July 11, 2016

Book Notes - John Domini "Movieola!"

Movieola!

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.

John Domini's new short fiction collection is filled with innovative, nuanced stories that focus on filmmaking.

BBC Culture wrote of the book:

"Movieola is for fans of Calvino – and of the film director’s art."


In his own words, here is John Domini's Book Notes music playlist for his short story collection Movieola!:


In industrial Hollywood, "above the title" counts as a place of prestige. That's where you see the names of the biggest stars, and in this case those would be David Gutowski and LHB, inviting me back. I'm grateful, very — but what's more, I'm tickled.

Movieola! makes for a playful playlist. My last "Book Notes," by contrast, accompanied the sober business of selected criticism, my Sea-God's Herb. But sobriety would never suit the new book, in which every story's an imaginative leap, and unpredictable of necessity.

Hollywood would never have a blockbuster, after all, if it didn't knock its players ass over teakettle. The Industry sets up its "narrative arc" across every screen in the multiplex, but this would be an utter snooze without spirals and loop-de-loops. Imagine the challenge, then, for the committees who make the movies. Their storyboards practically explode before their eyes. If Production signs up a particular star — boom! — you better whip up a romance. If Accounting calls ixnay on the location shoot — crash! — there goes the African blood-diamond angle.

Amid all that, hey, what's the story? What's the outsize American dream taking shape in the dark? Honestly, I wonder, and so I've put together a set of tunes with serendipity to match.



"The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly," Ennio Morricone
To earworm one's way into my Movieola!, what could be better than this persistent wiggler from 1966? Il Maestro Morricone proved himself a tad madcap, as well as melodic; he created a mash-up , no less, with whistles and whip-cracks, and didn't hesitate to laugh as well. Just listen to that wah-wah!

"Hustler's Ambition," 50 Cent
Rap and hip-hop, all insistence and transcendence, makes a natural fit for the Dream Factory. The impact of Do the Right Thing would be less without "Fight the Power," and what little impact Dangerous Minds had resides in "Gangster Paradise." For this list I'll take a phat slice of 50 Cent, from Get Rich or Die Tryin'. The storyline is stone Hollywood, gutter-to-glitz, and there's no shaking that soul-guitar sample.

"Che Sarà, Sarà," Doris Day
I include this number not just for its singable infectiousness, but also because of how it works in The Man Who Knew Too Much, showing off how Hitchcock cooks up suspense where you least expect it. As Day does her lighthearted best with the number, her husband and son are elsewhere in mansion, fighting for their lives. Tension so delicious sustains the folderol of most movie plots.

"Starman," David Bowie

The late, great. He's on a lot of soundtracks, to be sure, and he had his own star turns. No man on earth was so fit to judge the walk-off in Zoolander. For LHB, I'll take one of his sojourns off-world, sci-fi with wit and swagger. Then too, like a great flick, the song's a miracle of collaboration; it owes a lot to Mick Ronson.

"An American in Paris," George Gershwin
Here it's Paris, or its candied rendering in Vincent Minelli's Oscar winner, but earlier it was Manhattan, for "Rhapsody in Blue." Either way, laying out a sonic crazy quilt à la Morricone, Gershwin conjures up apparitions in which we'd like to live. He recalls the vast yearnings of outsiders, in his case Lower East Side Jews, grasping after the fringes of Golden American.

"Viva Last Vegas," Elvis Presley
Talk about outsiders going for the gold! Elvis remains the paradigmatic Trash Superstar, indelible even for a generation raised on Eminem, and his movie catalogue includes some fine twitchy goods. This number's poignant as well, since co-star Ann Margaret, briefly a consort to the King, had the talent and smarts to make a genuine partner, and just possibly a lifesaver.

"Madrid/The Pleasure Seekers," Ann Margaret
While I'm at it, I ought to give A-M some — though if ever there was a musical gift made for a lavish production number, it was hers. Thus I've chosen a tune in which you can just see her shimmy and pout, from a movie forgettable except for her, and for its shameless promise: endless pleasure with an insatiable sex kitten.

"Stormy Weather," Lena Horne (Cotton Club Parade version, 1957)
Lena Horne embodies another sort of lasciviousness, what passes for "real" under the klieg lights. In this version, though, the one cooked up with Duke Ellington, she brings it off; she delivers a blues that's somehow also high, wide, and handsome. Charisma, we call that: an inborn Panavision and Sensurround.


"Live And Let Die," Paul McCartney
My list's not a history, no way, but here we've got a historical watershed, namely, the first ‘60s rocker to work for Big Money Moviedom. The ex-Beatle caught hell for taking on Bond (you know you did you know you did you know you did...), yet he brought his usual panache to the assignment and the results prove, like many of the best here, a fascinating pastiche.

"Thriller," Michael Jackson
Like Ann Margaret's, this performance comes most to life in the mind's eye. The John Landis video was a high-water mark for MTV, it punched all the right horror-show buttons, and from this perspective recalls how MJ couldn't keep his own personal zombies buried. But that bassline percolating beneath his sawtoothed croon — now that's a master at work.

"Blade Runner Theme" Vangelis
Again, I'll play historian, and say that this magnificent piece of work put moviegoers on edge like nothing they'd heard in the Cineplex before. No question, the '82 electronica had precursors (Giorgio Moroder, calmati), but Vangelis went with replicants like Adam and Eve, together escaping a toxic Eden.

"Main Title Theme, Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid," Bob Dylan
Meantime, though, there's no denying the power of a few human hands, wielded just right. Dylan's soundtrack includes his ubiquitous hit "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," and that too has the quality of a midnight jam, acoustic yet soaring. In so doing, he created the template for what became known as indie, sketchy and honest.

"One For My Baby (One More for the Road)," Frank Sinatra, 1958, from ...Sings For Only the Lonely
No getting away from this guy, his trajectory something like that of Elvis. This hardboiled monologue was written for the movies, and Sinatra did it most memorably on one of the records of his peak period. Even his betrayed wife Ava Gardner had to admit that, at moments like this, he embodied impossible ambitions: "You're an angel when you sing, Frank."

"8 ½: La passarella di addio" Nino Rota (Original Music for the Movies of Federico Fellini)
Rota makes a good bookend to Morricone, and his collaborations with Fellini remain movie music at its most mind-expanding, at once relaxing in its familiarity and surprising in its final shape. Now a circus march and now a nightclub rhumba, now clowning and now despairing, it's particularly congenial for 8 ½, a movie about a movie that doesn't know where it might end up. In this too, whipping through hairpin turns as it careens along, striving to improvise its way out of every fresh tight squeeze — in this, man, it's an awful lot like my Movieola!


John Domini and Movieola! links:

the author's website

BBC Culture review
Entropy review
The Rumpus review

Largehearted Boy Book Notes playlist by the author for The Sea-God's Herb: Reviews and Essays


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





July 11, 2016

Book Notes - Tara Altebrando "The Leaving"

The Leaving

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.

Tara Altebrando's latest YA novel The Leaving is an engrossing meditation on identity and memory.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"It's engrossing, both as a thriller and a meditation on memory—its limits, its loss, and the ways it deceives and constructs identity."


In her own words, here is Tara Altebrando's Book Notes music playlist for her novel The Leaving:


The Leaving is a young adult novel about six kids who disappear when they are in kindergarten. Eleven years later, five of them come back as teenagers with no memory of where they've been.

The book is narrated by Scarlett, a returned girl; Lucas, a returned boy; and Avery, the sister of the boy who hasn't come back. It's a creepy thriller about the quest to discover what happened—and also a story about the impact the event had on the beach community left behind. More than one person has described it as "a meditation on memory and identity" so I guess it's that, too.

These are some of the songs that inspired/influenced me as I was writing:



"People Change" and "Darkness" by Wildlife Control

Very early on in the writing process a handful of years ago, a friend's band played the Mercury Lounge, opening for a band called Wildlife Control. I'd never heard of Wildlife Control but holy cow. This show was amazing.

I am a woman of a certain age but this show made me feel like I was sixteen again. The whole crowd was just so crazy into it, and the band's parents were there, which was adorable, and everybody got glow bracelets, and my husband and friends and I just danced and bobbed along like lunatics. It was by far the best show I'd been to in years—and again I hadn't heard a single song of theirs before that night. How often does that happen?

Their self-titled album immediately went into heavy rotation at home and for some reason I decided that "People Change" would be a perfect ending credits song if The Leaving were ever made into a movie (which I know it won't be because I am a realistic type but it's always fun to think about anyway). There are weird parallels between the plot and the lyrics that aren't of course parallels at all, except in my head, but writers are nutty like that. Latching on to whatever helps the work along.

Ultimately, I honed in on a different track on the album, "Darkness," which is more on point in terms of the themes of The Leaving. The song starts out with the line "Enjoy your happiness cause in the end the darkness will find you…" and goes on to say "Everyone was happy once, then comes a time in all our lives, when everything goes wrong. Even the sunshine's going to burn out one day." So that's pretty ominous and depressing, right? But then BAM! the music turns on a dime from creepy maudlin into this upbeat life-affirming piano driven bit and it's a stunning and unexpected shift. The mood of the song is complex in a way that I hoped the tone of the book would be.

When we were working on a book trailer, I reached out to Wildlife Control and they kindly let us use "Darkness."



"Sugar Man" by Rodriguez

I remember seeing the trailer for the documentary Searching for Sugar Man when it was first released and wanting to jump for joy. I was so excited for the film makers, that they had this idea that they'd do a film about the legendary musician Rodriguez and then when they're in the thick of it, they discover that even though everyone thought Rodriguez was dead, he's actually alive. What the what? I get really excited for people when their art delivers for them in unexpected ways and for a long time, I had no idea how The Leaving was going to end so I needed a sort of special delivery of my own. "Sugar Man" is haunting to begin with, but becomes almost chilling somehow because of the backstory.

"Revelate" by The Frames

The characters in The Leaving are in desperate need of revelations: Who stole their youth? Why? How? And why didn't Avery's brother come back? In the case of the returned kids, even their own minds are not cooperating with them on their quest for answers. I think of this song as Lucas's soundtrack. He's more angry and desperate for answers because he's out for revenge; Scarlett only wants answer that will help her move on.

"Seasons in the Sun" by Terry Jacks

This is a song that has the power to make me feel physical ill. It brings me back to a part of my childhood that feels so very long ago that it might as well have been lived by someone else entirely. Part of what I was thinking a lot about while writing was the disconnect between adult life and childhood, wondering, What's the point of childhood, anyway? This song for me emphasized that disconnect. Also the lyric, Think of me and I'll be there is so interesting when you think about it in terms of the power of memory—the need for it—with regard to remembering people we've lost; I'm not sure I ever really paid attention to that line before.

"Hurricane" by Ms Mr

I have no idea what this song is about and have made a point of not thinking about it too much, if only because I had a visceral response to it when I first heard it on the radio on a long drive and don't want to spoil that by overthinking it. It became "Avery's song" for me—somehow capturing her mourning and desire. As a member of the community who was left behind—someone who experienced "The Leaving" from a different perspective—she has a completely different voice than the other two narrators. She's not always likeable, actually, but I think she ends up being the driving—and grounding—force of the novel, just because she wants to find her brother, even if not for all the noblest of reasons.

"Don't Change" by INXS

This is another one of those almost-makes-me-ill songs. (Does anyone else have this problem or just me?) I've always loved it and still do even though it makes me feel old and sad, especially considering Michael Hutchence's tragic death. Tonally I feel like this has always been a weird song to peg—it's so upbeat lyrically somehow, but there's this guitar part that's so…desperate? Anyway, I listened to this song about a hundred times while writing one particular scene in the book, the only one involving a guitar. No spoilers.


Tara Altebrando and The Leaving links:

the author's website

Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review
School Library Journal review

Tara Altebrando's Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay for The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life
Tara Altebrando's Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay for her novel Dreamland Social Club
Tara Altebrando's Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay for her novel Love Will Tear Us Apart
Largehearted Boy Book Notes playlist by the author for Roomies
Tara Altebrando's Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay for her novel Wouldn't Miss It for the World
Tara Altebrando's Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay for her novel What Happens Here


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 (Cyntia Ozick on Books and Reading, Jay-Z's Playlist of Songs About Racial Injustice, and more)

Cynthia Ozick talked books and reading with the New York Times.


Jay-Z curated a playlist of songs about racial injustice.


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


eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
The Eternal Wonder by Pearl S. Buck
Hocus Pocus by Kurt Vonnegut
The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

eBooks on sale for $2.99 today:

A History of the Future by James Kunstler
Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume


Electric Literature interviewed author Bonnie Nadzam.


Drowned in Sound interviewed singer-songwriter Mitski.


BOMB hosted a conversation between authors Catherine Lacey and Jesse Ball.


Seattle Weekly profiled the band VATS.


Ramona Ausubel on her path to becoming a writer at Literary Hub.


World Cafe interviewed Bob Mehr about his book Trouble Boys: The True Story of the Replacements.


Emma Straub discussed her book tour with Musing.


Stream a new Local Natives song.


Entropy recommended books for summer reading.


Stereogum reconsidered the Trainspotting soundtrack, released 20 years ago.


3:AM interviewed author Yuri Herrera.


Stream a new video from The Julie Ruin.


Jennifer Keishin Armstrong talked to Salon about her new book Seinfeldia.


Frightened Rabbit visited World Cafe for an interview and live performance.


Weekend Edition interviewed poet Claudia Rankina about the national conversation about race.


Shirley Manson talked to Weekend Edition about Garbage's career.


Hannah Tennant-Moore talked to Salon about her novel Wreck and Order.


Stream a new My Morning Jacket song.


Weekend Edition and the Rumpus interviewed Heather Havrilesky abut her new book How to Be a Person in the World.


Author Jay McInerney discussed his favorite books at the New York Times.


Noisey interviewed musician Mick Harvey.


Authors shared their summer reading at the Guardian and Vulture.


Spin reconsidered TV on the Radio's Return to Cookie Mountain album 10 years after its release.


Author Ramona Ausubel discussed her favorite books at The Week.


PopMatters continued its countdown of the top 100 alternative singles of the '90s.


BuzzFeed recommended July's best new books.


R.I.P., musician and cartoonist Geneviève Castrée.


The Oxford American interviewed author Manuel Gonzales.


Violent Femmes visited The Current studio for an interview and live performance.



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

July 10, 2016

Largehearted Boy Weekly Wrap-Up - July 10th, 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)

Christopher Bram for his book The Art of History
Christopher Hebert for his novel Angels of Detroit
Hannah Pittard for her novel Listen to Me
Jade Sharma for her novel Problems
Rikki Ducornet for her novel Brightfellow


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

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

July 8, 2016

Book Notes - Rikki Ducornet "Brightfellow"

Brightfellow

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.

Rikki Ducornet's novel Brightfellow is surreal and vivid, and cements her status as one of the most talented writers working today.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"Bursting with vivid imagery, beautiful language, heartbreaking characters, and the striking perspective of an emotionally stunted man in a carefully controlled society, Ducornet's tale is unique and captivating."

In her own words, here is Rikki Ducornet's Book Notes music playlist for her novel Brightfellow:


If my new novel, Brightfellow, is not exactly autobiographical, it does take place on the Bard College campus where my father taught social philosophy, and where I grew up. He was Cuban—as was his mother; his father was Viennese. My father suffered chronic nostalgia for a Vienna he had not known.bIf prodded he would sing songs from The Fledermaus with great feeling:

When we are gone,
Where do we go?
Below! Below! Below!
We will meet everyone that we know
Below! Below! Below!

He also loved Caribbean music--not just the music of Cuba, but everything and above all the music of Trinidad. He had a fantastic collection of Folkways records, including Lord Invader -–who I resembled. When my grandmother—and her name was Emelina Carmen Dionysia —admitted to an African ancestor, I knew why.

Lord Invader, hold me tight
Squeeze me with all your might!
I won’t tell me mother
I went romancing with
Lord Invader.

At the age of eight I knew this was ribald somehow and pondered. It occurred to me that Lord Invader possibly referred not just to the singer, but to the singer’s penis. And there was the hilarious "Macbeth The Great":

Hold him Joe,
Hold him Joe,
Hold him Joe,
But don’t let hom go…
…When me donkey want water
Hold him Joe!
Better hide your daughter!

It continues:

Some say me donkey is bad
Because he came from Trinidad…

I was curious about my African ancestor who I knew had been a slave. But the always existentially compromised (she was a racist) Emelina Carmen Dionysia regretted the leak and had clammed up. Because I could not find out more, I listened very attentively to my father’s records for clues. And when I stumbled upon Atilla the Hun’s song called "Professor Carver" I became very excited. It was a great thing to be Negro, a thing I already knew because I was growing up in a fully integrated campus. But I also knew outside things were very different. And then there was the question of my grandmother’s uncanny shame…

Mourn every Negro mourn
Professor Carver is dead and gone.
Mourn every Negro mourn,
Professor Carver is dead and gone…
…He was an honor to his race,
For although born in advesity
He became the wizard of Biology…
… The first Aborigine Biology!

I loved this song, dearly. It was something like a call to arms. I informed Emelina Carmen Dionysia that a Negro was responsible for the peanut butter in her sandwhich.

***

When you are a child of eight or so, nothing is funnier than hearing Lord Kitchener sing "Sugar Bum Bum." Or Sir Lancelot sing "Ugly Woman":

If you want to be happy and live a king’s life,
Never make a pretty woman your wife…
…from a logical point of view,
Always marry a woman uglier than you!

The Caribbean which was so wondrously tangible during my childhood shows up in Brightfellow in the shape of a phantasmagorically questionable and erotically stimulating collection of Jamaican stamps. In such ways do novels upend the writer’s own story.


Rikki Ducornet and Brightfellow links:

the author's website
the author's Wikipedia entry

Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review
Vol. 1 Brooklyn review

Largehearted Boy Book Notes playlist by the author for The Deep Zoo
Largehearted Boy Book Notes playlist by the author for Netsuke
PowellsBooks.Blog essay by the author
Publishers Weekly profile of the author
Victoria Advocate 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)

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

Book Notes - Christopher Hebert "Angels of Detroit"

Angels of Detroit

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

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

Christopher Hebert's Angels of Detroit is a powerful and evocative ensemble novel.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"Written in evocative prose with careful detail, this is a veracious portrayal of a decimated city. It moves at an exciting pace, the various plot threads braiding rapidly. Most poignant is the insight offered about those fighting to amend the damage. These characters are flawed and more appealing for it. Perhaps Hebert intends to suggest that this is true of the city itself. An expansive yet intimate tale of the efforts made to save a decaying Detroit."


In his own words, here is Christopher Hebert's Book Notes music playlist for his novel Angels of Detroit:


My second novel, Angels of Detroit, took me sixteen years to finish. I started working on the book shortly after I moved to Michigan in 1999 and began a long obsession with the state's most famous and tumultuous city. The book is my attempt to wrestle with what it means to live in and fight for a place with so rich a past and so uncertain a future. On top of this historical complexity, I decided to layer complexities of form, with the result that I needed a long time to figure out how all the pieces fit together.

One benefit of the long period of gestation was that it gave me more time to come to know the city. One way I especially came to know the place was through its music. For fifteen of the sixteen years that I spent working on the book, I made my living as an editor at the University of Michigan Press. My main focus there was books about music—in particular the music of the city I had come to love. Not surprisingly, music gradually crept into Angels of Detroit.

All the books I mention below are ones I worked on as an editor during the time I was writing my novel.



"Ramblin' Rose – Intro" by the MC5

It's the track with which the MC5 introduced themselves to the world—love song transformed into aural assault. Recorded live at the Grande Ballroom in Detroit in 1969, the song and the album begin with a preamble by Brother J.C. Crawford, "spiritual associate" of Trans-Love Energies, combining revivalist fervor and revolutionary thunder:

"Five seconds for you to decide your purpose here on the planet. Five seconds to decide if you are gonna be the problem, or if you are going to be the solution."

It's a sentiment the activists at the center of my book would share a good forty years later, and the wall of sound is what I imagine coming from the activists' offshoot band, Bricoleur. David A. Carson's Grit, Noise, and Revolution: The Birth of Detroit Rock ‘n' Roll (2005), captures the story of the MC5, and it was one of the first books I published about Detroit's music history.

"Catching the Rich Train" by Wolf Eyes

I love to listen to music while I write, and I'm not sure what it says about me or my work that I find noise and cacophony and dissonance soothing. Within my household, I'm the only one who feels this way, which is why my wife does most of her writing in coffee shops. One of my favorites is Wolf Eyes, the band at the center of the Detroit noise scene. This track, from their newest release (their first for Detroiter and White-Striper Jack White's Third Man label), is at the milder end of their vast discography. The band gets a shout out in one of the most recent books I published, Sounds of the Underground: A Cultural, Political and Aesthetic Mapping of Underground and Fringe Music (2016), by Stephen Graham.

"50-21" by Tommy Flanagan

Composed by Thad Jones of the royal family of Detroit jazz (his brother Hank a pianist, Elvin a drummer), and performed here by a trio of Elvin, Detroit pianist Tommy Flanagan, and bassist George Mraz. The title, "50-21" is a reference to the address on Tireman St. of the Blue Bird Inn, one of Detroit's most important venues for modern jazz from the late '40s through the '70s. My own tribute to the now-vacant Blue Bird Inn is the Sparrow Room, the club that meets its end in Angels of Detroit. The Blue Bird is well documented by Lars Bjorn and Jim Gallert in their Before Motown: A History of Jazz in Detroit (2001). The Jones brothers and Tommy Flanagan feature prominently in Mark Stryker's forthcoming book about Detroit jazz musicians, Made in Detroit.

"Open the Door" by Betty Carter

Betty Carter, the great jazz vocalist, was born in Flint but grew up in Detroit, and "Open the Door" is her signature song, one she wrote and performed herself. It's also the title of William Bauer's 2002 biography of the singer. It's easy to hear why "Open the Door" is the song Carter was known for—sensual and full of her scatting improvisation. As love songs go, this one is inflected with more than a little desperation, and in my book I imagine it being what Myles might sing to McGee, if only he could find the courage.

"Hamtramck Mama" by the York Brothers

Hamtramck—a city within the city of Detroit, incorporated with that improbable combination of letters in 1922 by Polish immigrants who swarmed to the area to work at the newly opened Dodge Main facility. In Detroit Country Music (2013), Craig Maki and Keith Cady write that the fervent Polish Catholicism of the freshly settled immigrants wasn't enough to fend off Prohibition-era mobsters, who earned the brand new city a reputation that would become immortalized in this 1939 York Brothers hit (recorded on East Jefferson St.), upon which much of Detroit's country & western scene was built. As with Detroit itself, Hamtramck has tended to rise and fall with the fortunes of the auto industry, a history also central to Angels of Detroit.

"I Hear a Symphony" by the Supremes

In the swelling strings and tremolos of "I Hear a Symphony," the Supremes' 1966 hit, Andy Flory hears a different kind of symphony from the one swooning the love-sick young woman in the song. For Flory, the song's literal markers of symphonic sound point to both the possibilities and challenges of black musicians in the '60s crossing over into the American mainstream. In its form and arrangement, the song captures the drive for black class mobility and uplift that were a hallmark of Motown, as well as being a complicated part of Detroit's racial fabric and an inextricable piece of the story of Angels of Detroit. Flory's I Hear a Symphony: Motown and Crossover R&B is forthcoming in 2017.

"Scorpio," by Dennis Coffey

Dennis Coffey was a Motown session musician, a latter-day member of the legendary Funk Brothers. That's him bringing the wah-wah to the Temptation's "Cloud Nine" and riding the rock guitar through Edwin Starr's "War." "Scorpio" was Coffey's 1971 million-selling instrumental single, recorded with fellow Funk Brother Bob Babbitt on bass. After working with Dennis on his 2004 memoir, Guitars, Bars, and Motown Superstars, I added "Scorpio" to my writing-music rotation for days I'm feeling the groove.

"So Far" by Eminem

Eminem's answer to Joe Walsh's "Life's Been Good," built around samples from the original. In Rhymin' and Stealin' (2013), Justin Williams writes about how Eminem and other hip hop artists appropriate and reappropriate to turn preexisting material into something new. In "So Far," Eminem's meditation on his rise to fame, he even appropriates himself, working in references to songs from his past. In fact, the entire The Marshall Mathers LP 2 (2013), from which this song comes, is in dialogue with Eminem's earlier The Marshall Mathers LP (2000), a relationship made explicit in the way the two album covers directly mirror one another: on the first Marshall Mathers LP, we see Eminem himself sitting on the front steps of his childhood home in Detroit; in the second, we see the house in its current state, boarded up and abandoned.

"Got it all but I still won't change," he sings in the chorus,

maybe that's why I can't leave Detroit
It's the motivation that keeps me going

This is the inspiration I need
I could never turn my back on a city that made me

For the art on the actual compact disc of The Marshall Mathers LP 2, Eminem goes further with his appropriations, borrowing the official seal for the city of Detroit. But in place of the two classical female figures representing the city's past and future, Eminem has placed his dilapidated house, circled by the city's motto: Speramus meliora; resurget cineribus (We hope for better things; it shall rise from the ashes).

I appropriate the same words for the epigraph of Angels of Detroit.


Christopher Hebert and Angels of Detroit links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

Chapter 16 review
Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review

The Indianola Review interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

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

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

This Week's Interesting Music Releases - July 8, 2016

The Julie Ruin

The Julie Ruin's Hit Reset is easily my favorite new release.

Aphex Twin's Cheetah EP and The Avalanches' Wildflower are also out this week.

Reissues include vinyl editions of three Dead Can Dance albums, Dead Can Dance, Into The Labyrinth, and Spleen and Ideal.

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


This week's interesting music releases:

The Allman Brothers Band: Austin City Limits 1995
Aphex Twin: Cheetah EP
The Avalanches: Wildflower
BADBADNOTGOOD: IV
Beach Boys: Ringing the Liberty Bell
Biffy Clyro: Ellipsis
Big Business: Command Your Weather
Boris: Pink (remastered and expanded 3-LP box set) [vinyl]
Bruce Springsteen: Passaic Night
Car Seat Headrest: Teens Of Denial (CD release)
Cibo Matto: StereoType A (reissue) [vinyl]
David Bowie: Live: Radio Broadcast 1987 [vinyl]
David Bowie: Hours (reissue)
David Bowie: Outside (reissue)
Dead Can Dance: Dead Can Dance (reissue) [vinyl]
Dead Can Dance: Into The Labyrinth (reissue) [vinyl]
Dead Can Dance: Spleen and Ideal (reissue) [vinyl]
The Districts: Telephone (reissue) [vinyl]
Eagles: Beacon Theatre, New York 1974
Eric Copeland: Black Bubblegum
George Jones: Complete Collection: 1960-1962 (4-CD box set)
Gone Is Gone: Gone Is Gone
Heart: Beautiful Broken
John Coltrane: The Atlantic Years in Mono (6-CD box set)
Johnny Foreigner: Mono No Aware
The Julie Ruin: Hit Reset
Kaytranda: 99.9%
Konx-om-Pax: Caramel
Madonna: Like a Prayer (reissue) [vinyl]
Madonna: True Blue (reissue) [vinyl]
Margo Price: Midwest Farmer's Daughter [vinyl]
Mark Chesnutt: Tradition Lives
Metronomy: Summer 08
Miles Davis: Tokyo 1973
Modest Mouse and 764-Hero: Whenever You See Fit (Half Blue / Half Yellow Vinyl) (reissue) [vinyl]
Nonpoint: The Poison Red
Patti Smith: Wicked Messenger: The 1996 Broadcast
Prince: In Memory of [dvd]
Prince - Maverick [dvd]
Residents: Daydream B-Liver
Rogue Wave: Descended Like Vultures (reissue) [vinyl]
Róisín Murphy: Take Her Up To Monto
ScHoolboy Q: Blank Face
Stone Roses: All for One [vinyl]
Switchfoot: Where the Light Shines Through
These Arms Are Snakes: Tail Swallower and Dove (reissue) [vinyl]
Various Artists: Absolutely Fabulous (soundtrack)
Various Artists: Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording) (Edited) (2CD) (Clean)
Various Artists: The Many Faces of King Crimson
Various Artists: The Many Faces of Prince (3-CD box set)
Various Artists: Waitress (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Warren Zevon: The Overdraft [dvd]


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)

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

July 7, 2016

Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week - July 7, 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.


Art & Beauty Magazine: Drawings by R. Crumb: Numbers 1, 2 & 3

Art & Beauty Magazine: Drawings by R. Crumb: Numbers 1, 2 & 3
by R. Crumb

Robert Crumb is an established name in comics, to say the least. In his newest graphic novel, Art & Beauty Magazine, he delves into the odd and arbitrary beauty standards over time. Each page consists of a portrait of a woman, usually with breasts bared or ass in the air, accompanied by a satirical commentary of quotes by figures ranging from Leonardo da Vinci to Andy Warhol. While the text adds much of the critique, the images also play with the boundaries of sexuality and beauty. Details like feet reaching out of the frame stray enough from the stereotypical depiction of women to draw attention to this underlying element at play.


You Are Having a Good Time

You Are Having a Good Time
by Amie Barrodale

You may know Amie Barrodale's writing from the Paris Review, McSweeney's, The Onion, or as an editor at Vice. Her debut collection of short stories provides a glimpse into the inner lives of an assortment of characters who drink too much and say the wrong things. With writing that is funny, sharp, and charged she examines the dissonance that sounds just below the surface of everyday life.


Sex Object

Sex Object
by Jessica Valenti

Jessica Valenti is well known as a feminist leader and activist, but her debut novel firmly asserts her significance in the world of literature. She is able to transcend and enlighten with her own personal story, smoothly translating it into the realm of the political and existential. Valenti affirms everyday experiences with sexism as important to address, and entirely unacceptable. The certainty with which she addresses gender politics provides the reader with a unique and convincing perspective on the damaging nature of the patriarchy.


Even This Page is White

Even This Page is White
by Vivek Shraya

The invisible yet pervasive nature of whiteness is something difficult to articulate. Vivek Shraya manages to utilize words to interrogate and critique the racialized identities ingrained in our society. She addresses popular culture from hashtags like #Oscarssowhite to figures like Miley Cyrus, all in a cynical and dark tone, giving the subject matter the weight it deserves. The poems bridge the gaps between queerness,race, gender and politics, all in the context of mass culture.


But What if We're Wrong?

But What if We're Wrong?
by Chuck Klosterman

Are there some questions you have always been asking, but were afraid to say out loud because they seemed so obvious yet idiotic? If so, Chuck Klosterman’s newest novel But What if We’re Wrong will give voice to every one of them. While with each generation, style and beliefs change, we seem to be entirely caught in the grips of the current and dominant mode of thought. A question like: “how certain are we of our understanding of gravity?”, sends the necessary jolt to the reader, forcing you to reconsider the paradigms on which you operate.


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:

Largehearted Boy's 2016 Fundraiser

other Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week

Online "Best Books of 2015" Year-end Lists

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

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

July 6, 2016

Book Notes - Christopher Bram "The Art of History"

The Art of History

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

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

Christopher Bram's The Art of History is another insightful and informative entry in Graywolf's "The Art of..." series, one that explores the value in reading books on history and historical fiction.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"An amiable stroll through selected works of history and historical fiction. . . . Though Bram acknowledges how we can benefit from history, learn from it, and deepen our perspective, it's refreshing that he underscores the pure pleasure of reading and that he takes such delight in it."


In his own words, here is Christopher Bram's Book Notes music playlist for his book The Art of History:


In The Art of History I explore different ways writers and readers recreate the past, using details, stories and literary devices to time travel to other eras. But I was not able to talk about one of my favorite tools: music. I love music almost as much as I love literature and movies. Music from the past often enables me to visit the past, in both my reading and my writing.

There is nothing like the right song to conjure up a foreign decade or century when I work on my own historical fiction. Bits of music also provide windows when I read about the past. It's a highly subjective business, but I suspect many other readers do the same. Here are a few favorite examples of music that I've found useful as a reader, and other pieces that have fed my imagination as a writer.



"Sing, Sing, Sing"
My second novel, Hold Tight, takes place in New York in 1942, a tale of espionage set in a male brothel on the waterfront. The climax is in Times Square during a bond rally when Benny Goodman and His Orchestra play "Sing, Sing, Sing," with the great Gene Krupa on drums. It's a strong, driving piece of music, the perfect accompaniment for a chase scene. The sailor hero, Hank Fayette, charges through the crowd in pursuit of the Nazi sympathizer who killed his pal, a black houseboy named Juke. I can't guess how many readers know the piece and hear it in their heads when they read this scene, but I certainly heard while I wrote it. It fed my sense of 1940s New York as well as added a frantic edge to the episode in my mind's ear.

"Lilliburlero"
The History of England by Thomas Babington Macaulay is a great unread classic, the long, detailed account of sixteen short years in British history. The chief event is the Glorious Revolution of 1688, when the English Parliament rebelled against James II, a Catholic, and invited William of Orange of the Netherlands, a Protestant, to take over the throne. He crossed the channel with a small army and landed on the coast. His army marched to London playing "Lilliburlero" over and over again on fife and drums. The lilting, singsongy march was later incorporated into The Beggar's Opera by John Gay and, later still, used in Stanley Kubrick's movie Barry Lyndon. I already knew the tune when I read Macauley and it brought the campaign fully to life for me. Imagine thousands of soldiers marching over the green landscape to the rolling grind of drums and shrill piping of flutes. (Various lyrics have been written for the tune since the English Civil War, but all are justly forgotten.)

Selections from La Traviata
Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa's wonderful novel, The Leopard, is set in Sicily in the 1860s during the unification of Italy. Because Verdi supported unification, his music was used to celebrate the movement, even when inappropriate. When the Prince (know as the Leopard) arrives in a small town with his family, the local brass band plays a gypsy song, "Noi siamo zingarelle" from La Traviata. In the church the organist plays "Amami, Alfredo" from the same opera. Nobody comments that the opera itself is about a high-priced Parisian prostitute dying of tuberculosis. If you know the music, it's fun to imagine it played by a brass band or church organ. But if you know the fuller context, the incongruity opens a side door into the contradictions of the past.

"The Blue-Tailed Fly"
The Art of History includes a chapter on American slavery, looking at the different ways it's treated in both history and fiction. I mention slave songs in passing but did not have room to explore them. If I had, I would have discussed grand, soulful spirituals like "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," "Let My People Go," and "Roll, Jordan, Roll." But I also would have looked at snarky, ironic ditties like "The Blue-Tailed Fly." With the refrain "Jimmy crack corn and I don't care/My master's gone away," the song seems to be a slave mourning the death of his master, especially when sung slowly. But pick up the pace and swing it, and mockery comes through. The grief is only crocodile tears. Again, the contradictions and ambiguities bring the past alive for us, making it seem more like the present.

Songs by Yvette Guilbert and Aristide Bruant
In Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Dr. Urbino constantly plays old phonograph records of French music. The good doctor is a Francophile and this music provides a pocket of European culture in the small Caribbean city where he lives with his wife, Fermina. The reader imagines these songs playing on a scratchy phonograph, but also as sung by a screechy parrot. (This parrot will be the literal death of Dr. Urbino.) Garcia Marquez gives us no song titles, but just the names of the singers evoke belle epoque Paris. Both Guilbert and Bruant were sketched by Toulouse-Lautrec. On YouTube you can hear the original recordings (although not the version sung by the parrot).

"Garry Owen" 
This is yet another march, like "Lilliburlero"--sadly, too much history is scored to military marches. George Armstrong Custer made this quick-step Irish jig the marching tune for the Seventh Cavalry. Every movie about Custer's Last Stand features it. Son of the Morning Star, Evan Connell's glorious grab bag of Western wonder tales around Custer, provides more stories about this catchy melody. The regimental band stayed behind when the regiment went to the Little Big Horn, but they played the tune one last time as Custer and his men marched away.

The Barcarolle
My seventh novel, The Notorious Dr. August, tells the tale of a metaphysical pianist--a spiritualist who used the piano as a kind of Ouija board. The story runs from the Civil War to the 1920s and incorporates a ton of music, ranging from Schumann to Wagner to Scott Joplin to Louis Armstrong. There was so much music that I put together a tape cassette--this was the age of mix-tapes--titled "The Music of Dr. August" with samples of work mentioned in the novel.

One of my favorite discoveries was Jacques Offenbach. He's most famous now for his one grand opera, Tales of Hoffmann, but he wrote a score of operettas, playful, witty, musical farces that delighted 19th century audiences and are recently being rediscovered. The sweet candy, tinsel-wrapped orchestrations plunge me into the Europe of 1870 in ways that serious classical work by Brahms and Wagner can't. The giants are music for the ages while Offenbach is music for a particular time, one of pleasure and money. It's as time-bound as the dress fashions, which is what a novelist needs.

I often played his music to get myself into the right mood. (I can't listen to music while I write, but find it useful when daydreaming or plotting a scene.) However, I learned that the "Barcarolle" featured in the Venice episode in Tales of Hoffman was written much earlier as a stand-alone piece. I gave it to my protagonist to play in the New York City brothel where he works as a boy. He sits at a piano, wearing a blindfold so he won't see the cavorting customers as he makes his way through the piece’s exotic, languorous repetitions.


Christopher Bram and The Art of History links:

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

Kirkus review
Shelf Awareness 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 (A New Harry Crews Biography, Pitchfork's Overlooked Albums of the Year So Far, and more)

Connect Savannah interviewed Ted Geltner about his book Blood, Bone and Marrow: A Biography of Harry Crews.


Pitchfork listed its overlooked albums of the year so far.


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


eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
The Eternal Wonder by Pearl S. Buck
Hocus Pocus by Kurt Vonnegut
The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

eBooks on sale for $2.99 today:

A History of the Future by James Kunstler
Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume


Stream a new Pixies song.


Neil Young discussed his new album with Rolling Stone.


Literary Hub shared an excerpt from Cynthia Ozick's new essay collection Critics, Monsters, Fanatics, and Other Literary Essays.


The Quietus interviewed electronic musician Kara-Lis Coverdale.


Jessica Valenti discussed her memoir Sex Object with Rolling Stone.


Stream a new Crocodiles song.


Literary Hub shared an excerpt from Hannah Pittard's novel Listen to Me.


Beck discussed his forthcoming album with Rolling Stone.


Electric Literature shared a story from one of the year's finest short fiction collections, Maryse Meijer's Heartbreaker.



Divedapper interviewed poet Solmaz Sharif.


Robert Pollard is reissuing a vinyl/digital edition of his 1996 solo debut, Not in My Air Force.


The Oxford American features a new essay by Lauren Groff.


Operators covered Nena's "99 Luftballoons."


Peter Geye talked to Minnesota Public Radio about his new novel Wintering.


NPR Music is streaming video of a recent Savages live show.


The Conversation profiled author Christos Tsiolkas.


The Pitch interviewed musician Femi Kuti.


Salon interviewed authors Jennifer Armstrong, Patrick Flanery, Hannah Pittard, Bob Proehl, and Irina Reyn about their new books.


Newsweek listed the best albums of the year so far.


The Millions previewed books published in the second half of 2016.


The Stranger listed the best music and books of 2016 so far.


Comic Book Resources interviewed cartoonist Gilbert Hernandez about his new graphic novel Garden of the Flesh.


Hypebot listed the best music books of 2015/2016 (so far).


Fresh Air interviewed Larry Tye about his new Robert Kennedy biography Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon.


Paste recapped June's best albums.


The American Scholar listed books about exile and displacement.


Slate examined Clint Eastwood's singing career.



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

July 5, 2016

Book Notes - Jade Sharma "Problems"

Problems

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.

Jade Sharma's Problems is one of the year's strongest debut novels, a powerful book that deals with addiction and gender politics through the eyes of its unforgettable and vividly drawn protagonist.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"The novel is written so well that the relentless and destructive rhythm of heroin abuse seems calming, metaphysical, and occasionally even funny. Sharma's descriptions are vivid and sage . . . lulling readers into a similarly opiate state to which they will readily succumb and from which, like the protagonist, it will take some time to recover. An absorbing novel carried by a seemingly hopeless protagonist you will want to befriend and save."


In her own words, here is Jade Sharma's Book Notes music playlist for her debut novel Problems:


Music has always been essential to my life. It's served me through the roughest time of my life and has been the background music when I feel like I'm on top of the world. When I'm actually writing I tend to stay away from music with lyrics as it can inhibit my writing process. I listen to stuff without words or Billie Holiday that's good for background music. Just need to to register something is playing but not enough to have moments of actual reflection or contemplation like, "What am I doing with my life?" or "Who cares what I'm writing?" But in later stages of writing music can be good. And music like when I'm walking around with headphones or on the subway helps me bring my character alive: What would my character think of this song? What would she feel? Music is a very emotional cathartic experience for me. Sometimes a certain song at a certain moment will bring tears to my eyes out of sheer beauty. Music makes us better human beings. If I could be anything in the world it would be a singer. I didn't read as a kid so instead I wrote lyrics and called it poetry and then did spoken word and then read some shit and embraced the craft of writing. The main difference between being a singer and a writer is the money but writers do spend as much time on yachts cracking champagne.



Bonnie "Prince" Billy "A Minor Place" (AKA Will Oldham AKA Palace Bros)

This is the first song I heard by Will Oldham and it sounded familiar and without pretense. When you hear something true you feel it. In the song he talks about being in his minor place when he can't be found and "the job that does him harm." This spoke to me about the sadness of the banalities of everyday life. Like it reminded me of that feeling of standing on an empty platform early in the morning or coming home to an empty apartment.

For me this theme corresponds with the beginning of Problems that begins with lines: "Somewhere along the way there stopped being new days. Time progressed for sure. Through the night the rain taped off. Around dawn there was the sound of cars rumbling and then zooming off. Sounds folding back into the world. Light years away from the living room where I lay around hardly living."

Mood-wise this song and this passage both express this numbness of the external world while they are emotionally in a lot of turmoil, to be mildly. To feel this constant sense of despair and feeling like it's Groundhog Day. I know that sounds like a symptom for Depression and then it's like cuts to some woman running in slow motion in a park with a golden retriever and then they list a bunch of symptoms (rectal bleeding? What?). Maya, my character, could have depression but that doesn't make the feelings less real. Or Will Oldham's whom I don't know at all.

But the song ends with hope as Will Oldham sings in his world-weary voice, "I thank the world/it will anoint me/if I show how I hold it." For Maya's downward spiral she remains tough and her humor is a way for her to find a way to hold the world.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs "Maps"/We Five "You Were on My Mind"

Both of these songs have female vocalists with have repetitive lyrics.

We first think of Ogden, the professor she's having an affair with, it's an obsessional way. "I saw the dullness of his eyes, as if he had spent a lifetime staring at the color grey. " She constantly imagines her hand as his as she touches herself. This coincides with the obsessional/love lyrics of the We Five song "And you were always on my mind." (Also, it's my song with my man so I kinda wanted to work it in.) But Maya's feelings grow more intense. In "Maps" the lyrics illustrate an one sided obsession: "Wait..they don't love you like I love you." She feels Ogden's feelings are waning. Throughout the novel Maya has insecurities about men preferring white women: "The world wanted young white women." With Ogden she talks about his ex's were all young white women so when they have a fight she is filled anger that he doesn't have the same feelings for her.

Biggie "Big Poppa"

One of the jokes Maya makes about her relationship about Ogden is that he must "the father-size hole" inside her as she lacked a father figure. But Ogden's nurturing skills aren't up to par as when he leaves her on a sofa without throwing covers on her or taking her to bed. She bursts into tears and says: "I wanted a father figure, not an actual replacement for my actual father who actually neglected me. This isn't Freudian. It is retarded."

Lil Wayne "Sky is The Limit"

Maya walks the streets of New York City like "the city is her bitch." Part of Maya's downward spiral is like a snake: ridding herself of the mundane life she's grown accustomed to and finding her independence. She makes her own decisions. But as her creator that's part of the fun and not fun of writing her. You go down the dark alleys you normally wouldn't. Maya's out there at all hours As Lil Wayne articulates, "lookin' for divine and a little intervention." Maya is looking for a sense of meaning or beauty or at least not being bored. And as runs around the city she is all about getting hers. Like Lil Wayne, "Don't worry about mine, I'm gonna grind till I get it." There's fearlessness she develops. And a momentum like she tears it up and is all over the place as Lil Wayne says, "She switches subjects quicker than switching lanes."

Dillinger "Cocaine in My Brain"

The struggles of writing a character with a drug addiction is having to live with that kind of darkness in your creative world and beyond that it is a hard subject be/c realistic drug addiction becomes repetitive. To show repetition without actually becoming repetitive is the task. I wanted Maya to be as smart as me so she was leading the story. So for Maya how would she deal with the repetition? This song Dillinger's "Cocaine in my brain" Is a reggae song (Yeah, there's other reggae aside from Bob Marley. When you say reggae people assume Bob Marley) so the up-tempo with the lyrics creates this hypnotic quality. It captures the repetition: ‘cause I've got cocaine runnin' around my brain/cocaine runnin' around my brain, yeah.' As Maya writes, "I've seen it all before. Haven't you, haven't you seen it all before?"

Mike Doughty "Train To Chicago"

Mike Doughty is my go-to musician like I just fill the rest of my shuffle with his music. The appeal of his music is that it's upbeat, it's fun, and is like a soundtrack to the city. This song in particular fits with my novel. There's parts of my novel where Maya is running around the city on the subway, in cabs, and walking around. The song is about being on a train, half wasted. The lyrics "And in my dreams, we're careening drunk/down the streets of my hometown/the man in the moon is on Benzedrine/and everybody's spinning round" captures that euphoric feeling of being alone in an altered state. For Maya when she's alone and is drifting in haze she thinks, "I don't care. Pick at the label. Let the water up my nose. When I'm king. Read all I want."

Bob Dylan "Not Dark Yet"

This is one of the songs that evokes a very visceral mood for me. It's that time when you're a kid and you're playing and your friends are starting to have to go home for dinner and it's like playtime is over. Maya never expresses a fear of dying or caring that much what others think of her but she constantly over-shares that is like the line in the song, "Every nerve in my body is so naked and numb." So it's like she's so will to expose herself but unwilling to let the world in. As the Dylan song goes, "my sense of humanity is going down the drain." So for me one of the poignant moments of the book is towards the end she asks an ex-lover, "What if it's too late for me?" And for whose someone who doesn't get a fuck about anything except destroying herself, getting hers, and not needing anyone to have this one moment. I feel like that's what gives her hope because if she does care if it's too late then maybe she will try. As Dylan sings, "Behind every beautiful thing, there's been some kind of pain." Either what doesn't kill us makes us stronger or what doesn't kill us maims us and leaves us disfigured forever. Like either or.

Steve Earle "Pilgrim"

I could have picked 10 Steve Earle songs. Earle sings, "I'm just a pilgrim on this road" which where I think is spiritually where I wanted Maya to end up: letting go of anger, narcissism, and dysfunction. And this song also spoke for her pride and toughness, "Ain't no need to cry for me, boys/Somewhere down the road you'll understand." If I did my job as a writer that's all I can hope for is that you understand Maya.


Honorable Mentions: Joanna Newsom (I wrote a passage but it was 5 pages long and was super confusing), Josh Ritter ("Snow Is Gone"/"Nightmares"), Sam Cooke ("Change Is Gonna Come"), Buddy Holly ("That'll Be The Day")


Jade Sharma and Problems links:

the author's website

The Fanzine review
Kirkus review
NewPages review
Publishers Weekly review
The Rumpus review

Fusion interview with the author
The Influence 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)

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

Book Notes - Hannah Pittard "Listen to Me"

Listen to Me

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.

Hannah Pittard's novel Listen to Me is both riveting and unsettling.

Library Journal wrote of the book:

"Pittard's glistening new novel... opens up to show not just the depth and potential shattering points of all close relationships but also how danger—and, yes, evil—lurk at the outskirts of our lives, threatening to upend us unexpectedly...Pitch-perfect in language and ominous in mood, Pittard's narrative telescopes enormous emotion and insight into a brief, compelling read."


In her own words, here is Hannah Pittard's Book Notes music playlist for her novel Listen to Me:


My husband and I fight on road trips. We're clockwork, the two of us. The night before each trip, I tell him that I want to leave early. I admonish him to pack now, shower now, be ready to leave the minute I am. Without fail, the next morning, while I walk and feed the dog, make the bed, prepare the smoothie, my husband mills about the house as though it's an idle Sunday and we're not about to make a 400-, 500-, 700-mile multi-state journey. Here's the thing: it—the fighting—is my fault! Why, when it happens this way every time, do I still allow myself to be rankled? How is it possible that I haven't yet learned that he will never—ever, ever—do things quickly in the morning? Dunno. But it happens this way without fail and, by the time we're backing out of the driveway, I'm inevitably pissed and he's invariably taciturn. Ah! Coupledom!

But here's something else: I love road trips! And I love them with my husband! And I love, love, love that something else we fight about is what to listen to. My husband, a musician, writer, and professor, likes to say I hate music. But that's not true. I love music! But I also love silence. I also love listening to books on tape. I also love talk radio (especially—and ironically—evangelical and conservative talk radio). Andrew, my husband, only loves to listen to music. He hates silence. He tolerates books on tape, but only because he falls asleep when they're on. Talk radio is a nonstarter.

Mark and Maggie are the hero and heroine of my new novel, Listen to Me. When we meet them, they're about to embark on an 800-mile drive from Chicago to Charlottesville. They're also in the midst of classic couple's row. Here, then, in honor of warring but loving couples everywhere—couples willing to lock themselves into small spaces and travel epic distances of highway—are a few songs that even my husband and I can agree on as the soundtrack for a road trip.



Springsteen – "I'm on Fire"
Leonard Cohen – "Ain't No Cure for Love"
John Prine – "In Spite of Ourselves" & "Taking a Walk"
Neil Young – "Out on the Weekend"
Rolling Stones – "Dead Flowers"
Hayes Carll – "It's a Shame" & "Another Like You"
Tom Petty – "Square One" & "Down South"
James McMurtry – "You Got To Me"
Lucinda Williams – "Those Three Days"
Jimmie Dale Gilmore – "I Was the One"
Warren Zevon – "Lawyers, Guns, and Money"
Guy Clark – "L.A. Freeway"
The War on Drugs – "Under the Pressure"
Jason Isbell – "How to Forget"


Hannah Pittard and Listen to Me links:

the author's website

Kirkus review
Oregonian review
Publishers Weekly review

Deep South Magazine interview with the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes playlist by the author for Reunion


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

Google
  Web largeheartedboy.com