Lots to discuss today, so I’ll get right to it. Go!
Okay, this might have been one of the Best Weekends Ever. First, Carolina beats Duke at home, on senior night. For any UNC fan, you could not have crafted a happier ending to the regular season. I don’t even care what happens from here on out: I’m just happy. Then, the Oscars. Okay, so Jon Stewart seemed a little nervous, and they went on WAY too long as always, but the winners seemed a happy mix of the expected (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and the surprise (Crash for Best Picture). I LOVED Reese Witherspoon’s speech, and how she talked about June Carter just “trying to matter,” and I thought the guys who won for Best Song made the whole telecast. On the whole, I thought it was the best show I’d seen in awhile. Although you have to wonder what they promised Ben Stiller to make him come out in a green bodysuit in front the entire universe. Yikes!
Also this weekend, someone let me know a review of Just Listen, from Kirkus, was up on the B&N site. I have to say it’s not the greatest review ever, although not terrible either. (Although my characterizations are referred to as “glib,” which can’t be good.) The last sentence, though, is the one that really stuck with me: “Not deep, but absorbing and enjoyable.” Which, the more I think about it, is how most people would probably describe ME. And is that a bad thing? I don’t know.
Here’s the thing with reviews: it’s impossible not to take them personally. Whatever they say about your book, it’s like they’re saying it about you. So if it’s bad, it hurts for a moment, but then usually passes, unless what’s said is particularly scathing. When the movie came out, though, the reviews for that were different. It wasn’t like they were talking about me, but maybe, say, my father-in-law. Which is to say I was invested, and didn’t want to see it disparaged, but didn’t feel every word like a punch to the chest. So to speak. But anyway.
Speaking of Just Listen, I’ve said here before that there’s a strong music component in the book. So this weekend, inspired by the fabulous Lara Zeises, I put together an iMix, on ITunes, for the book. If you have ITunes, you can find it by clicking here. If you don’t have ITunes, here’s what I picked, and why.
Okay, first let me say that putting together this list was hard. There’s a lot of music in the book, but most of it I made up, because music is so personal, and I knew that if people were really relating to the characters, only to find Annabel or Owen loved a song that they, the reader, hated, it would make things complicated. Plus, it’s just easier to make stuff up in a case like this: a fictional world, fictional place, fictional music. That way it stays timeless, no matter if you read the book tomorrow or ten years from now.
So some of these songs are ones that inspired me when I was writing the book. Others got me through the writing of the book, which is just as important. And still others are ones that just mean something to me, for whatever reason. Anyway, here we go…
1.”What It Feels Like For a Girl,” Madonna. Okay, so I am old enough to remember when the video for “Borderline” hit MTV and we eighth grade girls, en masse, headed out to buy rubber bracelets and fingerless gloves. I feel like I’ve grown up with Madonna, and I love her stuff, but this is probably my favorite song. It was in my mind a lot when I was writing the book, the way a song with just be there, and then start to represent the story whenever you hear it. It came out a few years ago, and the video was all violent and caused a bit of a a controversy, which is unfortunate because this is a beautiful, uplifting song. At least, in my mind. (Again: it’s personal!)
2. “Radio Song,” R.E.M. There’s a lot of stuff about radio in the book, so this fits. Plus I love R.E.M. songs where Michael Stipe sounds like he’s having fun. I mean, I love the sad ones too, but it’s nice to know he can be happy, at least occasionally.
3. “Road to Nowhere,” The Talking Heads. This song always puts me in a good mood. It’s also one I was listening to while I was writing, especially at the beginning, which for me is always the scariest part. There’s something nice about David Byrne letting you know it’s gonna be all right. And being able to put that on repeat, for the bad days when you really need to hear it.
4. “Drop the Pilot,” Mandy Moore. What can I say? I love Mandy Moore. ‘Nuff said.
5. “This is Radio Clash,” The Clash. Again, a great song about the power of radio. I was listening to a lot of Clash while I was working on this book. I think Owen, the ultimate music snob, would approve.
6. “Blind Love,” Tom Waits. Okay, here’s the thing. I am TERRIBLE at picking favorites. Ask me my favorite movie, or song, or TV show, and I freeze up, unable to commit to just one. I prefer to pick three. Or, ideally, five. But if I HAD to pick my favorite song of all time, and be bound to it forever, it would probably be this one. First, it’s from Rain Dogs, which is the most perfect album ever. And it’s just beautiful. Beautifully written, beautifully played. Beautiful. I can’t even do it justice, just go listen to it.
7. “Story of My Life,” Social Distortion. Interesting fact: Story of My Life was my original title for this book. Not for this song, but for the phase itself, which comes up a bit in the novel. In the end, though, I changed it—my original titles rarely make it past draft stage—but since I love this song, and will always have a soft spot for my first title, I’m paying it tribute here. I will never hear it again without thinking of the book, and that’s not a bad thing.
8. “The Joker,” Fatboy Slim. The original version of this song, by the Steve Miller Band, SO makes me think of high school. We listened to a lot of SMB then, along with Pink Floyd, and Led Zeppelin. I really like this remake, though, because it’s something nostalgic for me, taking on a whole new life. Which is kind of what like I do, now that I think about it.
9. “Ooh Child,” Beth Orton. This is another song that’s good for those hard days when you’re convinced your story stinks, your characters stink, and you stink. Put it on, wallow for a minute. You’ll feel better when it’s done, I promise.
10. “Ace of Spades,” Motorhead. When I was trying to think of the kind of music Owen played on his show, at least initially, this is the song that came to mind. Good for days when you’re mad at the world. That said, it’s also one of my husband’s favorite songs, so much so that I kept telling people we were going to dance to it at our wedding. Which would have been comical, if not horrifying. Still, you gotta love Motorhead.
11. “Fight Test,” The Flaming Lips. Credit where credit is due: my friends Courtney and Cameron turned me onto this song. I love the beginning, which is sort of whacked out (very Owen-esque) and also the lyrics. It’s all about standing up for something, which is what the book is about, as well.
12. “You Belong to Me,” The Flat Duo Jets. When I was beginning This Lullaby, I was trying to think of the name of the boy who was going to be the lead singer of a band and steal Remy’s heart. Then I remembered the Flat Duo Jets, a very well-known Chapel Hill Band, and their singer, whose name was Dexter Romweber. He was a bit ofa local legend then, and now, and I always loved this song. I know what you’re thinking: but Dexter’s not in Just Listen, so which pick this for this list? Well…..
13. “Rebel Waltz,” The Clash. Like I said, I had Clash on the brain. And this is an unexpected Clash song: soft, and pretty. Plus, it’s one of the few real songs in the book.
14. “Thank You,” Tori Amos. My favorite is the Led Zeppelin version, which is not available on iTunes. Still, this one’s nice as well, more dreamy and sad than the original. I put this song last because it’s the last song mentioned in the book, as well as how I felt when I finished the novel. I am always grateful to write that last sentence, hit that final period, and then sit back and exhale. Nice.
And now, you’re probably grateful too, after slogging through all this. Tomorrow, I’ll do something short and sweet. Promise!