Boneyard Media

Pocket Pet Sounds


Jim Fusilli, Pet Sounds (2005)

I’d love it even more if they’d do a book about the Osmonds (I actually sent in a proposal once) or Bay City Rollers, but Continuum’s “33 1/3” series of little books about influential albums has still been a lot of fun. Their Pet Sounds volume was written by novelist and Wall Street Journal arts columnist Jim Fusilli, and you’ve got to admire his willingness to take on a subject so many have already written about. He’s got a right to, and that’s pretty much the point of his book, that Pet Sounds is such a deeply personal expression that’s presented in such a universally appealing way that it still has the power, after all these years, to touch individual listeners deeply and make them feel as though it were written just for them. The Pet Sounds of Charles Granata, Kingsley Abbot, David Leaf and Brian Wilson himself is the same album with the same unchangeable history, but its contents are so rich and its influence so expansive that it gives Fusilli and you and me all kinds of room to call it our own and maybe even publish something about why.

The book is definitely a “think piece” – there are no clear reasons why Fusilli’s divided the chapters the way he has, so it ends up feeling like a little book of pocket Pet Sounds meditations that you’re more inclined to dip into rather than read cover to cover. I do wish that the “personal meaning” aspect of his book would have compelled Fusilli to interact with the album even more on a personal level than he does in the book. I really love his introduction, where he talks about growing up in Hoboken and illustrating just how lifeguard-like the Beach Boys were to him as a doggie-paddling 1960s adolescent. It gives the book a Boys of Summer aura, and I, for one, was disappointed that he opted not to continue in such an aggressively first-person fashion. The book really crackles at the all too infrequent points when he does, though. (I think this approach is harder to pull off than it seems, although Ron Schaumburg did an especially fine job with his Growing Up with the Beatles back in the seventies.)

posted by Kim Simpson

Leave a Reply