Read Songs Only You Know: A Memoir by Sean Madigan Hoen Online


Described by Darin Strauss as “Nick Flynn meets Karl Ove Knausgård” 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 Know begins in late ‘90s Detroit and spans a decade during which a family fights to hold together in the face of insurmountabDescribed by Darin Strauss as “Nick Flynn meets Karl Ove Knausgård” 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 Know begins 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 music Spin magazine once 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 Know is 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...

Title : Songs Only You Know: A Memoir
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781616953362
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 384 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Songs Only You Know: A Memoir Reviews

  • Oriana
    2019-01-20 03:40

    I am doing some updating for allllll the books I was too lazy / busy to review in 2014. In case that matters to anyone.Holy god I loved this book like whoa. This one I never reviewed not out of laziness, but out of some weird version of respect: I wanted to write a review as brilliant and beautiful as the book, to make sure that I moved at least a few people to go snatch it up immediately... But then I never could think how to begin, or what to say, and so I just let it lapse. But really this is everything I could want in a memoir. Sean Hoen has a fucked up life that he renders with awful grace and beauty: his punk bands, his wild hopeless friends, his father's addiction, his sister's demons, his mother's strength. It's a book you can writhe around in, that lets you step into someone else's life and get changed by it. It's gorgeous and horrible and raw and twisted and flawed and perfect. It made me bawl and then call my parents to tell them how much I love them. So goddamn good.

  • Zoe
    2018-12-24 01:55

    I picked up this galley at AWP after seeing a full-page ad for it in Booklist. I'm not particularly interested in punk music or Detroit, but I wanted to give this highly-promoted memoir a try. In the book, Hoen says that people at shows would decide thirty seconds into the first song whether they liked his band, or if it was just abrasive noise. For me, his writing fell into the latter category at first, but then I started to hear the rhythm of his voice, and I started to see that his story is about a lot of things--crazy tour antics, treating poorly the girls who love you unconditionally, an unfathomably resilient mother, demons of all sizes, addictions, violence, revenge, and friendship. I feel like this isn't finished, and even at 400 pages, I felt like the ending came too quickly. I didn't feel like his story resolved; maybe he feels like it's unresolved, too. I think there is beautiful language in these rough, loud pages, and a voice that has more to say. I'd strongly recommend this book to anyone who has ever attempted to escape family drama through blind noise and headphones cranked up too loud.

  • Andrea Mullarkey
    2019-01-17 03:00

    This book didn't even get the full run down at the publisher's preview session at Midwinter - just a mention in the list of other books they didn't have time to talk about and a two sentence description in the handout. But it's a punk rock drug memoir by a man I'd never heard of before and the cover looked so bleak in a stylish way. And because I have a soft spot for books that don't get their share of attention I added it to my pile. A quick read later I am glad I did. It's not a life-changing book, particularly not for me as someone who has little investment in music and is well-past my coming-of-age. But it was a well-written reflection on the ways damaged family and cultural influences can fuel an artist's journey. The anger and darkness of punk rock often feels like an expression of social rejection. But to hear Hoen tell his story, punk can also be a rejection of the damage experienced inside a musician's own small world. Hoen's is a suburban variety of rage, something artists like Ben Folds and Green Day specialize in. But in Songs Only You Know, Hoen brought it even closer in to focus on his family's story living in a development outside of Detroit where the story of the city's economic decline is as personal as the decline in the relationships between parents and children. Drug abuse, mental illness, dishonesty and disaffected youth are the agents of change in Hoen's family, and the catalyst for his own musical ambition. It's not an easy story, nor is it meant to be. But it was interesting and accessible and it is always nice to see a troubled young musician grow into a capable writer.

  • Jesse
    2019-01-05 02:45

    a solid memoir with some heavy and powerful themes, of loss, redemption, and finding a path in life through which you can happily walk. i will say i was happy as a reader not to have the typical one-upsmanship of rock memoirs; however, the gastrointestinal garrulousness was unnerving to this reader. My only major complaint (and the reason for 3 stars, although 3.5 is closer to how i feel about this book) is the tone. i struggled to find a unique authorial tone, rather it felt as if written in a universal tone of objectively writing about your subjective experience. there is a line in the book about trying to find a vocal style and how, the singer tried to blend hundreds of others vocal styles to create his own. and his self-perceived vocal weakness is the main issue with the book. that said, it takes a lot of time energy, reading, writing and re-writing just to sound professional. yet the technical proficiency shows a lack of authorial style (i.e. nabokov, borges, dfw, etc). and while it's kinda unfair to compare with the greatest 20th cent. writers, i feel like the emotional perspicacity, and humanity, and willingness to dive in the murky pool of the past and wrestle with embarrassing, needy, and foreign versions of yourself, is the correct foundation upon which can be built, the house of style. and when this author arrives there, we may have a literary mansion: the cement's been poured.

  • Sean
    2018-12-27 09:07

    approached this as a fan of thoughts of ionesco, and the book is kind of oversold on hoen's time in that band. this isn't really a "punk book". road stories are few and far between and it is far more of a personal story (however one that definitely proves that TOI was music made by truly unhinged people). my main problem is that his relationship issues and poor decision making with the women in his life wear thin at times, but in fairness they do contribute to the larger picture of his chaotic lifestyle and it seems odd to fault an author for documenting his youth. certainly not an upbeat read (some passages made me physically flinch), but an interesting look at one person's tragic upbringing and the kind of extreme personalities subculture appeals to.

  • Aisha
    2018-12-20 04:10

    As a lover of both music and a good memoir, Songs Only You Know transports the reader into the life a Midwestern white male. He is fairly average in many ways: not a genius, not an athlete, and has some vague connection to the others in his family. However, he manages to take his otherwise average life and becomes rising rock star, disillusioned youth, then adult, and mourner of life all in a few chapters. You will definitely feel as if you are the audience member at his destructive rock gigs, swaying to garbled rhymes with both intensity and sadness. I am looking forward to his other works and highly suggest reading this memoir if you are not really an autobiographical sort of reader but love a good melody and an even better journey.

  • Sean
    2019-01-14 04:41

    Hard to put down, & definitely worth a second read.I was in tears, Sean speaks honestly about his childhood, his days as an artist trying to escape the tragedy at home. "Anger is artistic currency" I started picking through the book to hear and feel the songs only you know just to get a more authentic feeling of what these moments were like for him. His moments on stage are inspiring, throwing the mic into the audience and just screaming at the top of his lungs as a display of his pain. Sean comes of as a daring rebel, but with a kind heart. As Sean says, "Music saves lives." and that is the message I took from his memoir, to keep going as long as you can breath, smell, and sing music, life has purpose.

  • Derek Bright
    2018-12-26 01:42

    Books about the Detroit music scene always intrigue me as I have friends and family there. This writer captures the gritty reality of that dying city, while at the same time, in beautifully constructed prose introduces us to a crazy hilarious drummer, a kooky stuttering best friend, a fragile, sorrowful little sister, a bully crack addict father and a mother who is kind and caring and doesn't deserve any of it. The author vents his rage through his savage music and must have released his pain through writing this story. I like his words. I am going to check out his music.He ended up going to Columbia and living in Brooklyn, so I wish him well and hope his life is in a better place now.

  • Sarah
    2018-12-22 09:47

    A beautifully written, brave and honest memoir. The two parts of the story (music and family) are expertly woven together. Simultaneously heartbreaking and redemptive. A really exceptional book.

  • Norman Weatherly
    2019-01-06 02:40

    For anyone who has ever been in a band, or wished they had been or dreamed they were. For those who grew up on a diet of The Sex Pistols, The Clash, and the Dead Kennedy's. For all the metal heads and screamo fans. Oh forget the flowery words, it's just a damn good book.

  • Craven
    2019-01-07 04:07

    REVIEW ORIGINALLY RUN IN RAZORCAKE #81:Songs Only You Know opens with a young man walking down the dark streets of his suburban neighborhood with a baseball bat. He takes a few wild swings, takes out a mailbox, and keeps moving. He doesn’t have a plan other than some vague hopes that his father will drive back and catch him in his headlights. The whole time songs play in his head, as yet, unwritten and unriffed. He’s eighteen and his father, once his hero, has fallen deep into crack addiction. He has also stolen his daughter’s car, disappearing for days. More than any young, nihilistic urge for release, he wants his father to see him—shirtless, maniacal, and on a rampage—to see his hurt, to express the anger at the pain his father’s habit has caused his family. His dad doesn’t return at all that night and his anger remains, deep and repressed.The mark of a good writer or artist is what they can do with damage. How they reflect on it. How they calibrate the damage done to them by others, the damage they’ve done to others and the damage they’ve done to themselves. The subtle way they express how it lives in the body, remains in the back of the mind to be smoothed over with time or, perhaps, re-triggered. Many writers are unable to express this damage in a way that hits, in way that moves the reader. Their ego is too deeply entrenched. Chips remain on shoulders. Reparations are whined for and grudges kept. Sean rises above this when he tells his story.At home, his family is disintegrating. His father’s crack habit leaves everything in ruin: his parent’s marriage, the family’s stability, his body and mind. His sister falls into a catatonic depression and tries to take her life, a secret Sean promises to keep. His release is playing in a band notorious in Detroit for trashing venues, cutting themselves with knives, and leaving in their wake a mess of blood, plaster, and broken glass. More importantly, it’s an unbound, raw, and cathartic expression of alienation and pain for Sean.Offstage, he and his batshit crazy friends desperately seek oblivion through drugs, liquor, and violence. He’s shitty to women who love him, unavailable when his sister desperately needs him, and taxes his mother who’s suffered far more than enough. This is where his gift of nuance comes in. During the most intense scenes of bloody knuckles and drug binges, self-destruction, and crime, through walls of guitar feedback and amplified screaming, these passages become serene and almost quiet in the telling. In that moment, a scream into a mic, a hanging snip of dialogue, a movement of the body expresses perfectly the repression and the release, the fear and the aggression, the masculinity and vulnerability and the constant confusion of a desperate young man who’s been dealt a shitty hand. It doesn’t hit hard. It hits deep.

  • Konrad
    2018-12-26 05:40

    This book is a beautiful misery to have wallowed and luxuriated in.One that makes me wish I was screwed up, so it could save me.I know the people in this story, been friends with them, hated them, loved them. It's a Thanksgiving visit with the ghosts of your past that you both dread and need.It informs my vision of Detroit, a place I've never been to and probably never will, but has been built upon a mish-mash media mythology:Justice League Detroit, RoboCop, the Crow, Beverly Hills Cop, and the White Stripes bio Fell In Love With A Band. I feel I can almost smell the place.It's a storm that lasts through the whole book, a storm that's so hard and long that it becomes normal, and the few moments the sun breaks through become weird and scary in turn. A pitch black storm in sheets and torrents within which an occasional strike of a transformer brings a millisecond of oohs and ahs and focused clarity before plunging back to black with the afterimage burned into your brain, leaving you to examine it while still careening forward.It's a tornado on an otherwise clear day, full of terror and noise and pain, that suddenly hits a paint store, creating a furiously beautiful bouquet of destruction that you have no way to take a picture of and you know no-one will believe the pristine chaos you have just witnessed.Yeah. This book is kind of like that.

  • S
    2018-12-23 03:03

    What Hoen uncovers here is a raw, emotional beat. A soundtrack to the meat of his life that one would think flavours how he comes at his music. A force of sadness, brutal honesty, and life as it happens. There's a sense of desolation in the many drives and mentions of Dearborn, Michigan. A lonely world and a lonely thrust. Writing with a terse and unapologetic tone, it's at times meandering and a little into the wallowing stillness that exists when you're circling a drain. Then again, for all the darkness that it consumes, it at least knows how to shed light on the journey.And it's that journey, from one point of despair to another, that really shows up in his voice. A layered, objective take and understanding of what's going on, while at the time not understanding how, if any of it, would make sense in the end.The opening lines show off a rage and anger that simmer as the chapters unfold. There, just under the surface, knowingly waiting to colour the situation, but one that gets to unleash its fury in the sets Hoen and his various bands throttle.There's no celebration, no playing victim, just a frank awareness of the fragile world that exists when you cross music, drugs and a family that falls one by one.(The publisher provided a review copy.)_

  • Anna
    2019-01-16 06:51

    I had no idea who Sean Madigan Hoen is, and even when I would Google his bands after every tour he mentioned on paper, I found that it wasn't his brief graze with fame that made him uninteresting (one of his bands opened for TV on the Radio). He's a good writer, no doubt, and I'm swayed by some of the words that he uses to talk about his late teenage years/early adulthood years being in the suburbs of Chicago. However, there's no pulling thread that ties in this grand image of Hoen and the struggles of a father hung on cocaine and a sister who has had enough of life. Songs Only You Know ended up being the diary that Hoen had meant to start when he was 13 years old with no intention of publication.

  • Melis
    2019-01-09 09:56

    "At your worst moments you are forgiven by those who see all the way into you, clean through your fears, to the thing you truly are, what you could or couldn't be"An honest, at times heart breaking, account of what it's like to become lost to yourself and to those you love and bearing the loss of those loved ones before you find your way back to them. The way music, and drugs, and relationships can be used to either aid you through these times or further lead to your destruction. "A song could tear a while through the middle of the day, could widen the road as it ascended toward the sunlight"

  • Maria
    2018-12-31 09:41

    Sean Madigan Hoen's memoir, Songs Only You Know, is a sad story. As a young man he discovered that his father was hiding an addiction to crack cocaine, and it caused profound damage to his family. This book is about the period of his life that was most seriously affected by his father's addiction, his sister's depression, and his own struggles with substance abuse while he was trying to become a successful punk rocker. His mother is the hero of the book.Selected as one of twenty Michigan Notable Books in 2015, I had the privilege to meet Sean when he came to speak at our library. A humble, intelligent, and sensitive writer, I look forward to reading his fiction in the future.

  • John Paul Floyd
    2019-01-20 04:45

    I picked this one based on a recomendation after reading Marky Ramones autobiography. In midst of recovery myself, it has been helpful to hear others stories of past pains and tribulations. Hoens memoir is more about his struggles with lifes surprises and temptations than about a specific band. for that reason, I found i got a lot more out of it than someone wanting to learn about the bands he was in. Ive never heard his music nor do i care much too. His story is told in a personal and what seems to be an honest way and keep me reading page after page. I really found it both entertaining and insightful.

  • Nick Scandy
    2018-12-22 06:53

    Despite the easy sell of a story rooted in Michigan hardcore, family challenges, and destruction via rebellion from conventional life trajectories (audience = me), there is definitely some universal pain, loss, and honesty here. And most importantly, there are periods where Hoen truly sounds like a piece of shit—thus making it a coarse, (mostly) unglorified account of the mess of youth. I'm also fully content that my 18 year old self's poor decisions and lack of grace only went a fraction of the distance that Hoen's did.And finally, Thoughts of Ionesco was bad ass.

  • Joey
    2018-12-30 08:48

    This book was a tour de force of writing, like James Frey with better punctuation. I had never heard of Sean Hoen or the bands he was in before reading this book. Sometimes it was a thrill ride to live vicariously through him, but if you are triggered by drug use or suicide this may not be the book for you. For me it was comforting to find a family whose trail of drugs, death and dysfunction so closely mirrored that of my own family. This is a book for those of us who grew up not in the Brady family but the Manson family, Marilyn or Charles, you choose.

  • Chanda2426
    2018-12-23 02:09

    I debated whether to give Songs Only You Know by Sean Madigan Hoen 3 or 4 stars. I really enjoyed the prose, the depth the narrator delves to discover who he is. Hoen's memoir is a hard pill to swallow with many dark alleys and heart-wrenching stories. But he crafts this book in such a way to make it stand on it's own as a personal story of triumph in the face of unfortunate hurdles. The writing, in and of itself, carried this memoir and bumped my rating from a 3.5 to a 4. Hoen is a refreshing, new voice and separates himself in this candid, honest work.

  • Miranda Webb
    2018-12-24 01:59

    The memoir is a tough one for me, as I've said before, I sometimes feel uncomfortably voyeuristic reading them, and this one was no exception, I just couldn't make myself finish it.HOWEVER. The prose is fantastic and the story is quite gripping. So read away.

  • Linda
    2019-01-07 05:43

    I'm a sucker for anything set in or around Detroit but if it hadn't been I probably would have DNF-ed this. Not that it was badly written but just not exceptional enough to bother.Buy this title at Powells Books

  • Tod
    2018-12-21 06:55

    Slow burn, but give it time. You've heard parts of Hoen's story in just about every rock/drugs memoir - the broken home, the road-gig shenanigans. But the author avoids cliches as deftly as his band avoided the usual tropes (the early one, anyway - Thoughts of Ionesco).

  • MacKenzie Wilson
    2019-01-14 03:47

    An unbelievable story. Truly one of the best books I've ever read. It was a privilege to read this.

  • Rob Schorr
    2018-12-27 02:10

    Great, engrossing read. Touches more so on the author's personal and family life then the music scene but enjoyed it regardless.

  • Armand
    2019-01-08 02:08


  • Doug
    2019-01-08 02:04

    Another sad example of someone who believed him when a friend said "you have a interesting life, you should write a book" Perhaps the last 75% of the book is interesting. I'll never know.

  • Staci Miller
    2018-12-27 07:51

    A memoir of music, loss, and chaos. The book is so beautifully written that often it felt like I was listening to lyrics (I read it via audio book).

  • Jonathan Anderson
    2019-01-09 03:58

    Whoo, happy read. Happy, happy read.

  • Jenny Munn
    2019-01-07 07:52

    An all time favorite...