April 12, 2013
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, Aimee Bender, Myla Goldberg, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.
Lenore Zion's Stupid Children is a captivating novel about a young girl raised in a cult. Filled with strong, realistic female characters, especially the protagonist, this is one of the year's most impressive debuts.
Necessary Fiction wrote of the book:
"Stupid Children is a bildungsroman of twisted proportions told with startling clarity through the filter of a smart, psychoanalytic perspective. No character is safe from Zion's unapologetic examinations. She bestows her protagonist with an open mind, a sharp intellect, and a sweltering imagination—all of the requisite ingredients for a disturbing, fascinating novel."
My book, Stupid Children, is about a girl who winds up being raised in a cult after she is left suddenly parentless. These songs would go well paired with my book, if your goal is to maintain the unsettling factor with gorgeous music.
"Putting the Dog to Sleep" – The Antlers
I've learned that most people would prefer to avoid the truth. They don't know it. They believe with sincerity that they don't want to be lied to, but then they crumble under the weight of reality. It takes strength – which we seem to actively discourage in our children in American culture – to handle reality. I like this song because the singer is asking for the truth, even though it sucks. I like strong people. My protagonist, Jane, is strong enough to really want the truth.
"I Remember" – Yeasayer
Remembering something beautiful from the past that will never come back is one of the more pleasurably masochistic ways a person can spend his time. Unless you're an old person, in which case reminiscing about past happiness is actually therapeutic. But a lot changes when you get old. When you're young, there are parts of you that positively thrive on a broken heart. "Oh, my misery, my pain!" There's nothing more fascinating to a person than his own broken heart.
"Metal Heart" – Cat Power
I try to imagine what it would feel like to have a metal heart inside my chest. It sounds cold and heavy. I bet if I had a metal heart I would only be able to see in black and white. The words "how selfish of you" have almost no meaning because they've been said so often, but Cat Power sings those words and it sounds like someone caged her up inside of a metal heart inside of a dead person's chest.
"Strange Form of Life" – Bonnie "Prince" Billy
One of the most beautiful male voices in history singing about pathological longing. He describes waiting twenty-five years to kiss the object of his affection. Talk about playing the long game. I absolutely adore the neurotic, self-destructive human impulse to become prisoners to our infatuations. In Stupid Children Jane doesn't build obsession for a romantic interest, but rather, her missing father, from whom she's been prematurely separated.
"All Dolled-Up In Straps" – The National
There are predators in the world, and there are their preys. My book is made up entirely of these two groups. Every now and then I hear a song that sounds like a predator wrote it. Like that Little Red Riding Hood song by someone I don't know. This National song gives me chills. I feel like I'm listening to a violent man speak to a delicate woman he's got chained up in his basement. Or like a cultist speaking to an unresponsive convert.
"Baby Birch" – Joanna Newsom
I had a little cult village in my head while I wrote my book – there were teachers and there were butchers and shop owners and everything a little village takes to run. In this Joanna Newsom song, she sings "There is a blacksmith and there is a shepherd and there is a butcher-boy/and there is a barber who's cutting and cutting away at my only joy/I saw a rabbit as slick as a knife and as pale as a candlestick/and I had thought it'd be harder to do but I caught her and skinned her quick/held her there kicking and mewling, upended, unspooling, unsung and blue/told her "wherever you go, little runaway bunny, I will find you"/and then she ran/as they're liable to do." I listened to this and thought, "Holy shit, Joanna Newsom just described my book." And I love her even more now.
"Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V)" – Pink Floyd
Addiction plays an understated role in my book, but in a way, it's the secret motivator behind every single one of my characters. Each one of them, in one way or another, being swallowed up by their own personal addictions. This song, I think, is about a man watching helplessly while his friend destroys himself with addiction. It's also about how awesome Pink Floyd is.
Lenore Zion and Stupid Children links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
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