I guess I’ve written a few narrative songs in my time – LOCUST, maybe GUTTER BROKE, MUSHY-HEADED KID even – but for the most part I’m compelled by crystallizing moments and images. They make songs to me.
I think THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING shut down on me because the full weight of the novel was weighing on my head. (My early writing was painfully efficient, it turned out, which is good for business but bad for music). This is particularly strange because, no matter how often I made a point of it, I couldn’t for the life of me remember to go to the bookstore before closing time.
Maybe my forgetfulness was smarter than I was: A few days ago, I realized that there was one moment from the book – fairly early – that kept circling in my brain. I didn’t pay much attention because the “serious” work would only begin, I figured, once I dived back into the novel.
But that’s when it dawned on me that the lines popping into my head about that moment, and the odd, unwinding melody that was starting to trace its way over the words, might be worth paying attention to.
At this point, miraculously, I had no trouble remembering to go to the bookstore. The narrative had loosened its strangling grip on me. I’ve been re-reading ever since, and nearly cried into my eggs Saturday morning while leathermen and suburban couples with kids vied for brunch-time seating around me. This book kills me.
The funny thing? Most of the details I thought were in this scene weren’t in the book at all. They were in my own head. Good.
This song is going to take a good while, I can tell. But it’s worth it.