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February 15, 2008

Book Notes - Cindy Guidry ("The Last Single Woman in America")

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

In The Last Single Woman in America, Cindy Guidry collects a series of essays that follow her life after losing both her job and the love of her life. Funny, heartfelt, and honest, the book has already been optioned by HBO for development into a possible television series.

In her own words, here is Cindy Guidry's Book Notes essay for her memoir, The Last Single Woman in America:

If I’d actually sat down to write a book, it probably would have never happened. This is a collection of personal essays written over many years that just sort of magically turned into a book. A lot of music wafted (or more often, blasted) out of my speakers in that time.

Being from New Orleans, I think a love for music was bred into me. I can’t imagine life without it. I can’t engage in a technical discussion concerning chords or influences or anything like that, but I know what I like, and I know what moves me.

There are a number of musical references in the book, and the whole thing begins with my recounting of a dinner with Dave Matthews during which I was rendered mute due to the tremendous spiritual effect his music had had on me a year earlier when things were not exactly going my way. Some people get Dave, some people don’t. I really get him and I really screwed up an absolutely perfect opportunity to tell him just how much his music meant to me.

That said, I offer you this essay-by-essay playlist of songs that have something or other to do with the associated stories.

“Once In A Lifetime” by Talking Heads
“Dancing Nancies” by Dave Matthews

At 36, it struck me that not only did my life look nothing at all like I expected it to look at that point, it was beginning to look less and less like my friends’ lives as well. And I did ask myself, well, how did I get here? Then I turned to Dave #2, and he assured me that there was no use in worrying or hurrying.

(Music makes a good Magic 8-Ball)

“How It Should Be” by Ben Kweller

I probably wasn’t quite so sure things were as they should be at this point, but the general attitude of this song is a near perfect reflection of the attitude I often adopt when faced with my neighbor, who is introduced in this essay.

“Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie

One of my all-time favorite songs, it is discussed here then comes up again later in the book, where it actually has thematic relevance. I love Freddie Mercury’s voice, and I love the lyrics even more.

“Let’s Not Shit Ourselves” by Bright Eyes

So we’re shooting at different targets, my story is about Hollywood, but I think this song’s title alone says it all.

“Fear and Love” by Morcheeba

This is a silly story, but underneath the nonsense was the realization that I had become a prisoner of fear.

“A Spoonful Weighs A Ton” by The Flaming Lips

I think this is such a beautiful song, and since it’s about love, and somewhat kaleidoscopic, it seems fitting for a story about my family in which a moment speaks volumes.

“Where Is My Mind?” by Pixies

I chose this song because I think The Viking might explode if I chose a song by a band he didn’t approve of for his essay, and because we were probably both a little out of our minds at the time.

“Paris, Paris” by Malcolm McLaren and Catherine Deneuve

My plans were thwarted by a run-in with a man I never needed to see again and a bunch of crazy Turks, but this is the Paris I was going for.

“Sing Yo’ Praise” by Camille Yarborough

Again, wishful thinking, but I hope to be able to apply this song to someone someday and really, who wants to listen to a song about men who don’t know how to change a tire?

“(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding” by Elvis Costello

I’m using a wrecking ball to do the job of a flyswatter with this song, but the thought of belting this out in the Pilates studio makes me laugh.

“Put Me In Your Mix” by Barry White

Here I call into question Barry’s claim (made in this song) that he was capable of making a woman’s toenails curl. But in listening to the song again, I realize that it provides a nice counterpoint to what is happening (or I should say not happening) in this story.

“Mathar” by The Dave Pike Set

I adopted this as my theme song back in 1997. If you were to scratch the CD so that it began skipping almost immediately after the song began playing, then yanked your CD player’s plug out of the socket at some point after that, you’d have a pretty good audio facsimile of what’s happening in this essay.

Anything by Whitesnake

A friend and I got a lift from a large tattooed Whitesnake fan. The song I remember him playing sounded to me like it was about oral sex, but I just don’t have it in me to figure out exactly which song it was. And in fact, all Whitesnake songs could be about oral sex for all I know.

“Everybody Plays The Fool” by Aaron Neville

What can I say? We all get blindsided from time to time.

“The Look of Love” by ABC

This is me coming to terms with the fact that I’m a 40 yr. old cat lady, while watching the guy who’s poop I’d been scooping for over a decade give the veterinarian he’d just met the look of love. Plus, I just love the theatricality of this song and have been known to leap onto my coffee table and say to myself, Martin, maybe one day you’ll find true love. And I say, ah, maybe, but there must be a solution…

“Iko Iko” by James “Sugar Boy” Crawford

It’s tempting to use “A Spoonful Weighs a Ton” again since this essay is really about Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. (Rob Marciano is just a cute weatherman who periodically graced my television screen.) But because there is no song that screams New Orleans to me more than “Iko Iko,” and because it hurts less to think of New Orleans with that song playing in my head, I’m sticking with it. It’s been covered by dozens of bands, but any version works.

“In a Sentimental Mood” by Duke Ellington (John Coltrane version)

There’s always this moment when my mom and I are parting after having spent time together, this moment when I want to press a REWIND button that doesn’t exist, that would allow me to go back and be more patient, more loving, more everything. This song sort of captures that feeling.

“You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by The Rolling Stones

This is a story about the child I never had and an obnoxious man who, knowing nothing about my past, felt perfectly comfortable telling me that I was unnatural for not having children.

“Chokin’ Kind” by Walter “Wolfman” Washington

This song is about the kind of “love” that usually sends people running, by one of my favorite New Orleans musicians. As Walter puts it, your love scares me to death.

“These Foolish Things” by Bryan Ferry/Roxy Music

I don’t get online dating. I don’t know how to get excited by a still photograph of someone I don’t know. Too much is missing. This song is my response to profiles. In the same way that unexpected things can linger and haunt, I think it’s the unexpected things that really suck you in.

“I’m Not Sorry” by Morrissey

Not a perfect match, but I think the mood of this song reflects how I was feeling at the time, as I was coming to terms with the choices I’d made. Plus, I like the line I’m not looking for just anyone.

“See The World” by Gomez

I’ve been in love with this band since I first heard them in 1999. I never get bored with them. They’re constantly throwing some strange new sound into their music that leaves me scratching my head wondering what instrument could have possibly caused it. They’re like my dream jug band. And I could listen to Ben Ottewell’s voice forever. In a way, their latest album How We Operate could be the soundtrack for the whole book. But here I use the following lyrics from this one particular song:

And when it’s all been said and done
It’s the things that are given, not won are
The things that you want

This is also the essay in which “Under Pressure” reappears, and where it really has significance.

“Sunshine On My Shoulders” by John Denver

That’s it. I’ve still got way too many complicated feelings about all this to say anything more than that.

“Safe” by Travis

The book didn’t actually have an epilogue until now.

Cindy Guidry and The Last Single Woman in America links:

the author's website
the book's page at the publisher
an excerpt from the book

Times-Picayune review

New York Daily News interview with the author
Times-Picayune profile of the author
USA Today 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
directors and actors discuss their film's soundtracks
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2008 Edition)
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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