For better or worse, many artists these days have decided to forgo the traditional boundaries between crafts. The number of singers who have decided to take up acting (and vice versa) has escalated beyond what’s worth counting. And while we’ve seen biographies and memoirs from actors for ages, we’ve recently seen an influx of actor-authored novels — to varying degrees of success, of course (James Franco has apparently just finished his debut novel. Enough said there. My beloved Lauren Graham, witty superstar of Gilmore Girls has also recently taken up novel-writing. While I prefer her performance on-screen, her attempt at creative writing was certainly not abhorrent).
I launched into this craft-crossing stream of consciousness the other night while I was enjoying one of the best things of all time (I will hear no arguments to the contrary): live music. While Jason Isbell was holding me in a world of poetry and raw emotion, I started wondering what it would be like if more songwriters wrote novels (note: by “songwriter,” I mean to exclude the lyric genius who wrote Flo Rida’s class-act hit “Whistle” and anything remotely resembling this style. I’m talking about the more literary lyricists: Jason Isbell, Jay Farrar, Benjamin Gibbard). Josh Ritter certainly contributed to my musings since he is a fine example of exactly what I’m interested in — a talented singer/songwriter taking his affinity for words and funneling it into a novel. The outcome was quite compelling. Bright’s Passage is a wholly unique work of writing, and I would like to see more of the same. Songwriters know their way around the world of words, and while poetry might be a closer connection, I think that if lyricists ventured a little further outside of their familiar realm, we could see some really innovative things happen to the novel.
History will back me on the idea that songs and stories belong together. The oral tradition and the inception of storytelling are completely entwined. Both during and before Homer’s time, all of the epics and tales were passed down through song. Songs and storytelling are like peanut butter and chocolate. Maybe I’m just trying to force a relationship between my favorite things, but even so, I stand by my words: I want Jason Isbell to write me a novel.