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Sounds Like Titanic

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  677 ratings  ·  188 reviews

A young woman leaves Appalachia for life as a classical musician—or so she thinks.

When aspiring violinist Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman lands a job with a professional ensemble in New York City, she imagines she has achieved her lifelong dream. But the ensemble proves to be a sham. When the group “performs,” the microphones are never on. Instead, the music blares from a CD

Kindle Edition, 264 pages
Published February 12th 2019 by W. W. Norton & Company
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4.01  · 
Rating details
 ·  677 ratings  ·  188 reviews

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Feb 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Holy Milli Vanilli!

Or, should I say Milli Violini?

While still in college, the author, an aspiring violinist, was chosen to be part of an professional music ensemble. Her duties involved playing her instrument, and selling CDs at shopping malls, AND the 54-city God Bless America concert tour. The catch was . . . she performed before a dead microphone. The flawless music came from a recording. The audiences paid big bucks to see musicians "lip sync" to a CD.

The entire scheme was masterminded by a
”Sometimes I wonder where I've been,
Who I am,
Do I fit in.
Make believin' is hard alone,
Out here on my own.”

-- Out Here On My Own, Irene Cara, Songwriters: Leslie Gore / Michael Gore

”Vivaldi is in your head. The music you hear is like the blaze-orange clothing the men wear on the mountainsides while deer hunting in autumn. The music is like a bulletproof vest, a coiled copperhead, a rabies shot. The music is both a warning and a talisman. The music tells you things.”
”The music says: What you
Feb 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
“There were just some things you couldn’t do for money. Not because they were particularly difficult, but because you just didn’t want to. Because they weren’t worth your life, which might not be worth much, but was worth something.”

God, this book. It’s catapulted itself into my favorite books of all time, but how do I even begin to explain why? Yes it’s about playing the violin (or not playing the violin, however you want to look at it), but the most important parts of this memoir are not about
Heidi The Reader
Apr 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, memoirs
A violinist and Eastern Studies major who is struggling to pay her way through Columbia gets a job that seems to be more than she ever hoped for. She is going to be playing professionally for audiences across the U.S. It turns out to be fake — the music is played through speakers, never live.

"While this is a memoir about being a fake, this is not a fake memoir. This is a memoir in earnest, written by a person striving to get at the truth of things that happened in her past." From the introductio
Amy Bruestle
Feb 04, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I won this book through a giveaway in exchange for an honest review....
Unfortunately I could not get myself to finish this. I really hate not finishing a book and I usually force myself to suffer through it if it’s bad or not something I’m into, but now that I am getting older, I am learning that there are tons of books I want to read in my lifetime, and it is okay not to finish the ones I don’t like. That might seem obvious to some of you, but my OCD-ness qualities make it difficult for me to d
Oct 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the sort of book you stay up too late reading.

I usually stick to fiction, because a character's life as invented by the author has to be more interesting than the real lives of people around us. But Jessica's account of working for The Composer is weirder than fiction. Sure, it's a story about being a violinist in fake concerts, but also manages to be a study on the nature of memoir, reality, growing up female in the nineties, undergraduate class conflict, a tour of America at war, and t
Jessica ☕
Nov 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult-nonfiction, arc
I know I'm posting this review early, but I just have to share.

I'm going to cut to the chase and just come out and say that this is one of my favorite books that I have read in a long time and I want every woman I know to read it and we will all be in one huge book club.

On its surface, it is a memoir of a woman who spends a few years of her young adulthood faking it as a professional violinist. The Composer, a man who is never named specifically, has written simplistic orchestral music that soun
Mar 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music
I always enjoy stories featuring amateur musicians (cough cough Station Eleven), and this was no exception! Hindman's experiences with the Composer, and her struggles to get in that position, are unique and remarkable, and I found her voice to be a perfect fit to narrate those experiences.

To me, the most interesting aspect of the memoir was the author's ability to dive into the psyche of America; what do those Ruby Tuesdays and mall performances really tell us about the soul of America? Travel
Michael Waddell
Nov 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an amazing story! I found myself shocked by many of the twists and turns in the author's life, the bizarre situations she found herself in, the ways she found to get by through all of it. But what really makes the book great is the author's style: direct, curious, unflinching, playful. Nearly every page has something that makes me think about some unobserved detail in life -- what we mean by "make a living", how it's often the most inauthentic things that authentically touch people's liv ...more
Mar 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hannah Mae
Feb 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: keepers
this book made me feel reeyell.
Dec 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman has written a memoir of "holy shit allegro" proportion. Her time-hopping memoir spans from rural 1980s West Virginia, to 2001 Cairo, Egypt, to major cities across the United States as a violinist on a mysterious, PBS-favorite composer's God Bless America Tour. At its heart, Sounds Like Titanic is Chiccehitto Hindman's journey of wrestling with life in the body, navigating the crooked gaze of America in its large cities and small towns. It's also a distinctly 21st cent ...more
Jan 05, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf
dnf p. 31. Written in the 2nd person. Grew tired of reading the word, "you," in every line incredibly quickly. (She referred to herself as, "You.") Did not find a character to get invested in as no one here had any personality. Timeline kept jumping. I couldn't figure out what was going on, or indeed if anything was going on, & I started to fall asleep the 2nd time I tried to read it. So I'm done.
Wynne Kontos
I was practically salivating for a copy of this before its February release date, and the buyers at my store graciously tracked one down for me (as well as a colleague who had heard how I bad I wanted to read it.)

The premise was really, really cool. While attending Columbia University in NYC circa 2002, Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman joined a classical music ensemble as a violinist, that as it turned out, wasn't playing music at all but mimicking along to pre-recorded, half-plagerized music that "s
Mar 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
I received a copy of this book for free through a Goodreads First Reads Giveaway.

A unique memoir that I was surprised to really enjoy. The premise doesn't sound all that engaging, but the opposite is true.

What made it so unique was both the content (a musician traveling the United States, and China, performing "live" music that is actually just a CD on playback) and the style. The writing is in the 2nd person, which was both distracting at first but a welcome change to the typical memoir format
Books on Stereo
Mar 02, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A tad bit frantic and meandering for my taste.
Nov 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In Sounds Like Titanic, Jessica Chichetto Hindman weaves a remarkable tale that is utterly unique yet eminently relatable.

Early on in this hard-to-put-down memoir, Hindman switches from first to second person because, she posits, “For many people, myself included, sitting down to write something in first person feels like the worst type of fakery.” Hindman knows a thing or two about fakery, having traveled across the country playing her violin with the mic turned off as music music that ‘sounds
Feb 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
It’s difficult to say exactly what Sounds Like Titanic is about - but I can firmly say that it is a captivating, beautifully written memoir that’s well worth a read. In many ways, it’s like one of those Russian nesting dolls: on the outside, there’s the tagline of the book - Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman is a mediocre violin student from Appalachia studying at Columbia who gets a job as a fake violinist for a musical ensemble led by a dude whose formulaic instrumental music sounds just like the so ...more
Mar 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I won this book through a Good Reads giveaway. This book was such a pleasure to read! Honestly, one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.

This story is not only a wild ride, it’s very well written. Jessica writes very eloquently not only about her time with The Conductor, but also about her childhood in rural Appalachia.

Going into this book, I expected a funny, crazy story about a fake orchestra, and the book delivers on that. What I didn’t expect was an eloquent and touching journey into l
Brenna Thom
Mar 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a pretty incredible story. When I first read the premise of Sounds Like Titanic, I genuinely thought it was a work of fiction. To find out that it was, indeed, a memoir was shocking. The memoir transitions from a few different periods in Hindman’s life: her upbringing in the Appalachian Mountains, her time at Columbia University, and her time on the God Bless America Tour with The Composer. Her vivid description of the Appalachia people and how they lived was fascinating. And I loved the ...more
Mar 10, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
3.75 stars. I forget why I ever started this book, but for some reason I assumed it was fiction. I also listened to it as an did not start well for me. The book kept jumping all over the place with dates, and I think because I couldn’t see the dates, I wasn’t following well and it just felt all over the place. Not long into it I considered quitting, and wondered if I would give it more than 2 stars. Then I realized it was an actual memoir, which changed things for some reason, and ...more
Apr 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this memoir. I was very young in the era discussed in the book, I have very faint memories of Bush, the early Iraq and Afghanistan wars, post 9/11 patriotism, and other such cultural themes hinted at. Memories brought back to the forefront.

What really made the book special to me though was how relevant it is to me: facing many of the same fears and challenges that Jessica did 15-20 years ago. Her story resonated with me in a very human way. Struggling to pay student loans, get h
Erin Kelly
Feb 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Everything about this book is extraordinary.
Jan 31, 2019 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-tbr
January 2019, pre-release:

I've actually been lucky enough to have Jessica as a professor twice now at my university. She's a wonderful person and an amazing instructor so I'm very excited to read this!
Feb 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music-nonfiction
Sounds Like Titanic is the fascinating memoir of a violinist who toured the United States with an ensemble who mimed playing while the audience heard music from a CD. The memoir gets into so many issues: class, money, privilege, snobbery... I'll try to unpack a little bit of it without giving away too much.

Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman grew up in a small town in Appalachia, and she wanted to play violin. She had to miss school occasionally to take violin lessons hours away, crossing from West Virg
Kathy De
Dec 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sounds like Titanic by Jessica Hindman is not just a memoir. It’s a work of creative non-fiction. Yes it is the story of a specific moment in the author’s life, but it also dances from her youth to the recent past to the memoir’s present. The leaps in time are signaled by changes in point of view, from I to she to the inclusive you. These movements keep the writing fresh all the way through.

I enjoyed the personal story of the Appalachian girl, raised to believe she’s a star, hitting against rea
Erin Charpentier
I have a weird relationship with memoirs. Sometimes I think it's good, but more often than not, I find myself thinking: Ehh, why do I care?

THIS BOOK, HOWEVER, IS SO GOOD. Jessica weaves a story that bounces between her time pretending to be a classical violinist for a man who goes by The Composer (and she's covered her tracks well, so you might be able to dig and do some research but his identity isn't revealed) who makes his living traveling around in an RV, hiring musicians to pretend to play
Mar 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I initially read the plot for this book I thought it would be about Jessica and her experience working in a fake ensemble which definitely caught my attention BUT I was pleasantly surprised that she shared her journey and struggles as a broke student in NYC in comparison to her classmates along the way. The homeless, Penn Station at night, drugs, unaffordable everything, applying to every job and not getting one interview after graduation, a dark cloud that seems to be above your head at al ...more
Wendy Ballard
I've become interested in the violin for a variety of reasons. That's what brought me to this book, that, and, well isn't Titanic one of the best movies? I think it is.

Jessica has had a love affair with the violin since she was a child and her parents did the right thing by encouraging her even to the point of taking her to weekly lessons hours away from home. I liked that. They encouraged without being stage parents.

I enjoyed reading about Jessica's growth as a violinist, her willingness to g
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Obsessed with Tru...: Sounds Like Titanic 4 16 Mar 06, 2019 09:33AM  
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Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman has “performed” on PBS, QVC, and at concert halls worldwide. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, McSweeney's, Brevity, and Hippocampus. She holds a BA in Middle Eastern studies and an MFA in creative nonfiction writing from Columbia University, and a PhD in English from the University of North Texas. She teaches creative writing at Northern Kentucky ...more
“You are someone whose upbringing was upper class enough to make you believe you could make music for a living, but lower class enough to provide no knowledge of how to do it.” 0 likes
“All of your years of music are going to "pay off," that distinctly American phrase that conflates all work with reward, all positive outcomes with money.” 0 likes
More quotes…