Carrie Fisher’s Postcards from the Edge begins with a crash landing and ends with a – hmmm. What’s the opposite of a crash landing? In the epistolary epilogue Suzanne Vale – a character very closely based on Fisher herself – describes the experience of driving in her car. Thinking back on the novel I realise that Suzanne’s happiest moments occur in that car, top down, music up, driving around LA in a free-motion suspension between origin and destination.
I still don’t think I feel the way I perceive other people to feel. I don’t know if the problem lies in my perception or my comfort. Either way I come out fighting, wrestling with my natures, as it were. Sometimes, though, I’ll be driving, listening to loud music with the day spreading out all over, and I’ll feel something so big and great – a feeling as loud as the music. It’s as though my skin is the only thing that keeps me from going everywhere at once.
Writing to the doctor that pumped her stomach prior to her admission to rehab, the point at which the novel begins, Suzanne continues, ‘If all of this doesn’t tell you exactly what I’m doing, it should tell you how I’m feeling when I’m doing whatever it is.’
A little while ago I spent a week or so listening to a shitload of pop music. There was no one to stop me. It was like being ten years old and home alone. Fuck it, it was like being Kevin in Home Alone, my ears and psyche feasting on nothing but auditory ice cream. Only for the most part I wasn’t in my home, but in my car. Cars are a great place to listen to music. You sit in concentration, with only your responses to driving conditions to distract you from the listening experience. And the responses you need to make distract minimally, being largely automated and intuitive. And – the sensation of listening to music seems to enhance your intuitive faculties while driving. You knew that sedan was going to change lanes. You stayed in second as you approach a red light because you knew it was going to turn green as you entered the intersection. On you go. All the decisions you make are correct. You flow with the collective.
If you’re like me – someone who can’t move their body with much certainty but loves music – the car helps you express, in motion, the way music makes you feel. The car is not only an instrument of pleasure, it is instrumental in the expression of pleasure. The feeling is one of integration. I’m least likely to tell you a lie in my car. The distraction represented by the task of driving is a fairly positive distraction when it comes to listening to music. You must sit still and listen – which helps become and stay in tune. But you are in motion, sailing along with the strings and synths. Also, steering wheels are excellent for tapping along with cowbells. Dance floors would be so much better if they had something for me to tap on.