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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
256 pages Review
<div class="aplus"> <h5><div id="header0">A conversation with Stacey D'Erasmo</div></h5> <div id="text0" class="a-spacing-small"><p>Stacey's new novel has been called "dreamy" (Mother Jones) "breakout" (Vogue) and a "rhapsodic portrait of a rock-and-roll diva" (Booklist). Find out how she researched to create her unforgettable character, Anna.</p></div> <div class="leftImage" style="width: 300px;"> <div id="image0"><img src="" alt=""><div class="imageCaption">Scissor Sisters in Slovakia<br>View larger</div></div> </div> <div class="leftImage" style="width: 300px;"> <div id="image1"><img src="" alt=""><div class="imageCaption">Scissor Sisters in Vienna<br>View larger</div></div> </div> <div class="leftImage" style="width: 300px;"> <div id="image2"><img src="" alt=""><div class="imageCaption">Stacey D'Erasmo drives the Scissor Sisters' tour bus<br>View larger</div></div> </div> <h5><div id="header1">Q: So, you want to be a rock and roll star?</div></h5> <div id="text1" class="a-spacing-small"><p>A: Ha—no. Not only could I not carry a tune in a bucket, but I’m not all that comfortable on a stage. I’ve never been in a band, and I don’t play any instruments. At best, I could be the one playing the tambourine. In the back. The idea of the book came to me, actually, because of a phenomenon I had noticed of musicians and artists, especially women, coming back to the cultural scene after long absences. Patti Smith, the sculptor Lee Bontecou, Linda Thompson, and a British folk singer with a huge cult following, Vashti Bunyan, have all made comebacks after being off the scene for years, sometimes decades. At the moment, Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill has just started a comeback after being away, mostly because of illness. I was fascinated by the idea of what it means to “come back,” because, of course, one never comes back—one can only go forward. We never step in that same river twice, no matter how much we might wish we could. And for some reason, the figure making a comeback in my mind was always a former indie rock star. I also very much wanted to explore the question of what it is to be an artist who is the child, as Anna is, of an artist who was famous in another medium. How do you find your voice in the shadow of someone who not only had a big voice, but spoke a different artistic language altogther?</p></div> <h5><div id="header2">Q: You must have had to do research, then.</div></h5> <div id="text2" class="a-spacing-small"><p>A: Oh, yes. For the music stuff, I read musicians’ autobiographies, such as Juliana Hatfield’s When I Grow Up, Keith Richards’ Life, Smith’s Just Kids, Dean Wareham’s Black Postcards, and lots more, even Pamela Des Barres I’m With the Band, which is a famous groupie’s perspective on an amazing moment in rock and roll history, the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Before I started the book, I had spent a lot of time following my friend Jeanne Fury, a music writer, around as she went to see bands in New York like The Gossip in their early days and Le Tigre. Another friend, Thomas Bartlett, aka Doveman, is a musician who’s very involved with the current music scene and he took me to see incredible people: Gang Gang Dance, Owen Pallett, Martha Wainwright, Dawn Landes, Sam Amidon, Nico Muhly, Antony and the Johnsons, Beth Orton, Trixie Whitley, St. Vincent, The Gloaming—the list goes on. I interviewed folks like Jennifer Charles of Elysian Fields and sat in on a recording session with Thomas; I soaked up as much of the atmosphere of this world as I could. But one of the most invaluable things I did was to go on tour with the band Scissor Sisters in Europe for a few weeks.</p></div> <h5><div id="header3">Q: Why was touring with the Scissor Sisters so vital?</div></h5> <div id="text3" class="a-spacing-small"><p>A: It changed everything, because the daily experience of being on the road can’t be faked. People always talk about, or fantasize about, the excesses of the rocker life, but it’s so much stranger and even wilder than that. You’re in this bubble touching down on city after city, it’s a gorgeous blur, kaleidoscopic. You play the same songs in every city, but they’re somehow not the same songs—they morph in different environments, for different audiences. The outside world grows distant. It’s both incredibly intense and dreamy. I just tagged along to everything, discreetly running off to scribble down notes, going to every concert and sound check and press conference, lurking around backstage and in the wings as much as I could. We went from Prague, looped around Eastern European countries like Estonia and Latvia, up to Norway and Vienna, played lots of festivals; it was great. I woke up one morning on the tour bus to find we had been sleeping in a parking lot in Berlin where, literally, stray dogs were going through the trash. But then later that morning we checked into the most luxurious hotel I’ve ever been in. My room was the size of a house, with what felt like 800 thread- count sheets, and 360 degree views of Berlin—that run from low to high, and then what turned out to be an electric concert that night, could happen in a day. In Estonia, I went out dancing with the band’s drummer at a club in Tallinn where they were playing Estonian hip hop and all the kids looked to be about sixteen, and got back to my room to see the sun rise over the Gulf of Finland. It was another world. And then, you know, it was also hilarious, because as we traveled around, people coming to hang out with the band would look at me, clearly older, clearly not a musician, and they’d say, So, um, who are you? And I’d say, I’m the novelist. Like every band has one. I still have my backstage pass.</p></div> <h5><div id="header4"></div></h5> <div id="text4" class="a-spacing-small"></div> <div class="break"> </div> <h5><div id="header5"></div></h5> <div id="text5" class="a-spacing-small"></div> <br> <div id="list0"></div> </div>