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August 28, 2018

Tod Davies' Playlist for Her Novel "Report to Megalopolis"

Report to Megalopolis

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

Report to Megalopolis, the fourth book in Tod Davies' History of Arcadia series, is innovative, thought-provoking, and a wondrous novel for both adults and teens.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"A philosophical fable. . . . As much Faust as Frankenstein."

In her own words, here is Tod Davies' Book Notes music playlist for her novel Report to Megalopolis:

When I started on an early draft of the fourth book in The History of Arcadia, it was meant just to be a ‘report’ describing the land itself. But I wasn’t getting any sleep, and weirdly kept having violent nightmares about nuclear war, of bombs going over my head into the wall. I’d wake up sometimes four times a night—only to discover my own mother had ducked when a firebomb from a US aircraft went over her head and set fire to the little wooden hut in Japan where she and my aunt and my grandmother had, as foreign nationals, taken shelter during WWII. Even though she was in Kobe, firebombed, and almost incinerated in the atomic attack that Kobe was spared due to cloud cover, all she wanted to do afterwards was get to America, marry an American, have American children and be safe. She wanted to forget. She had never told me the story of the firebombing until I told her about the nightmares, but the minute she did, I realized that was what I was dreaming. Instantly, the nightmares went away.

But why was I having those nightmares now? Then I looked at the book I was writing. It was the narrator of my story that had given me the nightmares. His home, like my mother’s, had been destroyed by fire in a war. And he, like my mother, clung to the aggressor as the stronger and safer option. Science, technology, blind faith in power and progress were the talismans he frantically used to protect himself from his vulnerability. Just as my mother had used forgetting to protect herself from hers. Eight drafts later, Report to Megalopolis was also The Post-modern Prometheus. It was “Frankenstein” I was trying to write. “Frankenstein” written with my mother’s fear perched watchfully in my shoulder.

All that stuff going on in the deep, just out of consciousness. No surprise: when I check out what I was listening to then, you can tell I was drawn toward that music like a sick dog drawn to eating grass.

Randy Newman, The Great Debate

I’d never heard, never even contemplated, a song about the conflict between ‘rational’ thought and feeling, and how unless our idea of what is rational will accept expansion into unknown territory, the cynical manipulation of feeling is going to trump it every time. One thing I know: my own experiences—dreaming of something I could have known nothing about—go past what’s allowed in rational discourse. This song makes a good case for opening up to that.

Danbert Nobacon and the Axis of Dissent, Stardust to Darwinstuff

All the reasons we have to love a science that loves our world and our feelings about that world. It’s not science that’s the problem, as Danbert sings. It’s the nonhuman uses it is often an excuse for. It’s nuts to struggle against our human feelings, our vulnerability as a result of being human, when being human is a part of the universe. I love Danbert’s songs. He’s never frightened of being called naïve. And he’s just about always right.

Giant Sand, Every Now and Then

So here’s my naivete. I believe every word of this song. Now. And then.

Paul Simon, The Only Living Boy in New York

I listened to this song over and over at a certain point in writing “Report,” without having the faintest idea what it was about. It might have been the singer’s wistfulness at being left behind in a huge, uncaring city—like Megalopolis—while his friend was flying away. It was probably that. It was that sadness I wanted behind my narrator’s bluster and pride.

Chumbawamba, After Shelley

I have all of Chumbawamba’s albums. I can’t understand why everyone doesn’t. Maybe because they tell us things we’d rather not know, and celebrate feelings that we’re embarrassed to admit? Not for adolescence, Chumbawamba. For later in life. For more experience and knowing that while tragedy exists, it is never an option to stop believing the world can be a better place.

Indigo Girls, Galileo

I can hear this song over and over and never tire of it. I see it’s for the same reason I listened to all the others on this list: it’s about the world being dark and light, and known and unknown, and way more complicated than most people want to admit. Boundaries, you know. Looking at this list, I can see—it’s all about breaching boundaries.

Lorde, Liability (Reprise)

The reprise, “But you’re not what you thought you were/But you’re not what you thought you were.” Yeah. True, true, true. And how it hurts to breach that boundary.

Peter Gabriel, Sulsbury Hill

But if you follow what you love as it runs into unknown territory, amazing things happen.

Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi

I actually never played this once. But the whole time I was writing, it kept running through my head. “Don’t it always seem to you, though/that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”

Tod Davies and Report to Megalopolis links:

the author's Wikipedia entry

Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review

Boulder Weekly profile of the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Lily the Silent
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for The Lizard Princess
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Snotty Saves the Day

also at Largehearted Boy:

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