Special to The Denisonian
Last week memoirist, editor, and punk rock musician Jon Fine visited Denison University as part of a Beck Lecture sponsored event for the new Narrative Nonfiction concentration. While on campus, Fine spoke to several English classes, sharing his sage wisdom on everything from how to make the written word sound musical, to how to find the wreckage of life beautiful.
On Thursday afternoon Fine read an excerpt of his memoir, Your Band Sucks, in the Barney-Davis boardroom. Following a short reading, he welcomed questions about his life as a former musician and as a current editor for Inc. Magazine. He has been a guitarist in bands such as Bitch Magnet, Coptic Light, and Don Caballero, has performed internationally and has written a long-running media column for BusinessWeek. Additionally, he has appeared on MTV, has served as an on-air contributor to CNBC, and has won both the American Society of Business Publication Editors award and the National Headliner award.
Fine describes his memoir as a “love letter to a particular time in music culture, mainly the 80s and 90s, in which indie bands started to emerge from their basements.” For Fine, this particular moment in history stands out because it legitimized the kinds of bands he always appreciated most. Self-identifying as a difficult bandmate, a sarcastic “jerk,” and a music nerd, Fine exemplifies a different kind of guest for the Beck Lecture series. As a writer, he preserves reality from a distance, creating vivid scenes from the perspective of an older self but with honest, raw language. He refuses to let those in his narrative off the hook, including himself.
While he admits that as a memoirist, and in general, he thinks highly of himself, he is simultaneously aware of his complexities and quirks. For example, Fine is unconcerned with the cultivation of empathy (which he deems a dangerous venture in this genre); instead, Fine prioritizes pacing, the rhythm of words, and his desire to leave the reader off-balance. His casual tone, both in writing and in everyday conversation, places the reader in the front row of his narrative. The alternate life which Fine commemorates in his memoir represents a still ongoing process of discovery, one which the author admits is painful, and necessary.