Photo credit: Rose Callahan
"All Tomorrow’s Parties" by The Velvet Underground and Nico
“And what costumes shall the poor girl wear / to all tomorrow’s parties?” What better way to open this novel — a story in which two women use costume, social media, and parties alike to bolster their uneven senses of identity — than with these words? Dark and mournful, this is the perfect theme song for this very dark book.
"I Went to a Marvelous Party" by Noel Coward
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Louise’s first experience at the MacIntyre Hotel — her first New York party — is as beautiful and effervescent as this light comic Noel Coward patter song about all the delightful eccentric parties he’s been to over the years.
"She’s in Parties" by Bauhaus
Fun fact: the original working title of Social Creature
was She’s in Parties
, because of this song. About a beautiful actress who is constantly “on-screen” in real life — this is absolutely Lavinia’s song.
"Chandelier" by Sia
The ultimate exhausted party girl anthem, this was the song I used to go running to while writing the first draft of the novel. By the end of the first third of the book, the reader should feel as exhausted as Sia sounds.
“Guilty” by Al Bowlly
If love is a crime then I’m guilty
, this song goes, guilty of loving you
. Obsessive love, toxic love, criminal love — by the end of Social Creature
, Louise is guilty of a lot of these.
“Ah! Je Veux Vivre” from Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette
“I want to live in a dream,” sings Juliette in this operatic version of Shakespeare’s tragedy, which is the backdrop for a major turning-point scene in the book. It’s also the song during which Lavinia decides to take her relationship with Louise to the next level — with disastrous results.
"Flamboyant" by Pet Shop Boys
The ultimate 1980s anthem to living life as art and becoming your own most significant creation. Lavinia and Louise live in a “world of excess — where more is more and less is much less.”
"Rock 'N' Roll Suicide" by David Bowie
The anthem for the end of the night. A song about being washed up, used up, and chewed up — and spit out — by a world of excess. Cheery? No. But pretty accurate when it comes to our characters.
"Is That All There Is?" by Peggy Lee
When Louise first hears this song, at the MacIntyre party where she and Lavinia first go, she doesn’t realize how sad the song is, with its themes of disillusionment, repetition, and meaninglessness. But a year later, when Louise hears the song playing again, she finally understands just how empty her life has become.
"First We Take Manhattan" by Leonard Cohen
If the movie ever gets made, this is the one thing I absolutely want to beg the screenwriters to do. In my head, this is the novel’s closing song: a bitter, cynical indictment of a city and a culture, the fantasy of blowing up a world in crisis (as Louise has) — and the promise of moving ahead to do the same thing somewhere else. Louise has taken Manhattan. Next, will she take Berlin?
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Tara Isabella Burton
is a writer of fiction and nonfiction. Winner of the Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize for Travel Writing, she completed her doctorate in 19th-century French literature and theology at the University of Oxford and is a prodigious travel writer, short story writer, and essayist for National Geographic
, The Wall Street Journal
, The Economist’s 1843
, and more. She currently works for Vox
as their Religion Correspondent, lives in New York, and divides her time between the Upper East Side and Tbilisi, Georgia. Social Creature
is her most recent book.