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July 24, 2008

Book Notes - Janis Ian ("Society's Child: My Autobiography")

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that is in some way relevant to their recently published books.

Before I read Janis Ian's Society's Child: My Autobiography, I have to admit not being familiar with either the artist or her music. As I listened to the two-disc greatest hits collection, Best of Janis Ian - The Autobiography Collection, released in conjunction with the book, I was amazed at how many of her songs were tethered to memories of my own childhood and also how versatile a songwriter she is.

Society's Child could easily have been the story of gossip, excess, and tragedy, but Ian applies her songwriting skills to prose masterfully as she shares the struggles she has faced, as well as the ultimate victories.

Kirkus Reviews wrote of the book:

"Ian is a natural prose stylist with a real knack for pacing and the telling detail. What might have been a dreary catalog of woe is instead a juicily entertaining look at an unusual life in show business."


In her own words, here is Janis Ian's Book Notes essay for her autobiography, Society's Child:

I have what my partner calls "zero auditory closure," which means when I hear sound of any sort - be it a song, radio talk show, or just wind in the trees - part of me shuts down to listen. That's great as a songwriter, but not so wonderful as a human being. It means I spend a lot of my time walking around looking stupidly vacant, because I'm actually listening in my head.

When there isn't much sound going on around me, or it's familiar sounds (my refrigerator, the dogs snuffling), I usually end up listening to music in my head. While I was writing my autobiography last year, some songs kept recurring, over and over again. I can't figure out whether that's because they're comfort songs for me, or because they're songs that challenge me - certainly I do wish I'd written all of them myself!

Billie Holiday - What a Little Moonlight Can Do (with the Teddy Wilson orchestra I believe)

Leonard Cohen - First We Take Manhattan

Frank Sinatra - Strangers In the Night

Bette Midler - From A Distance

Sara Bettens - Come Over Here

Ivo Pogorelich - Schumann Opus 13 Etude 3

Adrianna Calcanhotto – Maritmo

Marc Cohn - Walking In Memphis

Gretchen Peters - The Secret of Life


Janis Ian and Society's Child: My Autobiography links:

the author's website
the author's Wikipedia entry
the author's page at the publisher
the author's tour dates
the book's page at the publisher
excerpt from the book
excerpt from the book

Bay Area Reporter review
O Magazine review
Publishers Weekly review
Writers Are Readers review

New York Post review
NPR All Things Considered profile of the author
USA Today interview with the author
Wall Street Journal interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Previous Book Notes submissions (authors create playlists for their book)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Why Obama (musician and author essays in favor of Barack Obama's bid for the US presidency)
guest book reviews
musician/author interviews
directors and actors discuss their film's soundtracks
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2008 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2007 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2006 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2005 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2004 Edition)


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