Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Ten Great Songs 2009 #2: Holiday

If you're looking for a perfect gift for that special someone in your life who is trying desperately to make the transition from writing incoherent 250-word record reviews to full-fledged novelism, you could do a lot worse than Jason Anderson's 2005 novel Showbiz.
Anderson plays keyboards in The Two Koreas and, more importantly for our narrative today, writes arts journalism out of Toronto for a bunch of places that you'll probably recognize if you live in Toronto, and won't if you don't. Like the CBC.
About 12 years ago, Anderson was the music editor at Eye Weekly, and I was very slowly making my way from Regina to Montreal to become a writer. Seriously, that was the plan: Move to Montreal, become a writer. I made a flowchart and everything. I was well on my way to achieving both goals, because I had published at least five record reviews in Regina's prairie dog magazine (it was a monthly back then) and was temporarily living in a London, Ont. basement apartment. I was 20, I was destined for greatness.
I had already faxed (!) my tearsheets to the Mirror before I even left Regina, to give them time to find me a desk, I suppose. But my plans were still malleable, so I decided to send Eye an email, just in case. I included a couple of my better pieces (I didn't have a lot, but it was still obvious which ones were better) and an offhand remark about how I was the second coming of Richard Meltzer. Of course, this was 1998 or something, and Meltzer was more or less entirely out of print at the point and I don't think I'd even read anything by him, I'd just read about him and decided he was my hero based on that. Well, maybe I'd read some of his stuff on Addicted to Noise, which was kind of a kickass website back in tha day. But I certainly wasn't familiar with his style, just his reputation.
So I get an email back from Jason Anderson. He commends my intention to be the next Meltzer, says he likes one of the samples I sent him and invites me to pitch to him. He even suggests I use more jokes. So I call him up, he talks to me as if I'm a peer, telling me that the new Plant & Page album really sounds like an Albini recording (because it was) and I'm like, oh shit. I'm just a guy who's written a handful of CD reviews, I don't know what an Albini recording is supposed to sound like! I'm in way over my head. I have one pitch, not a great one, based on a musical obsession I was on the verge of growing out of. Anderson whittles it down a bit, but accepts it, gives me an assignment. He never hears from me again.
I spent the next few months in Montreal, writing horrible poetry and short stories that were even worse.
Eventually I went back to Regina and have incrementally become almost as good a writer as I used to tell everybody I already was. Give me another twelve years.
More about Showbiz tomorrow.

1 comment:

Jade Leonard said...

This is great! I am an independent singer songwriter and I learn a lot from reading blogs like this - thanks so much for sharing.