September 23, 2009

That Summertime Sound (2009)

That Summertime Sound is a fun new novel by Matthew Specktor that documents a young man's ill-spent summer vacation in 1980s Columbus, Ohio, drinking, fumbling through romance, and obsessing over a local rock band. Like a younger brother to Nick Hornby's Rob Gordon and Roddy Doyle's Jimmy Rabbite, the narrator is driven to distraction by a passion, but not a talent, for music. The book is packed with critical ruminations on the essence of rock n' roll and references to cool bands, albums, and songs. At times it reads a bit like music nerd porn – Sonic Youth plays on the jukebox and everyone's record collection is hip and obscure. I found the level of musical detail slightly distracting from the story and overly demonstrating the narrator's precociousness until I realized that it allowed me to create a soundtrack in my head as I read along. Quite a few times, it sent me rifling through my music collection to revisit a particular album, like Sisters/Lovers or Talking Heads: 77. And the story is good too. Specktor captures those late teenage years when boys are much better equipped to discuss the merits and influences of their favorite bands than actually listen to, and have a relationship with a young woman.

For a sample, listen to sections of the book read by James Fanco, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Morgan Freeman!


awmercy said...

I also listened to a lot of Hüsker Dü and the Feelies while reading this book. Good times. And it made want to hunt down more Rocket from the Tombs. All I have is "Ain't It Fun".