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February 28, 2012

Book Notes - Nick Antosca - "The Obese"

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 Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, George Pelecanos, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, David Peace, Myla Goldberg, and many others.

Nick Antosca's novella The Obese is well-written satire dealing with body image and obesity, a modern horror classic.

JMWW wrote of the book:

"Living up to his reputation for innovative yet accessible work, Antosca creates a story that is so grotesquely hilarious it makes me wonder if it’s, indeed, possible. A world full of overweight people trying to eat the one person who despises them most sounds intriguing, but it’s the writing, the attention to craft throughout the text, that renders this interesting premise into a fully fleshed (pardon the pun) out book worth reading."

Stream a Spotify playlist of these tunes. If you don't have Spotify yet, sign up for the free service.

In his own words, here is Nick Antosca's Book Notes music playlist for his novella, The Obese:

The Obese is a novella that was conceived when I lived in New York and worked in Times Square. I often had lunch in Bryant Park. In the summer, Condé Nast employees eat lunch there, too. One day I overheard two women who I am pretty sure worked for one of the Condé Nast magazines discussing a coworker who had a weight problem. I remember the conversation was casually vicious. I had an image of the two women being chased by a horde of ravenous obese people, then eaten, and I wanted to write that book. Quite a while later, I did, and it's out now from Lazy Fascist Press.

Here are some things I listened to while I was writing it:

"It's a Sin" - Pet Shop Boys

A song I often write to, regardless of the project. That's because a few years ago, I was writing something I needed to finish quickly, and I took a bunch of Adderall and wrote for ten hours nonstop while listening to "It's a Sin" over and over. That probably sounds like some people's version of a nightmare. But for me the song came to be associated with writing quickly and with intense focus. It's appropriate, I guess, that the main character of The Obese, Nina Gilten, lives in a state of intense self-loathing. She denies herself the indulgence of food because, to her, eating's a sin.

"What a Feeling" - Irene Cara

Yeah, this is a song from Flashdance, and yes, it's ultra-cheesy ("Take your passion...and make it happen!"). One night this came on the radio while I was driving at 2 or 3 am in L.A., and it got stuck in my head, so I wrote to it for the next few days. It suggests an outlook that's both aspirational and delusional. I imagine that Nina Gilten many years before the events of The Obese had a mindset sort of like the song's speaker. She imagined that when she moved to New York she'd be living a life of mimosas and Magnolia cupcakes, not being chased by obese marauders.

"Rebel Girl" - Bikini Kill

"That girl thinks she's the queen of the neighborhood!" The narrative of the song doesn't really map onto the narrative of The Obese (for one thing, no rabid obese) but it does offer a complicated and authentic-feeling depiction of female friendship. I listened to this a few times while writing the first half of The Obese, in which the story is primarily driven by Nina's cruelty toward a woman from her childhood who considers Nina a friend. We all want our friends to reflect the versions of ourselves we want to present to the world, and we reject the friendship of those who could reflect poorly on us or who reflect parts of ourselves we dislike.

"All of My Friends Were There" - The Kinks

I listened to jaunty, quirky music when writing the scenes where the rabid obese people attack Nina and her friends and try to eat them (and succeed, in some cases). This song created a great circus atmosphere for the writing of those scenes, and there's also a weird elegaic tone that evoked a feeling of nostalgia in me (although I'm not sure for what).

When I was younger, I misunderstood this song. The tone is What a wonderful day it was! All of my friends were there, and that made me happy. But I heard it as, All of my friends were there. How embarrassing! That might be another reason I was listening to it while writing the later scenes in The Obese: Nina is horrified when people from various emotionally fraught sections of her life are forced into each other's company.

"Modern Girls & Old Fashion Men" - Regina Spektor and The Strokes

This one just seemed perfect for The Obese because it's so dead-on in its depiction of a certain Manhattan milieu. Also, Nina Gilten would probably love to be hanging out with Regina Spektor and The Strokes. She would certainly like to be one of the "modern girls" of the title.

I also listened to Night of the Living Dead while writing The Obese. I'd just stick it in the DVD player and leave it on in the background. But I do that when I'm not writing, too.

Nick Antosca and The Obese links:

the author's blog
the author's Wikipedia entry

JMWW review

Collagist interview with the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Midnight Picnic
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Fires

also at Largehearted Boy:

other Book Notes playlists (authors create music playlists for their book)

List of Online "Best Books of 2011" Lists
List of 2011 Year-End Online Music Lists

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
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)
musician/author interviews
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