I finally picked up my first book from Continuum's 33 1/3 Series
, being Joe Pernice's The Smiths' Meat Is Murder
. This is a beautifully written book that Pernice himself describes as the "black sheep" in the collection, as he wrote a 102 page story which he claims is fiction, though one assumes that it is as much autobiography as it is fiction. In a story filled with a bully rapist, a kid dying of cystic fibrosis, and numerous peer suicides, Pernice captures the essence of teen life by not focussing on these heavy issues directly. Instead, the reader understands the impact these have on the main characters' life, but are all overshadowed by more important things: falling madly in love with the The Smiths, or trying to get the girl he loves to notice him, and also trying to deal with the pressures of being respected as a musician though everyone taking interest appears to be far more experienced players. Though not constantly focussing on the Meat Is Murder, the album perfectly soundtracks the main characters life, with different songs suitably reflecting his feelings and experiences. In a series of books that demonstrates different ways to write about music, Pernice has not only given a unique take on describing an album, but leaves the reader almost willing to share the sentiments of the main character, that Meat is Murder
is the 'greatest album ever made'.
Aside from loving this book, it also made me reflect on the way I used to listen to music, and how that has changed over the years. The main character can't afford to buy music himself, so his buddy Ray tapes albums for him, though rarely gives him as much information as one would like about the album. On the tape of MiM, Ray merely wrote Smiths: Meat. I too remember having boxes of maxell tapes which were recordings of different albums from friends or my sister (though I was pretty anal about writing down the tracklistings to everything I owned). But what's more important is that this book spans a number of weeks, and possibly months of the main characters' life, but once he gets MiM, it never leaves his walkman or stereo. And that is something that I kind of miss.
And saying that is also ridiculous, in a way, because as a teen, I longed for the day when I would be able to afford buying my own tapes or, if life really worked out well, CDs (which, until grade 12, just did NOT fit into my budget). And yet now I have quite a few CDs, but very little time to actually sit down and listen to them. And though I was apalled when, as a teen, I learned that an older friend of mine would listen to his new albums no more than 3 or 4 times (including the ones he adored), it seems that I have become that person as well.
posted by Jonathan