Break-up songs and comfort reading

Fleetwood Mac are a good band to listen to when you’re dealing with a break-up since many of their songs have to do with relationship troubles and they have had their fair share of failed relationships (with each other).

The ‘famous five’ of Mick Fleetwood, John and Christine McVie, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks – I wonder what it was about them that so captured the public imagination around the time of their Rumours album? I think people could relate to these talented musicians who were very open about the relationship troubles they were experiencing.

One song I’ve listened to quite a bit this weekend is “Go Insane” by Lindsey Buckingham. Not because I’m going insane but because I love the haunting guitar-playing and the soulful cry that Buckingham produces 😉

Other than listening to break-up songs, what else have I been doing this weekend? Some comfort reading. I’m enjoying Gardening at Night by Diane Awerbuck which is a local coming-of-age story which is funny, wry and well observed.

I’ve picked this up again after an absence of maybe two years and I’m not sure what made me put it down last time – perhaps I was distracted and I didn’t have the energy for Awerbuck’s ironic detachment. I see that Andre Brink commented that Gardening at Night shows “a South Africa the international reader has not yet seen: the wood of smallness and ordinariness and quirkiness of everyday life behind the trees of politics”.

It’s a story of a young girl who grows up in Kimberley, studies at Rhodes University in Grahamstown and then escapes to Cape Town where she teaches at an upmarket all-girls’ school. It’s also clearly based on Awerbuck’s own life which, while nothing out of the ordinary, is told with such a vivid (and wry) imagination that it becomes refreshingly different.

Here’s the opening paragraph:

There is no sea in Kimberley. We make do with drunken every-other-Sundays on the river, frightening small children and trying to waterski barefoot. The water is cold Milo but not fit for human consumption, as the sign says. There is always a capsized hand on its surface, clutching a beer snaffled from the bar. There are no ladies of the lake, or kings to be called, but there are mutant catfish that live on the bottom of the pan, whiskers trawling for white feet in the water. Eating them is a bad idea; they taste of river mud and lost scuba divers with too little oxygen in their tanks.

I like the image of the capsized hand clutching a beer bottle which evokes the lady of the lake and then the shift to mutant catfish eating oxygen-deprived scuba divers. Would that qualify as King Arthur meets science fiction meets South African autobiography?

The style is close and chatty but also distant with an amused detachment.

Almost at random here’s another extract which I enjoyed:

Gordon goes out after and I only know she is weeping because I can hear them through the window: a spy in the House of Love. He tries to hug her and she pushes him away and screams at him that she does not want to be friends; inside there is loud clinking of glasses and clearing of throats. But her throat is not clear. She re-enters and I push my spine against the wall – cold, but not as hard as a woman whose blue eyes are pink and whose heart we’ve cracked open. I expect her to curse me like a bad fairy at a christening, but her suit contains her; it holds back her wrath in her Wonderbra chest. She has come back for her handbag made of the skin of some thing and then she leaves, looking taller than she is, clicking down the driveway and into her car.

The narrative style here reminds me a bit of Kate Atkinson. She can pack a punch into a small scene, which seems almost casually strung together. The narrator is both present and removed at the same time. She’s shrinking against the wall in case she gets a good klap and she’s also attentively watching the other woman clicking down the driveway, smirking a little at the Wonderbra and the high heels.

I’ll be back next Monday probably. Have a good week.


11 Responses to Break-up songs and comfort reading

  1. Hope you’re not listening to break-up songs because you are actually dealing with a break-up?! If so, I am sorry, and consider this a big virtual hug. If not, apologies for reading too much into your post.

  2. Harriet says:

    I’ve been known to listen to my fair share of break up songs. I’m lucky in that I’ve now been married to my husband for 21 years. He’s very patient.

  3. Grad says:

    I’ve of course heard of Fleetwood Mac (I don’t live under a rock, afterall), but I don’t know if I’ve ever heard any of their music. This was beautiful, Pete! Thank you so much. I’ll have to steal a CD from one of my kids.

  4. sandyphd says:

    Rumours is such an excellent album, from start to finish. I love so many of the songs, but Buckingham’s songs are especially haunting. I do believe he was writing from experience.

    My most striking memory of Rumours was listening, for the first time ever, with giant earphones. It was such a thrill, having the sound of Fleetwood Mac fill my brain. Loved it. Thanks for the memory.

    And I join Charlotte in hoping your weekend listening isn’t due to a real break up.

  5. natalian says:

    Crusing in my “Mommy Taxi” I have lost myself in Nursery Rhymes and my Eldests favourite band “The Jonas Brothers”,so when our local radio station played Jon Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer” I turned up the volume and rocked on! Unfortunatly I don’t think I will be invited to join the Parents Association as I was driving into the school parking lot! Music is good for the soul, if its for break ups, make ups or just to ‘dance like no one is watching’. I forgot about that.

  6. Pete says:

    Charlotte – I wish it was otherwise but sadly the real thing. I’ll email you.

    Harriet – Well I don’t think you have to be in a break-up to appreciate break-up songs. I remember reading Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity and loving his list of break-up songs (most of which I’d probably never heard of). 21 years is good!

    Grad – Pleasure and I’m sure you know their music (maybe without knowing you do). I’ll be interested to hear which (if any) of their songs you like. My other favourite band of the moment (not quite as old) is REM. “Losing my Religion” is another classic break-up song.

    Sandy – So glad you’re a Fleetwood Mac fan too. Weren’t earphones the best thing ever when they first came out? As for the other question, well no comment for now …

    Natalian – Absolutely. And if the PTA can’t handle “Living on a Prayer” then pah to them. But I don’t think I’ll be cranking up the volume to the Jonas Brothers for a while though 😉

  7. litlove says:

    I love Fleetwood Mac – classic. But I’ve never heard of this author. The style is fun, though, so I should see if she is available in the UK. Take good care of yourself, Pete, and spoil yourself in all kinds of ways, big and small.

  8. Grad says:

    A few years ago I became a total lunatic fan of Led Zeppelin. My offspring figured I was entering my second childhood – so maybe they won’t be shocked when I ask them to lend me Fleetwood Mac :>

  9. Courtney says:

    I just read through the comments with the hope that you weren’t the one breaking up with someone – I’m sorry to hear that is the case! Well, if ever there was a reason to listen to Fleetwood and drink wine…

  10. Pete says:

    Litlove – Thanks, yes a bit of spoiling would be good. As for Gardening at Night, I enjoyed the playfulness of it and I think you would probably too. It’s a first novel by a South African writer so she’s still finding her voice but one of the more interesting and enjoyable of my Cape Town reads.

  11. Pete says:

    Grad – I haven’t listened to Led Zeppelin in ages but I also went through a stage of loving them to death. And Fleetwood Mac is timeless I think so embrace them 😉

    Courtney – Thanks!

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