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May 8, 2009

Book Notes - Lori Culwell ("Hollywood Car Wash")

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

Lori Culwell's Hollywood Car Wash first caught my attention a couple of years ago, when rumors about the book being a Katie Holmes roman a clef swirled around. The fun, scandalous, Hollywood novel is now in paperback, and should be at the top of many "summer reading" lists.

In her own words, here is Lori Culwell's Book Notes essay for her novel, Hollywood Car Wash:

I guess I’ll just start with the first, most popular thing about this book—no, it is not just about one person, though it is a number of true stories interwoven to create a single narrative. When I moved back to L.A. in 2004, I reconnected with a lot of old friends who were in the entertainment industry, as well as forming some new friendships. Time and again, I was struck by the complete nonchalance with which my actress friends were told to lose weight, “get better looking,” or change something about themselves in order to get or keep a part. This, combined with the downright absurdity of some of the stories about the business I heard and experiences I witnessed first-hand, convinced me that there was a novel in there somewhere. Hollywood Car Wash is the result of time spent in Los Angeles, which, despite the ubiquitous warm weather for which it is so famous, can be one of the coldest places on earth.

I am a big (big!) music fan, so I listened to a wide variety of music while writing the book, and music will be integral to the movie version of Hollywood Car Wash, which has been optioned as a screenplay. This playlist is a mix of songs that remind me of certain parts of the book, just as certain songs or bands remind me of certain parts of Los Angeles.

Impossible Germany, by Wilco

When we meet Amy, she is a cool, hard-working, indie film loving college student. Before she’s swept up into the world of the industry, she’s got Wilco on her iPod and is listening to Sky Blue Sky on a daily basis while she walks around her college in Michigan, going to class and work, auditioning for plays, and trying to stay ahead of the grief of her father’s death by pretending she doesn’t have feelings. To me, Wilco’s music is the perfect intersection of hipness and depression.

Dosed, by the Red Hot Chili Peppers

There is something so quintessentially Los Angeles about the Red Hot Chili Peppers—even the guitar line sounds like a hot night driving up the 101 Freeway. There were many of their songs that would have worked in this list, but I’m going to imagine that “Dosed” is playing when she’s on Sunset for the first time, during the callback process, just getting completely enveloped by the situation and the city.



Take it away

I never had it anyway
Take it away

And everything’ll be ok



Smile, by Lily Allen

I like that this song sounds perky and sweet, but is really all about schadenfraude, so it has that dark underbelly that I really like to explore for satirical purposes. To me, this song does a good job of simultaneous plasticity / darkness that pervades the entertainment industry. Also, Amy’s friend Vince seems like he has a Lily Allen song playing in the background of his life all the time. The underlying theme of this song is also really appropriate for the book’s ending.


Two Kinds, by Film School



There is a feeling of being "swept up" into Amy's world, and this song feels very "montage-y," like you're getting sucked in with her to the transformation.  You want her to say no, and you think you would say no yourself.....or would you?


Agnus Dei, by Rufus Wainwright



Amy makes a "depressing songs" playlist when she finds out her days of eating like a regular girl are over.  This is the song that she plays on repeat until Vince forces her to go out. This song gives an excellent overall impression that the world is collapsing in on itself.

No One Knows, by Queens of the Stone Age

Before the Golden Globes, Amy’s studio sends her to We Care Spa in the desert, for detox and weight loss. This song is playing in the background as we watch Amy really start the process of giving over her life and her body to the industry. Also, I grew up (in the desert) with the guys in this band and really dig their music.


We get these pills to swallow

How they stick in your throat

Taste like gold

Oh what you do to me

No one knows

Straight to the Top, by Tom Waits

There are several “Oh my God, that’s so crazy” stories in the book—moments that can really only be captured by a crunchy, clangy Tom Waits song. Tom Waits has always served the role of delightful satirical and darkly comedic clown in my music collection, so I try to put a Waits moment in my writing when possible—it’s usually that moment where you realize that the world you’re in is actually sort of carnival-ish. This song reminds me of these weird paparazzi experiences she starts having, where she realizes that she is too famous to do things like use a public bathroom.


In Your Eyes, by Peter Gabriel



An incurable romantic at heart, Amy's favorite movie is Say Anything.   We hope that during the story, Amy is going to reach out from the inside.  Also one of my favorite songs and movies.



Honey and the Moon, by Joseph Arthur



The "Dan and Amy in New York" song.  If she thought she was in over her head with her tv job and new life, what happens when she falls in love with someone who is not her movie star fiance?



Straight Lines, by Silver Chair



Rejected and damaged, Amy finds herself again, and we root for her.  An homage to survivors that is even better than "Eye of the Tiger."


Empty, by Ray Lamontagne



And really, the whole album of "Till the Sun Turns Black.". This is the album I listened to during the entire rewrite.  I think Lamontagne’s songs really capture the essence of the writing process--sometimes painful, sometimes easy, and occasionally groovy.


Lori Culwell and Hollywood Car Wash links:

the author's blog
the book's website
excerpt from the book

Armchair Interviews review
Curled Up with a Good Book review
New York Daily News review
Psychotic State review
Publishers Weekly review
Quality Book Reviews review
Trashionista review

Celebritology interview with the author
Media Predict 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

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