On Friday afternoon, while sitting in the choir room at my old high school where my mother plays piano as a volunteer, I finished up Dan Kennedy‘s Rock On. It was an ironic setting to be reading this book – with so many students dreaming, as Kennedy did, of becoming a rock star – but the reading moment was stellar. As was the book. . .

Kennedy is funny, really funny. In this book about his semi-unexpected employment at a major record label where he has to make ads for Phil Collins and participate in Jewel’s reinvention, he captures the balance between honest self-deprecation and interiority while also guiding the reader through the physical and psychological space that is a corporation that produces art.

Here’s what he writes about the possible buy-out of the company. “Fact: You can be a grown man worrying about having your job yanked up and out of your hand’s by some guy’s grandson who’s got it in his head that he wants to buy a music company. This is so sadly funny to me — that you can wind up in this position as an adult. I keep thinking of him as a cross between Mr. Burns from The Simpsons and a giant infant monster running amok in some sort of herky-jerky motion against a skyline, like some kind of sixties sci-fi Ray Harryhausen stop-motion animation. I literally have to make an effort to remember he’s a grown man. We’re so clearly doomed. Morale is unbelievably low” (143).

There’s a sad poignancy below Kennedy’s humor, and it’s just this ability to balance the funny with the bleak that makes Kennedy’s book a great read for anyone who has ever worked in an office, dreamed of being famous, or just found themselves trying to communicate in ways that seem entirely unnatural.
Cover of Kennedy's Rock On

P.S. Eva, from A Striped Armchair, has won How to Read Literature Like a Professor. Congratulations.