All of these songs inspired me in different ways while writing The Mare
. Some of them I listened to a lot, some just a couple of times. Some of them had a very simple relationship to the book; they are love songs, especially for teenagers, especially love that is more about longing than anything else. The last one is about the feeling of horses, in a dream-world way; horses bursting into locker-room hell to save somebody named Johnny who is a boy in the song, but when I listened he could be anybody, male or female. Others of them are about being not young anymore, and feeling lost, like it's over for you, but trying to find a way to give something. Some of them aren't my kind of music usually, but somehow they connected me to the story, even if just briefly. Most of them, though, I really love.
1. "Gracias a la Vida" by Mercedes Sosa
Because to me this is Silvia's voice. Even if she never uses it, and even if the singer is Chilean, not Dominican. Also, it's the underlying voice of the book. I don't know how to explain that.
2. "Spain" by Kristen Hersh
This is Ginger — her younger, scrappier side. Which is still there.
3. "Can't Find My Way Home" by Blind Faith
This is Ginger too — older, but still trying and believing in something good for her.
4. "Thirteen" by Big Star
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This song is somehow about both Ginger and Velvet; the feeling of love being very tender and new. Velvet is just feeling it; Ginger is remembering it.
5. "So Sick" by Ne-Yo
This is the same thing, but more in Velvet's consciousness. And it's more about loss, but still flavored with sweetness. I pictured Velvet listening to this song on her Princess radio.
6. "Obesesion" by Frankie J. (Spanish version)
It's what Velvet is hearing when she goes to the stable at night and takes the mare out secretly. It's there because she's been dreaming of Dominic, but it would be there in her anyway, the longing feeling.
7. "Bringin' on the Heartbreak" by Def Leppard
It's not a song Velvet would listen to, but it's about everything she's feeling and that Dominic could feel about her if he let himself forget her age. Full-on teen passion!
8. "Ella y Yo" by Don Omar ft. Romeo
This is a song Velvet would listen to, and while it doesn't apply to her situation literally (it's about two men in conflict over a woman), the intense feeling of the music, the beauty and pain is something she feels and understands completely. Besides, it's just a beautiful song.
9. "Talk That Talk" by Rihanna ft. Jay Z
Another beautiful song. Velvet isn't this far along yet in her experience in terms of what the song is describing explicitly. But even with the raunchy lyrics, the song's tone, in the voices especially, is about hope and joy, and that's what Velvet does have, that tone in Jay Z's voice when he says, "We goin' to the top if you comin, come on." She has that feeling, and the feeling of Rihanna's voice: possibility and joy that won't give up.
10. "Gossip Folks" by Missy Elliott ft. Ludacris
I listened to this constantly during the midpart of the book. It kept me reminded of the beautiful, bitchy spirit of girls. Even if it's dated, the official video should be watched by everybody at least once. It's a little piece of genius.
11. "We Will Rock You" by Queen
This song is playing while Velvet is at the small-time rodeo with Ginger and Paul, watching bull riders. It would also sometimes play in my head when I would think of Velvet dealing with bad stuff at school.
12. Horses by Patti Smith
I listened to this album constantly at the midpoint too; it was like the cavalry riding in — both for me and for Velvet at the end when she's all alone, with her head getting smashed against the locker. Metaphorically speaking.
Mary Gaitskill is the author of the novel Veronica, a finalist for the 2005 National Book Award, and named one of the New York Times' Ten Best Books of 2005. She is also the author of a short story collection and the acclaimed novels Because They Wanted To and Two Girls, Fat and Thin. Her stories and essays have appeared in the New Yorker, Harper's, Esquire, The Best American Short Stories (1993), and The O. Henry Prize Stories (1998). Her short story "Secretary" was the basis for the film of the same name.