Lisa Simon, age 37, still loves loud punk rock and hates Dave Matthews with an all-consuming passion. So begins the synopsis of Caryn Rose’s first novel, B-Sides and Broken Hearts. If this book is for you, you know it just from that sentence. You’ve already heard the click of recognition and know you’re about to read the story of a kindred spirit.
For the rest of you, let me put it to you this way: B-Sides and Broken Hearts is like High Fidelity for female music nerds. I mean big music nerds. The ones you know in school who always wore band T-shirts, who tried to sneak their Walkman/Discman/mp3 player to class, whose locker and bedroom was papered with band posters, who camped out for concert tickets, who spent hours in records stores on the weekends and cried when the tape recorder ate their favorite cassette/favorite CD became too scratched to play/computer ate their mp3s. But moreover, these are the music nerds who never “grew out of it”. They may have flirted with being “normal” – took a desk job, toned down their wardrobe, tried dating a guy with a steady job. But the nerd streak never went away. They went on to start bands themselves, to work for bands, to start record labels, write for music rags, run music blogs…
The moment I knew Lisa Simon was one of my tribe happened in the first few pages, when Lisa fights with her soon-to-be-ex boyfriend over the significance of the death of Joey Ramone.
“Lisa, I’m sorry, yes, it’s sad, but–it’s not the greatest loss ever endured by the music world that the author of ‘Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue’ is no longer with us.” He pronounces the song title in artificial, clipped tones.
“That was Dee Dee,” I say, automatically. It was like Tourette’s or something. I honestly couldn’t stop myself.
I know that particular affliction well, and she’s right: it is like Tourette’s.
Now, not only is B-Sides a first novel, but it’s also a pretty DIY effort and, as such, can feel a little rough around the edges at times. But this works as a strength for the book, enhancing the feeling that, instead of reading a novel, you’re in conversation with a good friend who really gets it, a music-obsessive soulmate.
And as with a good friend, watching her go out and do what you’ve long dreamed of doing is inspiring and galvanizing. I’d like to put this book into the hands of teen girl music nerds to give them faith that their dreams are not silly, wrong or unobtainable. They are well within reach, perhaps now more than ever.