August 1, 2012
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.
Megan Abbott impresses with her new novel Dare Me, which proves yet again her literary noir prowess.
The Independent wrote of the book:
"Mesmerizing...one of the most deftly plotted noir crime novels I've read in a long time. The requisite twists and turns subtly embedded within Abbott's characters' motivations...are the sign of a truly accomplished plotter."
I'll start out with a confession: I was never a cheerleader. In high school, in the 1980s, I was distinctly the school newspaper type.
But somehow, all these years later, I have found myself writing a novel set firmly in the dark heart of a high school cheerleading squad. Of course, the cheerleader of my era—all pom-poms and ponytails and a few high kicks—bears little resemblance to the cheerleader of today. Battle-hardened by gymnastics training and a sneaky kind of girl power, the cheerleader of 2012 is a hardcore warrior, putting herself at risk and devoting everything to an increasing dangerous, thrilling experience. As the narrator says in Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club, "I just don't want to die without a few scars."
So, in doing the research for the book (hours of YouTube was just the start), what I found is this: From the outside, cheerleading remains the most quintessential experience of all-American girlness. Inside, however, it's the terrain for all the hidden desires, aggression, rivalries, fear and consuming hunger of teenage girlhood (maybe all girlhood).
As I wrote the book, a whole world emerged for me, a dark and fascinating one, with its own brand of subterranean ferocity, ritual humiliation and the fight for power and dominance. In short: high school, times ten, which is already life times ten.
This playlist, then, is my attempt to capture that strange polarity, that binary logic of the America cheerleader: pretty on the inside, gladiator underneath.
1. Ke$ha, "Tic Tok," "Take It Off"
2. Kayne West, "Stronger" and "Gold Digger"
3. Missy Elliot, "Shake Your Pom Pom"
These songs speak to the kind of bad-ass rallying cry music that accompanies cheer routines, competitions and girls-together-wreaking havoc. Suburban girl fantasies of "thug life." Bratty swagger. Pop with glittery barbs.
4. MIA, "Bad Girls"
"Live fast, die young, Bad girls do it well." This one stands in for all that great songs made for girls-driving-in-cars ("My chain hits my chest/When I'm banging on the dashboard"), high on their own power, half knowing that power is, at best, a game, at worst, a desparate illusion. Realizing too late, the dark parenthesis of the song, "My life, I broke it."
5. St. Vincent, "I Don't Wanna Be a Cheerleader"
Darkest cheerleading song ever. And it's not even really about cheerleaders. But it also kind of is.
6. Pixies, "Winterlong"
7. The Cults, "Abducted"
For all the romance and mystery and longing and heartbreak that all feels softest and sharpest during adolescence.
8. Gorillaz, "To Binge"
Elusive, dreamy, dark. The perfect love song for the love story in the book, all three of them.
9. Hole, "Miss World"
No band ever conveyed it better: How hard it is being a girl.
Megan Abbott and Dare Me links:
BookPeople's Blog review
Daily Mail review
Devourer of Books review
Entertainment Weekly review
Full Stop review
Hooked Bookworm review
Kirkus Reviews review
My Bookish Ways review
San Francisco Chronicle review
The View from the Other review
Austin American-Statesman interview with the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for The End of Everything
My Bookish Ways interview with the author
New York Daily News profile of the author
New York Times essay by the author
Publishers Weekly profile of the author
Word of Mouth interview with the author
also at Largehearted Boy:
100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
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Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
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Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
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Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
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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)
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