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October 31, 2007

Book Notes - Veronica Gonzalez ("Twin Time: or, How Death Befell Me")

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

Often when I receive a debut novel, I have no expectations, but with twin time: or, how death befell me that wasn't the case. Veronica Gonzalez co-edited one of my favorite short story compilations of all time, Juncture: 25 Very Good Stories and 12 Excellent Drawings, and also edited Inflatable Magazine.

Her debut novel, twin time: or, how death befell me, winds from Los Angeles to Mexico City as a woman seeks out her twin brother. Poetic in voice and wonderfully woven with personal mythologies, this novel portends a great future for Veronica Gonzalez in fiction.

Of the book, Publisher's Weekly wrote:

"Defying easy categorization, Gonzalez's debut novel is an often-mesmerizing account of a young woman's search for the truth about her parents, with absorbing stream-of-consciousness passages that draw the reader into her mind...."

In her own words, here is Veronica Gonzales's Book Notes essay for her debut novel, twin time: or, how death befell me:

There are two main characters in twin time, each inhabiting her own part of the book without much overlap, even though they are mother and daughter. Music is central to the first section, which is the story of Mara, a beautiful sixteen-year-old who lives in Mexico City in the late 60s. For Mara music means love. Her first love (though the romance is mostly in her head) teaches her about French film and American jazz and she hears a lot of music throughout, and notes it when she does. The list of songs for this part of twin time would go something like this:

Billie Holiday – A Sailboat in the Moonlight

Manuel plays Billie Holiday for Mara on his second visit to her house… they lay on the floor together, heads on pillows, listening to that voice dance circles around them.

Sathima Benjamin – I Could Write a Book

This is from her only recording, a record Manuel is very secretive about having, and this song is just out of this world gorgeous, and perfect for a writer… and the simple secret of the plot would be to show that I love you a lot…

Nina Simone …

Doing “Darn That Dream,” though I’m not sure she ever recorded this standard, at one point in the book Manuel brings Mara three different versions of the song, Sathima Benjamin and Billie Holiday’s do exist, Nina’s should if it doesn’t…

Miles Davis – So What

Mara doesn’t ever tell Manuel that she doesn’t like the jazz trumpets and horns he brings for her to listen to as much as the women singing, but Miles Davis comes up again later in this first section, as a beacon for her second love, and helps lead Mara to her decision to run off to London with him.

Charles Aznavour singing “Tu t’laises aller” in A Woman Is a Woman

Mara loves this film. She can’t believe the beauty of Ana Karina, that glamorous blue outfit she wears in a bar as she sits with Jean Paul Belmondo almost crying while she looks at a photo of her boyfriend with another woman, while Aznavour sings hilariously about love unkempt.

Iggy Pop – The Passenger

It’s anachronistic but this is the perfect song for Mara as she rides around in the cars of the men her mother hooks up with, Mara there in the back, feeling pulled along.

The Beach Boys - Wouldn’t It Be Nice

And wouldn’t it be nice to live together in the kind of world where we belong…. This is the song Michael sings to convince Mara to run off to London with him. He also sings, A World Without Love, I don’t care what they say I won’t stay in a world without love…. She goes, leaving one of her twins, Mona of section two, behind.

There would have to be a lot of Beatles and Elvis too in this part of the book, as this is the music every young person listened to in Mexico City at the time and Mara mentions this early in the book.

Part two of twin time tells the story of Mona and is set in the 80s and 90s (the flashbacks of Mona in school are all 80s); Mona, motherless in the 1980s and then in the late 90s going off in search of her brother and the information he can provide about the mother who left her as an infant. This part was harder for me to put music to, because though the music of this period was important to me it was not so to Mona – punk in the 80s in Los Angeles was what got you out of your house and into a larger social space… this was a very suburban time in LA, all stoners and surfers and isolated backyards and a vanishing into flatness and this music drew you out and made you feel you were a part of a city; it brought kids from all over together and exposed you to new ideas. I loved laying in bed and listening to the radio at night, Rodney Bingenheimer on the weekends, hearing what was going on in other parts of the world; but Mona is mostly miserable as a teenager so music is more of a backdrop for her, though she is angry and the energy of the music would capture something about her.

The Suburban Lawns – Janitor

This is what I imagine playing as Mona and Mineko lay in a field while they let a couple of older guys fondle them, affectless, staring straight ahead the way Su Tissue does as she sings this.

Bow Wow Wow – Sexy Eiffel Tower

This is the song Mona and Anita listen to together before Anita tells Mona she’s heard some horrible truths about her mom. Just before this fateful moment, the girls do feel sexy.

Wall of Voodoo – Mexican Radio

Just because.

X - Los Angeles

It has to be there. Mona wandering around, ditching school, angry with her father.

Wire – I Am the FLY

Because of their energy and because they’re great. One of the best shows I saw was The Ex-Lion Tamers opening for Wire. At the end of the show they all played more Wire together on the stage. My daughter loves to sing this song.

The Cure – A Forest

As Mona starts moving from her home on a mountaintop into a forest the music would have to change a bit, become slower, darker; this song...

Echo and the Bunnymen - Nothing Lasts Forever

Because she’s moving into something new and it is terrifying and she’s not sure what she will find.

My Bloody Valentine – Only Shallow

Mona, asleep on the moss, with visions of her mother, her voice coming to her from out of some deep place: Sleep like a pillow…

Red House Painters – Katy Song

This song of failed love sounds like it was written for Mara and Mona… some escape, a forest, water (a spring), London, life without you…

And then I imagine a lot more plaintive music, Nick Drake, and Leonard Cohen and the Morrissey of The Smiths.

Part Three is a much shorter section, where Mara finally finds her twin brother.

The Flaming Lips – Feeling Yourself Disintegrate

Love and death.

Elliott Smith – Independence Day

Once I was you. Perfect for a twin.

Guided by Voices – Mincer Ray

…don't worry if the road's a little worn, it's a cold and filthy cavern that we're traveling on, and a light shines down, and a light shines down…

The book would end with Leonard Cohen reciting The Book of Longing

I know she is coming
I know she will look
And that is the longing
And this is the book.

Veronica Gonzalez and twin time: or, how death befell me links:

the book's page at its publisher
the book's page at its distributor

Publisher's Weekly review

author interview at KCRW's Bookworm (tomorrow, November 1, 2007)
author interview at KCRW's Bookworm (tomorrow, June 22, 2006)

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
directors and actors discuss their film's soundtracks
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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