In our electronic era, do things like social networking sites, iPods, and text messaging expand communication? Or do they simply exacerbate isolation? This is one of several questions posed in Arthur Phillips's fourth book, The Song Is You (Random House), a novel in which an iTunes playlist or a Billie Holiday album is as much a character as the actual people are. It is also a tale of unlikely love. Julian Donahue is a middle-aged man with a teetering marriage marred by the loss of the couple's son. While reminiscing over the music he has loved throughout his life, he meets Irish rock singer Cait O'Dwyer. They begin their relationship in a thoroughly modern way: from a distance. Communicating through website postings, cell phone videos, and cryptic song lyrics, they come to a mutual appreciation and a shared a love of song. A self-proclaimed failed jazz artist himself, Phillips weaves hundreds of song titles and lyrics throughout the story. His tone is often dark and cruel, but also hilarious, forgiving, and sweet. It's a unique mix that ultimately adds up to a rewarding read. At this talk Steve Seel will moderate, and Chan Poling will provide tunes.
Thu., May 21, 7 p.m., 2009