August 24, 2015

Book Notes - Anna Badkhen "Walking with Abel"

Walking with Abel

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, Kevin Brockmeier, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

In precise and arresting prose, Anna Badkhen lyrically recounts her time embedded with nomadic cattle herders in southern Mali in her book Walking with Abel.

The Christian Science Monitor wrote of the book:

"Badkhen's rich and lucid prose illustrates her journey as vividly as might a series of photographs… By the time readers put the book down, they will have done something remarkable: visited a mostly inhospitable but eminently seductive locale alongside a storyteller able to render the strange and different both familiar and engrossing. Walking With Abel not only takes us somewhere new, it viscerally reminds us that such places still exist in the world."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


In her own words, here is Anna Badkhen's Book Notes music playlist for her memoir Walking with Abel: Journeys with the Nomads of the African Savannah:


My Fulani cowboy friends drive their cattle on foot, in tinny bubbles of bootleg music. Music rasps from the cellphones they dangle on lanyards from their necks. It has the same iambic beat as the songs of the Tamashek-speaking camel riders of the Sahara, the Turkoman goatherds of the Khorasan, the horsemen of the Kazakh steppes. Music made for walking and cowbells. Music made out of walking and cowbells.


1. Wilima Metatama (Dicko Oumarou)

My friends buy their music from itinerant bootleggers who set up makeshift stalls at the Djenné market every Monday and get away with charging the Fulani double the price: the cowboys, it is known, bargain poorly for everything except cattle. The music is downloaded onto cellphone memory cards. The cowboys don't bother with SIM cards—why spend money on calling people by phone when you will eventually run into them in the bush?—and use their cellphones to listen to music and store photographs of cows. A particular favorite is a Fulani griot named Dicko Oumarou. In the wilderness of the Sahel I heard his music almost nightly—this song, "Wilima Metatama," especially.

2. Mustt Mustt (Kiran Ahluwalia and Tinariwen)

My previous book, The World Is a Carpet, is set in a tiny village in the desert of northern Afghanistan, where my hosts were Turkomen shepherds who had abandoned their nomadic lifestyle. And what, I wondered, is the world when you live on the hoof? Human feet evolved to measure out steady steps on hot, dry, flat land, and the human brain evolved to absorb boundless geology at the speed of three miles an hour. Walking for a living must give an altogether different method to life's meaning. I wanted to tap into a slower knowledge that could come only from taking a very, very long walk with a people who have been walking always. I went to Mali to join a family of nomadic Fulani cowboys on their annual migration through the Sahel.

This song, in a serendipitous and odd way, bridges the two books. It is a hit by the legendary Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan—a qawwali master from Pakistan whose music is tremendously popular in Afghanistan—performed by the Indian-Canadian singer Kiran Ahluwalia and Tinariwen, a Tuareg band from Mali. (The band's founding member Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, who grew up in the Sahara, built his first guitar from a bicycle wire, a stick, and a tin can.)

Tinariwen was formed in the military camps of Libya's dictator Muammar Qaddafi, who recruited Tuareg men to be his mercenaries, dangling before them the hope that one day he would endorse the fight for their own independence. In 2012, after Qaddafi's death, some such mercenaries—though not Tinariwen's members—careened across the Sahara in looted pickup trucks chockfull of weapons they had plundered from the abandoned caches of their slain former padrone; swept into the major cities of Mali's north; and proclaimed the creation of an independent state they called Azawad: the Land of Transhumance. But within weeks, Islamist fundamentalists hijacked the rebellion and flew the black flags of al Qaeda over Timbuktu. They axed down centuries-old shrines and they flogged, amputated, jailed, stoned, beheaded, raped. And they transformed, too, the age-old routes of Fulani transhumance into the latest frontline of the global war on terror.

3. Folon (Salif Keïta)

The Malians rightly call Salif Keïta the Golden Voice of Africa. Perhaps it is the grief. Keïta was ostracized by his family twice: for being born an albino, a sign of bad luck in the Mandinka culture; and for choosing to become a singer—a low-caste profession unbecoming the descendant of Sundiata, the Lion of Songolon, the great Malian king.

Today Salif Keïta is truly the king of Mali. You hear his music outside shops, on buses, in people's homes. I once heard "Folon" in a fetish market in Bamako. The song flowed magically from a stall laden with crocodile heads and snakeskins and birdwings and herbs and lichen and cowries. I looked closer. Perched among those mottled awful oddities was a tiny transistor radio.

4. Mélancolie (Rokia Traoré)

Because, while I was researching the book, I was missing someone very much.

5. Gambari Go'o (Ali Farka Touré)

Growing up, Ali Ibrahim "Farka" Touré spent much time with his grandmother, a Songhai sorceress. In his beautiful slim gem of a book, Genii of the River Niger, the French anthropologist Jean-Marie Gibbal suggests that the great guitarist's "inspiration was a gift from God—and from the genii, who helped him when, as he was looking for something new to add to his music, he happened to use the djerkélé, the single-stringed instrument that particularly moves them."

Ali Farka sang in many languages, and this song he sings in Fulfulde. Gambari tells the story of a great man who spoke Hausa—an arrival, most likely, from the north of modern-day Nigeria. Another wanderer.

6. Iniagige (Salif Keïta)

"Wipe your tears," the song goes. And we do.

7. Bambugu Blues (Bassekou Koyaté and Ngoni Ba)

The blues arrived in the Americas in the cargo holds of slave ships: trussed, violated, mauled. Yet in the New World it unwound, relearning its own words, from mouth to mouth of millions of women and men who spoke mutually unintelligible African tongues—and then journeyed back to Africa via Europe in bales of cotton and peanut vines, to be retuned, resung, shipped back again. The triangle of slavery became, too, the triangle of sound. And on and on the blues ambles, adding modern guitars here, ngoni lute there. Bassekou Koyaté sings this blues for Bambougou, a town on the Niger River in cenral Mali, near Ségou.

Bassekou Koyate is Bambara, but the record on which this song appears is called "I Speak Fula."

8. Sowa (Fatoumata Diawara)

I got to hear the opening bars of this tune many times: my friend and translator Amadou Gano used this song as his cellphone ringtone.

"Do not give your children to be raised by others," the song goes. "Do not give your boys to be raised by others/Do not give your daughters to be raised by others/It only brings suffering and sadness." But when you don't have enough to feed your children in Mali you usually farm them out to someone who does. One of the translators I worked with, a Djennénke entrepreneur of means, was raising his own four children and also two nephews and a niece whose parents could not afford to provide for them. And my nomadic hosts in the bush were raising their two young grandchildren because their mother was divorced and perpetually ill and herself bounced from relative to relative, from clinic to clinic.

9. La Llorona (Sones de México Ensemble)

When I squatted by the hearth to feed to the fire long knotty sticks of kindling, Bomel came over and smiled at me.
"Are you missing someone, Anna Bâ?"
I started.
"Why do you ask?"
"You're singing."
I was? I was. I hadn't even noticed.
"They say when a woman sings, she is missing someone." She squinted at me. "You sing to yourself a lot, Anna Bâ."

This was the song: a ranchera about a village beauty spurned by a rich ranchero and driven to murder and madness. Or maybe about a weeping ghost tormented by betrayal and seeking revenge. In the Spanish-speaking America, La Llorona is ubiquitous. She is a deranged specter who kidnaps living children and drowns them in some stories; a mistress of Cortez in others. In every story, she is a madwoman who drowned her own children after her lover left her, a phantom dressed in white who weeps and weeps. This was the cheerful ditty I hummed all year on the road.

I don't know why. It's catchy?

10. Farafina (Boubacar Traoré)

After his beloved wife Pierrette died at childbirth, this popular guitarist from the northern Malian city of Kayes gave up music and moved to France to do construction work to support his children. It took, typically for our lopsided planet, a Western record producer to "rediscover" Boubacar "Kar Kar" Traoré in 1990 to bring him back to music—and bring his astonishing music back to the world. Traoré was almost fifty then. There is a great understatement in his songs, I think—a silence almost, a vastness of a kind that beautifully reflects the sparse immensity of Sahelian horizons.

11. Torin Torin (Bassekou Koyaté and Ngoni Ba)

More by Bassekou Koyaté, a master of the ngoni—a fretless lute made typically of hollowed-out elongated piece of wood or calabash, goatskin, and three or five strings. Koyaté's band, Ngoni Ba, is named after the instrument.

Today, ngoni strings are typically made with nylon fishing line—as are the strings on the ngoni's close relative, ganberi. In the past, strings were made with animal guts. From which beast, I wonder, came the strings circa 1352, when Ibn Battuta, the Moroccan traveler, journeyed through what today is Mali and who wrote that whenever the emperor Mansa Musa held court that "the singers go out before him carrying gold and silver qanābir?"

12. Talliyatidagh (Toumast)

The title means "That girl." Of course.

This band, like Tinariwen, is Tuareg; its leader, Moussa Ag Keyna, at one point fought in the neverending rebellion against the governments of Mali and Niger, was severely wounded in battle, and had to recuperate in France. His band's name means "Identity." Of course.

13. Gambari Didi (Ali Farka Touré)

Part two—"didi" in Fulfulde—of the saga of the great Gambari, the Hausa-speaking man, the traveler from far away.

Walking and cowbells, walking and cowbells, here we go again.


Anna Badkhen and Walking with Abel links:

the author's website
video trailer for the book

Biographile review
BookPage review
Christian Science Monitor review
Dallas Morning News review
Kirkus review
Minneapolis Star Tribune 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)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
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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August 24, 2015

Book Notes - Russell Smith "Confidence"

Confidence

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, Kevin Brockmeier, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Russell Smith's short story collection Confidence is dark, honest, and often funny look at the entitled citizens of Toronto.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote of the book:

"We know gentrification, prescription drugs, absorption in handheld screens and the psychic drain of continually comparing ourselves with others, and it does us good to see these phenomena so deftly satirized … but what gives Confidence its emotional power is the isolation of the characters amid all their connectivity. A sad and funny and vivid portrait [of contemporary life] that we hope isn’t as true as we know it is."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


In his own words, here is Russell Smith's Book Notes music playlist for his short story collection Confidence:


Confidence is a suite of stories set in a large North American city (it looks like Toronto but it could be a few others too). The people in the stories tend to be educated. They are universally anxious and distracted, and yet also often struck by intimations of poignancy or pangs of yearning. I think their mood is best illustrated by modernist music: sophisticated, witty, but agitated, nervous, with moments of clanging dissonance.

If I'm not listening to this while writing, I tend to listen to minimal techno music – quite hard stuff, mostly – because it blocks the noise of coffee-shop or neighbourly stereo without the distraction of singing and words. Its repetitiveness is a kind of silence, as is white noise. Besides, I just love techno and industrial and used to go to dark clubs and do ecstasy; I loved the otherworldliness of the experience, and I still do an all-nighter about once a year. I DJ myself, in my basement, and put my menacing one-hour mixes online for Europeans to listen to. (Canadians do not like it much.) I don't listen to any other kind of popular music.

So here are some pieces of music that I think best illuminate the mood of the modern city, and my own esthetic preferences. If I had a theme song, it would be one of these:

Maurice Ravel, String quartet in F major, 2nd movement ("Assez vif. Très rhythmé."), 1903. This movement opens with a famous manic, spritely pizzicato tune -- you've probably heard it used in commercials to signify fresh scent or erectile function. It's determinedly chirpy, but the harshly plucked strings seem to betray anger. Then it slows to mysterious sadness. I feel like this on descending into the subway. It sounds like spring and Adderall.

Igor Stravinsky, Eight Orchestral Miniatures, 1963. This suite of simple tunes is actually the orchestration of pieces originally written as five-finger piano exercises in 1921 (a piece called "les cinq doigts"). The right hand plays only five notes in each one. I love the piano version – it's lively and melancholy and minimalist all at once – and I enjoy knowing that it has been called, usually disparagingly, Gebrauchsmusik, utility music. I have no problem with utility music. This was composed in an idealistic effort to bring an avant-gardist sensibility to piano exercises for children. It was a heady time. Anyway, I like the later orchestrations of the pieces just as much because there are lots of woodwinds among the 15 players and the resulting texture is unusual. The pace is rapid.

Francis Poulenc, Mouvement Perpétuel No. 1, 1918. You know this sweet little one-and-a-half-minute piano piece if you have ever seen Hitchcock's Rope: it's the piece one of the suave murderers keeps attempting to finish playing on the piano in a sprawling Manhattan loft, with a body stuffed into a trunk beneath the hors d'oeuvres. Poulenc is a perfect composer for a film about privileged corruption: he was a fierce urbanite. When he did piano recitals outside Paris, he used to close with an encore piece called "Voyage à Paris", a light song sung by a soprano, that included the line "Ah! La charmante chose, quitter un pays morose, pour Paris! Paris joli!". It was thought he was signaling his joy that his visit to the provinces was over. Poulenc's work is forever verging on being too light, too pretty, but I find that his playfulness is deeply serious.

Darius Milhaud, "Le Printemps" for violin and piano, Op. 43, 1951. Milhaud and Poulenc were buddies, part of the clique they called Les Six. This is another perfect miniature – unashamedly pretty, two-and-a-half minutes long, and with no pretence or grandeur. I like a nice restrained artistic ambition. I don't write about genocides – I write miniatures myself.

Dmitri Shostakovich, Prelude and fugue #7 in A major, 1952. Well, aside from that it is one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written... there's not much to say about this. I suppose one could add that is part of a completist project: a series of 24 prelude-fugue pairs for solo piano that includes one piece in each of the major and minor keys of the chromatic scale. It is in its entirety a reference to Johan Sebastian Bach's Well Tempered Clavier and includes specific quotations from that work as well. It brings the fugue – the game of polyphony that is exactly what we play as children when we sing rounds like "Row Row Row Your Boat" – into the steely modern age. It is coldly beautiful, like the singing of the spheres. It is perfection, total artistic perfection, and was written in frigid, oppressed, terrified, destroyed, blackened post-war Leningrad. I cannot think of anything cooler or braver, more soaringly humanist, than the writing of this music at that place and time. I wish that I could see such pure forms in total darkness.


Russell Smith and Confidence links:

the author's website
the author's Wikipedia entry
video trailer for the book

Globe and Mail review
Minneapolis Star Tribune review
Publishers Weekly review
Quill and Quire review
Toronto Star review
Winnipeg Free Press review

CBC News interview with the author
The Province 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)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
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 (Morrissey's Debut Novel, The Best Songs of the 1980s, and more)

Morrissey's debut novel List of the Lost will be published next month in the UK.


Pitchfork is counting down the 200 best songs of the 1980s.


Midnight Breakfast interviewed FSG editor Emily Bell.


SPIN profiled singer-songwriter Chelsea Wolfe.


The Rumpus interviewed J. Ryan Stradal about his debut novel Kitchens of the Great Midwest.


The Rumpus shared a Hurricane Katrina playlist.


The Oyster Review shared a literary field guide to New Jersey.


Kamel Daoud talked to Kamel Daoud">All Things Considered about his novel The Meursault Investigation.

Daoud says he sees his novel as complementing and continuing Camus' novel. "My novel takes off from The Stranger, but it also uses The Stranger as a pretext for questioning myself, to find out who I am in the world today."

Read an excerpt from the book.



WGN Radio interviewed author Jami Attenberg.


Members od Spandau ballet discusses their reunion with Weekend Edition.


The Guardian interviewed author Jonathan Franzen.


Son Lux played a Tiny Desk Concert.


Author Caitlin Moran's favorite books.


Pitchfork interviewed Deerhunter frontman Bradford Cox.


Television's David Simon discussed his favorite books at The Week.


The A.V. Club listed 28 albums with distinctly different versions of the same song.


The syllabus for David Foster Wallace's Literary Interpretations course at Pomona College (Spring 2005 semester).


The Smart Set interviewed Grant Hart, formerly of Husker Du.


Paste interviewed Susan Barker about her novel The Incarnations.


Follow Largehearted Boy on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, Google+, and Stumbleupon for links (updated throughout the day) that don't make the daily "Shorties" posts.


also at Largehearted Boy:

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

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Atomic Books Comics Preview (the week's best new comics and graphic novels)
Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
daily mp3 downloads
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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Daily Downloads (Vic Chesnutt, David Ramirez, Buriers, and more)

Every day, Daily Downloads offers free and legal music and/or stream.


Today's free and legal mp3 downloads:

Animal Running: From Nothing album [mp3]

Buriers: We Are Small single [mp3]

David Ramirez: NoiseTrade Sampler album [mp3]

The Lonesome While: Empty Mansions I EP [mp3]

The Oaks: Reverie EP [mp3]

Robyn Cage: NoiseTrade Sampler EP [mp3]

Ryan Pryor: "January Snow" [mp3]

Typographers: Sweeter Things EP [mp3]


Free and legal live performances at other websites:

Vic Chesnutt: 2008-03-01, Athens [mp3]


search for more free and legal music downloads at Largehearted Boy


also at Largehearted Boy:

other Daily Downloads

covers collections
100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads

Book Notes (authors create 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 music, books, and pop culture news and links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtrack)
weekly new album lists

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

August 23, 2015

Largehearted Boy Weekly Wrap-Up - August 23, 2015

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


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

Myriam Gurba for her short story collection Painting Their Portraits in Winter
Ottessa Moshfegh for her novel Eileen
Rajia Hassib for her novel In the Language of Miracles
Susan Barker for her novel The Incarnations
Tanwi Nandini Islam for her novel Bright Lines
Val Brelinski for her novel The Girl Who Slept with God


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 music and news posts:

Daily Downloads (10 free and legal mp3 downloads every day, plus links to free live recordings online)
Shorties (news & links from the worlds of music, books, and pop culture)


also at Largehearted Boy:

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Antiheroines
Atomic Books Comics Preview
Book Notes
Contests / Giveaways
Cover Song Collections
Daily Downloads
Lists
weekly music release lists
musician/author Interviews
Note Books
Soundtracked
WORD Bookstores Books of the Week

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Daily Downloads (The Week's Best Free and Legal Music Including Los Campesinos!, Rachel Mason, and more)

Every day, Daily Downloads offers free and legal music and/or stream.


Today's free and legal mp3 downloads:

Becca Naber: At the Drive-In EP [mp3]

Dial In: Lost Frames EP [mp3]

Lakewood Cemetery: Lakewood Cemetery album [mp3]

Los Campesinos!: A Good Night For A Fistfight (Live At Islington Assembly Hall) album [mp3]

The Peach Kings: Mojo Thunder EP [mp3]

Rachel Mason: Live on WFMU [mp3]

Various Artists: Gold Mold records: Scottish Indie Sampler album [mp3]

Various Artists: The Psychedelic Sounds of TBTCI, Vol. III album [mp3]

Various Artists: True North Records: True North Essentials album [mp3]

Wildlight: Hers Was As Thunder (Remixes) album [mp3]


Free and legal live performances at other websites:

Ween: 1998-01-23, Tampa [mp3]


search for more free and legal music downloads at Largehearted Boy


also at Largehearted Boy:

other Daily Downloads

covers collections
100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads

Book Notes (authors create 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 music, books, and pop culture news and links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtrack)
weekly new album lists

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

August 21, 2015

Book Notes - Tanwi Nandini Islam "Bright Lines"

Bright Lines

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, Kevin Brockmeier, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Tanwi Nandini Islam's novel Bright Lines is an amazing debut, a poignant and profound coming of age story unforgettably set in Brooklyn.

The Denver Post wrote of the book:

"A Brooklyn-by-way-of-Bangladesh Royal Tenenbaums. A pot-tinged, PTSD Muslim Sesame Street. With sex. Hallucinations, hijabs and handlebars on the always-busy Atlantic Avenue. The New York sense of place in Bright Lines rivals the recent memory of Teju Cole's Open City."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


In her own words, here is Tanwi Nandini Islam's Book Notes music playlist for her debut novel Bright Lines:


Bright Lines is the story told from the point of view of three people: Anwar, a middle-aged Bangladeshi apothecary; Ella, a gardening, gender queer college student and Anwar's niece; Charu, a fashion design-boy-obsessed-freshman-to-be at NYU. Since I only focused on one character's POV on any given day, the breadth of music in the Bright Lines playlist is the syncretic Brooklyn the novel imagines. The collision of genres –-from Ethiopian jazz, roots reggae, 90s R&B, indie rock, Indian prayer music and classical minimalism – mimics the multitude of voices and places in the novel.


"Tezeta" - Mulatu Astatke, as well as Ethiopiques, Vol. 4 : Ethio Jazz & Musique Instrumentale
Tezeta, which means nostalgia, longing in Amharic, is a style of music in Ethiopia. There's a particular memory painting that happens when I listen to Mulatu's version of "Tezeta." Perhaps it's the way the saxophone and piano are layered to strike a hidden away longing. There's a grainy softness that recalls a Polaroid, a worn out love letter. I imagine my characters Anwar Saleem and Bic Gnarls playing Ethiopian Jazz when they get high on their favorite kush. While Bic may have introduced Anwar to the music, the melodic call to the past appeals to him, as it does to me.

"We Need Love" - Johnny Osborne and “Hold onto What You've Got” by Dennis Brown
Both Osborne and Brown's voices are laced with wisdom and reverence for the great unknown. My character Ella's insomnia only has one cure: Lovers Rock. This style of reggae is for the romantics, but the two songs are etched with so much longing and love, that they seem to be the perfect antidote for her lovesickness. There's a summer vibe that captures the events in Bright Lines, and summer is the season that I started writing the novel.

"X- Factor" Lauryn Hill, from the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
“You Don't Show No Love” – Erykah Badu, from Baduizm
“Be Happy” – Mary J. Blige, from My Life

These three tunes are the anthems of my adolescence. Tears shed for ne'er do well boys from the suburbs, the plight of being a nerdy girl, the desire to escape. As the heart of Bright Lines is the triumvirate of Ella, Charu and Maya, these songs let me channel the lovelorn angst of yesterday.

"Vandanaa Trayee" - Ravi Shankar, from Chants of India
This is my meditation song, listened to before morning coffee and bowl of berries. The drone of these chants, the escape into Sanskrit, lets me get lost in my thoughts. I've always thought that hearing words in another language (a language I don't know) allows my imagination to work in ways it can only when I'm being stimulated, but without concrete understanding. In “Vandanaa Trayee,” each Om takes me to outer space, ocean, past and future.

"Staring at the Sun" TV on the Radio, from Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes
The epigraph for Part II, “The Black Forest” has a gorgeous line from this song, which has stayed with me – Note the trees, because the dirt is temporary – it is a reminder, a call to be present. Looking upward we see the expanse of field and forest; if we keep our heads down in the dirt we miss everything.

"Ritual Union" - Little Dragon, from Ritual Union and “Feather” from Machine Dreams
Little Dragon is a band I fell in love with as I started the novel, and years and records later, I'm still in love. There's a collision of sounds in their music, a retro-futuristic soundscape navigated by the sweet-voiced Yukimi Nagano. It's sexy music, happy music, dance music and work music all in one.

Music for 18 Musicians, Steve Reich Ensemble
Ultimate revision music, perfect to fill the void when only solitude will do. I've gotten pretty good at locking myself away to write. This record is about possibility, of journeying to the end. There's a cinematic quality to Steve Reich's beautifully rendered composition, which lets me see what I'm writing.


Tanwi Nandini Islam and Bright Lines links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

Denver Post review
Kirkus review
NPR Books review
Publishers Weekly review
Toronto Star review

NBC News 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)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
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 - August 21, 2015

Wilco

Wilco's Star Wars is released on CD this week.

Other new releases I can recommend are Gardens & Villa's Music For Dogs and Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats' self-titled album.


This week's interesting music releases:

AFX: orphaned deejay selek 2006-2008
Briana Marela: All Around Us
Butcher Babies: Take It Like a Man
Carly Rae Jepsen: E M O T I O N
Danger Doom: The Mouse and the Mask (reissue) [vinyl]
Disturbed: Immortalized
Dr. Dre: Compton
DRINKS (Cate Le Bon & Tim Presley): Hermits On Holiday
Faith No More: Sol Invictus [vinyl]
The Foreign Exchange: Tales From The Land Of Milk and Honey
The Fratellis: Eyes Wide Tongue Tied
Gardens & Villa: Music For Dogs
Jackie Greene: Back to Birth
John Zorn: True Discoveries of Witches and Demons
Jordin Sparks: Right Here Right Now
Linda Ronstadt: Just One Look: The Very Best Of Linda Ronstadt
Marshall Crenshaw: #392: The EP Collection
Method Man: The Meth Lab
Mick Jenkins: Wave[s]
Myrkur: m
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats: Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
Public Image Ltd: Double Trouble [vinyl]
Radkey: Dark Black Makeup
Rob Thomas: The Great Unknown
Royal Headache: High
Sean Price: Songs in the Key of Price
The Sword: High Country
Various Artists: Putumayo Presents: Vintage Latino
Various Artists: Rare Soul Groove & Grind 1963-1973
Various Artists: Rastafari: The Dreads Enter Babylon 1955-83
The White Buffalo: Love and the Death of Damnation
Wilco: Star Wars
Wildlights: Wildlights


also at Largehearted Boy:

weekly music release lists

100 online sources for free and legal music downloads
Book Notes (authors create music playlists for their book)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
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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Atomic Books Comics Preview - August 21, 2015

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

Benn Ray is the owner of Atomic Books, an independent bookstore in Baltimore. The Mobtown Shank is his blog, and his comic Said What? is syndicated weekly in the Baltimore Sun's B-Paper.

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.


Baby Badass #1

Baby Badass #1
by David Schrader / Tim Larsen

Straight up, violent, gorey baby badassery.


Fedor

Fedor
by Patt Kelley

This beautiful and romantic comic tells the story of Fedor, better known as Jojo The Dog Faced Boy - a world famous sideshow "freak." It's historical fiction, circus sideshow style - and it's delightful.


Mox Nox

Mox Nox
by Joan Cornella

This book poses a perfect opportunity to test your friends or would-be friends. Have them read Cornella's disturbingly artful and hilarious comics. If they don't appreciate the humor, they are not someone you need to know. This book, however, is something you need to read. The elaborate things at play in Mox Nox feel, at times, like a surreal Spy Vs. Spy strip.


Yankee #1

Yankee #1
by Jason Leivian / Ian MacEwan

Leivian provides a story reminiscent of Grant Morrison at his most psychedelically stream-of-consciousness. And the, on top of that there is MacEwan's art. While Leivian writes the hell out of an odd story, MacEwan draws the hell out of every panel, with a style that looks something like if Paul Pope drew for 2000AD comics.

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)

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 (H.P. Lovecraft's Resurgence in Popularity, Blood on the Tracks Reconsidered, and more)

The Atlantic examined the unlikely resurgence in popularity of the works of H.P. Lovecraft.


The A.V. Club reconsidered Bob Dylan's classic Blood on the Tracks album.


Longreads features an excerpt from Summer Brennan's book The Oyster War.


Iron and Wine's Sam Beam and Band of Horses' Ben Bridwell covered each others' songs at World Cafe.


VICE hosted a roundtable discussion about the works of author Lucia Berlin.


Sheila Heti on writing her first collection The Middle Stories.


Lit Hub interviewed poet Deborah Landau.


Slate interviewed author Helen Phillips.


Author Naomi Jackson interviewed herself at The Nervous Breakdown.


Listen to a new song from The Oh Hellos.


Stream a new solo song by Jim James of My Morning Jacket.


The Book Nerds Guide to NYC infographic.


SPIN profiled the band Titus Andronicus.


BBC News examined the hurdles in translating Portuguese literature into English.


Bustle recommended nonfiction books to listen to while working out.


The Record profiled Destroyer frontman Dan Bejar.


Newly released MI5 surveillance files on Doris Lessing.


Follow Largehearted Boy on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, Google+, and Stumbleupon for links (updated throughout the day) that don't make the daily "Shorties" posts.


also at Largehearted Boy:

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

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Atomic Books Comics Preview (the week's best new comics and graphic novels)
Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
daily mp3 downloads
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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Daily Downloads (Rachel Mason, Carlie Howell, and more)

Every day, Daily Downloads offers free and legal music and/or stream.


Today's free and legal mp3 downloads:

Blood and Dust: The Crooked Road album [mp3]

Carlie Howell: Roots and Wings EP [mp3]

The Gomes: Don't Wait for Me single [mp3]

Love Sport: "Genius" [mp3] from Almost Doesn't Mean You Made It EP (out September 4th)

Poie: The Sound Inside EP [mp3]

Rachel Mason: Live on WFMU [mp3]

Various Artists: Gold Mold records: Scottish Indie Sampler album [mp3]

Various Artists: True North Records: True North Essentials album [mp3]


Free and legal live performances at other websites:

Alan Licht: 2015-08-02, Brooklyn [mp3]


search for more free and legal music downloads at Largehearted Boy


also at Largehearted Boy:

other Daily Downloads

covers collections
100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads

Book Notes (authors create 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 music, books, and pop culture news and links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtrack)
weekly new album lists

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August 20, 2015

Book Notes - Rajia Hassib "In the Language of Miracles"

In the Language of Miracles

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, Kevin Brockmeier, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Rajia Hassib's novel In the Language of Miracles is an insightful debut novel about family and grief.

Monica Ali wrote of the book in the New York Times:

"Assured and beautifully crafted. . . . Hassib is a natural, graceful writer with a keen eye for cultural difference. . . . [She] handles the anatomy of grief with great delicacy. . . . In the Language of Miracles should find a large and eager readership. For the beauty of the writing alone, Hassib deserves it."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


In her own words, here is Rajia Hassib's Book Notes music playlist for her debut novel In the Language of Miracles:


I don't write to music, mainly because music, even if playing softly in the background, ultimately ends up distracting me, pulling me away from the writing to listen and eventually breaking my train of thought. But I do love a wide variety of music, from classical to pop and almost everything in between, and, as my list will show, I get obsessed with lyrics. With that in mind, here is a list of songs that I chose to match certain characters, relationships, or scenes in my novel, taking both music and lyrics in consideration.

"America" by Simon and Garfunkel

Simon and Garfunkel's songs often sound like compact, musical short stories. Their lyrics feature such compelling details, and many songs, including "America," even have dialogue embedded in them. What I find most fascinating about the lyrics of this particular song is that the speaker has "come to look for America" even though his initial point of origin is Saginaw, Michigan. This highlights the notion of America as an ideal, not just a geographical destination, and makes this song distinctly about the American Dream. That all the cars "on the New Jersey Turnpike" have come "to look for America" makes this a perfect song to play in the background during that first car ride that Samir and Nagla take from the airport—even though they were listening to Om Kalthoum, not to Simon and Garfunkel. The icing on the cake? The speaker's proclamation that he's "lost . . . empty and aching and [doesn't] know why." Food for thought.

"High Hopes" by Pink Floyd

What's a better companion to "America" than a song about how "time took our dreams away"? If "America" represents the Al-Menshawys' arrival to the U.S., "High Hopes" can very well speak of their state at the novel's present time, more than two decades later. Additionally, the theme of communication (and lack thereof) that runs through The Division Bell makes it the perfect album to represent the entire Al-Menshawy family. "High Hopes" is especially poignant because of the underlying sadness of the song as well as the beautiful music. Between David Gilmore's lap steel guitar solo and that haunting bell sound ringing in the distance, this song is the perfect representation of what Samir and Nagla hoped to have—and what they ended up losing.

"Telling Stories" by Tracy Chapman

I love Tracy Chapman's voice, lyrics, and music, so I had to include one of her songs, and I specifically wanted to choose one to represent some aspect of Ehsan's personality—such a difficult character to match to western music. "Telling Stories" suits her so well: there is the theme of telling stories in order to improve one's life (something that Ehsan literally tells Nagla in the novel), the possibility that those stories will eventually come between you and those around you, and, of course, that last line—"Sometimes a lie is the best thing"—which Ehsan would definitely agree with. I also love that the song is relatively upbeat, despite the lyrics—which suits Ehsan, who, faults and troubles notwithstanding, never struck me as a melancholy figure. Finally: Extra points for the song's metafictional possibilities.

"Unwell" by Matchbox 20

Matchbox 20 is one of the few bands actually mentioned by name in the novel, and since I specifically said that Khaled liked to listen to them, I wanted to include one of their songs—and what's a more suitable choice than "Unwell"? The lyrics fit Khaled perfectly. I can see him walking beside Brittany, wanting to share his troubles with her but afraid of her potential judgment of him, with "Unwell" playing in the background. Added kudos for including the following lines: "Dodging glances on the train/ And I know, I know they've all been talking about me/ I can hear them whisper/ and it makes me think there must be something wrong with me."

"He Won't Go" by Adele

I love Adele's voice. I would happily listen to her sing her shopping list. So it's a real pleasure to me that, in addition to her powerful, pulls-at-your-heartstrings voice, she writes wonderful, complex, multilayered lyrics. "He Won't Go," with its examination of a love that does not fit the romantic stereotype but that, still, has to qualify as love, is a perfect representation of the relationship between Nagla and Samir. That tension between knowing that leaving is a viable, perhaps even logical option, and yet choosing to stay, is one of the defining aspects of their relationship. And, because I do fixate on lyrics that clearly describe my characters, there is this: "I heard his voice today/ I didn't know a single word he said/ not one resemblance to the man I met/ just a vacant broken boy instead." Which makes this song the soundtrack to chapters eleven and nineteen.

"42" by Coldplay

This is one of the most haunting songs I know. It's made all the more powerful by the simple lyrics, the beautiful music, and that jump from slow to fast to slow again. Anyone who has experienced the loss of a loved one has to appreciate the lyrics: "Those who are dead are not dead they're just living in my head." Spot on. The repetition and internal rhyme give it the air of a mantra or a lullaby, making the lyrics strangely hypnotic. This is what I imagine is going on in Nagla's head all the time she is up in the attic.

"Knockin' on Heaven's Door" by Bob Dylan

Even though this song was originally written to depict a dying sheriff's last moments, its simple, repetitive chorus (and lyrics and music, for that matter—the entire song is apparently played with only four chords) has made it reach out well beyond its original intended meaning. For me, it's the perfect song for Samir. The idea of "knockin' on heaven's door" implies so much, including that the one doing the knocking feels close to death (either literally or metaphorically) and, more important, that the entry to heaven is not granted. He could very well be turned away. That suspension between hope and despair is, to me, the best representation of Samir's state, and the weariness and exhaustion that the music implies also fit him so well.

"Anger" by Def Leppard

This one was a tough choice. "Anger" is the 1st draft of a song called "Deliver Me," and both songs were included in the deluxe edition of Def Leppard's album, Slang, when they re-released it in 2014. Here is my problem: First, as a writer obsessed with revision, I hate to favor an early draft of anything over the later drafts, although, in this case, I hope Def Leppard forgives me since they did include both versions in their album. Second, as a former creative writing instructor who spent a considerable amount of time preaching about how concrete details are better than abstractions, I now feel like a fraud for choosing the lyrics, "Anger/ I'm feeling so much anger," over the revised version, which, to be honest, does feature better lyrics in the chorus.

And yet.

I can't get over the amount of energy included in the way Joe Elliott spits out the word "Anger," splitting it in two syllables and creating such a powerful emotion that the song becomes an excellent fit for Khaled in chapter eighteen, specifically in that scene where he sits on his bed, hands over his ears, as his bedroom door shakes under his father's blows. "Deliver Me" also discarded one of the lines that fit that scene perfectly well: "Living in your shadow's got me crawling the wall." So, with my apologies to Def Leppard and to my former students, "Anger" it shall be.

"Why Worry" by Dire Straits

This is my ultimate go to song when I'm, well, worried. While I can't really buy into a song unless I love the lyrics, this particular song also boasts one of the most beautiful guitar solos I know of. It's the perfect marriage of words and music, where both work together to create a most soothing effect. While the lyrics are clearly from a man to his loved one, I'm going to bend the rules here and choose to make that song more universally applicable to several relationships in the novel: it could very well be from Brittany to Khaled or the other way around; it could also be from Ehsan to Khaled, or from Ameena to Nagla, or from Ehsan to Nagla. The idea of trying to bring comfort to someone sick with worry is the core of this song and makes it so suitable to several characters in the novel.

"Learning to Fly" by Pink Floyd

Khaled, in the novel's climax, thinks about learning to fly—and I didn't even have this song in mind when I wrote that scene. Having said that, I'm sure I had internalized this song after years of listening to it, so maybe I did subconsciously think of Pink Floyd as I wrote that scene? Possible. But, regardless of the scene's genesis, this is the ultimate song for Khaled, both for the lyrics and the music that, as is always the case with Pink Floyd, is exquisite. Favorite line: "Tongue-tied twisted just an earth-bound misfit, I."

"Enta Omry" by Om Kalthoum

I had to include at least one Egyptian song on this list, and, when picking just one person to represent Egyptian music, Om Kalthoum has to be the ultimate candidate. From the 1940s till the 1970s Om Kalthoum, who is arguably the most beloved singer in Arab history, gave many concerts, always on the first Thursday of the month. The concerts were aired live, and people used to gather by their radio sets and listen to her sing for two hours or more—a time she usually filled up with only one or two songs. Her songs are still popular in Egypt today, even though Egyptian music has changed vastly in the last few decades. The song embedded below is one of her most popular ones. "Enta Omry" (You are my life) is a romantic song that, yes, runs one hour and 18 minutes in that particular recording. She doesn't start singing till the 11:53 mark, but listening from there till the 15:00 mark will give you a good idea of the range and power of her voice. Also note her signature crescent-shaped diamond brooch as well as the handkerchief, another signature item. If Ehsan listened to anything other than the recordings of the Qur'an, she would listen to Om Kalthoum. Her voice is also the one playing in Lola's car when she picks Samir and Nagla up from the airport upon their arrival to the U.S. in 1985. Listening to her could, perhaps, offer a glimpse into the culture Samir and Nagla left behind and help explain why the transition was not an easy one for them.


Rajia Hassib and In the Language of Miracles links:

the author's website

BookPage review
Kirkus review
The National review
New York Times review
Publishers Weekly review

Everyday eBook 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)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
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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