April 22, 2011
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
We live in a new golden age of fairy tales. Last year alone saw the publication of Jim Knipfel's These Children Who Come at You with Knives, and Other Fairy Tales, Kate Bernheimer's Horse, Flower, Bird, and the compilation My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales, all of which offered refreshing and innovative takes on the genre.
Tod Davies' Snotty Saves the Day: The History of Arcadia is also a modern take on the classic fairy tale. Snotty is a horrible and thoroughly unlikeable child thrust into a strange and magical world. Through Snotty's journey and a professor's numerous footnotes, Davies explores big themes while never sounding preachy. A smart, funny, and thought-provoking read for readers of all ages, Snotty Saves the Day has me eagerly awaiting its sequel.
ForeWord Reviews wrote of the book:
"The combination of story and thematic elements make Snotty Saves the Day a quirky, intelligent, and imaginative read for mid-teens and up. No matter the age, anyone who enjoys reading or studying fairy or folk tales and fantasy will especially enjoy this."
I'm one of those people who mainly listens to a few songs, but over and over and over again. In other words, you don't want to be stuck on a long car trip with me. So here is what I was listening to, and still am for that matter, when I was working on Snotty Saves the Day, and now when I'm working on the second book in the history of Arcadia, Lily the Silent: Being the True History of the First Queen. When I look at the list, well, I can see it's pretty mixed up. Like the songs trampled the fences between them, and now they're all hanging out together on the same plain, somewhere far away over the mountains from the Music Ranch. But then when I think about it, all the songs on the playlist do have something real in common: all of these singers and songs refuse to stay in the corral allotted them. They bust out and head for the open range. So they are the inspiration for the whole History of Arcadia, Snotty Saves the Day most of all . . . and for all the books published by Exterminating Angel Press.
Louis Armstrong, "La Vie En Rose"
Just because it is one of the most beautiful songs/covers ever recorded. It—and all of Louis Armstrong—is about finding the Garden of Earthly Delights here and now, no waffling, no whining, no waiting. In fact, Armstrong's autobiography is like that too. It's one of the greatest books in all of American literature, the more than worthy successor to Huckleberry Finn. Don't believe me? Read the part about his night out with his mother. And then listen to “La Vie En Rose” again. There, you see? You believe me.
Randy Newman, "My Life is Good"
From one of our great genre tramplers. He and Steely Dan excel at lyrics that counter the song's form, creating a brand new message. This song never fails to crack me up. I have met this person many many many times. He is in a fury because he's rich and famous and he should have found the Garden of Earthly Delights, but goddam it, no matter how much coke he sniffs, or how often he hangs with Bruce Springsteen, it's right around the corner; he never gets there; he can hear the bastards who are there having a good time; he suspects among them are people like his gardener, and the little geek who isn't cool enough to party with the band. I know people like this. Hey, guys—lighten up. Kick off your shoes and get down here with the rest of us where the real fun is.
Jacqui Wicks, "Whatever Lola Wants"
Everything in this woman's voice expresses a belief in the Good Life, a love of the Good Life, and a refusal to try to access a fake commercialized version of it—or to be anyone but herself. And her Self stands for Sheer Delight. She wants it, she gets it. This is exactly what Luc, my villain, is trying to stop Snotty from getting, as a matter of fact. And that's the point on which the whole of the future of Arcadia teeters…
Warren Zevon, "Ourselves to Know"
There's always one song you listen to over and over while you're working on something, and this was it for me. The medieval Crusades overlaid with a demented testosterone-fueled Sixties desire for counterculture fame, and Death staring everyone right in the face—the singer most of all. Then all of a sudden, bringing Death along makes it a more memorable event than could have ever been set up by the hippest Party Planner.
I love this song. I especially love the line, "Set a course for a brand new world/Of common sense and wonder." The Chumbas are always thrillingly eager to try something new, combined with their steely resolve to convey a very ancient message indeed: that everyone deserves autonomy, safety, creativity, and wonder…and what the hell are we doing to provide it, anyway? This joy-ridden song in honor of Charles Darwin is also in honor of all the wonderful stories we tell that make up our lives, and a profound recognition that any story about the biological past is linked to our fairy tales, in the highest and best sense of the term. To shout “common sense and wonder” pretty much sums up all my ambitions for both The History of Arcadia, and for EAP generally. Thanks for that, guys.
Steely Dan, "Gaucho"
One of the most perfect songs I know. Who would imagine you could get so much into a pop song? The constant tension between the singer (who you know is going to snarl “My Life is Good” once he makes his pile, in between kicking his pedigreed dog and yelling at his kids) and the fairy tale life of desire that his best friend has entered, a life that “will never be welcome here/high in the Custerdome,” is the most sophisticated theme imaginable. The perfect song for Megalopolis. Only no one there would get it. They'd probably like the tune, though. It's very catchy.
Kid Carpet, "Last Word"
On the face of it, this unbearably poignant song from an artist who makes his music using children's toys is about those horrible phone calls where you've just had a fight with your loved one and don't want to hang up before everything's all right…but you're not sure you can make everything all right. But really it's about how the Garden is drawing away from us as we quarrel uselessly with the natural world. Is it possible to swallow our massive pride, kiss and make up?
Eva Cassidy, "Time is a Healer"
Okay, so this one doesn't have much to do with Snotty Saves the Day. But it's my Australian cattle dog's favorite song, so I play it quite often.
Van Morrison and the Chieftains, "Ta Mo Chleamhnas Deanta"
This is a wild card song. Every time I hear it, the hair stands up on the back of my arms. But I have no idea why. All through the writing of Snotty Saves the Day, and now, when I'm working on Lily the Silent, I get cravings to listen to it. And when I do, I stop short. I stop short if I'm listening to the whole album, and it suddenly comes on, the way you stop when you hear a much loved person's voice ring out at a party. Why? Don't know. If someone could translate the Gaelic lyrics for me, and tell me something about the song's history, it would be much appreciated.
Iggy Pop, "Five Foot One"
Whenever someone objected, in the book's earlier incarnations, to my unappealing Snotty hero, I listened to this song. I figure if Iggy Pop gets it, that's really all I need to know.
Tod Davies and Snotty Saves the Day: The History of Arcadia links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
other Book Notes playlists (authors create music playlists for their book)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (weekly book reviews)
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from the week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists