Brief Excerpt from BEFORE YOU GO, featuring “Pictures of You” by the Cure

I received a note today from a friend who read an advance copy of Before You Go (July, 2012).

She wrote, in part:

Dear Jim,

I just want to thank you for sending the advance reader’s copy of  Before You Go.  From the start I found the book simultaneously compelling and anxiety provoking, since it was clear one of the main characters would wind up dying in the shotgun seat.  But I read on, and along the way enjoyed seeing the world through Jude’s eyes.

Although the protagonist is a boy, I think Before You Go will especially resonate with girls, since much of it is about the complex interrelationships between the characters. But both boys and girls are nicely drawn.

Thanks again for sharing Before You Go — with this book,  Bystander, and Jigsaw Jones, I’m becoming quite a fan!


P.S.  I must confess I’d never heard of The Cure (what can I say? I think I missed most of the 80’s), but I’ve since listened to Disintegration.  You’re broadening my horizons!

A word of explanation: In an early scene to Before You Go, we meet the main character, Jude, as he rides a bus to Jones Beach for his first day of work. Jude plugs in the ear buds and listens to this song . . .

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The song became, for this book, and for me, the song. Somehow a guiding light, a sonic north star, the interior soundtrack of Jude’s heart and spirit. Thank you, Robert Smith and The Cure, awesome song. I can absolutely see my character sitting on that bus, head leaning against the pane, staring at the boats out on the water.

A paragraph from the book:

The bus came and everybody shuffled on board, feet dragging. Jude grabbed a seat toward the back, stuffed in ear buds, found The Cure on his iPod, gazed out the window for the ride south on Wantagh Parkway. Jude had been obsessing over the Cure lately, especially the best tunes off “Disintegration.” As a band, they peaked in early 90’s, but Jude liked them anyway. Music was music, it didn’t matter if a song was made fifty years ago in Liverpool, England, or behind some guy’s woodshed five minutes ago. The good tunes stuck and the rest dropped away. Some days Jude could listen to “Pictures of You” on an endless repeat cycle, losing himself in the interplay of guitar, synthesizer and bass. That the Cure’s songs were often dark, brooding and melancholy only made it all the better.  Jude had played guitar for eight years now, practicing four, five times a week. Guitar was his retreat. It was a door closing, shutting the world out, and a window opening, connecting him to something other, a rift in space through which he escaped for hours at a time. Jude felt, not without reason, that music had saved his life. But hey, music made everything better –- even bus rides to a particular version of sucks called My First Day on the Job.

Comment: Looking at this now, I realize that I’m such a music guy. As a reader, I’m often bored by passages about furniture and Sally Mae’s wardrobe. The parts that, as Elmore Leonard famously described it, readers tended to skip. It just wasn’t important to me. But the music a character listened to? The tunes on his mix-tape? Those are telling details, things I want to know. I feel that way at the gym. I want to tap an ear bud-wearing stranger on the shoulder, ask, “What are you listening to? What sounds are you putting into your skull right now? Who are you?”

“Pictures of You,” lyrics

I’ve been looking so long at these pictures of you
That I almost believe that they’re real

I’ve been living so long with my pictures of you
That I almost believe that the pictures are
All I can feel

You standing quiet in the rain
As I ran to your heart to be near
And we kissed as the sky fell in
Holding you close
How I always held close in your fear
You running soft through the night
You were bigger and brighter and wider than snow
And screamed at the make-believe
Screamed at the sky
And you finally found all your courage
To let it all go

You fallen into my arms
Crying for the death of your heart
You were stone white
So delicate
Lost in the cold
You were always so lost in the dark
You how you used to be
Slow drowned
You were angels
So much more than everything
Hold for the last time then slip away quietly
Open my eyes
But I never see anything

If only I’d thought of the right words
I could have held on to your heart
If only I’d thought of the right words
I wouldn’t be breaking apart
All my pictures of you

Looking so long at these pictures of you
But I never hold on to your heart
Looking so long for the words to be true
But always just breaking apart
My pictures of you

There was nothing in the world
That I ever wanted more
Than to feel you deep in my heart
There was nothing in the world
That I ever wanted more
Than to never feel the breaking apart
All my pictures of you

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