August 25, 2011
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Matthew Norman's Domestic Violets is one of the funniest debut novels I have read in years. With an abundance of social and domestic satire, the book's comic overtones are reinforced by Norman's keen understanding of familial and office interactions.
Booklist wrote of the book:
"Reminiscent of Richard Russo’s earlier work, Norman’s refreshingly witty style is perfectly suited to articulating the trials of a middle-aged cynic. Wonderfully fast-paced, hilariously genuine, difficult to put down, Domestic Violets is an ideal first novel."
I'm almost never really inspired to write. That's probably not the most life-affirming thing for a writer to say, but it's true. I find it difficult and frustrating and it makes me moody and sleepless, particularly when it's going badly. However, on the rare occasion that I am inspired, it's almost always because of music. I'll hear something in a song—maybe it's a lyric or that musical run-up before anyone starts singing—and there will be a strange surge of clarity in whatever part of my brain deals with writing and I'll want to do nothing more than sit down at my wobbly IKEA desk and get to work.
Here's a list songs that had varying degrees of influence on Domestic Violets. Not a bad mix tape. If you're a recently jilted teenaged boy, I suggest standing in a girl's yard and playing any of these songs loudly. At the very least, her neighbors will enjoy it.
"I'm Always in Love" by Wilco
This is a joyous song, but it's also kind of manic, too. "I'm worried, I'm always in love," sings Jeff Tweedy. A guy could get into a lot of trouble with a problem like that.
"Street Fighting Man" by The Rolling Stones
I imagined this song playing during two key scenes—a ridiculous bar fight and the final scene of the book. My characters aren't street fighters, but they wish they were. Don't we all?
"Arc of Time" by Bright Eyes
There's a young, smart, pretty character in my book named Katie who causes all sorts of complications in my narrator's life. She'd be crazy about Coner Oberst and she'd listen to this song in her little apartment while she's putting on makeup.
"Where is My Mind" by The Pixies
This feels like it could be my narrator Tom's theme song. I say that because of the loopy aesthetics and chorus. I am aware that the lyrics don't really make very much sense.
"Some Days Are Better Than Others" by U2
This song has always reminded me of that moment somewhere between youth and adulthood where you accept that you have very little control over things. My book is about a lot of things, but I could make a strong case for it really being about that.
"A Day In The Life" by The Beatles
It starts really slow and melancholy, but takes a jarring, anxiety-ridden turn about two minutes in. It's about someone trying to hold on…and not doing very well.
"Handbags & Gladrags" by Stereophonics
I discovered The Stereophonics and their version of this old song while working on the book. My narrator has an awful, soul-crushing job. The fact that this is the theme song to the original, British version of The Office is probably why it was in my head constantly when I was writing.
"Fluorescent Adolescent" by Arctic Monkeys
"The best you ever had is just a memory," is a line that rang out to me. It's about more than sex, I think, and it's a sentiment that haunts my main character throughout the book.
"Always Love" by Nada Surf
If my narrator's stepfather Gary knew who Nada Surf was, this would be his favorite song in the whole world. He'd listen, give you a big smile, and say, "See, it's like the song says."
"Chicago" by Sufjan Stevens
The lines "I Made A Lot of Mistakes" and "All Things Go" are repeated over and over until they become a mantra of redemption. I played the song a lot while working on the final section of the novel.
Matthew Norman and Domestic Violets links:
Books Matter review
A Home Between Pages review
Like Fire review
Publishers Weekly review
S. Krishna's Books review
Sarah Reads Too Much review
Three Guys One Book review
Write Meg! 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 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