Tori Amos and the Book

So, in the last chapter, there’s a point when almost everyone is a minster’s kid–Tori Amos, Nina Simone, Bessie Smith, the main character, her possessed friend–and the main character puts “God” on to play and the possessing spirit lets them get no further than the first line before insisting they turn it off. I’m not the biggest Tori Amos fan, but I do feel like “God” came along and sounded like it was written just for me.  Everything else Amos does, whether I love it or not, I feel like “Go and be well, Tori Amos, you wrote a song that I needed to hear.”

It was a song, I felt, written by a minister’s daughter for minister’s daughters. I don’t know if you don’t have the experience of living with your dad’s relationship with his Powerful Boss, that “God sometimes you just don’t come through. Do you need a woman to look after you?” resonates in the same way.

I’ve been thinking a lot about who the ideal reader of my book would be and what I hope he or she takes from it. And I would like it if everyone loved it, of course, but I’ve been writing it for ministers’ kids. I hope it’s something they read and feel like “Hey, someone’s been where I am.”

Anyway Sady Doyle has an awesome defense of Tori Amos up over at Bitch–“Amos’s music and lyrics were pretty, emotionally expressive, vulnerable: in other words, stereotypically feminine. But they weren’t coy or girlish; they were laced with anger and sadness, and they addressed taboo topics.”

Yeah, exactly. I hope that’s what I’m lacing my writing with, too, as well as a huge pinch of funny, because, really, laughter is important. A woman laughing is revolutionary, still.

8 thoughts on “Tori Amos and the Book

  1. I haven’t gotten to the last chapter yet. (Sorry, I’ve been horribly sidetracked.)

    But I’ve always had an uneasy love for Tori Amos. Back when Little Earthquakes first came out I put that thing in the CD player and listened to it over and over and over while I knitted and played Sonic The Hedgehog. One weekend I listened to it 23 times in a row. (Tim was working all weekend or he wouldn’t have stood for it.)

    Even though I’m not at all a minister’s kid, there are certain songs of hers that just pull the thoughts and heart out of me. Silent All These Years is sort of anthemic for me, especially the version with Leonard Cohen at the front of it.

    I can’t explain why.

    “Yes, I know what you think of me, you never shut up” and “What if I’m a mermaid….?” are sort of the two lines that get at the crux of who and what I am.

    And now I’m babbling sort of.

  2. “Go and be well, Tori Amos, you wrote a song that I needed to hear.”


    I’m also possessed of an uneasy love, but I respect Amos thoroughly and find some of her music/lyrics absolutely exquisite.

  3. I don’t have an uneasy love. Just a love. But her fans are a little weird and so intense that I sometimes wonder if my love for her should be uneasy.

  4. I also love Tori Amos, but I’ve never even known of the existence of her rabid fan base before now. She’s a private pleasure for me. I just listen to the music, generally alone in my car. I’ve never tried to see her live, so maybe I’d think differently if I did, but who the hell cares if she has nutty fans? She makes good music. (Not all of it is good, sure, but enough is that I haven’t regretted buying the albums that I own.)

    And like Ms. Coble, I all but wore out my CD of Little Earthquakes back in ’92. I’d never heard anything like it before and it was revelatory.

  5. I never would have thought Tori needed defending. But I guess I’m another who loves-her-but-isn’t-in-the cult (I didn’t realize there was one).

    In my case it’s all about the music, I can’t say as I’ve processed much of her lyrics. It’s the musician in me — outside of Leonard Cohen I don’t much process anyone’s lyrics, and even he’s a struggle — I usually just listen to the voice-as-instrument and let the words fall where they may. And her instrument and the unique way she plays it is just gorgeous.

  6. Oh, god, just ignore her rabid fanbase in the comments over there. Though it is an interesting question–just like where is the line where an artist’s personal weirdness ruins their music for you, is there a line where an artist’s fans ruin their music for you?

    Anyway, I do think the article does a great job of really getting at the niche folks try to force Amos into.

  7. I backed off Amos about 6 months after I discovered her. I still love Little Earthquakes and I have a few of her other songs on MP3 that resonated after I found them.

    But I decided to kind of relegate her to second-tier artist status when a new woman at my job (this was the “working nights at the giant travel agency” job) started. She literally papered her entire cubicle with pictures of Tori. She stuck an 8 inch paper-doll style cut-out of Tori that had been laminated and embossed and embellished with glitter onto her computer.

    I saw that and mentioned that I really liked Tori Amos too. Chick started SCREAMING at me that unless I were willing to basically cut myself and bleed–literally–while listening to her music I had no business even paying any attention to it at all.

    Every day before work she said a little prayer to the Tori Goddess. She was in the process of changing her name to Torrid in homage to Tori.

    And I was all “man, I like the way she sings and I really groove on what she has to say in some of her songs. But this? This is Mark David Chapman wierdness.”

    Hence the uneasiness of my love and why I seldom talk about her in public. I just…those people are scary.

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