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February 15, 2011

Book Notes - Stacy Pershall ("Loud in the House of Myself: Memoir of a Strange Girl")

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

Stacy Pershall's new book, Loud in the House of Myself: Memoir of a Strange Girl, is one of the most startlingly honest memoirs I have ever read. Pershall openly shares her struggles with borderline personality disorder, anorexia and bulimia from her childhood in Arkansas through college and eventually adult life in New York. Rarely have I experienced a book so immersive, Stacy Pershall excels at putting the reader in her shoes and demystifying mental illness. Though the book is intense, Pershall's offbeat sense of humor pervades the book.

Loud in the House of Myself: Memoir of a Strange Girl is an important book, we can all learn from Stacy Pershall's story.

Kirkus Reviews wrote of the book:

"A sobering, exhaustive amalgam of scary psychoses and liberating introspection."


In her own words, here is Stacy Pershall's Book Notes music playlist for her memoir, Loud in the House of Myself: Memoir of a Strange Girl:


I didn't realize when writing Loud in the House of Myself just how often I mentioned music. It makes sense, though, given the fact that I do my best writing when I think of it as composing. My favorite writers have a song in their speech – Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor, Richard Powers – and I believe that when you get the song right, you get the book right.

This is not to say that all the songs on my list have actual musical merit, just that they featured prominently in my life. Much of the book takes place in the '80s, so I make no pretension of taste.


"The Pleasure Principle" – Janet Jackson

That chair. That damn chair. I wrote in the book that she tipped over the chair and slid across the floor on her knees, then found the video again and realized she actually didn't do the slide. But there was a chair, and she did tip it over, and she did wear kneepads. This is sometimes how memory works.


"Boy Meets Girl" – Haircut 100

The drill team tryout song in Prairie Grove, AR in 1985. I did not make it, but I did incur a knee injury that has haunted me for life.


"We Got the Beat" - The Go-Go's

One of the records my Baptist youth group minister said was "secular" and encouraged me to turn over to him so I could speed up a little in my walk with the Lord.


"Consider Me Gone" – Sting

I mention Sting repeatedly in the book – he was my big rock star crush in high school, the one I stayed up late watching Night Tracks to see. Michael Apted's Sting-goes-solo documentary Bring on the Night, about the making of the album The Dream of the Blue Turtles, came out when I was in high school, and actually played in Fayetteville, AR for two days. I was the only person in the theater when I went to see it. Say what you will about Sting and his yoga sex and his seven castles and three rain forests, the man is a lyricist: "To search for perfection is all very well/But to look for heaven is to live here in hell." Damn, that's good. (Also, I would like to note in retrospect that Stewart Copeland was totally the sexy one in The Police.)


"Dead Man's Party" – Oingo Boingo

I lost my virginity to Oingo Boingo. Not to the band itself, but they were playing at the time.


"Close to Me" – The Cure

The album I listened to over and over in the art room when I cleaned paintbrushes during lunch (and one of my elective hours) during my senior year of high school. I tried to spend as much time as I could with Mrs. Kilgore because she let me pick the music.


"Suedehead" – Morrissey

I found myself to this song. In the summer of 1988, I attended a life-changing arts camp called Arkansas Governor's School. The artfags and I used to dance to Morrissey's album Viva Hate on the roof of the library. After a lifetime of asking myself, "Why do you come here, and why do you hang around?" I found the song that asked the same question and simultaneously was its own answer.

Master of the House – Les Miserables soundtrack

My roommate at Governor's School was a Les Miserables maniac. She had Les Mis cups, towels, t-shirts, and several versions of the soundtrack. This was her favorite song, and she played it over and over again. It took a lot of Smiths to chase it out of my head every day.


The Wall - Pink Floyd

One of the most upsetting things I've ever seen in my life. I hope never to see it again.


"Batdance" – Prince

The first song that ever split apart, during my first mania, on the plane to London in 1989. There was music on a loop coming from the arm of the chair; you could plug in your headphones and listen to it over and over again, which I did. After about the 10th repeat of "Batdance," it did a strange sort of splitting into component instruments that I could hear all at once. This effect is how I know mania is coming.


"I Want to Marry a Lighthouse Keeper" – A Clockwork Orange soundtrack

This is the song I sang to audition for Agnes of God in college. To this day, that still mortifies me, and is one of the most embarrassing things I can admit about myself. You're welcome.


"Untouchable Face" – Ani DiFranco

In many ways, I think this is The Borderline Song. I don't know what I'd have done without the album Dilate when my first love Reese and I broke up. Ani is a poet, and the best performer I've ever seen live. The part where she says, "There's a changing constellation/of balls as we are playing/I see Orion and say nothing," still makes me shiver. Plus, nobody Feels It like Ani, and I appreciate that.


"Bright Red" – Laurie Anderson

I love Laurie Anderson so much it's stupid. There's probably no other artist who has had the kind of impact on me she has. She is consistently brilliant as a writer, musician, and visual artist. All of us chicks who make weird stuff should have altars to her: there was never a stranger girl than Laurie. I have the words "This long thin line," from the song "Tightrope" tattooed around my left wrist. Around my right are the words "This electrical machine," which is from The Bride of Frankenstein. The quotes represent the body and the bodies before us, through whose ours came to exist.


Jim White

Jim White is the best alt-country wackadoo musician you never heard of. I met him in 1997 opening for David Byrne in Cincinnati. Since then I've been a slavish fan, and was lucky enough to get a blurb from him. When my editor and I were discussing blurb authors, a young guy across the hall at Norton overheard us and yelled, "Jim White RULES!" That young man is correct. Go get the album Wrong-Eyed Jesus, or see the documentary Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus, right this minute. Seriously. Like, NOW. I'll wait here.


Stacy Pershall and Loud in the House of Myself: Memoir of a Strange Girl links:

the author's website
the author's blog
video trailer for the book

Kirkus Reviews review
The Literary Wife review
Zella review

Seventeen guest post by the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

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

Online "Best Books of 2010" lists
Online "Best Music of 2010" lists

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


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