Author Playlists

SJ Sindu’s playlist for her story collection “The Goth House Experiment”

“The Goth House Experiment is a collection of short stories that are all connected by a feeling of disconnection. That is, in an increasingly connected world, we all seem to be more isolated and lonelier than ever before.”

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, Roxane Gay, and many others.

SJ Sindu’s The Goth House Experiment solidifies her place as one of our most talented storytellers with this smart and timely collection.

Shelf Awareness wrote of the book:

“Sindu invites readers to examine and ultimately accept these characters as they are: narcissistic, loving, unfaithful, righteous, greedy, kind, bigoted. There are no convenient endings here, but readers won’t need them. Sindu’s characters are terrible, wonderful, and, most of all, human. Will thrill fans of Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties.”

In her own words, here is SJ Sindu’s Book Notes music playlist for her story collection The Goth House Experiment:

The Goth House Experiment is a collection of short stories that are all connected by a feeling of disconnection. That is, in an increasingly connected world, we all seem to be more isolated and lonelier than ever before. The characters in these stories search for meaning, for love, and for themselves in worlds where reality itself is slippery. The stories also span a wide scope of genres, which you can gather from this playlist. I decided to pair up each story with its own vibe song.

“Dark Academia and the Lesbian Masterdoc”: “Disenchanted” (My Chemical Romance)

This is a story about a numb and disillusioned professor who becomes a viral influencer on TikTok. “Disenchanted” seems to me the perfect pairing. My Chemical Romance was my first ever concert, one that I attended with my activist queer friends from college. This song in particular spoke to me as I struggled with the question of whether or not we were actually making a difference with our activism or if the world was too complacent and lazy for change. To me the song is about the hypocrisy of buying in to the American dream. I debated whether or not the selection should be “Jesus of Suburbia” by Green Day, but ultimately MCR has my heart.

“Patriots’ Day”: “Burning Bridges” (Chris Pureka)

Though this story deals with racism and hate crimes in the wake of terrorist attacks, it’s really about a man whose marriage has failed, a man in love with a woman who hasn’t answered his calls in four days. Unlike the pairing above, I absolutely listened to Chris Pureka on repeat when writing this story, which initially began as a novel and then got shorter and shorter with each revision.

“I Like to Imagine Daisy from Mrs. Dalloway as an Indian Woman”: “Kal Ho Naa Ho (Sad)” (Shankar–Ehsaan–Loy)

This story is essentially Virginia Woolf fanfiction where I reimagine the ethnicity and backstory of one of the characters in Mrs. Dalloway. In my version, Daisy leaves behind her family and everything she knows in India to follow her husband to England. And I want to pair it with a song derived from the tradition in Indian weddings of the bride saying goodbye to her family as she joins her husband’s family. The utter patriarchy of that aside, this song, which is the sadder refrain from the ending of the movie Kal Ho Naa Ho, captures the mixture of grief and joy on the part of the Indian bride at the time of marriage.

“Wild Ale”: “Heaven Dog” (Coyote Grace)

I love this song so much. I love Coyote Grace so much, even though now the band members have gone their separate ways. I even took guitar lessons from Joe Stevens, the lead singer. So it’s a song and band that’s close to me, that means a lot to me to include. And this song captures the sense of existentially-driven restlessness and recklessness that the main character in “Wild Ale” feels during the pandemic lockdown—that, in fact, a whole lot of us felt during that time. I wanted to take a snapshot of that vibe, when we felt driven into bad decisions by the frustrated isolation of lockdown and the hopeless terror of an unseen enemy.

“The Goth House Experiment”: “Shipping Up to Boston” (Dropkick Murphys)

I couldn’t resist including this song-story pairing. In the titular story of my collection, the main character is a poet who is living outside of Boston and who is haunted by the ghost of Oscar Wilde. The song and story both have an energy of going hard, and indeed the story spins out of control in a way that reminds me of this song.

“Miracle Boy”: “Enjoy Enjaami” (Arivu, Dhee, and Santhosh Narayanan)

This is the only one of the stories in this collection that’s set in a Tamil town in Sri Lanka, so I wanted a song that’s tied strongly to the Tamil homeland. The song is also about the land itself and our relationship to it, our responsibility to it. It employs an ancient Tamil musical form called oppari, which is traditionally sung by women to eulogize and lament a person who has died. Oppari is an appropriate backbone for this story, which (spoiler alert) ultimately highlights grief and our deep need to believe in a greater power.

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SJ Sindu is a Tamil diaspora author of two literary novels (Marriage of a Thousand Lies, which won the Publishing Triangle Edmund White Award; and Blue-Skinned Gods, which was an Indie Next Pick and a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award), two hybrid chapbooks (I Once Met You But You Were Dead, which won the Split Lip Turnbuckle Chapbook Contest; and Dominant Genes, which won the Black Lawrence Press Black River Chapbook Contest), two forthcoming graphic novels (Shakti and Tall Water), and one forthcoming collection of short stories (The Goth House Experiment). Sindu holds a PhD in Creative Writing from Florida State University and teaches at Virginia Commonwealth University and Vermont College of Fine Arts.

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