SOUND BY T.M. WOLF: the music of the mind
Sound is more of an experience than a story. It looks at moments in Cincy’s life multidimensionally, like a song.
“Sound,” by T.M. Wolf, is the story of Cincy Styles’ summer back home in New Jersey after dropping out of grad school. He takes a job as a boatyard shift manager with a cast of colorful characters. Tom, a childhood friend and musician, is his social connection back home, and Vera, the beautiful, mysterious girl who works at a homeless shelter, keeps a spark in his life while he tries to figure out what to do next. Vera shows up only sporadically throughout the novel, never long enough for Cincy to be satisfied; she is like a song, as he can’t hold onto her. He replays her over and over in his thoughts until she teases him again with another fleeting appearance.
Wolf takes the reader out to the Jersey nightlife, into Jersey’s surf, back to Cincy’s childhood home, and just about every spot Cincy hits that summer. New Jersey comes to life with Wolf’s powerful descriptions. But the real place the story occurs is in Cincy’s mind. Unlike a traditional first-person narrative, readers get an intimate, layered view inside Cincy’s mind as Wolf formats his novel like musical notation, where simultaneous thoughts, words, possibilities, memories and actions come together like music. Sound is more of an experience than a story. It looks at moments in Cincy’s life multidimensionally, like a song; Wolf doesn’t let the page restrict him to one note at a time—he blends all the notes, the way life really happens.
At times it is challenging to read Sound, as it takes work to keep the complex format straight. And, strangely, as the novel is less focused on story than experience, it doesn’t always feel like a lot is going on. But the rhythm that comes from the pages, imbued with Wolf’s gorgeous language, makes up for these things.
Wolf is a talented writer. He manages to capture the visuals, the feelings and especially the sounds of his story. His writing is authentic, original and pleasing to the hear. Sound feels like a musician’s love song to literature. It’s worth the read and worth the listen.
Candi Sary has been a finalist in several writing competitions. She is the author of the novel Black CrowWhite Lie (2012), which Publishers Weekly called, “a praiseworthy, poignant work.” She lives in Southern California and can often be found surfing out in the waters of Newport Beach.