Liz Moore,
The Words of Every Song
(Broadway Books, 2007)

Let me tell you why you should read this book immediately: It's about music and musicians and the readers of this magazine are music freaks. We listen to music, we play music, we buy music and we read about music. It centers our lives and when somebody crafts a wonderful work of fiction about it, we want to know about it and respond to it. This book is one of those wonderful works of fiction and we should respond to it. But that's not the important reason.

Liz Moore, the author, is a working musician, so she knows the world she's writing about intimately and conveys it with a verisimilitude you're not going to find very often. Reading it, you feel as though you're living it. When she sets a scene in a second-rate rock club in Brooklyn, you're there. When she's inside the record company offices, you're in those offices with her. And when she gets into a character's head, you feel as if you know the guy. But that's not the important reason either.

The book is about the way we live today. Although it's set in the music world and tells the stories of musicians and music biz execs, it's really about the primary needs all of us share: the need to love and be loved, to be accepted for who we are, to come to terms with our lives and the lives of those we love. Moore writes about the struggle in a way that illuminates it, shedding light on the struggle we all endure. It's real. But that's not the important reason either.

We should all read it because The Words of Every Song is, quite simply, a brilliant book, one that shines on all levels. Although she's only in her 20s, Moore writes with a wisdom, compassion and insight that is rare in an older, more experienced writer. She cares about her characters, whether she is writing about a rock star who is on the verge of coming apart, a beginning journalist so filled with himself that he has his review written in his head before he even sees the concert or a former musician turned receptionist who has been dumped. Moore has a way of bringing all of these characters to life and has a way with a telling detail that shows you the inner soul of the person. Reading the novel, you realize that she's not as interested in the music scene as she is the inner lives of the people who inhabit it; you come away with a new insight into the lives of people you've never met but know intimately.

Moore is also a skilled technician. Her novel unfolds as a series of linked stories, a device that in less able hands comes across as mannered and stilted. Moore's technical skill allows her to make it seem new and fresh. She writes in the present tense, a post-modern fiction cliche that she also makes new; reading The Words of Every Song, you feel that it could not have been written any other way, that any other choice of structure would weaken it.

All of the things I mentioned contribute to making The Words of Every Song the fabulous book that it is, but none of them in itself constitute the important reason you're going to want to read the book. The real reason you should rush out and by this book is simple: you're not going to read a better novel this year.

review by
Michael Scott Cain

24 November 2007

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