People Still Read Books: Steven Hyden
An interview with the author of “Long Road: Pearl Jam and the Soundtrack of a Generation”
I host the People Still Read Books podcast once a month, a podcast where I talk to authors about their books, their process, their fears, the excitement and terror of writing a book. (It’s also partly a way to help promote my upcoming novel The Time Has Come.) You can listen to the conversation on the podcast feed, but with each show, we’ll post an edited transcript of the podcast here.
This week’s guest is Steven Hyden, Cultural Critic at Uproxx and the author of five books, including the smart, probing book Long Road: Pearl Jam and the Soundtrack of a Generation. The book is about the band, but it’s really about the generation — how Pearl Jam and their fans both reflected and rejected the notorious “Generation X” label. As a proud Gen-Xer, I found the book endlessly entertaining and insightful … and I don’t even like Pearl Jam that much. We talked about Hyden’s process, Generation X and how he keeps his acknowledgements pages so short.
Leitch: One of the things that I think is really interesting about the way you write in your career is actually captured I think pretty well in the preface. “I am a music critic, which means I have the annoying though hopefully endearing arrogance of a know-it-all who believes he can analyze and explain a band’s legacy better than the bands’ members themselves. In the very least, I suspect I will enjoy analyzing and explaining Pearl Jam’s legacy more than they would.” I find myself enjoying what you say about the band and the era more than I would hearing what the band says.
Hyden: In my experience, musicians are not that interested or maybe not that good at looking at their own music. There is almost a superstition with it, where the artist feels like if I think about my process too much or I think about what this means too much, it will make me self-conscious. I will not be able to do what I do. There is the instinctual part of art that will disappear. I put that in the intro as a way of setting up expectations for the reader. The way the book was marketed, some people were calling it a biography. It is like, it is not a biography. It is one person exploring this catalog. You learn a lot about the band…