August 1, 2016
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Kodi Scheer's debut novel Midair is an impressive literary thriller.
Laura van den Berg wrote of the book:
"Midair is a thrilling examination of the thorny complexities of friendship, secrecy, and the ways in which new locales—in this case Paris—can awaken us to the hidden truths of the self. Incisive and suspenseful, Midair is a testament to Kodi Scheer’s wise and remarkable and rapidly expanding talent."
Since the majority of the action takes place in 1999, it was tempting to make this an ode to the music of my high school years. I tried to mix in a few songs from other eras that echo the novel's themes or recreate the atmosphere in some way.
Blondie – "One Way or Another"
One way or another I'm gonna find ya/I'm gonna getcha, getcha, getcha
My protagonist, Nessa, is initially motivated by revenge—she thinks that her classmate, Kat, cheated off her exams and prevented her from getting a college scholarship. Nessa is also grieving the sudden loss of her brother Vince. She wanted to make him proud by not only being the first in her family to go to college, but earning a merit scholarship. With her dreams seemingly dashed, revenge is at the forefront of Nessa's mind—she concocts a twisted plan to commit suicide in front of Kat.
Garbage – "Stupid Girl"
What drives you on/Can drive you mad/A million lies to sell yourself/Is all you ever had
Nessa believes Kat and the other French Club members to be silly and not particularly enlightened. Nessa's only coping mechanism is to convince herself that she's superior to the other girls. But she's never had real friends and she's surprised when they reveal vulnerabilities and extend friendship to her.
Dresden Dolls – "Girl Anachronism"
If it were any colder I could disengage/If I were any older I could act my age/But I don't think that you'd believe me
I think Nessa truly believes she's an anachronism. At first, she thinks her plight is unique and she's not long for this world. Nessa doesn't want to join the next century. She also has a caustic, almost savage, sense of humor, like the woman in this song. Nessa is cynical and unapologetic.
"Girl Anachronism" is provocative and addresses sensitive/triggering content. Midair doesn't shy away from controversial content—in fact, I strongly considered publishing under a pseudonym for this reason. I suspect this book will strike a nerve.
Third Eye Blind – "Jumper"
Everyone's got to face down the demons/Maybe today/We could put the past away
Nessa's plan is to jump off the Eiffel Tower, but you know from the first flash-forward that Nessa is alive and deeply regrets her role in something tragic that happened during the trip some seventeen years ago. With 20/20 hindsight, rather than the distorted lens of youth, she has not only stepped back from the ledge, but understands the consequences of her actions.
The La's – "There She Goes"
She calls my name, pulls my train/No one else could heal my pain
The cover of this song by Sixpence None the Richer was huge in 1999. But I prefer the original—it's a little rougher around the edges and has been called an ode to heroin. At a party in the Belleville neighborhood, Nessa gets high on ‘shrooms and has a sexual and philosophical awakening.
Nouvelle Vague – "Teenage Kicks"
I need excitement oh I need it bad/And it's the best I've ever had
This cover of the Undertones' song has a great bossa nova feel. The girls do foolish things all over Paris to chase excitement. They're also trying desperately to be cool—putting on acts for each other, the guys they meet, and the world at large.
Fiona Apple – "Criminal"
And I need to be redeemed/To the one I've sinned against
While Apple sings about a romantic relationship, the girls develop and share a different kind of emotional intensity. One of the girls makes a decision to protect the others from harm. This causes a cascade that eventually results in a tragic death, one that (now) remorseful Nessa could've prevented. She feels so guilty that she seeks an extreme form of self-punishment.
The Verve – "Bittersweet Symphony"
I need to hear some sounds that recognize the pain in me, yeah/I let the melody shine, let it cleanse my mind
Young Nessa does begin to see some beauty in life. Despite all of her careful plans, Paris seduces her. Ultimately, she chooses ambivalence, recognizing both the light and dark. Bittersweet indeed.
Kodi Scheer and Midair links:
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
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weekly music release lists
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