Iconoclastic guitar player Marc Ribot offers up essays and stories in this darkly funny and subversive debut collection.
"A slim yet powerful book in which Marc Ribot blends bits of memoir with strange little fictions, many of which are based on his own life and career."
--Wall Street Journal
"Unstrung...delivers everything one could hope from a guitar hero/activist/cultural critic: that is, complex culture and musical theory broken down into tasteful riffs, absurdist tales of our times, and plenty of sparse, unpretentious prose as well-honed as any major American writer."
"In literature as in music, addressing topics directly isn’t Ribot’s way...As a sideman--with Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, Marianne Faithfull, Yoko Ono, Arto Lindsay, James Carter, Susana Baca, the Jazz Passengers, and his musical soulmate John Zorn, among countless others--he's always aimed to be direct and disruptive simultaneously, and the same goes for his writing."
--Robert Christgau, And It Don’t Stop
"In Ribot's fearless playing and equally acerbic prose, silence has a mighty fight on its hands."
--California Review of Books
"At its best, Ribot’s writing resembles his music: It’s challenging, unique, and very humane."
"[Ribot] continuously straddles the line between memoir and fiction as he travels an eclectic road of loss, justice, tribute, and blunt humor."
Throughout his genre-defying career as one of the most innovative musicians of our time, iconoclastic guitar player Marc Ribot has consistently defied expectation at every turn. Here, in his first collection of writing, we see that same uncompromising sensibility at work as he playfully interrogates our assumptions about music, life, and death. Through essays, short stories, and the occasional unfilmable film "mistreatment" that showcase the sheer range of his voice, Unstrung captures an artist whose versatility on the page rivals his dexterity onstage.
In the first section of the book, "Lies and Distortion," Ribot turns his attention to his instrument--"my relation to the guitar is one of struggle; I'm constantly forcing it to be something else"--and reflects on his influences (and friends) like Robert Quine (the Voidoids) and producer Hal Willner (Saturday Night Live), while delivering an impassioned plea on behalf of artists' rights. Elsewhere, we glimpse fragments of Ribot's life as a traveling musician--he captures both the monotony of touring as well as small moments of beauty and despair on the road. In the heart of the collection, "Sorry, We're Experiencing Technical Difficulties," Ribot offers wickedly humorous short stories that synthesize the best elements of the Russian absurdist tradition with the imaginative heft of George Saunders. Taken together, these stories and essays cement Ribot's position as one of the most dynamic and creative voices of our time.
""Ribot is an all-American original, and this collection provides plenty of insight into his fascinating mind."
"Ribot is not only a gifted musician but also a talented wordsmith, and this quirky volume will appeal to music aficionados who appreciate strong writing with observational, intelligent, and provocative themes."
"Unstrung has all the honesty, original angles, beauty, and clangor found in Marc Ribot’s playing. His compassionate writing about Frantz Casseus gives a human face to his calls for artists’ rights. Like life itself, this book is bloody, funny, and bloody funny."
--Elvis Costello, musician
"An insightful tour through the razor-sharp mind of one of the world's most original and influential guitar masters. Ribot's acerbic wit, self-deprecating humor, and profoundly vexing love-hate relationship with all things guitar make for a fun and stimulating read."
--John Zorn, musician
"Ribot writes with great care for words, for sounds...A good writer, like a good musician, and Ribot is both, needs to know what they're composing to be able to understand it, maybe even do it better the next time. His stories are moving and compassionate...revelatory, honest, and insightful..."
--Lynne Tillman, from the Introduction
"In the beginning, we may have thought Marc Ribot was a full-time Lower East Side tenants rights activist who moonlit as an ubiquitous downtown noise guitarist. Now we come to find out he's a phenomenal essay writer who has the nerve to be one of our loudest and most beloved electric jazz improvisers...[Ribot] composes essays about music and life of sublime wit, probity, and severe self-reckoning..."
--Greg Tate, author of Everything But the Burden: What White People Are Taking from Black Culture
"Don't let the fact that I am calling Marc Ribot a thinking musician distract from the raw and the righteous aspects of his playing and of this book. You have to love something completely to want to look for a way out. Here is more proof of Marc's love and understanding of music, of those who make it and of all the imaginings that it might jar loose!"
--Arto Lindsay, musician
"Marc Ribot, the thinking person’s roving guitar wrangler, always has something on his mind. It’s great to drift around in the woods and fields (and airports) behind the forehead of this man one’s known before mostly by the music he’s made. Take a ramble with Marc."
--Richard Hell, author of I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp
"Ribot is his own man. He does not have a persona; he has a guitar, and he knows its humble anatomy and eventful history as well as just about anyone...Don't be fooled: like Monk, Marlon Brando, Bob Dylan, and other skilled practitioners of broken American poetry, Ribot is a deceptively articulate artist who uses inarticulateness as an expressive device." --New York Times
"Marc Ribot is often described as a downtown NYC jazz luminary. Despite the cool reverence carried by the tag, it fails to adequately summarize his extraordinary genre-bending career. Having served the music industry for almost forty years, Ribot is associated with almost every notable act within our cultural purview today...Dedicated to fighting for economic justice in the digital domain, Ribot has been at the forefront of the battle to secure fair remunerations for content creators." --Guernica
"Few musicians embody the melting pot of the downtown scene quite like Ribot. His music is a cerebral distillation of a sweeping spectrum of influences: Afro-Cuban rhythms, '80s No Wave, Eric Dolphy, Django Reinhardt, Ornette Coleman, Blind Willie Johnson, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, Keith Richards, Howlin' Wolf guitarist Hubert Sumlin, Robert Quine...the list goes on. Through his work, music legends rarely seen in the same sentence meet onstage." --Village Voice
"Few artists are as adventurous, imaginative, and uncompromising, and even fewer could hope to find a home, as Ribot has, in such diverse realms as jazz, pop, rock, blues, and klezmer." --All About Jazz
"Marc Ribot is one of the true revolutionaries of the guitar. It's not that he can do just about everything that's possible (and many things that are considered impossible)--he's completely rethought the guitar--it's role, what it does, what it sounds like." --John Zorn, producer, composer, and musician
"As Eric Clapton was to the 1960s and early '70s--the preferred guitar specialist everybody wanted on their records--Marc Ribot is to the '90s and beyond." --East Bay Express
"In a time when nationalism seems to be far too en vogue for comfort, you can always count on certain voices being raised (shouted?). Ribot was one of those voices before, and there's no way he's going to shut up now." --PopMatters