Business, Murakami, DFW, and Music
March 4, 2014 12:21 AM   Subscribe

Book suggestions for a gift exchange recipient that combine business, Haruki Murakami, David Foster Wallace, and/or music? (here's hoping my recipient isn't also a Mefite!)

I'm doing a book exchange and I'm paired up with someone who is actively in the music business (produces/run labels in Europe, mostly hip-hop), and expressed an interest in business books as well as works by Haruki Murakami and David Foster Wallace. He said he wanted books that "treat the mind and make you think".

I've asked him for some clarification on what exactly about those two authors does he like, and he does have a very sparse wishlist, so I'd like to find him something that he may not have heard about before.

What I was hoping to find was some sort of literary non-fiction (or hell, fiction) about the music business that would evoke the qualities of Murakami or Wallace. Does this exist?

I've only read one of Murakami's books (and that was a long time ago) and have never read Wallace, so I'm not sure what those two have in common. I do have my own personal favourites for "treat the mind and make you think" but they don't really intersect with music or business.

I feel like the book I'm looking for would be published by some kind of indie press or indie shop. Since he's European I'm not sure a book that solely looks at the US music industry would be ideal, but something more global could work. Is there such a thing as a literary business book?

posted by divabat to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I've read quite a few Murakami books, and a couple of DFW books, as well as several of his articles. I'm no English student, but here are some themes that I feel their major works have in common:
  • magic realism
  • bewilderment at the world
  • male protaganists
  • plot compelled by unseen forces
  • (especially in Murakami's work) substantial amounts of soul-searching
DFW seems to lean more towards satire whereas Murakami is more straight-laced.

Hopefully that'll trigger some inspiration!
posted by Magnakai at 1:41 AM on March 4, 2014

A literary business book that intersects with hip hop .... jesus I hope such a thing exists.

The best I can come up with from my own bookshelf is RZA's autobiography The Tao Of Wu.
posted by mannequito at 3:22 AM on March 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

number9dream by David Mitchell. Protagonist is a jazz lover and music is a strong focus of the story.
posted by jbickers at 6:04 AM on March 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

Number9dream is a good recommendation.

While it's not quite on part with Mitchell, DFW, or Murakami, I thought back to this book by Ben Fong-Torres. Excellent rock and roll journalism. Looking over his bibliography on Amazon led to this one, which seems to speak more to the business side of things. I haven't read it, but I trust Ben Fong-Torres's reputation.
posted by GrapeApiary at 6:31 AM on March 4, 2014

I haven't read it, but there's this Ninja Tune book which may be somewhat appropriate. While not exactly 100% hip hop, Ninja Tune's (excellent) roster includes a lot of cross-over with hip hop. The Quietus have an extract, so you can see if you think it's appropriate.
posted by Magnakai at 6:47 AM on March 4, 2014

Best answer: Seconding number9dream. I love both DFW and Murakami, and David Mitchell is right up my alley as well.

Also, you could get him Signifying Rappers, a book about rap written by Mark Costello and DFW himself. It's hard to find, so there's a fairly good chance your friend hasn't read it. DFW himself sort of disowned the book, but it still might scratch your friend's itch...
posted by nushustu at 6:57 AM on March 4, 2014

Response by poster: ah the Signifying Rappers book is great for DFW and music!

number9dream is high on the list too, though now that I've got the music end sorted I'm wondering if there is a business book that "treats the mind". Otherwise I'll also go with that.
posted by divabat at 3:41 PM on March 4, 2014

Murakami once owned a jazz club. How about After Dark?
posted by Miss T.Horn at 5:28 PM on March 4, 2014

Ah, he may own After Dark. Maybe a mix of some of the acts that inspired Murakami throughout his lifetime?
posted by Miss T.Horn at 5:33 PM on March 4, 2014

Best answer: This might be something of a gamble, but in my experience as someone who fell pretty seriously for DFW, I wish someone would have pointed me earlier towards Philip Lopate's essays.

He does a similar thing as DFW, though he traces the style from Montaigne, Hazlitt, even Augustine. It's a style based on intelligent observation of personal experience and memory, spiced with private confessions. An example of the confessional part, taken at random from the essay Against Joie de Vivre:
A warning: since I myself have a large store of nervous discontent (some would say hostility) I am apt to be harsh in my secret judgments of others, seeing them as defective because they are not enough like me.
My recommendation is the essay collection Portrait Inside My Head. It very much "makes you think," and for me at least there's a stability, moderation, even kindness in his voice that I sometimes missed in DFW's work. I don't mean that as a criticism, but just to say that Lopate's take on the confessional essay for me seems to alleviate some of the "intellectual pain" that I kind of absorbed from DFW.

Another similarity is that they were both appreciated teachers of writing, and Lopate's stories about that are simply heartwarming and amazing. He also has a lot of great reflections about urban life, family life, and yes, business. For example, his brother is Leonard Lopate, a radio host, and one essay in the book deals with their mutual admiration and rivalry, being both somewhat successful creative guys. Example:
"A trickier side to having a radio personality in the family is that he is not always able to come down from his public persona. I become instantly wary of him when I sense that he is not talking to me so much as to his listeners, or if I catch him making pronouncements, explaining something he should know I know. (Then again, I should talk: after teaching a seminar or giving several readings on tour, I don't always succeed in descending from Mount Olympus and attending to my wife and daughter on their terms.)"
I think it's simply good and mature writing suitable for "young adults," maybe especially guys who are a bit intellectual, creative, thinkers... And I think it makes a particularly good present due to another similarity with DFW, namely hilarious and exhilarating wit and erudition—he's just really fun to read.
posted by mbrock at 5:09 AM on March 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

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