This is the first of FOUR posts about music and Eleanor & Park. Excessive, I know, but I can’t help it.
When I start a new book, I start a new playlist, too, and I work on them concurrently. With Eleanor & Park, the playlists took the shape of mixed tapes for each character. So I ended up with four playlists — two mixed tapes with two sides each.
If you want to skip my director’s commentary on the music, you can also:
All my other playlists are on Spotify, too. For Attachments – and for Fangirl.
Now on with the show!
Eleanor, Side A
The Good Times are Killing Me, Modest Mouse
This song, for me, is what’s playing in Eleanor’s head when she gets on the schoolbus in the first scene. She’s so past hope, Eleanor; she’s just moving through life, keeping her head up — and not because she’s rising above her challenges (nothing so noble as that). Just because there are no other options. This song is tough and flat and cynical, but it’s got a sneaky beauty to it, too. Enter Eleanor.
Hast Thou Considered the Tetrapod, The Mountain Goats
If I had to choose one album to represent this whole book, it would be The Sunset Tree by The Mountain Goats. I forced myself to choose just one MG song for this playlist. This one tells the story of a boy coming home, trying not to wake up his abusive stepfather. (Which basically sums up Eleanor’s whole life.) The line that slays me in this song is: “Held under these smothering waves, by your strong and thick veined hand, but one of these days I’m going to wriggle up on dry land.” The boy in the song is going to get past this. He’s going to EVOLVE.
You’re the Good Things, Modest Mouse
More Modest Mouse. More sneakily beautiful cynicism for Eleanor. This song got me through the scenes where Eleanor is intrigued by Park, but doesn’t believe any good can come of it.
Don’t Let’s Start (Demo), They Might Be Giants
I love how tentative this version of this song is, compared to the studio version. This is Eleanor slowly turning toward Park on the bus, slowly opening up to him. Still so cynical.
“Don’t, don’t, don’t let’s start,
I’ve got a weak heart …”
Like to Get to Know You, Spanky & Our Gang
Eleanor has bursts of longing and hope. Here’s one. But she still doesn’t quite trust what she’s feeling. She can’t let go.
“Now I can’t promise that I’ll spend a day with you,
Can’t promise that I’ll find a way with you,
Can’t promise, no, I can’t promise that I’ll love you.”
A Feeling, Throwing Muses
This song is all about chemistry. It even FEELS like chemistry. (Like longing.) It’s perfect for Eleanor because it’s CHEMISTRY and LONGING plus a little bit of DOUBT and SELF-LOATHING.
“I never could see anyone besides you.
Believe it or not. (Probably not.)”
Drowning Man, U2
Finally a little abandon from Eleanor! Knowing Bono, this song is probably about Jesus. But I used it to write the telephone scene at Eleanor’s dad’s house. She lays it all out in that scene; she tells Park things she thinks she shouldn’t — and she’s so sure she’ll be hurt. This song feels like surrender to me.
“Take my hand,
You know I’ll be there, if you can,
I’ll cross the sky for your love . . .
Give you what I hold dear.”
There is a Light that Never Goes Out, The Smiths
If Eleanor & Park were a movie, this song would be in the trailer. This song IS Eleanor. When she falls in love with Park, it’s like she’s jumping off a bridge. She really believes it will lead to ruin — but she still does it. Every time she sees him, she wonders if she’ll be allowed to see him again, and whether she’ll be allowed to come back home. I can’t even quote one lyric from this song because they’re all so perfect for her.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about an Eleanor & Park sequel. I find myself thinking, “There is a light, and it never goes out, there is a light, and it never goes out …”
Out of Control, U2
So, when Eleanor falls in love, it goes like this: cynicism, reluctance, side eyes, fear, fear, fear, maybe, no, maybe, hope, cynicism, abrupt surrender, ABANDON. This song is abandon. It’s Eleanor losing herself in her feelings for Park.
Real Love, Regina Spektor
Eleanor and Park, coming home from their date. It’s the fragility and fear in Spektor’s voice that make this song Eleanor for me. (Also, it’s nice that it’s a John Lennon song. What with Eleanor’s love for the Beatles.)
Okay, that’s it for now. Next time, I’ll do Park, Side A. And it will be a lot more upbeat than this.