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Muskrat Love: Fiction Inspired by Captain and Tenille

So I'm at work this morning, torturing the home keys, and listening to an old Tom Waits album (Rain Dogs). There's almost always music playing when I'm writing. I recently wrote a short story for an anthology called The Empty Page: Fiction Inspired by Sonic Youth. The book is the brainchild of a talented and tireless British writer and editor named Peter Wild, whose website Bookmunch is one of my favorite stops for book reviews.

Peter gathered an impressive group of authors (myself excluded) to write short stories that share titles with songs by Sonic Youth, the landmark alt-rock band. I chose a later song, "Rain on Tin," from the album Murray Street. Like the others, my story has nothing to do with the song except that it shares the same title.

The Sonic Youth book is one of a series that Peter is editing for a British press. The first book, Perverted by Language, features stories inspired by the English post-punk band The Fall (the only band I know named after an Albert Camus novel). He's also doing collections of stories inspired by The Smiths, The Ramones, Joy Division and The Velvet Underground.

Peter's spot-on taste in music and literature got me to thinking about which bands and musicians this kind of anthology would work for and which it wouldn't. For instance, at first glance, you'd think an intellectually-charged band like Radiohead would be perfect, but when you look at their song titles, there really aren't that many great story titles ("Paranoid Android"? "We Suck Young Blood"?).

Tom Waits doesn't work for an entirely different reason — so many of his songs are stories themselves. (Would you really want to try to improve the beginning of "Frank's Wild Years": Frank settled down in the Valley and he hung his wild years on a nail that he drove through his wife's forehead.)

The exercise also got me to thinking about some anthologies that will likely never see the light of day (please, feel free to suggest your own):

Ridin' the Storm Out: Fiction inspired by REO Speedwagon.

Good Vibrations: Fiction inspired by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch.

Flirtin' with Disaster: Fiction inspired by Molly Hatchet.

÷ ÷ ÷

Jess Walter is the author of eight books, including Beautiful Ruins and We Live in Water. He's been a finalist for the National Book Award and PEN/​USA Literary prize and won the Edgar Allan Poe Award for best novel.

Books mentioned in this post

  1. Beautiful Ruins (P.S.)
    Used Trade Paper $9.95
  2. We Live in Water: Stories
    Used Trade Paper $10.50

  3. The Plague, the Fall, Exile and the... New Hardcover $25.00

Jess Walter is the author of Beautiful Ruins (P.S.)

8 Responses to "Muskrat Love: Fiction Inspired by Captain and Tenille"

    Hank D. September 27th, 2006 at 9:26 am

    Jess, I fear I must disagree about Radiohead. Whenever I'm stuck for a story title, I find myself flashing to various Radiohead titles -- "Everything In Its Rightful Place," "You and Whose Army," "Spinning Plates" -- and thinking how perfect they are.

    Rick Hanson September 27th, 2006 at 9:29 am

    Reading on a Prayer: Fiction Inspired by Bon Jovi

    Underage Whoring: Fiction inspired by Britney Spears

    If You Wanna Be My Reader: Fiction inspired by the Spice Girls

    a person could go all day on this...

    Sampsell September 27th, 2006 at 10:58 am

    I have a story in the Sonic Youth book too. I did a story for Swimsuit Issue. Peter's quite a character.

    Jess September 27th, 2006 at 11:38 am

    Now that Hank mentions it, there are some Radiohead titles I could see as stories. In fact, I desperately want to read "You and Whose Army." And as an insomniac, I was excited to see Kevin Sampsell (who put together a great anthology of his own, The Insomniac Reader) had a story in the Sonic Youth book.

    drella September 27th, 2006 at 11:46 am

    Making Words Out of Nothing At All: Fiction Inspired by Air Supply?

    Brockman September 27th, 2006 at 11:52 am

    Born to Read: Fiction Inspired by Bruce Springsteen

    Private Eyes: Detective Fiction Inspired by Hall & Oates

    Huntley September 27th, 2006 at 12:38 pm

    i don't know about you but i think "The Mariner's Revenge Song" (by the Decemberists) is the great 19th-century epic novel that never was, but really should be.

    Luisa Rey November 17th, 2006 at 4:28 pm

    I suppose Elvis Costello would make it too easy. And "Short Fiction Inspired By Depeche Mode" would be a book of blank pages (words are very unnecessary).

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