I get inundated with a lot of email, so it's fairly common for me to misread subject lines as new messages pop up. But some misreads are funnier than others. The other day, I saw this: "Ben Folds Back with NOVEL & Talib Kweli." Of course, I figured that meant that Ben Folds had written a work of fiction. I didn't really know how Talib Kweli fit into that, but I was too busy opening the message, hoping to read some dust-jacket fodder along these lines:
In a mid-sized Southern city, a music school cast-off and one-time contract songwriter attempts to live the quiet life, driving his children around in a Volvo and performing ironic piano-based covers of "gangsta" rap songs. Returning home after a European tour, during which time he'd let a band of photogenic garage-rockers catsit for him, Sven Golds is feeling fine. Then, one day, he discovers a notebook, accidentally left behind at his home recording studio by the drummer in his touring band, an outwardly mild-mannered cineaste. Sven is aghast when he finds detailed storyboards sketched inside the notebook depicting an elaborate "mishap" involving a stage lighting rig, set to fall on Sven's head during a keynote performance at the local symphony hall. Is his friend and bandmate, Smith Samson, really about to betray him, just to jump-start his own career as a film director?
In his debut novel, A Genius Work of Staggering Heartbreak, Ben Folds spins a masterful, completely non-autobiographical tale of gut-wrenching poignancy, politics, sweeping social change, anthropology, ethnomusicology, prescription eyewear and cloak-and-dagger romance.
As it turns out, Folds makes a guest appearance on a new song by Novel, called "I Am," which also includes a sample of Folds' "The Luckiest."