Angela's Reviews > The Song Is You

The Song Is You by Arthur Phillips
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Oct 19, 2009

it was ok
Recommended to Angela by: nytimes review

In The Song is You, reformed philanderer Julian pursues Cait, a musician half his age rising to fame on her regrettably named demo tape, Your Very Own Blithering Idiot. It's easy enough to predict how this one is going to go, because you've seen it before.

At its heart, the novel is Philips's attempt to share his love of music, but that's a difficult thing to write about. Either the references chosen are so pedestrian that they're dated and tedious (Audrey Niffenegger we're looking at you), or they are just meaningless nostalgia, affecting only the author. Perhaps the worst example of this is the unreadable Love is a Mix Tape, which I had to abandon after not being as touched as the author apparently was by the equation of memories of his deceased wife with early '90s radio hits. So, indeed, the most tedious parts of The Song Is You are Julian's thoughts on what exactly is playing out of his iPod, and unfortunately he thinks about this a lot. The novel makes a convincing case for a legal limit on the number of times the word "iPod" should be allowed to appear in a single work of fiction.

Luckily, the plot moves the reader along steadily, with a few truly wonderful paragraphs and bits of dialogue spread throughout it. Phillips begins to redeem himself recounting the hilarious story of Julian's brother Aidan's unfortunate Jeopardy! mishap, and Julian is at his best when he responds to Cait's constant need for affirmation with "On the other hand, if you want a mix tape of people calling you incompetent, I can have one professionally engineered and piped through dedicated speakers hidden in your home, so that you shower and eat and shave your legs and fall asleep to disquieting abuse and then awaken to laughter and caitcalls."

Unfortunately Phillips balances his wit with an occasional dreadful phrasing. On Cait: "She lived in a one-bedroom, like so many people." Ian, the band's guitarist, "intubates" women. Not content to look through his CDs peacefully like the rest of us, Julian "caroms." And so on.

So really, it's hard to feel very sorry for Julian when, after he has annoyed us for nearly a whole novel with the constant cacophony of his iPod and iTunes and CDs and live bands and reel to reel players, he has managed to tune out everything important in the actual, real world. Time after time, Julian misses the world around him because he's got his music turned up too loud. Phillips's New York is a place populated solely by arrogant artists with improbably British names and dog parks, though, so maybe that's not such an awful thing.
11 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Song Is You.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

Started Reading
October 19, 2009 – Shelved
October 19, 2009 – Finished Reading

No comments have been added yet.