Archive for January, 2021

Rock Music Fiction

January 5th, 2021

Looking for something different to read? Tired of the same old chick-lit, thrillers, romances, and teen vampire books? If you’re like most people you listen to rock music-on the radio, on CDs, and at concerts. Believe it or not, there is a growing genre of fiction devoted to rock music and rock musicians.

They aren’t all just about sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll (although a generous sprinkling of these ingredients doesn’t hurt!). Many rock music novels strive to capture something about the creative process, the everyday life of a musician, or the impact that rock music has on listeners. Here are a few choice examples of works of fiction that are based in the punk, pop, heavy metal, or rock genre.

The Best in Rock Fiction (June Sawyers and Anthony DeCurtis, editors. Hal Leonard, 2004). This engrossing collection features short stories including T. C. Boyle’s “All Shook Up” and Tom Piazza’s “Burn Me Up,” plus more than a dozen excerpts from published novels. Authors include Nick Hornby, William Gibson, Sherman Alexie (with an excerpt from Reservation Blues), Don DeLillo, Madison Smartt Bell, Jeffrey Eugenides, Rick Moody, and Scott Spencer. In “Ground Beneath Her Feet,” Salman Rushdie explores the Orpheus and Eurydice myth in a rock ‘n roll context.

Carved in Rock: Short Stories by Musicians (Greg Kihn, editor. Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2003). A collection of short stories written by some of the biggest names in rock including Joan Jett, Kinky Freidman, Jim Carroll, Richard Hell, Ray Davies, Graham Parker, Eric Burden, Pete Townshend, John Entwistle, Exene Cervenka, and Wayne Kramer. Given the success that many of these legends have as songwriters, it’s no surprise that these engaging and varied tales open new doors of literary experience.

Pistonhead (Thomas A. Hauck. Communications, 2009). My own entry into the rock fiction arena. Pistonhead reveals the daily life of Charlie Sinclair, a struggling Boston musician who works in a factory by day and plays guitar for his band Pistonhead at night. He’s stressed-out, confused, oversexed, underfed, has an apartment full of mice, and can’t get rid of his overbearing ex-girlfriend who tries to make booty calls. When his life can’t get much more depressing, he faces a personal crisis and it looks like his dreams of a career in music are over. They aren’t–he just has to change his idea of success.

High Fidelity (Nick Hornby. Riverhead, 1995). Although the protagonist is the owner of a record store (remember record stores?), this classic novel is the most successful of the rock music genre. We meet Rob Fleming, owner of a vintage record store in London, whose girlfriend, Laura, leaves him for another man. Rob realizes that he lives not for sexual conquest but for the monogamy that he, until now, dismissed as hopelessly square. The 2000 movie version starred John Cusack and Danish actress Iben Hjejle, and was nominated for a Golden Globe.

Noise: Fiction Inspired by Sonic Youth (Peter Wild, editor. Harper Perennial, 2009). A collection of stories inspired, as the title says, by the music of punk rock legends Sonic Youth. The all-star contributors include Hiag Akmakjian, Christopher Coake, Katherine Dunn, Mary Gaitskill, Rebecca Godfrey, Laird Hunt, Shelley Jackson, J. Robert Lennon, Samuel Ligon, Emily Maguire, Tom McCarthy, Scott Mebus, Eileen Myles, Catherine O’Flynn, Emily Carter Roiphe, Kevin Sampsell, Steven Sherrill, Matt Thorne, Rachel Trezise, Jess Walter, and Peter Wild.