Sad Ass Songs: Lucy K Shaw
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 Lucy K Shaw, author of The Motion (421 Atlanta, 2015).
The Song: “See Me Now” by Kanye West (featuring Beyonce, Big Sean, & Charlie Wilson)
Mark Cugini: When I read your prose, I often find myself sighing deeply and touching my heart. Why?
Lucy K Shaw: I was watching an old interview with David Foster Wallace recently and he said that with Infinite Jest, he set out to write a serious book and then when people told him that parts of it were funny, he couldn’t understand why.
So, I thought I’d start this interview by comparing myself to DFW.
Just kidding. To be honest, I’ve never even read Infinite Jest, but what he said resonated with me because I’ve noticed people using adjectives like ‘heartbreaking’ to describe The Motion, or telling me that they’ve cried while reading it, which I find very interesting because the book isn’t sad to me, at all. Or it isn’t any more sad than being alive in general…
I don’t think you can ever know how something will affect a reader. All you can really do is try to tell the truth (especially when writing fiction), and hope that your being human will connect with someone else’s… And I mean, there’s no reason why it wouldn’t if we’re all the same, fundamentally.. which we are, I think.
MC: Oh yeah, that’s interesting to me, too, because I definitely didn’t find it heartbreaking–if anything, the world I’d go with is “weighty.” I’ve been running around like a lunatic lately and telling everyone who’d listen that your book is like an updated take on Frank O’Hara’s Personism–it’s not just “evoking overtones of love” but also overtones of fear & friendship & regret & rhetoric to point at life and kind of say “isn’t all of this so grand?” Does that terrify you, or can I keep doing that?
LKS: It doesn’t terrify me. It might be true. But what happens after that? I have no idea.
MC: Me, neither, and maybe that’s the point. Why is this happy ass song resonating with you at the moment?
LKS: I guess I actually chose a happy (ass) song rather than a sad one because I tend to use music as medication to help me feel better.
This song is a bonus track from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which as you know, was the record that Kanye made after Donda died and the Taylor Swift thing happened and he was having a really difficult time with the media and life in general.. so, the fact that he went away for a couple of years and worked so hard, made the album and has Beyonce on the track (!!!) with that classic Ye vibe – ‘This that Yeezy we all love’ – it just makes me happy. I’m a dork. But it always reminds me that I can get through difficult times. I was definitely having one when I first heard the song in 2010 and it has been helping me ever since. Plus there’s a #rare version featuring a Big Sean verse and that was the first time I ever heard Big Sean and fell in love. I love to listen to See Me Now when I’m celebrating some kind of achievement. I can remember listening to it when Gabby sent in the final draft of Alone With Other People and it felt like things were starting to happen for us. I like being happy. I like it a lot. That’s why this song is resonating with me right now, as it always does.
Is this interview going wrong?
MC: No, it’s going exactly where we both expected it to go–to Big Sean. Why do you love Big Sean so much? He makes me so happy that I cry.
LKS: I think it probably has a lot to do with his come up narrative. He was in high school and he just went to a radio station where Kanye was appearing and asked if he could rap for him. And then he got signed. So that must be part of it. Plus he’s so funny.
I don’t know, man. You can’t choose who you love. It just happens.
I thought his second album was pretty bad but now he seems to be back on track. His performance at the BET awards last week restored my faith.
MC: What’s your favorite lyric in this happy ass song and why?
LKS: There are so many great Kanye lyrics in this song but I also really love this philosophical line from Beyonce:
‘I don’t know if y’all know, but maybe y’all do, but maybe y’all don’t, but I don’t really care, it’s how we on it all the time,’
That speaks to me.
MC: My favorite lyric is when Kanye says “we all know the beats is like a mix between Fergie and Jesus.” What is your writing like a mix of?
LKS: That’s a funny line. I think my writing is like if Amy Winehouse, Tracey Emin and Courtney Love got together and opened a school. Or maybe they already did and I just graduated.
MC: When was the last time you cried? What were you crying about?
LKS: This is such a personal question but my answer isn’t dramatic at all so I don’t mind.
Last week we moved apartments and I cried for a couple of minutes walking down the stairs for the last time because I didn’t want to go/had been really happy there. But now I’m in the new place and it’s pretty nice too. I can see trees and a crane and it is summer in Berlin.
Listen to the whole playlist right here: