Thursday, May 14, 2009

High Fidelity Reading

Someone mentioned to me recently that they’d seen a rash of books with titles that refer to pop songs. Is this the latest trend? I dunno but I dug up a few.

More Than This by Margo Candela: The book that started the conversation. The title of this contemporary romance story refers to the song by Roxy Music (although I think my friend knew the 10 000 Maniacs cover better). Back in 2007, Candela did a guest post on a romance fiction blog and mentioned it’s a title she’s pitched to her editor a few times for her books. I guess her editor finally gave in!

It’s always hard to tell if a book with a title that is also the title of a pop song is an allusion or just a co-incidence.

Is Peter Robinson’s novel Piece of My Heart a reference to the Janice Joplin song? What about Joe King’s  Heart-Shaped Box and the song by Nirvana of the same name? Was Rick Bletcha thinking of Joni Mitchell when he named his crime novel set in the jazz world A Case of You? The answer in all cases is yes - although the degree to which the song or artist features in the novel varies. In the case of the above, I think Robinson’s plot and title have the strongest connections: Piece of My Heart revolves around the discovery of a body after an outdoor rock festival in 1969.

Beatles titles are popular for novel titles - probably because they so widely recognized. With Norwegian Wood by Japanese author Haruki Murakami, English readers are given something familiar off right of the bat in a book that otherwise might be a bit of a culture shock (and the song does factor in the story). Canadian author Douglas Coupland named his 2004 novel about lonely souls Eleanor Rigby - a fitting title and one that probably got him a bit more notice outside of Canada. Coupland likes song title names for his books: 1998's Girlfriend in a Coma is a reference to the Smiths.

If some authors use Beatles titles to create a link to a wide audience - I would put forward that others use more obscure references to find their audience. Brendan Halpin probably got a lot more attention from indie music fans than he otherwise would have when he named his 2006 novel Dear Catastrophe Waitress after the Belle and Sebastian song.

Finally - back to 80s pop songs where this all began. If you’re really into the pop song vibe in fiction you’ll want to check out a first novel from Sara Rainone. Named after a Joy Division song, Love Will Tear Us Apart is “a bittersweet, darkly comic novel [that]... tells the story of six childhood friends reunited at a wedding where secrets are revealed, hearts are broken... By turns a Nick Hornby–esque ode to the way music shapes our memories and an elegy to lost youth in the manner of Bret Easton Ellis...” ( product description)

(oh yeah, and the title of this post is an homage - of course - to the ultimate music nerd novel High Fidelity by Nick Hornby)


  1. I just read the young adult novel, I Know It's Over by C.K. Kelly Martin. Its title refers to The Smiths' song of the same name.


  2. I think I also had " I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb in mind as well. Ear worm fiction! Get a song in people's heads, and they'll remember to borrow your book from the library. :)

  3. there is another teen book named after a smiths song... "stop me if you've heard this one before" by david yoo.

  4. also the teen book london calling by edward bloor.