Teddy Wayne’s Publicity Machine, & Who Wrote the Great Rock Novel?

I haven’t read Teddy Wayne’s new novel, The Love Song of Jonny Valentine.

There are too many good rock novels to waste my time on a novel about a tween pop star.

Last year Wayne got off to a bad start with Baby Boomer feminists like me when Salon (a liberal magazine, right?) published his querulous, right-wing article claiming that male writers have a harder time than women.  His irascible essay was triggered by best-selling author Jennifer Weiner’s blog about stats tracking reviews of books by gender.  The numbers that irked him?  Of  254 works of fiction reviewed by The New York Times in 2011, only 104, or 40.9 percent, were by women.

Wayne said:

“..and being a midlist male author who writes about males is a distinct financial disadvantage. Not only will you not get reviewed in the Times, but you won’t get reviewed in the women’s magazines that drive sales, like People and O, the Oprah Magazine. Book clubs will ignore you. Barnes & Noble will relegate you to the back shelves. Your publisher won’t give you much support — if it even publishes your book in the first place. As a book-editor friend once admitted to me, “When we buy a debut novel by a man, we view it as taking a real chance.”

Teddy Wayne's anti-feminist article in Salon annoyed me.

Teddy Wayne’s anti-feminist article in Salon annoyed me.

Poor Teddy Wayne.  What interests me is the incredible publicity machine that has won Wayne not just a single review in The New York Times, but triple coverage in a single week:  he wrote an Opinionator humor piece, “Tips for Public Speaking,” published Feb. 23; Jess Walter’s review of Wayne’s new book was published in The New York Times Book Review Feb. 24; and today, March 1, Wayne’s essay, “By Any Other Name,”appears.

In “By Any Other Name,” he gives us a hint about his publicity savvy.  He tells us, “Readers are much more likely to remember a byline with Teddy, my somewhat gravitas-deficient nickname since birth, than one with my more common legal name, Derek.”

I’m waiting to see what bloggers say before I write him off completely.  At Tony’s Book World, a contemporary fiction blog, Tony has already written about the book: he didn’t like it.  He writes, “The Love Song of Jonny Valentine” has been called the Justin Bieber novel.  What ever possessed me to read this book?  That is an excellent question.”

And now for a more important issue.  Who has written the great rock novel?  There are so many.


Rock Me by Marcelle ClementsMarcelle Clements’ Rock Me (1989).   I LOVE Marcelle Clements’ writing:  she  is a  journalist and a novelist.  Her first novel, Rock Me, is perhaps not up to her later excellent novel, Midsummer, but it interests me because it is about a woman rock star (very few rock novels are about women).  The heroine, Casey, is a rock star who needs some time to herself.  She goes to Hawaii and…  Grade:  A-

Don Delillo’s Great Jones Street (1973).  Rock star Bucky Wunderlick needs a retreat, but when Happy Valley Farms Commune finds him and drugs hime, everything goes downhill. Grade: A.

night-train-clyde-edgertonClyde Edgerton’s The Night Train (2011).  A beautifully-written, humorous novel about two boys, one black, one white, who perform rock and roll in a small Southern town in 1962.  Jazz piano may be African-American Larry Lime’s ticket out of town, as he studies with a brilliant hemophiliac musician knows as the Bleeder; meanwhile, the privileged Dwayne, son of the owner of the furniture refinishing shop where the two boys work, learns the power of  rock and roll through talented Larry Lime’s patient explication of James Brown’s “The Night Train.”  Grade:  A

Roddy Doyle’s The Commitments (1987).  An Irish band wants to bring soul to Dublin.  Grade:  A

nick_hornby_juliet_naked_300x471Nick Hornby’s Juliet, Naked (2009).  The heroine, Annie, breaks up with her boyfriend, a middle-aged man obsessed with Tucker Crowe, a rock star who retired in 1984.  After thye disagree about Tucker Crowe’s new album, “Juliet, Naked,” Annie posts a bad review on the website that  sparks a friendship between Annie and Tucker.  Grade:  A

Dana Spiotta’s Stone Arabia (2011).  The protagonist analyzes her relationship with her brother, a rock musician who has recorded his own original music at home, and distributed the limited editions of his records to his family.  Grade:  A-

Visit from the goon squadJennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad (2010).  Beautifully written, interwoven stories about characters in the music business. The novel falls apart in the last few chapters, one done as a Power Point presentation, the other about a dystopian concert.  Most loved this book.  I did not.  Grade:  A-

Jonathan Lethem’s You Don’t Love Me Yet (2007).  A very light novel about  a Los Angeles alternative rock band, and, yes, there are women in the band. Lethem’s Fortress of Solitude and Chronic City are masterpieces, but I have to say this very short book is not his best.  Lethem does long better. Grade:  A-

Sylvie Simmons’s Too Weird for Ziggy.  A collection of linked short stories about rock musicians. In one of the stories, a male rock star grows breasts and likes them.  Simmons is a British rock journalist.  Grade:  A-

too weird for ziggy

6 thoughts on “Teddy Wayne’s Publicity Machine, & Who Wrote the Great Rock Novel?

  1. I still am waiting for the truly great rock novel, although ‘The Commitments’ was really good. “Absolute Beginners” by Colin MacInnes is an excellent novel about the late 1950s rock scene in London. “The Wishbones” by Tom Perrotta is quite good also. And ‘Hi Fidelity’ by Nick Hornby and ‘The Song is You’ are also fine. But even with Jennifer Egan’s ‘After the Goon Squad”, I don’t think anyone has really captured rock-n-roll in a novel. I haven’t seen that one great Rock-n-Roll movie either, although ‘Almost Famous’ was close. Also the movie ‘Once’.


  2. You know, you’re probably right: it’s probably harder for novelists to write about music than, say, art. Visual translates to the page better than the auditory. Novelists have to rise above our rocker stereotypes, create believable characters, suggest what their music is like, write witty dialogue. And they have to suggest something about the drain on their stamina.

    I do like or love the novels I listed above, and, amazingly, I have seen both movies you mention.


  3. I saw the VIDA report. Teddy Wayne is an arrogant self-conceited ass. Yes women buy far more books than men are in far more book clubs than men, yes Oprah is a woman, but they buy, read and promote men’s books. Men won’t read women’s books. It begins as children; girls are assigned boys’ books because boys won’t read girls. Why did J. K. Rowling write about a boy using initials? Women’s writing is biodegradable. IN the NYRB, New York Times Book Review, LRB — men outnumber women as reviewers and authors 9 to 1.

    Men shape their wives lives; I’ve seen it again and again. It’s Jim who loves opera.

    The Oscars — was there anything more masculinist and in bad taste? songs about “boobs.” The woman who made Dark Zero Thirty makes men’s films, high violence, imperialist, justifying torture

    Men shape their wives lives; I’ve seen it again and again. It’s Jim who loves opera.

    The Oscars — was there anything more masculinist and in bad taste? the woman who made Dark Zero Thirty makes men’s films, high violence, imperialist, justifying torture.


  4. I’m surprised Salon even published Wayne’s article.

    I’m afraid it would be hard to make myself read his book even if I supposed it was good.


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