Metaphysical Graffiti by Seth Kaufman

39660539Metaphysical Graffiti is a book for music fans, humor fans, and, if a meaningful ontological category, fans of philosophy too. It is a provocative, inflammatory, hilarious, but ultimately serious book about the essential questions of rock—Beatles or Stones? What Kind of Air Guitar Do You Play? Does Rush Suck? and, of course, The Meaning of Billy Joel. In a rich mix of original pieces, Kaufman not only examines the essential issues facing all rock fans, but delves into the deeper, metaphysical roots of these questions.

The book’s title is a riff on the classic Led Zeppelin album, Physical Graffiti, while the book itself is an innovative, critical work that in many ways mirrors the best rock ‘n’ roll. Funny, audacious, irreverent, and relentlessly creative, it stretches the parameters of traditional criticism by incorporating short fiction, “Moronic Dialogues,” and even a short mini-play, “Godot, The Musical,” in order to explore philosophical concepts of Reality, Authenticity, Hype, and, ultimately, the purpose of music criticism itself.

Source Format Pages Publisher Genre Publication Date
NetGalley ebook 196 OR Books Non-Fiction (Music) January 29th, 2019

Metaphysical Graffiti appeared in front of my eyes on NetGalley and can you blame me- I really couldn’t help myself! 🙂

I don’t know what I was expecting… Well, I was expecting a ‘mind-bending’ read but I went into this with quite the open mind. Mostly, I was intrigued by what I read… This title is like an essay by someone with a developed and set ideas about rock, music in general and Kaufman certainly knows what he likes and doesn’t like.

The book starts off by dissecting the biggest question of all- which is better: Beatles or Rolling Stones? Shocking as it may be for most, especially for die hard fans, I haven’t been a huge fan of neither. Kaufman brings a good argument to the table, however, and I followed his thought process with interest as he presented ways to compare musical acts against each other. Moving on to Billy Joel and The Grateful Dead, Kaufman didn’t hold back on his opinions… but the best thing about this book is that, even though Kaufman presents his subjective ideas, he does not ‘trash’ the fans per se… He is very aware that our experiences with music, and our tastes, are very individual and as such he doesn’t point blank just say- don’t listen to X band just because he doesn’t like them.

Familiarity is a huge factor in liking and appreciating music. Studies have shown that the more you hear a song, the greater the chance you will like it. 

… hmm, unless it’s Despacito or some such, I say! *shudders* Every time I go to the local supermarket, Despacito happens to be on and I imagine with horror what it must like be there every day… I’d be driven to madness!

There were a couple of topics that really got me excited, namely music critics, music knowledge, hype, covers, DJs and taste. Kaufman did a great job at articulating the overall ideas of these to paper- he is an experienced reporter after all. For example, now I can kind of explain why I, personally, am not all that fond of jazz. To my ears and brain jazz seems to create a sort of a rhythmic dissonance making this genre of music sound too chaotic for me.

Kaufman doesn’t hold back when he addresses the pop music of the modern world and the DJs. He is, with all due respect, an old school ‘musical purist’ (that’s the air I got anyway), and Metaphysical Graffiti is as much a medium to get his personal point of view out into the world based upon his strong, steady views, as much as an opportunity for the readers to explore all things musical from another angle…

But in the world of music, reproducing songs doesn’t have much of a stigma one way or the other for most people. Partly that’s because music is written to be performed, and classical music is precisely notated so it can be performed. Rare is the artist who writes down the oils and brushes used in the making of a painting so it can be reproduced. 

Metaphysical Graffiti was quite a humorous read, light-hearted but also with substance if willing to receive and accept. This book is also somewhat of a creative outlet for the author with a couple of fictional stories to demonstrate a point. One of those, for example, involves air-guitars. Interesting approach, for sure.

I am sure many readers, whatever their musical tastes, agree and disagree with Kaufman over some themes and topics explored. Perhaps, this is a hidden ‘beauty’ of the book- you don’t argue over taste, you fight over it and many an idea explored here can stoke one’s passionate fire!

There are tons of bands you might like but you would never declare your solemn allegiance to and call yourself a fan of.  

But really… I don’t understand why drummers get so much shit in the music world? I think drummers are the coolest 😉 😛

Metaphysical Graffiti on Goodreads | Amazon UK | USA 


  1. This is so a book for you.. I completely understand why you wanted to read this! My knowledge kind of stops with The Beatles and The Stones. The only thing I know is that I Don’t Like Mondays from the Beatles was composed after a teenager’s bloodbad in the late ’70s and that was her explanation when asked why she did it. I hear you on Despacito.. I wouldn’t want to work somewhere hearing the same song over and over again! Christmas carols are the worst for me though. Great review Liis!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Right? I’m on the way home from the shop humming Despacito, wondering why… then remembering why and where that earworm came from and then hating every minute of it until I get to cleanse my easr with other music 😀
      Thank you! x


  2. Wonderful review! I would probably be way out of my dept here if I would read this one. xD In a way weird, because I love my rock music, but I just never look further than enjoying the music. (Talk philology though, and I become a huge nerd haha).

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a fantastic review! This book sounds quite interesting…I like it when an author presents his opinion strongly without coming across condescending or demeaning, and I enjoy anecdotes being woven in; makes it so much more personal and entertaining. So who knows? Maybe I’ll pick this up in a bookstore when I feel like it. 😉

    Also by the way, I myself haven’t listened to Despacito yet, and so my ears are safe from grocery store sneak attacks. Just saying. 😛

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh, dear Lord! The more familiar one is with a song the more likely you are to like it? Noooooooooooooooooo! The more likely I am to hate it more. Ha ha. I should have fun with this book. 😉

    I hated Jazz when I was young. My stepfather listened to it daily and always had a record on during dinner. At least one Jazz class was required for my music degree and even though I understood it better, I still didn’t care for it, but somewhere after turning 45 I realized I really like it. I can say I love some of the progressive fusion stuff. So, never say never on liking Jazz. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, you’re going to town with this book, either way! 😀 I cannot wait for your reactions!
      Hmm, interesting observation about jazz, too… 🙂 I wonder if i will also change my mind about it 🙂 I shall wait and see!

      Liked by 1 person

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