NOISE: Fiction Inspired by Sonic Youth

by Jacquelyn Lewis

A good idea gone awry.

A short anthology of fiction inspired by Sonic Youth seems like a great idea. Sense memory, after all, is a powerful thing, and music translated into words should enable readers to strengthen the nostalgic bond any good band evokes with its fans. But this collection of essays, sadly, falls short.

Each of the book’s contributors took a title of a Sonic Youth song and wrote a short story loosely based on their interpretation of the track. But many of the stories lack a point. Shelley Jackson’s “My Friend Goo” is a confusing, uninteresting story about a girl who navigates the world through tongue twisters: “Maybe my father is still trying to get me to talk like a normal person when he screams, ‘Good blood, bad blood! Good blood, bad blood!’ Maybe he doesn’t mean that I’m my mother’s daughter and always will be. But I even look like the goo.” Pardon me, but wtf!? Where there was a clear narrative, I wondered how much of the story was inspired by Sonic Youth’s music, and how much was the author trying to shock readers—as in Rebecca Godfrey’s “Shadow of a Doubt,” in which the author writes in the first person about a friend’s reverse psychology attempt to save Godfrey from killing herself by compelling her to commit suicide.

Noise left me with a secret desire to destroy counterculture for the unfortunate bi-products it produces, such as this book, which seems to be not really made for Sonic Youth listeners, but instead, for folks who enjoy buying books for show, to display impressively on milk-crate bookshelves, propping up dusty editions of The Great Gatsby, also never to be read.

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