April 26, 2016

Book Notes - Nick Soulsby "Cobain on Cobain: Interviews and Encounters"

Cobain on Cobain: Interviews and Encounters

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.

Cobain on Cobain's collection of interviews forms a fascinating oral history of the life of Kurt Cobain and career of Nirvana.

Gillian G. Gaar wrote of the book:

"This fascinating collection offers you a front-row seat to Nirvana's stunning rise and tragic fall. Before the biographies, before the revisionism, before the mythologies, Nirvana's story is revealed by Cobain and his bandmates as it unfolds, without the benefit of hindsight. Cobain on Cobain is the closest you can get to a Kurt Cobain autobiography."


In his own words, here is Nick Soulsby's Book Notes music playlist for his book Cobain on Cobain: Interviews and Encounters:



An individual's significance breeds words. Soon those words become so numerous it's hard to see the real person at their root. Either sooner or later that person departs the world at which point the words take over. This isn't a claim that words are useless; it's simply that any writer choosing to engage with a historical personality must struggle diligently to tether their words as close as possible to the human reality.

The preparation of Cobain on Cobain overlapped with another work of mine, I Found My Friends: the Oral History of Nirvana. The motivations and crucial moments, for me, were similar. Losing my grandfather, my father, my godfather in quick succession across 2013-2014 made me deeply aware of loss, of the messiness and inadequacy of any human encounter with death. To be in a state of grief was, perhaps, for the best when these two works brought me into direct contact with friends of Kurt Cobain's who still feel shocked, saddened, disappointed by his fate. My desire became to use oral history to tell the tale in such a way that one shared the sense of being an observer at shows during the long pre-fame years then the short flash of fame; then to create a volume of interviews that allowed a reader to see Cobain and his comrades, caught as close to the critical events as possible, responding in the moment without reflection.

An entire generation has grown to adulthood in the two decades since Cobain's death – I can understand people being tired of reading articles stripped wholly from "Kurt Cobain 101", the morass of hackneyed tributes, canned applause lines and tedious 'voice of a generation' clichés that have swallowed the man whole. As far as the music…I've lived inside it 23 years – it's Ground Zero for my tastes – I can hear the notes in my head whenever I choose. My choices below can't replace anyone's personal path through sound, but maybe they'll bring a different light to songs long since grown familiar.

Sleeper Cell 'Sky Blue Eye'
In September 2013 I sat in the basement with John, Bob and Pat – Sleeper Cell – as they cranked out vocal harmonies, raw rock and meditational grooves in a sound-proofed basement. I felt privileged, lucky, that people would be willing to share their creativity and talent with me. There's a late 1988 video of Nirvana rehearsing in a box-room and it's no different to this; the superstars could be up the road from you right now – go see. Making something that had become untouchable seem tangible once more, as real as three guys playing together for fun, what more could I want to achieve when writing of Nirvana?

Kurt Cobain 'Burn the Rain'
It was amazing watching the fury provoked in some quarters by the Montage of Heck: the Home Recordings archive release in 2015. At times it was as if people only had room in their minds for one version of Cobain; the pop-punk singer-songwriter of Nevermind. Instead the record placed Cobain in the company of lo-fi audio-pranksters and sonic collagists like Calvin Johnson, the Feederz (originators of Cobain's famous 'Graffitti: Beautiful as a Rock in a Cop's Face' sticker), Butthole Surfers, or Lou Barlow. It showed his goofy humour, his desire to toy with sound, it even showed off his literary poetic pretensions – I was thrilled. This more expansive and nuanced Cobain was a true artist - a richer figure than rock labels ever let him be. That's all I could hope for, to add complexity to what had become a card-cut-out icon.

Soundgarden 'Hunted Down'
Many veterans like to say that the Seattle scene was over by 1986 before Sub Pop (let alone Nirvana) even arrived. Soundgarden are a perfect representative of Seattle's first wave; they started the Sub Pop phenomenon, welded punk texture to, wailing hard rock vibes then hopped onto a major label as part of a wave of oddball rock/metal including Red Hot Chili Peppers and Faith No More – alongside Seattle bands like the Posies, Mother Love Bone and Alice in Chains. All of this has been forgotten, it's like the deification of Nirvana erased memories of major labels signing underground bands pre-Nirvana, Seattle ones to boot. The tidy vision of Eighties hard rock (bad) being replaced by Nineties grunge (good) is far too simplistic. I like life messy, noisy, jumbled – real. It's hard sometimes to remember that in 1992 almost nobody had heard anything Nirvana did pre-Nevermind. It was Soundgarden who looked like the Seattle band most likely to make it big.

Nirvana 'Love Buzz'
In Cobain on Cobain, Nirvana have to comment on this song for most of 1989-1990 – Cobain boldly points out "We made a mistake with 'Love Buzz' because it's our best song as far as I'm concerned." Turning a Sixties pop song into a driving heavy punk tune was a brilliant move – Nirvana's first single, the song they had to play at every show for years. It's also a foreshadowing of much of what Nirvana would come to do; the earworm intro riff, the (relatively) quiet verses allowing the vocals to stand out, the crashing chorus – this song was tailor-made for sing-along crowds. Just by reflecting on their own work here Nirvana could find a formula that would give them fame in 1991.

Dinosaur Jr 'Freak Scene'
Across the course of the Eighties, Punk had given ground to hardcore then to a proliferation of weird takes on the template. Cobain absorbed them all whether Butthole Surfers' screwball psychedelia, Black Flag's expansive take on hardcore, Big Black's tinnitus-inducing clatter, Sonic Youth's textured washes of sound. The groundwork for Nirvana's success, however, was being set as certain bands began to ally underground values to hard rock amp-worship. Dinosaur Jr's 'Freak Scene' was the first true rock anthem of the Eighties U.S. underground. By 1991 Nirvana would be one of a dozen underground bands embedded at major labels, they'd support Dinosaur Jr for a few shows that year when being Dinosaur Jr, or being Sonic Youth, was the highest status any underground band could dream of. In their interviews Nirvana spent more time namechecking and evangelising for favourite bands than any other single topic.

Nirvana 'Smells Like Teen Spirit'
In an interview taking place as late as August 24, 1991 with James Sherry of the U.K.'s Metal Hammer magazine, Dave Grohl only goes as far as to say that the song that would become one of the rock music's most beloved "seems like — it's got that heat." They're talking about how ironic and funny it would be to tour with Guns 'n Roses, while saying it'll never happen – but within months Axl Rose would be wearing a Nirvana cap on a Guns 'n Roses video and asking the band to perform at his birthday. That's what I adored about going back to the band members' original words; the utter innocence on display. They're ready to have a song in the charts, they're happy to see their music achieve a degree of commercial success so they can at least stop living hand-to-mouth…It's enthralling seeing how clueless they are regarding what was to come. Through long overexposure and relentless praise too, people have become a bit numb to this song – in the same way that they've forgotten at times what a surprise it was in 1991 when the underground finally cracked the mainstream wide open.

Sebadoh 'Beauty of the Ride'
The impact of music is all about the moment in one's personal history; when fans contact me it's amazing how often they turn out to be roughly my age, to have had a comparable moment of enlightenment when first encountering Nirvana. I started writing about Nirvana simply because I'm a fan – who happens to enjoy writing. It's been a privilege to share some small part of the life and times of fans, journalists, musicians the world over who – like me – feel something for Nirvana. This song is here simply as an example of what Nirvana did to my tastes. Nirvana in 1993, led to Rage Against the Machine, Sonic Youth, Soundgarden in 1994. By 1996 I'd started to leave the mainstream and one discovery that sticks in mind was picking up this single, with its innocent 'boy and horse' image on the front cover, in the Leicester branch of HMV while visiting my father in hospital after his first heart attack. I still sing this song when times are hard because the bad moments in life are as precious as the good, "it's just the beauty of the ride…"

Nirvana 'Heart Shaped Box'
In 1993 I watched an MTV Wayne's World special in which Mike Myers and Dana Carvey - in their guises as perennial stoner youths Wayne and Garth - poked irreverent humour at a selection of rock videos of the moment. Nirvana didn't have a halo over their output – it didn't feel so serious. "Hey, is he saying 'hey Wayne'…?" they asked of the chorus ("Hey! Wait! I've got a new complaint,") before suggesting Cobain just give them a call if he had a problem to raise. In early 1994 I bought a copy of MAD magazine on a family trip to Florida which suggested "teach more singers to mumble like Kurt Cobain so there are fewer ridiculous lyrics to memorize." There was still a joke to be had back then – something posthumous tributes never quite capture because they're always written in light of Cobain's death and the band's demise. How can one restore that humour? The closest I felt one could come was to re-read the band's interviews from the era and see the mutual amusement interviewers and band took from one another.

Nirvana 'Endless Nameless' (on MTV Live and Loud)
A 15 minute-long noise thrash and a firmly held middle-digit to the mainstream product urges of MTV. While working on Cobain on Cobain, the longest negotiation I took part in was to try to persuade MTV to permit the inclusion of one of their interviews with Cobain. I could understand their discomfort. After fame hit, Cobain dropped most media engagements but felt he had to take MTV. He refused to do any additional takes on Nirvana's first appearance; barely spoke during his first interview with the channel; refused their wish that he play more hits on MTV Unplugged (as well as insisting on bringing underground band, the Meat Puppets); then cut 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' from the Live and Loud performance. This finale was Cobain at his most anarchic, harassing cameras, knocking over equipment, feedback uber alles, all rounded off with sarcastic applause to the audience. He was famous but it didn't mean he had to play nice.

Adam Harding (feat. Dane Certificate) 'Do Re Mi'
In my view, this is one of tantalisingly few covers of Kurt Cobain's music to rise beyond tribute. 'Do Re Mi' was, as far as is known, the last full song Cobain readied prior to his death – even its name is conjectural. With death comes uncertainty, a door wedged permanently open to possibility – we'll never know Cobain's true intentions for this song or whether the known demos come even close to what he might have made of it. Adam Harding wrenches the song into the pop realm, draws these beautiful melodies into stark relief, turns up the joyfulness previously buried under static, a cracking voice and mournful falsetto. As I worked this song reminded me that it was possible to sidestep predictability and to create something fresh, new, different from something one has heard many times before.


Nick Soulsby and Cobain on Cobain: Interviews and Encounters links:

excerpt from the book
excerpt from the book

Seattle Times review


also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

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
Word Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)

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April 26, 2016

Shorties (A Profile of Angela Flournoy, Stream Britta Phillips' New Album, and more)

BuzzFeed profiled author Angela Flournoy.


Stereogum is streaming Britta Phillips' new album Luck or Magic.


Would you like to support the Largehearted Boy website? Here are a couple of ways you can help.


Read a new short story by Amelia Gray.


Mensah Demary examined the literary legitimacy of hip-hop (and specifically Nas's lyrics) at Electric Literature.


Words Without Borders interviewed poet Rowan Ricardo Phillips.


Questlove on Prince.


Signature previewed summer movies adapted from books.


JFK, the opera.


Literary Hub shared an excerpt from Miroslav Penkov's novel Stork Mountain.


Stream "Theme with Noise" from Sonic Youth's forthcoming Spinhead Sessions: 1986 album.


Chernobyl's literary legacy.


The Guardian interviewed Mike Mills of R.E.M. about his love for Big Star.


Guernica interviewed author Dolan Morgan.


Bruce Springsteen has made his live "Purple Rain" cover a free download.


Harper Lee biographer Charles J. Shields has found a 1960 FBI Magazine article about the In Cold Blood murders written by the author.


Stream a new Band of Horses song.


Guernica interviewed author Paul Lisicky.


Stream a new Lonelyhearts song.


Entertainment Weekly interviewed cartoonist Gene Luen Yang.


The Guardian and LA Music Blog shared collections of Prince covers.


Suzanne O'Sullivan's It's All in Your Head: True Stories of Imaginary Illness has been awarded the 2016 Wellcome Book Prize, which celebrates a book that best engages with "an aspect of medicine, health or illness."


Iggy Pop will chronicle the history of the Stooges in a forthcoming book.


The Oxford Eagle profiled author Kiese Laymon.


Pitchfork examined how Prince changed Minneapolis.



The A.V. Club reconsidered the White Stripes' De Stijl album.


VICE interviewed Chester Brown about his new graphic novel Mary Wept Over the Feet of Jesus.


The Guardian shared an excerpt from the book My Ramones, written by the band's former manager.


Morning Edition about her new memoir Her Again.


eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave
Expo 58 by Jonathan Coe
How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer by Sarah Bakewell
J.D. Salinger: The Escape Artist by Thomas Beller
A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash
The Lost Tribe of Coney Island by Claire Prentiss
Shakespeare: The World as a Stage by Bill Bryson
South on Highland by Liana Maeby
The Time Is Noon by Pearl Buck



also at 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)

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April 25, 2016

Book Notes - Justin Tussing "Vexation Lullaby"

Vexation Lullaby

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.

Justin Tussing's Vexation Lullaby is a beautifully written rock novel, filled with poignancy and wit.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"Justin Tussing's second novel is a clever, satisfying story about the struggle to find meaning in the lives we've made for ourselves. . . . Tussing uses startling and memorable details to punctuate scenes with a cinematic flourish, and he is particularly adept at using dialogue to reveal how much we actually aren't saying to each other. And the ending is dazzling."


In his own words, here is Justin Tussing's Book Notes music playlist for his novel Vexation Lullaby:



"Visions of Johanna"—Bob Dylan
I have no music talent, no musical intelligence. Some blame has to be placed on my parents, who brought me up listening to the Eagles and, well, the Eagles. You might expect that a person with my musical shortcomings would disqualify himself from writing a novel that revolves around a singer. Following a similar argument, some critics have argued that Bob Dylan has no business singing. Fuck those people in the eye.

"No Money Down" (1955)—Chuck Berry
Vexation Lullaby is a road novel, following a musician as he makes tour stops between Rochester, New York and Louisville, Kentucky. "No Money Down" is a song about the American Dream of hitting the road…and staying on the road. Berry sings, "I want a full Murphy Bed in my backseat"—my protagonist, Arthur Pennymen, has been known to inflate an air mattress in his Corolla Wagon.

"Between Two Trees"—Lady Lamb the Beekeeper
My book is set in the fall of 2010. By that time Aly Spaltro (Lady Lamb the Beekeeper) had been playing shows in Portland for a few years. People kept telling me I had to see her before she moved to Brooklyn. Everyone knew she was leaving town. I never saw her play.

"Feet Up, Pat-Em on the Po-Po"—Peter Pan Records
When I was five or six someone gave me a Fischer-Price turntable and a copy of Monster. I don't remember "Feet Up…" but I must have listened to it hundreds of times. It's a song about redemption, about a gambler, drinker, and womanizer, who is reformed by love and fatherhood. And what use is redemption without a little dissipation?

"It's All About the Pentiums"—"Weird Al" Yankovic
My book is composed of alternating chapters. Half of the chapters belong to Pennyman and the others belong to a young doctor. Peter Silver is a homebody. He's analytical and, like me, music sometimes slips past him, but he can intellectualize parody songs—and appreciates a well-placed allusion: "Hey fella, I bet you're still living in your parents' cellar/ downloading pictures of Sarah Michelle Gellar/ I should do the world a favor and cap you like Old Yeller."

"Fortunate Son"—Creedence Clearwater Revival
Say I were driving across town to get in a fistfight, and say I only had two-minutes and twenty-one seconds to feel righteous, indignant, and angry, then I'd probably have this cranked. The irony, I suppose, is that it's an anti-war song.

"Rabbit Fur Coat"—Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins
I thought about including Lewis's "Run, Devil, Run" because her voice does this harmonic thing in that song that makes me think I'm about to cry. What is it about the word "run"? It triggers something like an emotional onomatopoeia. But if you're only going to listen to one song, listen to the twisted beauty of "Rabbit Fur Coat."

"Broken Arrow"—Neil Young
One of Neil's fans taunts Pennyman throughout my book. "Broken Arrow" is operatic, an over-stuffed madeleine. It's a shame if you never listened to this when you were seventeen and a little bit buzzed.

"Twist Barbie"—Shonen Knife
The road, my friends, is long and lonely. Occasionally you need to listen to a Japanese trio rock a punk song about Barbie.


Justin Tussing and Vexation Lullaby links:

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

Kirkus review
Portland Press Herald review
Publishers Weekly review


also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

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
Word Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)

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Book Notes - Christine Reilly "Sunday's on the Phone to Monday"

Sunday's on the Phone to Monday

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.

Christine Reilly's novel Sunday's on the Phone to Monday is a lyrical debut debut with themes of family, love, and loss.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"A lyrical, and lyric-filled, portrait of a family in love and sorrow. This whimsical, bittersweet debut novel recalls the work of filmmaker Wes Anderson... the focus is on three Salinger-esque siblings... there is something iridescent about this novel."


In her own words, here is Christine Reilly's Book Notes music playlist for her debut novel Sunday's on the Phone to Monday:



Sunday's on the Phone to Monday follows Claudio and Mathilde Simone, once romantic bohemians hopelessly enamored with each other, find themselves nestled in domesticity in New York, running a struggling vinyl record store and parenting three daughters as best they can: Natasha, an overachieving prodigy; sensitive Lucy, with her debilitating heart condition; and Carly, adopted from China and quietly fixated on her true origins.

I can't write (or do most things) in my home without some musical accompaniment.  I adored having the chance to sneak some of my favorite songs into this piece, and coming up with ways to see them fit best into the narrative.  It was a new, odd kind of nepotism.  Here's a quick glance of some songs and the role they have played in my life, and in the book:

"It's Only A Paper Moon"

A "Muzak" version of this song plays during Claudio and Mathilde's first date at a restaurant.  Everyone's heard this eponymous song, written originally for an unsuccessful Broadway play called The Great Magoo but which has endured from recordings by popular artists during the last years of World War II.  My favorite rendition is Ella Fitzgerald's.  This might be my favorite song, and I felt sorry reducing it so in the scene, but I wanted it to show its face in a small, lasting way.  Some authors have tiny cameos as extras in movies whose screenplays are based on their books.  I wanted the song to have a similar secret effect on Sunday's on the Phone to Monday.

"There is A Light That Never Goes Out" – The Smiths

I grew up in the 90's and early "noughties", but I have always loved The Smiths.  (One summer I encouraged my best friend in high school to cut her own hair, Morrissey-style.) As a kid I developed a party trick of forcing myself to cry on cue.  It worked for me during school play tryouts, but then I did it to such a degree often the hysterical crying would turn into hysterical laughing.  Thank you, the Smiths, who taught me how much fun self-pity can occasionally be.

Abbey Road Medley – Songs on the B-Side of Abbey Road, from "You Never Give Me Your Money" until "Her Majesty"

Abbey Road was the last album the Beatles recorded, and they once divulged that they created this to "use up" a bunch of incomplete songs, resulting in my favorite consecutive nine music tracks of all time.  I saw Paul McCartney twice in concert, who concluded both sets with "Golden Slumbers" into "The End," and both times, I cried.  I'd argue that "Her Majesty" is the perfect ending, for its entropy in the scope of the album.  "Her Majesty" gives the Beatles arbitrary immortality.

I've had fun telling people the title of my book, figuring out who's a Beatles fan.  It's my favorite litmus test!

"Fast Car" by Tracy Chapman

This is my favorite love song.  I thought about playing this song at my future wedding, but I didn't want to sadden people.  I understand that many people view this song as miserable even though I see it as hopeful.  Maybe you could say the same thing about my novel.

"Juicy" by Biggie Smalls

If I'm ever asked to DJ a party (which I am sometimes, for some reason), I always start with this song.  I love this entire album.  Biggie is an epic lyricist, but had a difficult tightrope to walk: if he mentioned his wealth, he was accused of denying his past, but if he rapped about poverty, he was denying his present.  I deem his lyrics to be mostly about how he's been the same person in both stages of life.

"Sixteen Going on Seventeen" from The Sound of Music

I will always have a small, soft spot in my heart for old Broadway musicals.  I remember downloading this song from Limewire (was it Morpheus or Kazaa?) on the morning of my sixteenth birthday.  Please don't think I'm as literal as I've made myself out to be.

"Who'll Stop the Rain" by Creedence Clearwater Revival

There's a line in my book about how depressing it may be when bands tour after so many years but need to rechristen themselves because original members have died, or left.  Creedence Clearwater Revival is an example of this, whom I actually saw in 2007 as "Creedence Clearwater Revisited."  I'm still happy I saw them.  They were awesome, and made me feel very melancholic indeed for the passage of time. 


Christine Reilly and Sunday's on the Phone to Monday links:

the author's website

Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review

Dear English Major interview with the author
Five Towns Herald profile of the author
The Wilton Bulletin profile of the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

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
Word Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)

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Shorties (An Interview with Alexandra Kleeman, Eleanor Friedberger's Favorite Books, and more)

The New Yorker interviewed Alexandra Kleeman about her story in this week's issue.


Singer-songwriter Eleanor Friedberger discussed her favorite books at the New York Times.


Interview interviewed Rob Spillman about his memoir All Tomorrow's Parties.


Stream a new song by the Hotelier.


The Lifted Brow profiled author Valeria Luiselli.


The Weeklings interviewed Toni Tenille about her self-titled memoir.


io9 interviewed Paul Tremblay about his novel A Head Full of Ghosts.


Rolling Stone is streaming John Doe's new album The Westerner.


JSTOR Daily interviewed author Alexander Chee.


Stream a new Bonnie "Prince" Billy song.


The Guardian profiled cartoonist Robert Crumb.


NYCTaper shared last Tuesday's Mountain Goats' NYC performance.


Julia Holter played a Tiny Desk Concert.


Forward interviewed author Michael Chabon about his recent tour of the West bank.


The A.V. Club listed songs sung by orbiting astronauts.


Weekend Edition interviewed Peter Balakian, whose collection Ozone Journal was awarded the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.


All Things Considered interviewed Uchenna Ikonne about his book Wake Up You!: The Rise and Fall of Nigerian Rock 1972-1977 - Volume 1.


The Charleston Gazette recommended books about baseball.


Prince and the 1980s "paisley underground" music scene of Los Angeles.


Bob Costas talked to Weekend Edition about the reissue of George Plimpton's sports books.


Napalm Death's Barney Greenway talked non-musical influences with the A.V. Club.


All Things Considered interviewed poet Ocean Vuong.


eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave
Expo 58 by Jonathan Coe
How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer by Sarah Bakewell
J.D. Salinger: The Escape Artist by Thomas Beller
A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash
The Lost Tribe of Coney Island by Claire Prentiss
Shakespeare: The World as a Stage by Bill Bryson
South on Highland by Liana Maeby
The Time Is Noon by Pearl Buck



also at 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)

Posted by david | permalink | post to del.icio.us

April 24, 2016

Largehearted Boy Weekly Wrap-Up - April 24, 2016

A list of the past week's Largehearted Boy features:


Book Notes: (authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates to their book)

Alex Segura for his novel Down the Darkest Street
Curtis Smith for his book Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five: Bookmarked
Dominic Smith for his novel The Last Painting of Sara de Vos
Domnica Radulescu for her novel Country of Red Azaleas
Jeff Zentner for his novel The Serpent King
John Smelcer for his novels Savage Mountain and Stealing Indians
Jonathan Levi for his novel Septimania
Michelle de Kretser for her novella Springtime


Weekly New Book Recommendations:

Atomic Books Comics Preview (recommended new comics and graphic novels)
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
WORD Bookstores Books of the Week (recommended new books)


New Music Recommendations:

The Week's Interesting Music Releases


And of course, the daily literature and music news and link posts:

Shorties (news & links from the worlds of music, books, and pop culture)


also at Largehearted Boy:

Antiheroines
Atomic Books Comics Preview
Book Notes
Cover Song Collections
Lists
weekly music release lists
musician/author Interviews
Note Books
Soundtracked
WORD Bookstores Books of the Week

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April 22, 2016

Book Notes - Domnica Radulescu "Country of Red Azaleas"

Country of Red Azaleas

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.

Domnica Radulescu's Country of Red Azaleas is a poignant nocel of friendship and resilience.

BookPage wrote of the book:

"A tightly wrought, beautiful story of friendship...Radulescu creates images that lodge themselves firmly in your consciousness, giving you ideas to ponder long after you turn the final page. In the tradition of Elena Ferrante and Khaled Hosseini, Country of Red Azaleas prevails as a true testament to a bond that transcends the devastation of war."


In her own words, here is Domnica Radulescu's Book Notes music playlist for her novel Country of Red Azaleas:


Movies and music in my novel Country of Red Azaleas often function as either symbolic reflections or ironic commentaries for the characters or their actions, their psychology and life journeys.

The recurrent song in the novel is the theme from the film Doctor Zhivago, "Somewhere my Love," which I included to serve as an underlying refrain throughout the book. This refrain parallels a continuous and often insatiable search and need for love that drives the two protagonists Lara and Marija. Doctor Zhivago is the favorite movie of Lara's parents to the point where they named their daughter after the female protagonist. This melody recurs many times throughout the book as Lara remembers her parents dancing to it in their Belgrade apartment, enraptured with each other and dreaming of a world away from communist Yugoslavia and the new Serbia at war with its neighbors. Lara mocks her parents' sentimentality and feels almost resentful of their great love for one another. But she is also burdened by an unattainable image of romantic life that she will never manage to achieve with another man. There is one instance at the beginning of the novel when the Zhivago theme is of particular symbolic importance – when Mark, Lara's future husband visits her parents to ask for her hand in marriage. Lara's mother plays the song and Mark dances with her around the kitchen as Lara watches with admiration. It is as if that overly romantic image of love is passed on from her mother to her husband and thus obliquely on to her. Sadly, Lara will not find that kind of love with Mark but only an initial illusion of it.

The relationship between Lara and Marija is a complex and many sided one that includes intellectual, artistic, emotional levels but also a romantic or erotic dimension. Growing up together towards the end of the Tito era and the beginning of the war of the nineties era, they incorporate a lot of western values in their attitudes and thinking—love of American and western music, philosophies and ideas of women's emancipation, of democracy and an overall rebellion against the traditional and nationalistic elements in their own society and country. I write in the novel that they listened to Dire Straits and imagine them liking "Money for Nothing" and "Romeo and Juliet." The latter especially, though inspired by one of the most passionate and tragic love stories in the world, is a modern interpretation of the story by Dire Straits and has a gritty and raw element which coincides with the two women's rebellion, as well as the indestructible love for one another at this violent and ugly time in history.

The music of The Doors is mentioned when Lara visits Mark at his apartment in Belgrade the first night they meet. Out of a desire to immerse himself in the local culture Mark has an impressive collection of Serbian pop music in his apartment and hopes to impress her, but Lara doesn't care about Serbian music and asks him to play American music which Mark has an equally large collection of. Though no particular song is mentioned, I imagine them dancing to the song "People are Strange" by The Doors which is sultry and sexy with a tinge of ironic romanticism. The lyrics are also in tune with Lara as she starts experiencing a sense of alienation from her own country and is drawn to the strangeness of an American man and all that that entails for her and her future.

An important mention of a particular American song is Maria's "I Feel Pretty" from the West Side Story movie, another story of star crossed lovers in the Romeo and Juliet model. This time it is Lara's sister Biljana, who saunters into the living room of their parents' apartment the night before the beginning of the Bosnian war when Lara and Marija are visiting after an eventful and violent night in a Belgrade tavern. Marija is cynical and makes sarcastic comments about the story to Biljana's irritation. There is also a hidden reason why Marija is cynical towards the overly romanticized love stories of Hollywood movies, all while being a great lover of such movies, in particular Casablanca. The symbolism of the mention of the West Side Story movie and song is trifold: it anticipates a future filled with lost love, gained love, violence and suffering for all three young women in the room who each have their own reasons to "feel pretty oh so pretty," young and full of hope as the Maria in the movie does.

The classical music in my book underscores both Lara and Marija's happiest years as well as some of the most tragic and wrenching moments in Marija's journey. Her father was a flute player and his music transported Lara to paradise whenever she visited. She remembers how the "flute music rose in such delicate melodic trills that it made you want to slide out of your body and glide through the open window and into the blue ether." This corresponds to the happiest times in the girls' lives that they will always look back at with painful nostalgia. Furthermore, towards the end of the book Marija remembers a time during the Sarajevo siege when her father and a group of artist friends got together in the basement of her friend Frida's apartment and played all the waltzes they remembered as a gesture of defiance against the war and as a poignant statement of art, beauty and love prevailing over darkness and violence. Ravel's music is present as well, in a scene during one Christmas season when Lara's and Biljana's daughters perform a reenactment of Orpheus and Eurydice during their family reunion in Lara's and Mark's apartment in Washington DC. The Orpheus and Eurydice story is very important because Orpheus loses Eurydice to death, then brings her back from the dead with the power of his music and then loses her again. Similarly Lara and Marija almost lose each other and find each other after Marija, like Euridyce of the myth to some degree, visits places as dark as the realm of the dead and returns from them transformed. And finally, Marija will later remember the last night her father played from his classical repertoire before her parents are brutally killed by Serbian soldiers. Thus waltzes which are a joyous type of classical music, Ravel, a melancholy and darker type of classical modern music function as metaphors of beauty, love and art that emerge from the deepest human suffering both as a distillation of that suffering and an attempt to transcend it.

The last mention to music in the novel is when Marija is singing Serbian songs from her youth to Lara's great dismay, given the violence that her friend had suffered at the hands of Serbian soldiers. With this music the characters reconnect with their youth and native land from a place of survival but also as some sort of closure. The Serbian songs, which as Marija points out, had once belonged to Serbs, Bosnians, everybody living in former Yugoslavia, also play a part in actually saving her life. The woman who helped her survive after her traumatic experiences sang Serbian songs in order to be taken for Serbian by the soldiers as the two women were on the run. This episode is inspired by the true story of a Bosnian woman who survived the capture by acting mad and singing Serbian songs for the entire period of her captivity. There is great tragic irony here that the music of those who hurt her so badly also saved her. This also offers a moving example of the independence of art, in this case music, and its power to move, influence emotions and even actions and rise above hatred.

The diversity of the music referenced in my novel, from the theme song of a famous Hollywood movie to very specific Balkan folklore reflects the journey that the two heroines undergo across continents, historical periods, cultures, and geographies as well as a symbolic map of their psychological transformations. There is one song that played in my mind constantly while I was inspired to write the ending of the novel, and that is Etta James's "At Last," as the heroines reunite in the end. It inspired the writing though it is absent from the actual scene and for some reason it rang in my head while I was myself traveling through the Bosnian landscapes near Srebrenica that had been the sites of the war. I was allowing myself to be imbued with the sites and atmosphere that my characters had lived in when I felt the irresistible and overpowering love between the heroines that, in the end, overcomes all obstacles and comes into its own all while carrying the full burden of their broken yet reinvented lives. I wanted that last scene to express in images and words what this song expresses with melody without any mention of the actual music.


Domnica Radulescu and Country of Red Azaleas links:

the author's website

Associated Press review
BookPage review
Washington Independent Review of Books review

Augusta Free Press profile of the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

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
Word Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)

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This Week's Interesting Music Releases - April 22, 2016

Lush

Lush returns this week with a new EP, Blind Spot EP

Greys' Outer Heaven and The Loom's Here In The Deadlights are other new releases I can recommend.

Also in stores and streaming this week: a new Guided by Voices album, Please Be Honest

Archival releases include the 11-CD box set Philip Glass: The Symphonies.

What new releases can you recommend this week?


This week's interesting music releases:

Andy Stott: Too Many Voices
A$AP Ferg: Always Strive And Prosper
Big Black Delta: Tragame Tierra
Bill Evans: Some Other Time: The Lost Session from The Black Forest
Blue October: Home
Candlebox: Disappearing in Airports
Carlos Niño: Flutes, Echoes, It's All Happening! [vinyl]
Fruition: Labor Of Love
Greys: Outer Heaven
Guided by Voices: Please Be Honest</a>
Har Mar Superstar: Best Summer Ever [vinyl]
Jethro Tull: Aqualung (2-CD, 2-DVD box set)
Legendary Pink Dots: Pages Of Aquarius
The Loom: Here In The Deadlights
Lush: Blind Spot EP
Mean Jeans: Tight New Dimension
New Order: Singularity [vinyl]
Nicolas Godin: Contrepoint
Petra Haden: Petra Haden Sings: The Who Sell Out (reissue)
Philip Glass: The Symphonies (11-CD box set)
Prince: For You [vinyl]
Rufus Wainwright: Take All My Loves - 9 Shakespeare Sonnets
The Strumbrellas: Hope
We Are Scientists: Helter Seltzer
William Fitzsimmons: The Pittsburgh Collection Volumes 1 & 2: Pittsburgh & Charleroi [vinyl]
Wire: Nocturnal Koreans
Yes: Drama (reissue) [vinyl]
Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble: Sing Me Home


also at Largehearted Boy:

weekly music release lists

Essential and Interesting 2015 Year-End Music Lists

100 online sources for free and legal music downloads
Book Notes (authors create music playlists for their book)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)

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Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week - April 22, 2016

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.


Peplum

Peplum
by Blutch (Translated by Edward Gauvin)

Hailed as a master of contemporary cartooning, Blutch (the pseudonym of French cartoonist Christian Hinker) returns with Peplum: his second book translated into English, and arguably his most stunning graphic novel to date. Translated by Edward Gauvin, Peplum is a hallucinatory black-and-white epic that fuses Shakespeare and Satyricon with Blutch’s own, otherworldly view of the ancient roman empire. Involving an imposter who falls in love with a “goddess” encased in ice, Peplum is a brilliant, visceral tale of where the mind wanders when the world is ripe with destruction and despair.


Saving Montgomery Sole

Saving Montgomery Sole
by Mariko Tamaki

Montgomery Sole (or “Monty” as she tells us) is not an ordinary girl. Armed with a magic crystal that she bought off the internet, a Mystery Club comprised of her two best friends Thomas and Naoki, and the help of her not one, but two moms, Montgomery tackles the strange universe of bigots, ghosts, and religious fanatics. Written by celebrated Canadian artist and writer Mariko Tamaki, Saving Montgomery Sole is a beautiful young adult novel that aims to prove that all problems can be solved by a healthy dose of frozen yogurt and a heart full of determination.


Hilda and the Midnight Giant

Hilda and the Midnight Giant
by Luke Pearson

Full of rich colours and fantastic creatures, Luke Pearson’s follow up to Hilda and The Troll delves even further into Hilda’s magical and mountainous world. Unlike most other female protagonists found in children’s stories, Hilda is an autonomous, headstrong girl who doesn’t let herself be defined solely by 'girlishness.' Unapologetically complex, Hilda—with the help of her mother and pet deerfox Twig—aim to prove that adventure is all around them, and that the mountains hold many secrets, both big and small, that only they can see.


Pretentiousness: Why It Matters

Pretentiousness: Why It Matters
by Dan Fox

For a judgmental culture such as ours, Dan Fox’s essay on the polarizing term of ‘pretentiousness’ comes in as an unwarranted but necessary evaluation. With the aim of unpacking the the term and explaining it through a variety of theories and cultural movements (from vogueing balls in Harlem, to Bowie, to the fashion sense of normcore) Pretentious: Why It Matters argues why it’s an essential mechanism to thrive as an artistic, and inquisitive society. Lucidly written and ultimately enlightening, Dan Fox’s essay is a must-read.


Tokyo Cult Recipes

Tokyo Cult Recipes
by Maori Murota

Written by renowned, self-taught chef Maori Murota, Tokyo Cult Recipes is a cookbook filled with dozens of step-by-step guides that attempt to demystify the daunting task of cooking authentic Japanese cuisine. Filled with Murota’s own takes on miso, sushi, soba noodles, bentos, rice, desserts, cakes, and Japanese sweets, Tokyo Cult Recipes is a stunning, approachable book that is great for beginners and experts alike.


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:

other Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week

Online "Best Books of 2015" Year-end Lists

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)

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Atomic Books Comics Preview - April 22, 2016

In the weekly Atomic Books Comics Preview, Benn Ray highlights notable new comics, graphic novels, and books.

Benn Ray is the owner of Atomic Books, an independent bookstore in Baltimore. He also runs the Mutant Funnies Tumblr.

Atomic Books has been named one of BuzzFeed's Great American Bookstores, as well as one of Flavorwire's 10 greatest comic and graphic novel stores in America.


The Experts
The Experts
by Sophie Franz

A group of researchers lose their sense of purpose (and sense of self) when a mysterious fog bringing mysterious creatures rolls in. Sharp coloring and awesomely illustrated, The Experts is a weird, quirky story that hauntingly lingers in your psyche like a fog.


Matinee Junkie #3
Matinee Junkie #3
by Jordan Jeffries

It's time for Jordan's annual movie comics journal! If you're not familiar, Jordan's Matinee Junkie collects autobiographical comics centered around Jordan's movie-going. This issue includes: Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Big Short, The Babadook, Spotlight, Steve Jobs, The Martian, Straight Outta Compton, Ant-Man, Trainwreck, Mad Max: Fury Road, and so many more (for a total of 48 movies seen in theaters - seriously, this guy's gotta habit!).


Raymond Pettibon: Homo Americanus: Collected Works
Raymond Pettibon: Homo Americanus: Collected Works
by Raymond Pettibon

This brick of an art book is a career retrospective, collecting 600 pieces from every aspect of Pettibon's career, many of which have not published before. With such an iconic artist like Pettibon, it's easy to misremember his style as a monolithic, and Homo Americanus shows the tremendous growth of a great American artist.


Rise of David Bowie, 1972–1973
Rise of David Bowie, 1972–1973
by Mick Rock

The insane lenticular cover (I counted at least 6 Bowies in that flip action) tells you this Bowie book is something special (yes, you can sometimes judge a book by its cover). This book was compiled in 2015 with Bowie's blessing, and it reveals an artist at the greatest of his many creative peaks - the Ziggy Stardust era. Rock's photos reveal amazing glam gorgeousness and a whole lot more.


Sun Bakery #1
Sun Bakery #1
by Corey Lewis

Corey is a one-man comics anthology, and Sun Bakery is clearly inspired by manga anthologies like Shonen Jump. The stories here feature giant robots, swords and skateboards, and the art is kinetic and exciting. Get baked!


Questions, concerns, comments or gripes – e-mail benn@atomicbooks.com. If there’s a comic I should know about, send it my way at Atomic, c/o Atomic Books 3620 Falls Rd., Baltimore, MD 21211.


Atomic Books & Benn Ray links:

Atomic Books website
Atomic Books on Twitter
Atomic Books on Facebook
Benn Ray's blog (The Mobtown Shank)
Benn Ray's comic, Mutant Funnies


also at Largehearted Boy:

other Atomic Books Comics Preview lists (weekly new comics & graphic novel highlights)

Online "Best of 2015" Book Lists

Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Book Notes (authors create music 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)
WORD Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)

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Shorties (The Orwell Prize Shortlist, Remembering Prince, and more)

The finalists for the 2016 Orwell Prize for the best political writing has been announced.

The New Threat from Islamic Militancy by Jason Burke
Other People’s Money by John Kay
The Tears of the Rajas by Ferdinand Mount
The Invention of Russia by Arkady Ostrovsky
The Unravelling by Emma Sky
Circling the Square by Wendell Steavenson


New Yorker writers remembered Prince.

Literary Hub shared an excerpt from Michaelangelo Matos's 33 1/3 book Sign '0' the Times.


Authors shared their fondest Shakespeare memories at Signature.


Stream and/or download Monday night's Mountain Goats NYC show at NYCTaper.


Eileen Myles wrote about poetry submissions at Harriet.


Stream Cosmonauts' cover of "Caroline No" by the Beach Boys."


AL Kennedy shared her admiration for author Victoria Wood at the Guardian.


The autobiography of former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr will be released this fall.


The New York Times accompanied Bret Easton Ellis to American Psycho: The Musical.


Vetiver frontman Andy Cabic shared a mixtape at Aquarium Drunkard.


The Rumpus interviewed author Charles Bock.


Vanyaland profiled Evan Weiss of Into It. Over It.


Bustle recommended essential books about Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad.


Diffuser celebrated Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot album, released 14 years ago today.


Snacking at Shakespeare's plays while the Bard was still alive.


Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers discussed Prince's songwriting at Paste.


du9 interviewed Adrian Tomine about editing the comics of Yoshihiro Tatsumi.


MTV is rebooting its weekly Unplugged performance series.


BuzzFeed shared an excerpt from Manuel Gonzales' new novel The Regional Office Is Under Attack!.


eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave
Expo 58 by Jonathan Coe
How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer by Sarah Bakewell
J.D. Salinger: The Escape Artist by Thomas Beller
A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash
The Lost Tribe of Coney Island by Claire Prentiss
Shakespeare: The World as a Stage by Bill Bryson
South on Highland by Liana Maeby
The Time Is Noon by Pearl Buck



also at 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)

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April 21, 2016

Book Notes - Jeff Zentner "The Serpent King"

The Serpent King

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.

Jeff Zentner's The Serpent King is one of the year's finest YA novels, an impressive debut.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"Characters, incidents, dialogue, the poverty of the rural South, enduring friendship, a desperate clinging to strange faiths, fear of the unknown, and an awareness of the courage it takes to survive, let alone thrive, are among this fine novel's strengths. Zentner writes with understanding and grace—a new voice to savor."


In his own words, here is Jeff Zentner's Book Notes music playlist for his debut novel The Serpent King:



"Love Will Tear Us Apart"--Joy Division
This song plays a small but crucial role in the book. It's Lydia’s favorite song and therefore becomes one of Dill's favorite songs. It shows that Lydia is not one to just listen to whatever's on the radio. Also, through it we see how Dill has to figure out how to turn the names of normal bands into Christian bands on the spot when his mom asks.

"True Faith"--New Order
This song isn't specifically mentioned in the book, but New Order is, and I imagine Dill citing this song as an example that New Order is actually a Christian band.

"Serpents"--Sharon Van Etten
This is a gorgeous song about inner turmoil and demons. Sharon Van Etten spent some of her formative musical years in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, a city that figures into The Serpent King. Her songwriting is similar to how I imagine Dill's would sound.

"Night Sky"--Chvrches
There's more than one pivotal scene in the book in which the characters are looking up at the night sky and reflecting on life and their place in the world. Chvrches is the kind of band Lydia would love--they're dark, intelligent, soulful, and romantic and their lead singer is exactly the kind of woman Lydia would have a crush on. And thus Dill would love them too.

"Tether"--Chvrches
Ditto everything I said about Chvrches above, plus this song speaks of breaking free from places, one of the biggest themes in The Serpent King.

"Jacksonville Skyline"--Whiskeytown
This is one of the most hauntingly beautiful songs ever written about small town life. This song pulls my heart out. I tried to write The Serpent King so it read the way this song sounds. "I was born in an abundance of inherited sadness." Damn. That line.

"Revival"--Soulsavers
This song sounds to me like finally coming to terms with faith--triumphant and soaring. Listen to this song as you read the last page of the book.

"Follow Your Arrow"--Kacey Musgraves
The character Travis is fairly indifferent to music for the most part. He likes his buddy Dill's songs, and that’s about it. But this song describes him perfectly. No matter what forces are arrayed against him, he follows his own arrow where it leads.

"Myth"--Beach House
This song makes me think of identity and the myths we built around and about ourselves. Identity is hugely important in The Serpent King.

"A World Alone"--Lorde
This song sounds to me like summer. Plus Lorde really reminds me of Lydia. In fact, a fictionalized version of Lorde ended up in the book.

"Cold Valley Rain"--Matt Bauer
This song is like “Jacksonville Skyline” in that it reminds me of small towns. It has a poetry to it that reminds me of Dill's worldview.

"All the Rope"--Michael Rank and Stag
This song sounds to me like how Dill feels about Lydia.

"Wayward Sire"--Pale Houses
This song reminds me of what I think Dill’s songwriting would sound like. And it's a song about wayward fathers, something Dill knows something about.

"Sedated"--Hozier
This song sounds to me like surviving personal demons. Imagine this song playing as Dill leaves the prison after visiting his father for the last time.

"Sprained Ankle"--Julien Baker
She wasn’t one of the models for Dill since she came up after I’d written the book, but she certainly resembles him. She's 19 and goes to MTSU.

"Cold Front"--Hammock
I hope The Serpent King reads like how this song sounds. Plus this is a Nashville band.

"Bleed for You"--Jeff Zentner
Sorry, but I had to. This song is how Dill feels about Lydia.


Jeff Zentner and The Serpent King links:

the author's website

Buffalo News review
Guardian review
Kirkus review
Nashville Scene review
Publishers Weekly review

Asheville Citizen-Times profile of the author
Mashable interview with the author
Mountain Xpress profile of the author
School Library Journal interview with the author
The Tennessean interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

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
Word Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)

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