Songs Only You Know: A Memoir (Hardcover)
Described by Darin Strauss as Nick Flynn meets Karl Ove Knausgard and a book of relentless compassion Songs Only You Know Sean Madigan Hoen's debut is an intense, sprawling memoir equal parts family tragedy and punk rock road trip.
Songs Only You Knowbegins in late 90s Detroit and spans a decade during which a family fights to hold together in the face of insurmountable odds. Sean's father cycles from rehab to binge, his heartsick sister spirals into depression, and his mother works to spare what can be spared. Meanwhile, Sean seeks salvation in a community of eccentrics and outsiders, making musicSpinmagazineonce referred to as an art-core mindfuck. But the closer Sean comes to realizing his musical dream, the further he drifts from his family and himself.
By turns heartbreaking and mordantly funny, Songs Only You Knowis an artful, compassionate rendering of the chaos and misadventure of a young man's life.
Few books convey the fever-pitch intensity of youth with such vividness and so little glamorization, or as deeply explore the heartbreaking complexity of family both those we're born into and the ones we choose. Rolling Stone Magazine
About the Author
Sean Madigan Hoen was raised in Dearborn, Michigan and spent his young adulthood touring and recording in several Detroit-based music groups, including Thoughts of Ionesco, The Holy Fire and Leaving Rouge. His fiction has appeared in numerous publications, includingBOMB Magazine, where he was awarded the 2011 Fiction Award. He has taught creative writing at Columbia University and currently resides in Brooklyn, New York.Songs Only You Know: A Memoiris his first book."
Praise for Songs Only You Know
"[O]ne of the only punk memoirs you’ll ever have to read."
"[Hoen] looks back on a life battling adversity with brutal honesty and humility, and is able to see the comedy in the worst things that life has to offer. In addition, despite the darkness, his description of the local hardcore scene makes you wish you were there (if you weren’t)."
—Detroit Metro News
“[Hoen’s writing] retains the sharp tang of honesty.... If you ever wondered what the punk life was like, this'll tell ya, and it ain't pretty; if you ever lived it, this'll remind ya; and even if you don't give a shit either way, Songs Only You Know will interest you.”
—Mark S. Tucker for FAME
"Sean Madigan Hoen is not merely an immensely gifted writer, but also a seeker—of redemption, of clarity, of hard family history. There are moments of Songs Only You Know that seem almost too painful to bear—but only almost. What carries the reader through is both the naked beauty of the prose and the deep human certainty that it is always better to face the truth than to flinch away from it. No flinching here. I admired every page of it."
—Elizabeth Gilbert, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Eat, Pray, Love and The Signature of All Things
"Songs Only You Know is a truly moving book, full of pain, longing, strangeness and even grim comedy, and one of its greatest triumphs is the way Hoen describes a certain creative intensity -- youthful, monstrous, fragile -- that is both life-giving and dangerous, especially in troubled times. Maybe everybody has a song, but Hoen sings his with fresh phrasing and genuine feeling."
—Sam Lipsyte, author of The Fun Parts
"I don’t know anyone who has described that terrible yearning for ecstasy and immolation through music as lucidly as Sean Madigan Hoen in Songs Only You Know. Only a thorough initiate of the scene who also had some genius with language could summon the demotic yet electric voice for the job. If there is ruefulness, now, for the way he treated his body, his girlfriends, and his family, he wisely reprises in his book, in neon detail, the fever that once placed him in the same drunken boat with Iggy Pop, Rimbaud and Artaud."
—Jaimy Gordon, National Book Award-winning author of Lord of Misrule
“[This] tragic tale.... is the type of tale that pulls the reader in.”
—Mississippi Sun Herald
“Astute and intensely self-aware, Hoen writes furious prose with a storyteller’s eye for detail... there’s no question that Hoen is a gifted, impassioned writer with a deep understanding of longing and pain.”
"Perceptive, sprawling memoir of a young man’s escape from cascading family tragedies into the noise-punk underground.... A dark, knowing look at addiction, rock ’n’ roll, and the ties that bind."
"Here's what you get when you mix Nick Flynn with Karl Ove Knausgaard: a book of almost spooky clarity and relentless compassion. I bet when Songs Only You Know gets translated to Norwegian they'll call it My Struggle (With Drugs and Rock-n-Roll). Which would kind of get it, and kind of wouldn't. Because it's also universal, and ridiculously readable, and Hoen has, in this memoir, brought his life pinned and wriggling to page, and you can't help but be moved by it, and even find yourself changed."
—Darin Strauss, National Book Critics Circle award-winning author of Half a Life
“Sean Madigan Hoen puts raw need indelibly on the page—the need for family, for belonging, for alcohol and drugs, and for a music that will burn all those things away (and if the music fails, try more alcohol and drugs). Hoen’s younger self thinks, ‘To achieve self-invention, you first evacuate the truest parts of yourself,’ not quite knowing yet that the sort of evacuation he craves is only ever temporary: the check always comes due. This moving, often brutal memoir records Hoen’s long journey back toward the truth.”
—Bill Clegg, author of Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man
“It's an odd feeling to have, to not want a book to end when it covers so many miserable and sometimes manic moments in a life, but that's how I felt reading this fantastic, honest, unsentimental and finally generous-hearted book.”
—Rivka Galchen, author of Atmospheric Disturbances
"Songs Only You Know is cigarettes and buck knives, crabgrass and asphalt, rolling brownouts and horseshit vinyl. Sean Madigan Hoen offers the best things a writer can offer a reader: the big heart, the big hurts, the big bad news about the impermanence of life's gig."
—Kyle Minor, author of Praying Drunk
“Sean Hoen has written a wise and moving memoir about anger, rock music and the endurance of familial love. For Hoen the ultimate redemption is rendering honestly the hard facts of his own transgression, while never losing track of the beauty and kindness that are also, thank goodness, ineradicable aspects of human existence.”
—Stephen O’Connor, author of Here Comes Another Lesson
"Like the best rock and roll memoirs, Songs Only You Know is as propulsive as the music it describes. But what truly sets this book apart is Hoen’s unflinching ability to portray dire situations while still being generous in his recollections. These searing shards of life are stamped into the page with genuine empathy."
—Jeff Jackson, author of Mira Corpora