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July 23, 2018

Paul Tremblay's Playlist for His Novel "The Cabin at the End of the World"

The Cabin at the End of the World

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, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Paul Tremblay's The Cabin at the End of the World is a marvelously unsettling and skillfully written suspense novel.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"Tremblay captures the intense emotional struggle. . . of Wen, Andrew, and Eric, while dread and terror permeate every sentence. This is a novel with the heart and tone of The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, but will also appeal to fans of Ruth Ware, Josh Malerman, and Joe Hill."

In his own words, here is Paul Tremblay's Book Notes music playlist for his novel The Cabin at the End of the World:

So, listen. The Cabin at the End of the World is an intense book. It opens with Andrew and Eric and their adopted daughter Wen vacationing in a remote cabin in northern New Hampshire. Wen is out front playing and catching grasshoppers when a seemingly friendly stranger shows up and helps her until three more strangers arrive (carrying things that don’t look friendly) and announce that the family has to help them prevent the end of the world.

The book is a twist on the ‘home invasion’ subgenre of horror/suspense, and I hope, without being too didactic, it reflects our current sociopolitical anxieties. I know, I know: you get enough of that in your everyday life, thanks. But hear me out. This novel is also about the hope of horror.

Wait, what?

If we boil down a horror story as the reveal of some terrible, horrific truth (it could be a universal truth, societal, or personal, or a combo), the hope of horror comes from that shared recognition and acknowledgement of the terrible truth. We might be able to fix things and we might not. We might be able to survive and we might not. But there is a rebellious, righteous hope in that shared recognition, of hell yeah we know something is terribly wrong and we’ll do our best to confront it/overcome it even if we know we probably won’t prevail. The hope of a horror is a fist raised defiantly in the air.

The playlist is comprised of songs I listened to while writing the novel, songs that inspire and inform the novel, songs that feel like the novel, songs that make me raise my fist in the air.

“In the Meantime,” Helmet

‘Meantime’ to be read and heard as ‘mean time’.

“The Hope that House Built,” Future of the Left

If there is a poster-person for the above described defiance, it’s Andrew Falkous. Future of the Left and his side project (I know, he’ll probably hate that descriptor and I’ll be correctly disciplined for it) Christian Fitness feature genius (yes, genius) lyrics that are angry and funny and help spur me on through my day to day. Falkous and the band kindly gave me permission to quote from the song in the book’s first epigraph. My publisher and I returned the kindness by messing up the title of the song (which will be corrected!). Hold onto those collector’s editions, kids.

“Then back in the ground/ We look at our hands/ And wonder aloud/ Could anyone choose to die/In the end everybody wins/In the end everybody wins.”
“Come Join Us,” Bad Religion

The hue and cry of the intruders. You (yes, you) have met them all.

“Mr. Blood,” That Fucking Tank

Propulsive instrumental, a backbeat to help lead you through the book. And yeah, that title is cool.

“Mad World,” Gary Jules, Michael Andrews

Understatement, yeah?

“Shame,” I Speak Machine

Maybe I can convince I Speak Machine to do a soundtrack to a book. Just sayin’.

“I never wanted shame/I never wanted fear.”

“We Lost Control,” Neighborhood Brats

I defy you to listen to this song and not jump around singing, “oooh oh how we lost control.”

“Sick,” Salem

This song was recommended to me by writer Nadia Bulkin. The third epigraph of my novel is a quote from a story in her fabulous collection She Said Destroy. This song gives me a pit in my stomach yet I keep going back to listen to it. Go figure.

“Rage: Man,” Mogwai

When I write, I often listen to instrumentals and/or soundtracks. Mogwai is a go-to in the writing rotation.

“David Ickearumba,” The Saint Pierre Snake Invasion

A new favorite band and a song about conspiracy.
“You’ve been sold/ You’ve been sold the skin of the big bad wolf.”

“Murder in the Red Barn,” Tom Waits

The cabin isn’t a barn. But it is red. Work with me.

“Y Control,” Yeah Yeah Yeahs

“Under the gun gun gun/ And I believe them all/ Well I'm just one poor baby/ Cause well I believe them all.”

“The Apostate,” Swans

“It’s not in my mind…. Get out of my mind…. We’re on a ladder to God.”

“Masochism World,” Husker Du

My all-time favorite band. Can’t have a playlist without them.

“Can you tell me?/ 'Cause I don't know/ Why don't you tell me?/
Why is it so/ Confusing?”

“Freaking Out,” Death

“It’s a scheme/ There’s a fiend/ Why is my head spinning round in my dreams?/
It’s a time and a place/ Why are these lights popping up in my face?”

“Roadkill,” Nina Nastasia

“Let yourself go/I hear them say/ It's beautiful/ I'm not afraid/
This is ‘happy’ ever after.”

“Hurt,” Johnny Cash

This cover of the NIN song is almost impossible to make it through it’s so sad. And forget trying to watch the video.

“Bloody Like the Day You Were Born,” Whores

The third section of the novel is named after this song.

“This house, must collapse/It's not a matter of course, it's a matter of fact/
Keep on building a beautiful place to die/They want the honey, we want the hive.”

“Big Exit,” PJ Harvey

This is one of those songs that makes it onto every playlist I make.

“Look out ahead/ I see danger come/ I want a pistol
I want a gun/ I'm scared baby/ I wanna run/ This world's crazy/ Give me the gun”

“Animal Farm,” Clutch

The second of my three epigraphs quote from this song. I’ve been listening to Clutch since the 90s. The band and Neil Fallon’s lyrics have been a big influence and inspiration for years. It’s a true honor that I was able to include a few of their words to start the book.

“Meanwhile, planes drop from the sky/ People disappear and bullets fly…. /Wouldn’t be surprised if they had their way/ (Tastes just like chicken they say.)”

“Dropping Like Flies,” Firewater

There may or may not be flies in this novel. Also, the first paragraph of the book is a riff on the first few lines of Lord of the Flies.

“No Below,” Speedy Ortiz

“And though I once said I was better off just being dead/ Better off just being dead, without my old friend.”

“Brother in the Wind,” High on Fire

This song. Hard not to become obsessed with the thunderous, tuned-down two full steps riffage. It’s an end of things sound, and buried in there, the impossibly catchy screaming.

“The lot is cast mysteries vast/ Alive your eyes as conscience dies/
As he runs he's taken from the world/ We know the dealer's blow.”

“Times Up,” Living Colour

“Your future won't save your past/ The time is now, it won't last/
The time is nigh/ Time to do-or-die.”

“Survival Song,” Andrew Jackson Jihad

“I just handed you a giant load of gibberish/ And I give love to a lover quite deserving of it/
And I give thanks to all of your for listening/ To the story of how we learned to survive.”

“We’re in This Together,” Nine Inch Nails

“You and me/ We're in this together now/ None of them can stop us now/
We will make it through somehow/ You and me/ If the world should break in two/
Until the very end of me/ Until the very end of you.”

Paul Tremblay and The Cabin at the End of the World links:

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

Kirkus review
NPR Books review
Publishers Weekly review

Entertainment Weekly profile of the author
Largehearted Boy playlist by the author for A Head Full of Ghosts
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for In the Mean Time
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for The Little Sleep
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for No Sleep till Wonderland
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Swallowing a Donkey's Eye

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