“As citizens, we all have to reach out and try to be compassionate and kind, and to make sure we are working for a better existence for everybody all the time.”
The importance of music—specifically, rock and roll—cannot be overstated when considering this novel. From Iggy & the Stooges to the MC5, Beautiful Music is a veritable crash course in Detroit’s lasting legacy on the music scene; the clanging guitars and screaming singers changed the wiring of an entire generation.
“I think in part because this is my first novel, I struggled a bit with the problem of suspension of disbelief. I had this feeling that I needed somehow to justify the piece. It is an improbable story—as many novels are!—and I think I was afraid readers wouldn’t ‘believe’ it. So I think I compensated for that by playing around with various metafictional elements.”
Van Den Berg gives loveliness to the gruesome while opening up the novel’s world to all kinds of ghosts. The real emotional power of the novel, however, beyond the elegance of its language and the precision and momentum of its telling, builds from what ends up being a brutal moment of confrontation.
“The complexities of the human spirit intrigue me. Sometimes we believe we are working towards one goal when in fact we are up to something else entirely. I think of these as shadow rooms in the homes of our souls.”