Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Future of Rock Lit

Rock lit fans have been blessed already this year with Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life, a book by Steve Almond that I rank with Fargo Rock City and Our Band Could be Your Life as one of the best rock non-fiction books in existence.

On a whim the other day, I went to Salon's book page and found out about the new Jennifer Egan novel, A Visit from the Goon Squad, which features prominently a character who's a record producer and veteran of the SF punk rock scene of the 70s.

Now, I love, love, love rock non-fiction, but I get positively ga-ga over rock fiction. Egan's novel doesn't look like a contender for the ever-elusive Great American Rock Novel--her book, at first glance, doesn't rely heavily on a rock and roll setting--but I'd be tickled to be proven wrong. Look for an AVFTGS book review here sometime in the next month.

Then, of course, there's Nick Hornby's latest, Juliet, Naked. Much rock lit goodness there, no doubt. It's in my Powell's cart.

All of this rock lit attention from big publishing has me thinking crazy thoughts about a rock lit revolution...again. Way back in 2004, I published ten reviews of rock lit classics at my website. The pages are no longer available, but there's still a list I published at Amazon years ago of some of the greatest rock reads ever (along with, ahem, my own). Here's that list. I still stand by all of them.

It seems strange to me that more great reads don't exist in this genre. Think of all the people touched by rock music--who bought CDs, attended concerts, bought guitars--and you'd expect more great rock lit to follow. Many have tried, of course, but few have succeeded, and many great writers gave up after one--usually unprofitable--effort.

But I'm just foolish enough to think things can change.

People are finally tired, I think, of what corporate publishing deems worthy of high advances and massive push, and are ready to give something new a chance. Throw in a bunch of rock-happy indie writers--like those who blog regularly at places like The Nervous Breakdown--and I have to believe something is brewing. It might not be the next Chick Lit...but then again, who's to say it won't be? Great genres are carved by great writers, and if great writers are giving the subject serious attention, it won't be long before things change. In fact, I'd go so far as to call it inevitable.

I, for one, am doing my part to make rock lit the next big thing (or maybe the next next big thing). I'm teaching an online course called rock and roll writing at the brand new Basement Writing Workshop. My class is ten weeks long, and you'll get to submit plenty of your rock-tinged work for critique (fiction and non). We'll discuss the special challenges writing about music poses, and the special advantages of the same. Beyond that, there's sure to be plenty of frank discussion about who the greatest band in the world is. It promises to be fun, and stimulating, and fun.

Do you have what it takes to write the next rock lit masterpiece? There's only one way to find out.

Yours in laying down the law,


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Anonymous said...

You might like last year's, THE SONG IS YOU, by Arthur Phillips. Lots o' music going on there.

Art Edwards said...

Wow, that sounds right up my alley, Jamie. Perfect recommendation. It's in my Powell's cart.


Anonymous said...

Great! Hope you like it.