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September 6, 2007

Book Notes - Tara McCarthy ("Wouldn't Miss It for the World")

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that is in some way relevant to their recently published books.

A couple of years ago, Tara McCarthy's novel Love Will Tear Us Apart surprised me with its humor and sincerity. McCarthy returns with Wouldn't Miss It for the World, a novel centering on two members of an indie band and their wedding in Belize. Once again, Tara McCarthy has written a strong novel disguised as a beach read. Her insights into friendship, family relations, and especially indie rock band dynamics (and economics) caused the Cleveland Plain-Dealer to call the book a "hip, witty novel,."

In her own words, here is Tara McCarthy's Book Notes essay for her novel, Wouldn't Miss It for the World:

After writing a novel (Love Will Tear Us Apart) about Siamese twin pop stars and listening to Britney Spears ad nauseum, it was a real treat for me to hang a novel on an indie rock band instead. While Wouldn't Miss It for the World is predominantly about a wedding in Belize, it also tracks the career of the fictional band the Starter House; the bride and groom are members. The band was sort of inspired by Delgados, but also by Metric, both of which were in heavy rotation while I was writing. In fact, it was hard for me to write to anything OTHER than those two bands, with the few exceptions noted below.

Quickly, the book is about the wedding of June Sexton, lead singer of the band, and Cash Evans, the guitarist. June blends the songwriting chops of Emma Pollock of Delgados with the onstage persona of Emily Haines of Metric, whereas Cash is a much quieter presence in the band. Their families and friends have followed them down to Belize for their wedding), and the back-story of the band—and the reality of their uncertain future—unfolds as the week in Belize does…

"Keep on Breathing" by Delgados

It always amazes me how brilliant Emma Pollock's songs are compared to Stuart Henderson's and that's where the seed of the idea for the Starter House's story came from. What's it like to be in a band with two songwriters when one is way more talented than the other one? And then, what if those two people were also in a romantic relationship? Could the relationship thrive? Could the band survive? I listened to the whole Delgados catalogue a lot, really, but something about "Keep on Breathing" epitomizes what Emma's songs have that Stuart's don't. It's an intangible, ethereal quality that moves me; a lot of Stuart's stuff just grates on me.

"Combat Baby" by Metric

Again, any Metric stuff was fair game and I listened to them mostly when I was writing scenes in which June was acting out and pissing people off. I don't know a ton about Emily Haines but I get the sense that she's a real firecracker and June is much the same. My introduction to Ms. Haines came when she performed with Broken Social Scene (opening for the Pixies) and I was instantly mesmerized and then got into Metric. I wanted to write June as the kind of performer that inspires the same sort of awe and intrigue that I felt about Emily Haines that night.

"Kissing Families" by Silversun Pickups

It's funny. I have absolutely no idea what this song is about but, when I was writing, I decided to impose my own meaning on it and managed to somehow make it about a band on the brink of breaking up. I'm sure that if I listened to the song right now, I'd have no idea how I made that the case, but there you have it. I swear there were days, when I was writing the parts of the book that deal with the band's potentially falling apart, when this was all I listened to. Just the one song, over and over and over. At the time I was a member of a group writing space so this was all done on headphones, sparing spouse and neighbors the tedium. The whole time I was writing I was drawn to bands that had girls in them and I like the way, in this song, the female vocal is sort of a haunting, ominous taunt: Soon you'll be there, too. Again, no idea what it means but I dig it.

"It Ain't Me, Babe" as recorded by Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash

Since the June of the book was named after June Carter, it occurs to her one day to play the song with the band, and their cover gets popular and then gets picked up for a car commercial. The band soon finds that they've somehow managed to achieve the exact wrong kind of fame—WB appearances!—and the conflicts that arise as a result could bring about their demise.

"Burst" by Dutch Kills

Much to my husband's consternation, I seem to be incapable of writing a book that doesn't somehow use one of his songs. Last time around, I stole "Anchor" from him and used it as the magnum opus that one of the Siamese twin pop stars was writing secretly for a solo album. Similarly, "Burst" is a sort of secret song that Cash is working on. And just as "Anchor" appeared at the high point of Love Will Tear Us Apart, "Burst" features in a big turning point in Wouldn't Miss It for the World. You're right on the brink of learning whether the wedding—or the band—will go on.

Tara McCarthy and Wouldn't Miss It for the World links:

the author's website
the book's page at the publisher
Tara Altebrando website (the author's young adult fiction nom de plume)\
the author's page at the publisher
the author's Book Notes essay for her novel, Love Will Tear Us Apart

Cleveland Plain Dealer review

the author's "Must Love Brooklyn" essay at Mr. Beller's Neighborhood
the author's backstory
Popgurls interview with the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

Previous Book Notes submissions (authors create playlists for their book)

Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
guest book reviews
musician/author interviews
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2007 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2006 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2005 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2004 Edition)


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