April 1, 2011
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Bathsheba Monk's debut novel Nude Walker combines forbidden love, magical realism, and a copious amount of warmth and humor in this skillfully told ensemble tale of modern post-war small town America.
Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:
"A winning mix of humor, mysticism, and sympathy for people adapting to a swiftly changing world make for an appealing tale."
I think Jean-Paul Sartre first posed the musical question: Can Dylan and Disco exist in the same brain without that brain exploding?
Whoa! I hear you saying, that's a trick question! Sartre adored the Bee Gees, yet everyone knew that Dylan was his secret indulgence. Sartre wanted it all. Me too! While I love Disco, dance to it with my cat when I'm writing, it was a Dylan song, "Like a Rolling Stone," that started the ball rolling (so to speak) on Nude Walker. Story: I was temping in a Cambridge consulting firm, posing as a receptionist who couldn't figure out the phone system, and overheard a consultant, MIT, Harvard MBA--"You've gone to the finest school all right, Miss Lonely"—complaining about her future mother-in-law who had taken her and her betrothed to dinner the night before "wearing this thing, like a table cloth, over her head. What's that supposed to be?" The consultant, sporting a carat and a half (me wondering how she could scratch her nose without knocking an eye out) was upset, not because she and betrothed needed the vacation place on the Vineyard the mother-in-law controlled—with those degrees, life would be wheeled in by servants who would hand feed choice morsels to the couple—but that the hippie dippie mother-in-law in a poncho was the matriarch of the bride's future dynasty and that mother-in-law was slightly mad. Not in the script! "You said you'd never compromise, With the mystery tramp, but now you realize, He's not selling any alibis, As you stare into the vacuum of his eyes, And ask him do you want to make a deal?"
What, I wondered on the way home from work on the Red Line that night, would happen to Miss Lonely if this was just the beginning of things going bad? "Princess on the steeple and all the pretty people, They're drinkin', thinkin' that they got it made, Exchanging all kinds of precious gifts and things, But you'd better lift your diamond ring, you'd better pawn it babe."
Miss Lonely tumbled and morphed into the Nude Walker whose industrialist family buried contaminated sludge under their private golf course next to the property of Wind Storm, a beautiful Lenape shaman who gives love advice to local young unmarried women, "young and sweet, only seventeen" like Abba's "Dancing Queens." Wind is a little jaded about love: "You come in to look for a king, Anybody could be that guy." But soon Wind falls in love too.
The Nude Walker sends her emissary, Cantwell, to try to buy Wind's land—there's that dirty little pollution secret she doesn't want discovered, but instead Cantwell falls in love with Wind. Their love song is right out of Crosby, Stills and Nash's "Judy Blue Eyes." "Something inside is telling me that I've got your secret," Cantwell sings (literarily speaking) to Wind, who wants to sell but doesn't want to betray her ancestors by doing so. If she sells, they'll never find their way home again. "Don't let the past remind us of what we are not now." Their love is doomed and Wind says, "I'm going to fly away. What have I got to lose?" Cantwell, heartbroken but hopeful that they will get together after Wind discovers her true self thinks "Chestnut brown canary, Ruby throated sparrow. Sing the song, don't be long." But Wind is lost to Cantwell, because "How can you catch the sparrow?"
Meanwhile, the Nude Walker's daughter, Kat, engaged to her high school sweetheart, falls in love with Lebanese-American, Max, who is also engaged. Thunderbolt! Kat feels, like Beyoncé doing Etta James' "At Last," "I found a thrill to press my cheek to, a thrill I've never known." But forces tear them apart. The dumped sweetheart's jealousy: "You finish in first, I finish in last. I would give anything to just be you." Zen for Primates Mike Krisukas'* "Just to Be You." And bigotry and hatred from the town hoodlums bent on taking down the new guy in town: "He feels privileged, he's got a white girl who's hated by both her parents." Z Man's "Bigots and Bitches." Violence ends the love affair, and Kat admits, like Cat Power in "Could We": Maybe we "fell in love too fast, too soon love full bloom." Now wait a minute: "Too soon love full bloom?" Sounds like Romeo and Juliet, doesn't it? Nice juxtaposition to the synthesized drum thing she has going.
I'm singing a song, too. I want to move on to the next project, but as I try to extricate myself from the world of Nude Walker and the characters that populate it: nude, clothed, walking, rowing and flying, I am Joe Cocker singing "Matthew Morris' Space Captain":
"Once while traveling across the sky
This lovely planet caught my eye
Being curious I flew close by
Now I'm caught here
Till I die."
*coincidentally my co-conspirator in a musical
Bathsheba Monk and Nude Walker links:
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 comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
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