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August 17, 2006

Book Notes - Jamie Rich ("The Everlasting")

The Everlasting is the sophomore novel from Jamie Rich, author Cut My Hair and Love the Way You Love.

I was skeptical at first, reading a novel from a publisher better known for graphic novels (Oni Press) is the literary equivalent of ordering fish in a steakhouse, but The Everlasting turned out to be the prefect summer read. Music and pop culture are key references for the 25 year-old protagonist as he pursues true love in 1999 Portland, and his search forms a charming story.

In his own words, here is Jamie Rich's Book Notes contribution for his novel, The Everlasting:

Whittling down a song selection for my novel The Everlasting is quite a task. It’s the story of Lance Scott, a music obsessive, and his knowledge is overwhelming. There are times in the book where he tosses so many references at the reader, a CD could be filled with that scene alone. At his lowest, he spreads records out on his bed and crafts playlists for his misery. His life is defined by pop music, all of his moves and decisions hinge on putting the right song on the turntable. If his choice is unwise, it could all come to pieces in his hands.

I compiled a personal soundtrack over the course of writing the book. There were actually two: one that I lost when an MP3 player crashed, and then the one I rebuilt from memory and written lists, whittling away previous choices and coming up with new ones. Some of the songs were in the book itself, some were just used to get me in the right kind of mood. That final selection covers two CDs, and so a full explanation here would take up far too much space. Instead, I’m going to create a top 10 of the most significant songs in The Everlasting.


Manic Street Preachers - “The Everlasting”

This song has to be on any soundtrack for the novel. Beyond providing me with my title, it encapsulates the mood I was going for, the themes I wanted to express. A song about true love dying, it’s both bitter and hopeful, looking back at what was good and hoping to regain it in the future, even as the present is full of heartache and pain. When Chynna Clugston, creator of the comic books Blue Monday and Scooter Girl, was designing my cover, that was the main motivation she tried to give to Lance: as one girl leans in to kiss him, he is looking off to the side. But at what?

Erasure - “Rock Me Gently”

The Everlasting concerns itself with three successive romances in Lance’s life. In turn, each girl gets her own song. For the first relationship, it’s one of Erasure’s lesser known singles. Tracking down the single version can actually be a bit of a pain, but that’s okay because I really like the long and arty mix on the band’s self-titled experimental album from the mid-‘90s. It seemed like a fitting choice for Ashley, as the song sings of a love that is both lovely and comfortable, while also being a bit bad for one’s well being. In the book, Lance and Ashley dance together when this is played in a bar.

Suede - “The Wild Ones”

After meeting Mandy, Lance goes home and puts on Suede’s second album, Dog Man Star, and skips to this cut. It’s one of my favorite love songs, a cry of hope in a realistically desolate world. It also fits Lance because it’s self-referential in how Brett Anderson sings about listening to music. No matter how destitute, two people can always find songs to share. Further into the book, the sentiment of “The Wild Ones” drives Lance to rash action.

Low - “Will the Night (demo)”

I love this number. It aches with romance. Lance looks at it as his song with Quentin. I chose this version because it used to be a little rare, buried on the B-side of the UK single for “Over the Ocean.” It’s the sort of song someone else might have and introduce you to, the way Quentin does with Lance. When it comes to relationships, when couples have songs, these are the things they are supposed to be chosen for: shared experiences.

The Colourfield - “Windmills of Your Mind”
Brian Eno & Robert Fripp - “Swastika Girls”

These two tracks immediately spring to mind as being referenced in The Everlasting to describe a particular sensation in a particular scene. Both of them have a swirling quality to them, like being lost in a spiral, growing dizzy.

Paul Weller - “Sexy Sadie”

Weller covering the Beatles kills multiple birds with one stone. First, Lance loves Paul Weller. Visitors to my website, confessions123.com, over the past couple of years have been baffled by it because when you first get there, what you see is Lance’s site for Paul. It’s a false front that has been advertising a novel that has only just come out. Second, Lance has a cat named Sadie, and sadly enough, it’s his healthiest relationship. He communicates best with felines rather than humans. Third, the question of who your favorite Beatle might be becomes an important one. Just as each girl Lance dates ends up having a song, they also have a Beatle. And though he didn’t write this one, smart girls pick George, which is why...

The Beatles - “Because”

“Because” doesn’t actually appear in The Everlasting, though George Harrison is represented in the book through “And My Guitar Gently Weeps.” There is something otherworldly about “Because,” and when speaking of everlasting love, of emotion that transcends the bounds of space and time, and yet is so simple and fundamental that it seems as natural as breathing, I can’t think of a better aural illustration to get that across.

The Style Council - “Why I Went Missing”

From the swan song of Paul Weller’s middle career band. It comes off of Lance’s favorite record, Confessions of a Pop Group, which also provides me with my website and blog name. Lance listens to that album a lot in the book, and “Why I Went Missing” describes for me one of the more important events leading to the final act. In essence, it’s a song about searching for oneself as much as it is an explanation and/or apology to a lover, and one of the conclusions I stumble toward in The Everlasting is that often our relationships in life derail because we are also derailed as individuals.

Gene - “You’ll Never Walk Again”

It’s the last song referenced in The Everlasting, but it doesn’t actually appear as part of the narrative. It was originally the lead-in for a now discarded epilogue to the book, and now it is quoted as a coda at the end of the acknowledgments. “I still know how to make love, with love, my love.” It’s a tremendous song, fading in as just a piano riff and then gaining in momentum and bombast as it goes on. Lyrically, it’s a defiant refusal to give up, likening a broken heart to being crippled. Gene play an essential role in the book, their sophomore album being as important as any of the Weller slabs or the Suede. Martin Rossiter’s lyrics embodied the spirit of a man who refused to be put down, and when love is the topic, he sounds particularly triumphant. I think it’s a state my main character and his author are both struggling to achieve.

BONUS TRACK
Arthur Lee - “Love Jumped Through My Window”

I was going to stick to a strict ten, but then Arthur Lee died while my first draft was waiting to be proofread. I am a huge fan of Lee’s band Love, but “Love Jumped Through My Window” is actually from his solo record, Vindicator. Lance has it running through his head the morning after the first night of a love affair. It has a pretty bouncy guitar riff, but the lyrics are more bluesy, more doubtful. Lance hears the music and so he takes it as the love jumping inside the window and bringing a beautiful pain. It could just as easily be seen the other way, however, that love jumped out and is gone, leaving only the heartache. Or, the more cynical of us might say that jumping in and sticking around is enough to create a world of hurt. That was the gorgeous thing about Arthur Lee--all of his hippy-dippy psychedelic pronouncements had dangerous edges to them. He was a true character, and it’s sad that he’s gone.


see also:

Jamie Rich's website
Jamie Rich's blog

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

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