A JANE EXTRA: Desert Island

Liza PalmerA Guest Blog by Liza Palmer

I have this game I play. Yes, it’s usually a sad attempt at flirting. And yes, I’m usually mildly intoxicated. Nonetheless, it’s not the game’s fault I’m socially retarded and can’t hold my liquor so let’s not hold it responsible for my bastardization of it.

You sidle up to someone you want to learn more about and after a few awkward moments of small talk you hit them with the good stuff:

Imagine you’re stuck on a desert island forever. You can bring 3 things to listen to, 3 things to read, 3 things to watch, 3 things and have one emotion erased.

I know this isn’t a new game, but I’d like to think I’ve tinkered with it enough to really give me the most insight into the potential father of my children. The truly interesting phenomenon is whether or not the person answers honestly. And whether you answer honestly when they inevitably ask, ‘and what would you take?’ Am I going to admit that my most comforting album is probably the old Xanadu record my sister and I played until we’d learned every lyric – with coinciding roller-skate moves? Am I going to own up to this to someone with pooly blue eyes and broad shoulders?

We all have our albums, books and movies we think are “acceptable.” You attempt to pass off the Britney Spears track as either your daughter’s or something you downloaded solely for your workout mix. It has a great beat and it’s so mindless, you assert, it’s perfect to run to. Uh-huh. My sister attempted to make this argument when she downloaded Usher’s, Yeah – a song that is as contagious as the common cold. It wasn’t long before she confessed to being caught by an entire fire engine filled with men singing at the top of her lungs, “Next thing I knew she was all up on me, screaming…Yeah! Yeah!”

The risk, of course, is that your answers will fall down some bottomless well of epic uncoolness. You’re on the playground again with your Le Tigre shirt as the little alligators and polo ponies taunt you.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve begun relishing in the things that make me…well, me. I love that the first records I ever bought were the 45s of Elvira by the Oakridge Boys and Reunited by Peaches and Herb. When there’s talk of people loving No Country for Old Men I state with certainty that I hated that movie and couldn’t get through it to save my life. I’m then regaled with testimonials about its quiet elegance, usually culminating in some horrible Javier Bardem impersonation where I’m dismissed in hand and called Friend-O with disgust.

The key to the Desert Island game is in its honesty. Does he answer that the emotion he would like erased would be fear? Loneliness? Envy? Or does he peacock around like he has no emotion that would need erasing because he is A MAN AND THEREFORE AFRAID OF NOTHING! HUZZAH! Uh, next.

As I think back on the evolution of the Desert Island game, it’s mind-boggling how little we show of ourselves sometimes. How little we tell the truth – even to those who are closest to us. Sure, there is a time and a place to reveal the well-loved Xanadu record, but why are we so embarrassed by what makes us truly happy?

Liza Palmer's third book, due out October 29, 2009My list of Desert Island necessities evolves from year to year. Maybe I’ve found a new album that’s now on heavy rotation. Will it make it into the pantheon or is it just a passing fancy? Who knows? I read a book and am blown away by it– as was just the case with Dostoyevsky’s Notes from Underground. I don’t know how I’ve lived without reading that book earlier. I’ve re-read The Color Purple and found things in those pages that have changed the way I see the world. And what would a Desert Island be without Where the Wild Things Are as the nightly bedtime book. I am going today to re-watch The Reader and have a sneaking feeling it just may be Desert Island worthy – along with my old standbys: Old School and The Princess Bride. I don’t think I could get through a day on my Desert Island without Fumbling Towards Ecstasy by Sarah McLachlan or Wincing the Night Away by The Shins. I go back and forth between In My Tribe by 10,000 Maniacs and Automatic for the People by R.E.M. as the third choice depending on how badly I want to hear Verdi Cries. Depending on the day (and whether I’ve decided there are monsters under my bed), I’d probably erase either loneliness or fear.

I hope I’ve finally gotten to the point where I would be honest – however broad his shoulders are or however vehemently he argues in favor of The Pixies.

So…what would YOU have on YOUR Desert Island?

Liza Palmer


  1. Excellent! Excellent Post! This post really made me think. I’ll have to think a little bit longer on the desert island must haves though. I’m terribly indecisive on these things. Nice to meet you Liza.

  2. Hi Liza,
    I loved your post! It does make you think. I will say that I would be tempted to take Barry Manilow’s Greatest Hits, which makes me totally uncool! Looking forward to your newest book!


  3. Hey there, Cathy(s)!!

    I even forgot what 3 things I would take? Recliner? Bowie knife? The mind reels…

    Annnnnd now I have Mandy stuck in my head.

  4. Wow Liza: What a great blog and is my mind going at fast pace right now! The first 45 I bought as a child was Where or When by Dion and the Belmonts. Funny thing – all these years later – his sister is an acquaintance of mine.
    I would bring to my desert island hair spray, makeup and suntan lotion. I would be wathching Dirty Dancing,old Susan Hayward movies and Steel Magnolias.
    I would be listening to Missing you by Diana Ross, Johnny Angel by Shelley Fabares and My Boyfriend’s Back by I forget! I’d bring Flirting With Forty, Odd Mom Out and Mrs. Perfect by Jane Porter to read. And the emotion I wish I could erase is worry, fretting (is that a word?) I am a worry wart.
    I definitely have a worry hole somewhere in my inner self.

  5. Liza this was a fun post! I love your style and giggled the whole way thru. I Googled you, and I’m going to check out your other books today, they look good. :o)

    Hmmm, anything Elton John I guess, although Barry Manilow is incredibly temping. Books – ohmygosh, too many to chose. Movies, Mrs Doubtfire, so I can keep laughing. I think I agree with you though, I’d take away fear. Lonliness I’ve tackled, fear can exhaust ya.

    Lets all sing! “Copa, copa cabana……”

    peace out

  6. ooooh- Dirty Dancing!!! That’s a good one! See? This is the downside of only choosing three- I always hear better choices?!

    And elton john? Yes. Please. Tiny Dancer cranked all loud on an entire island of my own? Awesome.

  7. Hi Liza,
    Love your first two books and miss seeing you on the 5spot blog.

    Listen to: Shawn Mullins 9th Ward Pickin’ Parlor, a mix of 70’s disco and a mix of 80’s one hit wonders.

    Read: One of Nora Ephron’s essay collections, One Writer’s Beginnings by Eudora Welty, and maybe something smutty since, well, I’m alone.

    Things: My three kids’ blankets, hoping their smells would stay as long as possible.

    Emotion to leave behind: ANXIETY!

  8. Oh darn, I forgot what to watch. Friends, Grease (oh yeah, Olivia and John), and Inside the Actor’s Studio videos.

  9. Sally!!!!

    Love it! Anxiety is a good one to leave behind for sure. I love Eudora Welty book- not as much as the smutty one (Elizabeth Hoyt’s To Beguile A Beast was awesssssssome!)

  10. I’ll have to check that one out. And not to unseat my hometown girl, but actually I’d boot Eudora in favor of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. How can one feel alone with the words of Anne Lamott?

  11. On my desert island I have Jeffery Dean Morgan, lots of books plenty of food and drink and a quilt to work on.

  12. On my desert island, I get the NFL Network. 😉 And Style Network. Maybe Bravo. LOL

    I’d definitely be leaving loneliness behind.

    As far as the music, the first record I bought as a pre-teen (ohh, the shame,) was the Partridge Family. It’s not coming with me. “Born to Run” was the first record I asked for as a teenager. It would be making the trip.

    I’d also be taking “Lord of Scoundrels”, which I believe is the best romance novel ever written.

    Liza, what a great blog post!


  13. Liza, so so so happy to have you here on my blog! Everyone should know how much I love you and adore your writing and I absolutely can’t wait for your new book. I hadn’t seen the cover before you posted (or the new title!) and it’s fantastic. A very cool look. Now I have to think about what I’d take to the desert island. Probably my Meatloaf CD Bat Out of Hell just because well, it should go. What would my life be like without Meatloaf?

    Love ya, Liza!


  14. Julie! Now, I won’t point out (or am I doing just that??!?) that saying you’ll have a WHOLE CHANNEL is grounds for cheating! You have to choose! Yes, I’m repeating these rules like they’re gospel…hilarious.


    The cover…isn’t it gorgeous!? I like the whole look of it and I couldn’t be more happy with it.

    Meatloaf?!?!?!? MEATLOAF??!??!?!?!?

    Thanks for having me on your blog!

  15. Liza,

    I was giving this some serious thought yesterday. You know, during the time I should have been writing…

    I have to have football, but I cannot possibly go to a desert island without Turner Classic Movies. 😉

    Let’s face it: I will not do well on a desert island. 😉


  16. I would have to have my loaded (and hopefully solar-powered) iPod with everything ever recorded by Elton John, John Mayer (I know he’s a jerk, but I do love his music), and Ray LaMontagne.

    I would bring my husband and 2 kids as my 3 things to watch.

    Read…hmm…tough one. The Bible (for me), the Harry Potter series (for the kids), and A Brief History of Time (for my husband).

    I would never make it stranded on a deserted island…but thanks for making me think! Great blog!

  17. Julie! I love the idea of a live feed of football playing in your desert island. I imagine a palm frond recliner with little monkey butlers bringing your bud light. Awesome.

    Natalie! I. Love. Ray. Lamontagne!! Great choice. And the Harry Potter series is perfect.

  18. I’m a little late to the party here, but:

    On a hot summer night, would you offer your throat to the wolf with the red roses?

    Ray Lamontagne!!!!!!! I LOVE “Trouble” (just gave in and downloaded it today) and “You Are the Best Thing,” and am strangely fascinated with “Meg White”. GREAT stuff!

    Verdi Cries. Sigh. We always go back to that, don’t we?

    I couldn’t exist without access to U2 and Third Day music. But then, I don’t breathe without music in general, so I think I’d probably be lining up for that solar powered ipod too!

    Harry Potter, I think yes, probably. But also MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING and PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (he’s walking! he’s walking!) And I’d probably need LOTR in there too. That’s off the top of my head though and as a movie FREAK, I’m sure there’d be a lot of back and forthing going on there.

    If LOST hasn’t ended yet, then there’d better be a satellite feed to that dang island. Maybe it’ll actually be Craphole Island itself after all! Hey, if Sawyer’s there, I’d be more than willing…

    Books? Why, yours and Jane’s, of course! (Commence sucking up now.)

    Need to have my bible, even if I’m still just dusting it off from time to time. Would need La Nora’s Montana Sky and Gabaldon’s OUTLANDER – at least the 1st 3 in the series.
    Jury’s still out beyond that.

    Never mind that one never actually knows that they’re about to be stranded on a desert island… 🙂

  19. Kiersten!

    Love your choices! I think series’ will be accepted by the desert island gods. Harry Potter, LOTR…I’ll allow it. 🙂

    I think Outlander would be awesome, too. Really epic and sweeping…perfect choice.

    As I’ve said – I love the Ray LaMontagne – he’s amazing. I love Trouble. The whole album is pretty spectacular – Shelter is one of my faves.

  20. Liza, the best part about the desert island would be that nobody would be around to listen to me rant while I was watching the football feed — “I can’t believe you blew that coverage! What were you THINKING?!?!”

    This is fun, isn’t it?

  21. Great post– hope I’m not too late to join in 🙂
    Listen: U2’s Joshua Tree, Mozart Requiem, Pierce Turner “Sky and the Ground”. Automatic for the People is right up there, Liza!! I used to put “Drive” on repeat until I developed a mental illness. Read: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. (I don’t care what anybody says! it’s got recipes! it’s got gossip! It’s set in the 30’s! Love it forever!) The Gift of Asher Lev by Chaim Potok. The Country Bunny and the Little Golden Shoes by Dubose Heyward. This book was everything I wanted my childhood to be, but wasn’t.
    Watch: Steel Magnolias. (don’t you be judgin’ me!!) Wings of Desire. Episodes of thirty-something. Gotta get a big variety for the desert island! Emotion to lose: rejection.

  22. Carolyn!

    I just heard Joshua Tree the other day and was reminded why that album is just RIDICULOUSLY GOOD. I mean…it’s spiritual.

    And I would have the 30Something on the island, just for the theme music alone!

    Mozart would sound incredible, wouldn’t it? And REM goes without saying..


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