I selected this playlist because the songs remind me of the main character in The Panopticon. Anais Hendricks has a contradictory nature: she's cool, streetwise, caustic, but also empathic and vulnerable. She is too worldly for her age but she still has hope, innocence, and a childlike way of wholly embracing the world of her imagination. She likes to look at the stars and believes life is too short to waste it all on sadness — she loves music and counterculture.
1. "Like a Hurricane" by Neil Young
I picked this song because it is one of my favorite songs of all time and it makes me think of Anais. She is a force of nature.
2. "Jesus Doesn't Want Me for a Sunbeam" by Nirvana
I could have picked numerous songs by Nirvana, and Anais does mention that they're on her iPod. This song is laid back and clever — if it were a café, it would be the kind of place where outsiders belong.
3. "O-o-h Child" by The Five Stairsteps
This song makes me think of what I would want to tell Anais, or have someone else tell her; it's what readers hope will happen for her.
4. "She Belongs to Me" by Bob Dylan
I could see Anais going on to be an artist, and so many of the lyrics in this song fit her — she's nobody's child, the law can't touch her at all — if the entire novel were to have just one song, then this really would be it.
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5. "Everybody's Got to Learn Sometime" by Beck
For anyone who ever found it hard to ask for help or to accept love.
6. "Devil Town" by Daniel Johnston
It is quirky, funny, and clever, and it suits Anais. She would love this song.
7. "Dirty Boots" by Sonic Youth
I picked this for the bass line. I often find I'm drawn to Sonic Youth songs for the bass lines first, then the lyrics. I just think it fits the feel of this book.
8. "Cry, Cry" by Mazzy Star
This has a beautiful melancholy to it. I imagine it is the kind of thing Anais might listen to when sitting out on the rooftop, smoking and looking at the moon.
9. "Hot Freaks" by Guided by Voices
This is vaguely obscure perhaps, but Guided by Voices is such a cool band, and this song is like a poem. It's upbeat, too, just as many things in this novel are really positive — the loyalty, the ability to live in the moment, and the desire to seize life — it was important to have that in the narrative.
10. "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free" by Nina Simone
Says it all. I love Nina.
11. "New Kind of Kick" by The Cramps
Worldly and ever seeking escape, Anais learned all she knows by an early age, too. This song has a great rhythm to it and The Cramps are the kind of band she'd dance to.
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Jenni Fagan was born in Livingston, Scotland. She graduated from Greenwich University and won a scholarship to the Royal Holloway MFA. A published poet, she has won awards from Arts Council England, Dewar Arts, and Scottish Screen among others. She has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, was shortlisted for the Dundee International Book Prize, and was named one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists in 2013. The Panopticon is her first novel.
Books mentioned in this post
Jenni Fagan is the author of The Panopticon