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September 26, 2017

Book Notes - Stephen King and Owen King "Sleeping Beauties"

Sleeping Beauties

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.

Stephen King and Owen King's novel Sleeping Beauties offers a compelling and timely exploration of gender stereotypes.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"Another horror blockbuster, Mercedes and all, from maestro King and his heir apparent…In a kind of untold Greek tragedy meets Deliverance meets—well, bits of Mr. Mercedes and The Shawshank Redemption, perhaps—King and King, father and son, take their time putting all the pieces into play: brutish men, resourceful women who've had quite enough, alcohol, and always a subtle sociological subtext, in this case of rural poverty and dreams sure to be dashed…A blood-splattered pleasure."

In their own words, here is Stephen King and Owen King's Book Notes music playlist for their novel Sleeping Beauties:

To know:

• Because vinyl is back – never left, baby! – we decided to construct our imaginary Sleeping Beauties soundtrack as a 12 song LP.
Sleeping Beauties is, broadly, about an epidemic that causes women to not awaken from sleep. It’s set in and around a small Appalachian town named Dooling, and on the same day the epidemic begins, by no coincidence, a peculiar woman calling herself Eve Black, arrives on the scene. To say much more is to risk spoiling the fun, but in the liner notes below, we say fair a bit more, so you may want to save this for after you read the novel.

— Stephen King & Owen King


1."Born A Woman" - Sandy Posey
SK: Pop music, whether country or rock, is more about spirit than sense. In this song — lyrics from it are one of the Sleeping Beauties epigraphs — the spirit is one of toughness and resilience. There’s a clear-eyed appreciation of a society where women are “stepped on, lied to…and treated like dirt,” but there’s also a kind of defiant gladness, and a commitment to keep on trying.

2. "Auld Triangle" - Luke Kelly & the Dubliners
OK: We quote from “Auld Triangle” in the novel and while I might be imagining it, I seem to recall that Dad confessed to me that while he didn't really love the tune, thought it was a bit corny, he liked it for us, because it's gestured to ironically. The song's famous punchline, of course, is that the prisoner, miserable in lock-up, ultimately wishes he was jailed at "the female prison." Dr. Clinton Norcross, one of our four or five central characters, is living that "dream" in a way - as the psychiatrist in a women's prison - and thinks about the song.

3. "Endless Sleep" - Jody Reynolds
SK: Since our book is about sleeping women, this one, with its haunting refrain (Come join me, baby, in my endless sleep) seemed like a no-brainer. It’s a teen suicide song that gains sinister resonance by virtue of its simplicity.

4. "At Seventeen" - Janis Ian
SK: How much of female success in American society depends on beauty, personality, and the ability to show those pearly whites at the drop of a male witticism? Here’s a song that suggests quite a lot on the subject by showing the other side. This is what it’s like for the ugly ducklings, those “lacking in the social graces.” It’s about how those “small town eyes gaze at you in dull surprise.” Small towns like Dooling, for instance.

5. "Shake Some Action" - Flamin’ Groovies
OK: Offered in tribute to another doctor character, Garth Flickinger, MD, whose beloved Flamin' Groovies t-shirt doesn't survive the novel. Also, there’s some pretty good action in the book. (Or, at least, that’s what we tell ourselves.)

6. "You're Gonna Miss Me" - 13th Floor Elevators
OK: Arguably the quintessential track from the Nuggets box set. A real clatter. I’ve never been sure if it’s a howl of pain or a howl celebration of freedom, but it’s some kind of howl. The men in our novel end up missing the women quite a bit. And the women miss the men, too. But the women are better able to adapt. If you consider the everyday sexism of American life, and the degree to which women succeed in spite of it, this won’t be a surprise.


7. "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" - Warren Zevon
OK: It don't matter if I get a little tired/I'll sleep when I'm dead. Sleep looks very close to death for the female characters in our novel. If they let themselves give in, there's just no telling if they'll ever get to wake up again. With that in mind, it would have been soundtrack malpractice not to include this Warren Zevon romp. (Aside: my close listening to Warren Zevon's discography leads me to believe that he didn't sleep through a single night in the entire decade of the seventies, and took, at most, four or five naps during that time.)

8. "Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves" - Eurythmics & Aretha Franklin
SK: There’s also joy in being a woman, an ability to do what men do (and better). This euphoric collaboration expresses it. I thought of it in connection with the brave women of Our Place in Sleeping Beauties as they try to build a new society from the ashes of the old.

9. "County Jail Special" - Champion Jack Dupree
SK: This is from the album Penitentiary Blues: Songs to Do Hard Time By, which makes it a natural for our purposes. Champion Jack — his nickname came from his boxing days — never did hard time, but the song perfectly articulates the boredom and “lowdown” quality of doing time. The best thing about this version is Champ’s nonchalant falsetto breaks and the barrelhouse piano.

10. "Oh, Babe, It Ain't No Lie" - Elizabeth Cotten
OK: One old woman, Lord, in this town/keeps telling her lies on me. This song makes me think of Evie, who appears to be young, but has – well, let’s say, an old soul. She’s also not the most honest person. There’s a wonderfully charming YouTube clip of Elizabeth Cotten explaining how she wrote it about a neighbor that lied about her when was a child that I recommend you seek out. Besides Cotten’s stellar original, there have also been some great cover versions of this song, starting with the Grateful Dead’s well-known take.

11. "The Body Electric" - Hurray for the Riffraff
OK: Sleeping Beauties is a fantasy, but it’s informed by the world we live in, and especially the country we live in, and our country’s a fucking mess. Alynda Segarra gets to the heart of it.

12. "You Better Be Good To Me" - Tina Turner
SK: Here is the ultimate, do-not-cross-this-line demand, as expressed by a woman who lived the hard life Sandy Posey’s song is about. Tina shouts it with the conviction of a streetcorner preacher: Yes, she says, I’m a prisoner of your love, entangled in your web…but pay attention, Mr. Man: "You better be good to me, that’s how it’s gotta be.” Testify, woman. Tell it.

Stephen King and Owen King and Sleeping Beauties links:

Owen King's website
Stephen King's website
the book's Wikipedia entry
excerpt from the book

Guardian review
Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review
St. Louis Post-Dispatch review

Entertainment Weekly profile of the authors
Largehearted Boy Book Notes playlist by Owen King for Double Feature
Largehearted Boy Book Notes playlist by Owen King for We're All in This Together
Vulture interview with Stephen King

also at Largehearted Boy:

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