John Darnielle -- Bangkok; Bangor; Gotham; Texas|
Self published using a photocopier and jackets torn from library books. Characters with names alternately mundane and mythological (i.e.: Mary and Poseidon, Bill and Freya, Goldie and Midas) fluctuate between embittered arguments about whose relationship is worse and bittersweet, heartfelt soliloquies on memories of when their relationships weren't completely terrible. In spite of repetitive subject matter, barely legible print and an admittedly monotonous rhythm, critics are inexplicably entranced by the "cinematic style of his prose", proving the complete hopelessness of the American public before this damn list has even really gotten underway.
There are very few guitar solos. Darnielle follows this up with a series of books whose titles make reference to various geographical locales and feature the same characters doing more or less the same things they did in the last book, only now with a new photocopier that has its own bizarre flaws -- including one that prints the word "CUNNILINGUS" in huge, black letters across the center of every seventh page. Critics remain inexplicably entranced. Jacket blurb: "Stephen King once again proves he is a master storyteller with this twisted tale of terror."
Connor Oberst -- The Sun Also Sets
Having taken to heart one critic's scathing comment that he is the twenty-first century's castrated answer to Ernest Hemingway, he rewrites The Sun Also Rises using only one exclamation point and twelve periods in the entire book. In his version, Jake Barnes not only makes it clear that he has been castrated by a bull, but reminds us tearfully of this fact every ten or fifteen minutes. Brett is somehow even more of a slutty bitch in this version -- she spends most of her time measuring various characters' penises.
Remarkably, women flock to Connor's side after reading this rather than being disgusted by the obvious sexism of a world where an entire gender is represented as cold, controlling whores whose only ambition is to trade up from their current man to one with a nicer car and a bigger package.
Ben Gibbard -- Castles and Moats
Gibbard pulls a coup on his own lovelorn poet image by writing a disturbingly happy civil war epic. In an almost admirable act of historical revisionism, he has Abe Lincoln explain how racism is wrong; unfortunately, he also denounces Hitler and the Nazi evil, leaving readers scratching their heads (except in America, where the average reader considers this possible.)
It features a seventy page "intermission" in the middle. Each page says, simply, "Intermission."
The Polyphonic Spree -- The Italian Balloon
Despite having an estimated kajillion authors, The Italian Balloon is a pretty simple book. Rumor has it that each and every band member pushed each and every key for every letter, using a display model of the world's largest keyboard borrowed from the Smithsonian's ultra-secret, ultra-pointless collection of world's largest non-sex toy items.
Oh, the story? It's joy in its purest, most unadulterated form.
Jeff Mangum -- Ten Thousand Little Soldiers March Backward in Time
Probably the single most inappropriate thing ever written, Ten Thousand... is not a novel so much as a hideously detailed collection of Anne Frank erotica. Lincoln once again makes an appearance to denounce Hitler loudly, but his motivations in this instance are considerably less pure.
Mangum's fans are initially happy for proof that he still lives, but ten years later declare that, in retrospect, the scene where Annie Does Dallas could and should have been cut.
Kurt Cobain -- Smells Like Teen Spirit
The real lyrics to the hit song are finally released. It turns out the song is actually a novel that Kurt sang so fast that it sounded slow. In response to this unexpected turn of events, fans have this to say: "Ooooooo[...]oooooooooooh..."
They later follow up with: "I get it now!"
You see, the joke is that nobody can understand the words to that song. (Once They Might Be Giants were on the radio and they were taking requests and somebody called in and requested "Smells Like Teen Spirit". They totally just made some non-distinct vocal sounds while playing something sort of like the melody. No kidding.)
Lou Reed -- I Don't Actually Do Heroin Anymore
A time comes in every man's life when he's tempted to write a vaguely auto-biographical novel. If you're a well regarded man, you'll probably be tempted to write something acutely autobiographical. Reed goes with the latter option, and because he kicks so damn much ass, it works. After all, we sort of adjusted, given plenty of time, to his vocals. But his all too human lyrics are what made us fall in love with him.
Probably the best part is watching him make a whole new group of critics feel like something the cat dragged in. Notorious for giving music critics a tough time, Lou launches into the shaming of literary critics with the sort of enthusiasm that gives birth to great songs and blood-chilling interviews.
The Apples in Stereo -- Fuzzy Wuzzy was a Bear
"Well, now we know where they got the idea." -- New York Times
Art Alexakis -- Booze
Rock journalists have had a fascination with Alexakis's "authentic, gritty past" since he first sang about shooting up. His work has been its best when he was at his worst, and this novel is written with an acute awareness of that fact. The introduction explains, in detail, exactly which poisons he introduced into his bloodstream before writing each chapter.
He later admits that it was all just baking soda and rubbing alcohol.
Pete Yorn -- Thru & Thru
The depression induced by being a reprehensibly bad singer with middling lyrics and getting paid the big rock and roll bucks for doing so finally gets to poor little Pete. Depression is believed by many to be good for writing, but it sure doesn't help him here. He doesn't actually write anything. All three hundred pages are blank.
Imagine his surprise when nobody points it out to him because his fans are secretly relieved at not actually having to read a 300-page book by Pete Yorn. They're content to look at the author photos. "What can I say," says literary journalist and fifteen year old girl Elizabeth Hanretty. "He's pretty."
Meg White -- Please, Help, Jack Keeps Me in the Basement
Ten months after Meg is found dead in a Portland hotel room, an anonymous childhood friend self-publishes a book that he claims explains everything. Whether this is a work of fiction or fact, it bears Meg's name on its spine. The book paints a disturbing picture of Jack White, a stranger who noticed Meg's physical resemblance to himself when he met her at her old job as a financial advisor for H and R Block.
The terrible, stormy passion of Jack's violent rage was matched only by the beautiful love songs he would write for Meg while she hung from the basement ceiling in her small wooden cage. When he left her alone, she had only her drum set to keep her company.
Jimmy Urine -- Rosebud
"The character of Bunghole Johnson is completely underdeveloped." -- The Indianapolis Star
"Un-put-downable." -- The Delaware Recorder