12 Days of CanLit: 9 Monograph Melodies

December 4, 2014

We're doing a spin on the classic holiday ditty, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” with our 12 Days of CanLit series. Sing along with our countdown of themed book picks, straight down to our number 1 (that’s 78 books in all!).

On the fourth day of 12 Days of CanLit, All Lit Up highlights 9 Monograph Melodies, or in the layperson's, books about music.

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On day nine (really day four, but stick with us) of our holiday CanLit countdown has these ladies dancing...was that too tenuous a link to the words of the original song? In any regard, we’ve corralled nine music-based reads for your listening pleasure.

Fallsy Downsies 
by Stephanie Domet (Invisible Publishing)

The Godfather of Canadian Folk has got one last shot. A novel about aging, art, and the persnicketyness of Canadian celebrity, Fallsy Downsies follows Lansing Meadows, his guitar, and his makeshift entourage on a journey to right the wrongs in his life, and sing a few more songs to anyone who will listen.

Off the Books
by Peter Leitch (Véhicule Press)

Off the Books follows Peter Leitch through his childhood in working-class Montreal to the jazz clubs of Montreal, Toronto, and New York City. In this memoir, jazz guitarist Leitch attests to the fringe status of his chosen genre in the Canadian music scene. But further, he relates jazz’s own place in music to his own lived life: one fraught with addiction and depression, but also one committed to musical excellence.

I Was There the Night He Died
by Ray Robertson (Biblioasis)

Sam Samuelson a novelist, returns to his hometown of Chatham, Ontario, to manage his ailing father’s affairs and pen his next book, about a fictional roadie who happens to be in the dressing/hotel/green room of every significant dead rock star. Drunk, particular, and prone to buying rare vinyl pressings off eBay, Sam’s family problems and personal sorrows are sidelined when he meets a troubled teenaged girl, the one person who throws his own issues into glaring perspective.

 

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Maple Leaf Rag
by Kaie Kellough (Arbeiter Ring)

Simultaneously a collection of dub poetry, a jazz songbook, and a social criticism, Maple Leaf Rag is a written-and-scored exploration of diaspora, belonging, and identity politics from a black Canadian perspective. Kellough’s riffs have been described as “sometimes acerbic, often ironic, occasionally angry, but always compassionate” (Vincent Tinguely, Rabble).

The Battle of the Five Spot
by David Neil Lee (Wolsak & Wynn) 

When saxophonist Ornette Coleman brought his quartet to the legendary Five Spot in New York City, shockwaves ran through the genre’s many adherents. Whether a fan or foe of the new style Coleman brought into the fray, this book explores the debate surrounding social change, issues of power, and infighting within arts communities, themselves subject to their own struggles in the greater context of the music industry.

Talking Music 
by Holger Petersen (Insomniac Press)

Talking Music collects nineteen in-depth radio interviews with seminal blues and roots artists, conducted by Holger Petersen, host of CBC’s Saturday Night Blues program for 24 years. The book is divided into four collections of interviews: British Blues Revival, Delta and Memphis Blues, Artists Who Helped Build Stony Plain, and Bonus Tracks. Petersen’s transcripts, as well as his own notes and photographs, keep alive these pioneers who changed the course of music in North America.

 

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Roadshow
by Neil Peart (ECW Press) 

Neil Peart, the drummer of Canadian power-rock trio RUSH, recounts the band’s 30th Anniversary World Tour, held in the summer of 2004. In that tour, the band performed 57 shows in nine countries, to over half a million fans. Also in that tour, Peart travelled over 21,000 miles by motorcycle in between tour stops. Far from a ploy to get away from his 30-year bandmates, Peart details the varied terrains and environments on his journey, as well as the emotional performances delivered on the tour.

Ending with Music
by Maurice Mierau (Brick Books) 

Recent memoirist Maurice Mierau stuns in his first poetry collection: which is not so much about music, but has the effect of listening to music for the reader. Carol Shields said of his work: “Mierau's poems are full of movement ... They launch narratives with spin, invite silence, then linger on the ear.”

Gods of the Hammer
by Geoff Pevere (Coach House Books)

Canadian film and television critic Geoff Pevere turns his attention to music in this history of the greatest hardcore band that never was: Hamilton, Ontario’s Teenage Head. With equal parts a critical eye and strong fondness for the group, Pevere’s account of Teenage Head’s rise and fall is not only a history of the band, but a testament to the huge hand luck has to play in musical success. Teenage Head’s story could be called, “If Only…”.

 

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The only music you’ll need to listen to tomorrow is the tune of a soothing pan flute: we’re going back to nature with books inspired by the environment. And get caught up on all the previous days of holiday CanLit fun here!


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