A blog about Bloomsbury Academic's 33 1/3 series, our other books about music, and the world of sound in general.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

PJ Harvey's Rid of Me

In May, we'll be publishing a PJ Harvey book in the series: Rid of Me by Kate Schatz. The subtitle at the moment is "Short Stories" but we might change that to "A Novella". In a weird way, it's a bit of both. As well as being a cover version of the whole album. But I hope you get my drift here - do not buy this book if you want a telling of how the album came to be. Perhaps I should late Kate explain it herself. This is the book's prologue:

***

There’s a thing that happens:

You love an album. You get into it—listening over and over, taking in every sound, beat, shift, and phrase. You sing along, memorize the silence between each song. You absorb it, you feel it.

And it gets into you.

A great album tells a story, whether explicit and linear or subtle and discrete. And when you love that album, when it’s gotten inside and you know the characters, landscapes, lyrics, and rhythms, there’s another thing that happens: it becomes yours. You own it, you have a relationship with it. You know each other. It’s your music, they’re your stories—you become free to put meaning here, add interpretation there, decide exactly what it’s all about, then change your mind with each listen. It’s mutual and consensual and very, very private.

And then sometimes you make it public. The album’s narrative begets new narratives and you want to share that somehow, let these expanded possibilities be known. A declaration of adoration, a kind of self-serving homage. Maybe it takes the form of a cover song, freely or closely interpreted. Or the written word: a critical essay, a trenchant article, a dissertation.
But you’re not a musician or a critic—you’re a fiction writer who loves music, who loves stories. The potential within each song, each lyric. And there’s one album that stands out, that you can’t shake, that you find as fascinating now as you did when it came out, in 1993, and you were a swoony day-dreamy teenager mesmerized by the music’s anger, its beauty, its dark and twisted humor. Raw guitars, crashing drums, love-wrecked lyrics telling stories of betrayal, revenge, isolation, sex. The seduction, the violence, those moans and howls. That voice. It was a whole other world.

You love what PJ Harvey’s Rid of Me did then, what it still does, what it can do. So you embark on an experiment. You reenter it, once again listening over and over, sometimes just one song on repeat for hours. You get into it and it gets right back into you. Characters, lyrics, and landscapes. Moods and tones and those feelings. You begin writing. With each song, to each song, from each song. Around and near and under and then, at some point, it takes a shape. Characters emerge. These two women. These woods. Chapters like songs, book like an album. It becomes a new story, years of listening spiraled out into new words and meanings.

This is the book. It’s not about Rid of Me—it’s because of it.

***

12 comments:

andrea said...

I'm really looking forward to this one.

ashod said...

oh man, i have a feeling this one is going to be fourteen kinds of awesome.

Anonymous said...

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James said...

it does sound fantastic.

tercho said...

This prologue sends shivers of glorious anticipation through me! And through my imaginary friend, whom i can finally jettison once this book comes out.

Anonymous said...

this book is going to be amazing...

d said...

The more outside the box these books become the happier I am. Don't get me wrong, I love the straight, critical ones as well, but a rapturous response to an album can be done in so many ways. Can't wait to read this one.

Anonymous said...

OK, I'll say it:

I really dislike the books that feature fiction inspired by the album. So thanks for the heads up, I'll definitely skip this one.

Nick said...

Fantastic. No doubt, the more experimental these books are, the more they will last as new forms of music criticism. This one sounds inspiring.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know if this will be available overseas? Australia mainly. If so, any dates known would be helpful because I haven't been able to find out anything. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

meh....

looks kinda "mfa program"...

i hope you guys keep the format open to lots of different approaches -- that's beyond question. however, this excerpt of the prologue does not exactly inspire confidence in the quality of this particular artifact. pretentious in the worst way.

v.k said...

I am a photographer. And I did a series of photographs based on this song. I found this whilst researching. And I just wanted to say.
I get you.