Dr Ruth Charnock, Lecturer in English, School of English and Journalism
‘By Heart’: caring about music in Dana Spiotta’s Eat the Document
The American novelist Dana Spiotta’s 2006 novel Eat the Document thinks through the radical potential of the 1970s anti-Vietnam movement via the 1990s. In the early 1990s, Jason Whittaker, son of Mary Whittaker, an activist from the movement who has changed her identity, sits in his room and listens to Beach Boys’ bootleg outtakes. Through Jason’s repetitive and intent listening, the novel explores the possibility of the outtake as an object of care, an object that demands [and, perhaps, rewards] a form of commitment from its listener that transcends that required by the released single. This paper will use the outtake in Eat the Document as a way to think about the utopian possibilities of listening, pace Ernst Bloch, whilst also exploring larger questions of care, caring and political activism in contemporary American culture.