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PJ Harvey's Rid of Me
A Story. 33 1/3
'Songs are there for the people, to be used by people, in any way they want to use them.' (Polly Jean Harvey, 1993) This book takes Polly Jean at her word. Kate Schatz puts together a collection of stories that is weird, dark, and seductive in its portrayals of women, kidnapping, love, sex, isolation and power. Each story begins and ends with the first and last line of each song, and many of the remaining song lyrics will appear throughout each piece. Rid of Me lends itself easily and readily to a literary interpretation. Musically, apt comparisons have been made to everything from Beefheart and Patti Smith to vintage Delta Blues and Celtic punk. But lyrically and emotionally, Rid of Me deserves other comparisons: there is the gothic horror of Shirley Jackson and Poe, the confessional pain of Plath, the carnality of NiN, and the sardonic wit of Dorothy Parker. Harvey employs specific literary devices: repetition and allusion as well as recurring tropes, themes and images (size/measurements, bleeding, desire, body parts, skin) and a penchant for myth and archetypes (fire, hair, hands, Mary, the moon, queens, kings). Schatz does the same.
The 33 1/3 series is acclaimed for experimenting with different ways of writing about music. This book will bolster that reputation further.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
Kate Schatz's "Rid of Me" is less about a particular album than it is about what happens to an album when you listen to it repeatedly the way it evolves and transforms and ends up plugging into all the right circuits in your brain. In the end, overlaid with all your own fears and desires the album becomes the basis for a new world, stories swelling out of it like ghosts. Schatz's "Rid of Me" is the uncanny double of P.J. Harvey's album: it both offers all the mystery and beauty that fiction at its best can offer and illustrates better than anything else I know the private process of making an album genuinely your own. Brian Evenson, Director of the Literary Arts Program at Brown University and author of six books of fiction, most recently "The Wavering Knife" (which won the IHG Award for best story collection) "I'd like to slip this between a few books that I read over and over again: "The Lesbian Body" by Monique Wittig", Spanking the Maid" by Robert Coover, and "By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept" by Elizabeth Smart. This is a journey, a song, a symphony, a love poem, a cry, a whisper, a nightmare, and, in such an unexpected and joyous way - a sustained arousal. It is at once about torture and love, bondage and caresses, empowerment and submission, femininity and tomboys, entrapment and escape, kidnapping and running away, death and ecstasy. With cruel and luscious women who are teachers, nurses, children, campers, and lovers, we are stripped of our senses and then filled up again with a new way of seeing, reading, sexing, feeling, tasting and loving." Erin Cressida Wilson, Spirit-Award winning screenwriter of" Secretary" and "Fur" "[Schatz] recreates the album's weird push-pull tension, notably in her suspenseful characterization of Mary and Kathleen's mysterious woods." PopMatters.com "The idea that we all experience an album differently, that we each create our own version of the album through listening, is a driving force behind the book...[Schatz] shines a lingth on one of the most inspiring aspects of music: how open-ended something as limited as a four-minute pop song truly is. And as she offers her own interpretation of Rid of Me, she also gives us a new interpretation of what it means to write "a book about an album." www.erasingclouds.com "Some albumsinvade a person so deeply they are driven to obsession. Apparently this was the case for Kate Schatz, who as a teenager was consumed with PJ Harvey's Rid of Me- not surprisingly foran album so deeply drenched with sex, angst and betrayal. Lucky for us, Schatz is now a writer and haschanneled her fervor into a narrative inspired by the album about two troubledgirls who are mysteriously drawn together to an ominous house in thewoods...thestory weaves in Rid of Me lyrics and themes of infidelity, lust, and rage, mirroring its track listing as chapter titles. For an album that rips your guts out with stripped-down rock and rawemotion, Rid of Me: A Story is an engaging homage." "Underthe Radar Magazine" The best musical covers occur when some kind of alchemy takes place. What starts out as an act of homage or repetition turns into revelation as the new version throws light on, say, the lyrical subtext or rhythmic potential that seem to have been hidden within the original. Kate Schatz magics a similar sort of transformation in her fictional cover revolving around two outlaw-lovers, Mary and Kathleen of PJ Harvey's 1993 album "Rid of Me". San Francisco Bay Guardian "In this book, there is no distinction between music, fiction, books and albums. The ambiguity and lyricism with threads and fragments from Harvey's lyrics scattered throughout compel you to read chapters over and over. They take you like a song on repeat, rubbing you until you bleed." Karrie Higgins, The Los Angeles Times "Continuum's 33 1/3 series, which produces lively little volumes of criticism, personal history, and other kinds of "cover lit" on beloved pop and rock albums, has Kate Schatz's fictional riff on PJ Harvey's 1993 Rid of Me, which the online magazine Inkblot once described as "the musical equivalent of a bulldozer tearing through your living room." That review could apply equally well to Schatz's novella. Each chapter, named after tracks like "Rub It 'Til It Bleeds" and "50ft Queenie," takes the reader further into the kidnapping-cum-affair between Kathleen, who has fled an ailing controlling patriarch, and Mary, her captor, who has left a suffocating marriage for an abandoned hunting cabin in the forest. Neither character seems to have any idea of how to heal their abusive pasts; instead, they take their cues from Harvey's unsettling music. Schatz's prose, at time dystopic and surrealist, often really does sound like a rock song. The music winds up accompanying the fiction, which is just as weird and unsettlingly powerful as the album's trademark photo of Harvey's hair rising from the water like a new hybrid animal." Bitch Magazine "Some albums invade a person so deeply they are driven to obsession. Apparently this was the case for Kate Schatz, who as a teenager was consumed with PJ Harvey's Rid of Me- not surprisingly for an album so deeply drenched with sex, angst and betrayal. Lucky for us, Schatz is now a writer and has channeled her fervor into a narrative inspired by the album about two troubled girls who are mysteriously drawn together to an ominous house in the woods...the story weaves in Rid of Me lyrics and themes of infidelity, lust, and rage, mirroring its track listing as chapter titles. For an album that rips your guts out with stripped-down rock and raw emotion, Rid of Me: A Story is an engaging homage." "Under the Radar Magazine" ""Rid of Me "takes its cue from PJ Harvey's album of the same title and appropriately veers away from its surface toward an unusual and fictive adventure into the irreverently dark psychology(ies) that made the album popular in the first place."- Kate Morris, "Feminist Review, "June 27, 2007--Sanford Lakoff "We've said it before and we'll damn well say it again, Continuum's 33 1/3 series of books - wherein a writer is given the freedom to wax lyrical about their favorite album - are not only delightful little collectors items but have also spawned some truly wonderful essays, ranging from techie minded nuts and bolts recording break-downs to marvelous flights of fancy like this little beauty by Kate Schatz. The third writer to take the fiction route for their chosen album (Music From Big Pink by John Niven and Meat is Murder by Joe Pernice being the other two) telling the highly charged erotic tale (what else could it be based on Harvey's equally highly charged and erotic album?) of Kathleen and Mary and their desperate efforts to escape their respective pasts via a kidnapping, a house in the middle of a dark, deeply disturbing, forest and some sapphic shenanigans. Each chapter, both named after and relating to, the album's tracks, moves the story along apace and successfully evokes the albums unsettling lyrics and themes. Writing about music has been in the doldrums for too long, let's have a lot more like this please." Total Music Magazine "Kate Schatz's delightfully queer work of fiction has all the elements of a solid album: desire, darkness, sex and transformation... This fireball of a read captures an interpretive lyrical undertone as sexy and intoxicating as Harvey's original"--Sanford Lakoff A sexy, earnest tale about two young women searching for the end of the forest, for freedom, for a way to escape their violent and strangling pasts. Rid of Me conjures Anais Nin, Angela Carter, fairy tales, horror movies, punk melodrama, as well as PJ Harvey. It's a fast, fun fall through thin air.
Micah Perks, author of Pagan Time and We Are Gathered Here All the writers I know, at least the cool ones, fantasize being rock stars. Kate Schatz' debut book is the next best thing - a writer turning her engagement with a great album into flesh and blood characters, creepy-sexy plot turns and howling guitar, um, verbal solos. I wish I'd thought of it first.
Rebecca Brown, author of THE TERRIBLE GIRLS.