In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Curtis Smith’s novel Lovepain is rich in language and storytelling.
Amber Sparks wrote of the book:
“Curtis Smith writes like Hemingway and Denis Johnson’s love child—that is to say, he writes men in need, strong and yet wanting, and with a compassion for the broken people that serve not as the margins but the centers of their stories. And all in lean, elegant prose that kills with kinetic energy and beauty.”
“Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” Bob Dylan
The novel begins with a storm. Across town, limbs fall from trees and shingles are blown from roofs. Rivers and streams inch toward their crest. Poor Eli and his son Mark survive the night only to wake into a day where the foundation of their lives has been washed away.
“Love Will Tear Us Apart” Joy Division
Eli’s marriage disintegrates in the storm. He’s blindsided. Numb. He swallows back his hurt in the struggle to keep his life together—if not for himself then for his son. But beneath, Eli is ripped in two, exiled from the life he’d taken for granted. His bedroom so cold. His timing flawed.
“The Blue Mask” Lou Reed
Beneath Eli’s workaday calm and the love he shows his son waits the blue mask. Anger. Jealousy. He can’t hide the mask forever. There are eruptions—fistfights, blood, episodes of rage that leave Eli shaken by spent adrenaline and by the knowledge of the man he’s capable of being.
“Sway” The Rolling Stones
Eli’s wife Kate disappears, lost again to her addictions. Sober for years, she crumbles, crying in a supermarket aisle, losing her temper at a children’s soccer game. She wants to fold into herself and fade away. She wants to negate her present and her past. She gives up all that she once loved to the demon life that’s got her in its sway.
“Air” from Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D Major
With his son, Eli’s patience is nearly infinite. He protects the boy’s heart, answering every question except the one that matters most. They breathe, the moments delicate, a balancing as ethereal and beautiful as any Johann Sebastian could ever imagine. The boy longs to take to the air with the birds he loves. His father simply wants to maintain the balance he knows will soon crumble all around them.
“The Baby Tree” Paul Kanter and Jefferson Starship
Eli is a social worker, and as his family falls apart, he reaches out to a special client. He’s seen Zoe through addiction and recovery and relapse. He throws her ropes, and finally, she begins to pull herself ashore, and when she arrives, she has special news. Her life is going to change. She knows it. She feels it.
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” Judy Garland
Eli can’t keep the truth from his son forever. The boy’s mother is gone, and no, he can’t say when she’ll return. The boy’s heart is ever-hopeful. Sure, they’re not all together this year, but perhaps next year all their troubles will be far away. There’s always hope, dad.
“I’ll Fly Away” Johnny Cash
Mark is not your typical boy. He’s kind. Curious. A bit obsessive. His current fascination—birds. His grandmother makes him a pair of boy-sized wings for Halloween. The boy yearns to fly. His father, at times, also desires to spread his wings and leave his troubles behind.
“Good Night” The Beatles
Eli puts Mark to bed. Each night, the boy’s old life fades. Each morning he wakes into a reality ever-more distant from the mother he longs for. All Eli can do is kiss his boy goodnight and wish him sweet dreams. All he can do is promise he’ll be there when the morning comes.
“At the Zoo” Simon and Garfunkel
Father and son walk through the zoo on a quiet, snowy day. Both are bandaged and bruised. Both understand the pain of love. All of us in our cages, together and alone. I do believe it. I do believe it’s true.
Curtis Smith and Lovepain links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
Book Notes (2015 – ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 – 2014) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 – 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays
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guest book reviews
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weekly music release lists