PJ Harvey's Rid of Me defined my college years—the songs soaked themselves into my existence, soundtracking hours and days of my collegiate life. Apparently I wasn't the only one: Kate Schatz's newest entry into the 33 1/3 series of books about seminal albums is based on Harvey's 1993 record. But unlike the series' other volumes, Schatz's book is a work of fiction, not a history of the album's making or an essay of how it affected her life. As she says, "It's not about Rid of Me, it's because of it."
With each of the 14 chapters echoing the album's 14 songs, the story unfolds based on the mood, the characters, and the lyrics of Rid of Me. And the result is like being stuck inside some fangirl's head as she obsessively listens to her favorite songs over and over—and I mean this in the best possible way.
The story unfolds as two mentally disturbed women, Kathleen and Mary, coincidentally run away from their homes on the same day. Meeting for the first time outside a ramshackle bar in the woods, they flee into the forest and away from the myriad problems they faced at home. The story is dark, twisted, and damn fun to read, mixing S&M, tender words, and spooky set pieces as Kathleen and Mary find a new home with each other at a dilapidated hunting lodge.
What makes this one of the most successfully written pieces in 33 1/3's stable is that it is obviously very personal to Schatz. While my imaginings about Harvey's album differ wildly from Schatz's, this is absolutely what makes the work fascinating. I found myself listening to each song before and after each respective chapter—absorbing Harvey's phrases and moods to see how Schatz incorporated them into her story. And as "50ft Queenie" blared in my headphones, I read about Mary yelling out into the night from the roof of the isolated cabin, "You think you can scare us? Lay it all on me, it's mine!" Not exactly what I imagine when listening to that song, but a perfect complement.
As for the most obvious question: Are non-PJ Harvey fans going to be interested in this piece of fiction? Probably not—but that just begs the question, "Why the fuck aren't you a PJ Harvey fan?"