April 2, 2010
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Tony Dushane's debut novel, Confessions of a Teenage Jesus Jerk, is hilarious and often surprisingly touching, a young man's conflicted coming of age story as a Jehovah's Witness.
The Brooklyn Rail wrote of the book:
"Aside from the infectious and swiftly twisting plot and a slew of palpably human characters, the book offers a rare, intimate glimpse at the dogma of a secretive, closely guarded religion, based in part on DuShane's own childhood experiences. Devoting a significant amount of the text to interpretations of the zealous literature Gabe’s father foists upon him at the slightest whiff of sin, DuShane paints a three-dimensional portrait of a culture governed by a distinct fear of youth and of the body."
One excellent Tuesday night in 1985, after coming home from a Bible meeting, I found KPFA. KPFA is a community radio station in Berkeley that's still on the air. Tuesday nights were reserved for a show called "Maximum Rocknroll," which showcased punk rock at the time.
I knew it was the devil's music, as I had been taught over and over again at the Kingdom Hall. The Watchtower Society, which is the leadership of Jehovah's Witnesses, had album burnings of what they gathered as Satanic music, to get rid of all of Satan's influence.
But, there was something so pure and honest about punk rock that I had never felt before. Punk opened doors to many other genres.
My novel, Confessions of a Teenage Jesus Jerk, is a dark comedy loosely based on my experiences growing up a Jehovah's Witness.
These songs mean a lot to me and they inspire my writing.
1. "My War" by Black Flag
My war was my conflicting emotions and feelings that were welling up in me when I was young. I knew I had a war, I just didn't know what to do with it. I believe getting a fun and tragic novel out there about the battles of growing up a Jehovah's Witness is the end of my war.
2. "Fuck Armageddon...This is Hell" by Bad Religion
Jehovah's Witnesses believe God is killing over 7 billion people at any second who aren't JWs. I actually believed in it when I was younger. The novel explores that theme. The song pick is obvious.
3. "Personal Jesus" by Depeche Mode
Comfort food. I really can't write with music on unless it's drone or something similar. But songs like this help me after I had to dig too deep into my soul for one paragraph. It reads easy on the page, but to get a novel to read easy and stick with a reader, it takes lots of energy, sleepless nights and sometimes throwing something across the room. A bible makes for a decent throw and sounds loud against a wall.
4. "Abattoir Blues" by Nick Cave
"My need for validation babe, gone completely berserk...."
First and foremost I write for myself, I write what I would want to read, I write what would blow me away and make me want to buy the author a drink, or a condo......but once the work is out there, it's no longer mine. The only cure is to work on the next project. I have two books going right now, one novel and one non-fiction. Nick Cave is more comfort food and my favorite singer.
5. Anything by Sunn 0)))
And most music on Southern Lord Records. I listened to sludge and drone metal on my rewrites. It kept me in the zone. It kept the comedy dark.
6. "New Jack Hustler" by Ice-T
H-U-S-T-L-E-R, Hustler. I gotta rev myself up when I'm writing something that may never see the light of day. Digging deep. The novel gets written before a publisher looks at it. Denial. Delusion. Hustle. Time. Lots of time. Then more time. Then so much god damn time a gray hair pops out on my chest. Then a little more. My only hope was that someone would publish it. That roll of the dice that has to come up double six. Twelve times in a row. My novel is years of my life. It has to be absolutely amazing and it still might not get published. Hustle!
7. "Failure" by Swans
Writing is failing. Then just keep failing less and less on each rewrite. Embrace that failure. Failure is creativity.
8. "This Monkey's Gone to Heaven" by the Pixies
A friend of mine jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge during my second to last rewrite. For some reason this song resonated, and kept my hand scribbling edits.
9. "Hank Williams Said It Best" by Mick Harvey
The song is all about perspective, and in order to care about every character in my novel, even those hurting Gabe, they needed to be written with a pure heart. "One man's funny is another man's cruel."
10. "Seven Languages" by Camper Van Beethoven
"I would come to visit you. But I can't find my car keys. And I can't remember where you live....."
I think of a romantic guy, trying everything he can to get the girl, but self doubt always getting in his way. That's Gabe's life. That's my life. "I would come to visit you. But I can't find my car keys. And I can't think of the right words to say....."
Tony DuShane and Confessions of a Teenage Jesus Jerk links:
Ashcan Magazine review
The Brooklyn Rail review
Is Greater Than review
Minneapolis Star-Tribune review
The Nervous Breakdown review
Not About Religion review
Publishers Weekly review
The Rumpus review
SF Weekly review
Three Imaginary Girls review
Valet Reader 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)
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