Emily Books (which is me and Ruth Curry) is a book of the month club that only sells ebooks – great books from writers with unmistakable voices you might not have heard elsewhere. We’ve been choosing and selling one a month for our customers and subscribers for almost one year now, and to celebrate we made this mixtape. When I set out to pick two songs for each Emily Books pick I thought I’d pick a bunch of idiosyncratic female singer-songwriter stuff because our authors are often the book-writing equivalent of Joni Mitchell, Liz Phair, Fiona Apple, et al. So I was surprised when the first song that came to mind when I thought of our inaugural pick– seminal rock critic and radical feminist Ellen Willis’s collection No More Nice Girls – was the un-mixtapeable “Rhapsody In Blue” (16 minute songs do not go on mixtapes.), and I realized it was because No More Nice Girls gives me the same feeling the opening moments of Woody Allen’s Manhattan always do. I tried to be that free-associative for all the books, and also to curb my usual mixtape-ruining tendencies (i.e. there is only one song from a Broadway musical). I’m definitely better at picking books than songs, but this is still a pretty decent mix, and a good introduction to the vibe of our picks.
No More Nice Girls by Ellen Willis
1. Janis Joplin, “Down on Me”
Janis is associated closely with Willis because she wrote a great seminal Rolling Stone essay about her, but I chose this song because making art out of criticism seems appropriate for someone who was at once one of the foremost critics and as well as progenitors of radical feminism.
2. Bikini Kill, “I Like Fucking”
Our description of this book on our website quotes this song. “Do you believe in the radical possibilities of pleasure?” Ellen Willis did. I have loved, loved, loved this song for years for being dead earnest and purposely funny at the same time, and it’s a quality this great book shares.
Inferno by Eileen Myles
3. Patti Smith, “Till Victory”
Myles and Smith are both rock star poets who originally got famous because of readings they did at St. Mark’s Church, so this is a little on the nose but whatever.
4. Tegan and Sara, “Burn Your Life Down”
T&S have in common with Eileen that they both evoke the same response in lesbians that Justin Bieber does in 11-year-olds.
Glory Goes and Gets Some by Emily Carter
5. Velvet Underground, “Rock and Roll”
The protagonist of these linked short stories was comforted, as an anxious child, by the radio late at night. Also, later, by heroin.
6. Neko Case, “Hold On, Hold On”
The narrator of this song sounds very Glory-ish to me: “I leave the party at 3am, alone thank god.”
7. Lulu, “To Sir With Love”
An upbeat song about bidding a mentor farewell – a sweet (slightly weirdly sexual) thank-you.
8. Liz Phair, “Canary”
A song about being mentored that’s a bit more … ambivalent.
the buddhist by Dodie Bellamy
9. Autoclave, “Dr. Seuss”
>A song about someone else pulling you into his topsy-turvy fantasy world, and trying not to get sucked in. Also it’s just an awesome song and I love putting it on mixtapes. Christina Billotte’s voice is the bessssssst.
10. Beck, “Nitemare Hippy Girl”
When new-agey shit goes awry, the results aren’t pretty.
11. Nine Inch Nails, “Closer”
This song is creepy as fuck, and so is the glory-holesque contraption this novel’s plot hinges on.
12. Goldfrapp, “Strict Machine”
Making Scenes by Adrienne Eisen (aka Penelope Trunk)
13. Sinead O’Connor, “Mandinka”
“I don’t know no shame, I feel no pain.” Sinead and Adrienne/Penelope have a similar flavor of crazy, I think. I can’t really explain but I just feel they are kindred spirits.
14. Dinosaur Jr., “Puke and Cry”
Song title is a very literal interpretation of this book, as literal as it could get unless there’s a song called “bulimic semi-pro beach volleyball player” I don’t know about.
Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead by Barbara Comyns
15. Hedwig and the Angry Inch, “Wicked Little Town”
The characters in this book live in a strange and doomed provincial place.
16. Bell Biv Devoe, “Poison”
“That girl is poison.” Or maybe that ergot that got into the rye the baker’s been making bread with is poison.
One More For The People by Martha Grover
17. YACHT, “See A Penny”
>YACHT, like Martha Grover, are one of Portland’s greatest non-coffee exports.
18. The Clash, “Lost In The Supermarket”
Martha writes in a funny and moving vein about working in a fancy supermarket, behind the cheese counter.
Loitering With Intent by Muriel Spark
19. Lily Allen, “LDN”
A contemporary take on the joys of living in London.
20. Elvis Costello, “Every Day I Write The Book”
Another UK native, writing about being a writer.
Mercury by Ariana Reines
21. Zola Jesus, “Sea Talk”
Ruth says this song “just reminds her of Ariana.”
22. Fiona Apple, “Left Alone”
“How can I ask anyone to love me when all I do is beg to be left alone?” is a very Ariana Reines sentiment, though she would doubtless express it some other way.
–Emily Gould is the author of And The Heart Says Whatever and a whole lot of blog posts.
–Ruth Curry is a writer and editor who has worked on both the agency side and editorial side of book publishing.
Together they are Emily Books!