Sad Ass Songs: Ben Fama
Sad Ass Songs is a column where I ask some of my favorite writers to tell me about their favorite sad songs. They send me songs and then I send them questions and then I post their answers here and then we all cry a little bit.
This week I talked with Ben Fama, author of Fantasy (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2014).
The Song: “Summer’s Over” by Dennis Harte
Mark Cugini: Publisher’s Weekly said that you could be “the voice of a generation.” Why?
Ben Fama: Clickbait.
MC: Why is this sad ass song resonating with you at the moment?
BF: Because time has a plan to kill us all (lol) and the passing of seasons marks it a meaningful way. Sadness is a blessing, Mark. Yeah…I wonder if a lot of people think about suicide during the cold, clear weeks of January, when holiday money is gone and credit card bills come in. It’s when our failures and redundancies take crystalline focus because there is no distraction on the horizon. I’m at my work desk thinking about my lapse in merit (work output) from the previous months slacking before holiday travel, I never feel more alone, saddled with the guilt, anxiety and resentment for my coworkers. Everyone is subsumed by apathy to build solidarity. It’s a shared depression. The next holiday on the calendar is Valentine’s day? Summer’s over.
MC: This song seems really fitting because, ever since I’ve known you (on the internet), you’ve always seemed like someone who was enthralled with summer. What’s so appealing about summer?
BF: Not to fly too high here but I have thought about this a lot: so vitality escapes confinement, finally, come Memorial Day weekend, when New York empties out East. But by summer, that is when affect blooms. Summer is a spasm, life finally lived IRL. And as the heat intensifies, the social spaces erupt for the individual body and the party mass. I have this note written down that seems to make sense here: Gayatri Spivak describing “the irreducible possibility that the subject be more than adequate – super-adequate – to itself.” Late spring and summer are when pop music thrive. During the dog days, late August—that’s my birthday, Aug 20—and then labor day is coming, a return from vacation to virtual labor, and winter eclipsing.
MC: What’s your favorite lyric in this sad ass song and why?
BF: The last chorus, where he sings “Summer’s over,” with the delay re-doubling his voice. The poor kid, who sounds 13, has lost his love, his summer, and he is hanging on to it all in these last notes. He is young so he has no idea how much else he is going to lose in the coming years, but we know, right? It’s like how a lot of The Beach Boys audience was too immature to understand the adult emotions they sang about. They know Caroline cut her hair off, but not why. They haven’t had to work…they don’t crave Wild Honey, that Country Air.
MC: My favorite line in Fantasy is “I hate this ‘in love’ feeling/but I have it.” Something about that line seems to perfectly encapsulate the main thing that I took away from this book–that there’s glamour and terror and boredom in everything, and life is really just an exercise in exploiting life. Is that a feeling you’re trying to elicit out of your reader, or am I being an idiot again?
BF: I think I’d change it a bit to say poetry is an exercise in exploiting life.
MC: When was the last time you cried? What were you crying about?
BF: When you trolled me on that first question :*(
MC: Aw, Ben, no! ::hugs::
Listen to the whole playlist right here: