Sounds Like Titanic: A Memoir
Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman
W. W. Norton & Company; 1st Edition
One of many new treatises on the deep fake, artistic fraudulence and imposter syndrome, Jessica Hindman’s memoir masquerading as a novel tells the true story of her four years spent pretending to play the violin in a touring orchestra while a CD cranked out through the sound system. Shopping malls and TV specials. Paid gigs. She’d done her time learning how to play and wasn’t the very best but was good enough and the gig paid money which also made it not the very best but good enough.
And this is all told in second person – beautifully, brilliantly written in long, daunting, dazzlingly controlled sections that take you on a shopping mall tour of what would be heartland America – though they never seemed to locate the heart. People didn’t really want o spend much time locating the art either, so they heard CDs by “The Composer” (we’re never told his name, his true identity is for us to guess – but it seems pretty easy to work it out).
Fast-food guzzlers tell Hindman that her world’s tiniest violin playing (“Mill Violini” she quips) is great and that the music sounds just like the stuff from Titanic – they mean the movie score, but there’s a nice line in exquisite punning when it’s used for the title of the book; the band going down with the ship in honour of the music. There’s no honour here just paychecks. And since the paycheck continues to come – paying for graduate school, and life – the shows continue.
Until Hindman has a breakdown – succumbs to imposter syndrome – and eventually makes her escape from that life.
Her book is brilliant for anyone that’s stayed for longer than one gig in a shitty covers band, for anyone that’s joined any sort of troupe and then found out it wasn’t quite right and of course for anyone wondering where the market is for their art – or why the market only exists for the people not really making it (but “making it” financially of course).
But more than that this book is a comment on the post 9/11 America – the country accepted fakes and frauds if the story felt right enough and made them feel good enough about themselves. The weapons of mass destruction, the country that never bombed them emerging as the real enemy, the now fake president with no experience whatsoever….
We’ve seen – and loved – documentaries about festivals that could never possibly go ahead and we all binged that Tiger King rewrite of Jerry Springer’s best moments. Some of us said we hated it at the time or after, or at least didn’t feel quite good about ourselves as a result. But we watched. We consumed. We took it in and commented after. And Hindman – who graduated with an MFA and now teaches creative writing – so brilliantly knows and exposes this world. This world of fakes and frauds. For its on all sides. The audience as much a fake as the pretend-orchestra they’re watching and apparently loving.
And where Hindman’s violin was silenced – made to sit in and underneath a “better” player, here she cleverly “silences” her own voice, or at least the “I” in the story. Making it “You”. Making herself a much better writer in the process.
This book is a must read.
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