Brian Evenson Soundtracks Last Days


SOTC buddy Brian Evenson is very much in touch with the horror and violence that are pervasive in his novels, and his tastes tend to skew the same way–this is a guy who prefers Hammett to Chandler, for instance, because Chandler’s too soft. Last Days, Evenson’s most recent novel, was a hardboiled exercise of the most demented kind, about warring cults of amputees. Certain images from the book have proved hard to shed–in particular, a sexy pin-up, her body “little more than a torso,” wearing a banner that reads “Miss Less Is More,” which decorates the wall in one cult compound.

Largeheartedboy just signed Evenson up for his newest edition of Book Notes, in which “authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published books.” No surprise that Evenson picks Scott Walker and Sunburned Hand of the Man–both have the uneasy, deceptively placid horror so readily evident in the author’s own work. But we recommend in particular Evenson’s riff on what for lack of a better name we’ll dub “amputee rock”:

Last Days

    itself mentions two pieces of music. One is ‘Hank Williams’ “Hey, Good Looking,” reworked to sound like a German cabaret number,’ which is a project I really wish the Dresden Dolls would take on some day. The other is Hindemuth’s “Piano Concerto for the Left Hand”, a piece commissioned by Paul Wittgenstein (Ludwig Wittgenstein’s brother) after he lost his right arm in the First World War. In addition to those, any novel containing an amputation cult probably deserves Pink Floyd’s “Be Careful with that Axe, Eugene” and Nick Cave’s “Red Right Hand.”

I’d also recommend Echo and the Bunnymen’s “The Back of Love”, which opens “I’m on the chopping block”. Their “My Kingdom”–“I chop and I change and the mystery thickens / There’s blood on my hands and you want me to listen”–captures Kline’s trajectory across the book. (And the chorus seems a good mantra for the cult).

Evenson does not mention the song one stripper in Last Days dances to at an amputation party (she sheds body parts instead of clothes), but he might well have added it to the book’s soundtrack as well: “a dull thumping, the sound of stumps beating against one another.”