February 7, 2007
Nick Antosca's debut novel, Fires, is an apocalyptic gem. The book's intensity carries it through its 200 pages, and I am definitely looking forward to more from this talented young author.
I wrote the novel Fires when I was in college. At the time, I lived in a tower. It was the highest dorm room on the campus; I had the penthouse room, which sounds great but wasn't. It was lonely, and I would rest in bed all day and write while supine, setting the laptop aside and taking shallow naps if I become frustrated. The shutters were closed. That was during the day.
The Velvet Underground & Nico - Sunday Morning: This song is eerie not just because of the bells but because Nico's androgyny is so menacing. Carnal enough to draw you in, cold enough to kill you. And so languorous, strung out, ruined. It's probably not even Sunday morning. It's probably Thursday afternoon.
At night I was more awake and creatively aggressive. I'd pace and smoke and paint things in black ink on the walls. But most of the time, I'd write. I wrote the first draft of Fires pretty fast. The end of that draft had a person in a mask being hanged with an electrical cord, but I took that out.
Pearl Jam - The Kids Are All Right: This roaring cover, from a 2003 Brisbane show, is much more vibrant--and wistfully epic--than The Who's original version. I listened to it while revising Fires through the night. I don't care that its title creates a pleasing irony in juxtaposition with my novel's scarred children; I just think it is everything a rock song should be.
Around four or five a.m., a big clanging truck would go down the street far below, and hearing it, I would begin to wind down for the evening. Hot miso soup helped put me in a mood to sleep. At night, the sky above New Haven gets a sort of bloody black. Somehow it has red in it. I liked to go to sleep just as the redness drained out and everything turned blue.
My Morning Jacket - I Will Be There When You Die: Almost a lullaby. The refrain, "As long as you keep a straight face, I will be there when you die" could be ironic, but isn't. You want to walk across America in your sleep, starting in New York City and ending up in cornfields.
After I finished Fires, my agent thought it was "too dark" and wanted a certain catastrophe that is visited upon our protagonist eliminated. My next agent was more accommodating but less competent. He didn't sell it. The novel was shelved for some time, undergoing periodic surgical procedures. Let us out, my characters said, we're very confused.
Nobody wanted us.
Patti Smith - Rock n' Roll Nigger: If I ignore her self-aggrandizing lyrics and focus on the anarchic, awesome anger in her voice, I really love this song. The coked-up music runs through me like blood. Don't touch me. I need a little zone of space around me when I'm like this that no one gets to enter except people who have prior permission to touch me, and anyone else who breaches the space will be struck in the throat.
After college I got a job doing assistant work at a big company. Particularly at first, listening to music with earbuds was a good way to contain the hatred I felt for my job, my coworkers, and myself. I liked to listen to the most brutal, vile music I could find.
Necro - S.T.D.: "This bitch giggled as I snuffed her/She said, 'You can find me everywhere, my name is S.T.D., I'll be your lover.'" You can't escape the stupid choices you've made. Necro knows. Don't come in my office and try to make small talk with me; can't you see I'm writing a story on Post-It notes? You f*cking tool.
Two major elements of Fires are jealousy and rage. I feel traces of both right now, as I type this. In fact, I feel both almost every day. At this point we are pretty comfortable, like friends.
Nirvana - Where Did You Sleep Last Night: The best track off the awesome Unplugged album. Jealousy and rage--and hurt--define Cobain's version of the song. "My girl, my girl, don't lie to me/Tell me, where did you sleep last night?" A man is looking for a woman. She spends the night "in the pines, in the pines." Her husband's head is found, but his body isn't. Yeah, that's the kind of story I like. In fact, I wrote a story whose seeds were scattered in my brain by this song. It's called "Winter Was Hard."
I like the injury, so naked, in Cobain's voice as he does the final verse.
Medium doesn't matter. Most of my favorite art is about the things that make him have to scream those final lines.
Previous Book Notes submissions (authors create playlists for their book)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2007 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2006 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2005 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2004 Edition)