Thursday, August 2, 2012

An American Tune

There was a potent moment in the most recent season of “Mad Men,” when Don Draper’s creative team was trying to please a client who wanted an ad with “A Hard Day’s Night” feel. Don was impatient; he just didn’t get it. He turned to his young wife and asked, “When did music become so important?”

Of course, music has always been important to young people—but never in quite the way it was from the moment the Beatles appeared in 1964 through the early 1970’s. From the sweet rebellion of the Beatles to Crosby, Stills & Nash’s call to arms, to the descent into the madness of Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze,” it was the soundtrack for the angst and euphoria of being young at that particular moment in time.

Our parents, Don Draper’s age, didn’t get it, which made it all the more appealing. God forbid, we should be like them. “Never trust a person over thirty,” we said.

Now we’re twice that age—and more. We have grandchildren, for God’s sake. How freaking weird is that?

The truth is, an awful lot of us—even the most radical of us—ended up being a whole lot like our parents. We couldn’t have imagined then how hard life would be, how you'd have to work every minute of every single day, adjusting constantly along the way, if you still want to be the person you were dead-set on becoming when you were young. We couldn’t imagine how we’d come out on the other end wondering how we got where we are.

All of which is to say, I’ve got a new novel coming out from Indiana University Press, Breakaway Books, this September. It’s called An American Tune. These lines from the Paul Simon song of the same name are the epigraph:

“…we come on the ship they call Mayflower/We come on the ship that sailed the moon/We come in the age’s most uncertain hour/And sing an American tune.”

Here’s the catalogue copy:

While reluctantly accompanying her husband and daughter to freshman orientation at Indiana University, Nora Quillen hears someone call her name, a name she has not heard in more than 25 years. Not even her husband knows that back in the ‘60s she was Jane Barth, a student deeply involved in the antiwar movement. An American Tune tells the story of Jane, a girl from a working-class family who fled town after she was complicit in a deadly incident, and Nora, the woman she became, a wife and mother living a quiet life in northern Michigan. An achingly poignant account of a family crushed under the weight of suppressed truths, An American Tune illuminates the irrevocability of our choices and how those choices come to compose the tune of our lives.

I’ve written numerous novels over the years, but An American Tune is the one I’ve been writing all my life. I hope you’ll read and love and tell others about it.

The official publication date is September 14.

You can order An American Tune from Indiana University Press by clicking here.

Or from by clicking here

And, by the way, every chapter is titled with a Sixties song. Here’s the playlist.

Enjoy. Remember.

Where were you when these songs were on the radio?

An American Tune

Déjà vu

Turn, Turn, Turn

Blowin’ in the Wind

Unchained Melody

Tomorrow Never Knows

Bird on a Wire

For What It’s Worth

White Rabbit

Everybody’s Talkin


Fortunate Son

Gimme Shelter

Purple Haze

Paint It Black

Our House

Good Day Sunshine

(I Can’t Get No)Satisfaction

Go Now

Teach Your Children

Long & Winding Road

Mercy Mercy Me

Things We Said Today

She’s Not There

Bridge Over Troubled Water

Stand by Me/Ben E. King

Hazy Shade of Winter

High Out of Time (Alas, no link.)

The Sunshine of Your Love

Macarthur Park

Carry On

Get Together

Let It Be

Here, There and Everywhere



Jen said...

Hey Barb,
I love your chapter titles. Seems like the most obscure song on the list is "High out of time". Great song! I still remember it from looking at lyrics in your class back at Broad Ripple.
-Dan Patterson

Elizabeth Roe said...

I found a link for High Out of Time...a Carole King song, correct? I had searched out the songs as soon as I finished the book...and here they were on your blog. I take my own son to Blominous in two weeks. For me, Bloomington was the magical place of grad school and young adulthood. However, my life too diverged from the planned path, as most of ours do, albeit less dramatically than Jane/Nora's.