Nothing quite like waking up, pre-dawn, to the sound of robins and meadowlarks, Tetons in the distance out the open window….
The effect of music (albeit recorded) on our spirits and memories constitutes *the* theme of The Song Is You by Arthur Phillips. More hip than much I read in tone and prose! And longer-lasting than a sunrise…
This poetically-written story, of a New York man who feels he’s lost himself, traces his interactions with a young Irish rock star and how her music (and she as a muse) put him on a particular path of rediscovery. His I-pod serves as a character in the action, much the way the setting does in James Galvin’s The Meadow (another favorite).
Phillips deftly weaves personal memoir, character development, and introspection in a playlist of thought and sound that echoes throughout the book, from his father’s voice on a Billy Holiday album in the ’50s, the song the main characters uses in the TV commercials he produced, to singing in the park, the Jeopardy theme, and what and who controls our voice-mail.
Personally, it brought to mind the emotions auto-triggered by a specific tune when I hear it…. and that I share his reverence for the importance of recorded sound. (It’s a goofy fact that I always keep a message from Peter while he”s traveling so I can relisten to his voice whenever I want; I also still have a “how ya doin’?” call from an old friend who left it on my cell when my mother passed several months ago….)
Peter loved Prague, also by Phillips, but this was the first novel I’ve read by him. It won’t be the last.
Now I’m deeply immersed in The Last Girls by Lee Smith, another prolific writer I’m excited to discover.
The hardback’s on loan from my friend Cort Conley of Boise, who provided a quote in the frontispiece materials that is as perfect for this morning as my songbird wake-up: “Sometimes life is more like a river than a book.”
More about the river of life and this book next time. Until then, happy reading!