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April 3, 2019

Hal Schrieve's Playlist for Hir Novel "Out of Salem"

Out of Salem

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.

Hal Schrieve's novel Out of Salem is one of the most entertaining and poignant YA novels I have read. This genderqueer urban fantasy is a propulsive gem.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"Set in 1997, this darkly humored fantasy explores censorship, government surveillance, homelessness, and real-world (not just magical) forms of oppression."

In hir own words, here is Hal Schrieve's Book Notes music playlist for hir debut novel Out of Salem:

That Kind of Girl-- All Dogs--Kicking Every Day

This song is the energy I think one of my main characters, Aysel, has--she feels that unless someone can reckon with her the way she is, they should stay away from her. She's a lonely tough fourteen-year-old goth lesbian in a small town, and she has her defenses up. This is also the kind of music she wants to be able to sing. This song captures the defensive loneliness both Z and Aysel experience during the first quarter of the book.

I Was A Teenage Frankenstein--Zombina and the Skeletones--That Doll Just Tried To Kill Me

I have a zombie main character, and this is a funny little song about being a zombie--but more than that, it's about having experienced alienation and felt monstrosity for a long time ("first grade--teenage Frankenstein. Second grade--teenage Frankenstein. Third grade--teenage Frankenstein.") Z was weird before they died--it's just that their corporeal form is finally legible as weird.

I Was A Teenage Anarchist-- Against Me! --White Crosses

This song by Laura Jane Grace is the essential character song for Elaine, a nineteen-year-old werewolf that Aysel meets in the woods during the full moon. Elaine, who was a teen runaway and has lived in anarchist squats across the U.S, is already pretty burnt out by the spaces she has lived in, and doesn't feel that the werewolf activists around her are doing anything productive to change the world. Unfortunately, she doesn't feel like she has any answers either. She still has a revolutionary spark in her, though, and the strength to push that into a flame.

I Think We're Alone Now--Tiffany--Tiffany

"Children, behave--that's what they say when we're together." This is a love song, but I like listening to it and thinking of the ways that it reflects the delight of finding someone young like you who understands you who you can be alone with safely and will not try to regulate your body, behavior or mind. This is the way that gay and trans kids can feel about each other, whether or not it is romantic.

Many Moons--Janelle Monae-- Metropolis

Janelle Monae writes truly space-opera level dramatic songs about revolution and freedom, and this song is about recognizing the structures of oppression that restrict you and starting to resist them. It doesn't hurt that the word "Moon" is in the title. I love moons as a measure of time.

Dig Me Out--Sleater Kinney--Dig Me Out

Dig me out
Dig me in
Out of this mess
Baby, out of my head
Dig me out
Dig me in
Out of my body
Out of my skin

This is a song about feeling trapped in one's body and life, about being unsure that the people around you are comfortable with the way you are, and feeling a need to escape. The description of desire for escape from your body is really trans to me, but it's also a description of a non-functional way to deal with the world telling you your body is wrong in a variety of ways--too fat, too hairy, too gender nonconforming, too sick. There's a push and pull between trying to crawl out of yourself and digging your heels in to the way that you are. That's cool. I also like this song because of its temporal ties to the 1990s. Aysel maybe has it on cassette.

The Diaz Brothers--The Mountain Goats--Transcendental Youth

Transcendental Youth as an album is the real playlist I listened to more than anything else while writing Out of Salem's first draft, but if I had to pick one song that I wanted Out of Salem to resemble most, it would be this one. It's about running from cops or from enemies, being fated to die, being dehumanized, and being in a forest without end--but it's also strangely upbeat.

The Only Hope For Me Is You--My Chemical Romance--Danger Days

I still
Think of the guns they sell
If there's a place that I could be
Than I'd be another memory
Can I be the only hope for you?
Because you're the only hope for me
And if we can't find where we belong,
We'll have to make it on our own
Face all the pain and take it on
Because the only hope for me is you alone

If there was a way to make a six hour dance mix of the union anthem Solidarity Forever and this ultimate pop punk revolutionary bop from MCR, I'd be the first to put it on shuffle. That aside, this is a good song about needing each other in the face of militarism, horror, and apocalypse--in a very intense way.

Korkarak Yasiyorsan---Sebnem Ferah--Perdeler

This is Aysel's Turkish rock star crush. The lyrics to this song are more or less about seizing the moment and knowing that if you want to pursue something, you will be able to stand the experience of getting it, even if it is frightening (one line means approximately "if you want the sea, you'll love the waves/if you want to be loved, you'll know how to love"). I think it relates to Aysel's character and the way she responds to crisis.

You Can('t) Count On Me--Dyke Drama--Up Against The Bricks

From the first shriek of "Fuck the music industry!" (by Sadie Switchblade of G.L.O.S.S fame) this song radiates the tough gravelly punk ethos of the Pacific Northwest's garage music scene. The song's lyrics are about not caring about capitalist values or material success, but there's a heavier thread beneath of a commitment to other values and truths. Enormous mood.

Hal Schrieve and Out of Salem links:

the author's website

Kirkus review

The Illustrated Page interview with the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

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Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
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my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

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