Wonderland by Stacey DerasmoWonderland by Stacey Derasmo

Wonderland

byStacey Derasmo

Paperback | June 28, 2016

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about

Anna Brundage is a rock star, tall and sexy, with a powerhouse voice and a shocking mane of red hair. She came out of nowhere, an instant indie sensation, but went down as fast as she went up, walking off the scene for seven years. Now forty-four, without a record deal or clamoring fans, she sells a piece of her famous father's art to finance a new album and a European comeback tour. This may be her last chance to claim the life she's struggled for, the life she's not sure she can sustain. Anna falls easily back into the ways of the road - sex with strangers, the search for the perfect moment onstage. Wonderland is a riveting look at the life of a musician and the moving story of a woman's unconventional path, and it is a glimpse of how it feels when a wish comes true.
STACEY D'ERASMO is a recipient of Guggenheim and Stegner Fellowships and the author of four novels and a book of nonfiction. Her work has appeared in the New York Times and Bookforum, among others. She teaches in Columbia University's MFA program.
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Title:WonderlandFormat:PaperbackDimensions:256 pages, 8.03 × 7.66 × 0.7 inPublished:June 28, 2016Publisher:Houghton Mifflin HarcourtLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0544483898

ISBN - 13:9780544483897

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Read from the Book

Coming Back ChristianiaThere is a man fixing a bicycle, or attempting to fix a bicycle, in the lane. I am sitting by the bluish window of a borrowed apartment in Christiania reading a paperback mystery badly translated from Italian. I bought it in the Copenhagen airport. It has something to do with boats—someone was murdered on a boat, salty types haunt the harbor—but I don’t care about boats.   I do find that I care about Christiania, which, though I’ve never been here before, feels familiar to me, as if I’ve dreamed of it many times. A good-sized island in the center of Copenhagen, surrounded by a river, it was taken over by hippies in 1971 and declared a “free state,” with communal property, no cars, and drugs openly for sale on the main drag, helpfully named Pusher Street. It has been a free state ever since. Now it is a leafy, semi-occluded place, with dirt roads, peculiar hand-built houses—some look like shacks, some look like spaceships—a few streets of stores selling crafts, and a climate all its own: it is warmer and damper here than in Copenhagen proper, as if one has stepped into a vast terrarium. Christiania, shaggy and rural and utopic, is a collective wish, under constant threat of being torn down by the government or turned into condos. There was a riot last week, apparently; a building was set on fire, it isn’t clear by whom, the anarchists or the cops. Christiania’s signature, its export to the unfree world, is innovative, handmade bicycles. Some of them look like the bicycles people, or aliens, might ride on Jupiter. Some of them look as if they were made by Dalí. Some appear to be anticipating a time when people will be much taller.   Christiania’s melancholic hope loops around my heart. It is the ruins of the future. As soon as we got here, the very first stop on the tour, my comeback tour—coming back from what to what, anyone might well ask—I wanted to stay. But we’re all leaving in the morning. We’re taking the train to Göteborg, whatever that is. In the living room of this borrowed apartment, five enormous windows made out of salvaged glass look onto the dirt road below. The light blue of the glass makes me wonder if it was salvaged from a church. Otherwise, the room is all bookshelves, a long curve of modernist red sofa, and two enormous, identical sleeping hounds with coarse gray fur. The old man with pink gauges in his earlobes who let me in told me not to worry about them, which I don’t, but I wish they would wake up. Instead, they lie on a chartreuse blanket on the floor, paws twitching in twin dreams. It’s cold in here. I would like to wrap a sleeping dog around me for warmth, but settle for a pair of fingerless knit gloves that I find on one of the bookshelves.   The bicycle wrench goes cling clang . . . clingcling clang. A loud screech, a ping. The man swears. I don’t speak Danish, but by the propulsive sound of the word he makes I know he’s swearing. I look out the window. Short, choppy yellow hair; tools and a sweater on the ground; a bicycle turned upside down, gears to the sky; his round face; a bit of a gut on him, though he’s young. Youngish. He drinks from a dark brown beer bottle, a slender wrench dangling from his other hand. He has stripped down to a T-shirt in his exertions; the indigo-blue edge of a tattoo is visible on one upper arm. He is handsome—almost too handsome.   My new young manager, Boone, looking, as usual, like he died two days ago, clatters up the wooden stairs and into the room carrying a small velvet bag. “Are you ready, Anna?” he says. “Sound check in an hour. Why did you turn off your phone? You should see where the rest of us are staying—this is nice.” Boone has a face like a chipped white plate. Small, round, questioning dark eyes. An ambivalent beard. A concave chest. He can’t settle, doesn’t sit down, hovering a few feet away. I would like to put him in my pocket and feed him crumbs.   “It’s cold,” I say.   “Not really,” he ventures. Boone is still trying to find his way around me. “Take a look at this.” He opens the velvet bag, unwraps tissue paper from a porcelain figurine—a vaguely Turkish-looking man who appears to be singing, smiling face uplifted, and playing a tiny porcelain guitar—which he sets on the coffee table. “Only a hundred fifty euros.” He rocks on his heels.   “Huh,” I say in what I hope is a neutral tone. Something about the figurine makes me uneasy—its uncanniness, its exorbitant price, its sentimentality. What is actually going on in the world if this kitschy thing is valuable?   “There was another one there, a Schiffener, but it wasn’t nearly as good. Why did you turn off your phone?”   “I don’t know,” I say, because I don’t. The jet lag makes me feel a beat or two behind myself. I pretend to go back to reading my book. Sardines, a bloody handkerchief. The pensive, hard-drinking, salty-tongued detective. It smells like licorice in this room; where did I leave it? I’d like some licorice.   “Anna,” says Boone. “I’ve been trying to call for an hour. What are you doing? Whose dogs are those? They look like van Stavasts—do you think they could be? It’s a really rare breed.”   “I don’t know.” I turn a page. I hate Boone, I think. “It’s too cold in here.”   Boone sighs. “Anna. Are you freaking out?”   I don’t respond. I’m not exactly trying to torment him. It’s just that, for one thing, I’m cold. I hate being cold. For another, I resent the implication, which underlies every exchange we have, that I should be grateful that he agreed to take me on. He’s said I must know how major I am, but we both know I went to him. All of Boone’s other acts are much younger, their beardless pallors glow, they have some sort of Icelandic/Berliner/post-polar-ice-cap handcrafted glamour, they wear peculiar Amish-like outerwear and badly fitting pants, only maybe two of them are junkies. They are all, of course, very serious. Brilliant, even. Their music is the music of the new world, coming over the waves, half translated. If you told me that they cobbled their own shoes out of scrap leather made from the tanned hides of cows they had butchered themselves with knives made in their own smithies, I would believe you. Many of them claim to be my lifelong fans, too, to have the lyrics from Whale engraved on their hearts, to be unreasonably devoted to my very shadow, but I can’t help feeling that if I were taxidermied and tied to the front of their tour buses, I’d be equally as lovable to them.   In my darker moments I feel like the Queen of England, bound and gagged by reverence. Tin-crowned and irrelevant. Perhaps I should stay here in Christiania, take up my other life, pass through the hemp-scented membrane of this place and become another Anna Brundage, maybe a better one. An Anna on a distended, futuristic bicycle. Also, for yet another thing, this entire idea was along the lines of a disaster. Music is quicksilver, gossamer; careers are measured in butterfly lifetimes. My butterfly life ended seven years ago in Rome. No one gives a shit about what I do anymore. I’m on a tiny label, albeit a tiny one with some cachet, but I paid for Wonderland myself. I begin to feel queasy. What have I started? I eye the sentimental porcelain figurine, singing so witlessly. Why did Boone agree to take me on? Am I a novelty act?   “I’m just cold. It’s too cold in here,” I say. “How’s the house?”   He scratches at his chin, grimacing. “Online sales are all right so far. It was a holiday yesterday, everybody was out drinking, we’re expecting more at the door. I mean, given who you are it’s going to be great, but it is the first one, and there’s a big World Cup match on TV tonight, you can’t—”   “Isn’t there any way to turn the heat up?”   Boone zips his sweater up to the neck in the way of a man who would like to strangle someone and is strangling himself instead. He puts the terrifying figurine back in its wrapping, its little velvet bag. “I have no idea. It isn’t my house.” He’s so aggravated that he’s barely speaking above a whisper. “I don’t even understand where we are. Is this island some kind of commune deal?”   “But I can’t sing if I’m too cold. You know that.”   “Anna. Darling. Put on a sweater. There will be heat in the theater. This place—it’s dirt roads, did you see that? It’s not so surprising that the heat doesn’t work that well.” He shifts his weight from one foot to the other. “But everyone is playing the Bee Palace right now. Right?” He regards me. “This is good.” How young he is. His beard barely on his face, he might scratch it right off one day. But he does work hard, he does.   “Christiania is a free state,” I offer as an olive branch of information. “The last one in the world, I think. We’re in the ruins of the future. Can you check on the heat at the theater?”   “Yes,” says Boone. “If you turn your phone on. Anna, it’s nice in here. You have the best one.” He gives me a significant, managerial look and clatters out. Also proving my point about the gratitude thing.   Beyond the salvaged blue window, the man is squatting next to the broken bike, smoking a cigarette and drawing lazily in the dirt with a stick. He is definitely almost too handsome. Daring myself to open the window, I open the window. I whistle. He lifts his face. “Hey. Want to come up for a beer?”   Apparently he speaks English, and he’s thirsty.

Editorial Reviews

Breakout." - Vogue "Ingeniously conceived and believable . . . D'Erasmo is a gifted and skillful writer." - Lionel Shriver, New York Times Book Review "Her story reads like an unusually lucid travel journal . . . In Brundage, D'Erasmo has created a wry, questioning, sensual artist." - The New Yorker "D'Erasmo's writing exhibits a life-and-death intimacy that grabs at us." - USA Today "Stacey D'Erasmo's exquisite Wonderland . . . succeeds, not through bombast but with beautifully measured, understated writing and meticulous characterization . . . Wonderland 's narrator, Anna Brundage, is so beautifully realized that I wanted to download her music on iTunes . . . a striking evocation of the artist's quest" - Elizabeth Hand, Los Angeles Times "Dreamy . . . [with] finely tuned prose . . . Given the book's sensual imagery and magnetic heroine, it's hard not to wonder what Anna would sound like - I pegged her as some combination of Bjork, Florence and the Machine, and Janis Joplin." - Mother Jones "[A] questing, questioning, melodic narrative . . . Sentence by sentence, Stacey D'Erasmo is a gorgeous writer . . . [with] a vibrant, idiosyncratic voice." - Minneapolis Star Tribune "Briskly addictive . . . Some sentences dance like wind chimes in a hurricane; others evanesce . . . D'Erasmo expertly conjures the seductive uncharted space that lures the sculptor, the musician." - O, The Oprah Magazine "Heartbreakingly intense . . . [a] dramatically satisfying, philosophically complex novel." - San Francisco Chronicle "The prose constantly achieves the magic trick of seeming both weightless and grounded . . . an evocative exploration of universal themes: the anxieties of middle age, the bittersweet freedom of the creative life, the burden of the legacy a daughter inherits from her father." - BookForum "D'Erasmo gives us an inside look at a world most of us will never experience. As Anna strives for perfection in her music, you get the feeling she might just make it." - The Oklahoman "The world of Wonderland is authentic, vibrant, and genuine. Stacey D'Erasmo explores the delight and terror of second chances. A great read!" - Michael Stipe " Wonderland is a witty and unflinching novel about life, love, art and sound checks. A deep howl and a bittersweet song, this is D'Erasmo's best yet." - Sam Lipsyte, author of The Ask, Home Land, and others "There's a lot in this book that those of us who've lived the music life will recognize: the eroticized grind of life on the road; the hothouse environment of the recording studio; the weird state of in-between that defines provisional rock and roll fame. But what's best about Wonderland is its portrait of a creative spirit. When Anna Brundage is in the zone, she pulls songs from the air; she showers her fans and collaborators in pain and beauty. Wonderland 's insight into how a woman inhabits, feeds, and sometimes undoes her own artistry is rare and profound." - Ann Powers, music critic, coauthor of Piece by Piece (with Tori Amos), and author of Weird Like Us: My Bohemian America "Like Anna, her unforgettable narrator, Stacey D'Erasmo has found a new sound here: a voice so gorgeous and raw that it captures what it means to be human. D'Erasmo's prose is lyrical and alive - this is a vital, powerful novel - and Wonderland will strike a chord with anyone who's ever dreamed of getting a second chance." - Elliott Holt, author of You Are One of Them "As Robert Mapplethorpe told Patti Smith, this one, Wonderland has the magic." - Washington Independent Review of Books "[D'Erasmo] combines the delightful worlds of literature and music while bringing out the best in both mediums . . . a rich and exquisitely crafted novel." - Lambda Literary Foundation "[ Wonderland ] delicately melts together a captivating story, artistic language and meaningful imagery." - NeuralPop "A cool, dreamy read, by turns drug-fueled, anxious, touched by grief, blistering with the heat of survival instinct . . . delicious." - Black Heart "A must-read for any up and coming artist to grizzled veteran." - Femmusic "[D'Erasmo writes] artfully and insightfully, giving Brundage a no-nonsense, road-worn tone that leaves equal room for pathos and humor . . . D'Erasmo is particularly good at capturing the randomness and joy of the creative process [and] thoughtfully addresses aging, art and relationships." - Kirkus Reviews "A spellbinding look into the protagonist's being . . . meticulously crafted . . . Days and shows pass, but within this routine, a transformation slowly creeps into the narrative: that of commitment, and, perhaps, hope for the future." - Publishers Weekly, starred review "Anna is an irresistible narrator. D'Erasmo brings us inside the music and the musician's psyche in this transfixing song of a self evolving through discovery, loss, and renewal." - Booklist, starred review"