Added to my office today: a collection of Austin Kleon sketches from a Largehearted Lit SXSW reading several years ago.
From the top:
Me (via laptop) and Jami Attenberg
Alina Simone is a singer and writer based in New York City. She was born in Kharkov, Ukraine, and came to the U.S. as the daughter of political refugees. She has released three albums: Placelessness (2007), Everyone is Crying Out to Me, Beware (2008), and Make your Own Danger (2011). Everyone is Crying Out, which is an homage to the music of Siberian punk-folk singer Yanka Dyagileva, received widespread critical acclaim. Simone was named one of the “Top People of 2008” by USA Today’s Pop Candy, and among the “Top 12 Bands to See” at SXSW 2008 by Billboard Magazine.
In June 2011, Farrar, Straus and Giroux published You Must Go and Win, Simone’s collection of essays about Russia, family, and trying to make it in indie rock. Kirkus Review lauded Simone’s “vibrant, taut and humorous” prose, while USA Today noted her “perfect storm of creative talent.” Simone has shared the stage with a slew of notable artists, including Final Fantasy, Loney Dear, and Franz Ferdinand, and numerous distinguished authors, including Sam Lipsyte, Aleksandar Hemon, and Stephen Elliott.
True to her roots, Simone remains self-deprecatingly modest. The Days of Yore met her in a small coffee shop in Brooklyn, where she lives. She was busy working on a new novel.
I love Alina Simone’s book about being Alina Simone, YOU MUST GO AND WIN. It’s a funny, sad, true book of stories about being a Russian-American singer-songwriter on the underside of famous.
The publisher says
In the wickedly bittersweet and hilarious You Must Go and Win, the Ukrainian-born musician Alina Simone traces her bizarre journey through the indie rock world, from disastrous Craigslist auditions with sketchy producers to catching fleas in a Williamsburg sublet. But Simone offers more than down-and-out tales of her time as a struggling musician: she has a rapier wit, slashing and burning her way through the absurdities of life, while offering surprising and poignant insights into the burdens of family expectations and the nature of ambition, the temptations of religion and the lure of a mythical Russian home. Wavering between embracing and fleeing her outsized and nebulous dreams of stardom, Simone confronts her Russian past when she falls in love with the music of Yanka Dyagileva, a Soviet singer who tragically died young; hits the road with her childhood friend who is dead set on becoming an “icon”; and battles male strippers in Siberia.
It made me laugh and it made me think. I gave it a blurb.
I said, Most collections of personal essays are dull. This one isn’t. Alina Simone uses her life as material to tell stories that are funny, heartwarming, tragic, often all at the same time. Her subjects, whether music, religion, Russia or family are conjured and dissected with warm humour and sharp eyes. Probably it’s a really good thing she never became an international rock star: she wouldn’t have written this if she had.
I loved it so much, I persuaded Alina to make it into an audiobook, with her narrating.
And now I’ve persuaded Audible to let me set Chapter Two of YOU MUST GO AND WIN free into the world. Chapter Two is the one about answering an ad for a girl singer-songwriter on Craigslist.
It’s funny, sharp, well-observed, heartbreaking and true. Listen to it. If you have friends who’d like it, send them to it.
And if you want more (and I suspect you will) go to this Audible link to hear the rest of Alina’s adventures and misadventures.