Sing, sing a song. Make it simple to last a whole book long.
The first-person journalistic quest narrative has become quite the rage, the most recent noteworthy example being A.J. Jacobs’s The Year of Living Biblically (2007). London music journalist Hodgkinson (Guitar Man: A Six-String Odyssey, or, You Love that Guitar More Than You Love Me, 2006) had a simple goal: learn how to write a competent pop song, then cut it as a single. The stumbling composer’s first effort was iffy: “Mystery Fox / Get out of your box / It’s time for me / To chase you up that tree, o mystery fox.” (Yikes.) Quickly realizing that he didn’t have it in him to come up with the goods alone, he enlisted the help of his talented but goofy friend Lawrence, as well as talented but not goofy musicians such as Keith Richards, Ray Davies, Chan Marshall (aka Cat Power) and Hal David (Burt Bacharach’s songwriting partner). Hodgkinson accomplished his simple mission, but he didn’t exactly become a rock star in the process. The self-effacing, gently humorous attitude on display here was a wise choice; taking his pursuit too seriously would have made the narrative little more than a series of music lessons. Unfortunately, as is the case with many of these “in search of” projects, the quest becomes tiresome about two-thirds of the way through. A ruthless editor might have turned this into a true winner—as it is, it’s merely a pleasant diversion.
The literary equivalent of an enjoyable but ephemeral three-minute pop tune.