Jeff Jackson’s Playlist for His Novel "Destroy All Monsters"

This post was originally published on this site
Destroy All Monsters

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.

Jeff Jackson’s Destroy All Monsters is not only one of my favorite books of the year, it is my favorite rock novel ever. Jackson vividly captures the connection to music for both performer and listener in this engaging and smart read.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

“[Jeff] Jackson builds an anxious, deeply felt narrative probing a nationwide epidemic of murders of musicians . . . Infected with this eerie conceit, and expressed through gritty, sharp prose, [Destroy All Monsters] provides both deep character exploration and a nuanced commentary on music, creativity, and violence.”

In his own words, here is Jeff Jackson’s Book Notes music playlist for his novel Destroy All Monsters:

Destroy All Monsters is a dark valentine to rock and roll. It’s my attempt to harness the blissful hours spent losing my hearing in clubs, obsessively listening to albums like they were life rafts, and talking about bands with friends as if they were codes to unlock our personalities. I tried to put that energy into a novel that would capture my feelings about music so I could repay my debts and move on. Spoiler alert: It didn’t work.

It’s a novel about an epidemic of violence that sweeps through small town music scenes, bands struggling to make a mark in a culture where it’s hard to tell the signal from the noise, and fans who worry music doesn’t mean what it used to.

Like a cassette or classic single, Destroy All Monsters has a Side A and Side B—you read one side and flip the book over and upside-down to read the other. As much as the novel is about rock, it’s also trying to embody it.

Here are some songs and moods embedded in the book, which serve as skeleton keys to some of its secrets.

The book’s title:
Destroy All Monsters as a phrase feels increasingly resonant for our current moment. It started as a 1968 Godzilla flick, a creature feature battle royal. A few years later in Detroit, an art-damaged punk band featuring visual artists Mike Kelley, Jim Shaw, Carey Loren, and Niagra bestowed the name upon themselves. They recorded a host of incredible songs and sound experiments as part of concocting their own high art trash universe. This song is especially close to the novel’s heart:
Destroy All Monsters “You Can’t Kill Kill”

The A Side:
This early single by Pere Ubu, one of their most plaintive love songs, provides the title for Side A. David Thomas warbles “I don’t get around, I don’t fall in love much,” and that’s the tip of the iceberg. In the novel, whose dark ages exactly?
Pere Ubu “My Dark Ages”

The B Side:
Another Detroit connection, but Iggy Pop finds himself far from home in a sun-stunned city that’s plotting his demise. He’s checked himself into a mental health facility and leaves on day passes to record with Stooges guitarist James Williamson. Each night he returns to a narrow white room and tries to imagine his way back to some form of defiance. The lead track of this lost years record supplies the title for Side B. In the novel, it becomes a password, a rumor, cryptic graffiti.
Iggy Pop “Kill City”

The Ghost:
Some songs are haunted. Bad things happen to people who cover Johnny Ace’s ghostly ballad, just as bad things happened to Ace himself when he sat down to play Russian Roulette shortly after he recorded it. But it soon went to number one – as the saying goes – with a bullet. In the novel, the characters take the song as a dare, not knowing whether it’s fully loaded.
Johnny Ace “Pledging My Love”

The Fire:
In the novel, this isn’t a haunted song so much as a haunting. There are many versions, but let’s stick with the original for its mix of apocalyptic imagery and mariachi horns, a version so familiar that it’s easy to forget it’s so strange. Sometimes I also forget that it’s a love song.
Johnny Cash “Ring of Fire”

That Humming in Your Ears:
It’s a sound, not a song. A thickening of the environment that subtly shades the air. If you squint your eyes, you’ll spot it throughout the novel in key moments. Eliane Radigue is the queen of drone, an electronic composer whose shimmering music is meant to prepare us for death—gently, gently.
Eliane Radigue “Kyema (Intermediate States)”

The Monsters:
In one of the greatest rock songs ever, Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney sings it both ways: “I’m your monster / I’m not like you.” And then: “I’m no monster / I’m just like you.” And back again.
Sleater-Kinney “Call the Doctor”

The Music:
Chan Marshall sits at the piano to play the same repetitive riff and report on the local scene. “It must just be the colors and the kids,” she sighs, “because the music is boring me to death.” But her insistent repetitions slowly open a portal to an imagined realm where singing to yourself at a piano at 3 a.m. still means something.
Cat Power “The Colors and the Kids”

The Last Rock Novel:
Ever feel like you’ve been cheated? “No more rock and roll for you!” Vic Goddard sneers at the euphoric height of punk’s Year Zero. You can almost feel the slate being wiped clean, but he’ll soon take it all back. They always do.
Subway Sect “We Oppose All Rock and Roll/Sister Ray (live)”

Jeff Jackson and Destroy All Monsters links:

the author’s website
excerpt from the book
excerpt from the book

Booklist review
The Millions review
PANK review
Publishers Weekly review

Charlotte Magazine profile of the author
Charlotte Observer profile of the author
Creative Loafing profile of the author
Largehearted Boy playlist by the author for Mira Corpora
Los Angeles Review of Books interview with the author
Tin House interview with the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

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

Donald Quist’s Playlist for His Short Story Collection "For Other Ghosts"

This post was originally published on this site
For Other Ghosts

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.

Donald Quist’s impressive story collection For Other Ghosts features a diverse and three-dimensional cast of characters.

Jamel Brinkley wrote of the book:

“The words gathered into a book of fiction are often said to conjure up a world. Usually this is an exaggeration, but what Donald Quist has accomplished in For Other Ghosts is to truly give us what feels like an entire world’s breadth and depth. The range, sensitivity, and brilliance of these stories are astounding. His readers are in for a mind-expanding experience.”

In his own words, here is Donald Quist’s Book Notes music playlist for his short story collection For Other Ghosts:

I write to music. Often when working on a piece, I’ll inevitably choose a song that inspires me and listen to that track on repeat throughout the process. My linked short story collection, For Other Ghosts, was composed the same way. Below is a list of tracks, one for every story in the book, that ultimately helped me better shape and define the direction of these narratives. In addition to the playlist on Spotify, there are links to each song on YouTube. Enjoy!

“Cast No Shadow” by Oasis for “They Would Be Waiting”
When his grandmother’s funeral procession is halted by a band of desperate soldiers, a young American boy reflects on ancestry, his immigrant father, and a changing West Africa. Oasis mirrors the narrator’s meditations on inherited oppression and how the lingering effects of colonialism can make a person feel less visible: “Bound with all the weight of all the words he tried to say / Chained to all the places that he never wished to stay / Bound with all the weight of all the words he tried to say / As he faced the sun he cast no shadow.”

“Far Away“ by Sleater-Kinney for “Memorials”
When a local tragedy becomes national news, two vastly different strangers are bound together by fear and devotion. Wailing against slow pounding drums and atonal guitar, Corin Tucker encapsulates the theme of this narrative: “And the heart is hit / in a city far away / but it feels so close.”

“1901” by Birdy for “Lalita Rattapong’s New Microwave”
Lalita Rattapong discovers her new microwave is capable of creating space-time anomalies, and now the author of her life is unsure what comes next. Originally recorded by the band Phoenix, this cover by Birdy best reflects the mood of Lalita’s adventure through Thai history, “Counting all different ideas drifting away / Past and present they don’t matter / Now the future’s sorted out / Watch her moving in elliptical patterns.”

“Giants” by Now, Now for “Preface to Tales of River”
“Like an animal burying its bones / but leaving fingerprints on the walls inside my home.”
Maybe it’s a song about teen angst, or a breakup, or the 2008 market crash and subsequent housing crisis, but its lyrics can be used to articulate the voice of indigenous populations suffering in the shadow of capitalist transnational border policies. As Cacie Dalager sings, “You take our homes but your framework doesn’t hold / against the feet of us giants,” her tone is somber, confident, and a bit ominous. It’s not a threat; it’s a promise not to be disappeared, to continue a culture, a legacy, a mythology. It’s a tone that could come from the story’s central figure, Coventina, who haunts an ESL teacher from a neighboring wealthy nation.

“A Long Walk” by Jill Scott for “She Is a Cosmos”
Alma awakens after a one-night stand, but there’s more to it than that, and so many possibilities.
“…After dark / Find a spot for us to spark / Conversation, verbal elation, stimulation / Share our situations, temptations, education, relaxations…”

“Holy Roller” by Thao & The Get Down Stay Down for “Takeaway”
Nahm is finally attending the annual Chinese New Year dinner with her partner’s upper-class family. It’s an event tense with subtext, made all the more anxiety-inducing by the mobs of protesters roaming the streets outside. As Thao suggests, everyone in this narrative has “minds to ease and thoughts to think through.” They’ve all “got words to keep and lies to make true.”

“Modern Girl” by Sleater-Kinney for “(No Subject)”
There is a sense of irony as Carrie Brownstein croons, “my whole life / was like a picture of a sunny day” against rising distortion; an uneasiness when she suggests that “TV brings me / closer to world.” There is a similar dissonance in this narrative email written by an unnamed protagonist processing how sick they are “of this brave new world.”

“Binary Sea” by Death Cab for Cutie for “#COOKIEMONSTER”
Xiaoting “Rosa” Chen faces manslaughter charges after sixteen-year-old James Hurtado chokes to death on a cookie. But can she receive a fair trial when real life events are so often filtered, edited, or reshaped by the Internet? Is there space for complexity or nuance, for justice, for anyone, in a sea of binary?

“Joyful Girl” by Ani DiFranco for “Twin Pilgrims”
“Everything I do is judged / And they mostly get it wrong / But oh well / ‘Cause / the bathroom mirror has not budged / And the woman who lives there can tell / The truth from the stuff that they say / And she looks me in the eye / And says, ‘would you prefer the easy way? / No? Well, okay, then …’” Geri isn’t joyful, but she wants to be so desperately. And she wants to watch the historic landing of the first manned mission to Mars, but her sister, Livy, won’t stop making noise.

“Recover” by CHVRCHES for “Testaments”
What better track for a reluctant mother/daughter road trip at the end of the world? If they recover, could they be each other’s comfort?

“Hand In My Pocket” by Alanis Morissette for “A Selfish Invention”
It is a late, cold night at a fine arts college in New England, and DaYana is outside her dorm thinking about a short story she’s working on involving a Chinese factory worker. Famed novelist and visiting faculty member Phillip Dawkins is awake too, roaming the campus in search of his missing muse. Maybe DaYana and Dawkins can help one another, since “no one’s really got it figured out just yet.”

“Andromeda” by Hopesfall for “The Ghosts of Takahiro Okyo”
Daisuke is a forest worker in Aokigahara, the Sea of Trees bordering Mt. Fuji. It is a popular destination for people to commit suicide, and Daisuke has displayed a gift for discovering the corpses tormented souls leave behind. But on his first patrol with a new coworker, Daisuke learns that his ability to locate the dead might have greater implications.

Donald Quist and For Other Ghosts links:

the author’s website

AGNI interview with the author
Fiction Writers Review interview with the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

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

Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week – October 18th, 2018

This post was originally published on this site

In the weekly Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week, the Montreal bookstore recommends several new works of fiction, art books, periodicals, and comics.

Librairie Drawn & Quarterly is one of Montreal’s premiere independent bookstores.

Bad Friends

Bad Friends by Ancco

Bad Friends is set in the 1990s in South Korea in the bleak world of cycles of abuse. But at it’s centre is a story about friendship, and what it means to endure despite the hardship. The illustration style is beautiful, all in black and white, and the expressions on everyone’s faces are humorous and so descriptive. It’s a hard read that’s definitely worth it!

Brat

Brat by Michael Deforge

Deforge’s style is unlike any other artist. Colourful and bizarre, his work is absurdly smart and funny. Brat follows the struggles of an aged-out delinquent, looking back at her career and wondering: “My actions were originally politically motivated, but I guess the whole thing got away from me.” Brat is relevant for any artist or activist wondering where their life went, and how they’ve moved from the radical to the mainstream, wondering what it means to be an artist and political.

Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice

Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

Following Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha’s memoir Dirty River, which talks about their experience as a queer mixed race + disabled person, comes Care Work, a book about a movement that centers the lives and leadership of sick and disabled queer, trans, Black, and brown people, although the book packs care information for all. Piepzna-Samarasinha’s work centers radical love and community, and this book is a how-to (start) for anyone trying to build intentional community and what it means to create access for all, a radical idea that is not so radical at it’s foundation.

Heavy

Heavy by Kiese Laymon

“Wow, just wow” is Roxane Gay’s reaction, so we’re already sold. An exciting and timely memoir, Kiese Laymon talks about weight, race, and being a black in America. In his essay, Green, Laymon’s grandmother is in the hospital with an infection in her scalp, the doctor ignoring her cries of pain as he operates, and Laymon contemplates the ways in which “folk always assumed black women would recover but never really cared if black women recovered”. Looking outside of just his own experiences, Heavy is contemplative and compassionate.

Passing by Nella Larsen

A reissue from the Harlem Renaissance, and yet still so relevant. Passing tells the story of two white-passing black women that choose different experiences, one woman deciding to marry a bigoted white man, and live in the word as a white woman, while her friend only chooses to pass when it suits her needs, shocked by her friend’s choices. Meditating on race, anti-blackness, and the ways we choose and don’t choose to be seen, Passing is a classic that everyone should read!

Librairie Drawn & Quarterly links:

Librairie Drawn & Quarterly’s blog
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Facebook page
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Tumblr
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly on Twitter

also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

other Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week

Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly new comics and graphic novel highlights)
Book Notes (authors create music playlists for their book)
guest book reviews
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
WORD Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)

B. A. Shapiro’s Playlist for Her Novel "The Collector’s Apprentice"

This post was originally published on this site
The Collector’s Apprentice

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.

B. A. Shapiro’s novel The Collector’s Apprentice is a compelling and rewarding look at the American and Eurpean art worlds of the Jazz Age.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

“Shapiro delivers a clever and complex tale of art fraud, theft, scandal, murder, and revenge. [Her] portrayal of the 1920s art scene in Paris and Philadelphia is vibrant, and is populated by figures like Alice B. Toklas and Thornton Wilder; readers will be swept away by this thoroughly rewarding novel.”

In her own words, here is B. A. Shapiro’s Book Notes music playlist for her novel The Collector’s Apprentice:

The Collector’s Apprentice takes place in Paris and Philadelphia between 1918 and 1930, and thus covers “The Roaring ’20s”, also known as “The Jazz Age.” Jazz originated in the US, but also really took hold in Paris in the ’20s. The music spread through clubs, speakeasies and dance halls – as well as through the burgeoning recording industry. Broadway show tunes, blues and classical music were also popular during this period, and these too were often influenced by jazz.

Rhapsody in Blue (written by George Gershwin)
Written in 1924, this Gershwin song combined elements of the two most predominant musical genres of the era, jazz and classical, making it one of the most iconic songs of its time. I could certainly imagine Vivienne and other characters in the book—both in Paris and Philadelphia—listening to the tune on one of the new Victrolas (made by the Victor Talking Machine Co., which was founded in the Philadelphia area).

Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out (written by Jimmy Cox, performed by Bessie Smith and many others)
Blues and jazz singer Bessie Smith was born in Tennessee, but began living in Philadelphia in the early ’20s. This blues song wasn’t released until 1929, but could certainly have described the status of young Paulien Mertens at the beginning of the book, when she fled to Paris after the revelation of George’s misdeeds.

Black and Tan Fantasy (written by Duke Ellington and Bubber Miley, performed by Duke Ellington and his Washingtonians)
Duke Ellington was one of the jazz performers who regularly played at the famous Fay’s Theater in Philadelphia in the ’20s. Perhaps Vivienne Gregsby or other Philadelphia-based characters heard this 1927 tune at the club or on record.

Bolero (written by Maurice Ravel)
In the ’20s and ’30s, Ravel was widely regarded as the France’s greatest living classical composer. Bolero, released in 1927 and his best-known work, revealed a jazz influence. I could certainly imagine a recording being played at Gertrude Stein’s salon and enjoyed by her guests such as Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Matisse and Picasso.

La Creation du Monde (written by Darius Milhaud)
Like his classical compatriot Ravel, Milhaud was also influenced by the new jazz music. This influence can be heard in the 1923 composition La Creation du Monde (The Creation of the World). Again, Gertrude Stein and her band of famous American and European friends probably listened to Milhaud recordings such as this.

Dinah (written by Harry Akst, Sam Lewis and Joe Young, performed by Ethel Waters and many others)
Ethel Waters was another 1920’s-era blues and jazz singer with Philadelphia roots. Born and raised in Philadelphia, she became a star via her recordings on the New York City-based Columbia label. Vivienne and others may well have listened to songs such as the 1925 recording Dinah.

Ain’t Misbehavin’ (written by Fats Waller, Harry Brooks and Andy Razaf, performed by Louis Armstrong and many others)
This 1929 jazz standard could well have been a favorite of the Parisians in the ’20s. But it could also represent Vivienne’s attitude toward her affair with Henri Matisse. “. . . Ain’t misbehaving, I’m savin’ my love for you. . .” Moreover, Waller claims that the song was written while he was in prison (for alimony violations), so it also resonates with the fact that Vivienne was in jail around this time.

The Man I Love (written by George and Ira Gershwin, performed by Marion Harris and others)
This 1928 Gershwin composition, recorded by Marion Harris and others, is another song that speaks to Vivienne’s feelings toward the great artist Matisse. The lyrics include: “Some day he’ll come along, the man I love. . . And when he comes my way, I’ll do my best to make him stay.”

B. A. Shapiro and The Collector’s Apprentice links:

the author’s website

Publishers Weekly review

Largehearted Boy Book Notes playlist by the author for The Art Forger

also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

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

Laird Hunt’s Playlist for His Novel "In the House in the Dark of the Woods"

This post was originally published on this site
In the House in the Dark of the Woods

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.

Laird Hunt’s new novel In the House in the Dark of the Woods is a truly haunting work of literary horror.

Booklist wrote of the book:

“Hunt’s accomplished prose creates the atmosphere of possibility and danger that lurks in the best fairy tales, where anything can happen but everything has a cost. Highly recommended for fans of that amorphous border between fantasy, horror, and literary fiction as found in the work of Kelly Link, in Joy Williams’ The Changeling (1978), or in Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber (1979).”

In his own words, here is Laird Hunt’s Book Notes music playlist for his novel In the House in the Dark of the Woods:

“Chant avec cithare”
Burundi: Musiques traditionelles
François Muduga

There is a scene in the novel where an old woman shoves a young woman into a well she can’t climb back up out of. This is the music I hear when I think of that moment. One moment the zither is soft and caressing, the next it’s ready to slap and cut…

“And Still They Move”
Never Were the Way She Was
Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld

I listened to this and thought somehow I had been caught inside a tree, something ancient — a bristlecone pine, or a redwood, or an alpine larch — and was moving around and around its rings but could never reach the center. And this was fine.

Track 4
Ghost Opera, for String Quartet and Pipa, with Stone, Water, Paper and Metal
Tan Dun
Kronos Quartet

The great Spanish artist Francisco Goya made drawings of witches. They float, they fly, they dance, they fight, they steal children, they exude dark delight. Tan Dun’s Ghost Opera is music for those fierce, frightening, feather-footed women.

“Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)”
The Woodstock Experience
Janis Joplin

The 30 seconds between 2:20 and 2:50 of this track are as close to an embodiment of Federico Garcia Lorca’s concept of the Duende (that enervating demon of inspiration that bites and wounds and beats down rather than lifting up in the balm of encouraging embrace). There is a room under the floorboards of the house in the dark of the woods. Those 30 seconds by Janis Joplin live there.

“Aini Ya Aini”
The Best of Oum Kalsoum
Oum Kalsoum

This song lasts a little over 5 minutes but it feels epic, like all the world’s time were packed into it. Over the course of her 50-year career, Kalsoum (often transliterated as Kulthum) repeatedly managed the great trick of making every moment in her songs count without turning her lines into lead. She is simultaneously weighty and effervescent. This kind of balance is what I have strived for in all my novels set in the past, but in this one in particular.

“With the Dark Hug of Time”
Never Were the Way She Was
Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld

Once upon a time there was and there wasn’t a world there was only one way to get out of. This cut, for me, is about that.

“Torrek”
Saman
Hildur Gudnadottir

I bought this album when I was in Marfa, Texas, mainly working on edits of a novel set in and around the Civil War, but also starting to dig a little into what was then just the start of a story about spooky stuff going on in an East Coast woods 300 or so years ago. I’m not ashamed to admit that I willfully misinterpreted the title of the album, which in Icelandic apparently means “together”, as Samhain, scary night, night when you better stay inside, night when the dark half starts. I keep waiting for the spooky movie that puts Gudnadottir’s music to work. Maybe Lenny Abrahamson (of Room and The Little Stranger fame) needs to make it. Whenever I started to slip off track with Goody’s story, all I needed to do was play “Torrek” and I was right back.

“Neon Angels on the Road to Ruin” (Live in Japan)
The Mercury Albums
The Runaways

Fierce vocals, fierce guitar, fierce drums, fierce women. You wouldn’t want to stand in the way of this storm if it was blowing toward you. If you want more storm, try the first 20 seconds of “Queens of Noise”…

“Organs Lost at Sea”
Kiri No Oto
Lawrence English

What scares you? Here’s what scares me: a trail through a woods that grows smaller and smaller until there is no trail at all. Could be in Colonial New England or in a David Lynch movie or in a fairy tale, one of the darker ones, set down by the Brothers Grimm… Playing in the background of my nightmare is “Organs Lost at Sea.”

Laird Hunt and In the House in the Dark of the Woods links:

the author’s website

Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review

Largehearted Boy playlist by the author for The Evening Road
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for The Exquisite
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Kind One
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Neverhome
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Ray of the Star

also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

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

Octavio Solis’s Playlist for His Memoir "Retablos"

This post was originally published on this site
Retablos

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.

Octavio Solis’s Retablos is a poignant and lyrical memoir-in-essays about growing up on the U.S./Mexico border.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

“In this coming-of-age memoir, a playwright illuminates the culture of the El Paso border as he perceived it when he was young. . . . An intriguing work that transcends category, drawing from facts but reading like fiction.”

In his own words, here is Octavio Solis’s Book Notes music playlist for his memoir Retablos:

A retablo is an altarpiece, a thin plate of metal onto which a holy moment is painted depicting a dire event in a person’s life, a prayer to the Divine and the humble thanks for the intervention. It’s this kind of flash fiction form that I employed to recount and reimagine 50 separate moments that shaped my identity as an American born and raised along the border. Each occasion carries its special music, most of it conjured by the era that I wrote about, and I include twelve tracks here. Some of them are specifically cited within the retablo stories, some of them are simply evoked by them. All of them are central to understanding some part of who I was and have become.

1.“Red”
“Dose” by The Latin Playboys

I once tried on my little brother’s glasses and looked at the world through the red lens that he wore to strengthen his “lazy eye.” Everything was painted in the color of blood, and its ominous unreality called to mind the end of the world, fiery and inevitable. I listened to the quirky Chicano eclectronica of the Latin Playboys as I wrote this piece, but “Dose” particularly suited the feeling of this crimson recollection. This title track from their second album is an apt introduction to the dreamy landscapes that haunt my memories.

2. “Nothing Happens”
“Viva Tirado” by El Chicano

1970 was a momentous year for me. Tumult everywhere, in Vietnam, in Paris, in Washington, on campuses, and on the streets of LA, where a young journalist from El Paso, my hometown, was killed by police in the cause of the Chicano movement, which was new to my consciousness at the time. But on the radio and in peoples’ cars, you could hear the music changing with the times, music that seemed to reflect who we were then. Santana, Malo, El Chicano. Music with a real vibe that felt brown like us, but came with the socio-political conscience of the civil rights movement. Their music offered solace and unity, but also thrilled and scared us a little, because listening to it felt like an act of defiance.

3. “The Mexican I Needed”
“The Green Leaves of Summer” by Herb Alpert

In this retablo, I recall my silly infatuation with Herb Alpert, the first in a long line of musical icons that gave me the soundtrack of my youth. My mom had all his records and I played them over and over again. In my ignorance, I misidentified the Tijuana Brass sound as genuinely Mexican music, and I played air-trumpet to so many of his songs. “The Green Leaves of Summer,” though, is a stand-out, not just because it’s a popular American theme song from the film “The Alamo,” but because even today, it evokes a more idyllic time. A fantasy of Mexico that never was. As a boy, I luxuriated in it.

4. “Saturday”
“Un Mojado sin Licencia” by Flaco Jiménez

For us growing up, Saturdays were for going to Ciudad Juárez for our shopping sprees and haircuts. And always upon driving over the puente, we heard the tinny radios blasting the rancheras and cumbias of Mexico all around us. Chief among the instruments was the perennial accordion. I offer here the master himself, Flaco Jiménez singing and playing “Un Mojado Sin Licencia,”a classic ballad recounting how this one young man eager to see his “Chencha” in San Antonio is arrested by the Border Patrol and thrown into jail, only to see his beloved riding off with the “gabacho” who was going to fix him up with a driver’s license.

5. “El Mero Mero”
“Mi Consentida” by Pedro Infante

My father is in his eighties now, but when I was growing up, he was manhood itself. He carried himself with the grace and nobility that daily work and family endowed upon him. In this retablo, I recount how I sought to imitate him, as if being more like him would make me more myself. More Mexican. No one captures that ineffable quality more than Pedro Infante. He was Mexico’s crown prince, the embodiment of everything my Dad strived for and believed in his entire life. Romantic, sturdy and wistful.

6. “First Day”
“Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five” by Paul McCartney and Wings

About the time I started my first real job working with my dad at this popular taco/burger joint in El Paso, Paul McCartney’s Wings released their now classic album “Band on the Run.” The title single got a lot of play on our jukebox there, but the B side got even more. I don’t know how everyone happened to glom on to that song, but we heard “1985” at least 9 or 10 times during my shift. It’s become such an indelible part of that experience, probably more so because we could never figure out what the lyrics were. Now I see the words amount to absolute gibberish, but back then when I was starting to be more than the skinny brown kid at home and school, this track reeled with the hustle and spark of my teen years. See also John Lennon’s “Whatever Gets You Through The Night.”

7. “The Quince”
“Adoro” by Vikky Carr

There isn’t a moment in my teenage wasteland that doesn’t include one of those slow numbers where we hold each other tightly with the lights all low and the grinding sway of our bodies training us for the horizontal dance we’ll take up later. It happened at every wedding and quinceañera, after dancing like nuts to polkas and cumbias and even some soul hits straight off the AM dial. The lights would dim and right after first notes, we’d go racing for the girl we wanted to hold. The signature song in those days was “Adoro” and it’s a key element in this retablo, a supremely sentimental tear-jerker penned by Armando Manzanero. It’s the bolero to which I learned a different kind of dance, one that showed me how to shed my prejudices in order to truly “adore.”

8. “La Mariscal”
“Hope You’re Feelin’ Better” by Santana

This song summons all our darkest nights, and one of them was on my high-school graduation. Some buddies and I had decided to celebrate by going to Juárez’s own red-light district called La Mariscal, legendary among all El Pasoans as the strip on which to suck up la vida loca. But it turned out to be mas loca than we were prepared for. Santana’s screaming guitar recalls the horror show that we encountered on that cruel rite of passage we all think we’re ready for. See also “Young Americans” for the crass naiveté we displayed that night.

9. “Ben”
“I’d Trade All Of My Tomorrows” by Merle Haggard

I didn’t realize when I wrote this retablo that I was really recounting a love story, until I listened to this old 60’s era chestnut. I was just a boy intrigued by Ben, a kind of old-world gentleman cowboy in his 70s who’d taken a shine to me himself. He was a man out of time and I was just finding mine. Longing, loss, and lamentation converge in this story, like in this song, but it’s the easy loping tempo that recalls the slow tortoise walk of Ben as he passes my house on the way to his luncheonette.

10. “El Kitty”
“The First Time Ever I saw Your Face” by Roberta Flack

This song is so firmly attached to a recollection of my sister. Its timbre and sonorous bass-line keep time to the pulse of her heart visible in the vein of her neck. The song is about the first sparks of love, but there’s a decided dolorous quality, as if to suggest that the discovery of love means the loss of everything before. And in this retablo, the moment marks the end of our childhood in one swift mysterious blow, all while Roberta Flack mournfully croons on about some unnamed face. I wonder if my sister still has that 45 single she bought in 1971; I credit it with my growing up.

11. “The Sister”
“Mean Mistreater” by Grand Funk Railroad

The streets of El Paso were mean streets, too. They looked placid and suburban but that was just so you’d lower your guard. You had to be tough if you were going to walk through our neighborhood. This retablo recounts a time I saw a kid bloodied up by a drive-by blade, but it’s my encounter with his sister that raised the level of danger. The car radio was blaring Grand Funk, the Detroit rockers popular on AOR radio at the time, the kind of woozy bluesy number that starts slow, builds to a screeching mad dog crescendo, then drops down again to its deep state of sedation. Many head-phones were blown by the bass-line of this band alone.

12. “El Segundo”
“Suavecito” by Malo

This retablo refers to el Segundo Barrio, or the Second Ward, the oldest remaining neighborhood in El Paso where my mother and father moved to when they came across from Mexico. My mom and I are cruising in her car taking in the sights of these ancient buildings and houses, stopping to visit the old church and buying paletas de coco from the paletero, and I can’t help but hear Malo’s smooth early-70’s classic with its chiming guitars and sweet la-la-las guiding us through our own dilapidated memories. “Suavecito” was our soundtrack, our attitude, it was our pride and apparel, our swaying summertime brown lover. It was how we smoothed over the hardship and bleakness that found us every time in this American city. We beat them at last, but that meant leaving El Segundo behind. Now it needs us back. The old ward may soon disappear if new development plans have their way, but not without a fight, not without a little “Suevecito” to bolster the gente of my town.

Octavio Solis and Retablos links:

the author’s website
the author’s Wikipedia page
excerpt from the book

BookPage review
Foreword Reviews review
Kirkus review

also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

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

Tom Bennitt’s Playlist for His Novel "Burning Under"

This post was originally published on this site
Burning Under

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.

Tom Bennitt’s debut novel Burning Under is a smart and fast-paced literary thriller.

John Brandon wrote of the book:

“Burning Under eloquently evokes the landscape and customs of the mining territory along the West Virginia / Pennsylvania border. Like with most great reads, though, it’s the distinct, idiosyncratic, believable characters that carry the load. These are the foot soldiers of a derided Army, with nothing left to fight for but themselves and those they love, and Tom Bennitt knows them inside and out.”

In his own words, here is Tom Bennitt’s Book Notes music playlist for his debut novel Burning Under:

Most writers I know love music and will passionately defend their favorite bands and songs. I’m no exception. I listen to music – from instrumental to metal, whether for mood or inspiration – while writing, and I believe that my music choices somehow bleed onto the page and influence my work. I love many genres, but this list skews toward classic rock, alt-rock, grunge, and metal, along with a few New Wave, Country, and Rap cuts. The main reason is my novel’s setting, western Pennsylvania: growing up there in the late 80s/early 90s, this music dominated the airwaves. Even today, I find that western Pennsylvanians have an uncanny knowledge and appreciation of classic rock. So, here is the soundtrack to Burning Under.

1. AC/DC – “For Those About to Rock”: AC/DC was huge with my older brother’s crowd, and I love this song’s riff. I’d imagine it playing early in the book, as a prelude to the boxing match or at the Pour House, where Larry and his mining buddies drink.

2. The Clarks – “Cigarette”: An essential nineties tune by Pittsburgh’s best alt-rock band of that decade. And the lyrics capture my novel like nothing else can: In a black and far off corner of my mind there’s a box of something I can’t quite define, and it houses circus freaks, temptation, and the Fayette County Fair.

3. Grateful Dead – “Fire on the Mountain”: Blends two big elements of the novel: the setting and the coal mine fire.

4. Metallica – “Creeping Death”: Such a great tune that would fit many scenes. For example, Larry driving to the Sarver Mine, on the day of the explosion.

5. Devo – “Uncontrollable Urge”: The perfect song for Simon’s nervous tics, playing during his first dinner date with Anita.

6. Explosions in Sky – anything from How Strange, Innocence: I listened to that album so much writing the first draft, I can hear it playing during quiet, cerebral moments.

7. Steve Earle – “Copperhead Road”: Brings to mind Appalachian moonshiners and outlaws. This would play during one of Larry’s flashbacks.

8. Gary Numan – “Cars”: Since the novel has a few extended car/road scenes, I threw this in, one of my favorite ’80s/New Wave tunes.

9. The Pixies – “Gigantic”: Reflecting Simon’s “big, big love” for Anita.

10. STP – “Sex Type Thing”: At the bowling alley with Larry, a slightly drunk Denise dances to this tune on the jukebox.

11. David Bowie & Freddie Mercury – “Under Pressure”: Another song that would fit into many scenes.

12. Missing Persons – “Words”: Captures Simon’s frustration when being attacked and mocked, in court, by the coal company’s litigators.

13. Rush – “The Trees”: Thematically, it captures the slow violence of mining (and capitalism) against the environment. And Simon would make this connection.

14. Styx – “Crystal Ball”: Pittsburgh LOVES Styx! WDVE, the classic rock station, has them on heavy rotation. The Steelers play “Renegade” at every home game. And in the novel, Simon sings “Lady” in his car. But “Crystal Ball” is a more underrated Styx tune that captures Simon’s growing paranoia.

15. Wilco – “Handshake Drugs”: Another great tune I could plug into various chapters.

16. U2 – “Red Hill Mining Town”: From U2’s best album, The Joshua Tree, “Red Hill” is so evocative, almost like Bono singing about a coal-mining ancestor: We scorch the earth, set fire to the sky, we stoop so low to reach so high.

17. Wiz Khalifa – “Black & Yellow”: Would play during the Steelers’ game.

18. Maurice Ravel – “Bolero”: playing right after Simon gets abducted by George. My grandfather loved classical music, and I wrote a paper on “Bolero” for a music theory class in college. (I listened to it for hours.) But the repeated melody still has a hypnotic pull on me.

19. Yes – “Heart of the Sunrise”: The greatest (and creepiest) song intro of all time! Would play during the one of the chaotic final scenes, in the woods.

Tom Bennitt and Burning Under links:

the author’s website
excerpt from the book

also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

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

Jean Thompson’s Playlist for Her Novel "A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl"

This post was originally published on this site
Godsend

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.

Jean Thompson’s A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl is a marvelously poignant novel that explores the lives of three generations of Midwestern women.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

“Thompson’s incisive, intricate novel centers on three generations of women living in a small, unnamed Midwestern college town. As Thompson (Who Do You Love) examines the present and past of each of the three generations of women, she adroitly reveals how their life experiences shaped them into being so different from one another. Intense, compassionate, and satisfying, Thompson’s novel is filled with real, complex characters whose destinies are inextricably tied to the women in their lives.”

In her own words, here is Jean Thompson’s Book Notes music playlist for her novel A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl:

My novel has three generations of women characters, and each of them has a favorite song.

GRANDMOTHER

Evelyn hated her husband’s piano playing. The way he mugged and clowned around, like some kind of vaudeville act. And the songs themselves. No one had taken them seriously for at least forty years. His big number was “The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi”. Swaying back and forth over the keyboard, hamming it up: “Oh the guurl of my dreams is the swee-test guurl. . .”

She had her own taste in music. She liked class and sophistication, actual musicianship, not some jackass noise. Like Ella Fitzgerald singing “Skylark.” Smooth and sad and perfect. No fool amateur could touch it.

MOTHER

Was it silly to think of a song as their song? Not that Laura had ever told him. She was too embarrassed. A secret song to go along with a secret affair. Who would have believed it of her, the world’s most boring wife and mother.

It wasn’t a new song even back then. Had it been on the radio in the bedroom? It was a little bit country, like he was, and a little bit corny, like she was: “Islands In The Stream”, Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton trying to out-sing the other. Dolly lifting up to the high notes on “Oh, sail away.” A song about finding someone and being found, and always having that, even as the river carried everything away.

DAUGHTER

It was an old old blues song but people kept finding it and making it new again, just as Grace had found it and claimed it for her own. “Wild Women Don’t Have The Blues”. Cyndi Lauper sang it. That was how Grace heard it first. A song about being your own woman, and not letting yourself get bent out of shape over some fool man, and being whatever wild meant to you. It was a lot to live up to, and the song didn’t tell you how to do it.

Jean Thompson and A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl links:

Publishers Weekly review

Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Do Not Deny Me
Largehearted Boy playlist by the author for She Poured Out Her Heart
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Throw Like a Girl
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for The Witch and Other Tales Re-Told

also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

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

John Wray’s Playlist for His Novel "Godsend"

This post was originally published on this site
Godsend

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.

John Wray’s mesmerizing novel Godsend is one of my favorite books of the year, a profound exploration of faith and extremism.

The New Yorker wrote of the book:

“[Godsend] becomes much stranger and more original after it arrives in Pakistan, discovering within itself a profound understanding of the demands of religious practice―of religious submission, especially―which has eluded almost every serious contemporary American novelist since 9/11. It is not only Wray’s heroine but also his novel that comes of age, steadily deepening and astounding as it develops . . . The novel exhibits the reportorial authority you might expect, with a command of detail, context, and pace reminiscent of a reality-brined adventurer like Graham Greene or Robert Stone. (Hardly a negligible achievement, by the way.) . . . It’s characteristic of this novel’s combination of wise reticence and considerable daring that an event so often at the center of contemporary American fiction, labored over and lingered on, anguished over and analyzed, is here pushed off to the margins like gossip. In the Afghan landscape, what has happened in America is almost as impossible or hypothetical as science fiction; Wray quietly leaves its terrible implications and consequences in the earth, like unexploded ordnance.”

In his own words, here is John Wray’s Book Notes music playlist for his novel Godsend:

Aden Grace Sawyer may still be a teenager when her story begins, but Godsend is a novel about the mystical experience, about escaping one’s sad little self in search for something larger—something more beautiful, something to live for, and to die for—which makes this list for Largehearted Boy (my fourth!) especially well-stocked with masterpieces. Aside from sexual love and its aftermath, has any subject yielded so many songs of exquisite heartbreak as the attempt to know, or touch, or even catch a fleeting glimpse, of heaven? I’ve always had a thing for spiritual music—which, it could be argued, is all music. As no less an egghead than Albert Einstein once wrote to his wife, music may in fact be the only language humanity has ever found in which to talk to god, and actually have him answer.

ALLA HOO – NUSRAT FATEH ALI KHAN

I’ll start off with the most beautiful song of Muslim devotion I know, since the hero of my story finds her transcendence in Islam, and specifically the Islam practiced in the tribal regions along the Afghan/Pakistani border, not far from where Khan himself lived for much of his life. ‘Alla Hoo’ is a deceptively straightforward song of praise to God, but with each repetition the spell it weaves intensifies, much as movement and rhythm must do for the Sufi dancers known to the Western world as ‘whirling dervishes.’ I played this song on loop for days on end while I was writing Godsend’s first draft.

AFTER FOREVER – BLACK SABBATH

Not many people know that Ozzy’s Black Sabbath put out what is essentially a Christian rock album, and that the album in question, Master of Reality, is arguably the best thing Sabbath ever recorded. Any genre of music can be—and often has been—used to take on the loftiest possible themes, and these coke-addled gents from Birmingham turn out to be naturals at combining theology with smoking, ten-ton riffs. I’ll take ‘After Forever’ over most classical church music any day.

THE GREATEST – CAT POWER

I was fortunate enough to meet Chan Marshall the first day I ever spent in New York City. She wasn’t famous yet, in fact didn’t even have a record out, and I could never have predicted that she, of all the talented and glamorous people drifting more or less aimlessly around the East Village, would end up making music that would outlive that sordid time and place. When I first heard ‘The Greatest,’ it gave me chills to think I’d actually known the human being responsible for music of such excruciating, supernatural beauty. It still gives me chills. Chan is a natural mystic, I think: even when you don’t quite understand what she’s singing about, you know that there’s nothing less at stake than life and death.

ASCENSION – JOHN COLTRANE

Coltrane probably comes to mind at this point because Chan always loved him, placing him (and maybe Bob Dylan) above all other musical and spiritual lodestars. But of course, out of just about every American musician I can think of, John Coltrane most demands pride of place in this list. I could just as easily have picked A Love Supreme, or Soultrane, or any of his other brain-bogglingly transcendent recordings. Coltrane’s instrument was just that for him—a tool in his search for something beyond himself. If you only listen to one track from this list, make it ‘Ascension.’ (Public Service Announcement: it’s a long one.)

TRANSCENDENCE – ALICE COLTRANE

There’s no John without Alice—or shouldn’t be. I discovered her by way of her more famous husband, like everyone else in the world, but I probably listen to her music more often now than his. Maybe that’s because it’s more human, somehow, and therefore more moving. It’s certainly no less beautiful, or intelligent, or true. In some ways I wish I’d come across Alice first. This is some of the most generous music ever made. It makes me want to be a better person. What could be more spiritual than that? I like to think Godsend’s protagonist, Aden Sawyer, would have listened to her too. They have a lot in common.

UP ABOVE MY HEAD – SISTER ROSETTA THARPE

No one’s ever made salvation sound more fun and feasible than Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Not only was she one of American music’s most ass-kicking, fire-licking guitar players, hands-down, she was one of rock and roll’s most central, important creators, though she’s never been granted her due in that regard. Why isn’t Sister Rosetta in the so-called Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? I guess the Eagles must have been given her slot. Storm the gates! Burn the city of Cleveland to the ground! This concludes the political section of this list. What’s a listicle without a rant?

SOUND AND VISION – DAVID BOWIE

A friend of mine with a PhD in Thin White Duke Studies points out that there are any number of Bowie tunes that would qualify for inclusion in a list of spiritual numbers, but I’m picking Sound and Vision for no other reason than the fact that I love it so much. God always lived inside of art for Bowie, and nowhere is that more clear than in this song, which features the Man Himself waiting to be touched by the divine in a small, spare room (that just so happens to be painted electric blue), no differently than Fra Angelico in his meditation cell in Renaissance Florence, or Joan of Arc the night before her execution.

The myth of Joan of Arc just so happens to have been important to the writing of Godsend, which also tells the story of a young woman who dresses as a man to take up arms in a war that she believes is holy.

This song is also the anthem of struggling writers everywhere, whether they know it or not. I will sit right down, wait here for the gift of sound and vision.

VISION CREATION NEWSUN – BOREDOMS

Another piece of music in which the search for god and for artistic inspiration are impossible to tell apart. Before Animal Collective came along and made mysticism hip again, Japan’s Boredoms made outer-limits-of-the-known-universe exploration their prime directive and delivered some of the strangest and most mysterious albums of their age. I could have chosen any one of this LP’s nine separate tracks, each one marked only with a symbol, but really they’re all part of one larger, all-encompassing sonic pilgrimage. Not for the faint of heart!

TOUCH THE HEM OF HIS GARMENT – SAM COOKE & THE SOUL STIRRERS

No list of spiritual music—or transcendent music, or beautiful music, or maybe just music in general—would be complete without the greatest gospel group of all time. Sam Cooke would go on to make ‘worldly music,’ of course, and we all know how extraordinary those profane love songs—’Cupid,’ ‘You Send Me,’ ‘Lovable, Wonderful World,’ ‘Another Saturday Night,’ ‘Working On the Chain Gang’—would be; but it’s really the ghost of the gospel songs he began with that gives his later hits their soul-stirring power. ‘Touch the Hem of His Garment’ brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it. Aden’s father used to play a crackly old ’45 of it every Sunday when she was growing up, and when she’s in mortal danger in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, many years later, this is the song she calls to mind to give herself courage and hope. She needs it desperately, and these days, so do we. As a DJ once famously said, back in 1964, ‘Sam Cooke is yours. He belongs to every one of us. He’ll never die.’

John Wray and Godsend links:

the author’s Wikipedia entry

New York Times review
New Yorker review

Largehearted Boy playlist by the author for Lowboy

also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

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

Chaya Bhuvaneswar’s Playlist for Her Story Collection "White Dancing Elephants"

This post was originally published on this site
White Dancing Elephants

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.

Chaya Bhuvaneswar’s brilliant debut collection White Dancing Elephants is filled with stories about diverse women facing violence.

Kirkus wrote of the collection:

“Stunning, evocative, electric…an exuberant collection.”

In her own words, here is Chaya Bhuvaneswar’s Book Notes music playlist for her story collection White Dancing Elephants:

My debut story collection, White Dancing Elephants was written over several years – so music was definitely a major thread. In the hospital, where I practice as a doctor, music is essential – whether blaring from a janitor’s iPod (I still actually have a mix-tape of Regina Belle that a janitor once gave me in a hospital cafeteria) – or playing in my car on the way to work, when I listen to songs and sometimes record a sentence or two that comes into my head with tunes in the background.

Recently I told a friend whose musical taste runs to the passionate: my stories are about people who are unexpectedly aroused to fury. While writing, I listened to proud, assertive women pioneers of rock; but it has also been important to listen to songs from Indians in Uganda, the Caribbean, New England, even Portugal, because these are voices from our diaspora, and these voices tell the stories in my book as well. And running alongside the narrative engine of instances of violence are loss and betrayal – like two dark figures racing each other. I search around for them in songs.

White Dancing Elephants
A story about a woman at the London Zoo, on the grass near Magdalen Park, a woman trying to go anywhere, away from her grief. “Ever So Lonely,” by the wonderful British-Asian vocalist Sheila Chandra is the song I’d set to this story, all the more so because of how transient the beauty of that voice is, how perfect and fleeting, with Chandra no longer able to sing now because of vocal cord paralysis. A story and song both inadvertently on loss.

The Story of the Woman Who Fell in Love with Death
Would have to be “Learning to Fly” by the late, great Tom Petty, whose voice I imagine as being in the thoughts of the young boy learning how to live without his beloved sister.

Talinda
Since this story juxtaposes the deep, abiding intimacy between a Korean-American and Indian-American woman with Bette Davis movies, I feel like I’m entitled to be a little nostalgic and pick Kim Carnes’ “She’s Got Bette Davis Eyes,” which also speaks to the fascination that the title character, Talinda, has for the narrator, Narika.

A Shaker Chair
There might be such a thing as a perfect song, independent of whatever story it’s attached to, though I can almost hear the heartstrings being plucked of the main character in this story, by Joan Armatrading singing “The Weakness in Me.” “I have a lover/ Who loves me/ How could I be such a fool? But still you’ve got my attention” as the song sways into erotic inevitability, regret, a ruin that really satisfies.

Jagatishwaran
A story about a painter with his masks on the walls, the dancers in his head and in his dreams, the shadowy paid lovers he visits. What helped: the stunning Ravi Shankar score of the black and white dance movie, Anuradha, based on a Bengali short story inspired by Madame Bovary. Lots of my friends’ parents know the song that starts “Kaise din”, the English translation of which starts,” How I spent my nights and days, My beloved has no idea.”

The Bang Bang
Mainly because the father-poet character in this story draws on Sanskrit of his childhood – I listened (or should have listened more) to the religious classical singer, MS Subhalakshmi singing “Kamakshi Suprabhatam,” good morning to the mother goddess. Sung in Sanskrit, in her uniquely heavy, pious, joyous, piercing voice. It’s like no other experience.

Orange Popsicles
In this story, there is one sweet thing for a character who survives violence and rape. Hint: it’s not a popsicle. Hence that song from years ago by the amazing Mary J. Blige – “Sweet Thing,” her glorious cover of a Chaka Khan song, and those lines, which in this story apply to the heroine’s artwork and not a person: “You are my heat/ You are my fire/ You make me burn with soft desire.”

Neela
Bhopal 1984. Told from the perspective of a child looking into a mirror, a child traumatized by the chemical gas leak that killed thousands in India exposed to a Union Carbide pesticide factory, the story made me think of children’s songs, like Peter, Paul and Mary singing “Puff the Magic Dragon.”

Chronicle of a Marriage, Foretold
The push and pull of this story, between male and female will, between the animate and paralyzed, got summed up by this song by Bonnie Raitt that I favor during any karaoke outing: ” I Can’t Make You Love Me.” What can any of us make any other person do, ever?

Heitor
I swear I couldn’t possibly have written this story if it weren’t for the soundtrack of the movie Inside Man, where Spike Lee appropriated A.R. Rahman’s score for the Bollywood movie Dil se, particularly the fast moving, celebration “Chaiyya, Chaiyaa,” which despite being spelled differently, is actually my name. I’ve watched that movie, Inside Man, about a million times (not the least for a killer seductive Jodie Foster, OMG…AND an almost as seductive Clive Owen, at his most-est when interacting with the little boy he’s pretended to kidnap) – I’m positive it seeped into my brain and got transmogrified when I wrote this super short twister of a heist story about Indian-Portuguese slaves in the 16th century.

Newberry
All I’ll say about this second heist story is that in the getaway car, Vinita is listening to Britney Spears’ song, “Toxic.” As I must confess I myself do at least three or four times a week.

Asha in Allston
Imagining the wife in the garage with an android – can’t help but thinking of Carrie Underwood singing that song I like enough to put aside her (possible red state) politics: “Before He Cheats,” the one where she uses a Louisville slugger on the guy’s doomed headlights.

The Life You Save Isn’t Your Own
Because there’s so much hope and light in this story, because it involves a ferry and Sausalito and because I love Vienna Tang – a song my partner hates because it’s a “chick song” – “Harbor.” “The light in me will guide you home.” I sang that song over the phone to my partner many, many times while I was writing these stories. Many.

The Orphan Handler
This story, narrated by someone whose cynicism is cracked a bit by the unusual orphans she encounters, had Elvis Costello (sexiest cynical voice I know) in the background, invisible, “Watching the Detectives” – even though, sadly, there are no detectives anywhere to save the girls in this story.

In Allegheny
“I’m in so deep/ You know I’m such a fool for you/ You got me wrapped around your finger…” is probably the line that the heroine, Michelle, sings while she’s driving up the Allegheny Mountains, toward a distinguished-looking Hindu temple next to a Hooters bar. I love “Linger” – R.I.P. Dolores O’Riordan, of the Cranberries.

The Goddess of Beauty Goes Bowling
If the girl in this story could sing along to this song she would: “Cool like dat” by digable planets. There are a million good songs on that album, their debut, including appointment at the fat clinic just based on titles alone, but that song “We zoom like dat/ We out” is so comforting, and would be to the title character, the lonely girl so radically without a ‘we’, except for the ‘we’ her father feels she stole from him, the ‘we’ of this girl and her mother.

Adristakama
Since this story is about two women who break each other’s hearts a million different ways, and yet like the breaking and rejoining enough to never ever stop craving it, that heartbreak unique to what each of them can do to each other, there’s really no other song to sing but “Constant Craving” by k.d. lang, and yes, go to karaoke with me and I’ll show you how it’s done.

Chaya Bhuvaneswar and White Dancing Elephants links:

excerpt from the book
excerpt from the book

Foreword review
Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review

formercactus interview with the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

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