Monday, October 3, 2011

TOMATO RED, BEWITCHED, & Other October Novels and Soundtracks

Nicole Kidman looks good in her tomato red dress, and I like much of the Bewitched soundtrack.  Some of it I've transferred to my own seasonal CD--some but not all.  I know the Talking Heads' rocking "And She Was" was written about the Eternal Feminine (via LSD), but I don't think of it as October music.

Frank Sinatra's "Witchcraft" certainly belongs, and I've added his "That Old Black Magic" and "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered."

October has its own soundtrack.  Newell Oler's CD Autumn Song, for instance, naturally gets played more in September than October.  His "September Song" is strikingly beautiful, and he engages a medley of Neil Diamond's sad "Love On The Rocks" with a mellow "September Morn."  After that comes "Canadian Sunset," "Try To Remember," his versions of "Hymne" and "Autumn Leaves," the most gentle background music for fall reading you can imagine.  The man can play.

Many of our favorite songs and stories for October are eclectic, very meaningful for us but maybe not for others.  With that in mind, I am going to recommend Chris Bohjalian's Water Witches.  Bohjalian went on to fame as an Oprah pick and he now has his own Wikipedia page which lists his many accomplishments--however, it is this forgotten early novel, which gets hardly a mention there, that I most enjoy.

On its surface, Water Witches is one of those gentle witchcraft novels like Alice Hoffman's Practical Witchcraft, Joanne Harris' Chocolat, or the film Bell, Book, and Candle with Kim Novak and Pyewacket.  There is a deeper symbolism underneath that most people seem to miss.  I'll give my analysis of it here on Forgotten Book Friday.

Everyone seems to be reading Tomato Red after the success of Winter's Bone and the printing of a new paperback edition.  Last week I read an interview with Reed Farrel Coleman in which he seemed to be particularly enthralled with that novel and with Daniel Woodrell's works in general.  Ken, over at the Occult McCarthy blog, talks about Woodrell here.

I like both the old cover art and the new.  I think the author meant the title Tomato Red to be a generic shade, a blood meridian or human commonality, running from red hair to tomato juice to heart tattoos to lips to whatever the reader's imagination might make of it.  If you're interested in red as a metaphor, you might be interested in my passion-for-red list at Amazon, at this link.

Woodrell's style lives and breathes metaphor.  The book is often described as a sad country song, as tragic poetry, or as loser lit.  The tragedy here is that these characters are stuck in their mire and can find no way out.  They cannot rise above their mindset because all they have to work with is their own minds.  Like us, they are merely human with the capacity for grace and disgrace, humor and horror, and the reader's task is to rise above the superficial here to recognize our common humanity.

The protagonist tells us, "I think one of our cardinal fuckups is how we insist that even crazy whimsical shit has to add up, make sense, belong to a reason.  We lay this pain on ourselves, there must be a reason behind this horror, there must, but I ain't adequate to findin' it, and that's my fault, so torture me some more." 

When the protagonist, wary of the danger, first approaches the house to be burglarized, he says, "The mist felt like a tongue I kept walking into, and my skin and clothes seemed to be slobbered on.  The world aped a harmless watch dog, puttin' big licks all over my face."  Dogs will later be used as a leveling metaphor, symbolic throughout the novel.

The Shelf Awareness blog has an interesting interview with Woodrell at this link.

Back to this year's October soundtrack, I've now added selections from the soundtracks of Chocolat, Bell, Book, and CandleThe Dumas Club, Practical MagicGhost Story, The Witches of Eastwick, Death Becomes Her, and the CD Sax and Violence.  No doubt I'll be adding more as the month continues.

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