Twitter Facebook Tumblr Pinterest Instagram

« older | Main Largehearted Boy Page | newer »

August 2, 2022

Joma West's Playlist for Her Novel "Face"

Face by Joma West

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.

Joma West's brilliant dystopian novel Face is a dark and intriguing debut.

Locus wrote of the book:

"In the end, in the tradition of many great science fiction novels, Face is about today, about those opinions, theories, and fears. It asks whether we can straighten our spines again and unsquint our eyes long enough to see one another for who we truly are, and to connect on a real level."

In her own words, here is Joma West's Book Notes music playlist for her debut novel Face:

I was asked by a friend, when talking about Face, if I had a playlist for the book or suggestions of music a reader might listen to when reading it. I baulked at the question. I write with music, sometimes. But Face was written in the quiet. I said that I would be nervous to suggest music to go with the book as a song might become unfashionable as you turn the page. A glib answer. The thought stayed with me, though, and I realised that each of the characters in the book has a tempo, an image, a corresponding song that sums them up. So this playlist is sort of like a collection of theme songs. Imagine entry music as the cast files on stage.

Schuyler – ‘Dictator’ by Rei Ami

Schuyler, for better or worse, intentionally or not, controls the action of the book. He is a kind of nexus point, joining almost all of the other characters together, and in the rare case that he doesn’t directly interact with someone he is certainly exerting some kind of force upon them. An inadvertent dictator. But, like Ami’s song, Schuyler is a person in parts. He is hiding a softness, longing and vulnerability.

Jake – ‘Emotion’ by Daft Punk

The beating heart of the book, Jake is the most human of all the characters in the novel so it’s only fitting that his song comes from an album called ‘Human After All’. Like the robot singing this song, Jake isn’t considered human, and like a robot he has been created to serve, but he is questioning his role in life and trying to make sense of the emotions that flood him. The song may have only one lyric but it’s imbued with such depth of feeling. Jake in a nutshell.

Reyna – ‘Something’ by The Beatles

Reyna is hyper-vigilant about how she looks to others. Afraid to make a mistake that could damage her image, she isn’t a risk taker. And what’s safer, more familiar, than the Beatles? Of course, Reyna wouldn’t want people to think she was basic so George is her favourite Beatle and if he had known her then he would have written ‘Something’ about her.

Tam – ‘Close to You’ by Frank Ocean

A perfect player of Face, Tam’s story revolves around Schuyler and his desperation not only to get close to his hero but to be just like him. Tam wouldn’t be anything as crass as a straight cover though. Like this song, he is a reimagining of a classic, with only a few touches that remind you of the original. Tam is ultimately disappointed but he’d be the first to say he wasn’t devastated.

Eduardo – ‘Focus on Me’ by Jus2

This song is Eduardo all over. He has a striking strength at his core, which he can’t express openly due to his social standing but it’s something that can’t be tempered, and part of that strength is his capacity for softness, grace and love. It’s hard to see any of that in him though. I should have written a chapter for him.

Naomi – ‘Introvert’ by Little Simz

Her sister dismissively calls her the teenage cliché, and in a way she is. Naomi is rebellious. She has big ideas and she wants change in both her life and in society as a whole. She enters the story with the same orchestral vigour of Little Simz’s song; she’s big and bold but she’s also uncertain of herself. She wants someone to tell her that she’s doing things right. She wants an Emma Corrin giving her an outro speech letting her know that who she is, is brilliant.

Madeleine – ‘Woman’ by Doja Cat

Most people don’t have much patience for Madeleine but there’s more to her than people give her credit for. She’s worked hard to get where she is and she’s still working, still trying her best even while people look down on her. She’s in a thankless position. Rather than hearing her verses, people only give her the chorus and they mistakenly decide she’s simple.

Tonia – ‘The Ocean’ by Tom Waits

This novel started with Tonia. I wrote a short story about her. I had trouble with her character and it was only later that I realised it was because she, like me, was depressed. I feel like her mental state is summed up by Waits in this song. She’s no heavier than the flotsam the sea takes from and leaves on the shore, buffeted by forces beyond her, filled with wishes she can’t fulfil. She just wants it all to stop. I hope it ends the way she wants it to one day.

Vidya – ‘Ohms’ by Deftones

It’s too late to cause a change in the tides. Vidya has reached the peak of personhood. She sits in her babyshop controlling the pulse of fashion, aware of all that’s wrong with society but helpless to change anything. There’s a hopelessness to her. She will ride it out though, day in day out, until the end.

Morton – ‘Exit Music (For a Film)’ by Radiohead

The man who stands in for many of us, Morton is a working man. He has no social mobility, no cache, he wakes, he works, he eats and sleeps, he sees us all in our little and big lives, he judges, he admires, envies, loathes, he panics, he tries to step away, he tries to take control. Perhaps he does.

Joma West is a third culture writer whose work straddles both fantasy and science fiction. Growing up bouncing between countries has given her work a certain displaced flavour and you can see many African and Asian influences in her writing. Joma's novella, Wild, won the 2016 MMU novella award. She has had short stories published in various anthologies. She lives in Glasgow.

If you appreciate the work that goes into Largehearted Boy, please consider making a donation.