A blog about Bloomsbury Academic's 33 1/3 series, our other books about music, and the world of sound in general.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Pet Sounds

When the series first started, I really didn't want to commission books on some of the more obvious albums. But when Jim Fusilli got in touch and explained why he wanted to write a short book about Pet Sounds, I warmed so much to the honesty of his approach that it was hard to say no. I'll let others be the judge of whether Jim's approach is successful or not, but we've already had one glowing review from Bret Wheadon, who runs the unofficial fan site, BeachBoys.com. Here's what Bret wrote about Jim's book:

"When I heard that another book about Pet Sounds was coming out, I have to admit that I gave a small inward groan. After all, we already have two fine books covering the same ground, and there have been literally hundreds of smaller essays and articles written; what could another add to the mountain of published literature? Thankfully, author Jim Fusilli is no slouch. Music reporter for the Wall Street Journal and continuing contributer to National Public Radio's "All Things Considered," Fusilli is a keen observer and eloquent writer, bringing a fresh perspective to this seminal album with wit and pathos. He starts by talking about the forces that shaped his own childhood, notably Walt Disney - from watching Walt host his weekly show on TV, and from viewing endless films and TV shows, Mr. Fusilli had a utopian vision of California imprinted on his mind. I laughed out loud when I read a description of Annette Funicello as "an Italian sparkplug." But this autobiographical introduction to the book works perfectly, humanizing the author to his audience, and letting us know exactly where he's coming from. And despite the slimness of the book, Fusilli doesn't simply dive into analyzing the album, (he doesn't really dig in until page 41) he unfolds, in a very gentle way, the history of the Beach Boys in both professional and a deeply intimate portrait. Mr. Fusilli knows of what he writes as well, infusing his song-by-song examinations with his clear, intuitive understanding of the what makes each song tick. He's even lightly critical of several numbers, which I frankly admire, having read several like-minded articles that place Pet Sounds on an unattainable pedestal. I felt as I was reading this that I at last understood how Pet Sounds came about; the shadowy psyche of Brian Wilson became a little clearer, reflected in the dark mirror of his art and here illuminated for my eyes. The songs are examined one by one, with pertinent quotes from most of the major players, from Marilyn Wilson to Brian himself, with several small facts thrown in that I hadn't recalled reading anywhere else. This book, part of a series of acclaimed books about individual albums, is published by Continuum Books, and is a fine addition to your Beach Boys library. I unreservedly recommend it."

And if you're into mystery fiction, you should pick up one of Jim's novels about Terry Orr and his daughter Bella.

Jim will be reading from his Pet Sounds book at the Barnes & Noble in Greenwich Village on the evening of Thursday May 12th, at 7.30.

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