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May 12, 2016

Book Notes - Camille Perri "The Assistants"

The Assistants

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

Camille Perri's novel The Assistants is an entertaining and deeply funny debut that I devoured in one sitting.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"If the characters of HBO’s Girls were capable of larceny and blackmail, they could be the main characters of Perri’s sharp first novel….Perri has a gift for the glib one-liner, and reserved Tina and glamorous Emily make for a great pairing, resulting in a smart and fresh novel."

In her own words, here is Camille Perri's Book Notes music playlist for her debut novel The Assistants:

My novel The Assistants is about a group of young female assistants who use their billionaire boss's expense account to pay off their student loan debt. It's part revenge fantasy, part social satire, and—hopefully—a whole lot of fun to read. The playlist I've created here is my attempt at capturing some of that fun, as well as the income-inequality angst that motivates a group of smart, underpaid young women to try their hands at an embezzlement scheme intended to get them their piece of the pie.

"9 to 5" by Dolly Parton
I had to kick this playlist off with this song, because the moment it occurred to me that the manuscript I was working on should be a modern-day 9 to 5—in terms of tone and politics—it all came together. I literally had a moment where I was like, Oh wait. This is going to be funny! From that moment on, I listened to this song for inspiration at least once a week.

"Royals" by Lorde
Royals was the other song, along with 9 to 5, that I played on heavy rotation while working on The Assistants. It suited my subject matter for obvious reasons. Whenever I'd get stuck, I'd put this on and belt out ‘We don't care, we're driving Cadillacs in our dreams!'

"Celebrity Skin" by Hole
This is an all-time favorite and I think Tina Fontana would feel the same as I do about this song. I could see her air-guitaring around her college dorm room to this. And the angst of this song is alive and well in Tina, I think, even though in adulthood she tends to behave a bit more subdued.

"Rich Girls (EP Version)" by The Virgins
I had to include this song mostly for the opening lyrics, which are so perfectly delivered: “We'll walk around pretending we're all grown up. Hey rich girl. Well can you tell me why you're so stuck up?” I also think the strange paranoia to this song gels quite well with novel.

"Karma Police" by Radiohead
I debated about including this one because it's so damn long and epic, and I'm dating myself with these 90s hits. But I couldn't leave it out because it is just too perfect. I mean, come on. “This is what you'll get when you mess with us,” could very well be the subtitle to The Assistants.

"Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)" by Kelly Clarkson
I know this is a post-breakup anthem. But for my purposes, this song is about getting knocked down and getting back up. It's about coming into one's own strength and that's a major theme of the book.

"Worth It (feat. Kid Ink)" by Fifth Harmony
Has there ever been a more Emily Johnson song than this one? In chapter 12, there's a scene where Emily and Ginger are cutting out pictures for a dream board—all the riches they plan to acquire thanks to their newfangled misguided scheme to steal from their boss. This would totally be the song playing in the background of that scene.

"We Can't Stop" by Miley Cyrus
This playlist would not be complete without a little Miley. This song is very Assistants to me—all cheap champagne, and girl power, and doing whatever we want. This is our house! This is our rules! It also works in an extremely literal way because at a certain point in the novel, Tina's involvement in “the scheme” gets to where she literally can't stop.

"Confident" by Demi Lovato
The explicit sexual implications of this song are probably more appropriate to the novel I'm working on now, so if I ever make another playlist perhaps this song will get double duty. I'm okay with that because if I'm destined to have a long career of novel writing ahead of me, I wouldn't mind them all pairing well with a song that basically states: There's nothing wrong with being confident. For The Assistants, though, I'm all about how this song hits on this notion of, Underestimate me at your own risk.

"Run the World (Girls)" by Beyoncé
This song is absolutely the closer of The Assistants playlist. Because (spoiler alert) by the end of this book, who run the world? Girls.

Camille Perri and The Assistants links:

Associated Press review
Booklist review
Kirkus review
New York Times review

Bedford + Bowery interview with the author
Bustle profile of the author
Publishers Weekly essay by the author
Refinery29 interview with the author
Weekend Edition interview with the author
WH Smith interview with the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

Largehearted Boy's 2016 Fundraiser

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)
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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