Twitter Facebook Tumblr Pinterest Instagram

« older | Main Largehearted Boy Page | newer »

August 29, 2012

Book Notes - Paul Tremblay "Swallowing a Donkey's Eye"

Swallowing a Donkeys Eye

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.

Paul Tremblay's writing continually impresses me, and I am constantly recommending his noir novels The Little Sleep and No Sleep till Wonderland. In Swallowing a Donkey's Eye he turns his talents to political farce in a comic dystopia the Los Angeles Times called "'Animal Farm' refracted through a Terry Gilliam-style lens."

Stewart O'Nan wrote of the book:

"Swallowing a Donkey's Eye is fine, ribald work. There’s a futuristic wackiness and bitterness that reminds me of the best of George Saunders’ longer stories. It’s brutal and hilarious, and Tremblay’s narrator holds it all together with an ironic grimace.

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

In his own words, here is Paul Tremblay's Book Notes music playlist for his novel, Swallowing a Donkey's Eye:

Swallowing a Donkey's Eye is a dystopian political satire. I wrote it because all writers, by law, have to write a dystopian novel at some point.

SaDE's narrator is a nameless drone stuck at the mega-conglomerate Farm for the next six contractual years. Farm engineers animals for silence despite heavily advertizing natural stock. Farm is the sole food provider for the technocratic and corrupt City. When our narrator finds out that his single mother, whom he left behind in City, might be homeless and soon to be deported below City to eke out her remaining existence in the wooden Pier, the narrator decides to do something about it and hilarious, poignant, and emotionally devastating dystopian political satire ensues with ecoterrorists in chicken and duck suits, a mayor who writes letters about outlaw campaigns and magic refrigerators, and an oversexed, dead-beat dad, priest with ESP.

This novel was a long time in coming, with my early drafts started back in 2005. In the years since, I've had a few close calls with other publishers, and I've written and written and reworked the thing to death to near perfection? more times than I care to count. While some of the earlier close calls were quite frustrating at the time (including an editor telling me she really liked the book but didn't think they could sell 10,000 copies), all the extra time spent working on the novel was a boon, and I couldn't be happier with Chizine Publications, and the book's artwork in particular, by Susanne Apgar. And with the book's election subplot, the timing of its release couldn't be better. I hope.

Okay, because I spent so much time writing this book, I went a little nuts with the playlist. Forty songs. It's the Swallowing a Donkey's Eye concept double-album (think Husker Du's Zen Arcade). I keep the novel's timeline with the songs, and their lyrics describe the tone, some of the plot action, and might even give away a secret or two.

The novel takes place in three settings: Farm, City, and Pier. The interludes reference our narrator's back story.


Neutral Milk Hotel, "Pree-Sisters Swallowing a Donkey's Eye"


Bob Mould, "Black Sheets of Rain"
"Checking in every morning / to the sound of steam and caffeine….
Every morning the sky, it's on fire / and it's only 9 AM again"

Clutch, "One Eyed Dollar"
"I been working like a pack mule every day"

Saul Williams, "Black History Month"
"Yo, the banana peels are carefully placed!
So keep your shell toes carefully laced!"

Bad Religion: "You Are the Government"
"Hey sit down and listen and they'll tell you when you're wrong"

Death, "You're a Prisoner"
"You can get by if you don't try / to change things within yourself"

Helmet, "Tic"
"And all the way I'm gone / no demon race to find
You paint if up and know / that any face can lie"

PJ Harvey, "Big Exit"
"I'm scared baby / I wanna' run
This world's crazy / Give me the gun"


Clutch, "Muchas Veces"
Asked him where she might me / "You did not hear this from me.
The girl is a terrorista."

One Day As a Lion, "Wild International"
"They say that in war that truth be the first casualty")


Husker Du, "Divide and Conquer"
"Well they divided up all the land / and we've got states and cities

Cities have their neighborhoods /
and more subdivisions"

Silkworm, "The City Glows"
"Red means higher, the city glows / with the temperature of streets
strange empire / terrible slips start with a single step"

Desparecidos, "Greater Omaha"
"Well traffic's kind of bad / they're widening easy street to fit more SUVs"

Faith No More, "Land of Sunshine"
"Cause everything is not yet lost / does life seem worthwhile to you?


Future of the Left, "Lapsed Catholics"
"Lapsed Catholics are the worst / it's part of who they were
And who they'll be again"

Husker Du, "Broken Home, Broken Heart"
"I look at your house / I look in your window, deep inside
Are you gonna cry yourself to sleep tonight?")

Clutch, "Escape from the Prison Planet"
"And the town becomes anarchy / parties are crashed, skid marks are measured.
The story's in the paper / you may read it at your leisure.
Get out / Eject / Escape From the Prison Planet."

Only Living Witness, "Downpour"
"Still, they will define burdens of empire by the moral decline
We've been deaf in the middle of a downpour"

At the Drive-In, "One Armed Scissor"
"Yes this is the campaign / slithered entrails in the cargo bay"

INTERLUDE: instrumental

The Fall: "Bury, Pts. 1&3"
Mogwai, "Rage: Man"


Fugazi, "Long Division"
"It's a long time coming / it's a long way down,
It's long division / crack and divide"

Neil Young, "Rockin' in the Free World"
"People shufflin' their feet / people sleeping in their shoes"

Bad Religion, "Don't Pray on Me"
"For beauty and glory / for money, love, and country
Now everybody's doing it / don't do that to me"

Refused, "The Shape of Punk to Come"
"We've all been bitten / we've all been shot down
We've all been beaten, battered, bruised, told to get down"

Father John Misty, "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings"
"We should let this dead guy sleep"


Future of the Left, "Small Bones, Small Bodies"
"With this, I miss you / I finally admit that
And beg forgiveness / my finest exoskeleton"
Nine Inch Nails, "Somewhat damaged"
"Made the choice to go away / drink the fountain of decay")

Pixies, "Subbacultcha"
"everything was fine down here / what you call it here
call it what you will here / way down down down in this subbacultcha"

Bottomless Pit, "38 Souls"
"I had collected 38 souls / needed two more to reach my goal,
But girl they... anyway / I left them stacked up in the foyer
When I woke up they were gone / I had to let them get away"

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, "Y Control"
"Oh so all my lovin' go's / under the fog fog fog
And I will leave them all / well I'm just a poor little baby
Cause well I believe them all"

CITY redux

Queens of the Stone Age, "How to Handle a Rope"
"If you're not blind and deaf / how can we pollute your head?

Black Flag, "Spray Paint"
"I don't want to see the plan succeed / there won't be room for people like me"

Future of the Left, "Sorry Dad, I Was Late for the Riots"
"Sorry Dad, I was late for the riots / I only found out it had all kicked off
When the cameras cut to bonfires on the mall….
I'll destroy the state in my North Face fleece"

Japandroids, "The House that Heaven Built"
"When the soul of the city / was laid to rest
And the night forgotten / and left for dead"

FARM redux

Husker Du: "New Day Rising"

Black Flag, "Rise Above"
"We are born with a chance / rise above, we're gonna rise above
And I am gonna have my chance"

Daughters, "The Unattractive, Portable Head"
"I want to cast off the wings of desire / I want be buried in a field of fire
I want to stand up and be twenty feet tall / I want to reach out and feel nothing at all"

Sugar, "JC Auto "
"Look like Jesus Christ / act like Jesus Christ / I know...
Here's your Jesus Christ / I'm your Jesus Christ / I know…"


Sugar, "Walking Away"
"Walking Away back to you I do"

Paul Tremblay and Swallowing a Donkey's Eye links:

the author's website
the author's Wikipedia entry
the book's website
video trailer for the book

Booked review

Jess Resides Here interview with the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for In the Mean Time
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for The Little Sleep
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for No Sleep till Wonderland
My Bookish Ways interview with 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

submit to reddit