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June 4, 2015

Book Notes - Lisa Glatt "The Nakeds"

The Nakeds

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, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Lisa Glatt's novel The Nakeds paints an impressive portrait of 1970's California with its precise language and engaging characters.

Bustle wrote of the book:

"The Nakeds is as escapist as it is illuminating; as radiantly beautiful as it is painfully, shatteringly real."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.

In her own words, here is Lisa Glatt's Book Notes music playlist for her novel The Nakeds:

My new novel The Nakeds takes place in southern California, where I grew up, and involves a hit and run accident. The book starts in 1970 and spans nearly a decade. Gathering the songs below made me think about my relationship with music and I was struck with the amount of nostalgia I felt, especially for the sounds from the late ‘70s. I was a teenager, beginning to understand music in a new way—it wasn't just entertainment, but art, something as heavy and important to me as the literature I was simultaneously discovering.

The Nakeds was inspired by events from my childhood and adolescence—being hit by a car when I was six; my parents' divorce; and my mother, a high school teacher, briefly becoming a nudist. Like one of my main characters, Hannah, I sustained numerous injuries when the car hit me, including the loss of my spleen and an abscessed liver, but unlike Hannah—whose driver, Martin, hits and runs—my driver stopped. When I started the novel, I had no idea that Martin's decision to flee would play such a big role, and when I compiled my playlist, his drinking and shame weighed heavily on my choices.

I'd love to be able to write and listen to music and have heard that some writers can do just that, but I need horrible silence, the phones and internet turned off, so what follows is an imagined soundtrack for the movie. I've been told not to get too excited until the cameras start rolling, but the film rights for The Nakeds have been optioned by Steven Shainberg, who made the movies Secretary and Fur. I'm pretending here that Shainberg's cameras are rolling and that he's asked me for music suggestions.

The Ramones / "California Sun"
The novel begins with the Teller family—east coasters who've recently moved west—living in Manhattan Beach, California, where they're "soaking up the California sun." The lyrics "Well I'm going out west where I belong / Where the days are short and the nights are long" speak to a kind of optimism the Teller family might have felt before the opening of the novel.

The Replacements / "Unsatisfied"
Asher and Nina bragged to their friends and family on the east coast about the California weather, so many sunny days in a row, even in the winter months. They bought a bungalow in a beach city, a house that the two of them picked out with Hannah's childhood in mind, but despite these changes or perhaps because of them, Asher feels trapped and, like the song's title, unsatisfied.

The Thermals / "Liquid In, Liquid Out"
Martin, the young driver who hits Hannah, is a heavy drinker. I love how simple and almost cheerful this song sounds juxtaposed with the bleak lyrics.

Elvis Costello / "Accidents Will Happen"
I remember hearing Elvis Costello on KROQ and falling in love. Although I couldn't have told you then what Lorca's duende was, I recognized it just under my skin when I heard those early Costello songs. These are the most obvious lyrics that echo the narrative of The Nakeds: "Accidents will happen / We only hit and run / I don't want to hear it / 'Cause I know what I've done." However, the words that intrigue me most and remind me of Martin's guilt are "And it's the damage that we do / And never know / It's the words that we don't say / That scare me so."

The Ramones / "I Wanna Be Sedated"
Martin's drinking and drugs don't help and neither does his running away—everything, finally, unsuccessful at numbing him from the damage that he's done. "Just get me to the airport, put me on a plane/Hurry hurry hurry, before I go insane." Unfortunately for him, everywhere he goes—his California studio, Las Vegas, a girl's arms—his shame follows.

R.E.M. / "Losing My Religion"
Many characters in The Nakeds lose their religion. This transplanted east coast Jewish family splits up, each character going his or her own way. No one lights candles on Friday nights, Asher becomes a born again Christian surfer, Nina remarries and becomes a nudist, and Hannah struggles in a broken body and embraces science.

Cat Power / "Nude As The News"
When Hannah refuses the join her mom and stepdad at the nudist camp, they bring the nudist camp home to her. It's what she sees in the hallway, on the living room couch, or while her stepfather's making spaghetti: "He's related to you / He's related to you / He's nude as the news."

PJ Harvey / "Sheela-Na-Gig"
I had an appointment with my optometrist a while ago and after he'd put those numbing drops in my eyes and maneuvered my head into that vice-like metal contraption, he asked what my forthcoming novel was about. It's the type of question that I sometimes don't know what to do with it—how much does the person really want to know and how succinctly can I paraphrase 288 pages, especially with my head in a vice?

"It's called The Nakeds," I said.

"What's it about?" my optometrist asked.

"My mom was a nudist in the late 70s," I said, my eyes now numb. "She joined a camp in Topanga Canyon."

"Hmm," he said.

"And sometimes she was nude in the house," I added.

He did that irritating puff-of-air test into one numb eye and then the other. I flinched both times.

"Sounds unsanitary," he said.

Hannah finally caves in and joins her mom and stepdad at the nudist camp. In addition to the leg cast she's still wearing, she stays fully clothed, but the sights are not lost on her. "Sheela-na-gig, you exhibitionist," PJ Harvey sings, and later: "wash your breasts, I don't want to be unclean." This song goes out to my inquisitive, wry optometrist.

Elvis Costello / "Alison"
The only song here that's actually in the book!

Parquet Courts / "Stoned and Starving"
Martin has continuing drinking/drug issues, but this song's for Hannah and her friends who are growing up and smoking a little weed towards the end of the novel.

Radiohead / "Morning Bell"
There is such an eerie, hypnotic beauty to this song that just writing about it here I risk having it stuck in my head. The lyrics apply to many of my characters' states of mind, especially the drunk driver and the child he hits. It's difficult to hear the first few lines and not think about walking to school, hurrying, not wanting to miss the "morning bell, morning bell." My mother told me years later that when the paramedics were loading me into the ambulance, I was mumbling, I need to get to school, I need to get to school. The lyrics that come soon after—"release me, release me"—relates to Martin's inescapable guilt and feels like a mournful plea for an unattainable redemption. When I think of the final scene of The Nakeds, the last line of Radiohead's song resonates the most for me. Simply, hugely, "Walking, walking, walking walking walking…"

Lisa Glatt and The Nakeds links:

the author's website

Elle review
Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review

also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (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

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