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April 20, 2017

Book Notes - Anne Elizabeth Moore "Body Horror"

Body Horror

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.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"Sharp, shocking, and darkly funny, the essays in this sapient collection … expose the twisted logic at the core of Western capitalism and our stunted understanding of both its violence and the illnesses it breeds. … Brainy and historically informed, this collection is less a rallying cry or a bitter diatribe than a series of irreverent and ruthlessly accurate jabs at a culture that is slowly devouring us."

In her own words, here is Anne Elizabeth Moore's Book Notes music playlist for her essay collection Body Horror:

1. Glory And Gore - Lorde
Body Horror is kind of a joke book about horrible diseases and labor abuses, and can probably act as some kind of coping mechanism for women and non-binary folk under capitalism, but is also kind of a peek into my bizarre interest in combining cute things with serious gore f*cking winning. The chorus of this song goes, "Glory and gore go hand in hand / that's why we're makin' headlines." It's probably not irrelevant that 20-year old pop prodigy Lorde got the full-page NYT treatment for her "dramatic return" after her debut at 16, and the freaking comments on the story are all about how she doesn't smile enough.

2. Chemo Limo - Regina Spektor
"This shit is making me dead, it's making me dead": Insurance policies, chemo, being tired, going out in style, and the sudden moment where the narrator, describing her kids, breaks down about how much her daughter looks like her mom: this may be my favorite song about facing death. Why are the Russians always so good about death? Gogol, Tatyana Tolstaya. Apparently Spektor wrote the song when she was 18. Mother Jones asked her how her songs so accurately describe such horrible experiences she couldn't have had. She said, "As a writer, you must have been told: Write about what you know. But Kafka didn't. Gogol didn't. Did Shakespeare write only what he knew? Did Camus? Our own selves are limitless. And our capacity for empathy is giant."

3. (Hospital Vespers) - The Weakerthans
The Weakerthans is one of my go-to bands. This song about wanting to protect private fear before a medical procedure is something I think about often. How do we express care for each other? Maybe love is as simple as being willing to stand on a chair and block a video camera for a second. In one of the most brutal essays in the book, I more or less catalog every single shitty thing anyone said to me over the first three years of illness. But there are a handful of moments of light tucked in there, kindnesses that were overwhelmingly meaningful to me, that the person who committed them later may not have even recalled doing, and this song seems to capture that exact variety of moment.

4. I'm Better (feat. Lamb) - Missy Elliott
Missy Elliott is rumored to have an autoimmune disease, the frighteningly named Graves disease, which isn't nearly as terrifying as it sounds, except in the sense that all autoimmune diseases are terrifying. Also she is the best, and songs about being able to get out of bed in the morning just because you have pals are also the best.

5. Only Women Bleed - Alice Cooper

6 . Shotgun Blues - Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn
"If I had a shotgun / and you were in the woods / I'd hunt you down / and tell you you're no good." Oh did you think Body Horror was exclusively about horrors perpetrated on the feminine body? No sir. Try to keep up.

7. Ativan Eyes - Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
Ted Leo is also just the best, is he not? : "I'm so sick of cynics and I want something to trust in." Obviously I needed to have the Pharmacists on this playlist too, so.

8. Distracted - Sean Spillane
This song is from the soundtrack to The Woman, Lucy McKee's amazing horror film about misogyny, which I write about pretty extensively in the book. The song's not great, I'll admit, but I love it for the lyric, "We're all adrift upon this planet spinning 'round the sun / Years ago I thought we were f*cked / Now I bought a gun / got target practice noon to one / Yeah, and I'm having a lot more fun."

9. Shark Week - Hand Job Academy
Here's the thing about women and gore: we're actually kinda over it.

10. Hospital Beds - Cold War Kids
Nice plodding piano song about how boring it is to be hospitalized, and everyone else there is always mind-numbing, until we get to that sweet twinkly refrain about putting out the "fire on us."

11. Lupus - Killdozer
I have never loved a band harder than I love Killdozer. Michael Gerald's songwriting and delivery has always gone above and beyond. But this freaking song about how Flannery O'Conner died of lupus—"she wrote many books before death came upon her," although the narrator doesn't really remember what happened in any of those books—is just so good. And, of course, is one of the very few songs actually about an autoimmune disease. I only had lupus for a few months, but shit that is a suck-ass diagnosis.

12. Nine Out of Ten - Caetano Veloso
"Nine out of ten movies stars make me cry / I'm alive": Most books about illness are cast as stories about mortality, but I take that notion to task pretty seriously in Body Horror. For the most part, these are actually just stories about life under duress, which is a condition a lot of people deal with on a pretty regular basis. So marginalizing such stories as only about death, or as only relevant to those who are close to death, is pretty whack. It's been gratifying to see critics pick up on that, too, and talk about the book in terms of athletic prowess and vitality.

13. Doll Parts - Hole
I'm supposed to note the relevance of the lyric here, "Some day, you will ache like I ache." But more appropriate to my personal interests is the lyric about accruing the highest volume of cake, which is extremely important to me.

14. Meningitis Blues - Memphis Minnie
All those old songs about very specific diseases and their very particular ailments—I really miss them. Now we just have personal blogs and chatrooms and specialists and those are not very catchy at all. If more songwriters had the stamina of former child prodigy Kid Douglas—ran away from home at 13 and played in the streets until she literally joined the circus, then married, then signed to Columbia records with her first husband before kicking off her solo career as Memphis Minnie, albeit in Chicago, Indianapolis, and Detroit—we'd probably have better songs in general.

15. Pregnant Women are Smug - Garfunkel and Oates
I wish Garfunkel and Oates would stop pretending they're a comedy band and just admit they're a real band but keep doing exactly what they already do. This is a clever song about how fully our society condones maternity—which I write about in relationship to the development of intellectual property rights law in the book. Short version: I'm not exactly a maternal person.

16. Night of Blood in a World Without End - The Body
OK, there are some dark moments in the book.

17. Housewives And Their Knives - Miles Kurosky
Cutesy ditties about ladies maybe murdering their husbands, if you're not basically here for that you probably have the wrong Anne Elizabeth Moore.

18. Open Up and Bleed - The Stooges
I mean.

19. Lithium - Nirvana
I called in a ringer on this playlist, a personal music consultant who has nearly opposite natural tendencies in music than I do, but whom I trust explicitly in all matters aesthetic. He f*cking hates this song. I get it: I refused to listen to it for 20 years. However, I recently realized it is a good song, and I get to make the playlist because I wrote the book.

20. Houses - Elyse Weinberg
Of course I have heard this far more frequently as a Dinosaur Jr. cover, but Weinberg's original, with all that late-1960s lilt and raw sweetness, conveys something Dino Jr just can't (sorry dudes) in the lyrics: "I could never make it in your house / you could never make it in mine."

21. My Red Self - Heavens To Betsy
This was what I have been listening to for the last 20 years instead of Nirvana: Corin Tucker's pre-Sleater Kinney band. Blame me? I didn't think so. "What is the color of shame / I know it's red, blood blood red." There's quite a bit about the shame of menstruation in the book—and the unbelievable commerce to be milked from it, particularly in the sanitary hygiene industry. I don't want to brag, but I bet I'm the world's foremost leading critic of the sanitary napkin disposal bag.

22. Juggernaut - Stan Hubbs
Psychedelia about our godless times. If I were actually making this book as a body horror film, this song would for sure close out Act I.

23. Westfall - Okkerville River
This is just the best song ever written about how easy and fun it is to murder people in cold blood. I mean, I've never done it, but this song makes it seem like maybe I will one night, hanging out with some pals. I write a bit about something Virginie Despentes says about rape in King Kong Theory, about how it would be limited if women started carrying carpet knives around with them everywhere; if men thought that getting their dicks sliced off might be a possible outcome of sexual violence. There's something nice about that notion in relation to this song: this comfortable, kinda clueless guy who just decides to kill a girl in the woods one day and then finds himself a little surprised that there may be consequences. One thing that really underpins the super broad essays in Body Horror is how what we do and do not fear ends up defining us.

24. Living in a Coffin - Lost Cherrees
My ringer dug this one up for me, hilarious pun NOT intended but I'm leaving it in out of laziness. Lady-fronted anarcho punk seems an excellent way to close out the playlist, donnit?

Anne Elizabeth Moore and Body Horror links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

Autostraddle review
Publishers Weekly review
Viva la Feminista review

Chicago Magazine interview with the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Cambodian Grrrl
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Hip-Hop Asporia
The Matthew Filipowicz Show interview with the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

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