We were talking, the other day, about the ways in which various lovely writer types were inspired by the songs of Sonic Youth in order to fashion stories for Noise: Fiction Inspired by Sonic Youth
One of the great things about putting the book together was the fact that the band members themselves were so supportive (a far cry from my experience with Perverted by Language: Fiction Inspired by the Fall — Mark E. Smith hates me, tore the book up live onstage a number of times). Kim Gordon suggested a handful of contributors (Rebecca Godfrey and Mary Gaitskill, to name but two). Lee Ranaldo offered great advice throughout. Steve Shelley put in the odd kind word at the start. (I didn't hear from Thurston, but... there's still time! Thurston! Hey, fella!)
I like to think that part of the reason Sonic Youth were so good about the book derives from the fact that books play a big part in what they themselves do. Reader — these guys are readers! (Lee is obviously a writer, too — and if you haven't checked out any of Lee Ranaldo's books, you should. Hello from the American Desert, his most recent, is a book of poetry inspired by SPAM — see how all of these artist-types so frequently bounce off of other media…) Not only are they readers, what they read sometimes inspires what they write: William Gibson's influence can be felt on "Pattern Recognition" and "The Sprawl" (which also features stray bits of Denis Johnson's sublime The Stars at Noon); "Schizophrenia" was allegedly inspired by Philip K. Dick's Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said; more recently Thurston's "Fri/End" (from the Trees Outside the Academy album) was inspired by Portland's own Jonathan Raymond's The Half-Life... And so it goes.
But what this demonstrates, I think, is that — although there are countless examples of writers who would, if they could, have preferred to be rock'n'rollers (Stephen King went the whole hog, forming a band with other writers, I seem to remember, some years back) — there are also rock'n'rollers who wish to be deemed literate. The writers want to be rock'n'rollers for a variety of reasons (the adulation, the groupies, the desire to distill some three-minute wisdom in a catchy chorus the youngsters'll sing along to). The rock'n'rollers, though... Do they want to be literate because music, especially pop or rock music, is felt to be disposable? Do books allow musicians to be, you know, "taken seriously"? I read an interview with Lemonhead Evan Dando fairly recently where he admitted writing short stories in his spare time. Sufjan Stevens turned to music after failing at a novel, apparently. Laura Viers writes short stories. Then, of course, you have all those who straddle both fields — your Nick Caves, your Willy Vlautins, your Joe Pernices, etc.
What am I trying to say? Nothing more than this: there is a kinship, I think, between writers and musicians, a kinship that you don't tend to see so much in other disciplines (there aren't that many footballers inspired by sculptors / models inspired by playwrights / actors inspired by DJs, etc). In spite of this kinship, though, books and music are separated by a bit of a gulf (nobody has ever strapped on a Corolla like a Fender Stratocaster) — but it's a gulf that, Evel Knieval-like, Noise: Fiction Inspired by Sonic Youth tries to bridge. If you buy a copy, I want you to imagine each story as gas in that bike's engine, the ground disappearing from beneath your feet, the great chasm opening up beneath you, prose left behind on one side, ear-splitting rock'n roll some ways ahead. Did we make it? Reader — only you can answer that question!!