The book: Panicles by Richard Robbins
The music: “Running up that Hill” by Placebo
Panicles is a novel that follows two families, the Waxes and the Murnanes, as they weave in and out of each other’s lives. The Waxes are blue collar and the Murnanes are old money, yet Matthew Wax and Emily Murnane form a lifelong friendship that carries them through death, war, and politics. So much politics.
The story reads like an episode of Law and Order, and I’m not sure if the author intended it that way to translate well to a screen because that’s what we get. The story is very dialogue driven; the characters are aware of their feelings and motivations and voice them and backstory to each other in every interaction, rather than presenting these in the narrative. The story is also chronologically fast-paced, in that we get a brief scene of the important events in their lives, covering 30+ years of the characters’ fortunes and misfortunes.
I think the author could easily have split this book into three or more separate books, due to the wide cast of characters and the richness of their lives that we only get brief glimpses of. That said, there’s a second book coming down the pipeline and hopefully it’ll give us the chance to savor the characters we’ve gotten to know throughout book 1.
I picked this accompanying song for two reasons. First, the Meg Myers version of this song is all over the radio right now and the Placebo version is better so I want people to know that. Second, and more relevantly, there are a lot of missed opportunities for the characters, some of their own making and some handed over by fate. Regardless, the characters try to make the best of it.
Also, Placebo has been one of my favorite bands for 25 years now. I feel old.