Jing-nan, the unlikely hero of Ed Lin’s latest crime novel, Ghost Month, has a special place in his heart for the 1980s post-punk band Joy Division. His stall at a popular Taipei night market is named for the band’s most famous album, Unknown Pleasures, and in high school he performed “Love Will Tear Us Apart” for the annual talent show. His best friend and business partner, Dwayne, refers to the band as “mopey-motherfucker music,” which also describes Jing-nan himself, a down and out night stall owner whose high school girlfriend’s murder sets off the events of the novel.
We asked Ed Lin what he’d put on a soundtrack for his new novel. The dark, tragic music of Joy Division serves as an apt beginning as Jing-nan travels through Taipei to investigate his ex-girlfriend Julie’s death. The Dum Dum Girls’ hazy lo-fi guitar rock recalls Jing-nan’s struggles with the ghosts of his past while the hardcore punk of Bad Brains’ “Redbone in the City” brings to mind the similarly rough gangsters that populate the Wanhua district. But despite the title, Ghost Month is not entirely haunted. The sunny, upbeat pop of Primal Scream’s “Beautiful Future” and Asobi Sekksu’s “Strawberries” captures the budding romance between Jing-nan and Nancy, a girl who works at the local record store, and their drives through the streets of Taipei on Jing-nan’s moped.
Join Ed and the AAWW this Friday at the Taipei Cultural Center to set the scene for his book at the start of ghost month (August), with the quintessential Taiwanese party: the night market. Baos, rolls, and bubble teas abundant, not to mention books.
—Yasmin Majeed and Kris Kam
1. “Isolation” by Joy Division
The beat and driving bass sound like the always-under-construction streets and farting mopeds of Taipei. The linen-like synth sounds like a day drizzle, which could happen at any moment.
2. “Strawberries” by Asobi Sekksu
A nice crunchy pop song that would go with riding the MRT as it becomes more crowded with each stop.
3. “Redbone in the City” by Bad Brains
Makes me think of roaming the smaller temples in the ragged Wanhua District of Taipei, and seeing glares from the gangstery guys who run the places. If you don’t speak Taiwanese, you are a redbone. The song’s a ripoff of “Anarchy in the UK” but what the hell, The Sex Pistols were meant to be ripped off.
4. “Beautiful Future” by Primal Scream
I picked up this CD in a subway-station music store—they still have them in Taipei! Can’t help but think about sunny skies and Taipei 101 when I hear this song.
5. “Hey Sis” by Dum Dum Girls
I love the echoey chorus. Sounds like ghosts from another time in a dark and narrow lane.
6. “Are You Lonesome Tonight” by Elvis Presley
The misinterpreted song that lends Edward Yang’s film “A Brighter Summer Day” its title. That film was a landmark in a generation of Taiwanese searching for an identity to wear and this song is the tag in that garment.