Please welcome Lisa Amowitz, author of Breaking Glass, who is here to talk about her playlist for the book and share some excerpts.
Music is a big influencer for me. Maybe even more than visual cues. Or maybe the combination of both. I’m not exactly sure. But, good music seems to focus me better than almost anything else. In my case it’s really true that music soothes the savage beast!
I have rather eclectic taste –I’ve been told that I like bands no one else has ever heard of. So prepare yourself for Lisa’s indie music playlist and the off the beaten path music behind Breaking Glass.
The following songs in one way or another inspired Breaking Glass though don’t necessarily correspond to the text.
The Decemberists: Engine Driver
Gary Jules: Mad World
The Decemberists: The Hazards of Love
The Decemberists: Annan Water
Now for the excerpt to song matchups!
This is basically the theme song for the book. If it ever became a movie, this would be the song playing over the credits.
Guggenheim Grotto: Lost Forever and…
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros: Home
For the past year, Susannah’s been inexplicably texting me with YouTube links to her haunting stop-action animations. I watch her body drift across the screen draped with filmy gauze, her dark bronze hair and golden skin amid floating leaves, graveyards, ballet dancers, Indian goddesses, and scattered words in Hebrew and English, most of which make no sense.
But other than telling me the link is private and to keep it our little secret, Susannah never mentions them when I see her. Neither do I.
Yet if I could dive into my iPhone and swim beside her, an exotic fish in her private world, I would do it and never look back.
And Ryan would kill me. Best friends don’t want to do their best friend’s girlfriend. I think that’s written somewhere. So is not cheating on your girlfriend. And so is not ratting him out.
I glance behind me. Ryan is intertwined with Claudia Herman, the community college girl who plays Maria. Claudia’s hot. And she’s slept with our whole track team. I think of Susannah, mercifully out of town on a college visit.
My phone vibrates. Susannah again. This time it’s an actual text.
I clench my jaw and look away from Ryan and his latest fling, sworn to silence by the Guy Code of Honor.
Jeremy! guess what. i’m here! got n earlier flight
I peer out into night, then glance at Ryan again.
Jeff Buckley: Hallelujah
Since eighth grade, when I discovered that liquor dulls my terrors, I have been a master thief and spy.
Not even Ryan knows.
Just a sip to calm my shaky nerves. One tiny sip to beat back the rising waters that threaten to drown me. I can do it. I pride myself on my steely self-control and my ability to remain stone-cold sober, even when the track team holds a victory keg party. They call me Jeremy the Teetotaler, Jeremy the History Nerd, who never partakes.
I snap open the glove compartment. The innocuous silver bottle is shoved behind the owner’s manual, gas receipts, and a collection of PowerBar wrappers. I raise it to my lips and gulp once, twice, three times, the cold liquid igniting as it hits my throat. It takes two, three more gulps to slow my heart to normal speed. The bottle is nearly empty. I cap it and return it to the compartment, warmth flowing to my cold fingers. I’d need to drink three times as much as that to lose focus.
Swerving through the deserted black roads, slick with rain over the ice, I follow my usual running circuit. This is familiar turf. Practically my backyard.
Yes. I can do this. Susannah knows my route, so I hope she’s come this way and parked, knowing I’d find her. She wants me to find her. To comfort her. I’ll tell her everything. How I’m sorry for lying to her. For letting Ryan hurt her. And maybe, at last, she’ll accept that it’s not Ryan she wants, but me.
But there’s no sign of her.
After driving and searching fruitlessly, my mind churning with outcomes, the now-driving rain blurring my windshield, I can’t stand it anymore. My heart is racing. Just one last sip to fortify myself is all I need.
When I round the next hairpin curve, my headlights flash on Ryan’s car parked behind Susannah’s, both engines running. I squint through the rain and mist and spot them behind the guardrail, illuminated in the headlamps’ cone of light. There’s no shoulder on this side of the road, so I pull over when I can, about twenty yards past them.
When I finally get out of the car, I can hear her shouts over the racket the rain makes. My head is buzzing, but my thoughts are clear.
In fact, they’ve never been clearer, as the roots that entangle me fall away.
The damp air smells like freedom.
Susannah screams, and pounds at Ryan’s chest with her fists. He shoves her hard and she falls backward. I don’t see her get up again. Raucous arguments are nothing new between Susannah and Ryan, but I’ve never seen him hit her before.
There’s a steep decline into the woods where they’ve chosen to have their argument, and I worry Susannah could have gotten hurt. Ryan disappears now, too. What the hell are they doing?
I begin to run at full tilt. I still have some distance to cover, but that’s no problem for me, even with the Absolut pumping heat through my veins. But my boot heel catches on a wet leaf and slides out from under me.
I’m flying, but I land softly.
I should have worn my running shoes, I think crazily, then scramble to my feet.
There are blinding lights. The squeal of brakes. Breaking glass.
I don’t make it to the other side.
Lana Del Rey: Dark Paradise
“She tripped, or you pushed her?” I try to sit forward, but pain lances through my leg as if a team of chainsaw-brandishing dwarves have crash-landed on it. I fall back shakily onto the pillows.
“Take it easy, Jer.”
I search my mind for details, but the night is hazy, a mix tape of rain, vodka, and bright lights. And then Susannah’s face is in front of me -- glistening lips, autumn leaf eyes, tears sparkling on their rims. The urge overtakes me, like it always does when there are things I can’t face—the urge to run. But I’m pinned to the bed like a butterfly specimen. “Where is she now, Ryan? My dad says she never got home last night.”
“Jeez, Jeremy, how should I know? I did follow her. It’s pretty rough going on those rocks. It hasn’t changed since we used to fish there. And the weather last night was hideous. The ground was slippery. I lost my footing and wrenched my ankle. I couldn’t keep up. I just lost her.”
“So, she vanished into thin air. And a high school track star like you couldn’t keep up with her. You expect me to believe that?”
“C’mon, Jeremy, what’s up with you? It wasn’t like I didn’t try to follow her. She was hysterical and I was worried because she cut her head when she fell. But I could barely walk with my ankle, you know, and I lost track of her. I figured she probably doubled back to where her car was and took off. I got back to the road just as they were loading you into the ambulance. You can check the police report. They asked me if I’d seen what happened, but I didn’t find out it was you in there until later.”
“You left a bleeding girl stumbling around in the woods and you didn’t wonder why her car was still there,” I say in a monotone. “And your ankle looks okay today,” I add.
The nurse comes in, adjusts my drip bag, then leaves. Ryan leans forward, his voice soft. Reasonable. “She wasn’t that hurt. Just a scratch. Shit, Jeremy. You know Susannah. She pulls these stunts all the time. She used to run away all the time.”
“Right. I saw you hit her, Ryan.”
Ryan turns a bit green. “C’mon, Jer. It was just a little shove. If you saw us, then you know she was slamming me with her fists first. I wasn’t going to do anything with Claudia Herman. Suze is just—oversensitive. You know how she gets.”
I’m getting fuzzy. It must be the drugs they keep pumping into me. The words kick out like a knee to the groin. I’m shouting now, my voice hoarse, my mouth flooded with a sour taste.
“You mean how she gets when you fuck around behind her back?”
I want to suck the words back in. In all our years as The Lone Ranger and Tonto, I’ve never violated the sidekick rules. Even when I had to bite my tongue so hard it bled.
Outside my room, I hear voices speak rapidly in urgent tones, too low to understand but loud enough to recognize. It’s Patrick Morgan, Esquire, talking to Dad. I’d know his booming voice anywhere. Ryan’s uber-influential father is probably here to make sure the Morgan interests are safeguarded—as in, Ryan’s name is kept clean. He had to have heard my outburst and now Dad is most likely supplicating himself and pleading to the Almighty for forgiveness on my behalf.
Clouds of cotton breeze over me, my eyes closing. The drugs are claiming me again. I almost forget Ryan is still here, beside me.
“That’s not what we fought about, Jer,” he says softly.
Behind my closed lids, I still see only Susannah’s face. “Then where the hell is she, Ryan?”
Death Cab for Cutie: Bixby Canyon Bridge
I flick on the TV and turn to the local news. The media feeding frenzy over Susannah’s disappearance has reached a fever pitch. Trudy Durban’s pleas have hit a chord. She is convincing, a grief-stricken mother, begging for word of her daughter. Even the town which had rejected her thaws to her pleas. But there’s no sign of her. Thirteen days and counting since Susannah disappeared. Since my leg began its battle for survival.
Kabbalah[RSS1] . Susannah’s latest in a continuum of shifting passions. Before her trip, I’d found an old book on it. I’d made a passing effort to bone up on it so I could appear interested, but it’s not enough to help me now.
Are the clues to her disappearance somehow linked to her interest in ancient Hebrew mysticism? Lately, Susannah’s art had taken on a distinctly spiritual quality. She’d[RSS2] [LA3] started an amazing drawing, a brightly colored diagram of numbers, circles, and Hebrew letters superimposed over a gnarled tree drawn with gray ink on black paper. She’d smiled cryptically and told me it was the Tree of Life. She’d never shown me the finished art.
Mumford and Sons: Thistle and Weeds
I shiver and think of the velvet pouch, buried at the bottom of my gym bag. What other, darker roads had Susannah’s quest led her down?
During my hospital stay, someone from Durban Realtors kept calling my cell and hanging up. Probably Mrs. Durban or Marisa, wanting to know what was in the package Susannah left me. I wonder if Marisa ever told Trudy Durban about the package in the first place. I imagine she would have torn it open, even if it was addressed to me.
I shudder. I can’t face Mrs. Durban. Then I’d have to admit I was there that night. That I failed to help Susannah because I’m a drunk.
Time is rapidly taking on a new shape. Instead of the smooth lake of history, a place I can wade into and do the backstroke, it’s a whirling funnel that tapers to a single point, impaling me on the memory of the night Susannah disappeared.
Suddenly, I can’t get away from the surge of memories that press against my skull, threatening to crack it wide open. I fight the useless urge to run. Birds with clipped wings can’t fly.
Jake Bugg: Broken
My father glances at me with a wounded gaze that rarely fixes on mine. He says little beyond slight words of encouragement when I manage to hop around the room on my crutches. My balance is good for a beginner, the physical therapist tells me, but it’s harder than I would have thought. I am lopsided. Asymmetrical.
The desk nurse informs us that we have a visitor who won’t take no for an answer. It’s Patrick Morgan. I tell Dad I don’t want to see him, or Ryan, or anyone else for that matter, but Dad insists. Patrick Morgan is not a person you deny. He owns Riverton, as well as the building in which Dad’s small law office is housed, my father reminds me. As if he needs to.
I’d always thought my dad and Patrick Morgan were friends from way back, the pre-cursor to Ryan and me. These days, I’m not sure. Dad seems skittish. Under his mild words, I catch the implied message. My destroyed physical condition is not a free pass. I’d better patch things up with Ryan for the good of our family’s future economic health.
In the moments before Mr. Morgan arrives at my room, Dad turns to me, face grave and splotchy.
Eddy Vedder: Society
The first time I’d ever laid eyes on the mysterious Mrs. Durban was at the Morgans’ annual Christmas extravaganza, three years ago. I’m not sure what I expected, but the pale-as-milk white woman who stalked into the Morgans’ stadium-sized house sure wasn’t it. I’d always imagined Susannah’s mother as a dusky bronze beauty, an older version of her. I knew Susannah was mixed race, but I’d always imagined her father as the white half, a wayward Jewish guy who’d left her single mom to raise her alone, not the other way around.
Miraculously, Susannah and Ryan had not actually hooked up at that point. There had just been the daily ritual of heavy flirting, batting eyelashes, and posturing I’d endured from behind my carefully constructed mask of I-don’t-give-a-crap. I could still keep my lame fantasy alive—that it was me Susannah really wanted.
At least in art class, she was still mine—a completely different person from the airheaded, hair-flinging girl she became around Ryan. In class we talked politics, history, ethics, aesthetics, and spirituality while she made twisted masterpieces from string, wire, papier-mâché, and whatever else was lying around. Then she turned to paper and ink, creating her own universe of bizarre whimsy, totally at odds with the smiling face she presented to the world.
I hope you enjoy the music—if any of you have read Breaking Glass, feel free to match songs to the text!
Thanks for having me Kelly!