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July 13, 2012

Book Notes - Jennifer Spiegel "The Freak Chronicles"

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

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, George Pelecanos, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, David Peace, Myla Goldberg, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Jennifer Spiegel's The Freak Chronicles is an impressive debut story collection, one that highlights her amazing gift for dialogue.

Spiegel's debut novel Love Slave will be published by Unbridled Books in September.

Lauren Groff wrote of the short story collection:

"The Freak Chronicles is a miracle of a story collection: passionately political and a shout of ambivalence about political passion, intensely personal and furiously global. We readers are lucky to find Jennifer Spiegel, a writer who is self-satirizing and vulnerable and elegant as hell. "

Stream a Spotify playlist of these tunes. If you don't have Spotify yet, sign up for the free service.


In her own words, here is Jennifer Spiegel's Book Notes music playlist for her short story collection, The Freak Chronicles:


The Freak Chronicles Soundtrack!

I failed to make it in the movies. I failed to be a rock star. I wasn't even a proper groupie. I didn't have enough money. Plus, I was a bit of a geek, so I didn't really want to miss school for more than one day.

Alas, it brings me great pleasure to pretend to produce the soundtrack to my very own story collection, The Freak Chronicles (Dzanc Books, June 12, 2012). This is the official soundtrack, or the music that influenced the stories.  The real music—not the music I wish I could put down.   I mean, do I really want to admit that Rick Springfield shaped my fiction?  These are the real songs that triggered images, memories, narrative threads.  Johnny Cash and Jimi Hendrix didn't make the tracklist; U2 did!  Maybe this exposes, just a little, the writer's brain.  As The Fixx sang in the eighties, "One thing leads to another."  I don't even like some of these songs—they just sparked something in one of the lobes. (Which lobe are we talking about?)

This was more difficult than I anticipated.

First, I don't listen to music when I write.  But I like to present myself as a rock 'n' roll kind of girl.  Of course, I'm a rock 'n' roll girl who doesn't know what she's talking about.  So don't ask me who played bass for such-and-such a band.  I won't know.  Sometimes I confuse Jack White and Jack Black.  Music, then, prompted moments in fiction—but I shut it off when I write.

Second, while I searched for the songs I knew I had to include, I encountered problems:  only disappointing versions were available online, the music dated me, and I didn't like the feeling that I might be typecasting my fiction.  I'll tell you what I mean.  I passed on a couple songs because I didn't like watching them on YouTube.  Then there was the problem of creating some kind of association between the music and my writing.  Is it too much to want for my fiction to transcend my particular musical habits?  Is it pretentious to pronounce my literary interests universal?  (See how philosophical I can be?)  Also, the music behind the story might give you the wrong idea.  Are you gonna write me off because of Nine Inch Nails?  Do I care?  Should I care?

One more important thing to know:  the book is dedicated to my dad, who died in a car accident in 2002.  He too was a rock 'n' roll guy who didn't really know what he was talking about.  I say this with tremendous respect.  He was not a musician; I am not a musician.  But he taught me to love music.  And, for that reason, this is the first song on our tracklist: "Play That Funky Music, White Boy" by Wild Cherry.

Hopefully, Dzanc Books won't pull the book off the shelves when they hear about this.

Here it is, then, the complete list of songs on the would-be soundtrack to The Freak Chronicles:

1. "Play That Funky Music, White Boy" by Wild Cherry

2. "American Woman"  by  The Guess Who


3. "Jessie's Girl" by Rick Springfield

4. "Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You" by Led Zeppelin

5. "Gone" by U2


6. "Shining Star" by Earth Wind & Fire

7. "Sympathy for the Devil" by the Rolling Stones

8. "Saturday in the Park" by Chicago

9. "Kiss" by Prince

10. "Pachelbel's Canon in C" arranged by George Winston

11. "Head Like a Hole" by Nine Inch Nails

12. "Rocket Man" by Elton John

13. "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" by Bob Dylan

14. "Doll Parts" by Hole

15. "Bittersweet Symphony" by The Verve

16. "Lonely is the Night" by Billy Squier

17. "Blue" by Joni Mitchell

18. "Please" by U2

19. "All My Tears" by Julie Miller

20. "October" by U2


21. "Precious Things" by Tori Amos

22. "Short Stories" by Harry Chapin

I suppose I could now tell you which song goes with which story.  I could name some pretty important songs that were left out.  There are musicians or songs mentioned in stories that aren't here.  But no.

Well, one thing.  "Sympathy for the Devil."  I can get fairly irate over this song.  I'm kinda disturbed when people hear this and get offended.  Could it be that Mick Jagger has a more profound understanding of the meaning of evil than many of the leading theologians of our day?  Is that so?  This song should not be offensive; this song is ironic, profound.  Okay, that's enough.

Other fun facts:

Some of these are really worth watching (The Guess Who and The Verve).  Others aren't so hot (Prince).  Sorry.

My father-in-law once went on a double-date with Billy Squier.   I don't really know what happened, but it didn't work out.   My mother-in-law has never met Billy.

The U2 songs are odd in that, like a few others I know, I'm one of those U2 "purists" who derides their sell-out which includes one of the albums on which you'll find these songs (not "October" – pure, pure, pure).  However, these were the ones: the influential songs! I've since, incidentally, come to terms with their so-called sell-out since it parallels my own sell-out.  You might call that time Jennifer's Dark Ages or call me Medieval Jennifer.  Like them, though, I'M BACK!  RENAISSANCE TIME!  (In truth, there's a lot of Medieval Jennifer here.)

I'd be lying if I denied the importance of Nine Inch Nails' Pretty Hate Machine.  The entire warped and dark, dark album. So dark.

Mom, I don't listen to them anymore.


Jennifer Spiegel and The Freak Chronicles links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book (the story "Glasnost" at PANK)

Chamber Four review

The Quivering Pen guest post by the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2012 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
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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