October 27, 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.
Lynn Lurie's Quick Kills is a vividly told and haunting novel, one whose prose and imagery will linger in your consciousness.
Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.
The Quick Kills playlist is what the narrator would have been listening to. But it is also my playlist as it isn't entirely possible to separate myself from aspects of the story. The narrator's fear of abandonment as a child, her shame, as well as the longing to be somewhere else-- so far from where she is, that English isn't spoken— is central to the story. Female artists are predominantly represented, as I looked for someone to admire, actually, more like, mimic, and longed for this to be reciprocated.
1. Jefferson Airplane, "White Rabbit." "One pill makes you larger one pill makes you smaller the ones mother gives you do nothing at all" summarizes the little the mother in QK is willing to give. It also suggests the inherent danger that people we meet, randomly, can pose; how they give us things we may not want. For the narrator, "logic and proportion have fallen…", is emblematic of her circumstance, she lacks perspective and is trapped, unable to move from the hole into which she has fallen. Grace Slick was a beacon.
2. Bob Dylan, "Masters of War." There are images of the Vietnam War in QK. It was terrifying what I watched on the television set with my parents, in the comfort of our suburban home. The anger in this song so expresses the hatred I felt for having no means to address the suffering in the world that my parents seemed unmoved by, if not responsible for. I stole Tarantula from the public library. Whoever was in charge of book acquisitions back then did me a great favor. Bob Dylan was the antidote.
3. Julie Andrews, "Do Re Me." I have to include this because of the preamble to the book. I remember seeing this movie and thinking how ridiculous it was that they were singing as the Germans were coming. This sort of sugar coating and dishonesty was characteristic of what adults seemed to be so good at doing. "A name I call myself," was a partial and wholly unsatisfactory answer to the question of identity.
4. Patti Smith. The entire Horses album with its anger, its blood, its language and the freedom Patti Smith pulled from somewhere that allowed her to push everything away. I had never seen or heard anything so raw, so utterly unconcerned with the perceptions of others. I listened to this record with my best friend in high school in her blue floral room where we smoked pot and ate tubs of ice cream. At the time I didn't know Patti Smith was an artist or that there was a Robert Mapplethorpe.
5. Pentangle, "Wedding Dress." This mournful song about the making of a wedding dress, sung by a woman who gave of her brokenness in a quiet desperate way, made me stand still. The image of the golden thread being woven into the white, knowing that something horrible was looming, so captured my fear that truth is intentionally buried.
6. Natalie Merchant, "The Gulf of Araby." I didn't understand why I had such despair. I also had no idea what it was to love or to be loved, so songs where someone beloved was longed for, seemed a very legitimate and dignified reason for despair. It wasn't my source, but, I felt it somehow in the inverse, I could not mourn anyone and no one would mourn me. When Natalie Merchant sings grief becomes a character.
7. Victor Jara, "Duerme Negrito (Sleep Little Dark Boy)." My political adolescence was first Vietnam, then Cuba, which blurred into Central America and the dictatorships and political terror in the Southern Cone. I learned Spanish. I read novels and listened to albums in Spanish. This song tells the story of a mother working in the fields for no pay. The woman watching her son sings him to sleep. She promises the baby his mother will bring him all good things, if he sleeps. It is a lullaby. But like lullabies and fairy tales there is often the threat of violence, in this case, if he doesn't sleep someone will take the food he has been given. I don't recall anyone singing me a lullaby, but the idea is lovely.
8. Violeta Parra, "Volver a los Diecisiete (To Return to Seventeen)." Mournful and full of regret, Violeta Parra pieces together memories of being seventeen, which only deepen her well of sadness. The power of memory and how it has the capacity to destroy, for all is already written, is Violetta Parra, whose name even sounds like a poem.
9. Mercedes Sosa, "Sólo le pido a Dios. (I only ask of God)." I grew up without a sense of spirituality and equated some forms of religion with healing (Mother Theresa, Catholic priests in Latin America working for social justice and with lepers, Thich Nhat Hanh). It seemed that the adults I knew believed what they had they deserved. Material possessions were more important than knowledge and trumped any notion that one has obligations to the community. This song asks that one is never indifferent to the pain of others and that one never feels empty and alone because of his or her failure to address the suffering in the world. It seemed to be a national anthem, just not ours.
10. Suzanne Vega, "Night Vision." "Find the line, find the shape, find the outline and things will tell you their name" is a way to reconstruct memory from images, "the table, the guitar, the empty glass." The idea that things, if you allow them to, can tell you their names and once named they can elicit memory and meaning.
Lynn Lurie and Quick Kills links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
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