Music and Writing

Posted on March 8, 2011 by


Sometimes I write a chapter and I know exactly where it came from.

Late in the book, my main character (a 20-something coke addict named Maybelle) gives in to her addiction under the pressure of anxiety and consumes more drugs than she can handle.

I have tried, throughout the book, to fashion a parallel between the effects of cocaine psychosis and the effects on perception that occur between our world (Maybelle’s world) and the Other world she stumbles into.

The feeling I wish to convey has been written about again and again throughout the history of literature and film, but I was not satisfied with drawing from the collective expression of other artists. I never am.

So I wrote the passages directly from the depths of my brain. For factual content, I looked to personal experience with the drug (long ago and far away, dear ones, never fear).

But sentence structure…sentence structure was difficult. I hashed out a rough draft based on the raw experience as I remembered it, but it was entirely unusable as a final draft. To put it bluntly, when you are high on coke, you just love being high on coke; I had to refine the passages to be faithful to what I remembered without seeming like an endorsement.

So I revised with the specific intention to taint the passages, even though they are from Maybelle’s point of view, with the scent of grotesquerie; they should read like an ecstatic mood to Maybelle, and like a delirious spasm to us.

At the time I didn’t know where I got the lilting, off-beat, insane buzzing of those sentences, only that it was very familiar, and that I was borrowing it from somewhere.

Here is where I borrowed it from:

I first heard Asyla after my mother attended one of its first performances and brought back a CD. She told me I had to listen to it, that it was jarring and not melodic but that it was unbelievable music. My mother doesn’t like modern composers, as a rule.

I listened. I said, “Oh, I don’t like this at all.” And then I listened again, and again, and I said, “This is a work of brilliance.”


Posted in: Music, My Books