An unconventional investigation into the ways in which music influences our lives.
Primarily focusing on the formative years of his adolescent musical education, roughly the late 1960s through the 1980s, music journalist and biographer Bonomo (Creative Nonfiction/Northern Illinois Univ.; This Must Be Where My Obsession with Infinity Began, 2013, etc.) presents a mishmash of personal stories, musical history, and criticism, which more often than not reads like stream-of-consciousness musings rather than argumentative or observational reflections. The tone and style of the essays sometimes veer into near free association, in which paragraphs transition based on a whim. One particular chapter, for instance, bounces among the song-identifying app Shazam, the Mary Tyler Moore Show theme song, and Snapchat, all tied together by a tenuous statement on the ephemeral natures of music and technology. In a separate essay, this penchant for odd juxtapositions also connects the 1963 suicide of Sylvia Plath in London with the Beatles recording at Abbey Road. Bonomo also infuses his chapters with vague, out-of-context quotations from such figures as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jean-Paul Gaultier, and Orson Welles, further muddying his point of view. For all their unorthodox and diaristic styles, Bonomo’s essays do offer moments of insight. In one, the author examines the peculiar history of music as it relates to the “tensions between Saturday night’s excesses and Sunday morning’s sober inventories,” from Delta blues to Green Day. Moreover, Bonomo’s passion for his subject matter is undeniable, and the verve with which he writes about music is endearing. One only wishes Bonomo had focused more on clarifying and highlighting these moments over extraneous and misleading digressions. There are plenty of cultural touchstones to pique the interest of readers of a certain age, but the author provides scarcely enough groundwork to keep general readers interested.
A largely unfocused and insular journey through Bonomo’s experiences with pop music.