IS "ROCK 'N' ROLL" AN ADEQUATE ADJECTIVE TO MODIFY THE NOUN "NOVEL"?
always thought it's terrible when someone describes someone or
something as "punk rock." But maybe it's worse to use "rock 'n' roll"
as an adjective?
I could see how it could be fun calling someone or something
"folktronic ambient slow-ride chamber slop" or "screwed go-go witch
house stomp" or anything particular, evocative, and self-consciously
because Pitchforking a description of anything is by definition
excessive and performative and, by virtue of excess and performance,
tends to be imprecise, unclear, and ripe for ridicule. But to call a
novel "rock 'n' roll" is really vague, right? The traditional meaning
is attitudinal, rebellious, infectious. But "rock 'n' roll" is too
general a term to really define in 2011. Buddy Holly? Yes. The Beatles
and Stones? Of course. Led Zep? You bet. Yes? Art rock, definitely.
Floyd? Space rock, sure. All the varietals through the '60s, '70s,
'80s, '90s, '00s. Thematically, rock covers more than the just the
cliched foci of sex, drugs, and alienation expressed as Satan Worship.
So how could an adjective so imprecise it's practically empty at this
point be applied to a novel that's basically a linked story collection
without much to say?
Something that so got me worked up about all the hype and post-hype
awards given to A Visit From the Goon
that the book's cover featured a Fender guitar headstock and the novel
was repeatedly described as a "rock 'n' roll novel" and yet when I
it and read it I was surprised how little there really was that
involved good old-fashioned rock 'n' roll as I think of it. There's a
not-so-convincing punk rock show early
on and some flagging rock business stuff but not enough of this sort of
thing to call the book a "rock 'n' roll novel." (See
this for a similar reaction.)
From a marketing perspective, I understand the headstock on the cover.
But it's frustrating when
readers affiliated with well-respected venues perpetuate this idea
that it's a "rock 'n' roll novel."
The biopic "Control"
is a rock 'n' roll novel (in film form). There's rock music in
it, first of all. Bass, drums, and guitar, maybe a little
keyboard. Music is pretty central to it. There's an ethos of
fuck-all fatally damned innocence to it, not pages in Power Point or
safaris. Anyway, all
I really wanted to do is list and link to a few instances where a
book I didn't love has
been called a "rock 'n' roll novel" when I didn't really even think it
was even much of a book about music,
are 92K+ citations -- and here are a few hand-selected examples:
"A Visit From The Goon Squad
isn't the great rock 'n' roll novel, but the fact that it's a
good one is a small triumph . . . " The
Onion AV Club
"Oh, look, a nice little novel about
rock 'n' roll … Whoa!" Newyorker.com
'n roll-centric book is the literary equivalent of a concept album."
"Time is the relentless "goon
squad" in this rock 'n' roll novel . . . " NYT