MICHELE NORRIS, host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michele Norris. We're going to end this hour with two stories about music. The first is about good reads on the topic of music. Our series, Three Books, invites writers to recommend summer reading on one theme. Today, we hear from screenwriter Joe Piscatella. As a teenager, all he wanted was to be in a band.
Mr. JOE PISCATELLA (Screenwriter): It was 1986, the age of glam rock, and everyone wanted to be a rock star. A six-string, a drum kit, even a saxophone would have been a more valuable commodity to the aspiring bands in my junior high. But with six years of piano lessons behind me, there was no time to learn a new instrument. I wanted stardom. I wanted a keytar. I didn't get either. So, when I want to live the fantasy of being in the band, I turn to these three books.
In Tom Perrotta's novel, "The Wishbones," Dave Raymond is who I might have ended up as had I pursued a musical career. At 31, Dave lives in his parents' basement, drives a delivery van, and still dates his high school girlfriend. But on weekends, Dave rocks ? at least as much as anyone can rock playing 15-minute versions of "YMCA" at the Ramada for drunk wedding guests.
Painfully funny and woefully poignant, "The Wishbones" wrestles with timeless questions like - How long do you hold on to the dream? Does getting older have to mean growing up? And how do you face your girlfriend's parents after they catch you making out in their basement?
Where "The Wishbones" is about refusing to grow up, "Mom, Have You Seen My Leather Pants?" chronicles growing up too fast. Williams' comic memoir recounts his days in the '80s hair metal scene in the shadows of bands like Guns N' Roses. Honors high school student by day and playing the Sunset Strip at night, Williams navigates the pitfalls of a band on the verge of stardom.
Dressing like a cowboy in leather and boots? Check. Having a manager who moonlights as a Lonnie Anderson impersonator? Check. Admitting to your algebra teacher that you failed your exam because you were cavorting with groupies after last night's set at the Whisky a Go-Go, one of L.A.'s hottest clubs? That doesn't happen to people who aren't in a band.
If you can't be in the band, you might as well be an expert about the band. That's the tactic Chuck Klosterman takes in "Fargo Rock City." Part memoir, part soapbox rant, Klosterman looks back on his formative years as the only headbanger in his North Dakota farm town. He calls Bon Jovi the Robert Frost of the heartland and raises topics like should there be a no-keyboards clause allowed for heavy metal bands? It's the sort of book that leads you to unearth mix tapes you made when you were 14.
So if you can't be in the band, these books are your backstage pass to living the dream vicariously and far more entertaining than the rock opera I would've composed had the rock gods deemed me worthy of a keytar.
NORRIS: Joe Piscatella is a screenwriter. He lives - where else - in Los Angeles. His picks for our series, Three Books, are "The Wishbones" by Tom Perrotta, "Mom, Have You Seen My Leather Pants?" by Craig Williams, and "Fargo Rock City" by Chuck Klosterman.