There’s always a song that breaks open a novel for me. It comes at different times for different stories, and sometimes it morphs with the acts. This weekend I got the song for Two to Tango: "The Book of Love."
This is the original version, by The Magnetic Fields, sung by Stephen Merritt. It’s one of my favorite songs by TMF, and I got to hear him sing it a few years ago life in Minneapolis, which is incidentally where TTT is set. But it’s not the above version that’s sparking me. It’s this one:
I heard this version the other day in the film Shall We Dance, which is where the above clip is from. It’s a film which is beautiful and moving and made me bawl like a baby, as did this clip once again as I previewed it before posting, because it is NOT what the cover and bits I’ve seen hint at, which is that Richard Gere has an affair with J-Lo, but rather it’s a story about love and finding yourself both in mid-life and in mid-marriage. It’s about how to pick yourself up after a hard knock, about how to be brave enough to seize the life you want, and yes, it’s also about dancing. And the above sequence uses the above song to great effect.
It’s funny to me, because that movie has absolutely no resemblance to TTT except that it’s about dancing, though Laurie and J-Lo have some similarities. And okay, it works too because TTT is also about what you do when your life seems to stop and how sometimes you have to pick up in a direction you never saw coming, and how scary that can be. TTT is a lot more about processing the little paper cuts of hurt that accumulate over the years than is SWD, but the thing they have the most in common is that boy does "The Book of Love" work for the stories, especially when Peter Gabriel sings it. iTunes says I’ve played it 43 times since downloading it yesterday, but that doesn’t count the times I didn’t have it on loop and kicked it back before it hit the very end. So probably at least sixty.
The song runs in my head wherever I go. It rides over the music playing in my headphones as I work in the Double Blind edits. It plays in my head while in the car while Anna and Dan are giggling about "booty shaking songs" playing on the stereo. It plays in my dreams, and in the shower, and pretty much anywhere it can wiggle in. And every time, somebody’s dancing. Sometimes Laurie, sometimes Laurie and Ed. They’re dancing all the time. All the time.
What I find most interesting is that of all the stories I have written, it is probably the most romantic, the most Big String Symphony, get-a-kleenex emotional syrupy. It also has the least sex. If Ed has anything to say about it, that’s going to change soon. But I guess that’s what writing a book about dancing will do for you. The beauty is in the tease, in watching the dancers move in and out of an embrace, more connected and emotional than anything you’ve ever seen, doing it boldly right in front of you, inviting you in.
This book wants out like nothing else. I hope very soon I’m able to let it turn completely loose. Less than seventy pages of the DB edit left, and then hopefully Ed and Laurie can finish their dance.