Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Cappella: 'More Than It Hurts You'

I reviewed Darin Strauss’s beautiful new novel, More Than It Hurts You, in the June issue of GQ, writing, “Nothing in Darin Strauss’s previous big novel, Chang and Eng (historical fiction, conjoined twins), prepares you for the emotional wallop of More Than It Hurts You. At its core, this one is a thriller—one that connects the dots between a young handsome couple on Long Island, the unknown illness that plagues their newborn baby, and the hospital bureaucracy that may pose the greatest risk to all involved. The question everyone wants answered: Who hurt this child?” (Read the full review here.)

A section of the novel is set at Tufts where, yes, one of the characters sings in an a cappella group. The author, Darin Strauss—himself a graduate of Tufts, class of 1992—was nice enough to get on the phone to discuss his own brush with a cappella.

Obvious question: Did you sing in an a cappella group at Tufts?
I auditioned for the Amalgamates. But I didn’t get in.

Ouch. What insipired you to audition?
I’d played guitar and wanted to become a singer and thought it would be fun. I guess it was kind of cool on campus. I’m not sure if it is today. But it seemed like a less nerdy thing than you might think. Here’s one of the reasons I thought of joining: One guy—I think in the Beelzebubs—affected this real pretentious cool guy vibe. He walked around campus with a cane, even though he didn’t need one. I thought him and his cane were cool enough that I should try out. I’m bitter cause I didn’t get in.

The cane is hilarious. You’re in good company, by the way. Jessica Biel was rejected from the Mates, too. Were you disappointed?
I remember being so nervous. I bombed the audition. I was mad at myself. I thought I was better than I comported myself. I stunk it up.

What was your audition song?
I’d heard some a cappella version of “Is She Really Goin’ Out With Him?” I thought that sounded cool. I tried to do it by myself. Without the harmonies and the Joe Jackson, it didn’t sound so cool.

In the novel, one character sings in a Jewish a cappella group. Why include this reference? What made you even think of it?
A cappella was such a big part of campus life. I thought it was funny that there was now a Jewish a cappella group, which there wasn’t back then, I don’t think. It shows that a cappella is a big deal on campus, but also how ridiculously segregated college life can be. Not only is there a Jewish life organization but a Jewish a cappella group you can’t get into unless you’re a Jew. It sums up college life. It seemed like PC-meets-college-nerdiness.

The Jewish a cappella group at Tufts is called Shir Appeal. The name’s a pun, obviously. Shir is the Hebrew word for song. Peel is the Hebrew word for elephant, which happens to be the Tufts mascot.

That’s awesome. Shir Appeal—as in utterly appealing.

More Than It Hurts You is in stores now. Click here. to order a copy from Amazon.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Shir Appeal actually has the president of the Catholic Society of Tufts as a member. Non-Jews are welcome.