My Book Proposal
Posted on Friday, April 29th, 2016 by Austin Gerth
On the desk in my room at home in Princeton, there is a small slip of notebook paper that sits in front of the stereo and hasn’t moved more than a few inches since last summer. It’s a note, and it says, “Most Important Date, May 1st 2016”. Several people have remarked upon the note when they’ve noticed it there, and I tend to explain the reason for it a little sheepishly. A lot of you reading this post probably think you know the reason for that date’s importance: May 1st — i.e. this Sunday, two days from now — is the day the Class of 2016 officially graduates from Concordia College. But you’re wrong. The reason the date on that note is so important is that May 1st is the day my book proposal is due.
I’ll back up and explain further. Last April, I heard about this thing — Bloomsbury, a publishing company, was holding a special open call for proposals for their “33 1/3” series. I was already familiar with the series, but you likely are not: the “33 1/3” series is a line of scholarly monograph-style books about notable albums. (And “scholarly monographs” are critical studies of texts, usually penned by folks like college professors; for example you can buy full-length books about particular Jane Austen novels, or books about classic films.) What made this call for proposals special was that it would only be open to people under the age of 22 because it was being put on in connection with the publication of a textbook, How To Write About Music, aimed in particular at undergraduate students. Given my dual interests in music and in writing, I started plotting my proposal within a few days. Now, after a little over a year of gradual research, writing, and fine-tuning, the proposal is complete — I sent it in at 7:23 this evening. The final document, with its bibliography, came out to a little under 26 pages.
The proposal has been the defining work of my last year here at Concordia, and, for a number of reasons, I will always associate it with this place. I distinctly recall sitting at the picnic table under the tree in front of Lorentzen Hall a little over a year ago, with my laptop open, typing up a giant list of all the albums I thought had any chance of being worthy of book-length study. And, of course, in another instance of two major events lining up poetically, I finished and submitted the proposal on the same day I completed my last final as a student here.
But, moreover, without Concordia, I don’t think there would actually be a finished proposal. This spring I devised an Independent Study course with Dr. Sprunger in the English department, in which course I made a complete proposal draft stand as the major graded project. The course overall was a sort of lit survey in music writing past and present, and it was actually Dr. Sprunger who suggested the idea of a class in the subject to me last fall, before he even knew about the book proposal, but I am certain that combining the class and the proposal — forcing me to set deadlines and work through multiple drafts, as well as providing me an editor and interlocutor — is what ultimately pushed me across the finish line.
Anyway, the album I proposed to write about is Since I Left You, by The Avalanches. I highly recommend it, if you’re unfamiliar with it — it is a great summertime listen.