The Song Is You was shortlisted for the 2009 St. Francis College Literary Prize.
And named a New York Times Notable Book.
And a best book of the year by:
The Washington Post.The A/V Club (The Onion).
He has managed, in four very different books in vastly divergent settings, to harness his flights of language to serve his imagination, and his imagination to serve literature.... The Song Is You takes on loneliness, alienation, middle age and what it means to feel passé and weighted down by your past...Yet despite these sober concerns, Phillips' sparkling prose makes for a seriously fun read.
Life is a tragedy for those who feel and a comedy for those who think, and for those of us who try to think and feel, The Song Is You captures the flip sides of life at middle age pretty much perfectly. Arthur Phillips is that rare thing among fiction writers, a wise guy who's also wise.
– Kurt Andersen, author of Heyday, founder of Spy Magazine, host of Studio 360
If novelists were labeled zoologically, Arthur Phillips would fall naturally into the dolphin family: his writing is playful, cerebral, likable, wide-ranging and inventive.... The whole novel zings with fresh insight and inspired writing.The Song Is You is smaller, more focused and more character-driven than Phillips’s earlier books, and it’s not only a welcome new direction, but also a novel impossible to put down.
– Kate Christensen, The New York Times Book Review (Editor's Choice)
Phillips has achieved what only the best novelists can--he's written a book where the beauty of the prose is matched by the depth of characterization and the fluid movement of the plot. The Song Is You is complex and rhapsodic, heart-wrenching and satisfying, an absolute pleasure to read.
–Tasha Alexander, Bookpage
Phillips constantly foils the reader's expectations, opening with what seems to be a more or less inocuous, generational romantic comedy, only to transform it into a rich and melancholy rhapsody....This heady novel deserves a chorus of praise.
– Raphaelle Leyris, Le Monde des Livres (France)
Phillips' skills as a novelist are on full display in this poignant, sensitively depicted romance.
– Julie Hale, Bookpage
A story of love and art in which the two are confused and jealously compete. And as in The Red Shoes, but so rarely in other works of art, it's the art-making that carries the most power and mystery... An intricately constructed pas de deux that is both surprising and convincing throughout. It's Phillips's first novel set in the present since Prague, and in its artful structure, style, and heart it's a match for that smart and charming debut.
–Tom Nissley, Amazon (Best of April)
The Song Is You isn’t the first book to wax rhapsodic about the powers and pleasures of the lowly iPod, but it may be the best.... Phillips simply describes their folly and makes it beautiful. A.
– Ellen Wernecke, AV Club (The Onion)
Some books, like some songs, invade you slowly...Julian's inaction reaches Hamlet-like proportions, but the book is also strangely suspenseful. (91/100).
– Montana Wojczuk, Paste Magazine
...first-rate novel about music, memory and identity
– David Daley, Louisville Courier-Journal (Top Books of 2009)
If Phillips is an exceptional novelist and storyteller - and he certainly is both - he is also a first-rate music writer. Better still, he's the opposite of a music snob: an unapologetic fan and relentless champion of songs famous and unknown.
– Jake Cline, Blurt
...clarity, wisdom, and heartache.
– Splendora (What to Read)
A daringly original look at love in the age of online music.
Challenges are novelist Arthur Phillips’s stock in trade. His novels are reliably ingenious affairs, intricately plotted, full of blind-spot reversals, and how’d-he-do-that exercises in style.... Writing about music is hard, but Phillips is a writer who’s up to the job.
– Taylor Antrim, The Daily Beast
A reflection upon ego, identity, and the sources of art....The soundless rhythm of language must carry [Phillips's] day, which, in occasional poignancy, it does.
– Art Winslow, Los Angeles Times
A moving look at grief and a comic take on obsession and the meaning of celebrity.
– Dylan Foley, NJ Star-Ledger
This is a book, at its core, about the effervescent intimacy of music — how a song pegs a certain place, memory or feeling and how, by listening, you can move back and forth in time, becoming for a brief period the person you once were... Phillips is a ferociously smart writer — wise, entertaining, hyper articulate — and "The Song Is You" embodies all of these qualities.
– Edward Nawotka, Austin American
Phillips navigates an ostensibly arid present that turns out to be richly human, filled with unexpected grace.... Phillips's descriptions of his characters are filled with startling intensity.
– Marie Arana, The Washington Post (Critic's Choice)
Phillips never writes the same book twice, which makes him a favorite of critics, a problem for his publishers. The Song is You is an audaciously romantic novel.... a dual portrait of the artist as both a young man and a middle-aged man; as sensual mystery; as life lesson.... a continually surprising novel about passion, fantasy, sex and marriage that is itself passionate.
– Scott Eyman, Akron Beacon Journal
His tone is often dark and cruel, but also hilarious, forgiving, and sweet. It's a unique mix that ultimately adds up to a rewarding read.
– Jessica Armbruster, CityPages
Phillips is the best Jeopardy! champion ever to write a novel, and the best novelist ever to retire undefeated on Jeopardy!
– Ken Jennings, Jeopardy! king
Phillips takes amazing risks with the plot....But anyone who was ever a member of a garage band or who has memorized swaths of High Fidelity will probably love The Song Is You....A brilliant take on the music scene and a melancholy meditation on song.
– Yvonne Zipp, Christian Science Monitor
With his characteristic playfulness and inventiveness, however, Phillips elevates his story to the realm of literary fantasy and musical meditation in terms that will speak to readers and music lovers alike.
– Norah Piehl, Bookreporter
A Brief Encounter for the iPod generation and a must-read for anyone who's ever fallen for a pop singer.
– Time Out Sydney (Australia)
Fans of Phillips...will find...the gorgeously constructed prose for which all his books have been praised....The Song Is You showcases Phillips' gift for plumbing the depths of grief and emotional fragility. His love of music, including the profound song lyrics he creates for Cait, is a delight.
– Carol Memmott, USA Today
His true writing gift...is being able to sift through the brain matter and distil his thoughts in written form so they read as pure and powerful truths about love and loss, men and women, intimacy and oblivion.
– Trent Dalton, Brisbane Courier Mail (Australia)
[Phillips] accomplishes something as well as any writer ever has. He beautifully conveys the irresistible pull of pop music... He absolutely nails those brief seconds of shock and joy when the perfect song pops up through the headphones.
– Connie Ogle, Miami Herald
Among the very few novels I can think of where musical descriptions approach poetry.
– Tim Riley, author and music critic.
Phillips’ latest marvel is as much a discussion of greater psychological explorations—the meaning of life, the definition of success—as it is about music’s relation to our deepest selves.... He knows how to frame the story perfectly....It is the genuine article—a perfect symphony of clever writing, taut storyline and soulful exploration delivered through one beautiful package.
– Poornima Apte, MostlyFiction.com
Sharply plotted...subtle study of intimacy, security, and courtship in the digital age.
– Melbourne Herald Sun (Australia)
It’s hard to spell out exactly why we swoon during some songs and not others, but Phillips really captures it, nuances and all. It’s quite jaw-dropping.... His prose is gorgeous, too, and his knack for fleshing out tiny nuances and observations about emotions is on par with Richard Price... one of the best novels I’ve read in a long time.
– Jason Panella, Pop Damage
Thankfully far from predictable.... Phillips writes with the precision and silkiness of Truman Capote.
– Heather McCormack, Library Journal
A television commercial director strikes up a bizarre relationship with the object of his infatuation in Phillips's enthralling fourth novel.... Phillips is in top form and does a brilliant job of transcribing the barrage of Julian's sensory data into cool and flexible prose. This is a triumphant return for Phillips.
– Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
One is almost ready to swear never to read another "rock-novel". Then one recalls one of the best American novels of 2009... a masterpiece of swing and subtlety.
– Bruno Juffin, Les Inrockuptibles (France)
A betrayed husband’s fascination with a charismatic singer is given several intriguing twists in this subtle fourth novel from the versatile Phillips.... The novel’s clashing harmonies seduce and fascinate. And Phillips still looks like the best American novelist to have emerged during the present decade.
– Kirkus Reviews
A heartbreaking ode to tragedy, isolation, longing, and... healing. A–
– Aly Semigran, Entertainment Weekly
What kind of relationship can a fan have with a star?.... This is the love story for the iPod generation.... some of the most inspired musical commentary that you will find in any book... the elegance of the narrative draws the reader in deeper at every stage. Perhaps most admirable is the novelist’s ability to weave a story that is simultaneously humorous and dramatic, dreamy and melancholy.... a book that goes into my favorites list, flagged for frequent repetition on random shuffle.
– Ted Gioia, Blogcritics.org
[Phillips] hits a pitch-perfect note in this heartbreakingly lyrical novel.... Phillips [captures] both the tenor of our times and the fragility of contemporary connections.
– Margaret Flanagan, Booklist
The novel unfolds in prose lush with metaphor and neologistic observation.
– Laura Miller, Salon (Must Read: Fiction We Love)
Highly contemporary and yet somehow timeless, The Song is You is a wise, articulate, stunning novel that eloquently illuminates that mysterious and beautiful junction where love, grief, and pop music intersect.
– Jonathan Tropper, author of This Is Where I Leave You
Phillips’s best writing achieves an elaborate, gratifying precision, combining a naturally flamboyant style with neat, observational wit. This quality is sharpest in some of the character portraits and delectable set pieces that animate this novel... beautiful evocation of music’s consoling power to blur the borders between art, artist, and consumer.
– The New Yorker
Somebody had to do it, write the great American iPod novel, and we're lucky that it is someone with some talent...One of the greatest obsessions in contemporary American literature since Scott Spencer's novel "Endless Love."... I think Arthur Phillips is one subtle writer. I think that he's dealing quietly with big themes such as illusion versus reality and also offers wonderfully satirical moments on making commercials, failing rock stars, playing "Jeopardy!" and some piercing, painful moments on what it's like to be aging in youth culture and some extraordinary takes on contemporary sexual mores... He also writes extraordinarily well about grief.
– Alan Cheuse, Chicago Tribune and All Things Considered (NPR)
Phillips’ novel is a little piece of perfection in a wildly imperfect world.... This is a wonderful book, especially if you have ever been fully in thrall to popular music.... Phillips is as much wizard as writer...Darkly comic, and sometimes just flatout funny ... marvelously creative, spectacularly inventive, Phillips is, most of all, original.... No longer just “someone to watch,” he’s now become a benchmark for comparison. ...This is the kind of novel you wait for, mostly in vain. Now that it has arrived, Phillips takes his place, at least on this reader’s shelf, with the likes of Zadie Smith, Jonathan Lethem, and the late David Foster Wallace — 21st century authors, in short, who can simply blow you away with what’s happening on their pages.
– Margaret Sullivan, Buffalo News
[Phillips poses] heart-shattering questions about all we are losing as our mania for self-promotion via virtual identities is erasing our foothold on humanity after several centuries of rationalism... Phillips has risked much, and won nearly the whole game. The reader will come away exhilarated, by glimpses that suffice for the whole, by patterns that elude the makers, by a cycle of consummation that eludes the voracious realist...In The Song Is You, Arthur Phillips has inscribed a 21st century myth of courtly love, as only he can. Phillips' sharp prose style, shunning any fuzziness, forces the reader to confront his best hopes and worst fears about the most transcendent of human experiences.
– Anis Shivani, St. Petersburg Times
At the heart of The Song is You is a wise and clear-eyed exploration of the ways that the enchantments of youth turn stale – how gravity, in the mantle of heartbreak, imposes itself on even the most blessed of lives.Phillips’ set-up to that end is more than a little ingenious.
– Sam Sacks, Open Letters Monthly
Phillips...is neither a grandstanding genre-hopper nor a writer with a pet topic, and this may have slightly limited his fame. But he’s become the kind of writer you should snap up off a shelf no matter what his latest quarry happens to be. BUY IT.
– Mark Graham, New York Magazine
Phillips has a perceptive eye for the precarious nature of vocal genius... Someone should ensure that Amy Winehouse receives a copy straight away.
– Alfred Hickling, Guardian (U.K.)
[The Song Is You] is another little monster of ambition: a kind of delicate and concave meditation on
memory and romantic mystification in the age of the Internet, and an extremely rare example of fiction plausibly describing the effects of pop music on our lives.
– Chronic'Art (France)
– Scott Indrisek, Time Out New York
The passages about songwriting or close listening ring with authenticity without sounding pretentious. The author's passion is infectious, and compels one to put on a pair of headphones, crack the spine and press play.
– Wyatt Williams, CL Atlanta
Phillips's way of describing things is so haunting you want to crawl inside the sentences and take comfort in their perfect metaphors and canny allusions... readers willing to follow Phillips and his riffs on life, happiness, children, marriage, professional success and failure and other subjects of the heart will be well-rewarded, not only by the noir, twisted plotting but by the naked emotion and his extreme literary gift.
– Patricia Zohn, Huffington Post
It's been a while since an opening sentence hooked me like this one did: "Julian Donahue's father was on a Billie Holiday record." The nine pages that follow compose a riveting prologue.... At its heart, this is a story about how music affects us emotionally and psychologically; how we obsess over it, surrender to it; how the artists who create it cast a spell over us. It's a lesson about why music matters in our lives.... Phillips offers genuinely astute insights into the aesthetics of making music and why it plays such a powerful role in chronicling our lives, regardless if the inspiration comes from Cait O'Dwyer or Lady Day.
– Jay Trachtenberg, Austin Chronicle
There's something very timeless in this book. I found it to be a beautiful novel... Magnificent.
– Nathalie Crom, Telerama (France)
A subtle, elegant, rhythmic book.
– Frédéric Ferney, La Revue (France)
The swing is there: in dense writing, rhythmic construction, and couplets more devious than expected. A rock and roll ballad with poisonous charm, which depicts with vitriol the cruelties of the New York art scene.
– Anne Berthod, La Vie (France)
Phillips’s sentimentality is gossamer light... At times achingly sad, the meandering, descriptive prose is also laced with touches of black humour.... The writing is engaging, witty and timed to perfection. The tempo quickens and slows, building emotion to a crescendo and waning gracefully.... Philips skilfully pierces novelistic convention and pat stereotypes to reveal the pathos and humour of flawed humanity.
– Janette Currie, The Literateur (U.K.)
By the end, I'd surrendered to its slow and sneaky pace, its oblique eroticism, its self-conscious but undeniable cleverness, and, yes, even become a grudging fan of its author... Creating an alienated (and alienating) protagonist is always a risky business. But Phillips deftly pulls off this balancing act, infusing his secondary characters with vitality.
– Julie Wittes Schlack, Boston Globe
The novel is full of surprises, tenderness, memories that grab the throat. Phillips rehabilitates courtly love
with a rock soundtrack. The mixture results in something tender and heartbreaking, like American movies of the '70s... Play it again, Mr. Phillips.
– Eric Neuhoff, Le Figaro Littéraire (France)
His writing is just that much pleasure.He has written one of those bang-on novels that captures the intimacies of music and its power in life.
– Kirk Lapointe, Victoria Times (Canada)
What could easily come across as contrivance truly sings...Phillips nails the advances and retreats of this first decade of the century and how we relate to each other.
– Kara Sirmans, Book Studio/WETA
A keenly observed tale of modern love. Lyrical.
– Gold Coast Bulletin (Australia)
...a brilliant tale of iPod love.
– Austin Chronicle