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April 22, 2010

Book Notes - Monika Fagerholm ("The American Girl")

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

A bestseller in Sweden and Finland, The American Girl is a smart, literary thriller. A murder mystery at its core, the novel envelops the reader in the wonderfully strange world of two young girls as they come of age.

Oprah magazine wrote of the book:

"Nothing is obvious in The American Girl, a deliciously complex novel by award-winning Scandinavian writer Monika Fagerholm. Set in the 1970s, the book is part literary mystery, part sexual coming-of-age story about two lonely local girls, Doris and Sandra, who retreat into a world of their own imaginations, spending hours speculating about the dark details surrounding the American girl's death."

In her own words, here is Monika Fagerholm's Book Notes music playlist for her novel, The American Girl:

Music is central to The American Girl. Its soundtrack reflects how characters perceive music, live with music in their heads, and in this way make music their own. That is, like I think we all do, when we hear some music which goes into our heads and bodies, it's not music as such. We tend to put into it of ourselves--shifts in the words, twists in melodies, sometimes one song gets mixed up with another song but still it plays on inside of us, a cacophony of the soul, body and mind. Music is significant, sometimes deeply so, because all these twists and confusions have to do with ourselves: what we put into the songs and melodies we hear, of our own memories, experiences, feelings... and it is in this way a song, a melody lives in us, over the years, travels through time, and turns into clusters of personal, intimate feelings, experiences. Not only GOOD songs, sometimes a song, a melody just catches on because we detest it--like Melanie's song below, which is central to the novel. Here are the songs that play in my head when I think about The American Girl:

"Look What They've Done to My Song, Ma" by Melanie

A popular tune in the early seventies when Eddie de Wire ("the American girl" in the novel), goes to Coney Island and records her own version of it in a public recording booth. She has this record in her bag when she travels to a secluded rural area of Finland, and soon after is discovered drowned in a marsh. The record is almost all that remains of "the American girl" and takes on a life of its own in the story.

"I'm not in Love" by 10 CC

"Trash" by The New York Dolls

"Pretty Vacant" by The Sex Pistols

Warhol producing Nico & The Velvet Underground

Add to this mix some Television, Van McCoy, The Hustle...

And finally some old Swedish folk songs, especially melodies composed to poems by Dan Andersson.

And then you will have this peculiar mix which is backdrop to the novel; a sound mat, or a wave we keep hearing in the distance coming from the lovely seafront where the rich people have their summer houses and their forbidden beaches. This is a story about a murder, yes, but mostly a story about consequences of a crime turning into a story of a crime and thus creating new stories, with tragic events to follow. It is a story about friendship and love and sorrow and death: about two lonely girls acting out a crime story at the bottom of a swimming pool in a cellar in a strange house in the distant part of the woods, to their own soundtrack.

Monika Fagerholm and The American Girl links:

excerpt from the book

Bookreporter review
California Literary Review review
First Person Plural review
New York Post review
Oprah review
PK in the Terrarium review
Publishers Weekly review

also at Largehearted Boy:

other Book Notes playlists (authors create music playlists for their book)

52 Books, 52 Weeks (weekly book reviews)
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly highlights of comics & graphic novels)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly highlights of new books)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from this week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists

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