‘Hi. My name is Marc. I’m a guitarist who points extremely loud amplifiers directly at his head.”

So begins “Unstrung: Rants and Stories of a Noise Guitarist” (Akashic, 216 pages, $24.95), a slim yet powerful book in which Marc Ribot blends bits of memoir with strange little fictions, many of which are based on his own life and career.

The point of turning up one’s amplifier isn’t only to increase the volume, Mr. Ribot tells us, but rather to alter the sound—to strain it in ways that, for him, imply risk to the musician, the listener and the amp and reflects how “we seem to love broken voices in general.” Mr. Ribot writes: “Guitars don’t mind struggle. Guitars are struggle.”

The essays and stories here cohere around connected themes: Artful distortion reveals essential truths; meaningful struggle yields wisdom and rare beauty; unreliable narrators are the only worthy kind.

Whether he is playing electric or acoustic guitar, Mr. Ribot’s singular sound has earned more than one devoted following. He has long been prominent within New York’s jazz and creative-music communities. He’s played tender solo acoustic guitar. He’s led loud, plugged-in groups. He’s channeled legacies, including those of free-jazz hero Albert Ayler and Cuban-music pioneer Arsenio Rodríguez. Yet he is perhaps most widely known for his work supporting other musicians: helping Tom Waits refine a weird new Americana on the 1985 album “Rain Dogs”; contributing to a less weird version of Americana on Alison Krauss and Robert Plant’s Grammy Award-winning 2007 release “Raising Sand”; and serving as a key player within composer John Zorn’s genre-defying musical cast.

As with his playing, Mr. Ribot’s writing wrings maximum meaning from minimalist statements. “In music,” he notes, “things decay before they die.” The used guitars and fuzz boxes favored by Robert Quine “cut a wound in the numb skin of pop.”

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“Lies and Distortion,” the first of the book’s four sections, distills with rare clarity the lessons and epiphanies Mr. Ribot received while on the bandstand. Bassist Henry Grimes—who returned to New York’s jazz scene after more than 30 years off the grid—was “someone for whom life had burned away the inessential.” Mr. Ribot’s experiences with so-called world music reveal truths and distortions as conveyed through rhythm. In Peruvian singer Susana Baca’s ensemble, Mr. Ribot realized that “the aural signs which allow the listener to distinguish one from three, upbeat from downbeat, are culturally determined” and that the simple act of reinterpreting three groups of four notes as four groups of three turns “a light folky groove” into “a virtuoso exercise in rhythmic tension,” redolent of West African influences and colonial impositions.

Mr. Ribot’s most moving passages concern his earliest mentor, the composer and guitarist Frantz Casseus, with whom he began studying at the age of 11. He celebrates the humility and passion with which Casseus, who was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in 1915 and who died in New York in 1993, “did what he’d set out from Haiti to do,” composing distinctly Haitian classical guitar music. His mentor’s story also illustrates troubling truths. When Casseus, then in a nursing home and on Medicaid, receives a long-overdue $16,000 royalty check, he tells Mr. Ribot: “If I had known, I would have composed more. I felt my work was without value.” Mr. Ribot—who last year stood in the rain in front of Google’s Manhattan headquarters to help deliver a petition calling for “economic justice in the digital domain”—explains that “the tech industry’s attack on artists’ rights threatens to make Frantz’s loss into the new normal.”

Mr. Ribot has long railed against injustices. One essay here, drawn from his liner note to his album “Songs of Resistance, 1942-2018,” argues not only for protest, “which by definition acknowledges the legitimacy of the power to which it appeals,” but for “those of us with democratic values . . . to put aside our differences long enough to defeat those who threaten them.”

Elsewhere Mr. Ribot alternates between real-life reflections and straight-up fiction. One absurd fable begins: “Once upon a time, in the days before Apple, there was a man who didn’t know how to use his cellphone.” In “Putting Your Arms Around a Memory,” reminiscences about a former New York apartment lead to considerations of Jewish sacred text, tenants’ rights and Lower East Side identity.

In a poignant tribute to Derek Bailey, Mr. Ribot remarks how the English avant-garde guitarist “let the song be what it is while letting the improvisation go where it goes.” As a musician and, here, as an author, Mr. Ribot embodies that same approach.