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April 29, 2011

Book Notes - Janice Eidus ("The Last Jewish Virgin")

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

Janice Eidus's novel The Last Jewish Virgin is smart and funny with a clever feminist theme, and impossible to put down.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"Eidus pours it on in this read-without-stopping tale of Jewish and feminist identities assaulted by raw sexual magnetism and otherworldly powers. A smart, vampy, campy send-up."

In her own words, here is Janice Eidus's Book Notes music playlist for her novel, The Last Jewish Virgin:

I like to call The Last Jewish Virgin my literary, Jewish, feminist, fashionista, vampire novel – a vampire novel for non-vampire aficionados as well as vampire aficionados. It's the story of Lilith Zeremba, a young woman rebelling against her intellectually complex, feminist, Jewish mother. Lilith is determined to make her own way – on her own terms – as a successful fashion designer. She's virginal by choice, associating sexual yearning with a lack of focus and ambition. Against her will, however, she finds herself fiercely drawn to two men: her art professor, the much older, wildly mercurial, alternately seductive and sadistic Baron Rock, and Colin Abel, a blue-eyed, blond, radiant young portrait artist.

My intent while writing The Last Jewish Virgin was to merge the timeless romantic myth of the vampire with contemporary life in volatile New York City – and beyond. The vampire here is a metaphor for repressed desire, for overwhelming power, for taboos broken, for insatiable hunger, for the melancholic desire to live forever with one's beloved, and much, much more.

And now the soundtrack, featuring the music the characters in The Last Jewish Virgin would listen to and love:

Lilith Zeremba, the very secular, fashion-obsessed young woman so annoyed by her mother's earnest feminism, would love Lady Gaga's entire oeuvre – especially "Paparazzi" – for the visuals, the fashion, and the post-Madonna/rebellious stance. Katy Perry's "California Gurls" is also a favorite. Lilith would adore the fact that her feminist, academic mother perceives Perry's video as a crass objectification of women, with all those cutesie-pie beauties jiggling their breasts and bums in fluffy, revealing bikinis while purring kittenishly alongside a seemingly misogynistic Snoop Dog. Lilith, on the other hand, views it as ironic post-feminism come to life.

Beth Katz-Zeremba, Lilith's Jewish-with-a-vengeance, feminist mom, listens obsessively to Debbie Friedman, the recently deceased singer/songwriter who was a major force in feminist Jewish folk music. Beth especially loves "The Promise," a lush, melodic song about the singer's never-ending desire for social justice. Despite herself, Beth also loves the soundtrack to Mamma Mia, especially "Does Your Mother Know?" and "Take A Chance On Me," two of Abba's sexy anthems for still-in-the-game middle-aged women.

Tante Molly, Beth's best friend (who's like an aunt to Lilith) is a bi-racial Jew, born and bred in Brooklyn. An actress and drama teacher, she gets teary-eyed listening to "Strange Fruit," Billie Holiday's classic, haunting song about the horrors of racism.

Colin Abel, the younger of Lilith's love interests, is a portrait painter and a self-described "anti-Andy Warhol." He wishes he lived in an earlier time. He relates to the progressive, populist, WPA artists of yesteryear, such as Diego Rivera and Ben Shahn, and therefore also to the singer/songwriter Woody Guthrie. He grew up listening to Guthrie, Leadbelly, and Pete Seeger singing "This Land Is Your Land." He also loves Billy Bragg's cover of "The Internationale," the fierce anthem of international socialism.

Baron Rock, Lilith's alternately sadistic/seductive other paramour, the possible vampire/forty-something artist, loves vintage Rolling Stones. He admires Keith especially (whom many consider a vampire in "real" life), and enjoys listening to "Sympathy For The Devil" while devouring Keith's riveting autobiography, Life. Baron is also big on vintage Guns N' Roses. He loves "Mr. Brownstone," because of its hedonistic edge, and when he watches the "November Rain" video, he performs air guitar to Slash's shirtless solo, feeling equal parts saddened and titillated by fashion model Stephanie Seymour's tragic (but erotic) death, replete with wilting roses, thundering piano, Axl's melancholic graveside visit, and of course, dripping blood.

Janice Eidus and The Last Jewish Virgin links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

Examiner review
Madam Mayo review
Tablet review

Editions Bibliotekos guest essay by the author
Ellen Meeropol interview with the author
Fiction Writers Review interview with the author
Fictionaut interview with the author
My Book, The Movie guest post by the author
The Page 69 Test for the book
Shaking Lit interview with the author
Writers Read guest post by the author

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)
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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