October 5, 2009

Matthew Specktor Interview

After reading and enjoying Matthew Specktor's That Summertime Sound I was given the opportunity to ask him a couple questions about the book, the state of his fandom, and other authors who write about music. In the last question there are a couple links to the music that inspired his writing. I guess if you approve, you should go read the book. And if they don't meet your standards, you should probably also read the book since might be the musically obsessive type that he wrote about.
Quickcrit: While many books integrate music into stories, few seem to cross the line into what I call rock fiction. How did you decide to make music such a large part of the book?
Matthew Speckotr: I guess in this case since music was simply the subject of the book. A lot of writers I really love and admire--Don DeLillo, Jonathan Lethem, Michael Ondaatje, Geoff Dyer--have written wonderfully about rock-n-roll and/or jazz. I was thinking about the Midwest, and a set of people I used to know, and the band itself seemed to crystallize a whole set of thematic interests/obsessions. I liked writing about music because it was fundamentally nerdy, too. I was a little embarrassed by the depth of my passion for it, and I figured if I was embarrassed that was probably a good indicator that I might get to something close-to-the-bone.

QC: How comfortable are you with That Summertime Sound being described as rock fiction?

MS: I'm not sure how comfortable I am with the label 'rock fiction,' but that's really because I'm a little at odds with labeling in general. (I don't love the term 'literary fiction,' either.) Genre-tags are for marketers, not fans. Having said that, I think the book does speak--I hope--to the passionate music fan. I am one, and God knows, we're all wound up in our enthusiasm for something. Hopefully, the book will speak to obsession--to passionate fandom--of any kind, as well. Also, lots of writers these days let their musical excitements show through their books. Try Dana Spiotta's phenomenal Eat the Document, for starters.

QC: Are you as obsessed about music as your narrator is?
MS: Yeah. Perhaps not in the same way--I'm twice the narrator's age, and music assumes a different place along one's continuum-of-needs as one gets older--but, I'm afraid, to the same degree. I still love loud, rackety garage rock and punk as much as I ever did. I also love certain things I would've found ideologically appalling when I was that age. I played a David Crosby record this morning. I can imagine the look on my narrator's face to hear about that.

QC: Were the Lords of Oblivion completely fictional or did you have particular band in mind as a rough template?

MS: Completely fictitious. Any similarity between 'Nic Devine' and the neglected genius Mick Divvens, former front man of the wonderful Boys From Nowhere, are strictly coincidental. (Heh. No, the band in the book is most definitely modeled on Boys From Nowhere. They're very much a real band.)

QC: Were you at all tempted to create a soundtrack or playlist to accompany the book?
MS: Well, I've done as much for a number of blogs, lately. (Largeheartedboy, Revolt Media, Owl & Bear.) I may post a more comprehensive list of things I was listening to while I wrote on my own site, shortly. I admit, I'm a sucker for writers' & musicians' recommendations and playlists. This book certainly suggests quite a bit of listening material, and if it encourages people to seek out some of these bands, so much the better.