Actually, Be Quiet 

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If you ever want to piss off a writer, refer to them as a "scribe." Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo does so in his introduction to Noise: Fiction Inspired by Sonic Youth, embedded amid self-aggrandizing ponderings like, "Are they responding to the music itself?... Some epiphany they had at a gig out in a cornfield somewhere, as we played on in the furious distorted bliss of rapturous feedback?" Editor Peter Wild might have axed the band member's official stamp of approval for the sake of preserving his project from the first impression that it's—albeit relatively high end—fanfic, with all the pathetic self-consciousness that implies.

Because that's only partly true. Each short story in the collection begins with a Sonic Youth song title, followed by a brief word from the author on where they stand in relation to the band and song, and it's apparent that the authors here were—wisely—chosen by Wild by virtue of their writing, not their fandom. In Scott Mebus' introduction to "Bull in the Heather," for instance, he admits that he "doesn't know all that much about Sonic Youth," and that the MTV-approved hit is the only song by the band he has on his iPod.

Wild's concept (also applied to the Fall and the Smiths) only succeeds when approached as an exercise, not a tribute, and the writers are faced with a daunting challenge in their navigation of the task. Some are too intent on echoing the music's experimentalism, producing annoying, obtusely un-engaging results (Shelley Jackson's "My Friend Goo"). Others just go for hardcore: Rachel Trezise's gritty "On the Strip," narrated by a teen hustler who recalls being beaten and left in a dumpster, and Christopher Coake's similarly in-depth ass kicking at the hand of a jealous hillbilly in "Unmade Bed," aren't bad, if perhaps more associable with Trent Reznor or Slipknot.

The most interesting pieces are those that engage Sonic Youth's lyrical ability to keep the full picture just at bay, but also substitute the payoff provided instrumentally by finishing on a thought-provoking perspective twist. Still, the stickiest point communicated here is that if you take your mark from a cultural titan, it's better to be quiet about it rather than risk disservice to the presentation of your own work.

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