Okay. I’m determined to write about this playlist without spoiling Eleanor & Park for you. But it’s going to be hard. Because this is Eleanor, Side B, and Side B is where things gets pretty intense in the book.
I always make playlists when I’m writing a book. And I take them really seriously. I soundtrack the scenes as I’m writing them, and often use specific songs to help me maintain the same tone in a scene that might take me days or even weeks to write.
Which means some songs get played A LOT while I’m writing. Check out these playcounts . . .
With Eleanor & Park, which takes place in 1986, I made mixed tape playlists for each character. (Cute, right?) So each character got a Side A and a Side B.
Or you can skip the reading and:
All my other playlists are on my Spotify profile, too. For Attachments – and for Fangirl.
All right. Eleanor Side B — y’all ready for this?
Eleanor, Side B
Two Dancers, Wild Beasts
It’s difficult, when you’re writing a very emotional scene, to maintain the same emotional energy and vibe the entire time you’re working on it. At the climax of Eleanor & Park, Eleanor feels hunted. Desperate. On the run. The scene took a long time to write, and I felt like my head had to be absolutely still while I was inside of it. Like I would just RUIN everything if I lost focus or shifted on my feet . . .
I listened to the album version of “Two Dancers” more than 200 times while I was writing — and even now, when I hear it, I feel like something horrible is after me.
“They dragged me by the ankles through the street,
They passed me round them like a piece of meat.”
Kill With Me Tonight, Devlins
(The only video I could find for this song is an anime tribute video. But I’m kind of digging it.)
You know how the world feels different late at night? How you think things that you wouldn’t normally think, during the day?
When something goes wrong, really wrong, late at night — it’s hard to remember who you are anymore. What your normal rules are . . .
In my mind, this song plays while Eleanor and Park are talking in his grandparents’ RV.
“Your dad will kill you,” she said.
“No,” he said, “he’ll ground me.”
“Do you think I even care about that right now?” He held her face in his hands. “Do you think I care about anything but you?”
“Hold me close, I feel it coming,
Far away and out of sight,
Hold me close, I know it’s coming . . . changes to our lives
So kill with me tonight.”
Same Deep Water as You, The Cure
This song is NINE MINUTES LONG. And an acquired taste. And probably a stupid song to put on a playlist like this.
But if you let “Same Deep Water as You” into your head, it will lull you into an achy haze. Which is exactly right for Eleanor and Park, in his dad’s truck, both scared to say everything they want to.
I want to pull out every lyric from this song and say, “THIS! THIS IS THEM! OH MY GOD! THIS LINE! AND THIS ONE! UGH, DON’T EVEN READ MY BOOK — JUST LISTEN TO THIS SONG OVER AND OVER AGAIN. IT MEANS THE SAME THING.” But I’ll settle on . . .
“Kiss me goodbye,
Pushing out before I sleep,
It’s lower now,
And slower now,
The strangest twist upon your lips.”
Um, this might be weird . . .
This song isn’t really about Eleanor and Park. It’s about Eleanor and me.
Writing Eleanor & Park was a brutal experience. I’m not even sure why I did it – it’s not like me to do something like this. To write something like this.
Generally, I’m not a big fan of “harrowing.” If something is described as “harrowing,” I am not down with it. I’m not reading it, I’m not watching it, I don’t care if it wins a Pulitzer Prize.
But Eleanor & Park?
Kind of harrowing. A bit harrowing. It would be fair to describe certain chapters as fairly harrowing.
And I was miserable during those chapters.
“Bad” is on this playlist because it’s a song that got me though my own harrowing adolescence. And I needed it to get me through Eleanor’s.
“If I could, through myself,
Set your spirit free —
I’d lead your heart away,
See you break, break away
Into the light . . .
And to the day.”
Don’t Let Me Down, Bruner
It’s getting impossible not to talk in a spoilery way about these songs. Maybe you should stop reading . . .
If you haven’t read Eleanor & Park yet, but you’re going to, please stop. Bookmark this page and come back or something.
This song flays me open. It’s completely unguarded. It’s what begging sounds like.
I’m not sure what Eleanor is begging Park for on their drive to St. Paul — understanding, maybe — but this is the noise she’s making.
This song is a Beatles cover, perhaps the best Beatles cover, by a woman named Linda Bruner. (The backstory is totally worth reading.) Her twist on the lyrics here makes all the difference:
“I guess nobody ever really loved me,
The way he done me,
He done me good.
And if somebody ever really loved me,
Then he does me,
He does me good.”
St. Swithin’s Day, Billy Bragg
When the movie One Day came out, I was sure this song would be on the soundtrack. (It’s an ’80s story that takes place on St. Swithin’s Day? COME ON.) Anyway, I was all defensive, like, “No, stop, don’t — that song is on Eleanor’s soundtrack.” But it didn’t end up mattering because they didn’t use it. Because they’re dumb.
(While I’m completely off topic, I’d like to observe that Billy Bragg is a stone-cold, weird-looking fox, and I want to make out with his accent here. And his posture. And his shirt.)
Anyway, in their last few scenes together, Eleanor begs Park for understanding — but she doesn’t get it. She doesn’t give enough to get it. (Now that I think about it, maybe this song should be on Park’s playlist . . .)
The album version of “St. Swithin’s Day” is more wistful, less angry, and I kept listening to it because it’s about the aftermath of a terrible good-bye.
“Thanks all the same,
But I just can’t bring myself to answer your letters,
It’s not your fault,
But your honesty touches me like a fire.”
My Love, Sia
One more wide-open, painful love song for Eleanor at the end of the book. Eleanor deciding to be vulnerable. Deciding that it’s better to love and to lose than to press her heart between the pages of a dictionary.
(Yes, I know this song was in the movie Eclipse. It totally worked there, too.)
Leave yourself behind
Beat inside me,
Leave you blind.
Blackbird, The Beatles
This was always the last song on this playlist.
This was always the end of the book.
I know that some people think the end of Eleanor & Park is depressing. (And I know it feels a little bit like a truck hitting a brick wall.) But in my head, the ending was always hopeful. It was always about something broken finally breaking free.
“Blackbird singing in the dead of night,
Take these broken wings and learn to fly.
All your life,
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.”
There’s only one more of these playlists left – Park Side B. Writing about Eleanor, with all of her murk and shadow, always-always makes me look forward to writing about Park.
That’s why he gets the last word.