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February 6, 2007

Book Notes - Evan Mandery (""Dreaming of Gwen Stefani")

Author Jay McInerney said, ""Dreaming of Gwen Stefani is a quirky and compelling riff on the nature of romantic obsession, celebrity worship, free will versus determinism and the joys of Papaya hot dogs." Evan Mandery's hot dog salesman, Mortimer Taylor Coleridge, compares favorably to A Confederacy of Dunces' Ignatius J. Reilly in his intelligence and quirkiness. As Coleridge becomes infatuated with pop singer Gwen Stefani, the book tackles bigger issues like society's obsession with celebrity.

In his own words, here is Evan Mandery's Book Notes submission for his novel, Dreaming of Gwen Stefani:

Dreaming of Gwen Stefani has an obvious and intricate connection to music, and I am going to choose No Doubt and Gwen Stefani songs for my selections, but they may not be the most obvious or popular songs.

My novel is about a bizarre Columbia dropout named Mortimer Coleridge who works in a papaya hot dog store and treats his job with obsessive detail. He is clearly a bit off. Mortimer dropped out of Columbia and, in some sense life, because of his despair over the teachings of an evolutionary biology professor who causes Mortimer to doubt the possibility of free will. Serendipitously, he is exposed to the music of No Doubt and his life is thereafter changed.

The worship of celebrity is absurd, but the basis for the connection Mortimer feels is more substantial than might appear at first glance. Like her or not, Gwen Stefani’s songwriting is honest – almost offputtingly so – and deals with the same basic existential questions that most thoughtful people ask of themselves. She wonders about her ability to rationally control who she loves and to get herself to do things that she knows are in her best interests despite instincts to the contrary – in short, she wonders about whether she is her own master.

My musical choices will orient a reader to the surprisingly serious manner in which Ms. Stefani addresses these questions:

Six Feet Under, for example, is explicitly existential. It is a basic examination of the meaning of life.

Bathwater, from Return of Saturn, is an internal dialogue about her ability to refrain from loving a man that she knows is bad for her. This theme recurs throughout her work. It is strongly present, for example, in Spiderwebs, which was more popular than some of my other selections

In her solo career, she has maintained a continuous commitment to these themes. What You Waiting For? is at core another internal dialogue about her inability to execute a plan (though it is less clear here whether she believes that her heart or mind should win out). Early Winter in the recently released The Sweet Escape again discusses love out of control.

For pure musical value, Sunday Morning is a rockin’ good tune and my personal favorite.

I listened to American Idiot something on the order of 150 times in working on this book. I have a special fondness for it now.


see also:

the book's website
the author's website
the book's page at Ig Publishing
the book's Wikipedia entry
upcoming author readings
the author's blog
the book's protagonist's blog

the No Doubt forum discusses the book

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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