hollering into cellular telephones on precarious rooftops.
It’s okay that all you hear is backward-masked religious fervour
whenever you listen to “Another One Bites the Dust.” Nester goes
so much farther and lays so much more on the line that even your most ribald
memories will seem pedestrian by comparison. Oh Really? Yes, really! Here,
for instance, is his entry on “Fat Bottomed Girls”: “I
almost forgot the night I offered my cock to two big women in a Camaro,
feather joint clips, Jordache and feathered hair.” And that’s
just the tip of the iceberg, chum.

So what if you’re not an überfan who’s spent a lifetime
jerking off to the Queen canon (like Nester reveals himself to be on page
55)? You’ll either come away from God Save My Queen believing
it’s a personal epiphany or thinking it’s bunk. I’ve come
to believe it’s the former. V

God Save My Queen By Daniel Nester • Soft Skull Press • 140 pp.
• $21.50

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