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