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June 21, 2005

Book Notes - Quinn Dalton ("Bulletproof Girl")

Quinn Dalton has written this collection of short stories, Bulletproof Girl, each story featuring a strong woman at an emotional crossroads. Exquisitely written with empathy and skill, the stories envelop the reader in the lives of the characters, and mirror many of the delicate and complicated relationships of us all. One of the stories, "Endurance Tests," is available on the book's page at

Thanks to The Happy Booker for recommending this book to me, and to Quinn Dalton for taking the time to put together her "Book Notes" feature.

In her own words, here is Quinn Dalton's "Book Notes" submission for her collection of short stories, Bulletproof Girl:

I wrote the stories in Bulletproof Girl between 1993 and 2003, so I kind of grew up with this book. The eleven narrators are divorced single mothers, recovering alcoholics, teenage star bowlers, furtive first-time lovers, pregnant runaways, murderous wives, recipients of visions. They’re tough but vulnerable: bulletproof girls.

My playlist comes from what I was listening when I was writing these stories, or from what I think the characters might like, or what I think embodies the emotional territory of a particular story. Or some combination.

The Pretenders – Chrissie is my all-time favorite rocker, a definite bulletproof girl. I remember hearing the track she said she always hated -- “Brass in Pocket” -- all over the radio when I was nine. It was playing on my phys ed teacher’s hi-fi when we were out in the South Carolina heat one day, getting bludgeoned in a dodge ball game (or maybe that was just me). Don’t know why the rock station was on, because Mr. Hooks favored country. Anyway, that was my first intro to Chrissie, and then a few years later, when I was buying records, she was all I could listen to for a while. That and the Beatles, since my parents were jazz fans, and I was the older child—there was no one to clue me into their existence. Anyway, I think if Loreen, who’s seventeen when she falls in love with a baker in “Dough,” heard “Birds of Paradise” from Pretenders II later in life, she would be brought back to that suspended, hidden time of first love—just as I am. The narrator of “How To Clean Your Apartment” listens to another track from that same album, “Pack it Up,” as she does literally that, trying to remove reminders of a recent ex-boyfriend she’s dubbed The Man Who is Smarter than You. “At this point, you need some of Chrissie’s black leather inspiration,” she thinks while trying to decide which pile of “past misjudgments” to dig into next.

Miles Davis and Quincy Jones – Miles & Quincy Live at Montreaux was recorded in 1991 at the 25th anniversary of the Montreaux Jazz Festival, and this one track of Gershwin’s “Here Come De Honey Man” is so beautiful it makes my throat ache every time I hear it. It is a sound that lifts and opens—bird wings. It’s like a summer night--warm, buzzing, alcohol-musky, ripe, a little sly. I think of Loreen for this one, too.

Led Zeppelin – Donny, Tess’ boyfriend in “Midnight Bowling”, would sing (groan) “D’yer Mak’er” from Houses of the Holy to her even though he knows she’s leaving anyway.

Big Head Todd and the Monsters – On Midnight Radio, “Love Betsy” is the prayer the narrator of “Endurance Tests” says when her son starts playing dead after his dog gets hit by a car. And in “Package,” the narrator receives just that from her grandfather, who is as testy and mysterious as the album’s “Ann Arbor Grandfather.”

U2 – “Promenade” from The Unforgettable Fire feels like the space the narrator of “Back On Earth” is suspended in as she recovers from being raped. She becomes obsessed with the fate of Dell, an astronaut working on the space station Mir, which is disabled by a collision with its supply ship, and which to her seems “a mosquito hovering over the skin of the planet.” Just as she is.

Liz Phair – Another bulletproof girl in spite of her latest album, maybe even because of it. The narrator of “Graceland” who murders her husband’s ex-boss, and the narrator of “Shed This Life” who watches her boyfriend “trying to stuff himself into the idea of fatherhood, like it's a jacket with one arm” – well, either of these women could sing you the words to “Strange Loop” on Exile in Guyville. The whole album just nails their ferocity and anger as well as how they choose to escape.

John Lee Hooker – in any discussion of music, of which I have very few because as you can probably tell I haven’t bought music in a few years, I have to include “I Cover the Waterfront” which he recorded a number of times, but my favorite cut is one of his last, from Mr. Lucky. I think Lennie, the fifty-five-year-old narrator of “Lennie Remembers the Angels,” who is still haunted by a visitation of angels at her mother’s funeral when she was sixteen, would know this song too—the waiting in darkness, standing on the shore trying to see a shape in the fog, hoping it will carry the one you love back to you.

see also:

52 Books, 52 Weeks (2006 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2005 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2004 Edition)
Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)


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