Sounds Like Titanic: A Memoir
“Sounds Like Titanic is the definition of an overdeliver,” said Constance Grady in Vox.com. Author Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman begins with a premise that’s more than good enough for a wacky, breezy memoir: For four years, from 2002 to 2006, she toured the country playing violin for a schmaltzy New Age ensemble that faked every performance. She and the other musicians went through the motions but made little sound, and audiences never realized that the music they were hearing was pre-recorded. But how in America, post-9/11, does such a thing happen? Hindman wants to explain the big picture with wit and insight, and as a child of Appalachia who fashioned herself into a Middle East expert as well as a professor of creative writing, she’s “more than up to the challenge.”
Hindman’s personal story “puts the memorable in this memoir,” said Martha Anne Toll in NPR.org. Hungry from a young age for adult approval, she grew up traveling four hours round-trip for violin lessons, and then chose Columbia University despite its high price tag. Harsh realities awaited her: She wasn’t even talented enough to play in the school’s orchestra, and she was so broke she started selling her eggs. Then she spotted an ad for musicians willing to work every weekend, and didn’t back out when she learned the outfit was a fraud. The ensemble, touring under the aegis of a popular composer she doesn’t name, did its thing at shopping malls and outdoor fairs and even for PBS specials. Over time, Hindman developed pangs of conscience that mushroomed into a crippling anxiety disorder.
We can guess who the composer might be: New Age maestro Tim Janis, said Katie Rothstein in NYMag.com. But whoever the central fraudster is, Hindman’s larger concern is the culture that produced the scam. In 2002, in the run-up to the Iraq War, “the boundaries between real and fake had begun to break down,” and everyday Americans were looking for comfort wherever they could find it—including in treacly music reminiscent of the Titanic theme. “Fifteen years after the events described, deep into our unending season of scam, all of it still feels perfectly relevant.” ■