In May, we’ll be publishing a PJ Harvey book in the series: Rid of Me by Kate Schatz. The subtitle at the moment is “Short Stories” but we might change that to “A Novella”. In a weird way, it’s a bit of both. As well as being a cover version of the whole album. But I hope you get my drift here – do not buy this book if you want a telling of how the album came to be. Perhaps I should late Kate explain it herself. This is the book’s prologue:
There’s a thing that happens:
You love an album. You get into it—listening over and over, taking in every sound, beat, shift, and phrase. You sing along, memorize the silence between each song. You absorb it, you feel it.
And it gets into you.
A great album tells a story, whether explicit and linear or subtle and discrete. And when you love that album, when it’s gotten inside and you know the characters, landscapes, lyrics, and rhythms, there’s another thing that happens: it becomes yours. You own it, you have a relationship with it. You know each other. It’s your music, they’re your stories—you become free to put meaning here, add interpretation there, decide exactly what it’s all about, then change your mind with each listen. It’s mutual and consensual and very, very private.
And then sometimes you make it public. The album’s narrative begets new narratives and you want to share that somehow, let these expanded possibilities be known. A declaration of adoration, a kind of self-serving homage. Maybe it takes the form of a cover song, freely or closely interpreted. Or the written word: a critical essay, a trenchant article, a dissertation.
But you’re not a musician or a critic—you’re a fiction writer who loves music, who loves stories. The potential within each song, each lyric. And there’s one album that stands out, that you can’t shake, that you find as fascinating now as you did when it came out, in 1993, and you were a swoony day-dreamy teenager mesmerized by the music’s anger, its beauty, its dark and twisted humor. Raw guitars, crashing drums, love-wrecked lyrics telling stories of betrayal, revenge, isolation, sex. The seduction, the violence, those moans and howls. That voice. It was a whole other world.
You love what PJ Harvey’s Rid of Me did then, what it still does, what it can do. So you embark on an experiment. You reenter it, once again listening over and over, sometimes just one song on repeat for hours. You get into it and it gets right back into you. Characters, lyrics, and landscapes. Moods and tones and those feelings. You begin writing. With each song, to each song, from each song. Around and near and under and then, at some point, it takes a shape. Characters emerge. These two women. These woods. Chapters like songs, book like an album. It becomes a new story, years of listening spiraled out into new words and meanings.
This is the book. It’s not about Rid of Me—it’s because of it.