Yep. Another music post about my latest novel (there’s still 2 more to come…I’d say I’m sorry, but I’m not…beware of spoilers…)
This one is about my character, Robert ‘Bobby’ Stuart, in Hard Science and Modern Art, and it’s kind of about male vulnerability too, but it’s also sort of about how many people in my and J’s generation use irony and sarcasm and humor that’s kind of dark to express vulnerability.
I didn’t have to rediscover Ben Folds. I listen to his music regularly, and I’ve loved him since I first discovered him for myself decades ago, and the main reason I love him beyond lyrical prowess is that he can write something heart-wrenchingly sad, but also tends toward humor and sometimes he expresses serious, arguably ‘darker’ themes in weirdly upbeat songs. I’m drawn to this for some reason. I like the versatility and realness of his writing, and I think it’s the juxtaposition of joy and simple buoyancy with something somber and troublesome.
And he’s Deanna’s unchallenged favorite solo artist, so when I thought about what a potential new love interest for Deanna would look like, I figured he’d be a Ben Folds fan too, not only because he just liked the sound and creativity of the songs, but because he’d relate to the lyrics. Bobby, like Jake Coleman, is a man who’s drawn to strong, vibrant women, and authenticity in general. But unlike Jake, he’s of a different time, and has a different history and socialization, so his vulnerability has more of a reluctance and more of a sadness and more of an edge to it. I listened to three Ben Folds songs and another one by another artist (hang in there…it’s coming up…) on incessant repeat when I was writing Bobby as a man, and in a relationship with Deanna. The first one is Evaporated. Here are the lyrics, since I couldn’t find a video that had them and I didn’t want to make one…
What I’ve kept with me and what I’ve thrown away
Know where the hell I’ve ended up on this glary random day
Where the things I really cared about, just left along the way
For being too pent up and proudWoke up way too late, feeling hung over and old
And the sun was shining bright, I walked barefoot down the road
Started thinking about my old man, it seems that all men
Wanna get into a car and go anywhereHere I stand, sad and free
And I can’t cry, I can’t see
What I’ve done?
No, God, what have I done?Don’t you know I’m numb, man? No I can’t feel a thing at all
‘Cause it’s all smiles and business these days, and I’m indifferent to the loss
And I’ve faith that there is a soul somewhere that’s leading me around
I wonder if she knows which way is down
Here I stand, sad and free
And I can’t cry and I can’t see
What I’ve done?
No, God, what have I done?And I poured my heart out
And I poured my heart out
It evaporated, seeBlind man on a canyon’s edge of a panoramic scene
Or maybe I’m a kite that’s flying high and random dangling a string
Or slumped over in a vacant room, head on a stranger’s knee
I’m sure back home they think I’ve lost my mindHere I stand, sad and free
I can’t cry and I can’t see
What I’ve done?
No, God, what have I done?
These two songs are ballads that are about a man mourning who he is/who he’s become. When I wrote Bobby, he was a man full of regret (most if not all of it misplaced), and who felt unseen. That line in Fred Jones, ‘He’s forgotten, but not yet gone…’ spoke to me. I feel that way a lot myself. Unseen. Forgotten but not yet gone. Sad and free. I poured my heart out…it evaporated. But before we’re all bogged down in melancholy, the main Ben Folds inspiration for Bobby and his relationship to Deanna is Underground. It’s one of those songs that is actually sad when the lyrics are taken separately from the music, which is happy and light and peppy. Obviously there are some specific similarities to Bobby and Deanna’s relationship in the lyrics of the song, but the lines I thought about the most when writing their relationship were, ‘You’ve been kicked around…did life bring you down here?’
There really isn’t anyone who can understand you better than someone who has actually lived a similar experience as you. And Deanna and Bobby were both looking for and in need of that and found it in each other. They can be happy underground.