Today in ‘yeah, that sounds about right’: Stephin Merritt, the synth-pop Sondheim frontman of The Magnetic Fields, The Gothic Archies, Future Bible Heroes and The 6ths, is releasing a book of poetry later this year. In keeping with much of Merritt’s discography, the book will rest upon an appropriately high concept hook: 101 Two-Letter Words is a collection of four-line poems consisting exclusively of two-letter words deemed permissible for play in a game of Scrabble. It should come as absolutely no surprise that the man responsible for such lyrics as ‘Reno Dakota / I’m no Nino Rota / I don’t know the score’, ‘A pretty girl is like a violent crime / If you do it wrong you could do time / But if you do it right it is sublime’ and ‘I want to be an artist’s model / An odalisque au naturel’ is into word games.
The book is due for release in October by W. W. Norton with illustrations by Roz Chast. Merritt tells the New York Times, with characteristic drollness: ‘My mother is a former English teacher who always expected me to write the Great American Novel, thunderous and profound, so she was not impressed to learn that my first book is going to be amusing light verse, but now that I’ve got her hooked on Words With Friends, she sees the immense value of remembering the two-letter words, and what fascinating little oddities they are, so she’s begging for a copy of the book.’
If The Magnetic Fields’ discography is testament to anything, it’s that Merritt’s facility both with language and with working within tightly conceptual confines is prodigious and, frankly, intimidating: The Charm of the Highway Strip is an album of postmodern synth-pop takes on country music, whose songs focus on travel; i, the first part of a ‘no-synths’ trilogy (with Distortion and Realism), features songs whose titles exclusively begin with the letter ‘I’, and which run in alphabetical order; and the monumental 69 Love Songs is a metatextual album of songs about love songs that also functions as a straightforward three-disc assemblage of 69 love songs. His transition to print should, needless to say, be a smooth one.
He was chief hack and music editor of webzine Brazen from 2006 to 2010, and hosted Left of the Dial on Subcity Radio from 2008 to 2011.
He can be heard semi-regularly on the podcast of Scottish cultural blog Scots Whay Hae ('20th best website in Scotland!' - The List), and in 2011 founded Seen Your Video, a film and music podcast and blog based in Glasgow. He has a Masters degree in Scottish Literature from the University of Glasgow that will never have any practical application. You are on a hiding to nothing if you follow him on Twitter expecting any kind of hot publishing scoop.