How the Mistakes Were Made
Tyler McMahon
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Buy *How the Mistakes Were Made* by Tyler McMahon online

How the Mistakes Were Made
Tyler McMahon
St. Martin's Griffin
352 pages
October 2011
rated 3 of 5 possible stars

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It's difficult and nearly impossible to write realistic novels about rock and roll bands. When an outsider tries to capture the flow and rhythm of life as a musician, the result typically ends up reading like some ghastly romance novel with drugs. The characters are flimsy and the dialog is absurd. McMahon avoids many of those pitfalls, but ultimately How the Mistakes Were Made dissolves into something other than a book about a rock and roll band. In fact, with 100 fewer pages, this would have worked really well.

The title - a clever one - refers to a band called The Mistakes, a grunge/punk band built on the talents of Nathan and Sean and the drive and vision of Laura Loss. What starts out as an intriguing look at how musicians think and act morphs into this hapless collection of pages about broken romances and trust betrayed.

There are some worthwhile lines here, however. Here is a description of Laura first encountering future bandmates Nathan and Sean in an earlier band:

Their sound cracked open once Sean came in. His tone was nothing special--a cheap Stratocaster knockoff, a half-open Cry Baby, some kind of fuzzbox--but he had this pins and needles style that was impossible to ignore. It made my skin crawl.
The "pins and needles" description has a lot of depth to it. But by the end of this book, well-worn and not terribly original phrases clutter every page. The final line:
At some point, I want them to turn off the stereo, leave their bedrooms, take hold of their hearts with both hands, go out into the world, and make their own mistakes.
It's just a little too clichéd and poetically ridiculous. But How the Mistakes Were Made has its moments and does shine a light on the way musicians think.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Steven Rosen, 2012

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