Duke Haney’s Playlist for His Essay Collection "Death Valley Superstars"

This post was originally published on this site
Death Valley Superstars

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Jesmyn Ward, Lauren Groff, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Duke Haney takes a unique and insightful view into Hollywood past in Death Valley Superstars’ essays.

Jonathan Evison wrote of the book:

“A kaleidoscopic investigation of American pop culture and cinema, at turns dark, intimate, and hilarious.”

In his own words, here is Duke Haney’s Book Notes music playlist for his essay collection Death Valley Superstars:

I began Death Valley Superstars without intending to begin it. I had been contributing essays, some of them film-related, to The Nervous Breakdown, Brad Listi’s online magazine, and Brad suggested that I put together an essay collection devoted exclusively to film and Los Angeles, knowing I had worked as an actor and screenwriter for the majority of my adult life. (Brad’s imprint, TNB Books, had published my previous essay collection, Subversia, which had no unifying theme.) I resisted the idea initially. Such a book would suit a writer in the mold of, say, Dominick Dunne, not me; but I was getting nowhere with a follow-up to my first (and, to date, sole) novel, Banned for Life, and eventually I thought, Oh, what the hell; I can bang out a nonfiction collection in a couple of years and return, refreshed, to fiction.

That turned out to be six years, so whatever else may be said of Death Valley Superstars, it certainly wasn’t banged out. I don’t regard it as a book about “old Hollywood” and “faded celebrity” as some do and will; the era it covers most is the sixties, after old Hollywood ended, and most of its subjects were rebels, whether quietly or violently so, and that drew me to them far more than their celebrity. My own story serves as the book’s through-line or spine—actors tend to use the first expression, writers the second—and I sequenced the essays with that in mind. These notes were sequenced with sound in mind, so that if someone were to actually compile a playlist based on them, the songs won’t (hopefully) transition too jarringly from one to the next, despite their disparate genres and subgenres.

“Burn Hollywood Burn” by Public Enemy

I’m not uniformly anti-Hollywood—a lot of great movies were made under the old studio system, just as a lot of great movies were made in the seventies, after the studio system collapsed—but I deplore the Hollywood of the last two decades or so, with its CGI blockbusters that, though few recognize or anyway acknowledge it, greased the path for today’s idiocracy. Hollywood has lost and will continue to lose its cultural supremacy now that youth prefers gadgets and gaming to movies and television, so destruction by fire, a la Public Enemy’s cri de guerre, is superfluous: apathy will deliver the coup de grâce.

“Playboy’s Theme” by Cy Coleman with Orchestra

“Playboy in the Dark,” my piece about Hugh Hefner and the moribund media empire he founded, came about by default. I wanted to profile Victoria Vetri, Playboy’s 1968 Playmate of the Year and a B-movie queen who was incarcerated for shooting her husband, but she didn’t respond to my interview request, and I had spent months researching Playboy history and was struck by the profound influence of movies on Hefner, the slant of “Playboy in the Dark.” The title derives from Playboy After Dark, one of two TV variety shows Hefner hosted stiffly in the sixties, both with a cocktail-party format—guest stars would perform “spontaneously” for comely extras in evening attire—and both featuring this lush, seductive jazz confection as their intro and outro music.

“All We Ever Got From Them Was Pain” by Alex Chilton

Death Valley Superstars opens with “When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth,” which, in tracing my love of movies from childhood to adulthood, lingers in adolescence, when movies kept me relatively sane—I was a pariah at school and my relationship with my parents was, to say the least, strained. A number of my subjects had strained relationships with one or both parents, from Lee Harvey Oswald, about whom I write from a cinema-centric perspective, to Mark Frechette, who robbed a bank after starring in Antonioni’s only American film, Zabriskie Point. The “them” of this delicate neo-folk song may be the parents of Alex Chilton, who recorded it when he was a rock & roll has-been at nineteen—and that’s a perfect segue to the next song, my favorite on the list.

“We’ve Been Had” by the Walkmen

See me now age nineteen, Hamilton Leithauser sings over a jangle-piano riff, with some dumb haircut from 1960, moving to New York City. Like Leithauser’s narrator, I moved to New York almost as soon as I was done with high school, though I adopted some dumb haircut from 1960 after arriving. The narrator doesn’t care much for the go-go or the retro image, but I was in love with the retro and aimed to become an actor per the holy trinity of postwar Method avatars: Marlon Brando, James Dean, and Montgomery Clift. I don’t write about any of them at length in the book, but I describe my teenage encounter with Elizabeth Taylor, who worked with all three.

“Pictures of You” by the Cure

Another Elizabeth figures in “The Phantom of the Public Theater.” Elizabeth McGovern was possibly the hottest young actress in America when I decided that sparks might fly if only I could meet her. By the time I finally did, in a sense, meet her, I was beginning to have some career success, yet I hadn’t quite outgrown puerile fantasies based on screen images, or to quote Robert Smith here: I’ve been looking so long at these pictures of you that I almost believe they’re real. The meeting, as might be surmised, did not go according to desire.

“Welcome to the Boomtown” by David & David

In my first few months in Los Angeles, when I listened often to this wailing communiqué from hell, I hardly noticed its drug references; I thought the song was about a type of lost soul specific to L.A., as well as a specific kind of L.A. eccentric. I write about such an eccentric in a piece titled “The Purple Lady Sends Her Regards,” which also concerns the gentrification, a recurring theme in Death Valley Superstars. The soul of New York has already been gutted by sky-high rents and the proliferation of philistine careerists, and L.A. is fast losing what soul it ever possessed.

“Man with a Gun” by Jerry Harrison

With its drum machine and moody synthesizer, “Many with a Gun” sounds like so many records of the eighties, yet it holds up better than most. Like “Welcome to the Boomtown,” I listened to it on repeat in my early days in L.A., when I was writing a screenplay for “King of the Bs” Roger Corman. I wrote at least nine movies for Roger and acted in a few of them, including the one I detail in “You Will Become Short of Breath,” but the main topic of that piece is nudity—mine, alas, onscreen.

“Love Is Here to Stay” by Frank Sinatra

Champagne and Sinatra LPs were musts for Marilyn Monroe’s modeling sessions, and partly because there’s an essay about her in the book, this moonlight-and-magnolias tune is on the list. Then, too, it’s here as a token of the postwar era. The second longest piece in the book is about Steve Cochran, a scandal-plagued movie star of the postwar era, remembered now mostly by fans of film noir. An anecdote that helps to explain why I was impelled to profile Steve Cochran: while naked at a New Year’s Eve bacchanalia, he clobbered an interloper with a softball bat.

“What’s Happening?!?!” by the Byrds

Another lengthy piece concerns a séance that I organized at Jim Morrison’s former residence in West Hollywood, hiring a psychic medium who claimed to have contacted Morrison in the great beyond. Everybody knows the Doors’ music, while relatively few know this psychedelic gem by the Byrds, monarchs of the Sunset Strip when the Doors came on the scene. The punctuation of the song’s title as well as its lyrics—I don’t know what’s going on here / I don’t know how it’s supposed to be—convey the confusion and spiritual yearning of the sixties, which inform so much of the book’s background.

“Sean Flynn” by the Clash

Sean Flynn was the dashing son of the legendary Errol Flynn, and discovered by Hollywood at his father’s funeral in 1959. He subsequently made a few movies, but, never much interested in acting, he became a photojournalist and disappeared in Cambodia during the Vietnam War. I was moved to write about Sean after an odd encounter with someone who knew him—we met in the basement of the L.A. courthouse, where I was researching Steve Cochran—and clearly the Clash were as intrigued by Sean’s story as I was, though they handle it elliptically in their opium-dream tribute to him.

“I’ll Never Say Never to Always” by the Manson Family

The Manson Family recorded, as far as I know, three versions of this song. The briefest sounds like a schoolgirl chant sung a capella in a haunted convent. The one I have in mind, a minute and twenty seconds long, is on the Family Jams album, with Manson’s girls accompanied by one of his male minions, later convicted of stabbing a Family associate to death. The Manson case figures in a piece about Christopher Jones, an ascendant star who cracked up after Sharon Tate was murdered, claiming to have had an affair with her months earlier, and was often seen, bedraggled and incoherent, on the Sunset Strip for a while afterward.

“Emma” by Hot Chocolate

A rare radio hit about suicide, its eponymous character had a face like an angel, so that when she said she’d be a movie queen, nobody laughed. Stardom eluded her, however, and she offed herself in despair, evidently by sleeping pills, since she was found lying still and cold upon the bed—a circumstance reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe’s mortal overdose, though it’s unclear whether Monroe took her life intentionally or accidentally. The deaths and near-deaths of a number of my subjects are similarly ambiguous, and to the extent that Hollywood was the catalyst, “Emma” is here as an emblem of them.

“Thank You (Fallentine Me Be Mice Elf Again)” by Sly and the Family Stone

Friends of mine had read that Sly Stone was broke and living in an RV in South-Central L.A., and they asked me to accompany them on a day-long search for the RV, hoping for an audience with Sly. This song, arguably Sly’s funkadelicious best, specifically inspired the search: one of my friends was obsessed with it. Whether the search was successful would depend on the definition of success, but I jotted notes about everything that occurred that day and decided eventually to write an account of it.

“Jerry’s Video Store” by the Grabs

Nigel Harrison of Blondie was or is a member of the Grabs, so it isn’t surprising that “Jerry’s Video Store” sounds a little like Blondie. It’s half spoken and half sung by Eleni Mandell, who was apparently, like me, a regular at Jerry’s Reruns, an offbeat video store in Los Feliz, and as sorry to see it close as I was. I decided early that I would eulogize the store in Death Valley Superstars, but it took me a long time to work out an approach. Unfortunately Jerry didn’t read it, having died a few months earlier, so I’ll never know whether he would have appreciated it as much as he was touched by Eleni Mandell’s memorial—I learned of it from him.

“Dine Alone” by Quicksand

Originally I planned to conclude the book with “Hello Stranger,” a short essay about my growing disenchantment with L.A. and transition from screenwriter to novelist, in part because I liked the notion of an ending that began with “Hello.” Ultimately I went with a different conclusion, one with “The End” in its title. In any case, I was besotted with the Fugaziesque “Dine Alone” during the “Hello Stranger” period, when I rediscovered the kind of heavy music I loved in my early teens; and that love would lead me to write a 400-page novel that concludes with the protagonist leaving L.A., a cage oddly difficult to escape, despite its wide-open door.

“Drink Deep” by Rites of Spring

Rites of Spring are the punk equivalent of a dazzling but fleeting film star: they left behind little, but that little is finally a lot. Why do I chase when all I want is near? the narrator of “Drink Deep” wonders, a question so many Hollywood aspirants must have pondered. Perhaps, like the narrator, they believe in moments / Transparent moments / Moments in grace / When you’ve got to stake your faith. It takes guts to forgo domestic comforts in the pursuit of a dream, and if the dream proves disappointing, even dire, when attained, I would say its legacy outweighs the cost, since life without transparent moments, in image or in song, is no life at all.

Duke Haney and Death Valley Superstars links:

video trailer for the book

Ceasecows interview with the author
Largehearted Boy playlist by the author for Banned for Life
Monkeybicycle essay by the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

Largehearted Boy List of Online “Best Books of 2018” Lists

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

Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film’s soundtracks)
weekly music release lists

Marci Vogel’s Playlist for Her Novella "Death and Other Holidays"

This post was originally published on this site
Death and Other Holidays

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Jesmyn Ward, Lauren Groff, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Awarded the 2017 Miami Book Fair/de Groot Prize, Marci Vogel’s novella Death and Other Holidays is a lyrical and thoughtful exploration of grief.

NPR Books wrote of the book:

“Death and Other Holidays brilliantly balances humor and anger, sorrow and beauty. Vogel’s subjects may be grief and death, but her writing reflects life as we live it, life with its many intricate, unnoticed balances.”

In her own words, here is Marci Vogel’s Book Notes music playlist for her novella Death and Other Holidays:

Death and Other Holidays is told through the voice of April, a young woman learning to navigate loss and love in turn-of-the-20th-century Los Angeles.

The story takes place over a year’s time, from 1998 to 1999, each season propelling April forward into her own life. And while there might not be a way to stop the changes that time brings, the songs here are ones to play on repeat.

:: Spring ::

“Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most” performed by Rickie Lee Jones

Death and Other Holidays begins in the spring, and it also begins with a death—an upending of usual seasonal expectations: “They say you’re supposed to get this miraculous sense of renewal and promise, but it never happens that way either,” observes April early in the novella.

Spring might be the narrator’s namesake season, but April is also “the cruelest month,” as T.S. Eliot writes in the opening lines of “The Waste Land.” With lyrics by Fran Landesman, “poet laureate of lovers and losers,” the song’s title is actually a variation on Eliot’s groundbreaking poem of the 20th century.

Rickie Lee Jones recorded this version on her 1991 album Pop Pop, which April would have listened to on CD, either driving around Los Angeles in her Honda Civic or on a boom box in her apartment.

“Your Long Journey” performed by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss

Musical legend has it that Doc Watson heard his wife, Rosa Lee, singing this song one day while she was sweeping their house. He took out his guitar, and they composed it together. The original lyrics say “lone” for “long,” but somehow the conflation feels exactly right, as does the lightness of the melody in bidding a heartbreaking goodbye.

Krauss and Plant recorded their duet on Raising Sand in 2007, well after the year Death and Other Holidays takes place, but it’s one I listened to on repeat—frequently in tears, frequently while sweeping my own kitchen—and the intimacy of it moves me still.

Several of April’s snapshots capture the love between her step-father Wilson and her mother: “After Wilson died, my mother started sleeping on his side of the bed so she wouldn’t see the empty space where he used to be. He always took the left, like where your heart is inside your body, farthest from the door.”

It’s a song I imagine April’s mother singing off camera, maybe to Wilson, or maybe to console her desolate grief. Even in imagined scenarios, this song’s brilliance is the way it so simply conveys the tremendous courage of sending off those we can’t imagine living without.

“The Circle Game” written and performed by Joni Mitchell [with The LA Express]

This is a song April probably sang as a child, maybe in a now fire-devastated Malibu camp; more likely, at Camp Hollywoodland, located between the Golden State and Hollywood Freeways, and a stone’s throw from where Joni Mitchell recorded it live at the Universal Ampitheatre in 1974. April might not have known she was singing the lyrics of an icon, but likely she could feel their emotional wisdom.

Years later, stuck in traffic, April might pop Miles of Aisles into the Civic’s CD player and listen to Mitchell recount a story about the bewildering difference between painting and singing the same song over and over: No one ever said to van Gogh, “Paint ‘A Starry Night’ again, man.”

I like to imagine April, bumper to bumper, belting out this tune from her childhood at Mitchell’s gentle insistence: Let’s sing this song together, okay.? This song doesn’t sound good with one lonely voice. . . . It was made for out-of-tune singing, this song.

:: Summer ::

“Trouble Me” written and performed by Natalie Merchant [with 10,000 Maniacs]

Recorded on Blind Man’s Zoo with vocals by Natalie Merchant, then about the same age as April, “Trouble Me” has always felt a natural response to the earlier—and bravely candid—single, “Like the Weather.” Released in the 1980s, both songs speak to depression in a way I’d never heard before, neither romanticizing nor dramatizing, simply offering an honest depiction of the paralyzing fog that steals right in beside sufferers, this four-poster dull torpor, pulling downward.

A survivor of suicide loss, April is mourning not only the untimely cancer death of Wilson—”an accident of cells”—, but of her equally adored father, who took his own life when April was a teenager: “I used to say heart attack, but after I heard about aneurysms, I started using that, it sounded so plausible.”

I’ve written before about my own father’s suicide under watch in a VA hospital, but it’s worth noting that the Reagan-era repeal of The Mental Health Systems Act continues to resound in ways that abandon our most vulnerable. What I so appreciate about Merchant’s “Trouble Me” is that it speaks to the power of simple kindness. A song—or for that matter, a novella—might not be able the solve the systemic breakdown of social safety nets, but a compassionate shoulder can make a quietly powerful difference: “Libby’s measure of truth can be exacting, but once she’s a friend, it’s forever.”

“Learning to Fly” written and performed by Tom Petty [with Jeff Lynne] and the Heartbreakers

Death and Other Holidays is a Los Angeles story, and if ever a city had a patron lyricist, it would be Petty, who lived in the San Fernando Valley of April’s childhood. The music video for “Learning to Fly” traces another coming-of-age tale and begins with a midcentury Buick taking off in the desert (which Los Angeles would be if not for our stolen water, but that’s another story—see Robert Towne’s Chinatown).

I love the way the song merges the real and fantastic, quotidian and dramatic, narrative and image. It’s a quintessential Los Angeles ballad in a landscape of gutted-out airplanes beached in the middle of nowhere, a little like the LAPD holding yard where April and Victor drive to retrieve Victor’s truck after it’s been stolen: “Off the new Century Freeway . . . nothing but gas plants and used auto-parts shops, down a narrow pitted driveway to a chain-link fence topped with circles of barbed wire. The place is a dirt lot filled with cars in various stages of disrepair—no tires, hoods missing, engines gone.”

It seems an unlikely setting for any kind of flying, but it’s where April will see “the lights of the planes blink in the end-of-winter darkness” as they take off and land with equal aplomb at nearby LAX.

As the song goes, rocks might melt and the sea may burn, but the story ends with Petty’s whistled chirp flying out over the ruins, and the couple that survives flames.

“The Only One” performed by Roy Orbison

Along with grieving Wilson’s death, April endures her share of romantic heartbreak, and the legendary Orbison, whom Bruce Springsteen described as a “true master of the romantic apocalypse” would have been a steady voice tucked into the glove box of any of her cars.

This song, written by Orbison’s son Wesley, appears on the posthumously released, Mystery Girl, and in all honesty, it’s nearly impossible to choose only one from the preternaturally cool Orbison, who—as Richard Sassoon wrote in the liner notes—”sang about the great mystery, the only one that matters, the mystery of love where there is no solution, there is only eternal hope.”

As any heartbreak can tell you, though, it never feels hopeful at the time, and despite the song’s title, this particular flavor of pain seems in perfect company with April’s tragicomic sensibility: You bite the bullet then you chew it / Tie a knot at the end of your rope / Buy a book to help you cope . . .

I imagine April listening to this track (#8, not that I’ve listened to it a million times on repeat) on her drive back from Libby and Hugo’s Fourth of July party, which she leaves early after being stood up by the ever-unreliable Motorcycle Man. It’s only later that she notices the brightness that was there all along, “sitting over the pool—cross-legged atop the diving board—Hugo’s cousin, Victor, in a halo of sparklers.”

:: Fall ::

“Just the Motion” performed by David Byrne

Earthquakes are part of the physical and emotional landscape of California, and seismic waves play a starring role in the love story between April and Victor. “Around four in the morning, the earth started shaking. I ran naked to the doorway, crouched down, and covered my head with my hands. My organs felt as if they were swishing inside my body.” April’s best friend, Libby, sends Victor to inspect April’s Mar Vista apartment, a midcentury dingbat famous for star-shaped stucco embellishments and a tendency to soft story collapse in an earthquake.

Written by the inimitable Richard Thompson, David Byrne’s luminous cover appears on the 1994 tribute album Beat the Retreat. I love how this song’s motion becomes lullaby, how the drum finale surrenders to convey a sense of what it is to plunge straight into the eye of a whirlpool and emerge the other side of the hemisphere.

“Salty Dog Blues” performed by Mississippi John Hurt

As the seasons turn, Libby advises April to get a dog as a way of meeting a partner capable of commitment: “She say’s it’s a reliable means of assessment, walking a dog.”

Of course, just as he does with damage assessment and driving, Victor also passes the dog test, having once rescued a young chocolate Lab-mix off the street “[l]ong before me. Long before any woman. Any girl, even. It was boys only for a long time, and they didn’t mind, those boys.”

A folk song dating from the early 1900s, “Salty Dog Blues” has made its way into just about every American musical vernacular, from Johnny Cash to Cat Power, lyrics shifting to suit. Clara Smith recorded a version in the 20s, but it’s rare to hear a woman’s voice accompany the music, and the term salty dog can slip quickly from favored-one to sexual come-on with varying degrees of innuendo.

Indeed, Victor and his now-aged dog, Argos, spend much of their time in a none-too-clean woodshop, where “[e]verything was dirty, dangerous, or noisy, and it all smelled of slightly damp brown fur.” Naturally, they would have listened to this playfully sly Mississippi John Hurt version. And what creature—human or canine—could resist that?

“Moon River” performed by Audrey Hepburn

Born in Hollywood and written by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer, “Moon River” was originally performed by Audrey Hepburn playing the role of Holly Golightly in the film version of Truman Capote’s 1957 novella, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Capote is said to have wanted Marilyn Monroe to play Holly (and the film suffers mightily from an ugly and very dated portrayal of Mr. Yunioshi), but the song won an Academy Award and two Grammys, and the scene where Hepburn strums it out on a lone guitar begins with the clickety-clack of a red typewriter (thought to be a 1960 or 61 Smith-Corona Galaxie) tapping out words to a story called “My Friend”: There was once a very lovely, very frightened girl. She lived alone except for a nameless cat.

The camera pans to Hepburn as Holly, framed in an open window, towel-wrapped hair, consoling herself with the sound of her own voice, a luminous solitary.

The depiction might be said to be the start of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope, but Capote’s Holly disappears into her own legend, signing only Mille tendresse on a postcard with no forwarding address, and leaving the narrator she called Fred (after her adored brother) to locate the jettisoned cat, who arrives, finally, somewhere he belonged.

Re-reading the end of Capote’s novella (which I still have, thanks to a customer who knew I couldn’t afford it during the days when I worked at the much-missed Dutton’s Books on Laurel Canyon Boulevard), I’m struck by a phrase I must have stolen for Death and Other Holidays. Certainly, I lifted Holly’s name for the title. But the two words that capture my attention here are voiced from the back seat of a limousine. The car in Holidays isn’t anywhere near as elegant, but in both novellas, the scene is the same: A couple is seated inside a car that has stopped, and one of the pair says, Let’s go.

It’s the song on the radio that continues: Life’s just around the bend, my friend / Moon River and me

:: Winter ::

“Here Comes the Sun” performed by Nina Simone

As with the first section of Death and Other Holidays, the last ends with an atmospheric inversion—in this case the sun, or at least its warmth. On cold winter nights, April follows the heat of Victor’s body in bed “until he’s on the edge about to fall off.” He likens April to “one of those heliotropic plants, a sunflower or black-eyed Susan. We saw a stand of them last time we went hiking in Solstice Canyon.”

April’s favorite Beatle, George Harrison, wrote the song, but I’m certain she’d agree with her inventor that this extraordinary cover by the legendary Nina Simone conveys exactly the right note of sunlight—just in time to turn around the darkest day of the year.

“My Funny Valentine” performed by Miles Davis

Originally written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart for the 1937 musical, Babes in Arms, this is a song April and Libby likely heard playing from their parents’ stereo turntables, maybe crooned out by Frank Sinatra, or the incomparable classic by Ella Fitzgerald.

April’s father would have had the 1964 Miles Davis In Concert album, and I imagine her enveloped by those gorgeous notes wafting up from the window of her studio musician neighbor: “I put the kettle on the fire, sprinkled yeast over lukewarm water. I opened the window to hear my neighbor practicing. The steam whistled, the yeast foamed, the trumpet blew.”

Late in the novella, those notes return over a shared box of valentine chocolates: “Even when we still lived in the same house, my father always sent my valentine through the mail. He knew I loved receiving letters, and finding his card in the box was like a secret conspiracy between us, as if we didn’t know each other and someone in the outside world was sending me messages from afar.”

Maybe this is what music does—maybe any work of art, especially those favorite imperfect ones—send us messages from afar.

“La Mer [Beyond the Sea]” performed by Django Reinhardt

This timeless French chanson was penned during World War II by Charles Trenet, with English lyrics written later by Jack Lawrence. Wildly popular in its era, the song remains alive in the 21st century with over 4,000 recordings in different languages.

Django Reinhardt’s guitar version allows for the imagination of the untranslatable. I could listen to it all day—in every season, for years on end. So could April and Victor, I think, “though the air and into the Pacific, where the water washes over us until, finally, we are swimming with the striped fish in the deep blue ocean.”

:: Holiday Bonus Tracks ::

And in no particular seasonal order, a year’s worth of last-century music for raucous festivities, all manner of friendsgivings, mash-up family celebrations, and miscellaneous other holidays, personal and communal:

1. “Linus and Lucy” by the Vince Guaraldi Trio
2. “1999” by Prince
3. “Auld Lang Syne” performed by The Pogues
4. “This Is Halloween” by Danny Elfman
5. “Celebration” by Kool & the Gang
6. “We Are Family” performed by Sister Sledge; written by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards
7. “The Hanukkah Song” by Adam Sandler
8. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World” performed by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole; written by E.Y. Harburg and Harold Arlen; George Douglas, George David Weiss, and Bob Thiele
9. “Manic Monday” performed by the Bangles; written by Prince Rogers Nelson
10. “My Favorite Things” performed by John Coltrane; written by Oscar Hammerstein and Richard Rodgers
11. “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” performed by Thurl Ravenscroft; written by Theodor “Dr. Suess” Geisel and Albert Hague
12. “Waters of March/Águas de Março” by Antonio Carlos Jobim, performed with Elis Regina

Marci Vogel and Death and Other Holidays links:

the author’s website
excerpt from the book

Booklist review
Full Stop review
Kirkus review
NPR Books review

also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

Largehearted Boy List of Online “Best Books of 2018” Lists

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

Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film’s soundtracks)
weekly music release lists

Brendan Lorber’s Playlist for His Poetry Collection "If This Is Paradise Why Are We Still Driving"

This post was originally published on this site
Cork Wars

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Jesmyn Ward, Lauren Groff, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Brendan Lorber’s impressive poetry collection If This Is Paradise Why Are We Still Driving repeatedly transforms the banal into the beautiful and thought-provoking.

In his own words, here is Brendan Lorber’s Book Notes music playlist for his book If This Is Paradise Why Are We Still Driving:

For twenty years, If this is paradise why are we still driving knocked on heaven’s door from the other side, demanding to be let back down to earth where it belongs. Tonight may be dark, the hallelujah cold and broken, but the candles are just right, the moon is full, and the snapped air says help is on the way in the form of human supernovas ready to make the rumors true. Obz If this is paradise has its own prosody, but just as the real fun of going to a reading is the hang that follows, this playlist is a pretty sweet after-party. Some songs are called out by the book, but many live in the background, the no-nonsense roadies who set the stage so the poems can stage the upset.

On the Wings of Love / Jeffrey Osborne

In my poem Completely Almost I say: “There was a radio station that played nothing but love songs / that tormented everyone who loved songs but people not so much.” Among the songs on WPIX was “On the Wings of Love,” which later I’d hear as a musical consort to Frank O’Hara’s “Sleeping on the Wing” and which instilled in me a healthy skepticism of love. I mean, if it’s so great why all this musical propaganda? I imagine Osborne reading O’Hara thinking, blast! He’s exposed my naïveté. And O’Hara listening to Osborne with a sarcastic smirk that turns slowly to a thin, wistful smile, as if as if gives way to if only. The structure of the song is a totally insane litany that opens and closes all the lines with the title. A confident hero who says this will work, trust me and it does despite the doubters, haters, and solipsists sipping sorrow from their Solo® cups.

What’s Love Got to Do with It / Tina Turner

My poem “What’s love want to do with it,” like many of the others in the book, gestures towards joy despite the evidence that it will never be yours. And towards pain despite (and as) your sheer delight. Love, like it or not, has everything to do with it.

4’33” / John Cage

I’m an expert in creating the conditions for something to happen and then not letting it. There are blank spaces within almost every line of If this is Paradise why are we still driving where tension builds, where the poem takes a breath and stares back at you unblinking, and is like, your move, dear reader. You become the missing part, facilitating a phrase’s new meaning in the light of the one that follows (which in turn gets recast by the next). Silence is the retort, the cauldron, the fiery carburetor in which regular music/language is held at bay and the mute gives way to transmutation. John Cage’s masterpiece understands this alchemy. It’s an ultimate interrogation of the listener, a composition for any instruments in which those instruments are not played for four minutes and 33 seconds. But silence is never silence, it’s a vacuum into which rushes everything at the edges. The moment-to-moment reels away and the indescribable takes the wheel. From here, it’s neither right nor left that we turn; we turn into something new.

Suzanne / Leonard Cohen

The blank spaces of If this is paradise are also Suzanne’s river as in:

And just when you mean to tell her that you have no love to give her
Then she gets you on her wavelength
And she lets the river answer that you’ve always been her lover

The river has other answers too. But first, let’s have some tea and oranges that come all the way from China.

After Hours main theme / Howard Shore

Shore’s score for Scorsese’s 80’s SoHo shadow odyssey is made of what penetrates the darkness, which is just more darkness. Late night footsteps around the corner, something dripping, faint piano through the wall, and a ticking clock that reminds you how far we are from daylight or anything else that might dispel the air of spooky, isolated gallows romanticism. The film, shot a few blocks from my childhood home, came out just in time to make my first dead of night adolescent forays at once more enticing and terrifying. If fear and desire were any closer, they’d be behind each other, which they are, upholstered in steam vents and cobblestones. My poem “Protocol and Deviance” is happy to walk alongside and help you locate the weird overlap between Rumi’s longings and those of then-Mayor Ed Koch. It’s a great score for when you’re trapped in someone else’s dreamcatcher or stuck in the kissing booth with the missing tooth.

Dark, Dear Heart / Mary Margaret O’Hara

Why in the darkness do I see so clearly… Out of breath and into the depths, her haunting, halting quaver of a voice reaches halfway to you and you realize nobody else has ever even come that close. The heart’s dive through high notes.

Dancing in the Dark / Bruce Springsteen

It feels so good to live in the moment of most profound grief, confusion, utter defeat and find yourself rising up to dance, to be fired up with that which can not be but is. Every Springsteen song has this total catharsis. But only “Dancing in the Dark” has the throwaway line: “There’s a joke here somewhere and it’s on me,” which is quickly followed with, and changed by: “I’ll shake this world off my shoulders. Come on baby this laugh’s on me.” Right now, someone is dancing to this song and when they are done, someone in another time zone gets up to carry the dark flame. The Keats of New Jersey’s negative capability. We are lucky to live on a planet where this happens.

Bound by the Beauty / Jane Siberry

Sometimes being bound is to be tied down. Sometimes it’s all aspirational movement, like a Brooklyn-bound train if Brooklyn were beautiful. Siberry bounds past the utilitarian teleology of art for life’s sake, then past art for art’s sake, to a fragrant forest floor we can lie on and take on life for art’s sake. In the supine alpine, we are bound by, bound for, and bound to hear the sweetest, constant rearrange.

Don’t Worry Be Happy (minor key cover) / Ryan O’Neil

Major key songs rearranged to minor is a marvelous genre that reveals the secret despair inside joy, and so makes a more fulfilling joy possible, if not immediately attainable. Bobby McFerrin’s a cappella tablespoon of simple syrup from 1988 is a frustrating emblem of that moment’s bright neo-liberal veneer. This diatonic version wakes the diabolic and sets it free. The opposite action, minor key songs stepped up to the majors, is also beautifully tragic. Like being asked to set the table and then setting it on fire.

We Found Love / Rhianna and Love Is All Around / Sonny Curtis

What does “in” mean? Did love emerge from a hopeless place and make it all better, or did we find our love had arrived at a hopeless place? Is this secretly a cover of “Love Is All Around,” Sonny Curtis’s theme to Mary Tyler Moore? No. Nobody would think that. But if there’s a most hopeless place, I’ve always considered Mary Richard’s Minneapolis to be the place furthest from it.

Movie and TV Themes: Little House on the Prairie, Star Trek TOS, Gilligan’s Island, Star Wars
Theme music, the distillation of years into ninety seconds, are more attuned to the forces of the universe than the shows they introduce. These songs have walk-ons throughout the book, especially in “Little house a priori,” “The Galileo 7,” “I am the time traveling mayor of the three hour tour,” and “Townies of Dagobah in the Renaissance.”

Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space / Spritualized

Spiritualized’s junkie-paced overlapping of lyrics is an anti-round. A heartbreakingly broken-keeled Rimbaudian row row row your drunken boat and gently break the keel. Falling to the bottom of the sea and falling in love are the best ways to solve your biggest problems with even bigger ones. My poem “Consolation and reprisal” does a lot of things, and some of them it does as a sort of mission control for Spiritualized’s non-cover of Bowie’s Major Tom.

Everything in Its Right Place / Radiohead

“Consolation and reprisal” also works in conversation with Radiohead’s Hitchcockian opening track to Kid A. Hitchcockian in that the director said you should always say the opposite of what you mean. In the song, Thom Yorke intones: “Yesterday I woke up sucking a lemon… Everything in its right place… There are two colors in my head… What is that you tried to say.” My poem says “What I meant to say was / misunderstanding is what makes / contact possible” That is to say, a wound is not merely where the light comes in, but the shared darkness that makes love likely.

Super-Sonic / The Brian Jonestown Massacre

“This song is about you and my life now without you…” A perfect breakup song, when it’s yourself you’re breaking up with. The internal departure that happens every day in the slow peel of identities to make way for the void, or sometimes for new identities. How many ch-ch-changes before I becomes an other? It’s like existential Jenga. How many parts can you remove from something (a house, a relationship, a self) before it’s not that thing anymore?

Gratulemur Christicole / Italian 15th Century Chanson / Performed by Ensemble Ars Italica

Everything Edith Piaf did, or J. S. Bach for that matter, is definitely a cover of this polyphonic chanson with the deep organ riffs. Maybe not everything, but “La Vie en Rose” rose from the same fifteenth century techniques that also unlocked Johann’s keys. The poems in If this is paradise couldn’t exist without the poems that came before them. The good ones by other people, and the early disasters of my own. I think Piaf would agree that to really regret rien doesn’t mean making no mistakes, it means making enough of them that you can see clearly by their light. Within this six hundred year old incantation is a kind of duty to be derelict.

It Was Just One of Those Things / Ella Fitzgerald

Speaking of Italian treasures, nobody at Verve Records knew Ella Fitzgerald’s 1958 birthday gig in Rome had been recorded until it was discovered in their vaults thirty years later. And now we all get to join her for that trip to the moon on gossamer wings.

Supernova / Liz Phair

Nothing like walking around a new city listening to music that makes you walk a little faster and maybe spin around unselfconsciously. And to further the unselfconsciousness, nothing like mishearing the lyrics. Phair’s Whipsmart was my soundtrack to daily rambles among the homes of Bay Area poets a few years ago. Turns out “And your lips are sweet and slippery like a sheriff’s bare red ass” is not how the song goes. Turns out she was never channeling the angry love-despite-yourself of a clever but morally compromised Jim Thompson character. Turns out her version of pop music is not based on the universe of Thomson’s Pop 1280. But because I regret my mistakes least of all, I still hear the totally wrong line when it comes around. The secret of my success is failure.

Blue Nun / The Beastie Boys

What’s the Beastie Boys’ secret? Naturally, I’ll say it’s the unsung members—the ones they sampled over their many years. Especially CIA-operative turned wine connoisseur Peter Sichel. (Adam Yauch was friends with his daughter and Sichel was happy to let them use his voice.) “The Last Beastie Boy” is an elegy to their accelerant methodology and a peripheral ode to the ill boutique of brass-monkeyed intergalactic joy—submissive, open, and immune to the bell’s toll until they weren’t.

The Planets / Gustav Holst

Peter Sichel was always pairing wines with experiences. My poem “Heliophelia” works well with “The Planets.” My musical chairs of the spheres is populated with the real original cast of Star Wars: persecuted scientists like Copernicus and Ptolemy. And Holst wrote what might be the original soundtrack long before John Williams’s parents ever met. I mean, Williams is brilliant and his works are all his, but the gusto of Gustav’s gravity, wells is pretty undeniable. Not that that’s bad. Knowing we live on a planet shaped by the vacuum all around it, the effect we have on one another is most welcome.

Bruce’s Philosopher’s Song / Monty Python

I was tricked. I thought a degree in philosophy would lead to a life of endless Monty Python sketches. Instead, it lead to a sketchy life in which every day I more and more come to resemble the It’s… man who opens each episode. This song however, and a flask in your boot, is a pretty good (if not entirely accurate) Rosetta stone for any theoretical references in If this is Paradise. The Hegel reference on page 37 however needs its own translation: “It looks like your face has undergone the Hegelian dialectic with a 2×4” Also, while there are a lot of Rationalists referenced in “The new water” on page 49 (Descartes, Spinoza, Leibnitz), do NOT drink the titular water as it is from the Gowanus Canal.

Hallelujah / Jeff Buckley

The original Sin-é on St. Marks Place, where Jeff Buckley used to sing, was only a few feet wide. Exactly the distance of a quiet whisper. You’d feel his breath when he sang and your beer was going to get knocked over when he swung his guitar neck. The intimate infinity in that grain of sand of a room opened up whenever he worked his way to the finale. Through bitter valleys where hallelujah becomes hardly knew ya, then back up to where beauty and the moonlight overthrew you. I hung there every Monday to hear him sing with some other friends of mine like Susan McKeown of Chanting House and Star Drooker of Native Tongue, and we’d all have a drink after and try to figure out what it was, that secret chord that David played and it pleased the Lord.

Kathy’s Song / Simon & Garfunkel

I like the double-nostalgia of “Kathy’s Song,” written long ago by a now-defunct band, about a relationship ended still earlier. But “Kathy’s Other Song” is a nostalgic nostrum, an antidote to the oldest of -algias. It’s dedicated to Adam DeGraff and Edmund Berrigan as they were when I first met them years ago in San Francisco while misunderstanding Liz Phair. The unstated third dedication in the poem is to the late sound artist Dale Sherrard, now unfathomably dead, and all the things he taught me inadvertently and on purpose, about the depths of loss.

Don’t Cry for Me Argentina / Andrew Lloyd Weber

In “I will die in exile do not follow me,” I argue it’s simpler to make the entire world love you than any one person in it. In the commercial for Evita on Broadway, a dying Eva Perón sings and is interrupted by Che who angrily hisses the word ask:

“Don’t cry for me Argentina —
You were supposed to have been immortal. That’s all they wanted. Not much to ask for.”

Been Caught Stealing / Jane’s Addiction

Hard to think of stealing without this song. The poem “We are so lucky to live on this planet” despite it all alludes to not being punished for stealing, but for enjoying it.

Time After Time / Cindy Lauper

We never quite get it right, but not getting it right means we have to keep trying, and the attempt, not the result, is perfection. We wind up wounded, unwound by the wind, but if you fall I will catch you, I will be waiting. If you’ve listened this far, we’ll probably get along, which is so unusual. Precious even, to be out of time, not like the clock says it’s over, but to be over the clock, and thus being over the moon is next.

Brendan Lorber and If This Is Paradise Why Are We Still Driving links:

the author’s website

Brooklyn Rail interview with the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

Largehearted Boy List of Online “Best Books of 2018” Lists

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

Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film’s soundtracks)
weekly music release lists

Shorties (An Interview with Julie Doucet, Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox Profiled, and more)

This post was originally published on this site
Julie Doucet

The Creative Independent interviewed cartoonist Julie Doucet.


All Things Considered profiled Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox.


85 “best books of 2018” lists were added to Largehearted Boy’s master aggregation last week (bringing the total to 1,487), including Clash Magazine’s best music books and Graphic Policy’s best comics.


Largehearted Boy’s essential and interesting 2018 year-end music lists (updated daily).


January’s best eBook deals.

eBook on sale for$3.99 today:

Three James Herriot Classics: All Creatures Great and Small, All Things Bright and Beautiful, and All Things Wise and Wonderful

eBooks on sale for $2.99 today:

The Emissary by Yoko Tawada


Paste listed the best Sharon Van Etten songs.


The New Yorker shared an excerpt from Salvatore Scibona’s new novel, The Volunteer.


Vol. 1 Brooklyn interviewed author Kelly Luce.


Rolling Stone profiled musician Steve Gunn.


The Millions shared a conversation between poets Ada Limón and Erika Sánchez.


Samanta Schweblin discussed her new story collection, Mouthful of Birds, with Literary Hub.


Oprah Magazine recommended January’s best books.


Dani Shapiro recommended memoirs that take big risks at BookMarks.


Hannah Sullivan has been awarded the T.S. Eliot prize for her collection Three Poems.


BBC News examined how science fiction is explaining climate change to readers.


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

previous Shorties posts (daily news and links from the worlds of music, books, and pop culture)

Atomic Books Comics Preview (the week’s best new comics and graphic novels)
Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
weekly music release lists

David A. Taylor’s Playlist for His Book "Cork Wars"

This post was originally published on this site
Cork Wars

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Jesmyn Ward, Lauren Groff, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

David A. Taylor’s Cork Warsis a surprisingly personal examination of the cork industry and espionage before World War II.

Mark Athitakis wrote of the book:

“Cork Wars doesn’t just illuminate a critical element of the World War II economy: it reveals the surprising ways that war reshapes lives. Whether he’s writing about Baltimore immigrants or globetrotting spies, David Taylor fills his story with emotion and intrigue. It’s richly researched history, delivered with a novelist’s heart.”

In his own words, here is David A. Taylor’s Book Notes music playlist for his book Cork Wars:

In Cork Wars, I write about the private lives of people caught up in World War II, a period that we often think of in uncomplicated terms. The enemy was unambiguous. But in fact at the time life during the war was very complicated, especially for immigrant families.

Music plays a big role for me while writing, and music provided key memories for people I interviewed for the book. Sometimes the songs that lingered in their stories segued in my mind to other sounds.

This sequence reflects the story’s main characters: a Baltimore-born business mogul named Charles McManus; a Catalan-born factory manager named Melchor Marsa in Portugal; and Frank DiCara, son of Italian immigrants in east Baltimore.

“Stewball” by Peter, Paul and Mary

One thread of the story follows Charles McManus, the son of a hardscrabble construction worker. Charles dropped out of school after a school shooting, took night school classes, and reinvented himself. He ended up a major player in the bottle-cap business. He took a long-shot mentality to business and the race track. “Stewball” is a folk song that tells the story of a similar gamble – one that the song’s narrator doesn’t trust himself to make, and lives to regret it. As a kid I loved this song’s bittersweet loss.

Vida Vivida (“Life Lived”) by Nadia Leiriao

Fado is a Portuguese form made for wistfulness and loss – a mournful, wistful blues. It suits the thread of Melchor Marsa, who spent much of the war in Lisbon. Leiriao has a supreme fado voice and Vida Vivida brings you right into that atmosphere.

Postcard from NY by Marc Ribot

Spying and espionage came into the story in Lisbon, along with listening and silence. Marc Ribot’s haunting Silent Movies is full of atmospheric melodies that belonged in this space.

“Bateau” by Marc Ribot

In “Bateau,” also on Silent Movies, Ribot’s solo guitar steps up the tension with a drone oscillating between two strings, almost like the zither in the opening credits of The Third Man. It rises, falls, circles back, heightening emotion until it spins into a finale.

The song and its title evoked for me Marsa’s daughter Gloria story of standing on the deck of what she believed was the last ship out of a free Europe in early 1941. She looked up and wondered, with a foreign correspondent also fleeing Europe, “When will we be back? What will the continent be like then?”

“Hold On” by Tom Waits

The need to reinvent yourself happened a lot in the war, alongside a relentless desire to stay true to yourself. The tension comes through in Waits’ lyrics and his ragged voice.

“O Leaozinho” by Caetano Veloso

Brazilian Portuguese is very different from the European version, and Brazilian music is perhaps even further from Fado. But something about Veloso’s gentle song captured the undulating lines of an American family’s life in Lisbon, shafts of light as Europe unravels around them.

“I’m Shipping Up to Boston” by Dropkick Murphys

As Americans waded further into the war, they got harder. The lead U.S. spy agency, the OSS, adopted a business model and looked at shipping and other businesses as prime targets for recruiting spies and shipmates with divided loyalties in U.S. ports. And sometimes it used blackmail on the docks in a way the Dropkick Murphys seem to understand.

“Pistol Packin’ Mama” by Bing Crosby

Bing Crosby’s silky, low-key voice stuck in the head of a 13-year-old kid in east Baltimore’s Highlandtown neighborhood at the start of the war. The bar nextdoor to Frank DiCara’s family played this song on the jukebox in the wee hours. He was the one to earn pocket change the next day sweeping up the place, so this segues for me into “The Dirty Jobs,” from Quadrophenia that captures a certain feeling.

“Sentimental Journey” by Glenn Miller

Frank was a teenage draftee in the Army when he climbed onto a ship taking him to the Pacific theater in the war’s last months. The band on the pier played Miller’s hit as he made his way up the gangway.

“I’ve Had Enough” by The Who

The drive of this song echoed what Frank experienced even before he’d left his teens: wartime factory work, death of his father, conscripted and sent to the frontlines in the Pacific. Unlikely to make it to twenty.

“Handle With Care” by Traveling Wilburys

For the ones in this story who survived, even just barely.

David A. Taylor and Cork Wars links:

the author’s website

Largehearted Boy playlist by the author for Soul of the People

also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

Largehearted Boy List of Online “Best Books of 2018” Lists

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

Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film’s soundtracks)
weekly music release lists

Chris Power’s Playlist for His Story Collection "Mothers"

This post was originally published on this site
Mothers

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Jesmyn Ward, Lauren Groff, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Chris Power’s brilliant short story collection Mothers is an auspicious debut.

Kirkus Reviews wrote of the book:

“Power’s wide-ranging debut is confident, complex, bizarre, poignant, and elegantly crafted―a very strong collection.”

In his own words, here is Chris Power’s Book Notes music playlist for his short story collection Mothers:

Each morning, after dropping his kids off at school, JG Ballard would pour himself a large whisky and drink it before he started work. It was the ritual that demarcated his writing from his domestic life. Firing up my ‘Work’ playlist performs the same function: a collection of tracks that have become so associated with writing that they immediately open a portal into that space, and are so familiar that they can envelop without distracting.

I could happily bang on about the stalwarts of that playlist, from Pete Swanson to Grouper, Kevin Drumm to Laurie Spiegel, Angela Hewitt to Porter Ricks, but rather than talk about what I was listening to while these stories were in the process of becoming, I decided to build a playlist that responds to what they are.

“Blue Seven” – Sonny Rollins (Mother 1: Summer 1976)
The opening story in the book takes place over a few hot weeks on a housing estate outside Stockholm. Eva, the narrator, doesn’t get on with her mum’s boyfriend, but she does like his records, and she likes the way the reality of her family’s apartment shifts during the frequent parties they throw. The soundtrack of those parties is hard bop, just like this.

“I Want the One I Can’t Have” – The Smiths (Above the Wedding)
“On the day that your mentality catches up with your biology”, Morrissey sings, and the asynchrony of those two elements captures the conflict that’s tearing Liam, the main character in ‘Above the Wedding’, apart.

“I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair” – Ella Fitzgerald (The Crossing)
Ann and Jim are on a walking holiday in Exmoor, their first trip away together since they started dating. Perhaps it’s the way they respond to the challenges the landscape throws at them that makes her realize she’s with the wrong person, or perhaps the moorland’s bleak beauty helps her see everything more clearly. Either way, she and Jim aren’t coming home together.

“Take On Me” – a-ha (The Colossus of Rhodes)
This story is the most autobiographical in the book. It’s set in the summer of 1985, and Hunting High and Low is the record (or cassette tape, to be precise) my brothers and I couldn’t get enough of that year.

“Homesick” – The Cure (Mother 2: Innsbruck)
Eva travels to a number of different countries in this story, seemingly fleeing and hunting for something all at once. When she arrives in France she remembers a Frenchman she knew years before, with whom she bonded over The Cure. They liked “the saddest songs best”, and “Homesick” fits into that – admittedly large – cohort.
More than that, the queasy longing of the lyrics – the song’s narrator says he wants to stay, but he also wants to be made to want to stay – speak to the rootlessness and desperation Eva feels at this point of her life as she tries, impossibly, to belong through leaving.

“Pençgâh Solo” – Niyazi Sayin (The Haväng Dolmen)
Whether ‘The Haväng Dolmen’ (it’s Swedish, and pronounced ‘har-veng’) is a ghost story or not is up to you, but it’s certainly structured like one. While I was writing it I happened to be in a bar where this was playing and it blew me away. The music itself is beautiful, but it’s made all the more haunting by the acoustic of the recording; the flute feels so distant that you can’t help but feel plunged into isolation when you listen to it. This made it a perfect companion to the story, in which the narrator comes to feel more and more alone after each uncanny experience he undergoes. From the moment I heard it, it became the only thing I listened to while I worked on this story.

“Grantchester Meadows” – Pink Floyd (Run)
At a certain point in ‘Run’, one of the characters hears a skylark singing as he stands alone in the Swedish countryside. The story has a half-concealed menace to it, and “Grantchester Meadows”, which has the looped song of a skylark woven throughout, shares a similar atmosphere. Roger Waters is singing about idyllic rural scenes, but something about that river “sliding unseen beneath the trees” sets me on edge, as does the “deathly silence” of the countryside he describes.

“Melt” – Leftfield (Portals)
At the end of this story a young man walks the streets of Paris at dawn, with amphetamine, triumph and shame coursing through him. “Melt” is incredibly evocative of that borderline – usually crossed around dawn – where adrenaline meets exhaustion, and the pulse of the club fades away to leave behind the maddening, lonely throb of your heart.

“Man On the Moon” – REM (Johnny Kingdom)
Andy Tower is a stand-up comedian with writers’ block who has become trapped performing the act of an old, dead comedian called Johnny Kingdom at bachelor parties and retirement homes. Kingdom’s act is more about one-liners rather than the conceptual approach adopted by Andy Kaufman, the subject of this song, but I like to imagine the line ‘Andy are you locked in the punch,’ isn’t to do with Kaufman’s love of wrestling, but refers instead to my Andy’s horror of being trapped within another comedian’s act.

“The Winner Takes It All” – Abba (Mother 3: Eva)
In the original version of this story, a man finds this song by chance as he drives toward the hospital where his wife, who he hasn’t seen for many years, is being treated. I quoted the lyrics in the text, but while I was waiting to hear back about copyright clearance, I rewrote the scene just in case any problems arose. As it happened I ended up liking the version without the lyrics better, but either way: what a song. I can’t listen to it too often because it just chews me up and spits me out.

Chris Power and Mothers links:

Atlantic review
Financial Times review
Guardian review
Irish Times review
Kirkus review
New Statesman review

Big Issue North interview with the author
Guardian interview with the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

Largehearted Boy List of Online “Best Books of 2018” Lists

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

Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film’s soundtracks)
weekly music release lists

Oyinkan Braithwaite’s Playlist for Her Novel "My Sister, the Serial Killer"

This post was originally published on this site
My Sister, the Serial Killer

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Jesmyn Ward, Lauren Groff, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Oyinkan Braithwaite’s My Sister, the Serial Killer may be the year’s most propulsive book, a smart and engaging literary thriller.

The New York Times wrote of the book:

“It’s Lagos noir — pulpy, peppery and sinister, served up in a comic deadpan…This book is, above all, built to move, to hurtle forward — and it does so, dizzyingly. There’s a seditious pleasure in its momentum. At a time when there are such wholesome and dull claims on fiction — on its duty to ennoble or train us in empathy — there’s a relief in encountering a novel faithful to art’s first imperative: to catch and keep our attention… This scorpion-tailed little thriller leaves a response, and a sting, you will remember.”

In her own words, here is Oyinkan Braithwaite’s Book Notes music playlist for her debut novel My Sister, the Serial Killer:

I do not write to music. I find music to be terribly distracting…I’ll end up singing at the top of my lungs or dancing; so I came up with this playlist after the fact. I hope you enjoy these songs as much as I do!

1. Simi, “One Kain”: In this song, the persona has discovered that she has fallen for her friend. And perhaps he is falling for her too, since he is looking at her a certain way… Unrequited love is a common theme in literature and in life – what do you do when you love someone and the person doesn’t reciprocate? Korede is forced to look on as her friend, who also happens to be the man of her dreams, courts her sister. This song would be a perfect accompaniment to the chapter titled SCRUBS.

2. Whitney Houston, “I Wanna Dance with Somebody”: In the chapter titled DANCING, Ayoola is rocking to this song. I love to dance with this song, I think it is one of the best songs to dance to, especially if you have no rhythm! You don’t need it!

3. Pentatonix, “Hallelujah”: This cover is one of my favourite versions of this song. I believe it exemplifies the struggle between our very human desires and our quest to overcome our weaknesses and be the best we can be. And it soothes and serenades the ear. This song would be perfect for a montage of Ayoola leaving for Dubai with Gboyega, Korede calling her and trying to discover where she is, Tade with his head bowed waiting for his phone to ring (in the chapter named RESEARCH). But also, I love this song and would find a way to squeeze it into any and every playlist.

4. Lana del Rey, “Young and Beautiful”: Beauty was an important theme for me in my novel. Beauty and love are often intertwined in literature, in the arts, in life. Why this obsession with beauty, with youth?

5. Outkast, “Roses”: This song is about a woman who thinks far too much of herself and her beauty. Remind you of anyone? I have always enjoyed the sound, the playfulness, the uniqueness of this song and listening to it again, I was surprised at how apt it was.

6. Korede Bello, “Do Like That”: I really enjoy this jam. It is upbeat and sensual. I can imagine Tade and Ayoola dancing intimately to this song at her party in the chapter BIRTHDAY.

7. Emeli Sande, “Hurts”: I love this song for the chapter SECRET. It is a song that I believe illustrates Korede’s emotions. The first line says, Baby, I’m not made of stone, it hurts, and in many respects Korede’s feelings and emotions are overlooked by the people around her, even those who claim to love her.

8. Nina Simone, “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”: I think this song would work well in either the first chapter BLEACH or the chapter BROKEN.

9. Kiana Lede, “I Choose You”: I know this is a love song, but I believe it illustrates the relationship between Korede and Ayoola, especially towards the end of the novel. And it is perfect for the chapter TRUTH.

10. Kendrick Lamar ft Rihanna, “Loyalty”: Let’s wrap up the novel with this song. Read the last line and immediately press play on this song!

11. Ariana Grande, “Thank You, Next”: This. This song was just released (November, 2018), and I had to add it to the playlist. It is perfect and apt. And Ariana isn’t talking about murdering her boyfriends; but she could be. This song would be another cool track to play at the end of the novel.

Oyinkan Braithwaite and My Sister, the Serial Killer links:

excerpts from the book

Minneapolis Star Tribune review
New York Times review
Publishers Weekly review
Washington Post review

NPR Books profile of the author
Vulture essay by the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

Largehearted Boy List of Online “Best Books of 2018” Lists

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

Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film’s soundtracks)
weekly music release lists

Gillian Cummings’s Playlist for Her Poetry Collection "The Owl Was a Baker’s Daughter"

This post was originally published on this site
The Owl Was a Baker’s Daughter

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Jesmyn Ward, Lauren Groff, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Winner of the Colorado Prize for Poetry, Gillian Cummings’s The Owl Was a Baker’s Daughter is an imaginative and impressive collection.

Maggie Smith wrote of the book:

“The Owl Was a Baker’s Daughter begins with ‘meanwhile,’ en media res, and immediately we find ourselves deep inside the world of these poems—a world both herbarium and aviary, both meadow and sea; a world lush with loosestrife and moss, honey bees and seahorses, and ‘the shut eyes of rocks’; a world haunted by the spirit of Shakespeare’s Ophelia. The hallmarks of Gillian Cummings’s work are here: the integrity of each line, a poem itself, and her ear for music. The poems, mothlike, ‘lift, / lift lightly, spiral-whirl. They flicker and fleck, weaving a world’—one that is imaginative, complex, and original.”

In her own words, here is Gillian Cummings’s Book Notes music playlist for her poetry collection The Owl Was a Baker’s Daughter:

Philip Glass, “Evening Song” from Satyagraha

The Owl Was a Baker’s Daughter begins: “She wants to die and does / not know…” This is my speaking about a period in my life in which I was deeply depressed. During this time, when I woke in the mornings, I would often listen to pieces of music that I could envision as the soundtrack to my death—don’t ask why—and this piece by Philip Glass was always foremost. Not because I am grandiose enough to think my death could or should ever compare to the deaths of Mahatma Gandhi or Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (subjects of Glass’s opera), but because I have never heard anything else this sad and at once this quietly hopeful, as if the end of a life, its “evening,” could be something to savor, a bliss. The fading out of the chorus of winds, after their crescendo towards the end, their plaintive ceasing, says as much. And though I have never known the meaning of the Sanskrit lyrics, I could hear repeated the word “Amitabha,” which is the name for the Buddha of light, who is said to be born in the Pure Land of lotuses. In The Owl, the sutras and texts of Buddhism are like little threads I wove throughout this book, the first poem of which ends with a reference to The Diamond Sutra (“this fleeting world…”).

Joanna Newsom, “Sadie” from The Milk-Eyed Mender

There is a poem in The Owl called “Flowers for the Executioner,” which quotes from Matthew 5:44: “Love your enemies. Bless them that curse you.” In this poem, an unnamed woman—who stands in for myself, because it was too hard to speak of myself—tells of her desire to see flowers wilt or “close their copper pages,” her unspoken reason being that she really wants to die because a person has harmed her. I pair this poem with Newsom’s “Sadie” because I often listened to this song when someone came into my life and caused a rift in my relationship with my mother. This is one of the unspoken traumas at the heart of this book, a thing I have never felt brave enough to tell people about and, largely, still don’t. Hearing Newsom’s painfully real and achingly innocent voice sing, “And all that we spilt, or pulled up like weeds, / is piled up in back; / and it burns irrevocably,” after which she adds, “we spoke up in turns / ‘till the silence crept over me,” was like hearing the voice of my own heart speaking to my mother, whom I still loved and still do love, but in a way that couldn’t help becoming changed, like the shifting cascade of harp notes as Newsom plucks and sings.

David Gelfand, “A Round in Every Bar,” originally an untitled piece under the heading “Songs of Languor”

David Gelfand is a close friend of my husband’s. His music is largely unknown to people as of yet, but he is one of the contemporary composers whose work I most admire. He always sends my husband his latest compositions for feedback. This one was and still is a favorite of mine. When I first encountered it, he had sent a CD in the mail titled, “Songs of Languor,” and this piece was just called “1.” That’s why I wrote the poem I did with the title “Song of Languor.” I had not known of Dave’s intended title, with its pun on the fact that a round is both imitative counterpoint (in his piece, there is a new “round” in every measure), and also the common term for a serving of drinks in a gathering place. So my poem “Song of Languor” is a little bit off, as a tribute to Dave’s music. When I first heard his piece, it was autumn, the last of flowers were dying off. I heard in the delicate, tender notes of his music a melancholy akin to what I had been feeling then, and imagined a woman alone in the woods, sensing in herself the toll too much loss had taken on her body. I heard the music as a kind of calling out, as a bird calls out for an answer. I attempted to write a poem in which the number and quality of syllables in each segment would equal the number and quality of the notes in his work’s most salient motif. “She slept lightly there, but meant it,” is one such attempt at proper measure from my poem—only, and this is important to his music—I accidentally got the last three syllables of each unit wrong, because there really should be only two notes / syllables after the pause. I apologize to Dave for that. Now, too, when I hear his music, I think I hear more clearly the sense of relaxation, of soothingness, that he must have intended. He told me that he meant for this particular piece to have a Brian Eno-influenced sound. I think I missed that interpretation with my poem, which ends with “a last lost cry” and not a gentle fade-out.

Fleetwood Mac, “Landslide (Live)” from The Dance

It’s a strange thing. I never understood this song. All my life, hearing it since I was a kid, I never could tell what the lyrics meant. Then, when the trauma with my mother happened—I was forty—I suddenly woke up to “Landslide.” I got it. I chose the live version, because to me this recording is more emotional than the studio recording. Stevie Nicks begins by saying, “This is for you, Daddy.” “Death’s Secrets like a Box,” the poem that closes the first section of The Owl, was for me a poem of aftermath. It was meant as a child’s plea and a woman’s desperation, at once. Nicks sings, “Can the child within my heart rise above? / Can I sail through the changing ocean tides? / Can I handle the seasons of my life? / Mmmm Mmmm I don’t know…” Her voice almost always near breaking. And then at the end, when the refrain comes, “And if you see my reflection in the snow-covered hills, / well, a landslide will bring it down,” I realized in those lyrics how much I wanted my mother to feel again the love she had felt for me when I was younger, only posthumously, her only child now gone. Because I believed that my death was the only way. The poem “Death’s Secrets like a Box” closes with: “She saw. Saw / her mind like ravens over a battlefield. / And that was enough.” My death would have been the landslide.

Arvo Pärt, “Spiegel im Spiegel” from Alina

Arvo Pärt is at once a minimalist composer and a composer heavily influenced by Medieval choral music. Here, in this quiet meditation on time, he captures a world delicate as the tiniest flower, maybe a bluebell, or a blue bell softly ringing the song of sky against the song of earth. I would choose this piece as the backdrop to the second section of The Owl, the section in which I speak in the persona of Ophelia as she begins to see her mind unwind (“I lose my thinking as a cat its ball of yarn”), always allying herself with flowers and the fragile, soft things of this world. Her longing for life and her longing for death are like the piano and violin Pärt sets against each other and, at once, unites, the piano sounding hopeful as its notes tick off evenly in ascension the passing minutes of time, and the violin so melancholy, with a tone of placid resignation, as it moves flowingly, unquestioningly, towards a space of timelessness. As Ophelia moves forward into her madness, into that moment when she is as the moon, “enter[ing] the hall quietly slippered, [her] body gossamered white.”

Joanna Newsom, “Sawdust & Diamonds” from Ys

Newsom’s “Sawdust & Diamonds” is a song of the death of a dove, of a bell dropped and drowned in the sea, yet a song that pleads for us not to wear a “long face” knowing that “our bodies [will] recoil from the grip of the soil.” It is a song in which a sense of hurry in the repeated harp harmonies echoes the singer’s bravery as she envisions her own end, not wanting it to come but resigned to our common human fate. I would pair this song with the penultimate poem from my book, “If Wings Neither Waxed nor Waned,” a poem in which the speaker is aware, as she talks to her “bathtub… full of captured pigeons,” that “the more you abide in your body, / the more your body is not.” In “Sawdust & Diamonds,” Newsom cries out, “It is that damnable bell! / And it tolls—well, I believe that it tolls—for me. / It tolls for me,” adding a pained, emotional rendering to John Donne’s famous “No man is an island” sermon, and thus making one death of all our deaths, or something greater. The speaker of my poem “If Wings Neither Waxed nor Waned” cannot make something greater out of death, but she can hope, as the poem closes with both question and answer, “My doves, what are we? Cloak of the moon and bone- / winds of stars. And light—we know not from aught.”

Nico, “Ari’s Song” from The Marble Index

In “Ari’s Song,” Nico sings to her son, “Sail away, sail away, my little boy. / Let the wind fill your heart with light and joy. / Sail away, my little boy,” her contralto voice steady but heavy with sorrow and resignation, as the harmonium she plays rings out in shrill tones as if the sea and the winds that move across it are calling back a warning, equal in power to her soothing words. For me, this is a song to couple with the last poem of The Owl, titled “All my joy.” This poem tells a story of Ophelia’s last day, as I imagined it, of her drowning and not wanting to drown. Her ambivalence even in death. Her regret. And though Shakespeare’s Ophelia is a character without a known mother, Nico’s song still seems fitting to the tone of this final poem. There is nothing sadder than suicide. There is also nothing sadder than a mother saying goodbye to her only child, not knowing what will happen hereafter. Nico sings, “And later, as you go again, / you will agree / that it was all a dream.” Shakespeare writes, not in Hamlet but in The Tempest: “We are such stuff / as dreams are made on, and our little life / is rounded with a sleep.” In Ophelia’s death, I found my own almost-death, in those years when I felt suicidal every day, those six years when I attempted to kill myself twice and was hospitalized for coma once. In “Ari’s Song,” I heard the voice of my own mother, wishing me well, a safe journey, as I went out, over and into and under the treacherous depths of the sea.

Rich Panish, “Burning Boat” from Aurora Song (to be released in late winter, 2019)

[To get a music track for “Burning Boat,” someone would need to wait a few months. I can probably get a mixed and mastered version by the end of January, but the album Aurora Song won’t be released to the public until sometime around March. I’d be happy to send an MP3 as soon as I am able.]

I include “Burning Boat” because I co-composed the vocal melodies during the time in which I wrote The Owl Was a Baker’s Daughter. Rich Panish is my husband. He started composing music, after a long hiatus from it, just eight years ago, and Aurora Song is to be his first album. If you could have heard how these melodies started—as a crying out born of sobbing that was my voice in the depths of pain and desperation—you would know the true emotion behind this piece, behind my book. On my husband’s album, those desperate cries are tempered and softened, set against contrasting arpeggios on guitar. I place this piece at the end for obvious reasons (because it is partly mine), but I also include it here as the follow-up to “Ari’s Song” and Ari’s sailing away. It is death by water. It is life by fire. Or something new born out of flames.

Gillian Cummings and The Owl Was a Baker’s Daughter links:

the author’s website

On Denver interview with the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

Largehearted Boy List of Online “Best Books of 2018” Lists

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

Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film’s soundtracks)
weekly music release lists

Dan Callahan’s Playlist for His Novel "That Was Something"

This post was originally published on this site
That Was Something

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Jesmyn Ward, Lauren Groff, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Dan Callahan’s That Was Something is an enveloping and insightful novel.

The Bay Area Reporter wrote of the book:

“That Was Something captures that time of our youth when slightly older, charismatic, more fully realized personalities could captivate us completely. It’s a novel about youth, and like youth, it’s slim (102 pages), fleeting, and always off to the next thing … This is a book for those of us who have or had friends with larger-than-life personalities trapped, alas, in real life.”

In his own words, here is Dan Callahan’s Book Notes music playlist for his novel That Was Something:

Bobby Quinn, Ben Morrissey, and Monika Lilac, the three main characters in my novel That Was Something, aren’t really music people, per se, but Bobby’s dancer lover Heinz Laranthal is devoted to music. Monika believes in the power of silence, and she gives silent movie parties where people are not allowed to speak but can only pantomime. When Bobby first falls in love with Ben, they do a box waltz around a studio classroom, without music. There is a sense, I think, that music would be too much for these three people, who are all repressed in very different ways. And yet music does find its way into their lives, and it is crucial.

There is a point when Bobby and Heinz go to see Marguerite Duras’s India Song (1975) at the Museum of Modern Art and have a decisive encounter with Susan Sontag. Bobby says that the repeated musical theme of that movie, called “Cet Amour-Là,” is “tattooed on my brain” and that he “couldn’t forget that melody if I tried.” The great French actress Jeanne Moreau, who also makes an appearance in the book, did a recording of this song, which I couldn’t find on Spotify, though it is on YouTube. Like so much of the music that haunts the lives of these characters, “Cet Amour-Là” is about thwarted desire and longing, remembrance, something just out of reach.

Brahms’s Fourth Symphony, First Movement, Carlos Kleiber, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, 1980

In an earlier draft of the book, Bobby and Heinz actually did a dance together to the first movement of Brahms’s fourth symphony at P.S. 122 in downtown Manhattan. If there were a movie version of my novel, I’d love it if the four repeated, dissatisfied notes that obsess this movement played whenever Ben Morrissey was on screen. They are the essence of restrained romantic devotion. This is my favorite recording of this symphony.

Ravel’s La Valse, Pierre Boulez, Berliner Philharmoniker, 1993

Heinz loves Ravel music and talks Ravel up to Bobby, and what he and Bobby share is exemplified in this neurotic “choreographic poem for orchestra,” which sounds like a Viennese waltz having a nervous breakdown. It’s another piece of music that gets across the mood of romantic and sexual obsessiveness that motors this narrative, and it also harkens back to the box waltz that Bobby shared with Ben, one of Bobby’s favorite memories.

Billie Holiday, “Some Other Spring,” 1939

Bobby asks a key question of the main characters, “Billie or Ella?” What they answer tells us something about who they are. This is a memory story, and one of Bobby’s favorite memories of Heinz involves putting on this very sad song sung by the greatest of all recorded singers, Billie Holiday.

John McCormack, “Jeannine, I Dream of Lilac Time,” 1928

Monika has an old Victrola record player stationed outside a house on Washington Square Park for her first silent movie party, which is devoted to romantic movies. This song is playing faintly as the guests enter, and so they hear the major Irish tenor John McCormack dreaming about making a girl his in “lilac time,” which is the name of Monika’s favorite movie. Again, it’s a song about dreaming of another person, wanting them.

Van & Schenck, “Ain’t We Got Fun,” 1921

At Monika Lilac’s silent movie comedy party towards the end of the first part of the book, she has a piano player pounding out songs like this, a fox trot that appears prominently in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Dorothy Parker also featured it in her story “Big Blonde,” and she hated this song particularly. Parker had reason to, but Monika loves it, which reveals something, I think, about Monika’s essential perversity.

Dusty Springfield, “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me,” 1966

This to me is the ultimate power ballad devoted to romantic abjection. I never get tired of hearing the opening horns and the ghostly chorus, and Springfield’s exhausted, soulful voice, fragile and willfully strong at once. A perfectionist, she did 47 takes of “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” until she was satisfied. The sound of her voice on this song is what I hoped to capture in words in this book.

Dan Callahan and That Was Something links:

the author’s website

Bay Area Reporter review
Lambda Literary review

Full Stop interview with the author
NYLON profile of the author
Paris Review interview with the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

Largehearted Boy List of Online “Best Books of 2018” Lists

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

Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film’s soundtracks)
weekly music release lists

Lance Scott Walker’s Playlist for His Book "Houston Rap Tapes: An Oral History of Bayou City Hip-Hop"

This post was originally published on this site
Houston Rap Tapes: An Oral History of Bayou City Hip-Hop

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Jesmyn Ward, Lauren Groff, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Houston Rap Tapes is a fascinating portrayal of the Houston hip hop scene through interviews and photographs.

In his own words, here is Lance Scott Walker’s Book Notes music playlist for his book Houston Rap Tapes: An Oral History of Bayou City Hip-Hop:

My recently published book is a collection of interviews I conducted between 2005 and 2017 with members of the hip-hop community in Houston, Texas. The project was conceived by photographer Peter Beste, who began shooting photos in 2004 and brought me in shortly thereafter to handle the text. We published the books Houston Rap and Houston Rap Tapes in 2013 and 2014 respectively, with this newest tome being a more encyclopedic arrangement of the latter with lots of additional interviews, photos, album art, maps, and essays. History was the foundation of the whole project, but music was the driving force, and though our conversations split off into all kinds of different directions, we always returned to that central theme. So I created two libraries along the way: one of transcriptions of my interviews and one of the music that came up in those conversations. The life of a book is a long arc between idea and pages you can put your fingers through. This was a long journey. Here are a few selections from that library.

“MacGregor Park” by The L.A. Rapper

This 1985 single wasn’t the first Houston hip-hop record, but it was the first one that made a splash locally, so a lot of the artists I interviewed for the book had memories of this song blowing up when they were in high school or middle school. The L.A. Rapper wasn’t from L.A. and he only made one recording after this one, but his song celebrating the Southside gathering spot MacGregor Park is important because it was the first Houston hip-hop song talking specifically about Houston. “MacGregor Park” is old school electro, with all manners of hot synths, wild guitars, vocoder vox, and electronic dog barks to give it resonance. I won’t say it’s timeless, but it’s bonafide.

“Assassins” by Ghetto Boys

“Ghetto Boys! Ghetto Boys!” This was back before they were known as Geto Boys, and there are two versions of this song to reflect two completely different lineups of the group. I don’t know which one I heard blasting out of cars when I was in high school in the late ’80s, but during that era this song was everywhere. It was how I learned about the Geto Boys, and thus how I learned that there was even such thing as rap music from Houston.

“Child 4 Freestyle” by Born 2wice ft. Rick Royal of Royal Flush, B-Fine

I think this is one of the greatest hip-hop songs ever recorded, and folks probably know I love it because I’ve played it half a dozen times on my radio show and every time I DJ somewhere. The beat hits hard for 1990, crisp like the tightest beer joint drummer tucked into a brick corner, the swing tight like punk rock, every sample bouncing through a pocket of air between the lines, each of which comes rapid fire in a cascade of verses. Drips with attitude and bravado. It’s freestyle but it never gets loose.

“Wild In The City” by Street Military (DJ Screw mix)

Street Military was an early ’90s group from all over Houston: South Park, Mo City, Trinity Gardens. One of them is dead, one of them is in prison, and the other three have continued on with solo careers. All of that activity has helped cement Street Military’s legacy as one of Houston’s greatest hip-hop acts, but the music has held up on its own. For extra credit, find DJ Screw’s insane mix of this one, where he winds back and draws out one of my all-time favorite lines by Street Military producer/rapper Icey Hott: “Late at night / smokin’ weed and eatin’ barbecue / nobody fuckin’ with me / nobody fuckin’ with you.”

“Get Ya Hands Up” by E.S.G. and Slim Thug

When Northside Houston rapper Slim Thug started really getting noticed in the early 2000s, the Southside rapper E.S.G. (Everyday Street Gangster) was in jail. When E got out, he reached out to Slim Thug with the idea of a collaboration. A Northside/Southside joint was still a new thing. DJ Screw’s death and the efforts of UGK did a lot to smooth out the Northside/Southside beef of the 1990s, but this was still a pretty big deal. The duo recorded an entire album together, but this was the song that carried the flag that read “Northside/Southside—y’all best get over it.”

“To Tha X-Treme” by Devin the Dude

I don’t know. It’s just the perfect soundtrack for driving around Houston at night trying to meet up with rappers. When that scenario (which happened on countless evenings) plays through my head, this song comes up.

“Move On” by K-Otix

I was handed this record when I met the producer The ARE (Russel Gonzalez of K-Otix) and to this day I’m happy that I own this bad boy on vinyl. Sample-rich. K-Otix had their own thing going on outside of the gangsta rap for which Houston is known, and they’re still making music in the lane they starting cutting in the mid-’90s.

“Still Tippin’” by Mike Jones, Slim Thug, Paul Wall

This was the song that set things off in Houston around the same time we were getting things underway with the book. Mike, Slim, and Paul are Northside rappers from Houston’s Swishahouse label, and this song came out right at the moment where each of their careers was on the rise, culminating in successive #3, #2, and #1 albums on the Billboard charts. We started the books just before this one hit, so it was fresh watching the wave crest.

“Knockin Doorz Down” by Pimp C

The late Pimp C was one half (along with Bun B) of the Port Arthur group UGK, who are noted as instrumental in helping to smash the Northside/Southside beef of the 1990s. Years later, Pimp released this one to directly call out some individual beefs. Slim Thug and Z-Ro was one of them. Paul Wall and Chamillionaire was another. Each conflict has since been resolved.

“Gotsta Get Paid” by ZZ Top

This was a nod both to Street Military’s “Gasta Get Paid” (1993) and to DJ DMD’s 1998 classic “25 Lighters” by the biggest group out of Houston besides Destiny’s Child. Dig the video where Top plays this one inside a frosty walk-in beer cooler.

“Galveston” by Glen Campbell

I’m from Galveston—born and raised—or “BOI” as we say on the Island (always capitalized). I moved to Houston when I was 19 years old, and that was the first time I ever heard this song. In fact, I didn’t even hear it then—people just started singing it to me and I had no idea what they were singing. That was 1992. Flash forward to 2018 and I planned my book tour to start in Galveston, so in the final stretch before the book came out, I had this song stuck in my head on loop. Soundtrack for a homecoming.

“Du souffle pour deux” by Ariane Moffatt

What does this have to do with hip-hop, or even Texas? As was the case in the aforementioned entry, this one was tied to the book tour. Ariana Moffatt is a superstar in Canada, where my dad is from and where I spent parts of my summers growing up, so I was familiar with her back catalog, but this song debuted when I was on the road driving across Texas and had the freshness of a new release. Moffatt sings in French, and my wife was on tour with her band in France at the time. Luckily, I don’t speak much French, so in my head I made the lyrics to this one all about missing her. Music gives us strength, especially in those uncharted wilds. This one is on my list because it’s about the growth that comes on the road.

“Abandoned Cities” b/w “Dark Star” by Harold Budd

Again, has nothing to do with hip-hop, it’s just one of the greatest ambient writing albums I’ve ever employed, and it was a big part of the editing process for this book. If you write, try it. If you relax, try it. Really—you need to relax. This hip-hop stuff will get you wound up.

Lance Scott Walker and Houston Rap Tapes: An Oral History of Bayou City Hip-Hop links:

the author’s website

D Magazine interview with the author
Houston Chronicle profile of the author
Marfa Public Radio interview with the author
Texas Observer mixtape by the author
Texas Standard profile of the author
University of Houston Radio interview with the author
VICE interview with the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

Largehearted Boy List of Online “Best Books of 2018” Lists

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

Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film’s soundtracks)
weekly music release lists