Summer Shorts: 10 Novellas Perfect for Literary Lounging

Fear of Music, Jonathan Lethem

Length: 140 pages

Summary: Not a novella, but an intense homage/history/memoir of the writer’s adolescent obsession with The Talking Heads’ 1979 album Fear of Music.

Author: Jonathan Lethem is a novelist and essayist whose works have appeared in Rolling Stone. He is the Roy Edward Disney Professor in Creative Writing at Pomona College.

First lines: “In the summer of 1979, in New York City, a fifteen-year-old boy sitting in his bedroom heard a voice speaking to him over his radio. The voice said: ‘Talking Heads have a new album. It’s called Fear of Music.’ The voice was that of David Byrne, the lead singer of the band Talking Heads. The voice had restricted itself deliberately to a halting and monotonous presentation, but the words, spoken softly, their speaker miked close, admitted a degree of tenderness — that high, reedy vulnerability this singer generally finds it hard to mask, even as he delights in masks, in vocal mummery.”

Our Twitter-length review: The latest in Continuum’s 33 1/3 series, Fear of Music is another intriguing and entertaining merger of album and literature.