In the weeks leading up to the release date of Shut Down Strangers & Hot Rod Angels, I'll be featuring some of the pieces and authors here on the blog! Our fourth feature is Sutton Strother and her story "Girls Who Cruise."
Sutton Strother is a writer, educator, Kentucky native, and New York City transplant. Her work has been featured in SmokeLong Quarterly, Pithead Chapel, Atticus Review, and elsewhere.
Which Springsteen song(s) inspired your story?
"I'm On Fire" is the featured song in this one, but the story generally draws on imagery and themes of Springsteen's music: cars, romantic longing, a slice of working-class life in a small town.
What is it about these songs in particular and/or Bruce’s music in general that inspires you?
With "I'm On Fire," the narrator in my story calls it "a song for the heartsick," and that's the essence I was trying to distill from the track and particularly from this lyric: Sometimes it's like someone took a knife, baby, edgy and dull and cut a six-inch valley through the middle of my skull. That song is just so full of agonizing lust and longing that it was impossible not to put it on the radio in the girls' car.
What five Springsteen songs do you think everyone should listen to? (This list can include the song(s) that inspired your story, but doesn’t have to.)
I would include "I'm On Fire" here even if it wasn't featured in my story, because it's probably the sexiest song ever written that's under 3 minutes long. It's quite a feat! All of Nebraska is fantastic, but "Atlantic City" is probably my favorite Springsteen track of all time. I also really love "Mansion on the Hill," which is maybe a weird choice. What I love about that one is that it suggests so much about its setting and the people who inhabit it without ever telling you anything directly. It's all these specific little memories and details that evoke a whole world. Maybe that song will inspire a story from me one day. "Secret Garden" deserves another spin, even though if you were alive in the mid-90's you probably heard it on the radio once an hour, thanks to Jerry Maguire. I just listened to it recently for the first time in a long time, and it really holds up. It's genuinely one of the romantic songs I've ever heard. I thought so when I was ten years old, and I still think so in my thirties. And "Born To Run," baby! I know you've heard it a thousand times. Listen to it again. You'll be glad you did. Nobody ever had a bad time listening to "Born to Run." It's one of the greatest songs ever written.
What’s your favorite line/section from this story?
"You'd like Justine to love you more than she loves Sadie -- not like she loves Sadie, of course, but then you think that if you could be loved at all, you wouldn't much care about where it came from, what shape it took."
For me, that sentence really gets at the truth of friendships between teenage girls -- the craving for each other's attention and approval, and this big heady stew of adolescent feelings that often blurs the lines between friendship and romance and sisterhood. You just kind of want to be all mixed up in each other. It's a confusing but beautiful time.
Anything else you’d like to say, either about Bruce or about your story?
"Girls Who Cruise" is really a love letter to the place I grew up, the friends I grew up with, and the way those things molded me for better or worse. That's also what so many Springsteen songs are about, too. If I've taken anything from his music, it might just be that where you come from is important, and it's worth sharing with the rest of the world.