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A Dream About Lightning Bugs: A Life of…
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A Dream About Lightning Bugs: A Life of Music and Cheap Lessons (edition 2019)

by Ben Folds (Author)

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1238196,043 (3.59)2
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * From the genre-defying icon Ben Folds comes a memoir that is as nuanced, witty, and relatable as his cult-classic songs. "A Dream About Lightning Bugs reads like its author: intelligent, curious, unapologetically punk, and funny as hell."--Sara Bareilles NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR AND PASTE Ben Folds is a celebrated American singer-songwriter, beloved for songs such as "Brick," "You Don't Know Me," "Rockin' the Suburbs," and "The Luckiest," and is the former frontman of the alternative rock band Ben Folds Five. But Folds will be the first to tell you he's an unconventional icon, more normcore than hardcore. Now, in his first book, Folds looks back at his life so far in a charming and wise chronicle of his artistic coming of age, infused with the wry observations of a natural storyteller.  In the title chapter, "A Dream About Lightning Bugs," Folds recalls his earliest childhood dream--and realizes how much it influenced his understanding of what it means to be an artist. In "Measure Twice, Cut Once" he learns to resist the urge to skip steps during the creative process. In "Hall Pass" he recounts his 1970s North Carolina working-class childhood, and in "Cheap Lessons" he returns to the painful life lessons he learned the hard way--but that luckily didn't kill him.  In his inimitable voice, both relatable and thought-provoking, Folds digs deep into the life experiences that shaped him, imparting hard-earned wisdom about both art and life. Collectively, these stories embody the message Folds has been singing about for years: Smile like you've got nothing to prove, because it hurts to grow up, and life flies by in seconds. Praise for A Dream About Lightning Bugs   "Besides being super talented, and an incredibly poignant and multifaceted musician, Ben Folds is a fantastic author. I couldn't put this book down--and not just because I taped it to my hand. Ben takes us into his mind and into his process from the very beginnings of his childhood to where he is today--one of the greatest musicians and writers that has ever graced the art."--Bob Saget… (more)
Member:LancasterDepository
Title:A Dream About Lightning Bugs: A Life of Music and Cheap Lessons
Authors:Ben Folds (Author)
Info:Ballantine Books (2019), Edition: Illustrated, 336 pages
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A Dream About Lightning Bugs: A Life of Music and Cheap Lessons by Ben Folds

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This originally appeared at The Irresponsible Reader.
---

So what about the middle-aged making pop music? Sure, it's allowed. But let’s be honest about what pop, or popular, music is. It's music for the mating age. It’s a soundtrack for that yearning, that youthful anger, those ideals and inside jokes of the teenagers and young adults as they experience the rough ride together. It fills an an important need. It help us get through to adulthood. Pop music can be a life jacket, a sexy security blanket, a hipster Hallmark card. And it communicates very real things. It also requires serious craft and is a competitive business, worthy of great respect. Pop music saved my ass as a kid, paid the bills in my earlier career. And I love to make fun of it.

WHAT'S A DREAM ABOUT LIGHTNING BUGS ABOUT?
Well, it's a memoir by Ben Folds, covering childhood through the present (give or take a few years). He talks about the teachers that helped him along the way, his struggles in various schools, his early music career (including being a one-man polka band), how horrible he is at marriage, the formation of Ben Folds Five, the dissolution of it, his solo career, parenting and how (and why) his career is shifting, his thoughts on writing, music, comedy and all sorts of other things.

Basically, a little about everything.

HIGHLIGHTS
I don't have time—and you don't have the attention span—to write about all the things that are worth saying about this book. So, here's a quick list of some of the highlights of the book:
* He has a section about humor records that he listened to as a kid, and muses on comedy in general. It was the first time in the book that things really clicked for me.
* There's a section about life in the suburbs, the angry music associated with it in the 90s (and beyond) and I thought was really insightful.
* The story about the release day for his album Rockin' the Suburbs and being live on the radio to promote it when the attacks for 9/11 happened. That chapter was just great.
* It's hard to beat a section on writer's block by someone who's worked through it.
* I'm a big fan of the (little known) band Fleming and John—him talking about them for a paragraph or two made me really happy. Also, the part of the book about William Shatner? There's nothing like a good Shatner story.
* Folds has done some truly horrible things on tour—throwing piano stools on a regular basis with the band (and breaking other things with those stools), lying like crazy about his personal life on tour with John Mayer and the fallout from it. It ain't pretty, but it's good to see him talking about it.

THE SPOTIFY PLAYLIST
Random House has a Spotify playlist for the book, which is just a great idea. It's a great soundtrack for the book or just fun to listen to on its own. There are many songs by Folds that he talks about or makes a passing reference to in the book. There are also many songs that he didn't write/record but that he talks about. If you like Folds/the music that inspired him—you're going to dig this.

SO, WHAT DID I THINK ABOUT A DREAM ABOUT LIGHTNING BUGS?
I enjoyed getting to know Folds a bit better—warts and all. It took a long time for me to really get into it, though. Yes, the parts about his early life were interesting—and I enjoyed it, but it was really easy to put the book down.

But once we got to Ben Folds Five? I was hooked and I flew through the rest of the book. Maybe it's because I was getting background information on the band and music I knew so well. But I think it's because Folds shows a different kind of passion for things once his career started to take off and that passion translated into being more interesting reading. It's likely a little of both and a few other things, too.

Some of the book that's less about him and his career and more about his thoughts about creating, performing, music, etc.—that's inspirational, motivational—and the kind of thing I'll come back to re-read from time to time.

This probably isn't a book for people who aren't at least a casual fan of Folds as a solo artist or his band. But for those who are? It's a lot of fun, and worth the time. ( )
  hcnewton | Jan 10, 2022 |
bailed at 5% (0:25:16). From the very start, he comes off as arrogant and/or obnoxious. No thanks.
  joyblue | Jul 25, 2020 |
I love Ben Folds. This memoir is fun and irreverent, as any Ben Folds fan would expect. His focus on his creative life, how that developed and was affected by his decisions, was a good choice to anchor the story of his journey. I'm so glad he took time to write it. ( )
  MMKY | Jul 3, 2020 |
This felt like reading someone's journal and their future self commentary all at once. It felt personal, and made me reflect on things I've done in my life despite not having exactly similar situations. Would recommend. ( )
  Hilaurious | Jun 2, 2020 |
https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/ben-folds/a-dream-about-lightning-bug...

I'm a casual Ben Folds fan - I knew "Brick" from the radio, of course, and had a copy of Rockin' the Suburbs in college - but I knew nothing about the man behind the music before reading this book. Didn't know that he threw tantrums (and stools) onstage, that he'd been married and divorced four times, that he leased and helped preserve RCA Studio A in Nashville. The subtitle is accurate: in the book, Folds focuses almost exclusively on music, mentioning family members, ex-wives, and children minimally (and never unkindly), and the "cheap lessons" he refers to are the mistakes he makes - sometimes over and over, until they become expensive (not just financially but physically and emotionally). It was really the title that drew me to this low-key book, and it was a quick read. Includes some black-and-white photos throughout.

Quotes

At its most basic, making art is about following what's luminous to you and putting it in a jar, to share with others. (7)

...empathy and perspective are everything, and neither should be taken for granted....Remember that the ground beneath your feet can always shift and that it should always be questioned. (28)

"What's been good for the music hasn't always been so good for the life." -Phone in a Pool (121)

"creative visualization"...Results fueled by temporary delusion. Because the state of wanting to be something that you aren't or wanting something to be true which is not can make you a little crazy. (129)

You can make believe, but you can't make yourself believe. (131)

Added to the challenge of looking for something [your voice] for which you have no prior example, once you find it, you're the only one who will never truly see what's special about it. What an artist has to offer is obvious to just about anyone else but the artist [themselves]....We never get a chance to meet ourselves the way others have. (137)

Moments of self-honesty are often laced with selfishness. (161)

But we were learning that if something didn't make sense, it might be worth exploring, because it meant nobody else was doing it. (189)

Numb is what you become when something should hurt, but either the brain doesn't want to know or the nervous system thinks better of it. (204)

When I'm struggling emotionally or I'm stressed, I act up, especially onstage. (226)

[At the birth of his twins] I suddenly saw life as a series of scary challenges in an exponential incline. One that never ends. You're always fighting against something, facing challenges, for which you're not quite prepared....But once you've surmounted each new obstacle, you can live in some calm temporarily. (235)

I personally do not believe there's such a thing as writer's block. It's just that we don't like everything that comes out. (255)

Cheap lessons weren't sinking in, so the cost was rising. (261)

Hitting bottom is to acknowledge that the next lesson will not be cheap....Eventually, as you address one issue you discover another, because everything is connected. Life, Love. Finances. Music. Even teeth. (300)

Beware of little things that can erode our creativity as we grow up. One after another. One at a time, small choices eliminated incrementally... (310) ( )
  JennyArch | May 26, 2020 |
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * From the genre-defying icon Ben Folds comes a memoir that is as nuanced, witty, and relatable as his cult-classic songs. "A Dream About Lightning Bugs reads like its author: intelligent, curious, unapologetically punk, and funny as hell."--Sara Bareilles NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR AND PASTE Ben Folds is a celebrated American singer-songwriter, beloved for songs such as "Brick," "You Don't Know Me," "Rockin' the Suburbs," and "The Luckiest," and is the former frontman of the alternative rock band Ben Folds Five. But Folds will be the first to tell you he's an unconventional icon, more normcore than hardcore. Now, in his first book, Folds looks back at his life so far in a charming and wise chronicle of his artistic coming of age, infused with the wry observations of a natural storyteller.  In the title chapter, "A Dream About Lightning Bugs," Folds recalls his earliest childhood dream--and realizes how much it influenced his understanding of what it means to be an artist. In "Measure Twice, Cut Once" he learns to resist the urge to skip steps during the creative process. In "Hall Pass" he recounts his 1970s North Carolina working-class childhood, and in "Cheap Lessons" he returns to the painful life lessons he learned the hard way--but that luckily didn't kill him.  In his inimitable voice, both relatable and thought-provoking, Folds digs deep into the life experiences that shaped him, imparting hard-earned wisdom about both art and life. Collectively, these stories embody the message Folds has been singing about for years: Smile like you've got nothing to prove, because it hurts to grow up, and life flies by in seconds. Praise for A Dream About Lightning Bugs   "Besides being super talented, and an incredibly poignant and multifaceted musician, Ben Folds is a fantastic author. I couldn't put this book down--and not just because I taped it to my hand. Ben takes us into his mind and into his process from the very beginnings of his childhood to where he is today--one of the greatest musicians and writers that has ever graced the art."--Bob Saget

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