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July 20, 2017

Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week - July 20, 2017

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.


Women in Sports: 50 Fearless Athletes Who Played to Win

Women in Sports: 50 Fearless Athletes Who Played to Win
by Rachel Ignotofsky

Writer and artist Rachel Ignotofsky has turned her attention from those of the brain—Women in Science (2016)—to those of brawn with Women in Sports, featuring illustrated biographies of inspiring athletes, from Keiko Fukuda to Serena Williams.


Women Who Kill

Women Who Kill
by Sarah Tanat-Jones

“Femmes fatales”, indeed. Women Who Kill profiles some of history’s infamous self-defenders, avengers, and psychopaths, accompanied by visceral and beautiful illustrations.


The Ministry of Utmost Happiness

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness
by Arundhati Roy

The long-awaited new novel from the internationally-celebrated author of The God of Small Things (1997) is a deeply humane romp spanning many years across the Indian subcontinent, displaying Arundhati Roy’s storytelling finesse.


Fourth Walk

Fourth Walk
by Jessica Bebenek

Prominent Montreal/Toronto based poet Jessica Bebenek has followed up 2014’s Kettle Song with Fourth Walk, an intimate poetry chapbook brimming with guttural lyricism.


The Dark-Dark

The Dark-Dark
by Samantha Hunt

Samantha Hunt spins her thread of horror through the loom of banality in this collection of ten wonderful, gothic stories.


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)






July 20, 2017

Shorties (The State of South African Literature, New Music from Wolf Parade, and more)

The Times Literary Supplement examined the state of South African literature.


Stream a new Wolf Parade song.


David Burr Gerard talked to Paste about his new novel The Epiphany Machine.


SouthFlorida.com profiled singer-songwriter Jason Isbell.


Bookworm interviewed author Jim Gauer.


Arkells covered St. Vincent's "New York."


Calvin Trillin talked books and reading with the New York Times.


PopMatters interviewed Brian Shimkovitz, who runs the record label Awesome Tapes from Africa.


The Otherppl podcast interviewed author Nathan Hill.


Stream a new Mount Kimbie song.


Literary Hub features an excerpt from Rachel Khong's debut novel Goodbye, Vitamin.


Uncut interviewed Chris Schlarb about his band Psychic Temples.


The Rumpus interviewed author Kate Schatz.


Stream a new Josh Ritter song.


The Otherppl podcast interviewed author Julia Fierro.


Paste searched for protest Music of the Trump era and found it in unexpected places.


Entropy interviewed poet Jenn Givhan.


Stream a new song by Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer.


Tony Kushner is writing a play about Donald Trump.


The Creative Independent shared a conversation between Emel Mathlouthi and Victoria Ruiz about protest music.


The New Yorker features new fiction by Amelia Gray.


Stereogum interviewed the members of the band Priests.


VICE shared an excerpt from Svetlana Alexievich’s book The Unwomanly Face of War.


Stream a new Amy O song.


Luna covered Mink DeVille's Let Me Dream If I Want To.


Stereogum interviewed Jenny Lee Lindberg of Warpaint.


Aquarium Drunkard interviewed Robyn Hitchcock.


Code Switch profiled poet Bao Phi.


Paste recommended "feminist rager" songs for summer.


Smithsonian magazine shared a tour of Victor Hugo's Paris.


Fresh Air interviewed singer-songwriter Billy Bragg.


eBooks on sale for $1.13 today:

After Henry by Joan Didion

eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

The Birthday of the World by Ursula K. Le Guin
Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut
Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
Cloudsplitter by Russell Banks
The Coral Sea by Patti Smith
Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut
Girl in the Woods by Aspen Matis
God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut
Journey to the End of the Night by Celine
Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges
The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt
Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut
Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin
Peony by Pearl S. Buck
Requiem for a Dream by Hubert Selby, Jr.
The Rings of Saturn by W.G. Sebald
Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
Slapstick by Kurt Vonnegut
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
A Sport and a Pastime by James Salter
This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash
Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut
The Toughest Indian in the World by Sherman Alexie
Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons by Kurt Vonnegut
Welcome to the Monkey House by Kurt Vonnegut
Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

eBooks on sale for $2.99 today:

Blue Boy by Rakesh Satyal
The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley
A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler
John Crow's Devil by Marlon James
Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume
The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth

eBooks on sale for $3.99 today:

Every Kind of Wanting by Gina Frangello
How the World Works by Noam Chomsky
The Hunters by James Salter
Sam Shepard: A Life by John Winters



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
WORD Bookstores Books of the Week (recommended new books)
weekly music release lists


July 19, 2017

Book Notes - Andrew Sean Greer "Less"

Less

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 Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Lauren Groff, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Andrew Sean Greer's new novel Less is a heartfelt comedy, possibly his best book yet.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"Less is perhaps Greer's finest yet.... A comic yet moving picture of an American abroad.... Less is a wondrous achievement, deserving an even larger audience than Greer's bestselling The Confessions of Max Tivoli."


In his own words, here is Andrew Sean Greer's Book Notes music playlist for his novel Less:



LESS AT FIRST

"Wonder Where I'm From" by the Magnetic Fields

Well what luck: the peerless Magnetic Fields came out with an album this spring called 50 Song Memoir with one song for every year of songwriter Stephin Merritt's life. Like their famous 69 Love Songs, it goes from cowboy song to sea shanty to disco without any reason (but with plenty of rhyme). There is no progression—just like life? But it's marvelous. No reason not to start with the first song, about the year of his birth. After all: he's exactly the same age as Arthur Less.


LESS MEXICAN

"El Rey" by Alejandro Fernandez vs. "El Rey" by his father Vincente Fernandez

I have performed this song many many times, accompanying myself on ukulele, and people have noted times that I don't actually play the ukulele during the song but instead gesture with it. I feel this is in keeping with the spirit of the song, as well as the spirit of my lack of talent. It is a classic mariachi song, in which a total loser—who has "no crown or queen"--is nonetheless a king. This is never explained. But I turn you to pop star Alejandro Fernandez and his father Vicente, who truly is the king.


LESS ITALIAN

"La Donna Cannone"

By Francesco de Gregori, a beguiling and baffling Elton-Johnesque song that seems to be about a "human cannonball" performer who, in love with a man she cannot be with, shoots herself into the stars. I think. My Italian is terrible. But it's quite beautiful.

"Roma, non fa la stupida sasera"

Okay. So this one time when I had a reading in Rome, I had the great idea to perform a song as well, and friend said this one would be perfect. No problem; you just learn the lyrics in the Roman dialect! They'll eat it up! I practiced for weeks and weeks and when it finally came to the moment—I forgot the words. When you forget the words in your own language, you can kind of make them up. When you forget the words in a foreign language, you sort of make up "tonalities" of Roman-sounding words that of course sound totally ludicrous to listeners. If you like that sort of thing, you can look up a video of me making a fool of myself with a great deal of audience laughter, but I ask you: what kind of horrible person are you to look that up?


LESS GERMAN

Maria & Margot Hellwig – "Geburtstagsjodler"



This is the video I sent to every friend on their birthday. It is the famous mother-daughter yodeling team of Maria and Margot Hellwig. It seems to be from a television show in the seventies, when Germany was of course still a divided country. The pure innocence of the song (basically, "I am giving you a yodeler for your birthday") is bizarre and charming and then bizarre again.

Silly featuring Anna Loos – "Kopf an Kopf"

To cleanse your palate, let me offer "Kopf an Kopf" by Silly, featuring Anna Loos. It was a famous East German band whose lead singer died in 1996. Anna Loos joined not long ago, and is spectacular. I guess I should mention she's a friend of mine. This song begins quietly and builds like my favorite eighties ballads. Did I mention they are on tour right now?


LESS FRENCH

Jacques Brel - La chanson des vieux amants

I am not putting this in to depress you; even if you are lucky enough not to understand French, you can't miss the despair and regret in his voice, and you are going to get depressed anyway. I'm putting this in because one lovely evening I had the pleasure of singing this with the great French writer Maylis DeKerangal. Well, I didn't sing; I played ukulele. Well, I didn't really play; I gestured. But in my memory, we were fantastic!


LESS MOROCCAN

Moustapha Baqbou

I was staying in Marrakech with some musicians and, being a basically cowardly person, I ventured out now and then to buy shoes in the market, maneuvering my way back with GPS as if through a wilderness area. I recall returning to the riad to discover the musicians, who I had left hungover by the fountain, had gone out and made friends. They had bought instruments down the street and invited the musicians there over to play, and by gosh there they all were. I will never be a person like that; I can't even get the local coffee shop guy to remember me after 20 years. And they were playing gnawa. Gnawa is about a group--"jamming" I guess if you're the kind of jerk who talks that way, which apparently I am—but you can start with the premier lute player in Morocco: Moustapha Baqbou.


LESS INDIAN

"Daddy Cool" by Boney M

I spent a wonderful six weeks at an artist residency in Kerala, India a few years ago. It was really just beginning, and there were only two of us there: me, and a college-age painter from England. We went a little mad. For one thing: it was a dry state, so we never got a drink at the end of the day. Desperate, we went online to find out how to make coconut beer; we had coconut-seller cut open a coconut and put the juice into a water bottle, then we bought yeast, put in jaggery (a kind of sugar) and waited for a week. Then we drank it. It tasted like paper towels, and we got roaring drunk. Anyway, the point of my story is that we were chatting with Benny, the lovely man who helped run the place, and he had never heard of any Western bands we thought would be universal; not the Beatles, not Elvis Presley, not the Rolling Stones. But we did find one band he knew: Boney M. So here you are.


LESS AT LAST

"The Book of Love" by the Magnetic Fields

I was considering ending with "Been Around the World" by Lisa Stansfield because she ROCKS IT in a spit-curl, but I think everybody danced to that song too many times in the 90s and now it only reminds me of waiting for my laundry at Star Wash on Dolores. So I picked another Magnetic Fields. It's not from 50 Song Memoir. But I love it. It begins complaining that a book is too boring and ends with a marriage proposal. Like many high school romances.


Andrew Sean Greer and Less links:

the author's website
the author's Wikipedia entry
excerpt from the book

Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review
Washington Post review

WBUR 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

Largehearted Boy's 2017 Summer Reading Suggestions

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
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


Book Notes - James Kelman "Dirt Road"

Dirt Road

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 Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Lauren Groff, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

James Kelman's latest novel Dirt Road is a masterfully told and poignant coming-of-age tale.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"A powerful meditation on loss, life, death, and the bond between father and son. . . . Kelman has created a fully-realized, relatable voice that reveals a young man’s urgent need for connection in a time of grief."


In his own words, here is James Kelman's Book Notes music playlist for his novel Dirt Road:



In Dirt Road a number of songs are incorporated into the text. I wrote the story originally as a screenplay. This made the novel-writing process trickier than expected. But whether screenplay or novel I listened to music: roots music, Americana.

Following the death of his mother sixteen-year-old Murdo, a musician from Scotland, visits an elderly aunt and uncle in Alabama. He is there with his father. They fly into Memphis Airport and take a bus from there. After certain blunders they wind up in Mississippi and book into a motel for the night. Next morning Murdo wanders off to buy food at the nearest convenience store. As he approaches he hears someone playing an accordion music he hasn't heard before. This is zydeco and the song I had in mind is "Last Dance Waltz" by Boozoo Chavis. He was not the first zydeco musician I heard; I just liked him more. The first I heard him was on a beautiful vinyl album I bought back in 1972, a straight blues anthology, where he was said to play "zodico."

My character Murdo plays accordion mainly. His musical background is Celtic, and the Scottish end of that. Songs played here include "Fella from Fortune" by Harry Hibbs, from his Very Best of . . . Vol. 1. Harry Hibbs was from the east coast of Newfoundland and draws more from the Irish tradition. Fortune is a port in the Burin Peninsula where the ferry connects to the French island of St. Pierre which was central to the alcohol bootlegging industry back in the "prohibition era." Some of my wife's people are from this area. Other songs played here are by Minnie White from the west coast of Newfoundland. West coast musicians have a distinctive Scottish and French influence, not French in general but from the French-Acadian tradition associated with the Canadian Maritimes.

Acadian music—better known as "cajun"—is crucial to the story. Minnie White was a tradition-bearer. In the album I have, recorded when she was around eighty years old, we hear jigs, square-dances, waltzes and polka, not only French and Scottish but Irish, Mi'kmaq and Viking.

There have been Scots and French people going back three centuries here. Basque, Bretagne, Viking and Celtic fishermen have been around there for much longer. According to rumour there are French-speaking people in isolated dwellings without electricity to this day, who don't know telephones have been invented, nor that Napoleon's France sold off Louisiana to the USA.

The Acadian people were dispossessed, following the British defeats of the French a couple of hundred years ago. They had to move and many traveled south, settling in west Louisiana. This is the origin of the Cajun people in this part of the world. Their culture brought that old Bretagne-French style, mixed with some of that Scottish and Irish tradition. They laced it with country, bluegrass and swing—western and New Orleans–style—and produced the definitive cajun sound. During the annual international festival in Lafayette bands arrive from all over the world, many of which are accordion-based. Many years ago I visited the festival with my wife and there was an all-girl band of accordionists from Fogo Island, Newfoundland.

Zydeco and cajun music have much in common yet are rooted in a different French tradition. Zydeco derives from the Creole tradition, always updated, always contemporary; the rhythms, musical heritage and culture influences of Africa, as well as France. The slave trade didn't sit well with French ideals of liberté, égalité and fraternité, and Creole people of African origin could find a route to freedom. Traditional cajun has learned from zydeco to move with the times, to be a music that young people can enjoy and to which they might contribute the verve and strengths of their own generation. This contemporary approach is symbolised in the story by Murdo's early acquisition of two CD albums; one a compilation of zydeco musicians and the other by the late Beau Jocque & The Zydeco Hi-Rollers, playing a zydeco influenced by jazz, swing and blues, by rock, conjunto and funk. Musicians such as Beau Jocque are criticised by some traditionalists for moving too far, but music is alive, music is a living thing.

American roots music saturates the story. On one car journey Murdo's uncle plays a bluegrass track by Bill Monroe. Monroe is as central to American music as Doc Watson, Jimmie Rodgers, Hazel Dickens; Victoria Spivey, Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, Huddie Ledbetter, Lydia Mendoza, James Brown, Dewey Balfa or the Jiminez family from San Antonio. Monroe was another tradition-brearer; his ancestors hailed from the island of Lewis, like my own father's mother, not to mention the mother of Donald Trump.

At one point Dirt Road leads northeast of Huntsville, en route to Chattanooga. Murdo hears medleys of jigs, reels, waltzes, strathspeys, what some might describe as Scotch Muzak; a music made for dancing. This is mountain territory, Cherokee territory where two hundred years ago an important chief of the Cherokee Nation was John Ross, son of a Scottish father and a Cherokee mother. Here is encountered a mix of genres, exemplified by Doc Watson's folk, blues, swing and bluegrass, which I first heard on the original 1964 Newport Festival album, Vol. 3 (which I won in a card game in 1967). Dewey Balfa plays on the same album as a member of "The Cajun Band."

In my story Murdo connects with a finger-pickin' guitarist hailing from a different southern experience. This fellow revels in his between-songs comments on the complexity of the Scots-Irish heritage within the American Civil War. He knows intimately his musical heritage, is provocative in his statements, attacking the anti-Catholicism of that old Protestant tradition that can degenerate into reactionary forms. He is upfront anti-racist, anti-sectarian, who can play Merle Travis, Son House, Elmore James and Hop Wilson, and lets nobody forget the inscription on Woody Guthrie's guitar—"this machine kills fascists."

Later in a Louisiana blues club the music heard includes the piano playing of the inimitable Professor Longhair, a seminal figure of that wonderful New Orleans sound. Finally, Murdo encounters another musical genre at the heart of Americana: conjunto, Tex-Mex. Within this are strains of Czech-German and traditional Mexican forms, e.g., Mariachi and Ranchera.

In putting together the film version of the story I worked with the director Kenny Glenaan, whom I've known for many years. We were fortunate indeed to have Kentucky-musician maestro Dirk Powell in at the heart of it with us. Without their input on the film of this story, the actual novel would have gone in a different direction. I was lucky.

THE PLAYLIST:

"Last Dance Waltz," "Jolie Catan," Boozoo Chavis, Zydeco Homebrew
"Forty One Days," Boozoo Chavis, from Nothing but the Blues (UK compilation)
"C'Est Moi," "I-10 Express," "La Bas 2 Step," Queen Ida and Her Zydeco Band, Cookin' with Queen Ida
"Blue Skirt Waltz," "Johnny Mac's Jig," Minnie White, The Hills of Home
"Fella from Fortune," Harry Hibbs, from his Very Best of Harry Hibbs Vol. 1
"I'm on My Way Back to the Old Home," Bill Monroe, Music of Bill Monroe: 1936 to 1994 (Disk 1)
"Coal Miner's Blues," Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard, Pioneering Women of Bluegrass
"I'm on the Wonder," "Gonna Take You Downtown," "It's So Easy When You're Breezin'," Beau Jocque & The Zydeco Hi-Rollers, Gonna Take You Downtown
"Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand," Professor Longhair, The Primo Collection
"The Chattanooga Choochoo," by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren, lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
"(We're not) The Jet Set," Tammy Wynette and George Jones (by Bobby Braddock, lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC)
"Bluebell Polka (Tribute to Jimmy Shand)," Jim MacLeod's All-Star Scottish Dance Band
"Macpherson's Farewell," Hamish Imlach, The Definitive Transatlantic Collection
"I Have Seen the Highlands," Matt McGinn, The Best of Matt McGinn
"Bonaparte's Retreat," "When I Die," "The Lone Pilgrim," Doc Watson and Family, The Doc Watson Family Album
"Doc's Guitar," Doc Watson, Doc Watson
"Be Careful with the Blues," Hop Wilson & His Buddies, Steel Guitar Flash
"Bosco Stomp," The Cajun Band, Newport Folk Festival 1964—Evening Concerts Vol. 3
"Blue Ridge Mountain Blues," Doc Watson, Newport Folk Festival 1964—Evening Concerts Vol. 3
"Marching Through Georgia," written by Henry Clay Work
"The Yellow Rose of Texas," traditional (see www.civilwarheritagetrails.org/civil-war-music/the-yellow-rose-of-texas.html)
"The Ballad of Glencoe," Jim McLean (© Duart Music)
"Dark Island," Iain McLachlan, An Island Heritage
"Paradise," John Prine, John Prine
"If I Could Only Fly," Blaze Foley, Live at the Austin Outhouse
"The Fate of Talmedge Osborn," Ernest Stoneman and Kahle Brewer, My Rough and Rowdy Ways, Vol. 1
"Whistling Song," "Indian Whoop," James Bryan and Carl Jones, Two Pictures
"J'ai soulé dans la salle de danse," The Creole Zydeco Farmers, Live in Louisiana
"Je me suis marillié," "Tit galop pour mamou," "Indian on a Stump," "Two step a hadley," Dewey Balfa, The Balfa Brothers Play Traditional Cajun Music Vol. I & II
"(Is Anybody Going to) San Antone," "Chicano," Doug Sahm & Friends, The Best of Doug Sahm's Atlantic Sessions
"Margarita Margarita," Santiago Jiménez, Jr., Corazón de Piedra
"Ay Te Dejo En San Antonio," Flaco Jiménez, Ay Te Dejo En San Antonio y Mas!
"Tus Mentiras," Texas Tornados, Hangin' On by a Thread


James Kelman and Dirt Road links:

the author's website
the author's Wikipedia entry

Boston Globe review
Financial Times review
Guardian review
Kirkus review
Observer review
Publishers Weekly review
Spectator review

Largehearted Boy Book Notes playlist by the author for Mo Said She Was Quirky


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

Largehearted Boy's 2017 Summer Reading Suggestions

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
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


Book Notes - Gunnhild Øyehaug "Knots"

Knots

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 Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Lauren Groff, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Gunnhild Øyehaug's proves herself one of our finest stortytellers in her short fiction collection Knots, a book marvelously varied in form and theme.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"Formally playful, poignant, understated, and often acutely funny, Øyehaug's English-language debut teems with humanity . . . A near-perfect collection about the knots we tie ourselves into and the countless ways we intertwine in the pursuit of sex, love, compassion, and family."


In her own words, here is Gunnhild Øyehaug's Book Notes music playlist for her short fiction collection Knots:



Dear reader of the Largehearted Boy,

I'll be honest: I don't like being a DJ. When I have friends over, I usually ask them to pick the music. When I put mine on, it's feels as if I'm showing them my secrets, unfiltered, and usually I just like to transform that – whatever it is – into texts. I don't want my friends to know that I'm walking around feeling like a sentence in Radiohead's "How to disappear completely", or that I identify completely with a disharmonic point in a piano tune by Shostakovich, or that I start dancing unvoluntarily if I've put Jason Derulo "Kiss the Sky" on. But I'm making an exception for this blog, under considerable doubt. And with one, single rule; I'm going to have to be honest. I'm going to make a list of some of the songs I listned to while writing Knots. Knots was published in Norway in 2004, and I'd written it over a period of six years.


Aaliyah feat. DMX: "Come Back in One Piece"
First, it's the rhythm and the bass-line. So laid back, and so teasing. Second, it's the structure, it's a bit like a play. A man rapping that he's a dog and also grrring like a dog. It's seems to be about a man who's "gonna be who I am", and a woman singing something like "I understand your nature, your need for some GRRRRRR and I accept it, the only thing I ask of you is that you come home in one piece". An extremely understanding woman! I don't think any of my characters in Knots would be able to share her point of view. They are just not that kind. Still, for me: I listened to it to get out of my own head. And to be honest: I think that some of the characters in Knots should listen to this song, just so that they could get a break from themselves. And maybe even dance and forget about their trouble.

Lily Allen: "Hard Out Here"
Even so, I think many of my characters would probably benefit more from listening to this song. This one didn't exist around the time of writing Knots, so that would of course be a chronological anomalia, but I'm certain that for some of the characters in Knots, both men and women, it would have been relieving to hear someone sing "forget your balls and grow a pair of tits".

JS Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier, played by Glenn Gould
I have to list the whole recording, since it's quite rare that I only listen to one when I first put it on. And this I would listen to, writing Knots. Because it shook me, it goes – with all its variations – straight into the core of being a human being. And it also inspired me, how the theme is varied, repeated, altered, how it occurs and reoccurs throughout the 48 preludes and fugues. I suppose the fugue has been a model in a way in writing the stories, in how they are connected, how themes occur and reoccur throughout Knots. If I should have chosen one that in particular expresses some kind of desperate mood that I think is present in Knots, it would be no 2 in C Minor, BWW 847: Prelude. If there is a perfect short story, it sounds something like this. It's the only one of the 48 that I've tried to play on a piano. My fingers just wouldn't cooperate. I decided to write like this in stead. What a crazy thought.

Radiohead: "How to Disappear Completely"
If there ever was a record I'd like to transform into a book, it would be Kid A. It's been a huge inspiration. Not so much by its lyrics, but by its music and the way it is composed. I loved how one song slided into the next, how the end of a song became the starting point for another, and I loved the little details of sound, see-through bits of information, something sounds like a flag flapping against its pole, something sounds like an ice-cream van stopping outside your house, I love that it's mood is a mix of hope, anger, love, loneliness, fear, thought, etc. "How to Disappear Completely" is the one song I've heard that completely captures the feeling of how to disappear completely, perfectly. Some of my characters are probably born from that feeling. And the line "I'll go where I please" is also a great motto when writing stories.

PJ Harvey: "Kamikaze"
PJ Harvey’s different albums make the soundtrack of all of my books. In a forthcoming novel, Wait, Blink (FSG, 2018), the characters are, doubtfully, leaving their favourite album Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea and listening with eyes wide open to White Chalk, PJ Harvey is also the role model for one of the characters, an angry bass player. I think the music video of "This is love" was what pointed me in her direction, I couldn't believe the power of her voice and of her performance. It's that power which is so present in Kamikaze, anger and frustration and also satire on behalf of both the woman and the man in the song - "where the fuck was I looking, when all his horses came in". It might not seem like that, but a lot of the inner universes in Knots would respond to the force of "Kamikaze".

Eric Satie: "Trois gnossiennes"
And then there is Satie. As "Kamikaze"'s counterpoint, perhaps. I do think that my writing springs from counterparts, to me a text doesn't work if there is no dynamics at play. Dynamics springs from counterparts, amongst other things. But writing to me is a lot about finding a balance between what's dark and what's light, about surface and depths. Satie is also the only sheet music I've been able to read, and play. In Knots, Satie is discussed over dinner between three friends, a couple and a friend and is sadly made the starting point for adultery, quite doomed for disaster, I think.

Nick Cave: "Are you the One that I've been Waiting for"
This is a question, that haunts my characters in Knots. In one of the texts this song is reflected upon by a character, she wonders how Arthur Rimbaud's mother, Vitalie, at the age of 28 managed to meet an army officer, although she led a very confined life. My character decides to believe in Cave's words; that it's possible to long someone to you: "I knew you'd find me, cause I longed you here".

Arvo Pärt: "Für Alina"
I listened a lot to Arvo Pärt when I was writing Knots. All of his recordings, but this one in particular. Why? He says, in an interview you can watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdNvEYKi4ag "This is how I imagine music. It's like food. Like a field full of grain". What Björk said to him, in an interview; "I like your music very, very much because you give space to the listener. He can go inside, and live there". I'm with Björk.

Kylie Minogue: "Come into my World"
I like the song, but it was really the music video made by the french director Michel Gondry that inspired me when I wrote Knots. The Work of Director Michel Gondry appeared in 2003, and everything on this DVD, from commercials to music videos to the documentary about himself is incredible. In this video, Kylie comes out of a store with a plastic bag of clothes that she's had for pressing, and just walks around a small, cosy corner of a town, she actually seems to be walking in circle, because suddenly she passes the "PRESSING"-shop again, and a second Kylie wearing the same clothes, singing the same tune, comes out of the shop with the same plastic bag and starts walking close by the first Kylie. Everything doubles, triples, and quadruples itself and themselves, in the end there are four identical Kylies, four identical parking guards dressed in blue giving a car a ticket, etc. I'm fascinated by the small reality twists that Gondry makes, how time and space is always stretched in his work.

Roy Andersson: Songs from the second floor
I am aware of the fact that this is not a song, but a movie, and that I'm trying to cheat, by relying on the word "songs" in the film's title, hoping it won't be noticed. But there is actually a scene in this magical, mind-blowing movie where the characters are singing: we see people in a very crowded compartment of the tube, all with worn, grey faces, and worn, grey clothes, they stand there waiting to get home to their miserable lives, and then suddenly, simultaneously, they start singing, an opera aria. If you are looking for an example on how Brecht's "verfremdung" might be done heart-grippingly, look no further.

Björk: "Hyperballad"
Some of the characters in Knots are somewhat uptight. I think they would recognize themselves in this one by Björk: "I go through a list, before you wake up, so I can feel happier and be safe again" - and the music, which is so beautiful and comforting despite it's character who wonders how it would be to hear her own body slamming against the rocks, almost makes you forget about the cliff and the rocks beneath. The music video to this song, made by Michel Gondry, is also one of the things that life has to offer you that you should definitely not miss.


Best wishes,
Gunnhild Øyehaug


Gunnhild Øyehaug and Knots links:

the author's Wikipedia page

Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review
ZYZZYVA review

The Leonard Lopate Show 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

Largehearted Boy's 2017 Summer Reading Suggestions

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
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 Arundhati Roy, New Music from The War on Drugs, and more)

The Nation interviewed author Arundhati Roy.


Stream a new song by the War on Drugs.


GQ interviewed author Teju Cole about travel.


PopMatters interviewed singer-songwriter Steve Earle.


Vogue profiled author Imbolo Mbue.


Stream a new song by the Lemon Twigs.


Book Riot recommended July's best new books from independent publishers.


Stream a new Madeline Kenney song.


Hazlitt interviewed author Don Winslow.


Stream a new song by the Weather Station.


The Rumpus poetry book club interviewed Erika L. Sanchez.


Stream a new Propagandhi song.


Bookforum interviewed author Quinn Latimer.


Flagpole profiled the Athens band Five Eight.


Literary Hub recommended beach reads about murder at the beach.


Stream a new Shilpa Ray song.


The winners of the 2016 Shirley Jackson Awards have been announced.


Creative Loafing Tampa Bay interviewed Strand of Oaks' Tim Showalter.


Granta features new short fiction by Jeffery Renard Allen.


Stream a new Cadet Kelly song.


Junot Diaz's next book will be a children's picture books.


GQ examined the legacy of John Coltrane's album Interstellar Space.


Literary Hub shared an excerpt from Noley Reid's novel Pretend We Are Lovely.


eBooks on sale for $1.13 today:

After Henry by Joan Didion

eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

The Birthday of the World by Ursula K. Le Guin
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Girl in the Woods by Aspen Matis
God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut
Journey to the End of the Night by Celine
Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges
The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt
Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut
Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin
Peony by Pearl S. Buck
Requiem for a Dream by Hubert Selby, Jr.
The Rings of Saturn by W.G. Sebald
Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
Slapstick by Kurt Vonnegut
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
A Sport and a Pastime by James Salter
This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash
Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut
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Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

eBooks on sale for $2.99 today:

Blue Boy by Rakesh Satyal
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The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth

eBooks on sale for $3.99 today:

Every Kind of Wanting by Gina Frangello
How the World Works by Noam Chomsky
The Hunters by James Salter
Sam Shepard: A Life by John Winters



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
WORD Bookstores Books of the Week (recommended new books)
weekly music release lists


July 18, 2017

Book Notes - Noley Reid "Pretend We Are Lovely"

Pretend We Are Lovely

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 Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Lauren Groff, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Noley Reid's stunning novel Pretend We Are Lovely is a poignant and unforgettable debut.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"[A] family must navigate the secret currents of guilt, obsession, loss, and―most dangerous of all―hope in this pitch-perfect examination of two Southern seasons in 1982. . . . In prose that ambulates between stark, hallucinatory, fuddled, and chewy according to the guiding character's point of view, Reid masterfully denies her novel the impulse to solve its characters' problems, leaving the reader with the brutal task of lingering within their experience."


In her own words, here is Noley Reid's Book Notes music playlist for her debut novel Pretend We Are Lovely:



Pretend We Are Lovely is a novel narrated by each of four living Sobel family members—mother Francie, father Tate, Enid age 10, and Vivvy almost 13—so the book's playlist is similarly multi-voiced. These are the songs of their hearts.

"Tree Hugger" — Kimya Dawson & Antsy Pants
The book opens in the summertime with Enid and Vivvy dangling from their special climbing tree. Enid is narrating this first glimpse and the fun, bouncy pace and loose unison of Kimya Dawson and Leo Bear Creek on "Tree Hugger" captures the moment. The song is silly, starting off about a flower and tree and cat that all want to be someone else—"a tree," "a different kind of tree," "a bee," and so on. Enid thinks she would love to be Vivvy, to be thin and have smooth, perfect hair. And Vivvy is fairly smug in preferring to be herself, but an even better kind of herself—one in the alligator shirts and headbands like her best friend Dawn.

"What I Am" — Edie Brickell & The New Bohemians
The take-it-or-leave-it attitude of this song has Francie written all over it. In the beginning of Pretend We Are Lovely, Francie is consumed with her food and exercise rituals, weighing the grams of iceberg lettuce and running laps around the Virginia Tech campus tennis courts. Like the song's persona, Francie knows what she knows and isn't interested in much else.

"Ruby" — Dave Rawlings Machine
Tate would give anything to have his family back, to have his wife Francie back most of all. "Ruby" is the song of a man who wants to be let back in but there isn't just his sadness for being excluded. Ruby, too, is sad, and he can see this: "Ruby, I can see your TV on / But the people there, they flicker and they're gone." I can't help but see Tate and Francie both in "Ruby."

"Sweet Tooth" — Dave Rawlings Machine
Enid and her father Tate have the sweet teeth in the family but so had the deceased Sheldon—an entirely insatiable one. I love how this song weaves an innocent love of candy into the strangling grip of addiction and the pain that satisfying the urge will bring.

"Carry That Weight" — The Beatles
Tate has always been heavy and taking The Beatles' weight literally in this song seems only natural. Enid "carr[ies] that weight," too. But the celebratory upsweep of the chorus—despite its admonition, "Boy, you gotta carry that weight / Carry that weight a long time"—says something far more important about Tate and Enid than their waistlines. They are dogged in their pursuit of love and, though given countless reasons to give up and grow hard, they never do and never would.

"Slow Like Honey" — Fiona Apple
Francie plays with Tate, reeling him in closer when she is drunk and lonely. This song is sexy, sad, and scary all in one. Apple sings, "Gonna hover over your life / Gonna keep you reaching / When I'm gone like yesterday."

"Dogsong Aka Sleep Dog Lullaby" — The Be Good Tanyas
The Sobel family dog is Floey, a large, hairy mutt they've had forever. Pretty soon, though, they get a second dog, a puppy they call "new dog." Despite being truly loved, the dogs don't get enough attention, so this lullaby is for them because even dogs need sweet dreams.

"Girl Downtown" — Hayes Carll
With a wife who won't let him back inside her love, Tate has fallen for one of his students, Holly, who has also fallen for him. But being with Holly feels more like a placeholder at first. One day with Enid, though, he stops in to Carol Lee Donuts, where Holly works, and he's just about as nervous and slow, ordering at the counter, as the boy in this song.

"I Lost It" — Lucinda Williams
Lucinda Williams and Gillian Welch wrote all the songs of my own life's soundtrack. They were who I was listening to when I first started writing and I think I will always find kernels of stories in their songs. And who in the world hasn't had something good then frittered it away without even noticing until it's too late? Certainly everyone in Pretend We Are Lovely has and I sure have, too. But the bit that really gets to me in this song is this: "I just wanna live the life I please / I don't want no enemies / I don't want nothing if I have to fake it / Never take nothing don't belong to me / Everything's paid for nothing free / If I give you my heart / Will you promise not to break it?" When I began writing this book, I weighed so little I could feel my ovaries like lima beans beneath the skin. A year and a half earlier, I weighed so much I could no longer feel any bones—not even wrist or finger—beneath the skin. The in-between time was spent calculating everything I ate and speed-exercising. Like Francie, I had a kitchen scale, notecards, and a special marker with which to write my tallies. I had so much to make up for and crammed 10 years' worth of dating into one miserable year. And then it broke me. The obsessive weighing and ritualized denying. I began to write and eat and it's no wonder each character is infused with a battle between eating and not eating, a battle between loneliness and being loved.

"Fat Bottomed Girls" — Queen
Holly is confidently curvaceous. Queen's bright anthem for big girls and our admirers can get us moving along in that direction. I see Enid and Holly dancing hard to this one. Maybe even Vivvy joins in. Francie can't get here but you know she wishes she could.

"Crazy Baby" — Joan Osborne
When Francie begins to eat outside the constraints she has lived within for so long, she cannot figure out how to live between the two extremes. She desperately wants both to overindulge and to deny her hunger completely. "Crazy Baby" perfectly renders her emotional dissonance: " . . . you're getting' really hard to be with / And you're cryin' every time you turn around . . . they look at you like they don't speak your language / And you're living at the bottom of a well / And you've swallowed all the awful bloody secrets / But you can't tell. . . . Oh, how long will you be sittin' in the darkness / Heaven knows."

"Beaumont" — Hayes Carll
Tate must come to grips with his reality—that his daughters need him and his wife won't allow herself to. As if he's Tate thinking of Francie, Hayes Carll sings, "I saw you leanin' on a memory / With your back turned to the crowd . . . There were people drinkin' whiskey / There were hearts about to leave . . . All the way from Beaumont / With a white rose in my hand / I could not wait forever babe, I hope you understand." That last line, the moment of first knowing he can't wait forever for her, breaks my heart every time.

"Expectations" — Belle & Sebastian
There's misery in this beautiful song that makes me think of Vivvy. Isolated and ostracized, running against social expectations in her singular want for love. She is misunderstood and misunderstands her own self but she keeps on going.

"Jezebel" — Iron & Wine
How can I not see Francie as Jezebel when Sam Beam sings, "Who's seen Jezebel? / She was born to be the woman we could blame / Make me a beast half as brave / I'd be the same." I see Enid and Vivvy, with Sheldon even, and Tate all pleading with Francie: "‘Saying, ‘wait, we swear / We'll love you more and wholly / Jezebel, it's we, we that you are for / Only.'"

"I'm Sticking With You" — The Velvet Underground
This is a song for Enid and Vivvy. No matter what has come before, on Halloween Vivvy and Enid dress up in their mother's cast-off tennis dresses and tippy high heels and go begging for candy. They are sisters, after all, and they stick together.

"You Got It" — Bonnie Raitt
When I hear this song, I can't help but get happy-sad—that ugly cry that feels so good. This is Tate's most important song—the moment he gets it, that his daughters are in desperate need and he must be there: "Anything you want, you got it / Anything you need, you got it / Anything at all, you got it."

"Ripple" — Grateful Dead
Throughout the book, each of the Sobels fights so hard for a love requited, a "Ripple in still water." These are individual and often secret attempts and the characters struggle and fail many times. Jerry Garcia sings, "There is a road, no simple highway / Between the dawn and the dark of night / And if you go no one may follow / That path is for your steps alone." No one else's wisdom can light the way, each of us must walk it alone. What they ultimately find is the kind of pure gift of love and companionship glimpsed in this song. The singers' voices coming together at the end for the "da-da-da"s feel to me like my characters coming back together after their solitary journeys.


Noley Reid and Pretend We Are Lovely links:

the author's website

Foreword Reviews review
Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review

Bustle profile of 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

Largehearted Boy's 2017 Summer Reading Suggestions

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
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


Book Notes - Christopher Bollen "The Destroyers"

The Destroyers

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 Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Lauren Groff, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Christopher Bollen's novel The Destroyers is a smart and readable literary thriller that has earned him comparisons to Patricia Highsmith.

The New York Times wrote of the book:

"Beautiful people visiting glamorous places, being wicked enough to bring Patricia Highsmith to mind. It just isn't summer without this kind of globe-trotting glamour to read about, especially when most of it is set in the Aegean. Bollen is stylish enough to know what sells.... Escapism, as calculating as it gets."


In his own words, here is Christopher Bollen's Book Notes music playlist for his novel The Destroyers:


I often treat music like uppers or downers. Songs get me into moods faster than anything else I know. I don’t listen to music when I write, but I do before and after. I set my new novel, The Destroyers, a literary thriller, on the Greek island of Patmos. I wrote it entirely from desk in New York, so I often relied on music and sounds to conjure memories of my Greek research trips to get me in the mood for certain scenes—whether they be on beaches, on boats, under the sun, or even in very dark scenarios (that were still occasionally under the sun). I’m not the type of traveller who reaches for his earphones and replays to his own overly familiar music during a trip. I like to use vacations as an opportunity to listen to what is going on around me—and often that is strange or unfamiliar songs. The songs below, however, are quite familiar. They constitute a spree of emotions, tempers, and attitudes—the sonic rollercoaster—of The Destroyers.


“Grape Juice Plus” by Cupid Car Club
Yes, I know this song also appeared on my playlist for my first novel, 2011’s Lightning People. But it’s the perfect song to open The Destroyers. After all, my novel is set on Patmos, famous for serving as the far-flung Greek island where, in A.D. 95, St. John wrote The Book of Revelation (and where you can still visit his purported writing room, the Cave of the Apocalypse). “Grape Juice Plus” repeatedly lifts the key image of the Apocalypse from Revelation—the Four Horsemen—for this frenzied ode to annihilation, almost treating the end of the world like a child’s game. In my novel, I have a creepy cult of end-of-the-world worshipers camping out on the beaches of Patmos who have similarly consumed the grape-juice Kool-Aid.

“Prostitutes in Town,” by Holiday
When I first moved to New York in 1996, I discovered this wondrously upbeat-yet-melancholic song by the short-lived cult indie band. For some reason, this song has always stayed in my head. Its sea theme—a boat captain who won’t retire, with the suggestion that he’s docked in port so his shipmates can have a wild night with local prostitutes—points toward the strange relationship between boats and ports, between those who live on the sea and those fixed on dry land.

“My Kingdom” by Echo and the Bunnymen
You can’t spend time in Greece—and especially not on a remote Greek Island in the Aegean Sea—without feeling that you are communing with ancient civilizations and the beginnings and ends of time. “My Kingdom” is one of those rare songs that seem to contain the loudness and largeness and anthem-like roar of a civilization, whether modern or ancient. There’s a frantic excitement—almost a panic—to its build-up that really feels like a conquering army.

“Althea” by the Grateful Dead
I couldn’t resist giving one of my main characters the middle name Althea. I did that not only because I am a lifelong listener of the Grateful Dead, but because, for a lot of us, the Dead might be the closest secular notion we have to a homegrown cult. But the song also works as shorthand for the plot of my novel: it’s about a bumbling protagonist who can’t seem to get out of his own way and slowly realizes that he’s the cause of much of his own trouble.

Anything Franz Schubert (but start with Piano Sonata No. 21, D.960)
Lately, I can’t stop buying Schubert albums on vinyl or listening to Schubert as music to start the day or close down the night. I’m Schubert obsessed—especially with his piano works, and especially his last sonatas. It’s all there, the hope, the loneliness, the pain, the bursts and flows. It’s epic in the way the sea itself is epic.

“Paper Planes” by M.I.A.
Money, that’s what so much comes down to. This is a great song about hustling. I always try to figure out the motives of my characters—what exactly do they want? For The Destroyers, that question was relatively easy to answer for the majority of them. It was money. And lots of it. And there is something so refreshingly perverse about a singer chanting, “All I want to do is take your money.” It’s the song of an era. Our era.

Algerian Berber music (The Sad Exiles)
The summer before I first visited the island of Patmos, I went to the Greek island of Hydra. Hydra is known for being Leonard Cohen’s island. But when I stayed at a friend’s house high up in the mountains and discovered a CD of traditional Algerian Berber music, it instantly became my soundtrack for Greek island sunsets. There’s a sense of desert wandering and plaintive calling that’s ideal for the region.

“Do I Ever Cross Your Mind” by Dolly Parton
This sweet, little tune is all about complicated longing: about wondering if those people who once meant so much still ever think of you. When my narrator is down-and-out and looking for help, he heads right for those old friends who knew him best. But those old friends always turn out to have changed drastically from when you last saw them.

“Song to the Siren” by This Mortal Coil
I often tell people that I want this Tim Buckley cover played at my funeral (it feels good getting down in writing). For my Greek island novel, I need a siren song—the beautiful sirens luring sailors to ruin on their rocks.

“Panama” by Van Halen
I can’t say this is my favorite Van Halen song (I can’t say that I have a favorite Van Halen song). But there is one chapter in my book set in the country of Panama, and Van Halen’s loud, crowded, berserk hit captures the energy and confusion of that section—a counter to Greece’s far more minimalist beauty.

“New Morning” by Nick Cave
I hope it isn’t all doom and darkness for my protagonist, Ian Bledsoe. There are a few sunbursts of hope and possibility in the pages. This song by Nick Cave sums up that rocky road to redemption (with a few nods to Book of Revelation imagery in his lyrics). It does end with a new morning, which is the most any of us can ask for.


Christopher Bollen and The Destroyers links:

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

Kirkus review
Paste review
Publishers Weekly review

Largehearted Boy Book Notes playlist by the author for Lightning People
Out interview with the author
Salon interview with the author
Village Voice profile of 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

Largehearted Boy's 2017 Summer Reading Suggestions

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
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


Book Notes - Brian Platzer "Bed-Stuy Is Burning"

Bed-Stuy Is Burning

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 Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Lauren Groff, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Brian Platzer's debut novel Bed-Stuy Is Burning is an impressive literary pageturner.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"The city is burning indeed in New Yorker contributor Platzer's debut novel, sometimes with fire and sometimes with much-compounded shame… Expertly paced, eminently readable, and a promising start."


In his own words, here is Brian Platzer's Book Notes music playlist for his debut novel Bed-Stuy Is Burning:



I wrote Bed-Stuy Is Burning about a fictional race riot in modern day Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. I starting thinking about this novel seven years ago, when my wife and I moved to Bed-Stuy. I'm an 8th grade English teacher, and on my way to work, I started seeing kids not much older than my students, lined up in handcuffs against the subway grate. I could see the anger, not only in the kids, themselves, but in the police who were stuck playing an authoritarian role that made some of them visibly uncomfortable, and in the impotence so many of us commuters felt as we watched this spectacle of public embarrassment.

So I began to imagine what life would be like if tensions were ratcheted up. I researched race riots, methods of policing, my neighborhood's history, and gentrification, and I spent hundreds of hours talking with my neighbors to hear their stories. I also listened to a lot of music, mostly singer-songwriters like Paul Simon and Bob Dylan who try to get to what people are really thinking and feeling, and hip hop artist/storytellers from Bed-Stuy, like Jay-Z, Mos Def, and The Notorious BIG. Here are the songs I listened to most while writing:

"Hearts and Bones" (Paul Simon)

Paul Simon's voice can be simultaneously tender and cynical, which lets one of the best love songs ever written be a break-up song. I turned to "Hearts and Bones" repeatedly while writing in an attempt to capture the tension between hope and a sense of inevitable loss. Simon returns three times to the line "The arc of a love affair": the first time following it with "Rainbows in the high desert air"; the second time with "His hands rolling down her hair"; and the third time with "Waiting to be restored," establishing the cycle from optimism to regret. When he sings, "[She said] Tell me why, why won't you love me for who I am where I am. He said: 'Cause that's not the way the world is baby. This is how I love you, baby. This is how I love you,'" he illustrates his relationship with Carrie Fisher in all its complexity. She loves him. And he loves her, just not how she wants to be loved.

"The Vampires" (Paul Simon)

Simon's musical, "The Capeman," has been unfairly maligned. "Adios Hermanos" is one of his most moving songs, and the cast album is filled with thrilling moments. Still, I listened to "The Vampires" primarily as an example of what to avoid. I'm a white straight man who, in my novel, writes from many perspectives, one of which is that of a black lesbian teenager. In her voice, I wanted to avoid the cringe-worthy, novel-ruining moments that can occur when writers impersonate someone—especially members of often ill-treated minority groups—in a way that forefronts the writer, himself. In "The Vampires" from Simon's album "Songs from The Capeman," Simon sings in character as a Puerto Rican teenager telling a story about his friend who is insulted. Simon, in the voice of one Puerto Rican teenager, does an impression of a second Puerto Rican teenager doing an impression of an old Irish woman. Simon sings, "Fucking Puerto Rican dope-dealing punk—get your shit-brown ass out of here." It's a moment that encapsulates everything I wanted to steer clear of. The forced slang, the cursing, the venom—though possibly written or co-written by Derrick Walcott—is ridiculous when sung by Simon. In the show, when Renoly Santiago sang the same lines, they were funny and wry. But when Simon voiced the character, they were absurd. Every time I wrote from characters appreciably different from myself, I did my best to foreground the importance of giving them their own voice as opposed to inserting my tics, morals, word-choice, and vision of the world.

"Bam Bam" (Sister Nancy)

I hear this song coming out of cars and in through my Bed-Stuy windows a few times per week. My two- and four-year-olds dance every time. We've started playing it each morning during breakfast, and they dance while eating their yogurts.

"Bananaphone" (Raffi)

The other song we listen to every morning over breakfast. It's funny! Catchy!

"It's a real live mama and papa phone

A brother and sister and a dogaphone

A grandpa phone and a grandma phone too!"

"Grandma phone" sounds like gramophone! What a pun! Raffi is great.

"Callin' Out" (Lyrics Born)

The combination of Lyrics Born's speed when he's rapping and the crescendo of his verses' transition to the hook is thrilling. But what makes this track stand out is a method that I think of as setting and then exceeding expectations. The first few verses are short, compact—but in the final verse, the rhymes keep coming. It starts:

"Fought them like a lion in the Colosseum,
And you can positive ID 'em I'm in the mausoleum

You think I'll ever hang it up hoh body stop dreaming

You think I'll ever stop oh baby now you're reaching

I won't stop till I feel my lungs stop breathing

I won't stop till I feel my heart stop beating"

The listener expects the hook will arrive here, as it does earlier. Instead, he continues with faster flow and denser rhymes:

"I won't stop speaking this week and next week

And all false teeth, seeing eye dog

Stop seeing fire freezing, ice heat and fire palms reading

All bad fall free and clear from the mountain top screaming BABY"

I tried to do something similar in my novel: establish expectations and then break them. I like to make a reader think she knows where a scene will end, and then I like to push it further, go deeper, provide more. Vampire Weekend uses the same technique in "Horchata." The first few verses reach a tight conclusion, but the third keeps going, beginning with the same first line "In December drinking horchata," but surging beyond the expected length into a swelling of more aggressive rhyme. Both songs create ecstatic, sublime moments that I try to approach in my own work.

"It'll Be Better" (Francis and the Lights)

Francis doesn't believe it'll be better. You can hear it in his voice. He says it over and over again, but he doesn't believe it. He's too relaxed. Too withdrawn.

When he sings,

"I swear to God that if you come back to me

It'll be better

It'll be great"

he's neither lying nor telling the truth. He's sad, but doing okay. He wants her back but doesn't know what to say. This is the mode of many of the lovers and parents in my novel. They want it to get better. They want to end violence. They're good people trying their hardest. But they don't know how.

Just like this song, they ask

"What's it gonna be

What's it gonna be

What's it gonna take"

in a way that demonstrates their desire to improve conditions between the powerful and the disenfranchised, between gentrifiers and long term residents, between parents and children…but they don't know how. Still, they don't give up.

"Je pense a toi" (Amadou & Miriam)

I listen to Amadou & Miriam while I write. My French isn't good enough to be distracted by the lyrics, but the propulsive beat pushes the sentences forward.

"Love Minus Zero Over No Limit" (Bob Dylan)

Just the best. All the versions are good, but the MTV unplugged performance is transcendent.


Brian Platzer and Bed-Stuy Is Burning links:

the author's website
video trailer for the book

Booklist review
Kirkus review
Wall Street Journal review

Salon 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

Largehearted Boy's 2017 Summer Reading Suggestions

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
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 (Gordon Lish Profiled, A New Replacements Live Album, and more)

Publishers Weekly profiled author Gordon Lish.


The Replacements are releasing a live album, For Sale: Live at Maxwell's 1986.


Stream a new Lee Ranaldo song that features Sharon Van Etten.


BookPage interviewed Rachel Khong about her debut novel Goodbye, Vitamin.


Julien Baker has announced new tour dates.


Vol. 1 Brooklyn interviewed author Erika T. Wurth.


Stream a new Jay Som song.


Literary Hub shared an excerpt from Adam O’Riordan’s short fiction collection, The Burning Ground.


Conor Oberst, Hop Along singer Frances Quinlan, and Big Thief singer Adrianne Lenker discussed their favorite Saddle Creek albums at BrooklynVegan.


TIME interviewed author Naoki Higashida.


The Belfast Telegraph profiled author Nick Laird.


Stream a new Washer song.


HuffPost interviewed author Richard Lange.


PopMatters interviewed Animal Collective’s Avey Tare.


Salon interviewed poet Nikki Giovanni.


David Weigel discussed his book The Show That Never Ends: The Rise And Fall Of Prog Rock with Morning Edition.


The Irish Times recommended summer reading for runners.


Minus the Bear covered Fugazi's "Waiting Room."


Vox interviewed author Courtney Maum.


Max Richter broke down his album Behind the Counter track-by-track at Drowned in Sound.


eBooks on sale for $1.13 today:

After Henry by Joan Didion

eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

The Birthday of the World by Ursula K. Le Guin
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Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut
Girl in the Woods by Aspen Matis
God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut
Journey to the End of the Night by Celine
Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges
The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt
Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut
Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin
Peony by Pearl S. Buck
Requiem for a Dream by Hubert Selby, Jr.
The Rings of Saturn by W.G. Sebald
Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
Slapstick by Kurt Vonnegut
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
A Sport and a Pastime by James Salter
This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash
Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut
The Toughest Indian in the World by Sherman Alexie
Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons by Kurt Vonnegut
Welcome to the Monkey House by Kurt Vonnegut
Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

eBooks on sale for $2.99 today:

Blue Boy by Rakesh Satyal
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The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth

eBooks on sale for $3.99 today:

Every Kind of Wanting by Gina Frangello
How the World Works by Noam Chomsky
The Hunters by James Salter
Sam Shepard: A Life by John Winters



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
WORD Bookstores Books of the Week (recommended new books)
weekly music release lists


July 17, 2017

Book Notes - Rachel Khong "Goodbye, Vitamin"

Goodbye, Vitamin

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 Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Lauren Groff, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Rachel Khong's clever debut novel Goodbye, Vitamin is one of the year's most moving (and funny) books.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"In her tender, well-paced debut novel..Khong writes heartbreaking family drama with charm, perfect prose, and deadpan humor."


In her own words, here is Rachel Khong's Book Notes music playlist for her debut novel Goodbye, Vitamin:



I started writing my novel, Goodbye, Vitamin, in 2010, from a silent study carrel in the library at the University of Florida. When I moved to San Francisco in 2011, I continued writing wherever I could, usually from a rotation of cafés. I wasn't exactly picky about what music the cafés did or didn't play—I couldn't afford to be. I can't pay much attention to music while I'm writing, anyway. It helped that I like the clinks of glasses, I like to eavesdrop, and I have a preternatural ability to tune out coffee grinders.

All of which is simply to say: this playlist is NOT a compilation of what I listened to while writing. Should you desire that, allow me to direct you to rainycafe.com, a site I often turn to for rain and/or café sounds (The site claims: "A moderate level of noise enhances creativity compared to both low and high levels of noise. Moderate background noise induces distraction which encourages individuals to think at a higher, abstract level, and consequently exhibit higher creativity"). Instead, here's a soundtrack that might accompany Goodbye, Vitamin—the story of a thirty-year-old woman named Ruth who spends a year at home with her parents in the Southern California suburb where she grew up. Ruth tells her story in brief, dated entries, and the first is December 26—right after Christmas. So that's where we'll begin.

"Christmas Canon" by Tran-Siberian Orchestra

Ruth's just gotten home for the holidays under less than ideal circumstances (her fiancé, Joel, with whom she usually spends Christmas, has broken up with her; she's not exactly feeling her best). On her way to her best friend Bonnie's for New Year's Eve, stuck in traffic, she hears this very odd Christmas song blasting from a guy's car—he's probably got the radio turned to KOST 103.5, the LA radio station all about "soft rock with less talk," and that plays exclusively holiday music during the month of December. (Another song they love to play is "Christmas Shoes," the worst song. Don't @ me!) Bonus fun fact: I interviewed a KOST 103.5 DJ named Mike Sakellarides for my high school newspaper, the Diamond Bar High School Bull's Eye.

"Tracks of my Tears" by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles

Ruth tries her best to have a good time at this new year's party. Smokey sings, People say I'm the life of the party, 'cause I tell a joke or two. Although I might be laughin' loud and hearty, deep inside I'm blue. And it can't be more apt to describe the ever-jokey Ruth, who is actually slightly falling apart. The song's a family favorite—it's good to sing along to. Ruth's dad, Howard, likes to intentionally misquote lyrics. Where Smokey sings, "Though she may be cute, she's just a substitute. You're the permanent one," Howard likes to sing, "Though she might be cute, she's just a prostitute."

"Statuesque" by Sleeper

Bonnie and Ruth grew up together in the nineties, and despite a short hiatus—more Ruth's fault than Bonnie's—they're still best friends. Both are unmarried, currently without professional direction, and they're happy, for the time being, to be in this boat together. They spend the night catching up, and in the early hours of New Year's Day, "Statuesque" is the sort of song these two friends turn up loud and dance drunkenly to. The dancing takes Ruth's mind temporarily off Joel—this is not lost on Bonnie, who knows her friend well. Take all I have, I've no secrets left to steal.

"Try Sleeping with a Broken Heart" by Alicia Keys

Ruth was engaged to Joel, but Joel left her and started dating someone else, a person who seems more perfect for him than Ruth ever was. She hates this. She spent the weeks after the breakup listening and crying along to a lot of break-up music: think Blood on The Tracks, though not straight-up emo, of course—girls handle heartbreak better than boys. Now that some time's passed she's mostly quit that; she can mostly get through her days without listening to sad-sack music. But when she's all alone in her new apartment, sans Joel? Sleeping's kind of tough, as Alicia Keys knows. You try sleeping with a broken heart.

"This Must Be The Place (Naïve Melody)" by Talking Heads

This is supposed to be a going-home-and-figuring-shit-out year for Ruth. Home is not exactly where Ruth wants to be, but she doesn't have anywhere better to be, exactly. Pick me up and turn me around. I feel numb, born with a weak heart. I guess I must be having fun. At home, she's learning to navigate life with her father and mother after years of being away, and things aren't exactly as she remembered them. For one thing, her father was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's. For another thing, her mom is feeling pretty defeated, about that and other things.

"Between the Bars" by Elliott Smith

One of those other things is that Howard, Ruth's dad, doesn't NOT have a drinking problem. There's no booze in the house anymore, but some of the less-than-upstanding things he did years ago still haunt Ruth's mother, Annie. She hasn't totally forgiven him for those transgressions. And he feels that, too. Drink up, baby, stay up all night with the things you could do, you won't but you might. The potential you'll be that you'll never see, the promises you'll only make.

"Silver Lining" by Rilo Kiley

So family dynamics in the Young household are more or less an abject mess: Howard's mad about losing his job. Annie's mad and sad about Howard. Ruth's brother Linus is pissed off, too. Ruth's baffled by them all, and also dealing with her own personal shit. The silver lining is that Theo, one of Howard's graduate students, has hatched a plan to improve Howard's mood—by holding a fake class for him at the university, so he thinks that he's been given his job back. Theo and Ruth are co-conspirators in this, and that's a nice thing, amid a bunch of less fun things. He's also cute, which helps. I was your silver lining, as the story goes.

"Are You Alright?" by Lucinda Williams

That's what Theo is wondering about Ruth. She seems mostly fine (see also "Tracks of my Tears") but on occasion not. Do you have someone to hang out with? Do you have someone to hug and kiss you? Something else Theo's wondering is whether or not he should make a move. He suspects Ruth might be interested in him too, but doesn't realize the extent to which she's been heartbroken—the extent to which she's unwilling to risk another heartbreak, or waste any more time.

"Brink Of Disaster" by Lesley Gore

Maybe something happens between Ruth and Theo. Maybe Ruth panics. It's not that Ruth's uninterested in Theo. It's just that she's hesitant to start something new, because what's the point? She can very easily picture things ending in disaster, because that's how things usually end. My heart has played the game before, my head says never more. I should know what is right for me. Still, Ruth wonders, maybe that's just what you do—maybe that's what we have to do.

"A Song I Can't Recall" by The Second Band

Nothing very drastic happens during the year that's recorded in Goodbye, Vitamin: nobody dies, nobody's born, nobody gets married. I mean, other people in the world do, but none of that happens to the people in this particular family. By the year's end, Howard's still mostly okay, Ruth hasn't quite Figured Shit Out. But things have changed, because that's what they do. Ruth's father has kept a journal about Ruth since she was little—a bizarre record of things she did as a kid. When summer rolls around, their positions flip, and Howard asks if Ruth could keep track of things for him. Please sing me those songs that I can't recall anymore. So she does.


Rachel Khong and Goodbye, Vitamin links:

the author's website

Financial Times review
Kirkus review
NPR Books review
San Francisco Chronicle review

Booklist interview with the author
Minnesota Public Radio interview with the author
The Riveter interview with the author
Salon interview with the author
Vogue 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

Largehearted Boy's 2017 Summer Reading Suggestions

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
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


Book Notes - Monica Carol Miller "Being Ugly: Southern Women Writers and Social Rebellion"

Being Ugly: Southern Women Writers and Social Rebellion

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 Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Lauren Groff, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Monica Carol Miller's book Being Ugly: Southern Women Writers and Social Rebellion offers an insightful and necessary exploration of both classic and contemporary works by Southern women writers.

Sarah Gleeson-White wrote of the book:

"Presumably like many scholars of women's, American literary, and Southern studies, I have been expectantly awaiting something like Miller's Being Ugly for some time. It provides a more than welcome and overdue intervention into the expressive operations of female corporeality, an area in which the now exhausted category of the grotesque has to date dominated. I now look forward to the way in which Miller's study reorients how we read women's writing and its tropes more broadly."


In her own words, here is Monica Carol Miller's Book Notes music playlist for her book Being Ugly: Southern Women Writers and Social Rebellion:



I am a physically active writer: I bounce, I move my head around, and I pull on my hair while I work ideas out. The times that I've worked in writing groups—getting together with others to write, as an accountability thing—I've been amused at how still and quiet other people are when they write. By comparison, I must be very annoying to work next to.

As you can imagine, as I was writing my first book, Being Ugly: Southern Women Writers and Social Rebellion, music was important thematically and as a source of energy. Contrary to popular ideas of beautiful southern belles, my book looks at the population of physically ugly female characters whose physical appearance marks them as unsuitable for traditional gender expectation of marriage and motherhood. Ugliness itself has a specifically southern definition, meaning inappropriate or rebellious behavior—those raised in the South will recognize the parental warning, "Don't be ugly!"

In Being Ugly, I examine a range of female characters who find ways of living outside of such traditional gender roles. Much of the music I listened to while writing it reflects these themes. When writing about rebellious southern women, I needed music that similarly spoke to these characters' disenchantment and disgust with traditional ways of living.

Since I first discovered the album cover to Loretta Lynn's Coal Miner's Daughter when I was three years old, listening to music has been as much about the artists' visuals and cultural connections as it has been about what the music says and how it makes me feel. Loretta's glamorous white lace dress on the album cover gave songs like the title song and "Hello, Darlin" a dimension of elegance that I might have lost without the picture. And just as I was beginning to understand the concept of the "male gaze" in pop culture, Madonna's "Express Yourself" video demonstrated that objectification did not have to be a one-way vector.

Which is, in part, what brought me to write Being Ugly. Unlike the stereotypes of southern beauty queens and southern belles and women who never wear sweatpants in public (as Reese Witherspoon once claimed in an interview), there is a tradition of physically ugly female characters written by southern women writers, who consciously choose to be physically ugly, who "let themselves go," in the words of so many Lee Smith characters. In Flannery O'Connor's "Good Country People," for example, Joy-Hulga's mother observes that she would be so pretty if she would just stand up straight, put on some pretty clothes, and smile. Instead, Joy-Hulga slouches, wears a tacky sweatshirt, and sneers—and eschews courtship for a Ph.D.

It's easy to forget that the first line of the novel Gone with the Wind is "Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful," because the image of Vivien Leigh in the movie is so firmly bound to the character. However, the clash of Scarlet's mother's aristocratic French features and her father's dark Irish ones keep her from be qualified as a true beauty. And when Scarlett acts up—dancing at the bazaar despite being a widow or taking over her husband's business—it is her father's Irish features that are emphasized. When I was writing my Gone with the Wind chapter, I listened to the Carter Family's "Lula Walls" quite a bit, as Lula's "aggravating beauty" seemed a spot-on description of the ways in which Scarlett chose to "be ugly" throughout the novel.

So here is my playlist:

The songs are a result of a southern suburban childhood and adolescence in the seventies and eighties, that I identified strongly with third-wave feminism and Riot Grrrl in the nineties and, yes, that I am incapable of keeping still when I write.

"Rebel Girl" by 
Bikini Kill

Riot Grrrl's celebration of female friendship. So many of the characters I write about reject marriage for friendship and alternative ways of living.

"Kool Thing" by "Sonic Youth

"Are you going to liberate us girls from male, white, corporate oppression? Fear of a female planet!"

"Twist Barbie" by 
Shonen Knife

Shonen Knife's dance-y, high energy music keeps me writing.

"Rated X"
 by Loretta Lynn

I have listened to Loretta Lynn pretty much constantly since I was three years old and I was mesmerized by the album cover for Coal Miner's Daughter. Over time, I've realized what a complex figure she is with respect to feminism—for songs like this one.

"Coat of Many Colors" by 
Dolly Parton

I am among the many who think that Dolly should be sainted.

"Lulu Walls"
by The Carter Family

I inherited my love of the Carter Family from my grandmother, whose favorite song by them was "that aggravating beauty, Lula Walls." While writing Ugly Women, I found the idea of an "aggravating beauty" to be rather inspiring.

"Joy"
 by P.J. Harvey

I wrote an article for the Flannery O'Connor Review about Flannery O'Connor's influence on punk music, and I continue to enjoy the wide of range music her work continues to inspire. One of my favorites is this song about one of my favorite characters, Joy-Hulga in O'Connor's "Good Country People."

"Oh Come On"
 by The Julie Ruin

Kathleen Hanna's music continues to inspire me, especially this one from The Julie Ruin's last album. It's impossible to feel tired when this is playing.

"Beautiful Red Dress"
 by Laurie Anderson

"They say women shouldn't be the President, because they go crazy from time to time. Well, push my buttons, baby, here I come. Yeah, look out, baby. I'm at high tide."

"Control" by 
Janet Jackson

Another long-time anthem of mine. To my young adolescent self, watching Janet Jackson go from Diff'rent Strokes to Fame to the Control album demonstrated what evolution and maturity could be.

"Oh Bondage! Up Yours!"
 by X-Ray Spex

The only problem with this feminist anthem is that it's so catchy that it'll lodge in my head for a day. Which, honestly, isn't that much of a problem.

"Express Yourself"
 by Madonna

This has been my go-to "I need motivation!" song since my college roommate and I used to play it while getting dressed to go out clubbing. It still gets me going.


Monica Carol Miller and Being Ugly: Southern Women Writers and Social Rebellion links:

the author's website

NCSA 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

Largehearted Boy's 2017 Summer Reading Suggestions

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
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


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