September 21, 2011
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Matt Haig's The Radleys is much more than another vampire novel. Though filled with nods to vampiric lore, Haig is just as interested in exploring suburban family drama in this fun, well-written book.
The Dallas Morning News wrote of the book:
"The genius of Matt Haig's book is that the vampirism takes a back seat - a wet, bloody back seat, but still - to the blackly comic family turmoil that's at the center of the story...Take that, you Twilight mob. The trains of vampire lit and actual lit just met, in a glorious burst of sharp red."
The Radleys is a novel full of music. I suppose music, like other art forms, gives a voice for unspoken or at least hard-to-articulate yearnings and desires. And the vampire family at the heart of the story, who struggle to uphold a normal suburban existence, have their share of unspoken desires. And their Uncle Will, who lives his life to a debauched and gloriously dated rock soundtrack, is essentially Keith Richards with added fangs. Here's the playlist:
'Purple Haze', Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix was a vampire. He used to play the guitar with his fangs. And 'Purple Haze' was really 'Purple Veins' but he recorded another, less obviously vampiric version which could actually be released.
All the above information is told by Will Radley to his niece Clara, who has only just discovered - in the most violent of ways - her true identity, as they listen to the song in her bedroom, drinking blood.
'Twentieth Century Fox', The Doors
Uncle Will listens to this, tapping a rhythm against the steering wheel, as he drives along the motorway at four in the morning, towards Bishopthorpe, where his more outwardly conventional relatives live.
In The Radleys Jim Morrison was really Lord Byron, during his later American years. He was still fresh-faced owing to his excessive blood drinking. Will loves late sixties rock music. It fits him as someone living out of time, a dated rocker cliche living in the past, in search of a new identity he can't quite find.
Will, as an outdated predatory creature, is the true twentieth century fox.
'Paint it Black', Rolling Stones
This is the song which the Radley brothers Will and Peter covered when they were teens in the band the Haemo Goblins, only they reworked the lyrics to 'Paint it Red'. The other song they played was a self-penned ditty called 'When I Kiss You I think of Cherries.'
'Enjoy the Silence', Depeche Mode
For no other reason than this was the song that was most in my head as I was writing the novel. Particularly the lyrics 'All I ever wanted, all I ever needed, is here, in my arms ...' These lyrics could apply to quite a few of the main characters.
'Sunny Afternoon,' The Kinks
The Kinks were the anti-goths. But their very British, summery, subtly satirical music sums up the life the Radleys pretend to want. The daytime, breezy and ever-so-English lifestyle captured so beautifully in this song.
'Once in a Lifetime', Talking Heads
Simply because this is the archetypal mid-life crisis song, so perfectly suits Peter Radley's state of mind as he watches the days go by, with mounting dread and fear.
'Under My Thumb', The Rolling Stones
The best song on offer on the jukebox at the village pub Will goes to for his confrontation with Jared Copeland, the man whose wife Will murdered years ago. It is an appropriately misogynistic song for Will to choose.
'Just like Honey', The Jesus and Mary Chain
Pyschocandy is one of Will's favourite albums, one of his 'sleep tapes'. It gets chewed up by his camper vans old cassette player towards the end of the novel. 'A lesser bloodsucker would see such a thing as an omen ...' I imagine 'Just Like Honey' would be a vampire's favourite.
'Never Enough', The Cure
The Cure are of course the vampire's ultimate band, but even if they weren't 'Never Enough' is the perfect choice for The Radleys. It is a thirsty, craving kind of a song about the mindset - the pleasure and the pain - of addiction.
'Red Right Hand', Nick Cave
Nick Cave plays constantly at the vampire nightclub, the Black Narcissus, housed in an old warehouse in Manchester. 'Bloodsuckers of every description lounge around on battered leather sofas, listening to Nick Cave and drinking from bottles and each other's necks...' 'Red Right Hand,' one of Cave's notorious murder ballads, is the perfect amoral choice for the Black Narcissus crowd.
Matt Haig and The Radleys links:
Daily Mail review
Dallas Morning News review
Entertainment Weekly review
Globe and Mail review
Herald Scotland review
Hipster Book Club review
Independent review (by Emma Hagestadt)
Independent review (by Kim Newman)
Independent review (by Tim Walker)
New York Times review
Start Narrative Here review
USA Today review
Largehearted Boy Book Notes by the author for The Labrador Pact
My Book, The Movie guest essay by the author
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review profile of the author
Publishers Weekly interview with 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)
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