The song, “Rattlesnakes” by Lloyd Cole and the Commotions is one of my favorite songs; I consider it part of the soundtrack of my life. It sent me on a journey, emotionally and intellectually; it reached its fingers out into different areas of my life. Here is the story.

I read the novel, Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion in a women’s literature class in college, and it hit me then. It hit me so hard emotionally I couldn’t write the required paper about it; I ended up writing a poem. My professor called me in for a meeting, “This isn’t an analysis, how can I grade this?” We actually had a good talk about my emotional reaction to the book and about my poem (I didn’t know the professor was a poet). When she was convinced I understood and appreciated the book, she gave me a B+. I found out Joan Didion and I had the same birthday, and I went on to read more of her books; she became a favorite author.

Flash forward a few years, and Lloyd Cole and the Commotions came out with the song, “Rattlesnakes”. When I heard it I knew right away what it was about; I was captured again. (Note: rattlesnakes are mentioned on the very first page of the book and are an important symbol throughout; the character’s name is Maria, not Jodie…but isn’t “Jodie” similar to “Joanie”?) But this is where the song took me on a journey. I checked out pictures of Eve Marie Saint and “On the Waterfront,” then I checked out Simone de Beauvoir. Ironically, I had always had an interest in the existentialist Jean Paul Sartre, and wonder of wonders, Simone de Beauvoir was his lifelong companion. I picked up her autobiographical book, “Force of Circumstance” (the Circumstance referred to in the song) and then most of her other books. I named my cat after her. I also went back to read many of Sartre’s books. I took copious notes with the intention of writing a fiction novel about the couple, but life went on and I never did. (I even visited Sartre’s grave on a trip to Paris; de Beauvoir died the year after I was there.) I can say, though, I’m quite an expert on their lives. All from a song – what an amazing journey.

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Publication date: 04/04/2012