In my review of Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor & Park, I suggest that if the novel were a song, it would be a punk rock song. I hold firm to that idea.
A brief (if incomplete) lesson on punk rock music: First, as is true with the birth of most genres of anything (music, art, architecture, etc) pinpointing the beginning is tough, if not impossible. But most people believe that punk rock started in the '60s. A response to the flower-power hippie movement of the same era, it was nihilistic, loud and mad. The bands were made up of garage musicians – musicians who had little or no training and who didn't know the "rules" of music, so they broke them. A strong DIY philosophy was a cornerstone of the movement. Performances were raw. The music was loud and dissonant, lyrics were often shouted instead of sung, and the message was often political and anti-establishment. One or two electric guitars, electric bass and a drum kit, plus vocals, usually made up a punk rock band. Songs were often short – under 2 minutes long – lyrics were blunt and provocative, and production was minimal.
The Sonics are considered one of these very early '60s bands. But the first real punk rock scene bloomed in the mid '70s in New York City. Bands like The Ramones, Talking Heads and Blondie were big in this era, and CBGB, a club where many of these bands performed.
At around the same time, the London punk rock scene was beginning. Fueled by a tough economy and high unemployment, young musicians (and many young people in general) were out of work and mad. Punk rock fashion took off at the same time, fueled almost single-handedly by Malcolm McClaren, who with Vivienne Westwood, had a shop called Sex. T-shirts and jeans, rips and safety pins, and later piercings, tattoos and the emblematic Mohawk hairstyle became trademark visual punk statements.
McClaren also created and managed The Sex Pistols. They, along with The Clash, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and The Ramones, among others, are considered the bands that truly put punk rock on the map.
A new wave of punk music hit the scene in the late '80s and early '90s. Green Day (originally Sweet Children) began the resurgence, followed by Blink-182, MxPx and others. Feminist punk rock – known as the Riot Grrrl movement – began around this same time. Popular bands in this sub-genre of punk are Bikini Kill, Bratmobile and Calamity Jane.
Eleanor and Park's love breaks all the rules. It is wild and dissonant. It is loud and passionate. It defies the laws of their social world. However – yes, there is a however! – if I were to make a playlist for Eleanor and Park I would include songs that fall outside of the punk rock genre. Rowell, in fact, made four song lists for this novel, and listened to the tracks over and over again as she was writing it.
Here is the playlist I would create*:
*Some of these songs come directly from Eleanor and Park, some come from Rowell's website and some are my own choice.
Picture from Green Day
This article is from the March 6, 2013 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.
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