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September 6, 2012

Book Notes - Jennifer Spiegel "Love Slave"

Love Slave

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 follows her masterful short story collection The Freak Chronicles with an impressively smart and comic debut novel, Love Slave.

Chamber Four wrote of the book:

"Many of the concerns in this novel, from characters trying to live authentic, purposeful lives, lives that are examined and deliberate, to the concept of “freaks” – oddballs, pariahs, self-exiled loners – are found in Spiegel’s short stories as well, collected in The Freak Chronicles, likewise published this year. I personally found her short stories more compelling than this novel and the examination of the dichotomies of authentic/inauthentic, square/hip, spiritual/materialistic, etc. more starkly represented, but Love Slave is certainly worth checking out, maybe in combination with the stories. Read both books! You’ll enjoy Spiegel’s style, which is witty, intelligent and introspective, contemporary and timeless: a story with which you can identify."

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 debut novel, Love Slave:

Love Slave is, I quote the back cover, "a comic and candid novel about what it means to be young, savvy, uncertain, and uncomfortably human all at once." We're talking office temps, writers, lead singers, and activists in Manhattan during 1995.

The first version of my book was blatantly rock-centric. Every chapter began with a piece of rock trivia, tidbits about The Who, the Stones, Grace Slick, Little Richard. I provided—I'm not joking—a comprehensive history of rock n' roll, because I wanted to pay my respects to this world. I wanted for my book to be a book about rock music because it has been such a large part of my cultural identity. The facts were markers, giving the novel a historic feel, an epic touch. There were mini-encyclopedic entries, dates, precedents.

But, well, they got in the way. Reluctantly, I came to realize something: as fascinating as the rock history was to me, it was distracting. The trivia intruded. The story had taken on its own vitality, a literary life of its own. Without mercy, I cut it all.

Now, Rob Shachtley, the lead singer of Glass Half Empty, stands alone. He's the music man. Just him. Though I love rock n' roll, there's only room for one lead singer in the band. Still, I give you the music I'd play if Rob weren't demanding all the attention. For being a comic novel, a lot of this music is a downer. Go figure!

It's probably not the stuff you're expecting. It's not songs strictly from the nineties, and it's not all grunge. Nor is it the music that Rob plays (with the exception of the Beatles). And it's certainly no comprehensive survey of anything. It's just, mostly, the music that somehow or other influenced my writing. I listened to this stuff. There's quite a bit missing. Despite my well-known love of U2, there's none here! No Led Zep! No Johnny Cash! And I found myself omitting important songs. I've gotta admit this too: this is not an accurate representation of my current musical taste.

Let's just say a few things. The song that, perhaps, is the best articulation of my Love Slave thoughts is—it's true—"Mr. Jones" by The Counting Crows. To fully get this, you must listen to the lyrics. Forget all the times you've heard it on the radio and sang it aloud without really thinking about it. The song (and that entire first album by them) says quite a bit when they sing, "We all want something beautiful." Sybil, the protagonist, wants something beautiful. Sorry for the melodrama.

Onto Pearl Jam. I could've chosen ten of their songs. They'd probably all be off the first two albums. Even though some of you may make fun of me, Eddie Vedder's special. Look for "Little Eddie" in the book.

Lenny Kravitz feels iconic to me. When I see him, I know he's important to Love Slave in some secret way. Quite recently, I had an embarrassing Kravitz moment. I got caught in one of those absurd conversations people have about who's attractive and who's not. My husband was present. I think I shook the whole thing off, as if there wasn't a single person in the world that I would even look at besides my spouse. Then Spouse announced, in front of the other people, "Lenny Kravitz. You like Lenny Kravitz." I blushed! It was true! How did he know? I've never said anything about Lenny! Not a word! Except for that one time when I said, "Is it me, or is Lenny Kravitz, with that name and nose ring, somehow the embodiment of contemporary sexy?" I may have said this. I can't be sure.

Sybil references P.J. Harvey as her soul sister at one point. She walks into a club and P.J. is on the sound system. P.J. soon gives way to the kinder, gentler Liz Phair.

For some—no doubt—deep-seated psychological reason, I didn't include any Tori Amos music. I'd look at YouTube clips and find her simultaneously seductive, affected, deliciously vicious, and downright gorgeous. But then: no. She's too much. There's something about her I love but am embarrassed by too.

The music of Love Slave:

Counting Crows: "Mr. Jones"
Tom Waits: "Clap Hands"
Buffalo Springfield: "For What It's Worth"
Liz Phair: "Divorce Song"
P.J. Harvey: "C'mon Billy"
Lenny Kravitz with Prince: "American Woman"
Pearl Jam: "Dissident"
Beatles: "Norwegian Wood"
Roberta Flack: "Killing Me Softly With His Song"
Pearl Jam: "Animal"
Beatles: "Blackbird"
P.J. Harvey: "You Said Something"
Temple of the Dog: "Hunger Strike"
Pearl Jam: "Black"
Elton John: "Daniel"
Dusty Springfield: "The Only Boy Who Could Ever Reach Me Was The Son Of A Preacher Man"
P.J. Harvey: "Sheela Na Gig"
K.C. and the Sunshine Band?: "That's The Way I Like It"
Peter Frampton: "Show Me The Way"
Nirvana: "All Apologies"
Cat Stevens: "Hard-headed Woman"
America: "Sister Golden Hair"
Rolling Stones: "You Can't Always Get What You Want"
Lou Reed: "Walk on the Wild Side"

I am wholly convinced the Stones are right. And I think it's a theme in Love Slave.

Jennifer Spiegel and Love Slave links:

the author's website

Chamber Four review
Hayden's Ferry Review review
Lonely Owl review
Muse at Highway Speeds review
Publishers Weekly review

Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for The Freak Chronicles
The Nervous Breakdown interview with the author
The Next Best Book Blog profile of the author
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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