April 8, 2014
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.
The stories in Kodi Scheer's story collection Incendiary Girls are diverse in voice and blend the fantastic and sublime in their exploration of human frailty.
Kirkus Reviews wrote of the book:
"Scheer writes with a striking intensity about the human body and its fragility, but the overall mood of Incendiary Girls isn’t shock or horror but wonderment at the way the physical and psychological intersect."
Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.
I was tempted to produce a playlist of Muzak's greatest hits, if there were such a thing. So many of the characters in my stories—doctors, nurses, and patients—are stuck in a kind of waiting-room limbo, trying to reconcile expectations with strange new realities. Illness is a universal human condition, as is our capacity to be soothed by music and rhythm, starting with our mother's heartbeat. I've tried to collect a number of songs that reflect both this comfort and sense of disquiet.
The National, "Bloodbuzz, Ohio"
I like the idea that you can never really go home again. Home, like the body, can become foreign. In my story “Transplant,” a young woman receives a donor heart and believes she must convert to Islam—the new muscle pumping her blood has changed her entire personality. Blood, in the literal and figurative sense, plays into several of the stories.
Lana del Rey, "This Is What Makes Us Girls"
Many of my characters are young and female and even—at times—unlikable, in part because they are unsure of what to do or end up making bad decisions. In “Ex-Utero,” the med student narrator has a difficult time containing her emotions, so when she encounters a pregnant man, she takes a different tack. The beauty queens of “Miss Universe” literally tear apart a fellow competitor.
The Doors, "People Are Strange"
Indeed. The dark, carnivalesque quality of this song feels just right—fitting for the weird circumstances and twists in my fiction. For example, in “When a Camel Breaks Your Heart,” the main character’s boyfriend turns into a camel. And in “Gross Anatomy,” the cadaver being dissected by several medical students comes to life.
Florence + the Machine, "Girl with One Eye"
Lack becomes a theme in the book—a missing limb, a defective heart, a dissected cadaver. But lack of one sense, like vision, can heighten the others. The protagonist of “No Monsters Here” fears the worst for her soldier husband, finding parts of his body throughout their home, but eventually gains a sense of his whereabouts.
Elliott Smith, "Waltz #2"
Parent-child relationships also figure prominently in the book. I love the lines: she appears composed/ so she is, I suppose/ who can really tell? The new mother of “Primal Son” doesn’t recognize her baby as human, tries to follow social conventions, and fails. Ultimately, she does what’s best for her infant.
Beck, "Farewell Ride"
To deal with their circumstances, some of my characters self-medicate. Others opt for more drastic measures, deciding they always have at least one choice, even if it’s taking their own life. The boy in “Modern Medicine” attempted suicide and ended up in the burn unit while his nurse goes on a ketamine trip to deal with the resulting situation.
St. Vincent, "Surgeon"
Surgery is a very violent, unnatural trauma to the body. You're escorted into dreamworld by a masked man and wake up missing a part of yourself. In “Fundamental Laws of Nature,” a physician, convinced her mother has been reincarnated as a Thoroughbred and fearing the same for herself, decides to perform an unorthodox surgery.
San Fermin, "Renaissance!"
Literally, “rebirth.” I think healing is the ultimate rebirth. In the book’s title story, a young girl continues to defy the angel of death, but her survival isn’t without hardship. She eventually finds a way to heal herself.
Kodi Scheer and Incendiary Girls links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
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