May 23, 2009

The Sunday Salon - ...and Songish Books

The Sunday Salon.comMoz with Flower

After last week's Sunday Salon post, about songs inspired by or about books, I thought I'd continue to explore the intersection of my two favourite arts by putting together a list of books in which music plays a significant role. It always makes me smile to find a reference to a song or band I love in a book. The first two books in the list are ones I've read and highly recommend; the rest are all ones I'm coveting.
  • High Fidelity by Nick Hornby - I couldn't leave it out, could I? Rob Fleming is obsessed with music and with making top five lists, and his story just might be the ultimate songish book.

  • Too Much Too Late by Mark Spitz -The story of The Jane Ashers, a fictional band that becomes successful only after their members had more or less given up hope. This book is funny, bittersweet, and hard to put down. Also, it's full of references to musicians and bands such as Liz Phair, The Pixies, Pavement, Cat Power, etc. You can read my full thoughts here if you're curious.

  • How Soon is Never by Mark Spitz -The story of Joe Green, who is obsessed with The Smiths and comes up with a plan to get them to reunite. How could this book be anything but awesome? Considering how much I love a) The Smiths and b) Mark Spitz' writing, it's a wonder I haven't read it yet. In fact, I think I just need to quit depriving myself so and order it today. (See, book coveting posts are dangerous even when you're the one writing them.)

  • The Ground Beneath her Feet by Salman Rushdie - A rock & roll retelling of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Need I say more?
  • Miss Misery by Andy Greenwald - Full of references to bands like The Cure, Death Cab for Cutie, Rilo Kiley, Interpol, The Smiths, Ryan Adams, The Decemberists, and of course Eliott Smith, this is the story of Dave Gould, a writer in this twenties who's working on a book about online journals and ends up becoming obsessed with one. Must.not.order.more.books.

  • Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan - No danger here, as this doesn't come out until April 2010. But if I could order it right now, I would. John Green has mentioned several times that Neutral Milk Hotel, one of my favourite bands, play a big role in this book. The thought alone almost makes my head explode, and that's only one of several reasons to be pining for it.

  • The Lonely Planet Boy by Barney Hoskyns - The story of a young man who goes to London to become a music reviewer and ends up falling in love with Mina, a modern day torch singer. It has several references to British 80's music, which sounds very good to me.

  • Rock Star Superstar by Blake Nelson - a YA novel about Pete, who plays bass in his high school rock band and one gets a recording contract and finds himself entering the music business.

  • King Dork by Frank Portman - Tom Henderson, the narrator, is a fourteen-year old aspiring songwriter who finds his deceased father's copy of The Catcher in the Rye and becomes obsessed with it. Music and Salinger? What's not to love?
  • Girl Goddess #9 by Francesca Lia Block - A collection of short stories about girls, some of whom love music, write zines, and look up to female musicians like Tori Amos, PJ Harvey and Joni Mitchell. Sounds just like my kind of book.

  • I want to be Your Joey Ramnone by Stephanie Kuehnert - I discovering this one recently via Marineko. Named after a Sleater-Kinney song, it's about a group of teen girls who form a punk band.
There. What about you? Any songish books you've been coveting or that you recommend? Have you read any of the ones I listed? What did you think?


  1. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE High Fidelity!! And I even loved the movie (but of course I honey, John Cusask is in it!)

    I've been wanting to read Joey Ramone for a long time. Huge Ramones fan here!!

  2. Girl Goddess #9 is WONDERFUL! It wreaked havoc with my tear glands. I think I may need to reread it myself pretty soon; it's been a few years now.

    Many of Block's other books also deal with music. It's a big factor in the WEETZIE BAT series, and her interconnected mythologically-inspired novels, ECSTASIA and PRIMAVERA, both deal with musicians.

  3. This is probably a stupid question (I just woke up) but does that Mark Spitz happen to be the same Mark Spitz as the history-making olympic swimmer? I know he's done some strange things with his career since the 70s, but i didn't see him as a music critic or writing books, and yet when I google "mark spitz" he's the only person I can find.

  4. Oooh, Girl Goddess #9 sounds wonderful! I've only read one of her books, but I adored her writing!

    The music book I'm most dying to read right now is Songbook...which of course, is all your fault. :D

  5. I have never read any of these! Given the comments above me, I really need to try Girl Goddess #9 and I think The Ground Beneath Her Feet sounds fantastic!

  6. I was wondering about Mark Spitz too. I can't think of any songish books I've read.

  7. Another fun post, Nymeth! I haven't yet read High Fidelity, but I do want to. I enjoyed the movie quite a bit. I haven't read any of the other books you mention either. More to add to my wish list. :-)

    Several of the mysteries I have read over the years don't focus on music per say, but their protagonists are big music fans and sometimes the authors will include play lists. It's quite fun to imagine the characters listening to the listed songs.

    I hope you have a great week, Nymeth!

  8. Stephanie: I loved the movie too! Really great adaptation. And you know, even though I've never been a huge Ramones fan, I do love all they mean culturally.

    Memory: Those all sound wonderful! I so need to read more Block.

    Amanda: Not a stupid question! Same name, but different guy. Wikipedia has him, but yeah, he's hard to find on google. I wonder if he hates having the same name as another public figure :P

    Debi: Her writing is just beautiful, isn't it? And I'm sure you'll enjoy Songbook!

    Meghan: I really want to get my hands on both! Sigh, like they say, so many books, so little time.

    Bermudaonion: Different guy, but I bet he gets asked that a lot :P

    Literary Feline: I think you'd enjoy High Fidelity! And though I forgot to mentioned it in my post, I loved that my edition of Wicked Lovely included a playlist! Thank you, and I hope you have a great week as well :)

  9. I read Girlfriend in a Coma by Douglas Coupland just because of the Smiths. LOVE THEM!

    I know YOU DON'T LOVE ME YET by Jonathan Lethem is all about a fictional band. I got it because EW had it on their best list, but I haven't read it yet.

  10. I just got Kind Dork in the mail! It looks really cool :) Definitely can't wait to read it...How Soon is Never sounds awesome too...haven't you talked about that one before? It sounds familiar. How have I never heard of Miss Misery?? I need to get that now! And how did I forget to add the John Green/David Levithan book on my book coveting post? Sheesh!

  11. I love, love, love music too. I find that I rarely read any books about music so I am glad to have some recommendations. I think The closest I came is This One Is Mine, by Maria Semple, and the main character in it is the wife of a music mogul so it isn't explored that much.

  12. High Fidelity is one I keep meaning to get to. Sounds great!

  13. I was also thinking of Mark Spitz.
    For music in books, I love The Commitments by Roddy Doyle. I also heard that King Dork was funny.

  14. I've read about The Ground Beneath her Feet but I didn't know it was a songish book :)
    This is a great list, thanks Nymeth.

  15. Lenore: Girlfriend in a Coma is currently on top of the pile on my nightstand, so that I don't neglect it for much longer. I've had it for years, but even though I love both Coupland and The Smiths I've yet to read it. Also, I brought You Don't Love me Yet home from the library recently, but I ended up returning it unread. I definitely need to check it out again!

    Chris: How cool that you got it! It sounds like such a great book. And I probably mentioned How Soon is Never back when I reviewed Too Much Too Late. There's no way that one won't be great!

    Nicole: I've never read Maria Semple before, but I'll keep that one in mind!

    Marie: It's excellent :)

    Bybee: Oooh, Roddy Doyle! I'm actually currently reading The Woman Who Walked Into Doors. I love him. Thanks for the recommendation!

    Violet: I've decided that that one will be my next Rushdie. I'm slightly intimidated because it's a chunkster, but I will get to it!

  16. The Marc Spitz books sound like must-reads! Especially the one with the Smiths - I love them :D

    My favourites from your list are Girl Goddess #9, High Fidelity, and I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone. As for others - Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn, Beige by Cecil Castellucci, and if adding manga is okay, the BECK series by Harold Sakuishi! There are more books but I can't remember right now.

  17. I loved High Fidelity the movie too. I havent heard of the rest but The Ground Beneath her Feet sounds good.

  18. Oh, good, more books to tempt me! lol

  19. I'd second The Commitments reccomendation!

  20. I love High Fidelity! That's the only one I've read on your list but I am looking forward to King Dork.

    Love Is A MixTape was a really good memoir of a couple's life together told by remembering the music and songs that were relevant or important to them.

    Other than that I really enjoy bios of bands or singers. Favorite being No One Here Gets Out Alive - Jim Morrison bio.

  21. Kind of afraid to say that the only one I've read is High Fidelity. I've had The Ground Beneath Her Feet on my list, but I had no idea the origins. I can't think of anything I've read that has been inspired by music.

  22. Marineko: I really want to read Nick and Norah! And I had never even heard of Beige or Beck. Thank you so much for the recommendations :D

    Naida: The book is even better, I think!

    Kailana: Isn't that what we all need? :P

    Sarah: It really sounds excellent!

    Joanne: Wow, I like Love is a MixTape already! My boyfriend and I make a lot of mix CDs, and they remind us of certain places and certain times.

    Alice: I think you'd enjoy High Fidelity in particular :)

    Trish: I've been wanting to read the Rushdie book for so long. But chunksters always get postponed :P

  23. I can't think of any songish books off the top of my head. Well except Audrey, Wait maybe. Great list though!

  24. I think someone has already mentioned it, but Beige by cecil castellucci was also very good. I wrote a review for it on my blog:

  25. Ladytink: Oooh, Audrey, Wait! I've heard great things about that one.

    Nila: Thanks for the link! Will click over to read your thoughts in a second :)

  26. two of my favorite things, books and music. I have not read any of these books, but I have heard that Nick Hornby has a book called 31 songs. I have been wanting to read that one.


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