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May 14, 2015

Book Notes - Ben Snakepit "Snake Pit Gets Old"

Snake Pit Gets Old

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, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Ben Snakepit's comics collection Snake Pit Gets Old collects his daily autobiographical three-panel comics over three years, and taken together the book reads impressively as memoir.

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.

In his own words, here is Ben Snakepit's Book Notes music playlist for his comics collection Snake Pit Gets Old:

My newest book, Snakepit Gets Old, is a book of comic strips. Every day I draw a three-panel comic strip that does nothing more than document what I did that day. This book compiles three years of those daily comic strips. Each daily strip is prefaced with a theme song. Sometimes it's a song with lyrical content that is relevant to the day's events, other times it's just what I happen to be listening to when I draw.

Snakepit Gets Old is exactly like the other five books I've written. It's poorly drawn, there are lots of mistakes and misspelled words, nothing happens and it's really boring. I will admit to all of this, but I will also admit that my book is completely open and honest. I'm not trying to prove anything or put on a show for anyone. I listen to a lot of the same songs, and a few times (four, to be exact) I actually forget to put a theme song at all. Here are ten particular songs from the book that I think do a good job of summing up the overall experience.

50 Million "Clenched Fist" (Page 27): I think this song is a lot like my comics. Basic, simple, primitive, raw. It gets the point across with nothing more than one drum and two voices repeating only three lines. This is one of my favorite songs ever, and I can only hope that my comics leave as strong an impact on the reader as this song does on the listener.

The Queers "This Place Sucks" (Page 69): The day this song is the theme for was a day that I had to fire one of my best friends from the video store where we worked. I had been promoted to manager and thought it would be fun to hire all of my friends so we could goof off and have fun together; a plan that completely backfired. Everyone seemed to adopt the attitude that since I was the boss they could get away with anything and not get in trouble. By the end of my time working there, I had completely painted myself into a corner and the only option left was for me to leave. That place sucked.

J Church "Nostalgic for Nothing" (Page 73): J Church was a band I played bass in for about five years, but they were an established band for a decade or so before I joined. This song is from that period before I was in the band, and it was always one of my favorite ones to play live. J Church was the brainchild of my late friend, Lance Hahn, who passed away in 2007. The surviving members of the band played a tribute show to him in 2010, playing our favorite songs from the band's extensive catalog. This show is documented in the book.

Anal Cunt "You're Old (Fuck You)" (Page 109): Anal Cunt isn't a particularly good band and this song doesn't really have any deep personal meaning, but the title kind of sums up the attitude of the world I stopped being a part of in this book. The transformation theme is pretty evident throughout these three years, from the X-eyed drunken party animal to the respectable family man. There are times in the book that you see me clearly struggle with the change. I mean, who doesn't want to party forever? But we all get old and we all have to slow down or die, like it or not.

Elliott Smith "Big Decision" (Page 114): Sometimes I just go for the obvious with the theme songs I pick for these daily comic strips, and this is a good example of that. The day that I chose this song, February 27, 2011, was the day I decided I would buy a ring and ask my girlfriend to marry me. There are other landmark days in the book, like the day I actually pop the question and the day we get married, but this was the day where it all really changed for me. Obviously, change and growth are heavy themes in this book, not necessarily on purpose.

Jimi Hendrix "Stone Free" (Page 157): This is another one of those obvious ones. In 2011 I had a kidney stone removed and this part of the book recants the story in excruciating detail.

Unseen Terror "Odie's Revenge" (Page 168): Unseen Terror was a British metal band from the 80's that featured members of Napalm Death and Heresy. A lot of their songs were pretty goofy, and they had a few songs about Garfield characters, like this one. Okay, bear with me. The title of my book, Snakepit Gets Old, has its obvious meaning, but it also has a deeper meaning that not as many people got as I was hoping. I have always been a huge fan of Berke Breathed's Bloom County. There was a particular Bloom County strip where Opus the penguin is reading a book called "Garfield Gets Old".

M.O.T.O. "I Hate My Fucking Job" (Page 183): Again, this has a pretty obvious meaning. At the end of the first chapter of the book, I change jobs. Actually, I don't just "change jobs" so much as I make a complete 180 in my career path. For seven years I had been farting around working retail. I'd been promoted to store manager but still didn't really take it seriously and thought of my job as simple a means to support myself between band tours. It was after the last tour I went on with my band Shanghai River at the beginning of the book that I realized that living the rock-n-roll lifestyle was no longer a viable option and it was time to get serious. In chapter two of the book I began working as a data processor at a printing company, and the change was not exactly seamless.

Drivetrain "Time is of the Essence" (Page 232): A Portland punk band from 1988, this song appeared on a mail-traded mix tape I got in high school, and the lyrics have stuck with me since I was a teenager. "It's getting late, time doesn't stand still. Better get off my butt before I'm over the hill." I know it seems like I am completely obsessed with getting older, but I'm really not. I just kinda see the three years in this book as particularly transformative and indicative of my growth as a person.

The Cars "Let's Go" (Page 263): When my wife and I went on our honeymoon to New York City, we had a really wonderful time. You can read all about it in chapter three. On our last day there, we were eating breakfast at the Odessa cafe on the Lower East Side. It's the place where Henry Rollins was asked to join Black Flag. It had been such a great trip, and as we sat there eating french toast, this song came on the radio. We were both humming and tapping along to it, sharing the bittersweet emotions that you feel when a fun vacation is about to end. Ever since then, this has been "our song".

Ben Snakepit and Snake Pit Gets Old: Daily Diary Comics 2010-2012 links:

Cabildo Quarterly Online review
Publishers Weekly review
The Ripple Effect review

Microcosm Publishing interview with the author
Various Things interview with the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (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
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
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
Word Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)

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