Can’t get no satisfaction
Some books, like some songs, invade you slowly. Arthur Phillips’ The Song is You doesn’t rely on a hook but rather on a thousand little barbs of recognition. It’s a story about nostalgia—dreams that petered out while we were off doing other things. Main character Julian’s life is consumed with trying to recapture the years when he felt most alive. He eventually finds a woman who rekindles all those “what ifs,” but avoids meeting her, wanting to prolong the exquisite pleasure of expectation. Julian’s inaction reaches Hamlet-like proportions, but the book is also strangely suspenseful: His conflicting desires are familiar, and we ultimately feel we have a stake in his decisions. Phillips’ song-studded prose will make you ache to hear old favorites, make you dig up that song you used to cue up on Friday nights before you went looking for adventure.