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October 2, 2020

JD Scott's Playlist for Their Story Collection "Moonflower, Nightshade, All the Hours of the Day"

Moonflower, Nightshade, All the Hours of the Day by JD Scott

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, Roxane Gay, and many others.

JD Scott's story collection Moonflower, Nightshade, All the Hours of the Day is engaging and wholly inventive.

Foreword Reviews wrote of the book:

"JD Scott's Moonflower, Nightshade, All the Hours of the Day is a dazzling collection of stories--part dystopian, part fabulist, and wholly immersive."

In their own words, here is JD Scott's Book Notes music playlist for their story collection Moonflower, Nightshade, All the Hours of the Day:

Moonflower, Nightshade, All the Hours of the Day is a collection of stories that move between the mundane and the fantastic, the grandiose and the ordinary. The stories offer up familiar affairs of adolescence, loss, hope, and transformation, but often take shape in peculiar and expressionistic ways, recalling fairy tales, parables, and the mysteries of an unknown world. Each story, in a way, is more akin to a snow globe, containing its own pocket universe inside the protection of a glass shell. For this reason, it would seem challenging to try to create a playlist based on overlapping or overarching themes between the ten stories in the collection. Instead, I’ve paired each story with a song that feels particularly in-conversation with its fictive counterpart.

I’ve always had a fondness for narrative songs, even as much as I enjoy more abstract expressions of affect. In this way, it feels familiar to draw connections between a world built for prose and a world built for instruments and lyrics. Some of these songs are a little more open-ended, and I find myself projecting my own tales and desires into the gaps. In this way, too, the stories find pairs and fit into each other. As follows, I offer the essence of each story and the way it tonally or lyrically connects to its analogous song on the playlist.

1. Casiotone for the Painfully Alone — "Young Shields"

Owen Ashworth's gritty electronic track is so catchy that it’s easy to miss how he’s taking the piss out of spoiled rich kids. He paints the picture of young twenty-somethings who move to expensive cities like San Francisco or Manhattan on their parents' dime. The "invisible and soundless" shield that protects these youths is one of unmistakable privilege. In my story, "The Teenager," I write about two 'young shields' moving between gated communities and strip malls in the suburbs of Florida. While not quite old enough to be on their own yet, they seek autonomy via underage drinking and petty theft, in a performance that feels both dispassionate and extravagant. At the end of the story, one of the characters ultimately becomes confronted with his own privilege and has to choose whether to accept this world-view or reject the epiphany altogether.

2. Solange — "Losing You"

There are so many break-up songs, and so many songs about losing something or someone, but "Losing You" holds a poignant spot on the spectrum of loss because it's about the transitional state of wondering: the peculiar space between knowing you're through and actually acknowledging the end. Accompanied by infectious, throwback beats and Solange's warm voice, you feel every lyric hit hard and true. While my story "Chinchilla" isn't solely about a break-up, it does move through the space before and after a relationship ends, asking us to consider how we experience the gradients of grief.

3. Rufus Wainwright — "Gay Messiah"

Wainwright tackles the sacred and profane head-on, taking no prisoners as he imagines a messiah who appears on the shores of Fire Island and baptizes men in cum. While my story, "Cross," is nowhere near that bawdy, it certainly aligns with the idea of queering or remixing Christian iconography. In my story, a gym bunny goes on a romp through the Garden of Eden, chopping a tree down inside. After using the wood from the tree to create a cross, the narrator is crucified upon it (don't worry though, as with the original, there's a resurrection scene). Along the way, he encounters talking animals, a Tamagotchi angel, and a Mary Magdalene drag queen dressed in sequined Lycra.

4. Kate Bush — "Mother Stands for Comfort"

No one has the range like Kate Bush, and even on the subject of motherhood or familial relations there's just too many choices in her catalog. I thought about "This Woman's Work" or even something from Side B of Hounds of Love (a suite of songs about a person stranded in a large body of water), but ultimately this track feels tonally closest to the story it's paired with. "Mother Stands for Comfort" contains wailings in the background accompanied by cold synths. A relatively even-toned voice (at least for Bush) sings about a mother's unconditional love. In the case of this song, the object of that unconditional love is her child who committed murder. In the case of my short story, "The Hand That Sews," it's a question of where that unconditional love comes from, and to what extent the mother would sacrifice herself to protect her child.

5. Britney Spears — "Perfume" (The Dreaming Mix)

The genius of "Perfume" is that it's both a thinly veiled attempt to push commodity (Spears has over two dozen fragrances to her name) and arguably one of Britney's most triumphantly moody anthems. The Dreaming Mix elevates this affect: stripping the instrumentals into something haunted and even more vulnerable. The song is told from the perspective of an insecure woman who suspects her beau is seeing two women at once. Is it all in her head? Is he actually cheating? The singer isn't certain, but she attempts to cover her beloved in her signature scent in hopes that other women will smell her on him. The titular story of my story collection is told by a florist who moonlights as a perfumer. The narrator, who has similar insecurities, appears before you the entire time, but will you choose to see him for who he really is? As Spears put it: "I hide it well/hope you can tell/but I hope she smells my perfume."

6. The Presets — "Girl and the Sea"

This song has consistently felt melancholic to me despite the upbeat drum machine and synths backing it. The beats are offset by slightly gothic vocals that give off an overcast ambience. The lyrics describe a girl who dives beneath the waves, seeking her freedom. In my story, "Where Parallel Lines Come to Touch," Riley is a teenage goth dressed unseasonably for the subtropical island climate she resides in. When her twin brother drowns and returns from the gulf as a revenant, she must reconcile their relationship in order to find the freedom she seeks.

7. Air — "Run"

In the story "Night Things," a man is woken up from a nightmare (one where he's swimming in dark water) by the sound of some creature's outcry. The story, which takes place in Florida's Everglades, involves mobilizing his witchy neighbor to help locate the origin of the animal call. This is a fiction I see textured by a fear of darkness and the atmosphere of a swamp inhabited by all things that creep and crawl. The instrumentals and vocals of "Run" give off a comparable energy. Even as far as Air's music is concerned, "Run" feels even more sonically textured to create something atmospherically menacing and unsettling. It's a gorgeous track, albeit a strange one, and one that makes my heartbeat quicken as the voice repeats the instruction to "run run run run run...."

8. Lamb — Gabriel (Nellee Hooper Mix)

"Górecki" might take the lead as one of Lamb's most memorable singles, but "Gabriel" is just as moving a love song. Named after the Abrahamic archangel, Lou Rhodes' sensuous vocals sell otherwise bathetic lines like "I can fly, but I want his wings" and "I can love, but I need his heart." The Nellee Hooper remix isn't dramatically different, but it does fine-tune an already nearly perfect torch song. In my story, "Their Sons Return Home to Die," a chorus of angelic beings collectively narrate the tale of their own kind. Some of these beings have become diseased and decide to descend to the earth to have their wings removed and die as human-like creatures. Their brethren tell the story from a place of deep love and inconsolable grief.

9. Tiffany — "I Think We're Alone Now"

"After the End Came the Mall, And the Mall Was Everything" is a novella that, as far as word count is concerned, takes up the majority of the collection. The story is set in an alternate version of Earth: one where a single, inter-connected shopping mall has taken over the entire planet. I believe, in this alternate world, Tiffany would have been canonized as a saint. Her early success has famously been attributed to her touring malls across the country. "I Think We're Alone Now" has always contained an underbelly for me, whether it’s the Tommy James and the Shondells original or this cover. On the surface, “I Think We’re Alone Now” is infectious pop, but when you scrutinize the lyrics, they could have been pulled straight from a slasher flick ("I think we're alone now/the beating of our hearts is the only sound"). The novella has this quality too, moving from densely populated, brand name stores to the abandoned avenues of dead malls where the protagonist is left to his own devices in a world that is increasingly unsettling.

10. Laurie Anderson — "Falling"

The final story in the collection, "Fordite Pendant," is also the shortest. As a coda, it moves between the world of dreams and the state of being awake. Anderson's song is a hypnagogic hymn: the word "fall" reverberates as you descend toward slumber. The only unique lyrics that interrupt her otherwise consistent vocal layering is this curious couplet: "Americans unrooted blow with the wind/But they feel the truth if it touches them." In "Fordite Pendant," the narrator bikes from Ft. Lauderdale to Detroit to see the Ford factory where his father made a living. In this way, the American dream becomes less of a desired goal and more of a succession of images and emotions that pass through the mind during sleep.

Moonflower, Nightshade, All the Hours of the Day is dream-like too in the way the language makes the familiar seem uncanny and the imaginative seem entirely pedestrian. It asks us what we know about the world, and if there are alternate ways to fabricate or envision the places we live. As the Presets “Girl and the Sea” ends: “A place, I’ve found/could be, all ours/I’ve seen, where you/would rather be.”

JD Scott is the most recent winner of the Madeleine P. Plonsker Emerging Writer’s Residency Prize, selected by Lidia Yuknavitch, which will result in the publication of Moonflower, Nightshade, All the Hours of the Day (&NOW Books, 2020), a debut short story collection. Their debut poetry collection, Mask for Mask, is forthcoming from New Rivers Press in 2021. Scott has also authored two poetry chapbooks: FUNERALS & THRONES (Birds of Lace Press, 2013) and Night Errands (YellowJacket Press, 2012), which was the winner of the 2011 Peter Meinke Prize. Scott’s prose and poems has appeared in Denver Quarterly, Prairie Schooner, Indiana Review, Ninth Letter, Salt Hill, Sonora Review, The Pinch, Spoon River Poetry Review, and elsewhere. Other writing has been featured in the Best American Experimental Writing and Best New Poets anthologies. Scott’s accolades include being awarded a Lambda Emerging LGBTQ Voices fellowship, attending the Poetry Foundation’s inaugural Poetry Incubator, and being awarded residencies at the Millay Colony, the Edward F. Albee Foundation, and Writers at the Eyrie. Scott holds an MFA from the University of Alabama, where they edited and designed for Black Warrior Review.

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