“Life is not an 80s movie.”

07/29/2009 4:00 AM |

An examination of memory, love and music, Sarah Rainone’s debut novel Love Will Tear Us Apart was published this spring by Three Rivers Press. The author, who is at work on a second novel, recently emailed with us to answer a few questions about the novel and the bizarre cast of characters that populate it.

The L: I’ve got to first ask you about the book’s title and chapter titles. From Joy Division to Nirvana and Radiohead, you’ve more or less referenced every song that ever meant anything to me as an adolescent. Did you begin with the song titles and write from some sort of thematic core that they represented, or did the titles come after the writing of the chapters?
SR: I started with the song titles and an idea about the setting or time period, then let the characters take over. The scenes aren’t necessarily analogous to the lyrics, but as anyone who had their first kiss to Cypress Hill’s “Cock the Hammer” or broken up with their boyfriend just as the KLF’s “3 AM Eternal” came on the radio, we don’t always choose the songs that remind us of turning points in our lives. That’s not the way life works, possibly because life is not an 80s movie.

The L: Music plays a critical role in the text, and since this is a mutlipe-perspective novel, I couldn’t help but find some common threads in your characters’ musical tastes. Do you think individual tastes say something about your characters’ personalities, or is their taste incidental?
SR: I think that a lot of young people use music not only to express emotions but also as a way to try out different styles and ideologies when they lack the maturity and self-confidence to embrace a more complex identity or set of beliefs. In the early chapters, it would seem as if each character more or less represents a different musical subculture, but as the story progresses, the music fades into the background and the characters reveal a bit more complexity.

The L: The book is a multiple-perspective account of far-flung friends returning for the hometown wedding of Lea and Dan. In structure, I’m reminded of The Big Chill, but in terms of how your book unfolds, I think there’s something perhaps more pessimistic at work. In the book’s epilogue, “Bonus Tracks,” there’s such a feeling of deflation and disappointment, even after what should have been a joyous occasion. Is it fair to say that there’s a palpable sense of regret and sadness in the book?
SR: Oh, absolutely. For most of the book, the characters are absolutely full of shit, not to be trusted, and, let’s face it, wasted. But I write in the first person, so I’m hoping readers will understand that none of the characters are exactly what they say they are and that their memories are far from pristine. I think that’s more evident in the “Bonus Tracks” section because they’re all coming down. The tuxes and dresses are on the ground, the make-up’s off, the buzz is gone, and we finally get to see who the characters are, what they’ve been hiding, and how lost and lonely they are. That said, I don’t think the book is devoid of hope. These characters are, after all, approaching their mid-twenties, and so naturally they’re selfish, self-righteous, and lacking in self-awareness — and comically so. They’re going to be okay.