September 22, 2016

Shorties (Fall's Best New Books, A Profile of Julien Baker, and more)

The Village Voice previewed fall's best new books.


The Sun Chronicle profiled singer-songwriter Julien Baker.


Ebooks on sale for $1.99 today:

Flight by Sherman Alexie
The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell
The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
We're All Damaged by Matthew Norman


eBooks on sale for $2.99 today:

The Elephant's Journey by Jose Saramago
Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin


Brit Bennett discussed her debut novel The Mothers with Vogue.


Paste listed the best Leonard Cohen songs.


The Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal interviewed cartoonist Gene Luen Yang about being awarded a MacArthur grant.


Stream a new 40 Watt Sun track.


Bookforum interviewed poet Adam Fitzgerald.


BrooklynVegan is streaming the new Dinowalrus album Fairweather.


The Rumpus Book Club interviewed author Michael Helm.


Stream a new Real Numbers song.


Author William Luvaas interviewed himself at The Nervous Breakdown.

Read an excerpt from his novel Beneath the Coyote Hills.


Stereogum examined the legacy of the Olivia Tremor Control album Dusk at Cubist Castle.


Electric Literature recommended 10 books on the American immigrant experience.


Paste profiled the band Still Corners.


Book Riot recommended books about comics.


Stream a new song by the band Goat Girl.


Bookworm interviewed author Affinity Konar.


Paste listed the best Anais Mitchell songs.


Electric Literature shared an excerpt from Brian Evenson's The Warren.



also at Largehearted Boy:

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

Atomic Books Comics Preview (the week's best new comics and graphic novels)
Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
weekly music release lists
WORD Bookstores Books of the Week (recommended new books)
weekly music release lists

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September 21, 2016

Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week - September 21, 2016

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

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


The Hidden Keys

The Hidden Keys
by André Alexis

André Alexis did not rest on his laurels after winning the Giller with Fifteen Dogs, instead following up with this year’s fantastic The Hidden Keys. The third installment in a projected five book sequence, The Hidden Keys details an eclectic cast, including a sophisticated thief, a heroin addict, and a taxidermist, as they hunt for a massive inheritance. Inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island and set in Toronto, the rendering of which has become something of a trademark for Alexis, The Hidden Keys brings to the forefront all the wit, grit, and talent we have come to expect from the reigning Canadian Fiction champ.


King Baby

King Baby
by Kate Beaton

Hark! A new Kate Beaton book! King Baby is the egg-shaped ruler of the house, and his humble servants—a.k.a. parents—are doing all they can to appease him. King Baby will let you take pictures, for King Baby is generous, but as his parents soon find out, King Baby also has many demands. Kate’s illustrations are awww-inspiring; dangerously cute for child and adult alike. Lap this one up!


Hot or Not: 20th-Century Male Artists

Hot or Not: 20th-Century Male Artists
by Jessica Campbell

Jessica Campbell, formerly of D+Q, has forever changed the way we talk about 20th century artists. In this informed and hilarious book, Jessica gives us the rundown on highbrow hotties, from Malevich to Rothko. This is a comic book for those who are just as concerned about an artist’s body as their body of work. The men who occupied the art hierarchy of the past century take their turn as Jessica’s subjects, as she erodes macho ideals of artistic achievement with heart-eyes-hindsight.


The Hideous Hidden

The Hideous Hidden
by Sylvia Legris

The language of anatomy is wrought with rich, poetic potential, and never has this potential been so brilliantly realized as it is in The Hideous Hidden, a voracious foray into the physical by Sylvia Legris. Winner of the 2006 Griffin Poetry Prize with Nerve Squall, Legris uses her poetic sensibility to dissect our “complicated riddle of meats.” Drawing from sources such as da Vinci’s Anatomical Manuscripts and Baudelaire’s Flowers of Evil, each poem scintillates, sharp as a scythe. This collection is worth it for some of the titles alone, “Serenade the Glands” and “Cold Zodiac and Butchered Pig” being two that stand out in particular.


The Arab of the Future 2

The Arab of the Future 2
by Riad Sattouf

A follow-up to his much beloved first-installment of the graphic novel, The Arab of the Future 2 picks up right where Riad Sattouf left off. The plot follows the author as he settles in his father’s hometown of Homs, gets to go to school, and focuses on becoming a true Syrian in the country of the dictator Hafez Al-Assad. The scope of Sattouf’s comic is remarkable, taking in the complicated landscape of politics and religion, but it is in the small, human moments that he shines as an artist. A bestseller in both English and French, The Arab of the Future is essential read that deserves such a phenomenal sequel.


Librairie Drawn & Quarterly links:

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


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

other Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week

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

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Shorties (Kirkus Prize Finalists Announced, A New Leonard Cohen Song, and more)

The finalists for the 291016 Kirkus Prize have been announced.


Stream a new Leonard Cohen song.


Ebooks on sale for $1.99 today:

Flight by Sherman Alexie
The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell
The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
We're All Damaged by Matthew Norman


eBooks on sale for $2.99 today:

The Elephant's Journey by Jose Saramago
Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin


Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton recounted the history of their band Arab Strap at The Quietus.


Electric Literature interviewed Marisa Silver about her novel Little Nothing.


The A.V. Club looked back on the soundtrack to Wim Wenders' 1990 film Until The End Of The World.


The Rumpus Poetry Book Club interviewed Monica Youn.


Drowned in Sound interviewed Nothing frontman Domenic Palermo.


The Guardian recommended forthcoming graphic novels and comics.


Stream a new song from the Danish band Lowly.


Harpers Bazaar recommended October's best new books.


Rolling Stone profiled singer-songwriter Amanda Shires.


Author Emma Donoghue discussed her love for Emily Dickinson's poem "You" at the Atlantic.


Yo La Tengo is releasing another covers compilation (with cover art by Adrian Tomine), Murder in the Second Degree.


Juan Gabriel Vasquez discussed his new novel Reputations with All Things Considered.


Stream a new song from Man Man frontman Honus Honus.


Flavorwire interviewed Sady Doyle about her new book Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear . . . and Why.


The New York Times reviewed Bruce Springsteen's new memoir Born to Run.


Elle shared an excerpt from A. C. Thomas' debut novel, The Hate U Give.


The Cincinnati Enquirer profiled singer-songwriter Josh Ritter.


Barnes and Noble recommended books about freaky cults.


The Quietus interviewed Mikael Åkerfeldt Of Opeth.


Google Play interviewed author Colson Whitehead.


The Guardian interviewed Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page.


Vol. 1 Brooklyn interviewed author Margaret Wappler about her novel Neon Green.



also at Largehearted Boy:

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

Atomic Books Comics Preview (the week's best new comics and graphic novels)
Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
weekly music release lists
WORD Bookstores Books of the Week (recommended new books)
weekly music release lists

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

September 20, 2016

Book Notes - Brendan Kiely "The Last True Love Story"

The Last True Love Story

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.

Brendan Kiely's The Last True Love Story is a compelling and poignant YA road trip novel.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"Readers will be swept up in Kiely's musical prose as Teddy learns about love, romance, forgiveness, and reconciliation."


In his own words, here is Brendan Kiely's Book Notes music playlist for his novel The Last True Love Story:


Remember that old Starship song, "We Built this City?" I feel like I built The Last True Love Story on rock ‘n' roll too. The novel is a dual love story, one of contemporary teens learning what it feels like to get free and fall in love, and one of love near the end, a grandfather with Alzheimer's trying to hold onto the memories of his deceased wife before the disease wipes them all away. The trio set out on a road trip from LA to upstate New York, and as is the case on any great road trip, music is the fuel that keeps them going. But even more, music is the thread that ties the two love stories together. Corrina is a young rocker who can play an impressive catalogue of music from the grandfather's Vietnam era. Not only is she the driver, the music she plays and sings weaves the mysteries of the past and the pressures of the present into one rocking story. I don't listen to music when I write, but I listen to music whenever I'm walking or cooking or tackling tasks around the house, and these are a few of the songs that inspired me while I was writing The Last True Love Story.



"Can't Find My Way Home" by Blind Faith
The novel begins with the narrator promising his grandfather he'd help him never forget his deceased wife. They're both well intentioned, but Teddy is naïve enough to believe he can actually do it, or at least try. Gpa, however, as I imagine him, recognizes the inevitable. And this song was a kind of mantra I imagined running through Gpa's mind. The song kind of floats on a melancholy vibe—the kind of vibe I think of when someone is accepting the inexorable—but it is also sweet enough to suggest some possibility. It's exactly the tone I was hoping to suggest in the relationship between Teddy and his grandfather in the novel.

"Dog Days are Over" by Florence and the Machine
The first time I heard this song I felt Florence Welch's voice send chills across my skin, and then lift something buried deep with me up and out and gave it wings to fly—especially as it hits the 3 minute mark and the whole song kind of ascends. I listened to the song over and over while working on the book, because for me, Teddy hearing Corrina sing is like that first time I heard Florence Welch sing this song.

"Rock and Roll" by the Velvet Underground
I love the Velvet Underground, and no playlist I ever make escapes at least one track of their moody, grin-cocked-in-the-corner-of-the-mouth sound. This one seemed perfect when I was thinking about Corrina. She's a rocker, but stuck in sunny LA, when her mood and attitude seems so much more New York—which of course is where she wants to go and why she hightails it out of town with Teddy and his grandfather.

"Bell Bottom Blues" by Derek and the Dominos
Even though this song is about young love, and even though half the novel is about young love, when I listen to the song, I can't get the wailing refrain of not wanting to "fade away" out of my mind. I listen to Derek and the Dominoes on vinyl all the time—one of my favorites—but one day when I was listening to this, the refrain struck me as the perfect kind of fear haunting Gpa's mind. He doesn't want to fade away—or let the things he loves most in life fade away from him.

"Cannonball" by The Breeders
While I use many songs to help me think of the mood and atmosphere of the characters and the way they interact with each other, the driving heart of this novel is still a quixotic, rambling road trip, and every time I hear this song, I think of being on the road and throwing my hands up in a kind of teenage "I don't give a damn; don't hem me in" kind of way. Despite the moments of quiet intimacy in the book, it has to move and cover thousands of miles of road, and this song helped me think about that charging rhythm, like when you're driving through the low, flat grasslands of west Texas, and you hit a small rise, one that's just enough to give you a bit of a drop in your gut if you're driving fast enough. I wanted those moments in the book—just like listening to this song on the road, as I have many, many, times.

"The Weight" (Aretha Franklin 1969 version)
This is the ultimate road trip song for me. I love the version by The Band, but for me, Aretha Franklin's version, with Duane Allman on guitar, lifts the song from the picaresque to something more mythic. This was important to me because chapter-by-chapter The Last True Love Story is an homage to the Odyssey. Gpa wants to get home to his beloved Ithaca (NY), but part of what hinders him from getting there, aside from the 4,000 miles between LA and Ithaca, is the disease that plagues his mind. In fact, I think of Teddy, Corrina and Gpa as a kind of tripartite Odysseus—and I kept circling back to Aretha's version of the song to help inspire me tell their story.

"Stand Up" by Hindi Zahra
When I'm stuck in a scene and I can't figure out what to do, where to go, or what people are saying to each other, I often go for a walk to clear the mind. "Stand Up" does what the title suggests, from the first plucking of the guitar, it makes me want to get up and get on the move. But as the song continues and Hindi Zahra's voice enters, it's like I'm split in two—my feet stay on the ground, walking quickly, almost skipping, but my head seems to disconnect, float and bob in the breeze. It's the perfect song for me as a writer. All I need is a short walk, 10-15 minutes, listening to this song first, and I'm quickly back at the keyboard pushing through the scene.

"Dark End of the Street" by James Carr
For me, so much of young love is that feeling of doing something we want to do but think we're not supposed to do, and Carr's slow-swinging R&B classic is one of those songs that seems to pull two people together, like that moment when you are dancing and you finally lean in close enough to kiss. I wanted Teddy and Corrina to have this kind of slow dance that keeps getting interrupted, until, finally, when Corrina sings this very song as a kind of lullaby to Gpa, Teddy and Corrina are left alone in the quiet without any more distractions.

"Because the Night" by Patti Smith
This song has always stood out as a lovers anthem—the kind of song that makes me think of folks in love, putting the rest of the world at their backs and racing forward into the unknown. It's an American rock anthem, and for me, a kind of anthem for the book too. Despite his disease, Gpa is determined to love Gma all the way to the end; and despite everything wrong Teddy and Corrina are doing, they're racing ahead, hoping their good intentions will protect them from the likely, even inevitable, disaster.

"Noble Heart" by PHOX
I always knew this story would be about falling in love, trying to make love last forever, and also about those times when you know you need to let go. Monica Martin's whispery voice pulls you into that melancholy feeling when you have to let go, and then swells and takes off occasionally. There have been times in my own life, at train stations, or airports, or even on the last day of school, where I had the warm feeling that I loved people around me, but I knew I might not see them again. I needed to sit in that kind of feeling to write a couple of the scenes in the novel, and I'd listen to this song on my headphones to step down into that feeling and let the emotions lap up around me.

"Home" by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes
From the first whistles at the beginning of this rollicking, road trip-as-carnival song, it's hard not to want to spring from your seat and swing in circles with someone you love. This song is the other anthem for the book. The Last True Love Story is an homage to the Odyssey, because it is a story about trying to get home—but what would Odysseus's journey be if his beloved Ithaca was gone? There's a moment when he shouts to his weary crew members, "Ithaca is here, with us!" That's the cue I take for my novel, and the cue I hear echoed in this song. "Home is whenever I'm with you." That's true for the ragtag family that races across the country in my novel, and it's true too, even when for some, they can only remain together in memory.

Brendan Kiely and The Last True Love Story links:

the author's website

Booklist review
Kirkus review
School Library Journal review

BookPage interview with the author
Slice 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

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists
Word Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)

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

Book Notes - Ishion Hutchinson "House of Lords and Commons"

House of Lords and Commons

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.

Ishion Hutchinson's poetry collection House of Lords and Commons proves him one of the finest poets writing today.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"These poems herald the maturity of a major poetic voice."


In his own words, here is Ishion Hutchinson's Book Notes music playlist for his poetry collection House of Lords and Commons:


I am going to call this short playlist, only ten cuts, "Trouble On the Road Again." I do so in homage to the name of an unreleased gem by Bob Marley and the Wailers, a title which I have availed myself of twice in House of Lords and Commons, once to title a poem and as a stray phrase in another poem. It is an irresistible formulation.

The collection pursues music, or music pursues it, like a ubiquitous spy who leaps beyond the page into an invisible region words fail to reach. Words, out of fear of extinction, are left to do subterranean work—poetry. I cannot write with music playing, but in a way I do because of the layers of music I sense stirring inside me, the way poems hover in my memory, rising up to my rescue or to my further despair, when I am writing.

Some of these pieces that follow bear directly, in limited thematic scopes, on some of the poems in the collection. The others function similar to the experience of listening to music, that of being transformed by the textures of the sounds, building, as it were, a dome in the air.

First, though, we dance. Let us skank so and so, rough as things are, despite the violence and the election on fire, rum drowning in the potholes; for still, the moon is above our heads—look, girl and skin your teeth!—and we have this island of sounds to ourselves. So, let me show you what I know.



"Cherry Oh Baby," Eric Donaldson

This danceable, rubescent love song has to me the quality of country romance and Donaldson's shivery falsetto gives the lyrics the timeless bloom of youth: "Cherry oh, Cherry oh, baby / don't you know I'm in need of thee?" When I listen to it I hear the tender nights of early 1970s beach parties (or sessions), long before I was born, in Port Antonio. When this comes on everyone scatters for a partner.

"Pressure Drop," Toots and the Maytals

Toots is a powerhouse and the sheer energy of his voice enacts—expels, really—the physical force of pressure dropping. Though accusatory ("I say when it drops, oh you gonno feel it / know that you were doing wrong"), the song is not mean-spirited at all; it is joyful one to ‘drop legs' (Jamaican expression to dance) to all night long.

"Bird In Hand," Lee ‘Scratch' Perry

Scratch is an enigma, a contrarian, the eternal child. He is a miracle man; he breaks forms to reveal new symmetries; he is the poet-genius of the mixing board, linking disparate sounds into rocklike shapes. When I listen to Scratch, particularly "Bird In Hand," one of his strangest in a long career of strange inventions, I think of a phrase by Vladimir Voinovich: "something has been clarified there, but something still remains obscure." The song's title is transparent; it points to Aesop's famous bird-in-the hand parable, but the lyrics are, apparently, in Hindi. It amazes me to think, that since my early adolescence, Hindi expressions (one of which translates to mean: "as soon as our eyes met, somebody's heart went mad") have been a staple part of my psyche. Scratch's genius has been making me, from an early age, less a philistine.

"The Sun," Burning Spear

Whenever I want to hear the hills, the hills at dusk in the voice of my favourite uncle, Uncle Big Man, whose life is in the hills, this is the song I put on. The hills are for contemplation. The high grounds the slaves escaped the plantations to, reasoning and questioning: "do you remember the days of slavery? / and how they beat us? / do you remember the days of slavery?" But sometimes the questions are not so heavy, as in "The Sun"; a simple voice only a hill's man like Winston ‘Burning Spear' Rodney could capture, his tone cool, testing the range of distance: "are you ready? / are you ready? / are you re-eh-eh-ady?" The magnificence of the song is how it raises an image of my uncle cupping his mouth to answer me. Yes.

"Trouble On the Road Again," Bob Marley and the Wailers

I love how "again" looms out into a future, acknowledging the past as a crowd of ‘once more.' "When sorrows come, they come not single spies" is no less its grasp. Marley is the great poet of the pivot, a compass needle that is already pointing other directions once you have catch up to him. I chase after him in this collection with the same panic I felt as a boy when I first heard his wail.

"Southeastern Moon," Midnite

With his hieroglyphic style of chanting, Vaughn ‘Akae Beka' Benjamin, the lead singer and prolific lyricist of the band Midnite—they are from St. Croix, Virgin Island—is the emblem of intellectual power. He moves words in a warped field of significations, strangely esoteric and simple, as in these lines addressed to the moon, which I love: "southeastern moon / the evening look like morning I hope you will be coming soon / you keep the seasons waiting for you." The moon as the gravitational point, yoking morning to evening, creates an interval where the register of absence intensifies. Benjamin is a master of making that pyramidal third space, where objects correlate into the permanence of poetry.

"Symphony No. 5," Jean Sibelius (Herbert von Karajan, Philharmonia Orchestra)

Sibelius's power is to make you feel like what it feels like to have wings. It is a powerful fiction: flying over unknown places and then recognizing, like the slow development of a film, with a kind of terrifying exultation, that the landscape below is home. The recognition comes as a kind of amplified grace and gratitude. This is what grips me about "Symphony No. 5," the simultaneous awareness of height and panorama as the music grows. A poem midway in House of Lords and Commons is called "Sibelius and Marley." It puts the two in a cypher of surreal duel against destructive history and nature in their respective—but strange--landscapes.

"Prelude to the Afternoon of the Faun," Claude Debussy

The complete, ineluctable auditory pleasure, it masks its menace in wafting glissandi harps; but the faun, to me, is Marsyas, skinned alive by Apollo, the terrible punishment I transposed in a poem, not for challenging the god, but for…just for.

"Requiem for My Friend," Zbigniew Preisner

Whenever I listen to this piece I imagine murals or friezes depicting scenes from a life gone. Every note honours that life and every note mourns, without being mournful, enduring the sad occasion with thanksgiving. It is a bracing, radical compliment to Marley's injunction against inaction: "forget your sorrows and dance," which I live by.

"Winter In America," Gil Scott-Heron

Though Scott-Heron's portrait or vision of America is bleak in this ballad ("like the vultures circling beneath the dark clouds // And now Democracy is ragtime on the corner"), you sense in the composition a powerful regenerating force: the flute's resilient ripples insisting on the hoped-for rain. I sink into it knowing spring is not far behind.


Ishion Hutchinson and House of Lords and Commons links:

the author's website

Publishers Weekly 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

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists
Word Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)

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

Shorties (Hilton Als on Edward Albee, Nirvana's Nevermind Album Reconsidered at 25, and more)

Hilton Als on Edward Albee.


PopMatters reconsidered Nirvana's Nevermind album 25 years after its release.


Ebooks on sale for $1.99 today:

Flight by Sherman Alexie
The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell
The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
We're All Damaged by Matthew Norman


eBooks on sale for $2.99 today:

The Elephant's Journey by Jose Saramago
Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin


BrooklynVegan interviewed Chris Murphy and Jay Ferguson of the band Sloan.


The National Book Review interviewed author Christine Sneed.


Stream a new Warpaint song.


The New Yorker features a new short story by Petina Gappah.


NYCTaper shared a recording of a recent P.S. Eliot show.


At Signature, Marisa Silver discussed unconventional works of fiction that have inspired her writing.


The A.V. Club interviewed Sunny Day Real Estate’s Jeremy Enigk.


Andrea Wulf’s The Invention of Nature, a biography of Alexander von Humboldt, has been awarded the Royal Society science book prize.


Fresh Air interviewed Rennie Sparks of the Handsome Family.


The Rumpus shared an excerpt from Danielle Trussoni's new memoir The Fortress.


Paste profiled singer-songwriter Amanda Shires.


At Literary Hub, Lev Grossman recounted writing his first novel.


Drowned in Sound interviewed singer-songwriter James Vincent McMorrow.


Book Riot listed 2016's best essay collections.


Musicians Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith and Suzanne Ciani shared the legacy of synth inventor Don Buchla at The Record.


Signature examined medical mysteries in literature.


Rolling Stone interviewed Keith Morris about his memoir My Damage: The Story of a Punk Rock Survivor.


Paste interviewed Ben Katchor about the reissue of his Cheap Novelties comics collection.


Pitchfork reconsidered Brian Eno's classic album Another Green World.


Vol. 1 Brooklyn interviewed Jeffrey Zuckerman about his translation of Ananda Devi’s Eve Out of Her Ruins.



also at Largehearted Boy:

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

Atomic Books Comics Preview (the week's best new comics and graphic novels)
Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
weekly music release lists
WORD Bookstores Books of the Week (recommended new books)
weekly music release lists

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

September 19, 2016

Book Notes - James Boice "The Shooting"

The Shooting

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

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

James Boice's The Shooting is a timely and pitch-perfect novel about gun violence in America.

Elizabeth Crane wrote of the book:

"In The Shooting, James Boice offers a timely and scathing indictment of our current gun-happy culture, cross-cutting hearts and minds in his incomparable take-no-prisoners style. Another stunner from Boice."


In his own words, here is James Boice's Book Notes music playlist for his novel The Shooting:


Gun Songs



"Guns" – Justin Moore

I used to this song to help me get into the head of one of my main characters, Lee Fisher, who sees himself as a good guy with a gun. "As long as I’m still breathing, you won’t take my guns." Beneath all the bravado is fear, insecurity.

"Guns" – Nice as Fuck

On this song from her new project, Jenny Lewis sings "The crisis is not ISIS" – we’re spilling our own blood." We’ve spent over $1.7 trillion on the War of Terror and continue to obsess over "Islamic extremists" potentially killing us, but meanwhile 33,000 of us die each year to routine gun violence and we do literally nothing about it.

"In Bloom" – Sturgill Simpson (via Nirvana)

"He likes to shoot his gun, but he don’t know what it means to love someone." My character Lee Fisher falls into that description.

"Big Exit" – PJ Harvey

This song sums up Lee Fisher’s worldview nicely:

"Look out ahead/see danger come
I want a pistol/I want a gun
I'm scared baby/I wanna run
This world's crazy/Give me the gun"

"Outlaw Shit" – Waylon Jennings

We like to see ourselves as cowboys in this country: independent, self-determining, armed to the hilt. But that myth is clashing too harshly with our reality, which is death and suffering and sadness. As Waylon sings, it’s "gotten out of hand." The Shooting is about this.

"Murder to Excellence" – Kanye & Jay Z

Guns are killing people in droves in Chicago and in black communities nationwide with nothing happening to stop it. My character Clayton Kabede and his family, sadly, fit in with that as they are crushed beneath all our political machinations.

"Happiness is a Warm Gun" – The Beatles

Lennon wrote this song after seeing an advertisement for a gun in American Rifleman magazine. Twelve years later, he would be shot in the back in New York City.

"Not Myself" – Sharon Van Etten

Van Etten dedicates this song to the victims of the Pulse shootings in Orlando. Proceeds from its release benefit Everytown for Gun Safety.

"Bang Bang" – Green Day

New song from the point of view of a school shooter. More and more new art is coming out lately addressing gun violence – this song, Sharon Van Etten and Nice as Fuck’s above, as well as many movies: this year’s Sundance Film Festival saw an unprecedented number of both fiction and documentary flicks centered on the topic.

"That’s When I Reach for My Revolver" – Mission of Burma

Gun as exhibition of desperation.

"Yvette" – Jason Isbell

This boy is going to save a girl in class from her abusive father, and he’s going to do with his Weatherby rifle. He thinks he’s doing right, that he’s being a hero but in fact he has no idea that he’s about to compound the tragedy.


James Boice and The Shooting links:

the author's website

TNBBC's The Next Best Book Blog review

Largehearted Boy Book Notes playlist by the author for The Good and the Ghastly


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

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists
Word Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)

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Book Notes - William Luvaas "Beneath the Coyote Hills"

Beneath the Coyote Hills

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.

William Luvaas's third novel Beneath the Coyote Hills is cleverly imagined and lyrically told.

Billy O'Callaghan wrote of the book:

"'Beneath The Coyote Hills' has cost me a sleepless night that I can scarcely afford, and has left me cold with awe at the unwavering skill and subtlety of the narrative. The sheer scope of the author's imagination, and the almost impossibly delicate poetic weight of his prose, has made the discovery of William Luvaas's writing one of the genuine joys of my reading-year. He is a remarkable writer, comfortably among the finest at work in America today, and the novel is a towering and maybe career-defining achievement, art of the highest order."


In his own words, here is William Luvaas's Book Notes music playlist for his novel Beneath the Coyote Hills:


Beneath the Coyote Hills explores the influence of choice and chance in our lives. Do we control our own destiny or is it dictated in part by forces beyond our control? This theme is reflected in the very structure of the novel, as is an interrogation of reality itself. The narrator, Tommy Aristophanos, is a homeless freegan, an epileptic visionary, perennially down on his luck, who is haunted by grotesque "spell visions" and can't always be sure whether events are occurring in the outside world, inside his head, or in pages of the novel he is writing about his super-rich, super-confident alter ego V.C. Hoffstatter (Volt)—think Donald Trump on steroids. Eventually, Tommy's novel invades mine and takes over; Volt emerges from pages of that novel to wreck havoc on Tommy's life. However, in the end, we learn that neither of us, Tommy or me, is writing this book...but I don't want to give it all away.

At first, I think my novel lacks a playlist, since I don't hear a soundtrack playing in my head when I write—not consciously, anyway. For me, composing is more a subconscious than a conscious act. The conscious mind trails along behind the subconscious taking dictation. So my soundtracks play deep down in the unconscious well. However, some tunes burble up to the surface as I'm writing. So musical references pepper the text of Coyote Hills. Each character and era in the narrative has its own playlist. What a disjunct, eclectic album it is, including tracks of country western honky-tonk, Sixties rock, pop tunes, and classical—from Bach to Aaron Copland—plus the ethereal music playing inside Tommy's head in auras before his seizures (spells, as he calls them). Quite a jumble, but so is the book.

Hank Williams "I Saw The Light"

The playlist begins with the country western Tommy's redneck father, Hector, loves. Hector dozes off over a metal lathe at his machinist's job: "hands still functioning out of dumb habit, but chin slumped on his chest. He would come awake howling a refrain from a Hank Williams song....Pop flat out loved Hank Williams." Especially William's ecstatic Jesus ballad "I Saw The Light," since Pop has found the Lord himself—his born-again religion fashioned of the same sentimental homespun as Hank Williams' was, forgiving enough to allow Hector to nip from his bourbon bottle on the job, but unforgiving of his son's epilepsy. Tommy tells us his father has two religions, "drink and Jesus," neither of which seems to offer him the benefits Hank promises in "I Saw The Light": "No more darkness, no more night / Now I'm so happy, no sorrow in sight."



Hank Williams "Kaw-Liga"

Pop howls Williams' ballad "Kaw-Liga," perhaps feeling a little like "that poor old wooden head" himself, given his alcoholism, a heart "made of knotty pine," and his seeming inability to communicate—much like that wooden Indian "standing by the door." He can't talk to Tommy about his epilepsy, other than to curse him for it: "I never thought we'd have a damn retard in the family."

I must admit to liking that ballad myself, even though it may be in poor taste. In the ways of the heart, there is at times a little wooden, wordstuck Kaw-Liga is all of us.

Johann Sebastian Bach "Fugue in G Minor"

How to characterize the music Tommy hears in his head during auras that precede his spells? It's nearly impossible to describe the aural sensations some temporal lobe epileptics experience, even metaphorically, since they can comprise sounds, smells, and tactical sensations all mixed together, and these resonate both ecstasy and dread. They are fleeting—though seemingly endless—brushing past like a breeze or sigh ("aura" means "breath" in Greek) which originates deep inside the brain. Such music seems to come from everywhere at once. So while many of us hear mind music before a fit, we can only hint at its nature.

During his first spell as a teenager, Tommy recalls far-off music "like a pipe organ playing inside my head just before it hit the table," combined with the swarming of bees from his stomach up into his brain. I think of Bach's "Fugue in G Minor," with its frenetic, tumbling onslaught of notes, a pandemonium crescendoing toward ecstasy. He experiences something similar a few years later when beautiful Carmella Ortiz gives him head in the front seat of Pop's car, but this music softer and slower. He drifts off into "an organ-music fog," sensations tangled together: "the mosquito whine of tiny angel's wings in my ears," pins and needles working up his arms. Ecstasy and melancholy intertwined, as in Bach's fugue.

The Doors "Back Door Man"

The soundtrack changes to Sixties Rock ‘n' Roll during Tommy's time in Berkeley. "Everywhere else it was the mid-Eighties," he tells us, "but Berkeley remained suspended in the Sixties like a long guitar riff in a nonstop Doors concert which no one wanted to leave." I remember such a concert at the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco, when Jim Morrison stretched "Back Door Man" to a nearly hour-long tour de force, during which the audience experienced group orgasm; couples made love all sides...Morrison's guttural, growling voice egging us on. "Wha, yeah! c'mon, yeah, yeah, c'mon, yeah / I'm a back door man, I'm a back door man."

Tommy becomes a Back Door Man in his Berkeley days, not in terms of Morrison's sexual metaphor, but literally a person more comfortable entering life through the back door, in stark contrast to his character Volt who always barges in the front. Tommy compares himself to Dostoyevsky's Underground Man, even more of a social outcast than the drug addicts he passes on the street.

Harry Nilsson "Everybody's Talkin"

"Tweakers on Telegraph Avenue checked me out like I was the uberfreak. ‘Stoned fucking out,' they'd mumble as I passed. Out on my feet." Tommy walked the streets in the throes of partial seizures wherein he drifted in and out of consciousness, not sure what was real, but aware of people watching him: "Everybody's talking at me / I don't hear a word they're saying / only the echoes of my mind / People stopping, staring / I can't see their faces / only the shadows of their eyes." It's here that he catches his first glimpse of "Lizard Man" in a store window, the demon who will haunt him for years to come.

The Jefferson Airplane "Coming Back To Me" & "White Rabbit"

After Tommy's girlfriend Karma has left him, he stands looking out the window at passers by on Blake Street who might be Sixties hippies: "Tie-dye shirts, sandals, and so much hair!...We were hair-vain amidst the close-cropped Reaganites." His heart aches for his lost lover, and the Jefferson Airplane plays in his head: "And through an open window where no curtain hung / I saw you, I saw youuu comin' back to me." But she doesn't come back. The plaintive guitars & longing lyrics epitomize both the Sixties and his mood as he wallows in nostalgia. "A transparent dream beneath an occasional sigh / Most of the time I just let it go by." So much of his life is a dream: fleeting, ephemeral, unmoored in time.

Nearby at Stanford, Tommy's fictive creation V.C. Hoffstatter is at a fraternity party where he is handed a hash-laden brownie by a girl named Samantha, who tells him, "One bite makes you larger / and the next bite makes you small / and the one Samantha gives you / is sure to do it all." It is Volt's first drug experience, and he vividly hallucinates making love to this Hindu hippie goddess mid-air. When he falls back to earth, Volt vows never to touch drugs again. He hates losing control, has no use for Rock and Roll or the drug culture and the "losers" who inhabit it. He is a hardcore devotee of Ayn Rand conservatism.

John Denver "Thirsty Boots"

Half Tommy's age, Cleopatra is stunningly beautiful in a rough-cut way: "Sunlight tangled in thick chestnut hair flaring off her head in a colossal Afro...her skin glowed acorn brown, throwing off hints of sunlight, green eyes touched with burgundy....Her long, well-muscled legs were blemished and scraped by chaparral and rough living, but she seemed to me a glowing angel of light." Cleopatra of the open road, "queen of the highway," occasionally stops by his olive grove in her vagabond wanderings. While Janice Joplin's "Me and Bobby Mcgee" comes to mind, I can almost hear Tommy singing: "Oh take off your thirsty boots / And stay for awhile /
Your feet are hot and weary from a dusty mile."
And she replying: "And maybe I can make you laugh / And maybe I can try / Lookin' for the evenin' / And the mornin' in your eyes."

Woody & Arlo "This Land is Your Land" & "City of New Orleans"

Berkeley Don magically appears in the olive grove. Tommy hears him strumming his 12 string guitar, sitting cross-legged beside the county road, "singing ballads about earthly apocalypse in a high nasal twang. It could be a new country music theme: "The world is dying and I long to be back home." Don is the book's wandering minstrel, underscoring its themes of survival & amorphous longing. I think of him as a latter-day Woody Guthrie (or Arlo) who is composing his own post-apocalyptic sound track to accompany his gloomy end-of-the-world philosophy. Not "Good morning America. How are you?" but "Goodbye America. I miss you." Or "This land was your land This land was my land..." Long ago, he'd gone to Juilliard to study classical guitar and master Segovia, but they drummed the love of classical music out of him—so he, like most everyone else in the novel, must find his own songs to sing.

Bela Bartok "Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta" 2nd movement, Allegro
& Brian Eno "Small Craft on a Milk Sea"

We must observe Tommy's seizures—and the music that accompanies them—from two different perspectives. What the onlooker sees is different from what the victim experiences. I once told my neurologist that I knew very well what my wife saw and felt while I was having a seizure. "How could you know," he barked, "You are unconscious."

The pulsing, nearly frenetic crescendo of the syncopated piano and pizzicato of plucked strings in the 2nd movement of Bartok's symphony suggest the agonized tonic-clonic muscular spasms and facial contortions seen by horrified onlookers during a fit (Tommy's wives and Cleopatra). It's as if demonic storm troopers have invaded his body.

But what Tommy himself hears in his pre-seizural fugue state is ethereal, other-worldly, the stuff of dreams & whispered auras. I think Gregorian chants echoing through the nave of a cathedral or the OM Mantra throatings of Buddhist monks. But something magisterial, too: Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" perhaps or portions of the Hallelujah chorus. Handel was, after all, an epileptic and knew the ailment's soundtrack well. But Brian Eno's "Small Craft on a Milk Sea" best captures the mixture of awe and dread that heralds a fit: haunting melodies early on followed by the frantic upbeat which seems to foreshadow an oncoming seizure.

Aaron Copland "Appalachian Spring"

Tommy's simple life in the olive grove under the dramatic San Jacinto Mountains suggests Copland's Appalachian Spring, especially the first and last movements: pastoral quiet interrupted by the sprightly rhythms of his life and nature's cycles. He lives outdoors, at one with his environment, surrounded by the tattered majesty of the high desert. The simplicity of his life is extolled in the Shaker hymn incorporated into "Appalachian Spring": "It's a gift to be simple, it's a gift to be free." He knows this as do others in his community of misfits. But this pastorale is interrupted at times by frenzied arpeggios when forces beyond Tommy's control invade his life: severe weather, marauding coyotes, gun nuts, and wild fire.

The Talking Heads "No Compassion"

When I listen for Volt's soundtrack, I hear nothing. He's devoid of music in his life, as he is nearly devoid of a soul. It seems unfair of me to create a character who lacks music in his life—but then I didn't create him, Tommy did. Volt's thing isn't meditation but acquisition. His wife tells us, "Volt believes if it can't be summarized on a spread sheet it doesn't exist." He has no patience for man's spiritual or musical side, and can't understand why anyone would waste time listening to music when there's money to be made. He might find his philosophy enshrined in The Talking Heads' jarring "No Compassion": "They say compassion is a virtue, but I don't have the time / Be a little more selfish, it might do you some good" But there is nothing on Volt's playlist. Nothing at all.


William Luvaas and Beneath the Coyote Hills links:

the author's website

BlogTalk Radio interview with the author
Huffington Post profile of the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

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

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists
Word Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)

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Shorties (An Interview with Yaa Gyasi, An Interview with Jenny Hval, and more)

The Barnes and Noble Review interviewed author Yaa Gyasi.


Drowned in Sound interviewed singer-songwriter Jenny Hval.


Ebooks on sale for $1.99 today:

Flight by Sherman Alexie
The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell
The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
We're All Damaged by Matthew Norman


eBooks on sale for $2.99 today:

The Elephant's Journey by Jose Saramago
Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin


Laia Jufresa discussed her debut novel Umami with Weekend Edition.


The New York Times previewed fall's best new albums.


The Rumpus interviewed author Maryse Meijer.


Courtney Barnett talked to NME about her next album.


Emma Donoghue talked to Weekend Edition about her new novel The Wonder.


The band Dawes visited World Cafe for a live performance and interview.


Salon interviewed Jeff Chang about his new book We Gon' Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation.


Bruce Springsteen discussed his autobiography Born To Run with CBS Sunday Morning.


R.I.P., author W.P. Kinsella.


PopMatters interviewed Hot Chip's Alexis Taylor about his solo album Piano.


Alan Moore talked to Weekend Edition about his new novel Jerusalem.


Consequence of Sound interviewed Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers.


The Collagist shared an excerpt from Melanie Finn's novel The Gloaming.


Saul Williams played a Tiny Desk Concert.


San Diego CityBeat interviewed poet Tommy Pico.


NPR Music shared video of a recent performance by the Head and the Heart.


Hazlitt interviewed author Colson Whitehead.



The Guardian profiled author Ottessa Moshfegh.


Musicians recounted the legacy of guitarist Jack Rose at Bandcamp.




also at Largehearted Boy:

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

Atomic Books Comics Preview (the week's best new comics and graphic novels)
Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
weekly music release lists
WORD Bookstores Books of the Week (recommended new books)
weekly music release lists

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Largehearted Boy Weekly Wrap-Up - September 19, 2016

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


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

Gabrielle Lucille Fuentes for her novel The Sleeping World
Gina Frangello for her novel Every Kind of Wanting
Laia Jufresa for her novel Umami
Melanie Finn for her novel The Gloaming
Michelle Tea for her novel Black Wave


Weekly New Book Recommendations:

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


New Music Recommendations:

The Week's Interesting Music Releases


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

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


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

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

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September 16, 2016

Book Notes - Laia Jufresa "Umami"

Umami

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.

Laia Jufresa's dark, funny, and poignant debut novel Umami smartly explores themes of grief, family, and community.

Vogue UK wrote of the book:

"The debut novel of Mexican-born Laia Jufresa is a darkly humorous tale about five neighbors living in the heart of Mexico City. Taking place during a hot rainy summer, Jufresa's evocative portrait of contemporary Mexico lends whimsy with poignancy. Guaranteed to challenge and move you."


In her own words, here is Laia Jufresa's Book Notes music playlist for her debut novel Umami:



translated by Sophie Hughes


"Rolandskvadet" - Trio Medieval

My main focus when I started working on Umami was to construct a believable polyphony. The novel is told by five different voices. It probably makes sense then (although I didn’t think of it in these terms back then) that the CD I listened to most during those years was “Folk Songs” by Trio Medieval. After the book was done, I couldn’t listen to it for months. But when I started in on another project, it quickly became my daily ritual again. This particular song (the only one I could find on Spotify) feels like a sort of call to war, others in the CD seem like a soothing meditation. Both work for me. Just like other writers light a candle or pour themselves a whisky, I play this CD to signal to my body that it’s time to sit still, and to my mind that it’s time go wild.

"Chamarrita de una bailanta" - Soledad Villamil

…And then sometimes, on the contrary, you need something that gets you up from the chair for a much needed dancing-singing break. I play this one (a cover of Alfredo Zitarrosa’s song) pretty regularly for those moments.

"Extraordinary Machine" - Fiona Apple

I´m not the kind of writer that plans plots or maps out things. I just write until I find a tone, the right voice, and then I follow it to where it may lead me. (And then, of course, I spend tons of time rewriting). Not very efficient perhaps, but the one method that feels authentic and actually works for me. This means that for long stretches of time I have to get comfortable with having no clue as to where I’m headed. It’s a bit like driving at night, seeing only the small portion of the road that’s right in front of you, trusting that the rest of the road is there and viable. But sometimes I can’t get comfortable, I’d like to know more, take decisions, have an answer for people who ask what I’m working on… This song has sometimes helped me to calm back down and trust on those parts of the process. “If there was a better way to go then it would find me.”

"La prietita clara" - Amparo Ochoa

This song, written by my father, Jorge Jufresa, takes the form of a traditional ‘son' — a kind of Mexican folk music that varies by region. There are many versions, but Ochoa’s is the classical one. I’ve known it long before I understood it, and I still probably break into song with it more often than any other song. Moreover, the fact that I feel utterly unable to translate even a bit of the lyrics is perhaps a testament of how well my father writes, and how his style deeply influenced me in ways I often forget about but that I can trace clearly when I try to: the free mix of colloquial and high-flown languages, the licenses with the diminutives in certain serious phrases, etcetera. In a way, because he sang them every night since I can remember, his songs have been an earlier influence on my use of words than books, and for it I am deeply grateful.

"Al vent" - Raimon

Half of my family spoke catalan as I was growing up, a language I didn’t understand until I learned French years later. It was quite frustrating. Songs, however, I could learn without fully understanding the lyrics. My aunt (a tall, outspoken, red headed actress) would sing this song very loudly when driving her WW truck, the wind (“el vent”) blowing in hard through the open windows. That VW truck, that free spirit, that willingness to literally drive yourself away to a new life, all made it to Umami, in different ways.

"Chilanga banda" - Café Tacvba

I’d be surprised to find any Mexican artist from my generation who doesn’t feel at least tangentially in debt towards Café Tacuba. A strong, eclectic, highly original band that taught us a lot about creative freedom and our right to mix local influences with whatever else may tickle our fancy… Or at least that’s the lesson I always took from them. This song (a cover from the also great songwriter Jaime López) features two things that relate to Umami: wordplay (notice how all words feature the sound “ch”) and a look at “chilangos,” inhabitants of Mexican City, which almost everyone in the novel is.

"Hu Hu Hu" - Natalia Lafourcade and Julieta Venegas

I knew Natalia growing up, her mother was my beloved piano teacher, and I have since followed her career with much admiration. Here she pairs up with Julieta Venegas, another singer that has grown up in the public eye, along her way giving thousands of girls the feeling they too have a right to a voice, in a country where women are still systematically silenced.

But besides the singers, something on the lyrics of this song (“I want to gift you an extra hour to breath… flowers, books that trap you… I want to gift you a garden.. I want to make up words…) has always made me think of Ana’s spirit. Ana is the first narrator in Umami, she is recovering from her little sister’s death (this isn’t a spoiler, you’ll learn that in the first pages) and decides to plant a vegetable garden in her back yard, which sets the novel in motion.

"Magpie to the Morning" - Neko Case

Because of the chronological structure of Umami, which flows backwards, Luz gets a voice in the novel, during the summer she dies. She is five years old and lives in a whimsical world that is half made-up, half totally alert of her surroundings. I cannot explain why this song relates to her without giving the end of the book away, which I won’t because I’d like to believe you may be tempted to read it!

"Know the Wild That Wants You" - Sam Beam and Jesca Hoop

I didn’t know this song when writing Umami, I just recently discovered it, but it makes me think of Pina, Umami’s fourth narrator. An only child, her mother left her when she was 9, leaving behind only a letter which Pina’s father decided to hide. On the one hand, her mother was never much of a stable or reassuring figure, so Pina has long learnt to take care of herself (“Heal yourself, heal yourself”), but on the other hand she’s always hoping her mom will come back (“And come home, and come home”).

"All I Want" - Joni Mitchell

Pina’s mother, Chela, actually makes an appearance in the book. In a simplified view, Chela is the immature parent that left, but some of the characters manage to feel empathy towards her. Specially Marina, the third narrator, who —perhaps because she’s 20 years younger— identifies with Chela’s confusion and sense of quest. Marina wants to finally settle down, grow up, while Chela is always on the road. They’re both permanently looking for themselves through men. Through the book Marina’s admiration transforms into contempt, then determination… They’re both sometimes selfish, sometimes brave. This song makes me think of them.

"Do You Remember" - Ane Brun (Official Video HD)

When you’re deep into a project, there is this byproduct, an ongoing delirium where everything around you seems to relate to whatever you’re writing. I remember stumbling upon this song’s video while writing Alfonso’s voice for Umami, and thinking the man in the video was him. He’s sleeping, then a group of drummers and a chorus of young women drug him and he’s transported to the seashore, becoming by moments his younger, former self. At the end of the video he’s alone at a foggy beach, his arms held high by a bunch of colorful balloons (which I take to be his memories). Alfonso, we learn early in the book, has recently lost his wife and he spends the whole book trying to reconstruct her through writing. Readers and reviewers continually rank him as their favorite voice, and ironically, it was the easiest one to write. That was a magical time for me, not unlike being drugged by some good demons and having his stories poured into my ears. You may not believe in muses and think I’m exaggerating, but just watch the video, it was all a bit like that.

"Je me suis fait tout petit" - Georges Brassens

Reminds me of Alfonso as well. He often muses about how much Noelia, his late wife, influenced and ultimately transformed him during their 30 years of marriage. This song is about that kind of transformation, but it’s also about a man “shrinking in the face of a doll” (inside joke for those who’ve read Umami). Alfonso also holds a PhD in food anthropology, is the founder of the mews where all the characters live and, in a sense, the only intellectual of the whole bunch. So it fits him well to have the one song in French.

"Open Up the Window, Noah" - Julian Lage and Chris Eldridge

One of the difficulties of writing Umami was that every time you read a chapter by Luz, you already know she’s about to die. This provided a sort of suspense that I wanted to use but not abuse. For me — and totally ignoring any biblical connecitons — this song relates to that feeling I wanted to create for those chapters: of knowing the worst is coming yet making space for more subtle, luminous things, and actually enjoying them.

"Los chiles verdes" - Jordi Savall and Ensamble Continuo

I love anything by Jordi Savall and anything by Ensamble Continúo, and was thrilled that they did a CD together. It is full of beautiful songs but I’m picking this one because, just like Umami, it takes elements of traditional Mexican food to tell a story.

"Feeling Good" - Nina Simone

This song should be in any playlist in the world as far as I’m concerned. But I’m also putting it here because the year I wrote Umami I had a grant, and often, after reading chapters in a workshop, the male participants would argue that Ana sounded too mature for her age. The female participants didn’t agree, and this spiked debates that I mainly observed silently because you’re not supposed to talk on those occasions. However, I remember going back home from one of those workshops and stumbling upon a Youtube video of a 13 year old girl singing a spectacular rendition of Feeling Good on American Idol or something like that. Even the mean judges agreed she had to be an old soul. And I remember feeling like: “See? You have no idea what a 13 year old girl may hold inside”.

"Duerme, negrito" - Mercedes Sosa

Umami is, amidst other things, a novel about motherhood, offspringhood (that’s one of many made up words you’ll find in the book and which the great Sophie Hughes managed to translate so gracefully), and the debate between remaining only-a-daughter or also becoming a mother. This traditional lullaby is unique in that it manages to paint a more interesting and complex view of motherhood while still remaining simple and lovely. In it a tired, hard working mom is torn between lovingly putting the baby to bed, menacing with monsters if he doesn’t fall asleep promptly, and going back to her underpaid work so she can provide for him… all put into one single tune with infinite tenderness.

"Hard Times" - Gillian Welch

I had to include one song by Welch because it’s probably the singer I listen to most. This one I love and it has to it, at least for me, a bit of the spirit of Umami: the sadness of the past, the brightness of deciding to move on.

"Canción de las simples cosas" - Buika and Chucho Valdés

BUT, if I had to put the whole novel —particularly the mix of crying and laughter that readers continue to report and that, naturally, makes me weep from joy— I’d go with this one. Many singers have recorded this short, beautiful piece. The original authors are Armando Tejada Gómez and César Isella. Buika’s is my favorite version. I can’t, at least for today, think of another song that sums up Umami —its many absences, the whole dance between daily life and grief and renewal — as powerfully as this one. Here’s my unprofessional translation of the lyrics for you:

We say goodbye, insensibly, to the simple things
Just like a tree in autumn dies by its leaves

At the end, sadness is the slow death of the simple things
Those simple things that remain aching in the heart

We always come back to the old places where we once loved life
Only to understand how absent our loved things are

So don’t leave now, girl, dreaming about the day you’ll come back
For love is simple and the simple things get devoured by time

Stay a bit longer here, under the brightest light of this midday
Where you will find, with the bread under the sun, the table all set up


Laia Jufresa and Umami links:

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

The Rumpus review

BOMB interview with the author
Brazos Bookstore 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

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
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guest book reviews
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weekly music release lists
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This Week's Interesting Music Releases - September 16, 2016

El Perro del Mar

Dawes' We're All Gonna Die, El Perro del Mar's KoKoro, and The Shondes' Brighton are my favorite new releases this week.

Archival releases include the 5-LP (and 3-CD) Led Zeppelin: The Complete BBC Sessions box set.

Vinyl editions of two Sun Ra albums (Nuclear War and Rocket Number Nine) are also in stores.


What new music are you looking forward to or enjoying this week?


This week's interesting music releases:

Aaron Lewis: Sinner
Against Me!: Shape Shift With Me
AlunaGeorge: I Remember
A Tribe Called Red: We Are The Halluci Nation
Bad Suns: Disappear Here
Benjamin Francis Leftwich: After the Rain [vinyl]
Brian Jonestown Massacre: Sun Ship [vinyl]
Chivalrous Amoekon: Fanatic Voyage
Cymbals Eat Guitars: Pretty Years
Dawes: We're All Gonna Die
Deap Vally: Femejism
The Devil Makes Three: Redemption and Ruin
Die Antwoord: Mount Ninji And Da Nice Time Kid
Elephant Stone: Ship Of Fools
El Perro del Mar: KoKoro
The Gaslamp Killer: Instrumentalepathy
George Carlin: I Kinda Like It When A Lotta People Die
Green Pajamas: To the End of the Sea
Hamillton Leithauser + Rotsam: I Had A Dream That You Were Mine [vinyl]
The Handsome Family: Unseen
Johann Johannson: Orphee
Keaton Henson: Kindly Now
King Crimson: Radical Action To Unseat The Hold Of Monkey Mind (4-disc box set)
Kishi Bashi: Sonderlust
Kool Keith: Feature Magnetic
Led Zeppelin: The Complete BBC Sessions (5-LP 180 gram vinyl box set) [vinyl]
Mac Quayle: Mr. Robot Season 1 Vol. 1 [vinyl]
Mac Quayle: Mr. Robot Season 1 Vol. 2 [vinyl]
Madeleine Peyroux: Secular Hymns
Meat Loaf: Braver Than We Are
Mac Miller: The Divine Feminine
Mykki Blanco: Mykki
New Order: People on the High Line
Patten: Psi
Pete Townshend's Deep End: face the Face [dvd with cd]
Preoccupations: Preoccupations
Robert Glasper Experiment: ArtScience
The Shondes: Brighton
Southern Culture on the Skids: Electric Pinecones
Still Corners: Dead Blue
Sun Ra: Nuclear War (reissue) [vinyl]
Sun Ra: Rocket Number Nine (reissue) [vinyl]
Suzanne Ciani and Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith: FRKWYS Vol. 13
Taking Back Sunday: Tidal Wave
Touche Amore: Stage Four
Trentemøller: Fixion
Usher: Hard II Love
The Verve: Storm in Heaven: Super Deluxe Edition (4-CD box set)
Willie Nelson: For the Good Times: A Tribute to Ray Price
Wovenhand: Star Treatment
Young Guns: Echoes


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

weekly music release lists

Essential and Interesting 2015 Year-End Music Lists

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

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