Six Authors Who Totally Rock: Part I

Posted by Brian Morell

Authors have a way with words, but these authors have a way with music, too, whether acting as the opener for a band or playing in one themselves. Here are six authors that have a musical side as well.

RICK MOODY: If you’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing Rick Moody read one of his pieces, you’ll know right away that he loves music. You can tell by his pacing and rhythm. There’s a certain cadence, too, that seems like there is sheet music telling him what to do. You also might realize this because he is reading from his book of essays about music, On Celestial Music.

A friend of fellow musician-author John Wesley Harding (aka Wesley Stace), Moody has performed several times at Harding’s Cabinet of Wonders, which features both musicians and authors. During his most recent Cabinet appearance, Moody read his essay “Europe, Forsake Your Drum Machines,” with a drummer providing the backbeat. Additionally, he performed a song about a song with Harding during the show. Moody has also read short stories as the opener for the Magnetic Fields during their tour for 69 Love Songs.

EMMA STRAUB: Like Rick Moody, Emma Straub has a strong connection to music through both the Cabinet of Wonders and the Magnetic Fields. Author of Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures, Straub performed at the Cabinet several times and also acted as the opening author for the Magnetic Fields during a recent tour. Straub’s connection to the Magnetic Fields doesn’t end there, however. She was also Stephin Merritt’s assistant for a time, helping to catalog his instruments for insurance purposes, and also sold merchandise for the band on many of their tours.



JONATHAN COE: Another friend of John Wesley Harding’s Cabinet of Wonders (clearly a great place for musical authors to perform!), Jonathan Coe jammed along with Harding and his band during his appearance in March 2011, playing a keyboard solo for the song “Nigel Blows A Tune” by Caravan. Before becoming a writer, Coe actually tried to land a record deal before he was published.

Music is an important theme throughout much of Coe’s work, especially in The Rotters’ Club, named after an album by the Canterbury prog rock band, Hatfield and the North. In 2001, Coe released an album of readings set to music called 9th & 13th.

NICK HORNBY: In my list of top five novels about music, “High Fidelity” would have to be included. It’s clear that Nick Hornby loves music but it goes beyond that. He wrote Songbook, a collection of essays about certain songs and their significance to him. The US version was released with a CD containing eleven of the songs from the book while the version released in the United Kingdom (as 31 Songs,) included a compilation of eighteen songs.

Hornby has collaborated with Ben Folds for the album Lonely Avenue, writing the lyrics with Folds composing the music. Hornby has also worked with the band Marah, touring and performing with them in the United States and Europe.

DANIEL HANDLER: Perhaps known best as his alter-ego, Lemony Snicket, Daniel Handler’s collaboration with the Magnetic Fields makes him the third author on the list associated with that band. What a musical-literary powerhouse! Handler played accordion on a number of songs for the album 69 Love Songs. The box set includes an interview Handler did with Stephin Merritt about the album and each song. In addition to his work with the Magnetic Fields, Handler has also collaborated with Merritt as The 6ths and the Gothic Archies.

TRIPLE THREAT: NEIL GAIMAN: Neil Gaiman is kind of a rockstar author: lots of screaming fans and he pretty much wears all black. But he actually does have a musical side, singing in his not-singing voice alongside wife Amanda Palmer during their joint performances. But Gaiman has sung with others as well, performing an original song with Josh Ritter, John Munson, Steve Roehm, The Ascots and The Brass Messengers during an episode of Wits on Minnesota Public Radio.

Not only is Neil Gaiman a beloved writer and up-and-coming musical force, but he’s our triple threat because he’s a TV star as well! Gaiman lent his voice and likeness to a recent episode of The Simpsons and was on PBS’ Arthur too.

Brian Morell is an awesome librarian from New York City. He writes about his travels and life at That Long Yellow Line and about music for The Ruckus. Follow him on Twitter @goodinthestacks.