Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Review: How the Mistakes Were Made

Title: How the Mistakes Were Made
Author: Tyler McMahon
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Date Published: 10/11/2011
Pages: 352 


Two Sentence Summary: Former punk icon Laura Loss reluctantly forms a band with two new-to-the scene young men.  Their rise to fame (within the context of the early 90s Seattle grunge scene) is punctuated with typical band drama and flashbacks to Loss's bittersweet involvement in the hardcore scene of the 80s.

Things I Think: Books about the music industry can be total kryptonite for me.  Kristin Hirsh's "Rat Girl," for example, was one of my top five reads of 2011.)  I dove into "How the Mistakes Were Made" with high hopes for a unique tour through the grunge scene.  Everything about the plot seemed promising: the young female bass player from a seminal 80s punk band becomes the drummer and mentor for an up-and-coming 90s grunge act. 

Unfortunately, this book fell immediately flat when I started to notice how unfamiliar and rehearsed the musician's lexicon felt for McMahon.  Sure, he seems to have done a bit of surface-level research into the life of a touring musician, but his lack of familiarity with this world resulted in cliched characters and even more cliche situations.  Moreover, though, the author's choice to narrate via first-person female perspective is totally unbelievable.  McMahon has just as much trouble constructing a feminine persona as he does navigating the dynamics of the grunge scene.  Summarily, the language felt awkward and out of place.  (No hard-edge punk rock girl in her late 20s would use the word "cuckholding" in a conversation about cheating.  McMahon doesn't seem to know this.) 

I've been told I need to read Egan's "A Visit from the Goon Squad" immediately to get my "music book love" back. I feel certain my expectations are not misplaced in this one! 


Companion said...

"Our Band Could Be Your Life" by Michael Azerrad. Not fiction but soooo necessary for your life.

Bucho said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bucho said...

yeah, i haven't read a lot of great music/band fiction. the best stuff, personally, has always been the memoirs or biographies. my all time favorite, however, is "Get In The Van" by Henry Rollins about his time in Black Flag.

not only are the stories interesting, but Rollins is a surprisingly fantastic writer.