Sounds Like Titanic

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 31 Jan 2019

Member Reviews

SOUNDS LIKE TITANIC by Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman is a new memoir told by a young woman whose first professional music job involves playing her violin with a small ensemble while a hidden CD actually supplies the music that the audience hears. Hindman chronicles events from a fifty-four city tour of the United States during the early 2000s and a six-city set of concerts in China.  Throughout, Hindman often forges a stronger connection with the reader by using "you" instead of "I." Near the end, she reflects on duplicity and pretending, saying, "You even fake yourself, zipping your person into the straight-jacket of various pronouns. This allows you to pretend, for a while, that you are not really writing about yourself…" Yet, she does share stories from her youth in Appalachia, mentioning, for example, "another way in which you equate childhood sadness with music, perhaps because equating despair with music, you don't have to equate it with the faces of your second-grade classmates."  Hindman does eventually suffer from panic attacks and her comments on both the American psyche and values will offer book groups some interesting springboards for discussion: "You will discover that 'make it,' as an expression, emerged in the American vernacular during the Gilded Age. The wealth disparities of that era are reflected in 'make it,' which evolved to mean both mere survival (make it through the winter) and wild success involving money, fame and/or acclaim (make it big), forever linking these two vastly different outcomes in the American mind."  SOUNDS LIKE TITANIC received a starred review from Kirkus.
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Have you ever felt like a fraud? What would you do if you landed your dream job but it turned out you were required to fake every minute of it? Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman’s wild but completely true memoir about her brief, baffling career pretending to play classical music catalogs plumbs the exhaustion caused by life on the road toiling for (someone else’s) fame. Hindman’s sense of humor cuts deep, and the flashbacks to her Appalachian childhood are stunning, nailing the small-town despair that led her to New York and then the faux orchestra. We devoured this spellbinding memoir with a bowl of popcorn and a box of Kleenex.

This review appeared in slightly different form unsigned on the Editors' Picks page of a major bookseller.
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A fascinating memoir - it is honest and funny. It is told in second-person, but is easy to follow and engaging. Jessica gets a job with a professional ensemble in NY, but it proves to be a sham, and only recordings of the titanic soundtrack are played. It examines gender, among other things, and I highly recommend this memoir.
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I requested this for background reading for a promotion we're running on BookBrowse as agreed with Michelle Waters. I enjoyed it very much, and will be taking every opportunity to tell people about it.
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When Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman enters Columbia University, after leaving her remote home town in the Appalachian mountains, she quickly realizes that she is not a good enough violinist to make a living as a musician. She does, however, play well enough to play a muted violin while a recording is piped out over speakers and it pays enough to support her and her education. This would make an extremely unbelievable fiction, but is a cunning and charming memoir. Read this to laugh at the absurdity and hypocrisy, then admire the ways that the author expands her story to profile what happens to so many other women as they struggle towards adulthood. Highly recommended.
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Thank you for the opportunity to read and review Sounds Like Titanic by Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman. What a fascinating story!
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Thank you to Netgalley for a free ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I really enjoyed this memoir. It covered a specific time in the author's life as well as enough of her childhood to understand the choices she subsequently made. I would have liked to have discovered how she moved on from her time with The Composer and reached the stage of life she is at now. Perhaps a second instalment? 

Jessica gave us such an honest and heartfelt description of her time at Columbia and on the road that you just wanted to reach in and let her know that everything would be OK.

I look forward to reading more.
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Note to publisher: I've scheduled the below post for 18 February 2019. The link will go live that morning.

I am no longer in my memoir phase, my friends. I just am not. When I read Educated last year and recommended it to all and sundry, I added the caveat that I am no longer in my memoir phase, except for weird-culty-religion memoirs, as those are my catnip. But then I saw the synopsis for Sounds Like Titanic, a memoir about a violinist who fake-performed in a professional ensemble for a famous composer who played a loud CD of his music on top of the fake performances the ensemble players were doing.

I expected Sounds Like Titanic to feel weird-culty-religion-ish, not just because I wanted to preserve my rule, but because I love to read about bizarre personalities and the people in their orbit that they manage to convince their behavior is normal. Hindman is doing something different, however. Sounds Like Titanic is not about the eccentricity of the Composer, who actually is — weirdly normal? Apart from the ongoing fraud he perpetrates at a wide range of shopping malls, plazas, and concert venues across America?

Instead, Hindman has come to talk about artifice. As a native of Appalachia, she is unprepared for the financial realities of the Ivy League school she attends. Not only does she not have the money to pay her tuition, resulting in her selling dozens of her eggs, but she has never before come into contact with the genre of rich people who attend Columbia.

>>>Let us now speak of the children of the American suburbs, a group with its own culture and subcultures, a species as foreign to you as wild chimpanzees, their hometown neighborhoods so stratified and gated and segregated that the kids who lived in million-dollars houses rarely mingled with the kids who lived in $800,000 houses.

She’s exploring the nature of reality in ways that I find particularly fascinating. What is wealth? What is a girl? What is a talented violinist? The thing that seems true in one context twists away from truth in another. Yes, they are really playing the music at these concerts, albeit in front of microphones that are turned off, and drowned out by the CD that’s playing behind them. Yes, she is very talented at the violin in her Appalachian home. Yes, her family is comfortably off. Yes, she’s a girl.

>>>For the most enraging aspect of life in the body isn’t that you aren’t skinny or sexy enough, it’s that life in the body causes you to be dismissed as silly and shallow and stupid in a way that boys who are equally silly and shallow and stupid are not. Playing classical music on the violin provides a corrective: The violin is serious. Classical music is serious. An understanding of classical music — something adults say they wish they knew more about but don’t — gives a girl weight in a world that wants her to be weightless, gives her substance in a culture that asks her to be insubstantial. And this, it turns out, is the reeyell gift: It is almost as if, by attaching a violin to your body, you can become a dude.

If I was a scootch disappointed not to get more antics from the Composer — this is not really an antics book, it turns out — I was wonderfully surprised by the slippery complexity of Hindman’s prose and thinking. Sounds Like Titanic made me reconsider memoir, in the best ways.

Note: I received an electronic copy of this book for review from the publisher. This has not impacted the contents of my review.
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I'm going to cut to the chase and just come out and say that this is one of my favorite books that I have read in a long time and I want every woman I know to read it and we will all be in one huge book club.

On its surface, it is a memoir of a woman who spends a few years of her young adulthood faking it as a professional violinist. The Composer, a man who is never named specifically, has written simplistic orchestral music that sounds suspiciously like the Titanic theme song, and pays semi-professional musicians to fake-play along to a soundtrack. The crowd never knows the difference, and the author becomes an accomplished violinist who really isn't that great.

Yet, there are nuanced layers to the story that make it rich and engrossing:
- America's response to 9/11: Ms. Hindman has a world-class education in Middle Eastern studies, but no one is interested in hiring her to cover the new American war in the Middle East or hearing her explain the complexities of what is going on there; they would rather hear her pretend to play violin.
- the epic chip on the author's shoulder from growing up in Appalachia and finding herself living among the children of the 1% in New York City. She feels that she must (literally) work herself to death to validate her existence.
- her discussions on what she refers to as "life in the body" -- the struggle every woman has to come to terms with her body and the space it inhabits. 

I'm calling this is as my favorite book of 2018.
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Sounds Like Titanic is a fascinating memoir that addresses multiple facets, including life in Appalachia, the Middle East, and the strange fraud of the Composer. Hindman deftly weaves these threads together into an enjoyable read. My only issue is that it could be just a bit shorter. But overall it is a solid read.
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A really cool story overall. Along with a beautiful and intriguing cover. I'll be recommending this one for sure.
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Hilarious. Honest, engaging, singular. Narrated (rather knowingly) in second-person present tense, which I imagine will put some people off. However, the voice and tone are so vibrant and funny as to make the unusual narrative style easy to follow. Similar to early Sedaris or J. D. Daniels (though with more politics and theory) - a well sequenced memoir of travels through high and low American society. An excellent examination of class, cultural homogeneity, and gender in the US.
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