Thursday, September 25, 2008

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist

This book might sound very familiar to you-- it's coming out in movie form October 5th.
It's written by two authors, Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (the latter who wrote the awesome Boy Meets Boy, which is, sadly, unlikely to appear in a theater near you anytime soon).
So, because teenaged boys don't usually find love (with each other) on the big screen, we'll have to make do with Nick and Norah. I was very attracted to the premise of the book, which was about people coming together through music in one crazy NYC night. But Playlist gave me an odd feeling of strong discomfort. I'll try to examine why this might be...

  1. My visualization of the Nick character as Michael Cera, who plays him in the film. I get that Michael Cera is riding the tiger right now, but I wouldn't have cast him as the smokin' hot bassist of an underground queercore band. It was just confusing.
  2. The book's status as "young adult" fiction, paired with stuff that I thought was really too sexual and "inappropriate" for young teens. Now, don't get me wrong, I know that many teens are having sex. But while Nick and Norah don't actually get jiggy with it in the book, it somehow manages to be extremely explicit, which weirded me out. That might seem like a "duh" statement from an asexual, but descriptions of sex usually never faze me. However, a large part of the book dealt with feelings surrounding sexual attraction, and I had a hard time relating to all that, especially since the characters are "kids" in my mind.
  3. On that note, the characters seemed to have concerns that didn't match up with their youth. Norah was extremely worried about the idea that she might be "frigid"-- I just wanted to shake her shoulders and say "Girl! You are 18! EIGHTEEN!" But, just because she didn't want to have sex with every guy, she started to believe this whole story about her fundamental "frigidity". I just felt sooo bad for her. Always awkward. I mentored some young kids when I was in college, and I learned that they take everything way too seriously. So I know that it's a kid thing, but that doesn't mean it's not frustrating to read about.
  4. I enjoy stories about young love as much as the next person, but on some level, they always make me feel strange. This is probably because that most-exulted experience, "young love", has never happened to me and never will. I have no way to say this without making it sound extremely sad, and that's part of its mystique. I'm not sad about it, actually. There has been no time in my life when I've had the racing hormones/lack of rationality that makes this kind of love possible, and I can't change that. But, when put to music, as Playlist tries to do, love suddenly makes perfect sense to me. Because music is love. But amid all the sexual stuff, I was sad to see that the musical aspect got a little lost. (Cheesy Godpseed! You Black Emperor references do not count.)
Playlist consists of a basic story that I've come to see is very common in literature, film, and our imaginations: The "magical night". Somehow, under the cover of darkness, people can explore the more adventurous facets of their personalities. At a club, bar, or party, under the influence of your favorite music, you will meet a mysterious stranger who you will fall madly in love with. I'm sure this actually happens to a few people about 3 or 4 times a year, which keeps this story very much alive in all of our minds. I'm not sure who's immune to it. In college, I remember many weekend nights walking/running around with my friends, looking for a "better" party than the one we had been attending. I'm not sure who we thought we'd meet, since we went to a school of 1,400 people in a rural town, but the possibilities of this "magical night" were always before us. And one time, I was even that person of the 3-4 cases a year fame. Standing around, bored, in a frat house, I absent-mindedly fiddled with a boombox. The CD inside happened to be Outkast's Aquemini, and I was lucky enough to fall in love that night. [Aww.]

But I want books like Playlist to have a disclaimer: "This may not happen to you. You don't have to haunt clubs and stand by the jukebox playing "Spottieottiedopalicious" 500 times in order to find someone to fall in love with. Maybe you'll meet them in a Scrabble group or a Weight Watchers meeting. Maybe you'll meet them at noon, totally sober. As Josef K said [and I think Cohn and Levithan would appreciate this], 'There are so many pathways that lead to the heart.'"

At least, I'd like to think so; falling into romantic love with other humans is something I know nothing about. And as the Smiths said [again, possible appreciation by C & L]:

"There's a club if you'd like to go, you could meet someone who really loves you. So you go, and you stand on your own, and you leave on your own, and you go home, and you cry, and you want to die."

A little extreme, sure, but I don't want anyone to have to go through that. Can we expand what a fulfilling evening could be? So, how about y'all? Any "magical night" stories?


Anonymous said...

i have read this book and its interesting

Carolyn said...

He he, "Network marketing company?" that is most spam sounding name I have ever heard. But anyway, I know you asked for an "awesome night" story, but instead I have some negativity for you. I think the disclaimer should say something more like "this doesn't happen to anybody, even if you have an awesome night with someone your chances of having an actual relationship with them based on liking similar music are not so good"

Carolyn said...

I’m not sure I buy your assertion either that you are barred from this “magic night” scenario, I guess it’s true that might be passed the young love age, but I think the kind of playful, innocent-fun relationship would be more likely for asexuals because it’s the sex that makes relationships more complex and less about play and “lack of rationality,” in my opinion. Then again, I haven’t read it, but how could they make Michael Cera sexual?

Ily said...

Thanks for the comments! Lol @ Michael Cera. (Why do I have such a hard time spelling "Michael"?)
It's funny, because I thought their relationship was going to be based around liking similar music, and it wasn't, really. But, I think similar interests are probably the best way to meet people. I guess what I was advocating here is a broadening of the types of things that can happen within this scenario while still maintaining its "magic". Like I said, I thought that the "magic night" actually did happen to me, but it wasn't the same as much of what you read about/see. Oh, I'm glad you think asexuals are fun. :-) Sadly, we don't get enough of that.

heidi said...

Maybe it's just my ability to attract completely strange people, but I've had 2 instances where the night ended around dawn and while I was asexily interested in their brains.... well, they were frustrated and tried desperately to stay friends (if with motives). I prefer the "meet them where you find yourself" approach - hiking, outdoors, somewhere in a shared element.

Anonymous said...

You want a "magical night" story? I met my boyfriend by completely random chance when I got dragged to a big social meeting at a pub. It's more complicated than that, but the short version is we hit it off, exchanged email addresses, and decided we were a couple after about a month. It was the most random crazy fluke ever, and I hadn't even been looking forward to going (I was anticipating a few hours of my usual sit-in-the-corner-and-be-bored-and-uncomfortable).

But actually looking for a random crazy fluke? I can't imagine how that would be anything other than a recipe for angst and disappointment.

Ally said...

Really weird magical night story: I am an aromantic asexual, and before I had a blog here, I used to have a lj, so that I could comment on people's fanfic about bands I liked. A question on one of the communities I frequented asked to explain what we liked best about that particular band/group of bands. I wrote something totally sappy and ridiculous, as I am wont to do, and someone saw the comment, and responded AT my journal. I almost never updated, and he almost neer randomly commented. We could have missed each other a thousand different ways. We spent the next two days in all day comment-sessions together, sneaking in comments back and forth, at work, at home, while on commute, in between meals. I mean literally ALL day. Favorite musician evolved into books and writing, evolved into hopes and dreams, evolved into spirituality, and on and on.

He's a pansexual, polyamorous transboy (his words, not mine). I'm an asexual something-that-is-not-quite aromantic, sort-of-genderqueer woman. We've known each other for almost three years now, and he is still the best person in my life. In our own weird, non-binary, non-constrictive, unconventional and sometimes totally unnintentional way, we are each other's best thing. I'm happy to share the honor with other people, because it means he can always get from someone else what he can't get from me, he's happy to know that I love him enough to let him love me in all the ways he is able to. So, much as the realist in me knows that kind of thing is seriously unlikely, I can't really say it's impossible, can I?

Anonymous said...

Seems this happened when my parents met at a dance in the early 1950s. It was the "stranger across a crowded room" scenario, which I used to mock before I learned their story.