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February 21, 2013

Book Notes - Geneviève Castrée "Susceptible"


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, Aimee Bender, Myla Goldberg, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Geneviève Castrée's graphic novel Susceptible is a stunning, honest, and often heartbreaking depiction of childhood.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"[Castrée] offers three connected minimalist fables dreamily portraying a young woman's reactions to depression, domesticity, and motherhood in delicate watercolors that, thanks largely to her keen graphic skills, made them whimsical without being cloying."

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

In her own words, here is Geneviève Castrée's Book Notes music playlist for her graphic novel, Susceptible:

Susceptible is my first autobiographical comic book. It's a little bit strange for me to unleash it unto the world. It's still very private feeling. I have been drawing comics for over fifteen years, I started out as a teenager. As a teen I fell pretty deep into subculture: comics and music. Susceptible discusses this a little bit, but mostly it is a collection of darker memories from my childhood. It is nearly impossible for me to make a playlist inspired by Susceptible without turning it into some kind of soundtrack to my life. I tried to balance it out between the music I discovered as a teenager, the stuff that is in my head and bloodstream permanently, and the music I was enjoying while working on Susceptible.

Reiko Kudo - "Higanbana"

This is the song that I will probably put on every mixtape I ever make for the rest of my life. I love it so much. Reiko Kudo is a member of the band Maher Shalal Hash Baz along with her husband Tori. The first time I went to Japan (back in 2006) I got to sit with them at a kitchen table in the back of a record store in Matsuyama. He was busy composing the music for their concert that very evening on various sheets of paper. Her and I had a deep conversation about the Apocalypse. I feel very strongly about the people I have met in Japan. Higanbana is a flower which blooms near cemeteries around the autumnal equinox.

Stereolab - "Percolator"

The first three or four times I heard Stereolab as a thirteen year-old I was terrified. I would put on headphones and listen to the university radio station in bed in the dark when I couldn't sleep. There was something so eerie about all the pretty voices harmonizing. Laetitia Sadier's lyrics have influenced my writing tremendously. I also have her to thank for choosing to write my own songs in my mother tongue, in French.

Circle - "Lääke"

Towards the very end of me finishing all the inking for Susceptible I had a music tour scheduled in Europe. Our last show was in Finland. I have been a Circle fan for a few years and in Helsinki I went to a record shop and bought a few Circle-related LPs, mostly judging them by the covers. As I was finishing my book I would listen to their album Rautatie on a loop. It's dark and zoned out, sort of like my drawings.

Sonic Youth - "In the Kingdom #19"

Sonic Youth had a huge impact on me. EVOL is my favorite album of theirs. I think I fell into punk rock mostly because I needed something extreme, something as far away from Pink Floyd and Peter Gabriel as possible. And then Sonic Youth opened a door to a vast world of music that isn't quite so aggressive, yet still feral. This specific song is actually featured in my book. The lyrics are by Lee Ranaldo, more of a spoken word piece. I am an admirer of his poetry. This again was a door to a vast world featuring more interesting/inspiring poets.

Raincoats - "Baby Song"

My friend (and also publisher) Benoît put this song on a tape for me when I turned eighteen. I was living in the woods with my father and his girlfriend and experienced perhaps the loneliest eighteenth birthday ever. In hindsight that was probably a good thing... The arrival of the Raincoats in my ears was a celebration. There is something so humble about the Raincoats, still their music can be such a magical mindfuck.

Subhumans - "Susan"

This is a weird Subhumans song, very mellow, they are not usually a piano band! I loved this song as a teenager. I felt there was a neat sombre quality to it. It described the life I knew I didn't want for myself. Growing up with two accountants I often felt like accounting was hard work, very sterile, under-appreciated, very depressing. I knew I wanted to leave more of a trace, to do something that would reach out to others.

CRASS - "Walls (Fun in the Oven)"

This also is an unusual song for the band CRASS. Its message resounds so wonderfully with me. I like how it's a weird kind and subdued version of disco music. Danceable, but only if you have small moves.

Dead Kennedys - "Riot"

"Riot" is probably my all time favorite Dead Kennedys song. As a teen on weekends I use to hang out in the park with some "real" punk kids, the ones who would run away from home from time to time. Sometimes I'd see them in Montréal coffee shops, too. They'd fight with their parents, disappear for a while, come home and have to take extra classes at school, or re-take the whole year again. Sometimes another family member would take them in. Sometimes they'd come home and their parents would take them on some fancy European holiday to patch things up. I knew I couldn't afford to be a runaway. I knew it would sabotage my life forever. It would result in me having to go to more therapy, perhaps have to see a social worker or worse, have to live in foster care: "Tomorrow you're homeless, tonight it's a blast"! While some of my friends and acquaintances sneaked off all the way to British Columbia, I benefited from a supervised trip there; my father whom I hadn't seen him in ten years lived in Victoria. It was very liberating.

Iggy and the Stooges - "Gimme Danger"

I got a part-time job in the city when I was sixteen. That summer I took all the shifts I could, trying to save enough so I could move into an apartment with a friend. I would leave at eight every morning and return around midnight or one in the morning. I would listen to Raw Power on the bus ride home. Then I would play it again sitting on the curb in front of my house for a little while longer, enjoying the summer night air.

Stella - "Je ne me reconnais plus dans la glace"

Stella was a brilliant teen pop star in the sixties. At seventeen I had a bit of a girlie yé-yé phase and discovered many exciting nearly-forgotten French singers. While other young women like France Gall were made to sing whatever sappy, syrupy stupidity their handlers had in mind, Stella mastered the art of sarcasm. This specific song is not really funny, it's more sentimental, about the changes a girl goes through as she becomes a woman. Being unrecognizable to her own self. In all honesty, I haven't really had many of those changes, I kind of feel and look the same.

Harry Crews - "Orphans"

Upon scanning and cleaning the last of the pages of Susceptible I really needed a boost. It was hot and summery and I suffer from depression easily when the weather is warm and humid. I found a Hawaiian shirt at a thrift store, and bought a used copy of Harry Crews' one and only record, Naked in Garden Hills. This band features Lydia Lunch on guitar, Kim Gordon on bass, and a lady named Sadie Mae on drums (they named themselves after the writer). I love loud music. I especially love loud music that is made by raging women. In my opinion there hasn't been something quite as fierce in a long time.

Claude Gauthier - "Geneviève"

This might very well be the song which started it all. I was named after it. As a kid I'd have adults sing it to me sometimes but I had never heard the actual song. Back in the fall of 2007 I was staying with my friend Benoît (him again) in Montréal. Burnt out from touring and traveling I decided to watch a movie from a Michel Brault box-set he had. Québec has had some incredible and unfortunately underrated filmmakers. The movie I watched was called Entre la mer et l'eau douce, the actors are Claude Gauthier (the writer/singer of this song) and Geneviève Bujold. Not only is this film totally heartbreaking and amazing (a jewel of cinema), this song came on and I was like "WHAT?!". This prompted a wave of nostalgia and questioning on my part. Then, eventually, I made a book about it.

Geneviève Castrée and Susceptible links:

the author's website
the author's Wikipedia entry
excerpt from the book

Montreal Gazette review
Paste review

Comic Book Resources interview with the author
Cult MTL profile of the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2012 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

The list of online "best of 2012" book lists
The list of online "best of 2012" 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