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May 9, 2014

Book Notes - Megan Milks "Kill Marguerite"

Kill Marguerite

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 Megan Milks' collection Kill Marguerite are boldly told, wonderfully unpredictable, and defy categorization.

HTMLGIANT wrote of the book:

"These are genderqueer girl stories of the most awesome kind, taking the basic narrative of boys, youth, sex and identity, scrambling them with their influences (pop music, porn, sexual fantasy, teen magazines and books, even video games), and then destroying them in gory pornographic explosions."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.

In her own words, here is Megan Milks' Book Notes music playlist for her short story collection, Kill Marguerite:

I am a slow writer. When I first started writing the stories that would be collected in Kill Marguerite, I was 24 and living in Philadelphia. I'm now 32 and living in central Illinois by way of Chicago. My time in Philadelphia was intense and transformational: In many ways, I became myself, and in many ways, I did so through writing. I wrote constantly and feverishly in multiple modes: fiction, cultural criticism, scholarship. Always, there was music.

What follows is a list of songs I associate with each story in the book.

Tori Amos, "The Waitress" (esp. Choirgirl-era live version)
Xiu Xiu, "Boy Soprano"

The collection's title story, "Kill Marguerite," is a Tori Amos album squeezed into a Xiu Xiu song. Under the Pink trapped in "Boy Soprano"—in that the story stuffs girl-girl conflict into the structure of a video game.

Under the Pink is all about delving under the, um, pink—it's a deep exploration of femininity and complex relationships between women. "The Waitress" is the most openly antagonistic track on the album (except maybe for "Yes, Anastasia"), the speaker expressing a murderous desire towards another woman. (I've written extensively about the live performance of "The Waitress" here.) "Kill Marguerite" takes on that fight within the apparatus of a video game, chimes and buzzes intact.

PJ Harvey, "Fountain"

This is a story of a young woman who has transformational sex with a giant slug. I wrote it with "Fountain" on repeat. The story's second half, which describes Slug's slow creep towards Patty, was written to match the song's intoxicating offkilter bass line.

Kanye West, "Runaway"

"Dionysus" is about watching the mythology you have created around someone crumble into sad snotty tissues on your bedroom floor. What happens when you discover your lover is not a god, but a douchebag, an asshole, a scumbag, a jerkoff. But whatever, you've been all those things too.

Mecca Normal, "I'll Call You"

"Tomato Heart" tells the story of a woman whose heart erupts from her chest to protest her boring heteronormative relationship. I remember seeing Mecca Normal in Philly in 2005 or 2006 when they were touring for The Observer, which is basically an album about online dating (w4m). It hit so right with me at the time, as I was doing a lot of that, too. It was all very sad and demoralizing until I dyked out and—oh.

PJ Harvey, "Yuri-G," "Sheela-Na-Gig," "Dress"

This piece appropriates the unstageable play form of the Circe section of James Joyce's Ulysses, and focuses on Circe's abandonment by Odysseus. I was listening to Dry forever and ever while writing this one (lyrics from "Dress" and "Yuri-G" are mixed in), thinking a lot about its depictions of female abjection: accordingly, Circe is made very abject in this story—I was allergic to / exhausted by empowerment narratives.

FLOATERS (written with Leeyanne Moore)
Xiu Xiu, "Dear God I Hate Myself"

(tw: barf, bulimia)

When we were working on "Floaters," Leeyanne and I talked a lot about the video for "Dear God I Hate Myself." "Floaters" adopts the perspective a stand-up comic who uses his act to process his girlfriend's bulimic practices. In Xiu Xiu's video, band member Angela Seu repeatedly makes herself vomit while singer Jamie Stewart bounces around next to her eating a candy bar. We were struck by how unapologetically the video risks revolting the viewer; we were also interested in the comedic elements, how they frame or annotate the bulimic act; also how the purging seems to possess erotic dimensions despite how revolting/upsetting it is to watch—the orality of the act, etc. We drew on all of this in writing the story, which itself is a kind of purging, this narrator barfing it all out to an audience in a comedy routine that is both relieving and revolting, and horribly mean and offensive in a way that scared us.

This one grew out of a dream I had. Pass.

Tegan and Sara, entire catalog but especially "Where Does the Good Go"

The first part of TWINS is a monologue directed from Elizabeth Wakefield to her twin Jessica written partially through the lyrics of Tegan and Sara. It's got warring affects, oscillating between intense lesbian yearning and hot hot hate. Okay, I was getting over a breakup. At the time, I would take these long soothing walks all over Chicago guiltily listening to Tegan and Sara. A bunch of T&S lyrics made their way into the piece, which is all about sameness/difference in dyadic relationships, as routed through the figures of these binary twins: Jessica the bad twin and Elizabeth the good twin. I'm Elizabeth, obvs.

Boyz II Men, "All Around the World"

From the album referenced in the story. Really encapsulates my thirteenth year.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch, "The Origin of Love" + quirky sound effects from Green Porno

"Earl and Ed" is the love story of a wasp and an orchid. This song could easily fade in when Earl sees Ed, her love, for the first time; with a reprise at the end (no spoilers).

Tool, "Stinkfist"

Hahahaha Tool forever. I love the theatricality and the exploding bodies—both key qualities of "The Girl with the Expectorating Orifices."

Le Tigre, "Cry for Everything Bad That's Ever Happened" and "Keep on Livin"

"Traumarama" stretches the form of Seventeen Magazine's Traumarama section, offering up a sort of "queerish" version that invites a consideration of trauma as a chronic experience. I love this two-song sequence on Le Tigre's Feminist Sweepstakes because it encompasses melancholy, despair, hope, rage, desire, all these varying, complicated, and legit responses to shame and trauma (Le Tigre's comments on the lyrics are worth reading).

Jace Everett, "Bad Things" (opening title sequence to True Blood)

This song's got a bit of swamp to it. "Swamp Cycle" is an attempt at the carnivalesque, with the swamp as this abstract space enabling queer transformation and fantastic agency. The narrator expresses a desire to do bad things to the "other character"; the swamp delivers.

Megan Milks and Kill Marguerite links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

Lambda Literary review
The Whimsy of Creation review

The Nervous Breakdown self-interview with the author
Newcity Lit 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
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)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists

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