October 11, 2017

Book Notes - Wiley Cash "The Last Ballad"

The Last Ballad

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.

Wiley Cash's novel The Last Ballad is a gripping and evocative retelling of a brutal 1929 North Carolina textile mill strike.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"Inspired by the events of an actual textile-mill strike in 1929, Cash creates a vivid picture of one woman's desperation. . . . A heartbreaking and beautifully written look at the real people involved in the labor movement."


In his own words, here is Wiley Cash's Book Notes music playlist for his novel The Last Ballad:



"I've Endured" – Ola Belle Reed

There's a toughness to Reed's voice and a drive in these lyrics that I know Ella May would appreciate. "I've Endured" could be her theme song. I listened to it a lot when thinking about how to portray Ella's struggle on the page.

"Blue Ridge Mountains" – Fleet Foxes

The Fleet Foxes' sound is so mysterious and haunting, much like the Blue Ridge Mountains themselves. This song makes me feel the uncertainty and overwhelming possibility I imagine Ella felt as she and John descended the mountains for the mills in the South Carolina upstate where their lives would change forever.

"Old Shoes" – Tom Waits

This song is told from the perspective of a man who's leaving a woman he's pretty certain he never loved. I imagine John could have felt this way about Ella, especially after their lives began to come apart after so many years of struggle. But I don't think John was nearly as sensitive or decent as the man in this song.

"Daisy Bell" – Dinah Shore

This song was very popular in the early twentieth century. It's about loving someone who may be above your social standing, but perhaps your love is enough. In the novel Katherine is listening to this song on the night of her daughter's engagement party, and she's reflecting on her marriage and wondering if the love she once felt for her husband will be enough.

"The Night We Met" – Lord Huron

Katherine and her husband Richard are recalling the first time they met years ago. Who were they then? Are they still the same people now? Can they find their way back to being the people who'd once seemed so pure and interesting and kind?

"Two Little Blackbirds" – Charlie Hope

I sing this song to our daughters every night, and I always change the words and put their names in it: "Two little blackbirds flying to the moon; One name Early, one named June; Fly away Early, fly away June; Come back Early, come back June."

"Mississippi Goddam" – Nina Simone

This is a powerful protest song written and performed by one of the most socially active and politically engaged musicians in American history. There's rage here, but there's also intense sadness. These are the emotions Hampton is feeling as he travels south to organize African American workers for the union.

"Can't Buy My Love" – Barbara Lynn

This song feels bright and charming, but if you give it a good listen it's tough and wise, and that's exactly how I would describe Ella's friend Violet, especially when Violet suspects that Hampton may be hitting on her.

"Bright Morning Stars" – The Wailin' Jennys

The lyrics in this song are so beautiful, but the melody feels like a funeral dirge. I wanted readers to feel similarly conflicted on the morning Ella sets out to travel to a rally for the last time. We're proud of who she's become, but we're heartbroken by what that means.

"Feel Like Going Home" – Charlie Rich

At the end, Brother must confront who he's become while also looking back on who he was. How did the mistakes he made earlier in his life lead to tragic consequences for others? This song captures the melancholy that comes with the realization that the past is gone; you can't change it, and you can't outrun the ways in which it will follow you.

"Big Country" – Edgar Meyer ft. Mike Marshall and Bela Fleck

I was listening to this song the first time I sat down to work on The Last Ballad after we moved home to North Carolina from West Virginia in the summer of 2013. It was a spiritual moment for me. I wrote my first novel, A Land More Kind than Home, in Louisiana and my second novel, This Dark Road to Mercy, in West Virginia. The Last Ballad is the only novel I've worked on while living in my native North Carolina.

"Gastonia" – The Star Room Boys

I was so thrilled to learn that someone had written a song about my hometown. I don't know that there's much of a relationship between this song and The Last Ballad but both the song and the novel are set in Gastonia, which is reason enough to include the Star Room Boys here.


Wiley Cash and The Last Ballad links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

BookPage review
Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review

Asheville Citizen-Times profile of the author
Blue Ridge Public Radio interview with the author
Charlotte Observer interview with the author
Mountain Xpress profile of the author
Raleigh News and Observer profile of the author
West Virginia Public Radio interview with the author
WHQR interview with the author
Writer's Bone interview with the author
WUNC 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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October 11, 2017

Shorties (Jeffrey Eugenides on His Literary Inspirations, Stream a New St. Vincent Song, and more)

Jeffrey Eugenides talked to the CBC about books and authors that have inspired his literary life.


Stream a new St. Vincent song.


Michael Kimball interviewed author Jeannie Vanasco at Fanzine.


Stream a song from Sharon Jones' forthcoming posthumous album.


The Guardian recommended the top ten modern Nordic books.


The Los Angeles Times profiled the band the National.


Marc Maron discussed his new book Waiting for the Punch with Morning Edition.


Stream a new Jay Som video.


Literary Hub interviewed poet Eve Ewing.


Scientific American delved into whether analog or digital music sounds better.


This year's MacAarthur fellows include authors Viet Thanh Nguyen and Jesmyn Ward.


The Big Moon covered Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart."


Ellen Ullman discussed her new book Life in Code: A Personal History of Technology with Literary Hub.


Variety reviewed Ray Padgett's new book Cover Me: The Stories Behind the Greatest Cover Songs of All Time.

"....Ray Padgett, a veteran publicist who's also the founder and editor of the excellent, decade-old 'Cover Me' blog, has the experience, the bona fides and the skill to make this one of the best multi-subject music books to come down the pike in years."


The OTHERPPL podcast interviewed author Chelsea Martin.


Stream a new No Age song.


Literary Hub shared three new Danez Smith poems.


Grizzly Bear visited World Cafe for an interview and live performance.


The Rumpus interviewed author Omar El Akkad.


Stream a new Bonnie 'Prince' Billy video.


The New York Times recommended French novels to read now.


Fresh Air examined the jazz legacy of Thelonious Monk on the centennial of his birth.


The Rumpus Poetry Book Club interviewed Kaveh Akbar.


Stream a new song by Sadie Dupuis and Tracy Bonham.


VICE shared an excerpt from Jaime Lowe's new book Mental: Lithium, Love, and Losing My Mind.


Yusuf/Cat Stevens discussed his favorite albums at The Quietus.


Divedapper interviewed poet Layli Long Soldier.


Stream a new Son Lux song.


Electric Literature recommended books about the human brain.


Stream a new Django Django song.


October's best eBook deals.



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

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

October 10, 2017

Book Notes - Sorayya Khan "City of Spies"

City of Spies

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.

Sorayya Khan's novel City of Spies is a complex, fascinating, and rewarding story of Pakistan in the late 1970s.

Claire Messud wrote of the book:

"Through the eyes of a young girl, City of Spies brings to vivid life a crucial episode in the history of the United States and Pakistan, at the moment of the Iran hostage crisis. The tensions and confusions of that time are intensely relevant today. Sorayya Khan’s rich and compelling novel is a gem."


In her own words, here is Sorayya Khan's Book Notes music playlist for her novel City of Spies:



I began writing City of Spies as soon as I began to write, more than twenty years ago. So much music has accompanied my process, most of it a wordless way to access the space I needed to write.

Although I'd heard Hariprasad Chaurasia, my real introduction to the master Indian flute player was a live concert at Syracuse University where people in the audience wept at his sound. His flute is the master of longing, but it also contains infinite possibilities. Hearing him live made me need his music and for many years, I listened to Raag Abhogi on his album Hariprasad Chaurasia and His Divine Flute early on Sunday mornings when my children were still asleep and I began to write.

Noor Jehan, a great Pakistani singer, once said that a voice like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's comes around once every hundred years. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was the master of Qawwali, a form of Sufi devotional music. I listened to his Shahen-Shah album, especially Shamus-Ud-Doha Bader-Ud-Doja (which translates into something like O the bright sun, O the moon in darkness), on auto repeat for long stretches while I wrote. His voice is transportative and trance-like, and I loved being in its grip.

I fell for Mozart's Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 17 in G Major, K453, with Rudolf Serkin on piano, when I heard it for the first time on a car radio, before I knew it was Mozart—whom I have a soft spot for (and not because we share the same birthday). The second movement is my favorite, especially when the piano enters, as if to command the orchestra and listener alike. The moment is like the arrival of a muse, if there is such a thing.

Touch me in the Morning, sung by Diana Ross, is referenced in City of Spies. In the late 1970s, when the novel is set, the song plays on the cassette that Lizzy and Aliya are listening to on Constitution Avenue in Islamabad, as they drive to the US Embassy. It is one tune on a taped American radio show that Lizzy's NY friend sent her. I see now that song was a hit in 1973, but American music often reached even the American community in Pakistan late and, therefore, in my mind it remains a late 1970s hit, apropos my novel.

I don't remember how we came across Jerry Gonzalez's album Los Piratas del Flamenco, but I love it for how it moves at the edges of musical genres and makes something distinct from the journey. It reminds me of writing—standing in one place while imagining another—and helped me focus. And, oh, that trumpet!

Alcione's song Esperar is, undoubtedly, the sound of having finished writing City of Spies. My husband taught in Brazil one summer while I worked on revisions, and on his return he brought home hundreds of Brazilian albums. But I don't remember hearing this tune until the day I finished my manuscript and went for a walk with a Brazilian playlist in my ears; each time I hear Esperar (Portuguese for wait), I remember that wondrous feeling.


Sorayya Khan and City of Spies links:

the author's website

Kirkus review

DAWN profile of the author
Global Asian Times interview with the author
PEN America 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

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

Book Notes - Tatiana Ryckman "I Don't Think of You (Until I Do)"

I Don't Think of You (Until I Do)

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.

Tatiana Ryckman's novella I Don't Think of You (Until I Do) is a lyrical and moving examination of love and despair.

T Kira Madden wrote of the book:

"An elegiac and dirty and horribly beautiful examination of love and the lack of it; Ryckman has written the anti-love story within all of us. A book so earnest and sharp in its examination of heartbreak, it will make you ache for all the people you haven’t even loved yet."


In her own words, here is Tatiana Ryckman's Book Notes music playlist for her novella I Don't Think of You (Until I Do):



There are many songs referenced throughout the book, and while I was tempted to link each section to the songs mentioned there, I couldn’t in good conscience represent the entire first chapter with Kid Rock’s “All Summer Long”. So, instead, I stayed up late with a friend, irritating her downstairs neighbor late into the night, listening to everything that seemed potentially relevant from Nicki Minaj to The Violent Femmes. My secret inner goal, though, was to create a playlist that the book’s narrator might have sent to their beloved, the vague “you” to whom the book is addressed.

So, here’s a mixed tape, from “Me” to “You”.


0. The Breeders – Do You Love Me Now?
Section 0 ends, “I believed so much in our endings that they were perpetually beginning again.” And the lyric “You’ve loved me before. Do you love me now?” seems to echo that sentiment. “Do you wish you were here,” The Breeders sing, “Like I wish I was with you?” Could very well have been a note from the narrator to the beloved.

1. Robert Smith & Crystal Castles – Not In Love

“Did you have fantasies?” the narrator asks their beloved. “I did. I’d ask you to marry me and you’d say no and we’d never talk again and just feel a little unhappy for the rest of our lives but would never be able to know how that feeling differed from the alternatives.” A collaboration between Robert Smith and Crystal Castles is an objectively awesome thing, but turned up too loud on a long drive this song always feels like life-threatening desire. And when Robert Smith sings “Fascination ends,” the subtle reference to “Fascination Street” is just a little too much in the best heart-breaking kind of way. The song ends with Smith singing over and over, “We are not in love” and one needn’t ask who he’s trying so hard to convince.

2. Sonic Youth – Superstar

“We were in the same bed my mind had been caught in for months … your shirts were still hanging behind us and Sonic Youth CDs were still piled by our heads.” The narrator recalls. Most of my favorite Sonic Youth songs are cathartic precisely because they are aggressive and unromantic in a way that makes them ill-fitting for this book. But this droning, melancholic Carpenters cover seemed to perfectly express the continuous limp of the long-distance relationship the book is about. “Loneliness is such a sad affair,” they sing, “and I can hardly wait to be with you again. What can I do to make you come again. Come back to me again.”

3. Tina Turner – What’s Love Got to Do with It?

“Turner asked what love had to do with it, and I remembered that there was nothing remarkable about heartbreak.”

4. Beck – Totally Confused

I believe that there is a place on every mix for Beck. And this section, which is riddled with bad communication and misunderstanding seems the perfect place for Beck’s professed confusion and bizarre lyrics, “I’m totally confused by you … ten foot man makin’ my lunch. You’ll never understand. I want you so much.” It’s not painful, just inexplicable. So much like love.

“It was like a code in a dream,” the narrator says, “that only the dreamer understands, and I was passing into wakefulness.”

5. The National – Pink Rabbits

The line from this song, “You didn’t see me, I was falling apart. I was a white girl in a crowd of white girls in the park,” has always perfectly expressed depression for me. And the best way to describe section five is a “big bummer.” The narrator describes a day of suffering from the feeling of dying: “I was dying while making breakfast and that turned into dying while washing dishes which turned into dying in the shower and then dying in the bed again and then later, over a glass of juice.” This song feels like dying everywhere.

6. Smiths – William, It Was Really Nothing

It’ll be a few chapters before the narrator could come to the conclusion that “it was really nothing, it was your life,” is a bit of sad sarcasm. But in this section, as the narrator dreams about other lovers and failed romances, the line, “I don’t dream about anyone except myself,” is a brief respite from obsessing about the beloved.

7. The Blow – True Affection

The Blow’s album Paper Television could itself be the perfect soundtrack to this book, but this song stands alone as the beginning and end of impossible love. “Just because it’s real,” Khaela Maricich sings, “don’t mean it’s going to work.” And the rather obvious line, “Your fluids couldn’t tolerate the force of my thirst,” is comically appropriate to the obsessed narrator. In section seven the narrator finds themself in a sort of romantic death-throw. They say, “It had not occurred to me that, all over the world, other people were doing this same terrible dance. I thought about the lost global productivity that would result from so much agony. About the gross domestic product and efficiency and waste motion. This was the way I learned not to think about you.”

The Blow sings, “I never felt so close, I never felt so all alone.”

8. Neva Dinova – Ahh

The lyric “I’ve been trying to capture the piece of art you’re after,” sums up so much of the book, but when Jake Bellows sings, “I love you, but it doesn’t matter,” I struggle to imagine anything more crushingly definitive.

9. Ssion – My Love Grows in the Dark

Because some fires just don’t go out.

10. Stevie Nicks – The Chain - Demo

Until they do.


Tatiana Ryckman and I Don't Think of You (Until I Do) links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book
excerpt from the book
excerpt from the book
excerpt from the book
excerpt from the book
video trailers for the book

The Collapsar review


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

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

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

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

Shorties (Nnedi Okorafor Profiled, An Interview with Patti Smith, and more)

The New York Times profiled author Nnedi Okorafor.


Patti Smith talked to Hyperallergic about her new book Devotion.


Carmen Maria Machado discussed her story collection Her Body and Other Parties with BOMB.

Machado shared her influences at Library of America.


The Current shared an intimate Josh Ritter performance.


Literary Hub shared an excerpt from Iosi Havilio’s novel Petite Fleur.


Randy Newman played a Tiny Desk Concert.


Paste previewed October's best new books.


The Atlantic remembered Grant Hart of Husker Du.


BuzzFeed features a new poem by Maggie Smith.


Stream an unreleased R.E.M. demo from the remastered and expanded Automatic for the People album.


Ta-Nehisi Coates discussed his new book We Were Eight Years in Power with the Guardian.


PopMatters recommended conversation-shifting books about music.


BuzzFeed profiled author Armistead Maupin.


Tamara Lindeman (AKA The Weather Station) played a Stereogum session.


Literary Hub shared Ottessa Moshfegh's foreword to the new edition of Dark Tales by Shirley Jackson.


The Chicago Reader profiled musician Jon Langford.


CorD Magazine interviewed poet Charles Simic.


Weyes Blood covered Kate Bush's "Wuthering Heights."


The Brooklyn Rail interviewed author Laurie Sheck.


The Australian profiled St. Vincent's Annie Clark.


The New Yorker interviewed Tessa Hadley about her story in this week's issue.


Stream a new Anna St. Louis song.


Tabatha Southey discussed her essay collection Collected Tarts and Other Indelicacies with Hazlitt.


PopMatters interviewed Deer Tick frontman John McCauley.


The 2017 Baillie Gifford Prize shortlist has been announced.


Stream a new Julien Baker song.


BookPage recommended 2017's best books for book clubs.


Stereogum interviewed Belle and Sebastian's Stuart Murdoch.


Publishers Weekly interviewed Amy Tan about her memoir Where the Past Begins.


Stream a new Billy Bragg song.


Electric Literature recommended books about the human brain.


Aquarium Drunkard interviewed singer-songwriter Nick Lowe.


The Brooklyn Rail interviewed poet Safia Elhillo.


Stream a new Sleigh Bells song.


Electric Literature interviewed author James McBride.


Stereogum reconsidered Bruce Springsteen's Tunnel of Love album 30 years after its release.


October's best eBook deals.



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

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

October 9, 2017

Atomic Books Comics Preview - October 9, 2017

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.


Bottoms Up! True Tales of Hitting Rock-Bottom

Bottoms Up! True Tales of Hitting Rock-Bottom
edited by J.T. Yost

I love a solid comics anthology with a strong unifying theme, and here editor J.T. Yost delivers. Yost has collected real stories from people who've hit rock bottom, stories of addiction to alcohol, narcotics, sex, pornography, stories of people with body dysmorphia, and more. And then they've been illustrated by a group of great cartoonists, including Haleigh Buck, Kevin Budnik, Josh Burggraf, Max Clotfelter, Jordan Jeffries, Sara Lautman, John Porcellino, Holly Simple, Meghan Turbitt, Noah Van Sciver and many more. It's a remarkable collection made all the more powerful by the honesty of these experiences.


I Feel Like A Traffic Barrel

I Feel Like A Traffic Barrel
by Liza McElroy

The ubiquitous traffic barrel - I have to admit I've never much thought about them. That is, until Liza's zine where she illustrates a number of different traffic barrels she's spotted around town and reveals just how much character these omnipresent obstructions have.


Johnny Appleseed

Johnny Appleseed
by Paul Buhle / Noah Van Sciver

Here writer Buhle and artist Van Sciver give us a look into an American folk hero. This book will make many realize that maybe we didn't know much about Appleseed after all and, well, why didn't we? Not only does Johnny Appleseed reveal that John Chapman (his real name) spread more than just fruit tree seeds on his journeying around America, but it reveals much about a country in transition too. And appropriately so, this book presents some of Van Sciver's best, most intense art to date. Seriously, Noah. Hol-eee crap!


Rock Candy Mountain Volume 1

Rock Candy Mountain Volume 1
by Kyle Starks

One of my unexpected favorite comics this year is Kyle Starks' slightly supernatural hobo tale of a quest for hobo heaven. Full of humor, adventure and set in the first half of the twentieth century, Rock Candy Mountain is a charming, magical book. You'll feel good reading it.


Royal City

Royal City
by Jeff Lemire

This volume collects the the first story arc of Lemire's amazing story of a small town family dealing, quite literally, with the ghosts of their past, as well as other small town issues. Remarkably powerful, Lemire continues to prove he is one of the most important voices in comics today.


Screwed Up

Screwed Up
by Konstantin Steshenko

Jeremy and Steph have a complicated relationship. After a break, Jeremy thinks he can bully Steph into marriage via a very public proposal that goes horribly wrong - like somewhere between that Vincent D'Onofrio subway episode of Homicide: Life On The Street and that failed marriage proposal at Fenway Park earlier this year - but far, far worse.


Taking Up Space

Taking Up Space
by Adam Meuse

How much space does a person take up in life? That is what Adam Meuse's profoundly touching new comic deals with. Here he brings together an art school project, his brother's suicide and a portrait of his brother to ruminate on the space we take up and how it's measured - and of course, how big that space can feel when left behind.


Tongues Chapter 1

Tongues Chapter 1
by Anders Nilsen

Tongues beautifully begins an epic masterpiece by Anders Nilsen. Unique paneling mixes with gorgeous, wonderfully colored illustration that feels a lot like a modern update to the work of great European masters like Manara and Moebius. The story involves a bird eating organs from a god chained to a mountain, a boy hiking through a war-torn desert with a teddy bear strapped to his back, and a young girl with a mysterious cube on a journey accompanied by a talking chicken and a dickish monkey. Can't wait for chapter 2.


What's The Scoop? An Ice Cream Zine

What's The Scoop? An Ice Cream Zine
by Jordan Jeffries/Alessa Kreger

In this "dairy diary" Jordan and Alessa document their experiences exploring the wonderful world of ice cream while also making some political points. It's a testament to how, even when we're distracting ourselves with delicious treats from a variety of ice cream shops like Big Gay Ice Cream, Beacon Creamery and many others - all experimenting with flavors and styles - that the crushing reality of the world is still always with us. Each entry contains a vibrantly colored and delicious ice cream illustration, a synopsis of the trip to each respective ice cream joint, something that they love, and then an entry about problems they have with something they don't love: white supremacy. A portion of the proceeds of the zine go to The Southern Poverty Law Center. Think of it as a zine of ice cream radicalism.


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:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

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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October 6, 2017

Author Ryan Berg Interviews Musician William McCarthy (Pela, Augustines)


In the "Largehearted Boy Cross-Media Cultural Exchange Program" series (thanks to Jami Attenberg for the title), authors interview musicians (and vice versa).

Ryan Berg is the author of No House to Call My Home: Love, Family and Other Transgressions, winner of the 2016 Minnesota Book Award for General Nonfiction, the 2016 NCCD Media for a Just Society Award, and listed as a Top 10 LGBTQ Book of 2016 by the American Library Association. Berg received the New York Foundation of the Arts Fellowship in Nonfiction Literature and a Minnesota State Arts Board grant. His work has appeared in Ploughshares, Slate, The Chronicle for Social Change,The Advocate, Salon, Local Knowledge, The Rumpus, and The Sun. Berg has been awarded residencies from The MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. He lives in Minneapolis.

William McCarthy is a singer-songwriter and visual artist who fronted the bands Pela and Augustines. His new solo album is Shelter.


Author Ryan Berg interviews musician William McCarthy:


As the lead singer and songwriter of Pela, and then Augustines, William McCarthy has written some of the most compelling indie rock of the past few years. Augustines’ album Rise Ye Sunken Ships (2011), arguably the band’s best known record in the U.S., is a collection of twilit, soulfully charged songs that thread together like chapters in a novel. The songs’ themes wrestle with McCarthy trying to keep his brother afloat amid the reckless waters of psychosis. That record was followed up with the beautifully crafted anthemnic and emotional landscapes of their self-titled release (2014). The band's last record, 2016’s This is Your Life, is a bombastic, big, emotionally naked, and relentlessly melodic roof-raiser. Throughout their career Augustines found themselves embraced by critics, by bands such as Frightened Rabbit and the Boxer Rebellion, and by European fans, who turned the trio into minor celebrities. By everyone, it seems, except radio programmers and the American masses, who remained somewhat indifferent. Four months after the release of This is Your Life, due to the financial strain of keeping the band afloat, Augustines disbanded.

Shelter (2017) marks the first solo work for McCarthy. The record, a collection of stripped down covers, with a few original compositions peppered throughout, is a kind of tribute to troubadours, and embraces McCarthy’s quieter, more introspective side. Artists as disparate as Bob Dylan, Against Me!, Sade, and Dan Bern, fill out the collection, a record in tone and texture that is a dramatic departure from the Augustines sound. McCarthy pares back production, eliminating roaring guitars, minimizing soaring vocals, and quiets the quaking drums yet manages to retain his passion and gusto as an interpreter of classic tracks like Dylan’s Moonshiner and Two Coffins by Against Me!

I talked with William McCarthy about songwriting, reinvention, and what it means to be a rock musician in the age of Cardi B.

Augustines played their last show on October 31, 2016 in Liverpool. You've returned to the stage as a solo artist and your solo record, Shelter, is out the end of September. How was it making a William McCarthy album rather than an Augustines album? Did you feel more pressure?

To be honest it was a joyous thing to have members of both my bands Augustines and Pela in the same room. I would say rather than stressful I'd say it was very focused.

Augustines and Pela were both known for their bombastic live performances. Your solo material, however, has more of a troubadour, singer-songwriter vibe. Is that a genre that has always appealed to you?

I think as a teenager I was pretty blown away with words. Lyrics can comfort and inspire us like nothing in the world I decided then that I would commit myself for the rest of my days to words. You have a point, it certainly is not the focal point of high energy rock acts.

What is the music you always return to over time?

For some reason there's an African reggae artist that I listen too named Lucky Dube. I also adore the Jonsi and Alex record. Always the same 5 or 6 songs with both artists. I think these days less is so much more, I don't like exploring new stuff so much as I just appreciate the feeling music brings me and I'm happy to just listen to a few records a year and on repeat.

Augustines fans will be happy to find the concert favorite, "Still I Rise" and Pela fans will find a reworking of "Trouble with River Cities" on Shelter. Both cuts have been reinvented in a way. Reinvention is something you do well. First with Pela, then Augustines, now your solo work. It feels like a shedding of skins. Can you speak to the concept of reinvention in relation to your work?

I think necessity really sharpens us even if it is brutal. I read once that in business everyone is paid in two coins, cash or experience and that one should take the experience and prosperity comes eventually. I think this could be applied to music and art as well. Each thing you create gives you experience and when reinventing yourself, experience feels like your only friend, it's like when everything goes away, experience is the legs you have to stand on to rebuild.

The new album, Shelter, follows down a “rootsier” path – even more of a traditionally American sound. How do you find the European audiences are responding to it?

Really passionately. There were a few people moaning it wasn't what they wanted. But you must stay true to your path, removing a record label from the dynamic makes it an even even more truehearted experience. Sink or swim baby. But yes, all feedback has been warm and encouraging.

Todd Howe's documentary, Rise--The Story of Augustines, is nearly finished. Watching a rough cut I was moved by how committed you were to your singular vision of bringing music into the world, by your fans' devotion to you and the band, and by your resiliency to continue on, even when the past had been bleak. Watching your life interpreted through someone else's lens, was there something that surprised you? Something you hadn't considered about your own story until it was presented to you?

Yes I was very impressed that in life we can't really see our past except in photos and memories, so we generally live in the present. The film is actually a document going back through my entire life. I was very moved and couldn't believe I've actually been playing music as long as I have, it made me immensely proud of Rob and Eric, and of course Todd as well. It's a beautiful thing to not back down in life. Bravery is such an unseen thing. The NYC cab driver bravely working and sending all his money home to his country to help his family, a high school kid bravely walking through the cafeteria where he is teased, an old woman with Alzheimer's bravely not letting it hold her back in life. I love common bravery, it's all around but we value it so little. I feel the film is a lot about bravery.

I began fantasizing about everyone having a film about their life and when meeting new people you had the option to watch their film to see what their journey has been about. Imagine that!

Your first solo tour was called “Journals, Maps, Stories & Songs: An Evening with William McCarthy." You not only sang songs, you told stories, shared artwork, allowed the audience to a glimpse into your journals. It almost sounded like a performance art piece, not a common move for a rock musician. How do you see the role of the "rock musician"--a fairly fixed construct, and how do you see yourself breaking down the rigid walls of what it means to be a musician in today's bizarre music industry?

It’s not hard to see rock is receding at the moment. I've had record labels flatly say to me sorry but they aren't signing rock bands right now. Like many genres, when it becomes regurgitated or stale it sort of deserves to be benched, but like all genres will come back eventually. Look at hip hop, it was leading the way artistically the last half decade, but now I do see patterns like many of you do, a lot of the time it's very high production with little substance, all about the hook, which actually can be cool in a way, but we as artists have to rally and toe the line of quality as well like Kendrick Lamar is doing. He's literally on such a refined level that he's inspiring musicians spanning multiple genres. It's very hard to be visionary with all the politicking on the label and business side, it's real hard out there. People don't want to lose the audience they've fought hard to have a small foothold with. They don't want to squander it by doing something radical because it could be a career ender in today's Spotify / not paying artist what they are really worth world ( but profiting off of them anyway) and artists know and feel that.

I think NWA was the Sex Pistols of my generation and they came out in this weird time and helped cut through the nonsense. I thought perhaps the interwebs would prevent that kind of mainstream bizarro stale era ever again? But aren’t we in one now? Ed Sheeran and Ariana Grande, Bieber, Miley Cyrus and producers around the world ripping off Diplo jams looking for a cheap hook. I dunno it's a great debate.

So rock is in a funny place even within the indies, I noticed Arcade Fire tried something different recently that didn't entirely work, The National kind of make a similar record over and over, Arctic Monkeys have vitality. It's just hard as a fan of music sometimes. But I also say all this empathetically because you really can't win sometimes as a rising band or established act out there in the music business, so you just really gotta make it work for you. I'm exploring that mindset now.

In my solo work I’ve just chosen to pursue my own voice by exploring my own biography from years ago, the early years, how I got into music and why. I felt the visual art and stories, while daunting and intimidating, were the way forward on the storytelling tour, and this entire past nine months.

How did you go about developing your writing skills?
Who were some of the songwriters that you learned from?

That's funny man I don't feel very skilled. I never have. I think I was born with a voice that can sing in tune pretty consistently that's probably where the god given talent ends. As a player I'm fairly average I'd say but I've found a way to make it work. I don't shy away from the man hours of writing and studio time. I do love lyrics, they choke me up still to this day and often mid song onstage, but above all I just love to perform. It’s such an honor. And I love the road, I like to see people happy out there. So maybe in ways I've used whatever skills even if limited and made some sort of platform for catharsis and intention in my life, even if it's wonky here and there.

I grew up on basically mix tapes from friends ranging from The Smiths to west coast skate punk stuff, Reggae and old ska music is always pretty present in California and I fell in love with it early. Lots of skater and surfer type stuff Dead Kennedys, The Vandals, DRI, NWA, Eazy E, Too $hort, Circle Jerks, The Cure but in my mid-teens I found Dylan and the folk guys, Americana and country and that was a big step. Definitely a shut the fuck up and study this stuff with everything in your soul kind of period for me.

"Still I Rise" is a song composed during the Rise Ye Sunken Ship sessions. It didn’t make it on that record. What compelled you to re-record it for your solo record? Does the song hold new meaning for you so many years later?

I lost a bit of sleep on this topic. Imagine doing a solo record, and the b side over the years people consistently request, is conceptually ground you've already covered but secretly you love it too!

Oh man.

I just like the tune. We've tried recording it over the years and were never happy with the results. I think we nailed it this time, and hey, if rising up from life's heartache is something I'm associated with that's fine with me, I've made my peace with it.

The planet is pretty upside down right now, maybe it's a nice thing to put this out in the world in need of a little bit of shelter.


William McCarthy links:

William McCarthy's website


Ryan Berg links:

Ryan Berg's website

Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay for No House To Call My Home


also at Largehearted Boy:

other musician/author interviews

Antiheroines (Jami Attenberg interviews comics artists)
Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
guest book reviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Soundtracked (directors and composers discuss their film's soundtracks)

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This Week's Interesting Music Releases - October 6, 2017

Wolf Parade

Cults' Offering, Mister Heavenly's Boxing The Moonlight, Sound of Ceres' The Twin, The Weather Station's The Weather Station, Wolf Parade's Cry Cry Cry, and Yumi Zouma's Willowbank are all new albums I can recommend this week.

Archival releases include the Replacements' For Sale: Live At Maxwell's 1986.


This week's interesting music releases:

Alex Lahey: I Love You Like A Brother
Andrew Hung: Realisationship
August Burns Red: Phantom Anthem
Benjamin Clementine: I Tell a Fly
Bjork: The Gate [vinyl]
The Black Dahlia Murder: Nightbringers
Blue Hawaii: Tenderness
Carla Bruni: French Touch
The Church: Man Woman Life Death Infinity
Citizen: As You Please
The Clientele: Music For The Age Of Miracles [vinyl]
Cults: Offering
The Darkness: Pinewood Smile
Depeche Mode: Cover Me Remixes
Deradoorian: Eternal Recurrence
Elvis Presley: Christmas with Elvis and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Fantasia: Christmas After Midnight
Frank Zappa: Absolutely Free (reissue and expanded) [vinyl]
Grateful Dead: Road Trips Vol. 4 No. 4 - Spectrum 4-6-82
Gwen Stefani: You Make It Feel Like Christmas
Hiss Golden Messenger: Hallelujah Now [vinyl]
JD McPherson: Undivided Heart and Soul
John Prine: The Missing Years (reissue) [vinyl]
Kele Okereke: Fatherland
Kelela: Take Me Apart
Liam Gallagher: As You Were
Lisa Loeb: Lullaby Girl
Lone: DJ-Kicks
Lucinda Williams: This Sweet Old World
Marilyn Manson: Heaven Upside Down
Mister Heavenly: Boxing The Moonlight
Mos Def: The Ecstatic [vinyl]
Rationale: Rationale
Replacements: For Sale: Live At Maxwell's 1986
Richard Thompson: Acoustic Rarities
Shigeto: The New Monday
Sound of Ceres: The Twin
Spandau Ballet: Through the Barricades (remastered)
TOKiMONSTA: Lune Rouge
Various Artists: Rough Guide to the Music of West Africa (reissue)
The Weather Station: The Weather Station
The White Buffalo: Darkest Darks, Lightest Lights
Whitney Rose: Rule 62
Wolf Parade: Cry Cry Cry
Yumi Zouma: Willowbank


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

weekly music release lists

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)
Shorties (daily book and music news and links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)

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Shorties (Two Interviews with Carmen Maria Machado, Stream a New Mountain Goats EP, and more)

Carmen Maria Machado discussed her story collection Her Body and Other Parties with Literary Hub and Vol. 1 Brooklyn.


Stream the new Mountain Goats EP, Marsh Witch Visions.


Armistead Maupin discussed his memoir Logical Family with BookPage.


Stream a new Sound of Ceres song.


Jeanette Winterson discussed her favorite books at Vulture.


Geoff Dyer shared his obsession with the band the Necks at the New York Times.


Jennifer Egan talked to All Things Considered about her new novel Manhattan Beach.


David Bazan ranked Pedro the Lion albums at Noisey.


The Barnes & Noble Review interviewed author Karl Ove Knausgaard.


Stream a new Wireheads song.


Authors reflected upon the works of Kazuo Ishiguro at the Guardian.


Paste previewed October's best new albums.


Minnesota Public Radio listed the most haunted houses in literature.


Cloakroom covered Tom Petty's "Runnin' Down a Dream."


Signature recommended essential books that celebrate women of the African diaspora.


SPIN profiled the band Protomartyr.


Anne Enright discussed books and reading with the Guardian.


Stream a new Billy Bragg song.


The Rumpus interviewed poet Sam Sax.

"When I think about where I write from, or the poems I write that have the most fervor and import, it always begins with a question my body has that my brain doesn’t quite understand or know how to answer. A throb of desire, disgust, hunger, exuberance, elation that comes, and I can’t name it; the poem for me is a way to try to order that question. Not to answer it, but to put it alongside other questions and try to make sense of what my brain doesn’t have the language to map out."


Stereogum shared Mike Mills' notes on every song of R.E.M.'s album Automatic For The People, which turns 25 this year.


The Millions interviewed author John Haskell.


Stream a previously unreleased demo of the Smiths' "I Know It's Over."


The Paris Review interviewed author Meghan O’Rourke.


Belly is crowdfunding its new album.


Flannery O'Connor's teenage journals will be published this November.


Stream a new U.S. Girls song.


Stream a new Gingerlys song.


October's best eBook deals.



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

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October 5, 2017

Book Notes - Constance Squires "Live from Medicine Park"

Live from Medicine Park

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.

Constance Squires' Live from Medicine Park is the rare rock novel that impresses on both literary and music fronts.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"A rocky encounter with a rock icon changes a filmmaker's life in [Constance] Squires’ heartfelt novel. . . . Squires gets it right on both sides, making Lena a convincingly grizzled rock [and] roll survivor while giving resonance to Ray's journey to personal redemption. You don't need to be a rock fan to appreciate this rite-of-passage story, but Squires' fellow rockers will also appreciate her attention to details."


In her own words, here is Constance Squires' Book Notes music playlist for her novel Live from Medicine Park:



A line from the Rolling Stones' "If You Really Want to Be My Friend" is one of Live from Medicine Park's epigraphs: "If you really want to understand me, there's some giving up we got to do." It's about realizing that people's lives are more important than whatever story you're telling yourself about it, a lesson Ray—the novel's central character—must learn by giving up in a few different ways, each surrender bringing a person or situation more clearly into view.

"Return of the Grievous Angel," by Gram Parsons, as covered by Lucinda Williams in the peerless Gram Parsons Tribute: Return of the Grievous Angel, which will show up a couple more times on this list. The lyrics sound like the opening of a novel:

I'll show you how it all went down

Out with the truckers and the kickers and the cowboy angels

And a good saloon in every single town

Those lines gave me the beginnings of the Ray's voice. I'll show you how it all went down. It's car country, road culture, out here in Oklahoma and Texas, the settings for Live from Medicine Park's. We all spend a lot of time in our cars, and this song gets that transient yet historical sense of being out on the highway. It's a bit like we're turtles and our cars are our shells that we carry with us everywhere, a home with the music we love filling the interior. When I hear the word "plot," I see blacktop with a yellow centerline stretching away in front of the dashboard of a car—that's how intrinsic it is.

"Baker Street," by Gerry Rafferty

Live from Medicine Park's opens with documentary director Ray setting off to film the comeback of Lena Wells, a long-retired iconic rock-and-roll singer. I paired this song in Ray's memory with one of Lena's hits, "Trip the Wind," because I wanted to contextualize the late '70s musical moment I imagine her as part of. He was a high school kid listening to both songs over and over again at a barbecue joint, where he worked one summer in El Paso. "He couldn't remember whether he had ever liked the songs, maybe he had, but now they were too tied up with sense memories of raw flesh and flies for him to respond internally with anything but distaste when he heard them."

"Hot Burrito #1," by The Mavericks

Chapter 2's title comes from this song, also from Gram Parsons Tribute: Return of the Grievous Angel, which Ray hears a cover band perform at Lena's party as he passes through the great room. Several drunk couples are clinging to each other, and it's a particularly maudlin rendition of the Gram Parsons song (by the Flying Burrito Brothers, to be exact). Ray has just met Cy, and though he won't know it for many pages, this song isn't a bad thumbnail sketch of Cy's relationship with Lena:

Cause I'm the one who showed you how
To do the things you're doing now
He may feel all your charms
He might hold you in his arms
But I'm the one who let you in
I was right beside you in the end

"We're Desperate," by X

In chapter 4 of Live from Medicine Park's, Ray and Lena go hear the Black Sheep (Jettie, Gram, and Cy's band) play at a bar. The country-infused hardcore of X and bands like them, both the look and the sound, were how I understood the Black Sheep to be, plus the dynamic between Jettie and Gram onstage probably owes something to Exene Cervenka and John Doe. Jettie's lipstick's "impossible red of car paint" and her fuck-you quality come from the world evoked in songs like "We're Desperate":

I play too hard when I ought to go to sleep

They pick on me cause I really got the beat

Some people give me the creeps

"El Paso" by Marty Robbins

Appearing twice (once when Ray and Gram swap stories about Geronimo's and John Wesley Hardin's graves, and when Ray travels to the underworld and gets drunk at Hardin's grave at Concordia Cemetery in El Paso), "El Paso" carries through the entire novel. In both scenes, Ray sings the chorus of this song:

Out in the West Texas town of El Paso

I fell in love with a Mexican girl

Nighttime would find me in Rosa's cantina

Music would play and Felina would whirl

I think Ray connects with the song's impulsive acts and its excessive romanticism and he likes narrators who speak from beyond the grave—to hell with the impossible point-of-view problems.

"Tumbling Dice," by the Rolling Stones

In the middle of Live from Medicine Park's, there's the full text of a media kit, which contains lyrics to Lena's songs and reviews of her albums, etc. I intended this section as a tip of the hat to formal convention of rendering lyrics in rock novels, especially Don DeLillo's Great Jones Street and Sherman Alexie's Reservation Blues. A review of Lena's album Rank Outsider unpacks the allusion to the Stones' lyric:

Hey now baby
I'm a rank outsider
You can be my partner in crime

As the imagined 1977 Creem review says, "indeed one can read every note on Rank Outsider as a response to Exile on Main Street and the outsider status the Rolling Stones laid claim to with that album. With this music, the claim has claws, issuing from the country's wild center, and Wells has her outsider bona fide, claiming to be the great-granddaughter of Geronimo."

"Hex" by Neko Case

Two female characters, Lena Wells and Jettie Waycross, are songwriters in Live from Medicine Park's, and I found myself using different models for each of them to differentiate their styles. The spooky misanthropic romance of "Hex" and other Neko Case songs helped me write Jettie's lyrics, which appear in several spots when she's singing.

"The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" by Bob Dylan

Dylan songs led me into Lena's lyrical style. She's more of a balladeer than Jettie, whose lyrics are more personal and impressionistic. The story told in one song of Lena's that I wrote, called "January Ground," especially called out to the crime ballad style Dylan uses in songs like "Hattie Carroll," "Hurricane," "Oxford Town," and others. That blistering fury that leads you through the outrageous events of the story with an unblinking precision and bitter irony—I needed that for "January Ground," which tells an event that turns out to be important to Live from Medicine Park's's plot.

"Hang on St. Christopher" by Tom Waits

Late in Live from Medicine Park's, Ray takes a road trip: a bona fide journey into the underworld (Texas) to find what he lost. Lots of road music informed this section, but the wild abandon, velocity, and underlying grimness in Waits's song perfectly mirrors Ray's thinking as he heads into Texas, together with the lightly-worn and superstitious religiosity.

Hang on St. Christopher through the smoke
And the oil
Buckle down the rumble seat
Let the radiator boil
Got an overhead downshift
And a two dollar grill
Got an 85 cabin
On an 85 hill


Constance Squires and Live from Medicine Park links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

Kirkus review

Largehearted Boy Book Notes playlist by the author for All Along the Watchtower
New Plains Review interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

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

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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Book Notes - Bradford Morrow "The Prague Sonata"

The Prague Sonata

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.

Bradford Morrow's novel The Prague Sonata is a compelling epic with music at its heart.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"Music infuses Morrow’s descriptions of war, revolution, peace, love, friendship, and betrayal. Finely crafted storytelling . . . The reading pleasure comes from both Meta's pursuit and the prose, which brims with musical, historical, and cultural detail"


In his own words, here is Bradford Morrow's Book Notes music playlist for his novel The Prague Sonata:



I always wanted to write a novel in which music was at the center, all manner of music from classical to heavy metal, a book that would harmonize with my own eclectic tastes. It wasn't until I first visited Prague in the mid-1990s that I discovered the perfect setting and began sketching ideas around this theme. One of my favorite Czech sayings goes, Where there's a Czech, there's a musician. Prague was a city literally humming with music. In its recital halls, churches, jazz cellars, and puppet theaters, in its public squares and on its ancient bridges—everywhere I walked I heard organs, guitars, violins, accordions, saxophones, and singing. I even attended a performance of "Don Giovanni" in the Estates Theater, where Mozart himself had conducted its world premiere in 1787.

The Prague Sonata is a novel steeped in all kinds of music, from the first line to the last. Its two main characters, one a young American female musicologist in contemporary New York, the other a Czech woman whose life we follow through both World Wars and beyond, are each classical pianists. But like their author, who once was a classical pianist himself, both of them have tastes in music that range well beyond Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms. Meta, whose promising concert career was cut short by an accident that left her hands injured, compelling her into the alternate study of musicology, listened as much to heavy metal, jazz, rap, and rock when she was attending Juilliard as she did the three B's. And Otylie, whose father taught piano in a Czech conservatory and collected music manuscripts of the great composers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, becomes a reluctant (at first) aficionado of another venerable Bohemian music, the polka.

During the many years it took me to finish the novel, I listened to thousands of hours of recorded and live music, some of which made it into the book itself, while most of it simply worked its way into my subconsciousness. This brief catalogue, then, is as much a soundtrack as a playlist, since all of these works have a role in The Prague Sonata. Imagine a prodigious sonic atmosphere hovering around the book, though, and you'll have a clearer idea of how endless this playlist really could be!

Joseph Haydn. Sonata no. 52 in E-flat Major
During a research trip to Prague in November 2007, I heard one of my favorite pianists, András Schiff, perform an all-Haydn bill in the majestic Rudolfinum concert hall on the bank of the Vltava river. Not having planned ahead, I was lucky to get pretty much the worst seats in the house. The finale was Haydn's Sonata no. 52, the composer's last piano sonata, written in 1794. Schiff played its middle movement, an adagio, so beautifully that I had to force back tears. I managed to talk my way into a small reception backstage, where I shook his hand and thanked him. I don't really collect autographs as such—though I treasure my inscribed books by writer friends—but without giving it much thought, I asked him to autograph the concert program, which he kindly did. However foolish, it's a memento I cherish.

Frank Zappa. "Brown Shoes Don't Make It"
The ultimate skip-school-and-screw-work song, by the great Frank. One of the reasons it belongs on my playlist is because of a story, perhaps apocryphal, about Zappa's first arriving in Prague just after the Velvet Revolution at the invitation of Vaclav Havel who, like so many others in Eastern Europe, revered his music and politics. Thousands of newly liberated Czech fans turned up at the airport to welcome him, chanting and holding up banners that adoringly read "Fuck off, Frank! Fuck off, Frank!" Zappa was moved to tears.

Ludwig van Beethoven. WoO 47, the "Electoral" sonatas
Although, like Mozart, Beethoven was a genius, he wasn't, unlike Mozart, a precocious genius. These three early forays into writing sonatas, a musical form that Beethoven would revolutionize over the course of his career, have their flaws. They are somewhat derivative of Mozart and display little of the subtlety and bravura of later works—he was only twelve when they were composed in 1783—but they nevertheless offer insights into the master's youthful ambitions. "Try and write down for once the harmonies of your soul!" he wrote in his dedication letter to his early supporter, the Elector Maximilian Friedrich, "I was almost shy. But my Muse wished it—I obeyed, and wrote." Despite moments of juvenile awkwardness, these earliest sonatas are worth a listen. Young Ludwig's "Muse" never failed him and put him on a trajectory that, despite every kind of human misery—from dipsomania, loneliness, and persistent ill health to deafness—only mortality could bring to an end.

Jimi Hendrix. "Star Spangled Banner"
Anybody who wants to have a deeper understanding of the American side of the war in Vietnam should see Apocalypse Now, read Michael Herr's Dispatches, look at some vintage file footage television reporting, and crank up Hendrix's live version of the "Star Spangled Banner" from his performance at Woodstock. The screaming jets with their payloads of bombs and napalm, the screams of victims too, the craziness of war and, to some degree, of blind patriotism—it's all there in Hendrix's feedback and bravura playing. It might be a stretch to call this an antiwar anthem, but it's a raw, blindingly brilliant counter-take on what was originally an anthem of pride that our flag was still there. In Vietnam, Hendrix seems to be telling us, our flag was still there too long.

Richard Bruno Heydrich. Amen
The notorious "Butcher of Prague" and one of Hitler's favorite Nazi leaders, Reinhard Heydrich grew up in a musical family in Halle an der Saale, Germany. His father, an accomplished tenor, composed a number of ambitious, Wagner-influenced operas, among which Amen was a great favorite. The work had its premiere in Cologne in 1895, where it was positively received by the critics of its day. It was still well known enough to Germans during World War Two that as Reinhard lay dying in a hospital after assassins ambushed his car, none other than Heinrich Himmler quoted lines from the opera as he and other high-ranking SS men gathered around their colleague's deathbed. "The world is just a barrel organ," Himmler is said to have uttered, "played by God himself. We all must dance to the tune that happens to be on the roll." What an odd scene this is to imagine! Murderous Gestapo bigwigs waxing sentimental over a lyric that essentially exonerates them of responsibility for their savage criminality. The idea of Hitler as God with the Holocaust as his barrel organ tune didn't play out during the Nuremberg trials.

Anthrax. Cover of Joe Jackson's "Got the Time"
There are brilliant covers, like the Butthole Surfers' version of Donovan's "Hurdy Gurdy Man." Mellow-it-down ones like José Feliciano's "Light My Fire." Classic ones like Joe Cocker's powerful version of Traffic's "Feelin' Alright" and Crosby, Stills and Nash's "Woodstock" by Joni Mitchell. Pointless ones like Phil Collins' all but verbatim take on the Beatles' "Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight." Collaborative ones like George Michael's live duet with Elton John on "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me." And then there's Anthrax's 1990 thrash metal cover of Joe Jackson's "Got the Time" from my protagonist Meta's favorite heavy metal album, Persistence of Time. Simply put, this is an original cover—loud, complex, textured, precise, compelling—that moves the music in a brand new, unexpected direction, making it impossible to listen to the prototype the same way ever again.

Eric Satie. Trois Gymnopédies
The dreamy soundscape that the first waltz of Satie's popular three-part set produces is one of almost excruciating serenity. In the party scene of The Prague Sonata, where most everyone takes a turn at the piano while celebrating the discovery of a new movement of the lost sonata, young Andrea most definitely doesn't play this as well as, say, Pascal Rogé. But her encore, "a noisy version of ‘Louie, Louie'," makes up for any shortcomings.

Jaromír Vejvoda. "Beer Barrel Polka." Also known as "Roll Out the Barrel"
This little ditty, written in the late 1920's by a wannabe composer who tended bar at his father-in-law's pub in a suburb of Prague, went on to achieve worldwide popularity during the Second World War. The tune was so catchy that it became as famous among Germans as it was with the Allied forces, and after the war only became more popular. Everybody from Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman to Billie Holiday and the Andrews Sisters recorded it, and in its various incarnations it sold many millions of copies, making it sort of the Ninth Symphony of polkas. By the way, the original 1934 Czech lyrics for the "Beer Barrel Polka" (then titled "Wasted Love") had nothing to do with beer.

Mort Dixon and Ray Henderson. "Bye Bye Blackbird"
This jazz standard from 1926 has been recorded by everybody from Ella Fitzgerald to Nina Simone to Miles Davis and even Tiny Tim, but when my character Meta wanders around Prague on her first day there, she finds herself enthralled by a street singer's rendition of it in Old Town Square. With a cardboard megaphone in one hand and his trumpet in the other, this Czech manages an almost pitch-perfect imitation of the gravelly-voiced Louis Armstrong who happens to be buried in the same Queens cemetery as the woman who gave her the sonata manuscript. The lyrics of "Bye Bye Blackbird," which begin Pack up all my care and woe, are cryptic and valedictory. I imagine their underlying message of saying farewell to a past life, especially when sung in a soulful voice like Satchmo's, isn't lost on Meta, there at the beginning of her quest.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Die Zauberflöte
The Magic Flute, conducted by Sir Colin Davis in Dresden in 1984, featuring the soprano Margaret Price and tenor Peter Schreier, makes a late appearance during a very important scene in the novel. I'm fond of the passage cited because it poses one of the key themes, as I see it, in the novel: Who are you, what's your purpose? Besides, who wouldn't want The Magic Flute on their playlist?


Bradford Morrow and The Prague Sonata links:

the author's website
the author's Wikipedia entry

Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review

Lincoln Journal-Star profile of the author
Zing Magazine interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

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

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Shorties (Jesmyn Ward Profiled, The Pedro the Lion Reunion, and more)

Literary Hub profiled author Jesmyn Ward.


Pedro the Lion is reuniting.


Vol. 1 Brooklyn shared an excerpt from Constance Squires' novel Live from Medicine Park.


The Creative Independent interviewed drummer Greg Fox.


The Critical Flame interviewed author Paul Lisicky.


Ani DiFranco covered Woody Guthrie's "Do Re Mi."


Vulture interviewed Cheryl Strayed and Nia Vardalos about the stage adaptation of Tiny Beautiful Things.


Lenny interviewed author Amelia Gray.


Stream Elliott Smith's cover of John Lennon's "Jealous Guy."


The Verge interviewed author Jeff VanderMeer.


NPR Music reconsidered Rilo Kiley's More Adventurous album.


Kazuo Ishiguro has been awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize for Literature.


Wilco covered Tom Petty's "The Waiting."


eBook on sale for $2.99 today: Sherman Alexie's novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.


Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers talked to the Charleston Gazette-Mail.


Roz Chast talked books and reading with the New York Times.


NPR Music is streaming the new Stars album There Is No Love In Fluorescent Light.


Jonathan Eig discussed his book Ali: A Life with Fresh Air.


Literary Hub shared an excerpt from Janet Borgerson and Jonathan Schroeder's book Designed for Hi-Fi Living: The Vinyl LP in Midcentury America.


Bookworm interviewed author Nicole Krauss.


NPR Music is streaming Billy Corgan's new album Ogilala.


Author Colin Dickey recommended off-the-radar horror movies at Signature.


Stream a new Dan Deacon track.


Literary Hub shared an excerpt from Jennifer Egan's novel Manhattan Beach.


Doe Paoro covered Hercules and Love Affair's "Blind."


Signature recommended essential books by Philip K. Dick.


World Cafe shared a playlist for fall.


Book Riot recommended memoirs by women in the culinary world.


Stream a new song by the Rentals.


Hazlitt interviewed author Kei Miller.


October's best eBook deals.



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

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