October 24, 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.
Tamara Faith Berger's Maidenhead is an engrossing and smart novel that expores the complexity of modern sexuality.
The Globe and Mail wrote of the book:
"With so much focus in our world on what young female sexuality ideally looks like, it's a relief to see this portrait of what young female sexuality honestly feels like. Maidenhead is a mesmerizing and important novel, lying somewhere between the wilds of Judy Blume, Girls Gone Wild and Michel Foucault. It's a thrilling, enlightening and really hot place to be."
I wrote Maidenhead over seven years. Around year two, I kept messing up the text. During this time I listened to Blonde Redhead on repeat. Misery is a Butterfly (2004) helped me write through failure which I wouldn't have identified as failure at the time. "Misery is a Butterfly" is what I think being on heroin would feel like. Her heavy wings will warp your mind. Butterflies are coy and wanton, flicking themselves at the side of the road. You Tube commenters type as Kazu Makino sings: this tune's an orgasm. jizzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. And: she's so sexy OMG! It's true that Kazu Makino's voice matches the sex of her performance.
Misery is a Butterfly was given to me by a woman who I hadn't yet met. She was listening to me read in LA while standing near the exit surrounded by men. Later, this woman sent me an effusive connective email through my publisher. It was the first reader I'd ever had who reached out to kind of pierce me. Emma was a musician, a photographer and a former stripper who sent me burned CDs in the mail and wrote about Florida, her father, the moon.
"Elephant Woman" is probably my main character Myra's song. The Elephant woman of the title quickly becomes the Elephant girl; Elephant Girl needs her heart back from Angel. In my story, Elijah calls Myra 'Angel.' Angel throws the Elephant Girl like rubber to the floor. An accident unfortunate. Angel is amused at Elephant Girl's helplessness. Why amuse yourself in such a way? Elephant Girl cries. But she knows that she's already hurt, already broken. Do return my heart to me, Elephant Girl says. Myra's heart in Maidenhead has the consciousness of a rabbit foot stuck in the mud.
"Elephant Woman" makes violence poetic. It's the kind of song that makes a person want to get her head smacked on the pavement and be all wrapped up with the person who has smacked it, on her request. "I shed no tears for broken me," sings Elephant Girl at the end. Now inside and outside are matching.
Blonde Redhead and Emma are twinned in my mind as female lyric and violence. Kazu Makino says that she has made a career out of being paranoid. All this helped make Maidenhead.
There's a heavy male aspect to my book – The Cock, perhaps. Late in the story, Elijah strokes Myra and tells her that she can't keep running away from herself. This is an admonishment. There's the smell of saliva on pillows, alcohol. You're running and you're running and you're running away. But you can't run away from yourself.
Bob Marley's "Running Away" feels like it's intoned from a wiser person to one not as wise, or from one consciousness to another consciousness, both of them adrift. Why you can't find a place where you belong? Bob Marley wrote "Running Away" after the 1976 attempt on his life at Hope Road. He took two bullets while his wife was shot in the head. Soon afterwards, Bob Marley left Jamaica for England where he stayed away for over a year. Jamaicans, according to my partner who left in 1977, felt abandoned. In "Running Away" Bob Marley is admonishing his own self. You can't Self-flee; you can never flee Self. Certain men are candid and cocksure and whole, exactly like this.
Gayl, Elijah's lover, has got a song too but I think it's inaudible. An early reader of Maidenhead told me that Gayl was terrifying. In "To Bring You My Love," PJ Harvey was apparently strung upside down with rope from the studio ceiling to record. She's got a satanic throat thing going on in this song. Gayl has already had a whole life before we meet her in my book of fucking with the Devil and cursing God. As a pornographer, Gayl shows this Devil-God switch as equality. This should not be terrifying, even though love brought like this is, for humans, accurately perceived as fear. PJ Harvey's "To Bring You My Love" is the result or remnant of combating fear. I timidly hope to hear about Gayl beyond that early reader's read. Disdain is purer than terror, I know, and sharper than what the hell have you wrought?
Tamara Faith Berger and Maidenhead links:
Broken Pencil interview with the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for A Woman Alone at Night
National Post profile of the author
The Next Chapter interview with the author
Toronto Star profile of the author
Vancouver Sun profile of the author
also at Largehearted Boy:
100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
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