EMA’s favourite pieces of “childhood media”

EMA is a great musician with a great album called 'Past Life Martyred Saints' out next week - here's the stuff she liked when she was growing up; including The Neverending Story and a frankly weird book about horses.


Words by: Charlie Jones

Erika M Anderson, a singer who who used to play in Gowns and now records as EMA, has a totally great album out next week. It’s all interior dramatics and burnt out epics, like the track Grey Ship, the MP3 of which you can download on the side. Because it’s nice to get books recommendations from clever people (she seems clever; her album’s called ‘Past Life Martyred Saints’) we asked her about her favourite books. EMA / Erika said she didn’t really have a decent collection, but wrote this instead.

I’ve travelled, moved around and crashed too many places in the past 10 years to have a decent book collection. In fact, the last time I did was when I was a kid. I was a voracious bookworm who spent hours, days, weeks inside of a book when I wasn’t picking fights with neighbourhood boys. Here are the top 5 pieces of childhood media that had an extreme impact on me.

The Neverending Story

Whilst I’ve also read the book, this movie definitely had a stronger effect on me. When I was a kid it was mostly about Artax the horse slowly sinking into the Swamp Of Sadness. I cried for hours. It seemed so unfair! But years later the endless creeping void of “The Nothing” was the thing that came back to me and became the only apt description I had of the heavy existential crisis I went through in my early 20s. (I also didn’t know the word “existential” at the time. All I could say was that I felt like I was staring straight into “The Nothing”.) Later I wrote (Gowns’ song) White Like Heaven [below] about it which helped break me out of it.

The Little Prince

This one I didn’t even read the book. I somehow wandered into the animated version playing in an empty classroom. It involved some scenes about the Little Rose girl and it made me feel all funny in my stomach because for years I had been fantasizing about being tiny, the size of a gerbil. To me this Little Rose girl seemed to have it made: being under glass, being completely safe and being taken care of.

“The scene where the guy gets to pick out his tiny babe girlfriend from a line of hot fairy babes also made my teeny tummy go all tingly.” – EMA / Erika M Anderson

I feel like being small is actually a common fantasy for little kids, see The Borrowers, Babes in Toyland (starring Drew Barrymore and Keanu Reeves!) and Darby O’ Gill and the Little People (the scene where the guy gets to pick out his tiny babe girlfriend from a line of hot fairy babes also made my teeny tummy go all tingly).

The Black Stallion

With the first book published by Walter Farley in 1941, this series has been a perennial favorite of Horse Girls for generations. It’s kind of like porno for pre-teens, but disguised as a story about a boy and his horse. I read every one of these in my school library, even branching out to the books about the exotic Island stallion “Flame” and “The Black’s” wild and dangerous colt “Satan”. Here are some hot and heavy sentences from “The Black Stallion and Satan:”

“Alec thrilled to the swift and thunderous movement beneath his knees…Only then did [he] become conscious of the heaving, sleek bodies to the front and side of him… Satan’s head was pushed forward and he was pulling. Bending low to the side of the black neck, Alec drew back on the reins. “Not yet, Satan. Not yet,” he called.

Where The Red Fern Grows

A book by Wilson Rawls about a boy growing up in the Ozarks raising his two “coon hounds”. Why is it that children relate to animals so much more than other people? Now whenever the cat comes over and sticks its asshole in my face I just (gently) swat it away and I never imagine it’s like my best friend for life. But anyway in this book the dogs die in the end and I cried so hard and got so mad. I couldn’t believe the author would do this to me — and the dogs! A few years later my own dog died and I literally stopped believing in God.

“When I told my dad that I wanted to run away and be homeless just to “see what it would be like” he almost shit himself” – EMA / Erika M Anderson

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

A story about an 11-year-old girl who runs away from her nice home in the suburbs to go live in New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. She brings her baby brother with and they have the most charming adventures! Later when I told my dad that I wanted to run away and be homeless just to “see what it would be like” he almost shit himself. Seriously, what would a real life story of a 1970s child runaway to NYC be like? I’m thinking a tad more grim that this cheery tale… By E. L. Konigsburg


The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, The One-Eyed Cat, Hatchet, Maniac McGee, A Wrinkle in Time.

And 2 good books for grown-ups! —>

Nadirs by Herta Muller and Neuromancer by William Gibson.

EMA / Erika M Anderson was interviewed over email.

Souterrain Transmissions will release EMA’s album ‘Past Life Martyred Saints’ on the 9th May 2011

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