“Rid of Me: A Story” reviewed

This weekend’s Los Angeles Times Book Review includes the following piece on Kate Schatz’s PJ Harvey-inspired volume in the series:


‘Rid of Me’ by Kate Schatz
Two women fleeing oppression find they can’t escape.
By Karrie Higgins

July 29, 2007

Kate Schatz wrote “Rid of Me” for Continuum Press’ “33 1/3 ” series, short books that explore revered albums of the last 40 years. But this collection of stories is neither interpretation nor explanation of PJ Harvey’s seminal album of the same name. Nor are Schatz’s 14 chapters “covers” of the tracks, although each is based on a song from the album.

Rather, Schatz’s “Rid of Me” (124 pp., $10.95 paper) is a collaboration. Between music and the writing process. Kidnapper and captive. Schatz let the album take her away, “sometimes playing just one song on repeat for hours.” And then — as the lyric goes — she rubbed the music ” ’til it bled.”

“Rid of Me” is both romance and psychological horror, its chapters shifting perspective between Mary and Kathleen. Both are escapees from oppressive men and a small town. At the opening, Mary kidnaps a willing and complicit Kathleen — blindfolding her, binding her wrists and leading her to their new home in the woods — woods that women are told never to enter.

Mary had fallen in love with Kathleen from afar. She watched from the window of the hospital where she lived after a suicide attempt as Kathleen walked to market “every Tuesday morning at 10 a.m.” After Mary returned home, she fled her family and ran into the woods, hoping Kathleen would feel drawn there as well. Kathleen, meanwhile, destroyed her house and abandoned her ailing father, packing his heart pills in her purse.

“Tie yourself to me,” Kathleen whispers in the book’s first line. This conflation of violence and tenderness, complicity and victimhood, recalls the title track of Harvey’s album. Instead of explaining the song, Schatz reveals how it infected her process: She let the music lead her, blindfolded, into those forbidden woods. And her complicity — her choice to be kidnapped — meant she was also free. She did not let genre restrict her. As Kathleen said: “I’ve always wanted to be kidnapped. It’s like being rescued.”

In this book, there is no distinction between music, fiction, books and albums. The ambiguity and lyricism — with threads and fragments from Harvey’s lyrics scattered throughout — compel you to read chapters over and over. They take you like a song repeat, rubbing you until you bleed.

Karrie Higgins is a writer based in Portland, Ore.

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