Sunday, November 04, 2012

Is There Life Left in the Music Memoir?

That was the question recently posed by the AV Club.

From the story...

David Byrne's dazzling semi-memoir How Music Works stretches the form beyond its parameters, which is exactly what you’d expect a Byrne memoir to do. And Satan Is Real is a soulful, starkly poetic piece of writing worthy of Louvin’s underappreciated musical legacy. I find it interesting, though, that these two books—my favorite music memoirs of 2012—couldn’t be less alike. Byrne is a widely acknowledged icon who has dabbled in dozens of styles, and who uses his memoir to explore a vast array of philosophical and sociological topics. Louvin, on the other hand, played country and nothing but. And his memoir is full of hardscrabble anecdotes about a mostly obscure life and career that are wise, wry, violent, and heart-piercing.

There’s an even bigger difference between the two. Byrne wrote his book alone; Louvin did not. Satan Is Real’s credited ghostwriter is Benjamin Whitmer, a Colorado novelist whose mix of crime fiction and Americana is ideally suited to telling Louvin’s story. The fact that Whitmer completed the project after Louvin’s death in 2011 means that he may have had a larger hand in the manuscript than originally planned. Regardless of the way they came about, the book’s strengths are undeniable. There’s a unity and purity to its vision and voice that rings as true as any Louvin song.

Many of the memoirs I read this year could have used a ghostwriter as good as Whitmer.

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