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March 5, 2018

Book Notes - Emma Byrne "Swearing Is Good for You"

Swearing Is Good for You

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, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, Lauren Groff, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Emma Byrne's Swearing Is Good for You is a compelling and entertaining exploration of cursing.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"Engaging and conversational. . . . Byrne provides a refreshing, entertaining, instructive examination of a 'surprisingly flexible part of a linguistic repertoire.'"

In her own words, here is Emma Byrne's Book Notes music playlist for her book Swearing Is Good for You:

"Everyone Else is an Asshole" by Reel Big Fish

Ska punk is my soundtrack to commuting on the London Underground, and this is the pièce de résistance of that playlist. People standing on the wrong side of the escalator? Assholes. People not letting people off first? Assholes! The dude who got to the last seat before me? Motherfucking asshole! But getting wound up by assholes is a surefire path to assholery:

I couldn't take their shit
So I tried to deal with it
And now I look a bit
Like an asshole!

So I content myself with singing along as loud as I can in my head and letting assholes asshole until I can get my coffee.

"Fuck You" by Lily Allen

The jaunty piano, the understated insult of “you’re just some racist who can’t tie my laces” and the extremely catchy chorus make this a for a phenomenally catchy tune. My snowflake heart loves the simple defiance of this song. When it comes to arguing with racists there’s really not much more to say.

"Hard out Here" by Lily Allen

Terrible mixtape technique to have two songs by the same artist, I know, but I can’t leave this one out. A few years ago I directed a production of Life and Beth by Alan Ayckbourn and I loved the way he just gets how women can be suffocated by the men in their lives, while the men are utterly oblivious to their effect. It’s just the way we’ve been taught to be with each other and it sucks. Hard out Here calls out the double standard crap that women put up with day after day.

"IDGAF" by Dua Lipa

I’m listening to this on repeat at the moment just because it’s so jubilant. Here’s this woman who has become a successful artist and suddenly the exes are coming out of the woodwork (“You call me all friendly, tellin' me how much you miss me. That's funny, I guess you've heard my songs.”)

Instead of succumbing to the social pressure to make nice with someone she’s long since forgotten about, she lets ‘em know that her life has moved on. It’s extremely liberating to admit you just don’t give a fuck.

"I am the Mob" by Catatonia

Moving on is great but so is some mad nostalgia, and Cerys Matthews’ Rothmans-gravel voice is my younger self driving down the motorway, belting out girl rock at the top of my lungs. The swearing is pretty mild in this one but it definitely belongs in the genre of women telling it like it is.

"The Deepest Shelter in Town" by Florence Desmond

I’ve performed this on stage a couple of times. This is your grandparents’ innuendo all the way. It’s the most enjoyable filth: “Before it gets wrecked why don’t you come and inspect the deepest shelter in town.” It just goes to show that even in the darkest times we’ve always flirted with the taboo for fun and profit.

Emma Byrne and Swearing Is Good for You links:

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

Economist review
Kirkus review
New York Post review

CBC Radio interview with the author
National Geographic interview with the author
VICE interview with the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

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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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