Friday, July 17, 2009

heavy rotation

I reviewed Heavy Rotation: Twenty Writers on the Albums That Changed Their Lives for Sunday's LA Times.

Reflecting on how Eurythmics taught him about the ironic power of fakery, Daniel Handler describes record albums as "pegs on which to hang stories." In "Heavy Rotation," 20 contemporary writers hang stories -- of alienation and identity, of growth and nostalgia -- on a particular music collection. Editor Peter Terzian largely succeeds in his goal of bringing music and literature together. What could have been a crop of fanboy/girl exercises is a collection of informed essays that offer personal insight and literary merit.

"Heavy Rotation" features essays on 11 bands, four singers, three soundtracks, a trio of singles and an archival collection. A distinctive feature of this anthology is that the contributors are not primarily known for their music writing. Most are novelists (including Colm Tóibín, Joshua Ferris and Kate Christensen), and the journalists are better known for their writing about literature, with the exception of music critic John Jeremiah Sullivan. Sullivan's album of choice is a Revenant Records release of prewar country blues (1897-1939), and he most convincingly portrays the cultural -- rather than personal -- importance of an album.

More here...