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The not-so-great rock and roll novel

Fiction about rock music is an ever-reliable subject for bookchat (see past Quillblog entries such as this one). Latest up is Tom Cox in The Times, who wonders why rock never seems to translate well into fiction. He starts off with Don DeLillo’s Great Jones Street, which “has gained a reputation as the best of rock novels.

There are two possible reasons for this. It could be argued that a good piece of literature about rock should be druggy and difficult and opaque, and not really about music, and that Great Jones Street fits the bill; it’s a rock book in the same way that Performance is a rock film. On the other – more likely – hand, its status could be largely down to medium-fish, small-fetid-lagoon syndrome.

Also taking fire are Salman Rushdie’s The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Jonathan Coe’s The Dwarves of Death, Jeff Gomez’s thankfully forgotten Our Noise (“might it not have been easier to write a list of all the lo-fi bands operating out of Chapel Hill circa 1994 and be done with it?”), and Jonathan Lethem’s recent You Don’t Love Me Yet. Cox concludes that novels about fans or wannabe’s are more likely to be successful:

It seems that the best pop-themed novels are those that dance nimbly around the edges of their subject, never quite getting to the microphone, or even the moshpit: books such as [Coe’s] The Rotters’ Club, or [Nick Hornby’s] High Fidelity, or Tom Perrotta’s The Wishbones.

Thanks to The Elegant Variation for the link.