August 29, 2018

Shorties (Ellen Forney on Her New Memoir, Three New Cover Songs by the Mountain Goats, and more)

Rock Steady

Book Riot interviewed Ellen Forney about her graphic memoir Rock Steady.


The Mountain Goats shared three cover songs at Aquarium Drunkard.


eBook on sale for $2.99 today:

The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017 edited by Charles Yu


Paste recommended country albums for people who don't like country music.


Vol. 1 Brooklyn interviewed authors Eleanor Kriseman and Laura van den Berg.


Stream a new song by Hovvdy.


Literary Hub shared an excerpt from Claire G. Coleman's novel Terra Nullius.


San Diego CityBeat profiled singer-songwriter Jason Isbell.


Daniel Gumbiner discussed his novel The Boatbuilder with The Rumpus.


Stream a new Richard Thompson song.


The Oregonian recommended obscure, must-read mysteries by famous authors.


Laura Jane Grace discussed her new band Devouring Mothers with Rolling Stone.


Amanda Stern discussed her memoir Little Panic with Electric Literature.


All Things Considered interviewed composer Gabriel Kahane.


Liza Anne covered the Cranberries' "Dream."


The Guardian recommended fiction about cliques.


Stream a new song by Leland and the Silver Wells.



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

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

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

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





August 28, 2018

Matthew Klam's Playlist for His Novel "Who Is Rich?"

Who Is Rich?

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 Jesmyn Ward, Lauren Groff, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Matthew Klam's novel Who Is Rich? is a smart and incredibly funny debut.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"With a perceptive eye and biting humor, [Rich] skewers the participants at the conference, 'an open-air looney bin,' including his own students and fellow faculty members. Rich may be a mildly depressed neurotic in the midst of a lengthy midlife crisis, but Klam ensures that he is also a profound, often-hilarious commentator on marriage, child rearing, and artistic endeavors."


In his own words, here is Matthew Klam's Book Notes music playlist for his debut novel Who Is Rich?:



Reviewers described my narrator, Rich Fischer, as 'foolish,' 'impulsive,' 'hilarious,' 'sarcastic,' 'bitter,' 'wondrous,' 'sad,' 'libidinous,' and -- my favorite -- 'casually suicidal.' And while he may be many things, I tend to think him as one: a terrific lover. He's in love with love, or the idea of it, and nearly blows it all after falling for a woman who, like him, is lost in her marriage, with small children, and interrupted sleep.

Every year Fischer leaves his family at home to teach a class on cartooning at an annual week-long summer arts conference. The location, a New England fishing village with blockbuster beach days and narrow, cobblestone streets, generates feeling, memories, instant nostalgia. It increases this falling-in-love tendency. The conference is its own separate locus of energy; it attracts teenagers who take their poetry seriously, old guys with a melanoma, part-time landscape painters, theater types, all led by a faculty of important novelists, unknown biographers, sculptors, addicts, drunkards, and perverts. For the week that the conference takes place, it's a little like summer camp for grown ups, and a little like an open air loony bin.

Fischer is a graphic novelist who now makes a living as an illustrator for magazines. He and his wife Robin are basically broke. Amy O’Donnell is a student in narrative painting, a philanthropist, mother of three, married to a nasty billionaire who runs an investment fund. Rich and Amy met at the conference a year ago, had a one night fling, then spent the winter obsessed, texting at all hours, seeing each other twice, briefly, before all communication ended. The novel takes place a year after their first meeting, back at the annual shindig.

Some of these are summer songs. My favorite summer songs include many not listed below: every song on Argybargy by Squeeze, Carly Simon's early stuff, and The Sundays' first album, to name a few. But the playlist here is made of intense, whispery, achey love songs.

Some of these songs precede the story, but not the impulse behind the story. When I'm writing a piece of fiction, I overestimate the props I'll need, in hopes that those things foment and push me into new territory. As I work, I pull down from a cloud of ideas whatever might fit. Some of these songs were in that cloud when I started writing.

'A Case Of You,' Joni Mitchell

"Just before our love got lost you said, 'I am as constant as the Northern Star...." The opening phrase, about obsession and the inevitable letdown, I can relate to that. I love the James Blake cover from 2011, but there are literally hundreds of covers of this song, and at least a dozen notable ones, including one by Prince where he scrambled the lyrics. Mitchell was said to have written the song about Graham Nash, who she lived with for years. "I drew a map of Canada, with your face sketched in it twice..." The song is sweetness, heartache, pain.

'Lady of the Island,' Crosby, Stills & Nash

"Holding you close, undisturbed before a fire, the pressure in my chest when you breathe in my ear..." I love this song so much I get confused, I listen and think, Yeah, I was there, that's how it happened. Well, I wasn't there because I was five when this album came out! It's another song about an impossibly intense romance, this one is by Graham Nash and is almost surely about Joni Mitchell. It appears on Crosby, Stills & Nash's first album. Nash's voice is just above a whisper. "The brownness of your body in the fire glow, Except the places where the sun refused to go, our bodies were a perfect fit in afterglow..." I like the nearness of Nash's voice, and his imagery of the lovers. No two people can stay this close for very long, and the song lives in that perfect moment. There are several extended love scenes in my book, one on the carpeted floor of Amy's walk in-closet in her mansion in Connecticut, one in an old barn, and one on narcotics. In those scenes I intentionally left the reader unsure about whose body or words were whose, to give a sense of the merging when two people flip over each other.

'Bring It On Home To Me,' Sam Cooke

This version, recorded at the Harlem Square Club in Miami in 1963, is so different from the well-groomed pop track he recorded a year earlier, as a B side to 'Having a Party.' That studio version also appears on, The Best of Sam Cooke, an album from 1962 that I stole from my brother in 1982, and brought to college, and played so often the cover fell apart at the seams. For some reason the live recording wasn't initially released by Cooke's record company, but sat on a shelf for two decades, maybe because the gritty sound undermines his smooth, cardigan sweater-persona. The only other live recording of Sam Cooke I've heard, at The Copa, he's backed up by a big, corny orchestra. But here Cooke's road band cuts loose, and has a reckless, raucous energy. It includes Rock and Roll Hall of Fame saxophonist King Curtis, and an audience so transfixed that they can be heard calling back to Cooke, who begins with a long riff, tinged with gospel energy, and includes lyrics from another of his hits: "You -- that's what I wanna tell you -- you send me, Ooh, you send me..." This track has a quality of mayhem, a throbbing, heart-stomping, blood-pumping passion.

'Autumn in New York,' Billie Holiday

A jazz standard by songwriter Vernon Duke, this version is from an old 78. "Autumn in New York is often mingled with pain..." Despite the summer-heavy theme of my novel, it was important to track the emotional arc of Rich and Amy's year leading up to the present moment. Several key moments take place in flashbacks, and one of those occurs in the fall, in a dark bar in lower Manhattan, where they pass the hours, holding hands and making out in a booth by candlelight. They wrap their legs around each other, knock stuff off the table, and almost set the place on fire.

'The Psychiatrist is In,' Stuart Murdoch

The first words of the song, from the soundtrack of the film God Help the Girl, put me in the mind of a certain eternally infantalized anti-hero, mired in middle class self-destruction. "Grow up, you're nearly twenty five. What happened when you were a child?" This line takes aim at a generation of therapized, feely types, like Fischer, who learned to more fully express themselves in a shrink's office. Amy might've also benefited from psychotherapy, given the traumas she's survived, but she's from a different culture, more repressed, and reports to Fischer that at a low point she tried it, once, was bored by the sound of her own voice, and never went back. The song goes on, "Find your space. Are you breathing well? Do you feel OK? Are you calm? Are you comfortable? Is your heartbeat racing? Is this your soul you're facing?"

'Which Will,' by Nick Drake

Drake -- broody, romantic, pining, and solitary -- has an understated voice and a gentle acoustic guitar. This song appears on Pink Moon, the last record he made before quitting, at 23, and moving back in with his parents. During his brief life he had a passionate following but almost no commercial success. Back home, he spiraled into depression, psychosis, and suicide, ending it all at 26 by overdosing on a sleep aid/anti depressant. He's a doomed figure, but his sound is utterly idiosyncratic, sui generis. On many of his songs, the guitar tuning is strange and unique, as he struggles to find a way to reproduce what he hears in his head.

Harpsichord Concerto in F Minor, II, J.S. Bach

I first heard this piece on the soundtrack to Hannah and Her Sisters, when the movie came out in 1986. I was 22, and bought the concerto on vinyl. In this particular scene Barbara Hershey's character, Lee, insists on playing the record for her brother-in-law, Michael Caine's Elliot. They're about to begin an affair. Thirty seconds in, Elliot loses control and rushes over and smooches Lee, they bang into the turntable, the record skips, Lee shoves him away, and a moment later Lee's boyfriend, Frederick, played by Max Von Sydow, rushes into the room. But by then it's too late.

'I Heard Love Is Blind,' by Amy Winehouse

There is a squirrely, trickster energy to this song that cracks me up. Here, Winehouse poses a question to her lover: What if I got so drunk I slept with someone because he reminded me of you? "I couldn't resist him, His eyes were like yours, his hair was exactly the shade of brown. He's just not as tall, but I couldn't tell, It was dark and I was lying down." Adulterers are not simply greedy and two-faced; they're also struggling to recover something they've lost while bonded to the one who now imprisons them. But they're a little unreliable, and Winehouse's winking attitude is perfect: "You are everything, he means nothing to me. I can't even remember his name. Why are you so upset? Baby, you weren't there, and I was thinking of you when I came."

'That Summer Feeling,' by Jonathan Richman

Rolling Stone ranked this #44 on the list of all time greatest summer songs, but I'd put it at the top. Richman taps a mournful, achey, campfire folk sound to celebrate the most insideous quality of summer: "Do you long for her or for the way you were? That summer feeling is gonna haunt you the rest of your life..."


Matthew Klam and Who Is Rich? links:

the author's website

Guardian review
Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review
New York Times review
Observer review

Weekend Edition interview with the author
Vulture 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

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

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Tod Davies' Playlist for Her Novel "Report to Megalopolis"

Report to Megalopolis

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 Jesmyn Ward, Lauren Groff, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Report to Megalopolis, the fourth book in Tod Davies' History of Arcadia series, is innovative, thought-provoking, and a wondrous novel for both adults and teens.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"A philosophical fable. . . . As much Faust as Frankenstein."


In her own words, here is Tod Davies' Book Notes music playlist for her novel Report to Megalopolis:



When I started on an early draft of the fourth book in The History of Arcadia, it was meant just to be a ‘report’ describing the land itself. But I wasn’t getting any sleep, and weirdly kept having violent nightmares about nuclear war, of bombs going over my head into the wall. I’d wake up sometimes four times a night—only to discover my own mother had ducked when a firebomb from a US aircraft went over her head and set fire to the little wooden hut in Japan where she and my aunt and my grandmother had, as foreign nationals, taken shelter during WWII. Even though she was in Kobe, firebombed, and almost incinerated in the atomic attack that Kobe was spared due to cloud cover, all she wanted to do afterwards was get to America, marry an American, have American children and be safe. She wanted to forget. She had never told me the story of the firebombing until I told her about the nightmares, but the minute she did, I realized that was what I was dreaming. Instantly, the nightmares went away.

But why was I having those nightmares now? Then I looked at the book I was writing. It was the narrator of my story that had given me the nightmares. His home, like my mother’s, had been destroyed by fire in a war. And he, like my mother, clung to the aggressor as the stronger and safer option. Science, technology, blind faith in power and progress were the talismans he frantically used to protect himself from his vulnerability. Just as my mother had used forgetting to protect herself from hers. Eight drafts later, Report to Megalopolis was also The Post-modern Prometheus. It was “Frankenstein” I was trying to write. “Frankenstein” written with my mother’s fear perched watchfully in my shoulder.

All that stuff going on in the deep, just out of consciousness. No surprise: when I check out what I was listening to then, you can tell I was drawn toward that music like a sick dog drawn to eating grass.


Randy Newman, The Great Debate

I’d never heard, never even contemplated, a song about the conflict between ‘rational’ thought and feeling, and how unless our idea of what is rational will accept expansion into unknown territory, the cynical manipulation of feeling is going to trump it every time. One thing I know: my own experiences—dreaming of something I could have known nothing about—go past what’s allowed in rational discourse. This song makes a good case for opening up to that.

Danbert Nobacon and the Axis of Dissent, Stardust to Darwinstuff

All the reasons we have to love a science that loves our world and our feelings about that world. It’s not science that’s the problem, as Danbert sings. It’s the nonhuman uses it is often an excuse for. It’s nuts to struggle against our human feelings, our vulnerability as a result of being human, when being human is a part of the universe. I love Danbert’s songs. He’s never frightened of being called naïve. And he’s just about always right.

Giant Sand, Every Now and Then

So here’s my naivete. I believe every word of this song. Now. And then.

Paul Simon, The Only Living Boy in New York

I listened to this song over and over at a certain point in writing “Report,” without having the faintest idea what it was about. It might have been the singer’s wistfulness at being left behind in a huge, uncaring city—like Megalopolis—while his friend was flying away. It was probably that. It was that sadness I wanted behind my narrator’s bluster and pride.

Chumbawamba, After Shelley

I have all of Chumbawamba’s albums. I can’t understand why everyone doesn’t. Maybe because they tell us things we’d rather not know, and celebrate feelings that we’re embarrassed to admit? Not for adolescence, Chumbawamba. For later in life. For more experience and knowing that while tragedy exists, it is never an option to stop believing the world can be a better place.

Indigo Girls, Galileo

I can hear this song over and over and never tire of it. I see it’s for the same reason I listened to all the others on this list: it’s about the world being dark and light, and known and unknown, and way more complicated than most people want to admit. Boundaries, you know. Looking at this list, I can see—it’s all about breaching boundaries.

Lorde, Liability (Reprise)

The reprise, “But you’re not what you thought you were/But you’re not what you thought you were.” Yeah. True, true, true. And how it hurts to breach that boundary.

Peter Gabriel, Sulsbury Hill

But if you follow what you love as it runs into unknown territory, amazing things happen.

Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi

I actually never played this once. But the whole time I was writing, it kept running through my head. “Don’t it always seem to you, though/that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”


Tod Davies and Report to Megalopolis links:

the author's Wikipedia entry

Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review

Boulder Weekly profile of the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Lily the Silent
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for The Lizard Princess
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Snotty Saves the Day


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

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

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

Shorties (An Interview with Catherine Lacey, Snail Mail’s Lindsey Jordan Profiled, and more)

Catherine Lacey

Longreads interviewed Catherine Lacey about her new story collection Certain American States.


American Songwriter profiled Snail Mail’s Lindsey Jordan.


eBook on sale for $1.99 today:

Blood Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton


Drowned in Sound interviewed the noise pop duo the Lovely Eggs.


The Paris Review shared an excerpt from David L. Ulin's forthcoming book The Lost Art of Reading.


Lissie visited The Current for an interview and live performance.


BuzzFeed recommended books about survival.


Turning the Tables profiled singer-songwriter Esperanza Spalding.


Jen Wang discussed her graphic novel The Prince and the Dressmaker with ComicsBeat.


Stream a new Kikagaku Moyo song.


Electric Literature interviewed author Roxane Gay.


Stereogum recommended essential Hold Steady b-sides.


Signature recommended Javier Marias novels.


Stream a new Sun Kil Moon song.


The Rumpus Poetry Book Club interviewed poet Katie Ford.


Stream a new Broncho song.


Literary Hub recommended books that destroy New York City as we know it.


The Creative Independent interviewed musician Jen Cloher.


CrimeReads recommended true crime nonfiction written by journalists.


Robert Walter’s 20th Congress shared three cover songs at Aquarium Drunkard.


Electric Literature interviewed author Samantha Hunt.


Stream a new Den-Mate song.



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

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

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

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

August 27, 2018

Matthew Cutter's Playlist for His Book "Closer You Are"

Closer You Are

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 Jesmyn Ward, Lauren Groff, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Matthew Cutter's Closer You Are is a definitive biography of Robert Pollard and his band Guided By Voices that fans of the band, indie music, and popular culture will enjoy.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"The author's lively writing captures the arc of indie-rock's mainstreaming...A well-crafted, intimate portrait of an unlikely, all-American rock-'n'-roll life."


In his own words, here is Matthew Cutter's Book Notes music playlist for his book Closer You Are: The Story of Robert Pollard and Guided By Voices:



Picture this: The only true ambition you’ve had in life—to create rock ‘n’ roll records—is shriveling before your eyes. Nobody likes your stage act or buys your self-financed LPs, you’re deep in debt because of them, your family (especially your father) is bitterly disappointed you won’t responsibly support your family, your spouse asks for a divorce.

“Fuck it,” you decide—you’ll put out one last record, a Greatest Hits compilation of sorts, and throw in the towel. Nobody plays past the final buzzer.

It’s called Propeller. It kicks off with voices screaming, All right rock ‘n’ roll! Is everybody ready to rock?! and raucous chants of “G-B-V! G-B-V!” The refrain: “Hey let’s throw a great party/ Today for the rest of our lives/ The fun is just about to get started/ So throw the switch it’s rock ‘n’ roll time.” Pulling the plug by throwing a switch takes guts, especially when it all works out in the end. That’s why Pollard’s story resonates so powerfully with me, and, I think, with a lot of Guided By Voices’ fans. It’s a story about risk, and the redemptive power of relentless creativity. It’s about making dreams real.

While stitching together the sources, research, interviews and narrative, I played Bob’s records or EPs on repeat (Forever Since Breakfast and Propeller top the rankings with close to 30 plays each). These are the songs that stood out most starkly to me. Ask a hundred Guided By Voices fans to create this playlist and you’d get as many different versions and interpretations, with only a handful of songs repeated throughout—a testament to the overall quality and sheer breadth of Pollard’s catalog.

I went with my instincts, choosing songs that illuminate an episode in Bob’s life, hold special meaning, or just fuckin’ rock.

“1 Years Old,” Robert Pollard Is Off To Business (2008)
“Like when you slipped away/ A child at play.” The picture of baby Bob included in Closer You Are—eyes alight with joy, drooly grin, tiny white shoes—immediately made me think of this song. “And I am 1 years old/ Singularly bold,” is willful innocence wielded as artistic confidence, which embodies a lot of Pollard’s appeal as a songwriter and entertainer.

“Some Drilling Implied,” Propeller (1990)
Bob was a three-sport star at Northridge High, and this song has always sounded to me like the lament of the frustrated parent/coach of youth athletes. It’s not hard to imagine Bob and his teammates on the receiving end of something like, “I dare not say/ The way I feel/ About your inability to/ Suck it up and win the game.” Imagine going through a full day of football practice on eight spoonfuls of mustard: “Of course I’m not complaining/ I’m simply dying.”

“Big School,” Static Airplane Jive EP (1993)
“One! Two! Big school!” When Pollard attended Wright State University, this song’s title was what they called it in Northridge. With its East and West Coast imports throwing Frisbees and eating bagels on the quad, it was another world nestled in the heart of Dayton. “It’s a million miles away,” Bob sings, “And it’s in the backyard.” This tune, released during the Year of the 7”, channels the jittery feeling of being an outsider in your own town into blistering, dueling bass and guitar riffs. “Don’t you ever look back/ Cause it just might catch you.”

“Carnival At The Morning Star School,” by Kink Zego, Suitcase: Failed Experiments And Trashed Aircraft (2000)
“When will you come out to our school?” This outtake, recorded in 1992 during the Propeller sessions, is a curious intersection of Pollardian themes. The track is credited to a fictitious band. You’ve got a carnival at a school—evocative of elementary school classrooms—but it’s the Morning Star School. An allusion to Lucifer before the Fall, or a finger pointing at the planet Venus? Mythic or cosmic, take your pick; “The Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory” could be related. The song also contains the oblique lyric, “Tilted cubicles galvanized,” which later appears on Pollard’s solo masterpiece Kid Marine—a case of Bob trying out his favorite turns of phrase in different settings until the right one manifests.

“White Whale,” Self-Inflicted Aerial Nostalgia (1989)
Pollard exhibiting his uncanny ability to marry the mundane to the mythic. “Come now Antoine give me your hand/ I will fly you across the land,” Bob beckons the listener. “We will search for the dream of the king/ And friends will hate us.” The song’s chorus, “Die for your freedom while you can/ We can always use new blood,” could be an indictment of militarism, an assertion of the honor in bleeding for one’s art, or both—or neither. There’s plenty of time to think it about while obsessively replaying this song.

“Long Distance Man,” Sandbox (1987)
An acoustic ballad recorded at Steve Wilbur’s 8-Track Garage for Sandbox, which Pollard calls one of his least-favorite releases. I love it. This song sticks out to me as an example of Bob describing himself: “He’s a long distance man/ and he keeps on goin’ cause its not worth blowin’/ and he does what he can/ cause it not worth losin’ and there ain’t no choosin’.” Between teaching and family, Bob had a huge amount of “domestic overhead” in the ‘80s, a dilemma this song seems to embody. “Build another tower for your freedom/ He don’t need ‘em shed no tears/ for the long distance man.”

“Local Mix-Up/Murder Charge,” Same Place The Fly Got Smashed (1990)
This epic prog-rock suite was created entirely by Bob, his brother Jim Pollard, and Greg Demos. It tells the life story of “Joker Bob,” who started out bright-eyed and eager and ended up in the electric chair. Several phrases from Bob’s lyrics informed the biography’s various sections, from “In the early days he was bursting with confidence” to the Electrifying Conclusion, in which “They buried him with a smile on his puss.” This song pulls together everything I love about Bob’s songwriting.

“Echos Myron,” Bee Thousand (1994)
A snapshot of the band’s feel at very start of their ascent. “We’re finally here/ And shit yeah it’s cool/ And shouldn’t it be/ Or something like that,” sums up the essential éclat of GBV’s arrival.

“How I Met My Mother,” Let’s Go Eat The Factory (2012)
When Pollard got the classic lineup back together for Matador’s marathon concert retrospective in Las Vegas, he insisted that a Guided By Voices reunion couldn’t be a nostalgia trip. It had to involve new albums. Let’s Go Eat The Factory, recorded at Tobin Sprout’s studio in northern Michigan, channeled the classic sound of GBV through the middle of everything Bob had learned in the intervening years. This little ditty, ostensibly about being born, always struck me as a love letter to Bob’s other mother—Rock ‘n’ Roll.

“Closer You Are,” Alien Lanes (1995)
My favorite song on one of my favorite GBV albums. It evokes images and feelings but invites the listener to create his or her own meaning. I think it’s about a way of being that invites inspiration. All these years after his break, Pollard still lives in Dayton, very close to where he grew up. He runs Rockathon Records with the help of longtime friends. He’s known a few members of his band for 25 years or more. “The closer you are/ the quicker it hits ya.” I’ve always wanted to get up at seven o’clock and drive myself to the Lookout Rock—with coffee—but I never have, not yet.

“I Am A Scientist,” Bee Thousand (1994)
One of Pollard’s greatest compositions, and probably the purest personal manifesto he’s ever recorded. “I am a journalist/ I write to you to show you/ I am an incurable/ And nothing else behaves like me.” Simple yet indelible melody is woven into pop rock bliss. “Everything works out right/ Everything fades from sight/ Because that’s all right with me.”

“A Second Spurt Of Growth,” Half Smiles Of The Decomposed (2004)
Pollard experienced several growth spurts after releasing this ode to creative self-improvement. He experimented with form, mood and genre on an astounding run of solo albums, Boston Spaceships and Circus Devils releases, and collaborations with other musicians—including Tobin Sprout, Doug Gillard, Tommy Keene, Gary Waleik and Richard Davies. One of the things I admire most about Bob is his drive to do new things and challenge himself. And he seamlessly incorporates successful experiments into new work, without mere repetition. “A second spurt of growth will come about me/ Don’t doubt me.”

“Rumbling Joker,” Waved Out (1998)
The story of Pinocchio is hardwired into Closer You Are, a lens to view Pollard’s process of transforming fantastic dreams into concrete reality. Carlo Collodi’s original tale included numerous parallels to Bob’s life, from brutalized crickets to creations taking on life of their own, to nick-of-time intercession by the Blue Fairy—in Bob’s story, his wife Sarah. Geppetto spent two years “Asking very good questions/ Justifying an existence/ In the belly of the whale” before Pinocchio rescued him, just as Bob spent two years in the belly of the record industry. Like Geppetto’s puppet, Bob’s songs dragged him to safety.

“U.S. Mustard Company,” From A Compound Eye (2006)
Some of Bob’s songs are watershed moments that sum up what came before and point toward what’s to come. This tune, released on Bob’s first solo LP post-Electrifying Conclusion, is one of those. “Contain yourself/ Make yourself feel like it used to be,” evokes his lifelong habit of reaching within to find the free and innocent creativity of childhood. Other lyrics lay out the future: “If you never think about changing the view/ Then happily believe what I’m saying to you/ If you may consider there is work to be done/ Readily accept I can turn you on.” For Pollard, there is always more work to be done.

“Colonel Paper,” Space Gun (2017)
“Who is this Colonel Paper of whom you speak?” A swaggering rocker recorded by the band’s latest incarnation—the New Golden Age of GBV—on one of its best albums of all time, Space Gun. According to ex-manager-for-life Pete Jamison, Pollard’s buddies used to quip, “Careful what you say or Bobby will make a song out of it!” Seen in that light, “Colonel Paper”’s origin in the tale of an ex-bandmate who woke up hungry in the wee morning hours and scrounged KFC from a garbage can is all the more amusingly poignant. “In the middle of a cold premonition/ Is it fish or chicken?” It proves that Pollard’s primary inspiration is all around him. The closer he is, the quicker it hits him.


Matthew Cutter and Closer You Are links:

Kirkus review
NPR Books review
Publishers Weekly review

Magnet 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

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

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

Frances de Pontes Peebles's Playlist for Her Novel "The Air You Breathe"

The Air You Breathe

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 Jesmyn Ward, Lauren Groff, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Frances de Pontes Peebles' epic novel The Air You Breathe is a lyrical and moving book of friendship and samba.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"Samba music and its allure beats beneath this winding and sinuous tale of ambition, memory, and identity…Peebles' detailed and atmospheric story is cinematic in scope, panoramic in view, and lyrical in tone."


In her own words, here is Frances de Pontes Peebles' Book Notes music playlist for her novel The Air You Breathe:



1) Esta Melodia, Marisa Monte with Velha Guarda da Portela, Cor de Rosa e Carvão, 2005



This is one of my favorite sambas. The beat is peppy but the lyrics are bittersweet. Like the best sambas, it is a celebration of melancholy. The singer remembers the woman she loves, who left her. She sings: “Since the day she went away/ I keep this song in my memory.” Marisa Monte’s voice is so crisp and melodious. When I wrote The Air You Breathe, I imagined Graça’s voice this way. I imagined the Blue Moon Band singing and playing together, celebrating life’s contradictions, which this samba so beautifully articulates. (The YouTube video is pretty great, too.)


2) All I Ask, Adele, 25, 2015

Saudade is a word in Portuguese that’s hard to translate. It means feeling nostalgia and longing, sadness and appreciation all at once. The book’s narrator, Dores, is the last living member of the Blue Moon Band. She feels a deep saudade for all she’s lost. This song has that kind of longing. The singer is deeply vulnerable. You can feel the regret in her voice. I think it illustrates the book’s main relationship beautifully.


3) Nothing Can Change This Love, Otis Redding, Love Songs, 1998

I listened to a lot of Otis Redding while writing this book. His voice feels thick, gravelly, and rutted with sadness and desire. But there’s playfulness, too. He’s got flirtatiousness in his voice, which I love. In this particular song, he chuckles and tells his lover that she can be his “cake and ice cream.” It’s a mischievous moment in an otherwise serious ballad.


4) As Águas de Março, Elis Regina and Antônio Carlos Jobim, Elis and Tom, 1974

This song is a great duet. You can hear them having fun together. Elis even stifles a laugh at one point. Late in the book, Dores and Vinicius form their own band called Sal e Pimenta. I imagined them singing together like Elis and Tom. While writing the book I kept coming back to this song because it is hopeful. I think the characters of Dores and Vinicius love each other as artists (as opposed to a typical romantic connection). They give each other the strength to keep creating. They save each other through their art.


5) Preciso me Encontrar, Cartola, Cartola, 1976

This is a classic samba by one of its greatest composers. Cartola is the epitome of the 1930’s sambista. He made samba what it is today. I love how the guitar and clarinet introduction sounds almost menacing. The two instruments have a dialogue with each other, giving the intro a feeling of foreboding. They tell us: something, or someone, is coming. Then the cuíca whines and the percussion rattles and we get a more traditional samba sound. Cartola immediately tells the listener to leave him alone, to let him be. It’s the story of a man who needs his space, who needs time to understand his life. There’s a scene in the book where Dores feels this way, and she walks alone in the middle of the night. I imagine her composing a samba like this one, with lyrics that are simple but poetic.

Let me go,
I need to take a walk.
I’m going to wander,
To laugh so I don’t cry.

I want to see the sun rise,
See the waters rush through the river,
Hear the birds sing.
I want to be born.
I want to live.

*Translation here is my own.


6) Disseram Que Voltei Americanizada, Carmen Miranda, Carmen Miranda

This was Carmen Miranda’s response to Brazilian critics who said she’d become Americanized during her time in Hollywood. She returned to Brazil to play a concert and the crowd was very chilly, almost cruel in their response to her. Miranda later released this song to assert her Brazilianness (which is interesting because she is originally from Portugal). This song is much less cheerful than her other sambas. It is Miranda chastising her critics. This episode in Miranda’s life inspired a pivotal scene in my book, as well as an original samba called “Turned Into a Gringa,” in homage to Miranda.


7) Cranes in the Sky, Solange, A Seat At The Table

This song has an exquisite dreaminess and sadness. The lyrics tell us that the singer feels a deep loss that she desperately tries to escape by any means: sex, moving, shopping, dancing, running, traveling, breaking up, writing, crying, and on and on. But she cannot escape because the sadness is within her. It follows her wherever she goes. Both women in the book—Dores and Graça—attempt such escapes from themselves, from their voracious ambition and the emptiness it creates within them. Both find solace in each other, and in music.


8) The Chain, Fleetwood Mac, Rumours

I listened to the Rumours album quite a bit when I was writing the Hollywood portion of my novel. I think because the album chronicles a turbulent time for Fleetwood Mac as a band, dealing with arguments, affairs, and the pressures of success. This particular song speaks to a time when my book’s fictional Blue Moon Band is bound by affection and loyalty (which are good “chains,”) but also weighed down by other chains: money, ambition, prejudice, jealousy, and humiliation.


9) Volver, Volver, Chavela Vargas, Chavela at Carnegie Hall Live

I modeled some aspects of Dores (my book’s narrator) on Chavela Vargas. Vargas was an amazing singer who disappeared from the spotlight for decades because of alcoholism. Then she recovered and returned, finding fans who appreciated her again. I love this album because Chavela Vargas plays live at Carnegie Hall, and you can hear the crowd singing with her, celebrating her. This song in particular is such a passionate plea about returning to a lost lover. Chavela Vargas’s gritty, gravelly voice hides no emotion. I just love it, and her.


Frances de Pontes Peebles and The Air You Breathe links:

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

BookPage review
Kirkus review
Lambda Literary review
Publishers Weekly review


Miami New Times 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

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

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

Shorties (Dev Hynes on the New Blood Orange Album, An Interview with Haruki Murakami, and more)

Blood Orange

Dev Hynes broke down the new Blood Orange album Cupid Deluxe track-by-track at Pitchfork.

Noisey considered the musical legacy Blood Orange is building.


The New Yorker interviewed Haruki Murakami about his story in this week's issue (an excerpt from his new novel Killing Commendatore).


Punch and Salon interviewed Interpol's Daniel Kessler.

Paul Banks broke down the band's new album Marauder at All Songs Considered.


eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany


Noisey profiled anti-fascist black metal bands.


The Los Angeles Times profiled author Paul Tremblay.


Pitchfork interviewed musician Julee Cruise.


Michiko Kakutani talked to Vox about her book The Death of Truth.


Stream a new Erthlings song.


Andrea Kleine discussed her novel Eden with BOMB.


NPR Music is streaming Saintseneca's new album Pillar of Na.


Thomas Page McBee talked about his new book Amateur with Longreads.


Stream a new Colleen Green song.


The Economist recommended books about Tokyo.


Sharon Van Etten covered LCD Soundsystem's "New York, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down."


Jason Heller discussed his book Strange Stars with NPR Books.


Stereogum reconsidered Elliott Smith's XO album on its 20th anniversary.


Weekend Edition talked to Vanessa Hua about her debut novel A River of Stars.

Literary Hub shared a new essay by Hua.


NPR Books reviewed the new Robert Pollard/Guided By Voices biography, Closer You Are.

Read an excerpt from the book.


The Guardian profiled author Sally Rooney.


The Quietus recapped August's cassette releases.


The Rumpus recommended books in translation by women.


Laura van den Berg discussed the horror films that inspired her novel The Third Hotel at Literary Hub.


Lydia Kiesling discussed her novel The Golden State with The Rumpus.


Ling Ma discussed her debut novel Severance with the Paris Review.


Vol. 1 Brooklyn features new short fiction by Jamie Iredell.


Entertainment Weekly previewed fall's best books.


Allie Rowbottom discussed her memoir JELL-O Girls with The Rumpus.



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

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

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

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

August 22, 2018

Randy Kennedy's Playlist for His Novel "Presidio"

Presidio

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 Jesmyn Ward, Lauren Groff, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Randy Kennedy's novel Presidio is an assured and original debut.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"Kennedy employs a conversational and reflective tone as he skillfully explores the nature of guilt, identity, and grief in his assured debut. This deceptively polished confessional imbues the three-dimensional characters with humor, cynicism, and considerable pathos in artful contrast to the moonlike landscape of West Texas... For fans of Larry McMurtry and Philipp Meyer."


In his own words, here is Randy Kennedy's Book Notes music playlist for his debut novel Presidio:



My novel Presidio, the story of a car thief in West Texas in the early 1970s, is about, in no particular order: loneliness, loss, heartbreak, betrayal, motels, cars, cafés, criminality, rural America, Manifest Destiny, boredom, borders, reading, writing and escape. Here are some of my favorite songs about those things – songs that would make for good company on a solitary road trip across Texas.

1. Mr. Fool (George Jones)
I’ve always loved this song. It’s about the funny distinction between being called Mr. Fool and just a plain old fool. The singer, overcoming heartbreak and betrayal, has earned the right to lose the honorific. For many years when I was writing the book, this was the title.

2. Someone Else You’ve Known (Merle Haggard)
The novel is partly about the slippery nature of identity. So is this fairly obscure 1966 number by Merle Haggard, one of the greatest country songwriters. Camus himself couldn’t have done it better.

3. My Horses Ain’t Hungry (Nimrod Workman recording)
One of those traditional songs whose writers and roots have been mostly lost in the handing down, like Homeric verse. I like that the singer is so indignant at being spurned by his beloved’s family that he won’t even let his horses eat their hay. Odd fact: The modernist composer Arnold Schoenberg once tried his hand at arranging this song.

4. Dalhart, Texas, 1967 (John Fahey)
I’m a fanatic for John Fahey, the unclassifiable folk-blues guitarist, who died in 2001. He got at a particular dissonant American background hum I don’t think any other musician has captured in the same way. This song is dated the year I was born and named for a town not far from the one where I grew up. I’m imagining that Fahey probably passed through Dalhart on one of his cross-country trips and liked the sound of the name.

5. Rosewood Casket (Johnny Williams recording)
This beautiful, haunting song comes on the radio in a stolen car toward the end of the novel. It’s another of those ballads whose murky origins reach back to the 19th century. It’s about death and old love letters, so, naturally, it’s been a go-to standard for country singers for decades.

6. Save the Last Dance for Me (Buck Owens recording)
This is, in my opinion, the greatest country-and-western cover of a pop song ever recorded. It’s a pedal-steel-and-high-harmony version of The Drifters’ classic, by way of the Bakersfield sound. It’s a song that my main character, Troy, could have heard on the radio in 1962.

7. The Great Compromise (John Prine)
I’m a huge Prine fan (as is my editor, Trish Todd) but I came to know this song only recently. It’s a marvel of poetic economy. These lines about heartbreak kill me: “But sometimes I get awful lonesome/And I wish she were my girl instead/But she won’t let me live with her/And she makes me live in my head.” There’s a long-haul truck driver in my novel who knows exactly how he feels.

8. Stranger in the House (Elvis Costello)
This is Costello’s pitch-perfect and sincerely offered pastiche of every forlorn country song
ever written.

9. Motel Time (Johnny Paycheck)
I once went to Central Park to hear a Johnny Paycheck concert, but he cancelled at the last minute because of “illness.” A hipster Texas polka band took his place. Paycheck, a hard liver, died not long after and I still regret having never seen him perform live.

10. I’m A Stranger Here (Lambchop)
A music-wise friend introduced me to this very strange and wonderful Nashville band.
They have a cult following among indie musicians. Kurt Wagner’s gravelly, almost swallowed voice sounds the way I imagine some of the more unredeemable motel characters in my book would sound.

11. Juarez (Flaco Jiménez)
Jiménez – born in San Antonio, where I was born – is king of the norteño accordion players, and I’ve danced to his music several times when he’s played New York. This is his ode to the border city where part of my novel takes place.

12. Tonight I Think I’m Gonna Go Downtown (The Flatlanders)
The Flatlanders got together in Lubbock, Texas, near where I was raised, in 1972, and made
one great record before disbanding. I dearly wish I had been old enough to know about them when they were together. This is my favorite song from that album.

13. Flatland Boogie (Terry Allen with Lucinda Williams)
While we’re on the topic of Lubbock-born songwriters (a tiny, mostly unheralded group, though it does include Buddy Holly), here’s a fantastic one by the visual artist and songwriter Terry Allen, who gets the comic and the calamitous in West Texas exactly right.

14. You Don’t Very Far to Go (Lucinda Williams recording)
Williams’s devastating cover of one of Merle Haggard’s most devastating songs of loss.

15. If You Were Me (And I Were You) (Dwight Yoakum recording)
… And we’re back in the land of country-and-western existentialism, always rich territory. This is Dwight Yoakum’s cover of the 1955 classic by Webb Pierce.

16. Tumble in the Wind (Version 1) (Jackson C. Frank)
Jackson C. Frank, from Buffalo, was one of the great tragic songwriters of the 20th century. His work was covered by Paul Simon and Nick Drake, but his life ended at 56 in schizophrenia and despair. He recorded some of his best songs toward the end of his life, on a cheap cassette recorder, his voice almost gone. I grew up in a place where the wind was often strong enough to tumble you.

17. Easy Rider (Leadbelly recording)
The blues classic about betrayal and about a woman, originally recorded by a woman, Ma Rainey. Even though it’s not at all about cars or riding in them (it’s about an unfaithful lover), I think of it as a perfect road song.

18. Good Stuff (Chet Atkins and Jerry Reed)
My book is set in the early 1970s. If a movie of the novel had been made in the early 1970s, this smooth country-funk ditty would have played over one of the car-theft scenes.

19. Under the Double Eagle (Asleep at the Wheel recording)
How a 19th century Austrian march tune became a favorite of country guitar pickers in the 20th century remains a mystery to me. My dad, an amateur guitar player, loved it and I can never think of it apart from the sound of his old Fender Stratocaster. A minor character in my book likes to whistle this song, and while he’s whistling it, taking a leisurely stroll around the motel where he’s staying, my character Troy steals his car.

20. Wheels (The Flying Burrito Brothers)
Among Gram Parsons’s greatest lyrics and a perfect mood-setter for the book: “We’ve all got wheels/To take ourselves away/We’ve got the telephones to say/What we can’t say.”

21. She Never Spoke Spanish to Me (Joe Ely)
A member of the Flatlanders band, and a native of Lubbock, Texas, Ely went on to have a solid, though still under-appreciated, solo career. This song makes me think of my character Bettie, who only pretends to speak Spanish.

22. The Wheel of the Wagon is Broken (Milton Brown & his Musical Brownies)
This is a lament about the end of the Old West, which in many ways was still ending when I was a child there in the early 1970s.

23. Wichita Lineman (Glen Campbell)
My dad was a telephone lineman and my mother was, briefly, a rural telephone operator. (It’s how they got together – a pre-Internet version of meeting online). This song, written by Jimmy Webb, is one of the most magisterial country-pop songs ever written.

24. Just As I Am (Willie Nelson recording)
I grew up in the Southern Baptist church and this sweet hymn was always played at the end of services, during what was called the invitational, when congregants were welcomed to go up front for a heart-to-heart with the pastor. Willie Nelson included it on his masterpiece 1975 album, “Red Headed Stranger,” possibly because it was a song he, too, had stuck in his head from youthful churchgoing.

25. Desperado (The Langley Schools Music Project recording)
My main character, Troy, is a half-hearted criminal, a desperado in only the most comic sense. So this gorgeous, heartfelt recording of the Eagles’ hit by an elementary school girl, made by a Vancouver music teacher in the mid-1970s, is the perfect end to the playlist.


Randy Kennedy and Presidio links:

the author's website

Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review

Dallas Morning News review
Vogue 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

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

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

Shorties (New Mary Shelley Biographies, Nico's Musical Legacy, and more)

In Search of Mary Shelley

Book Riot recommended new Mary Shelley biographies.


Artforum examined the musical legacy of Nico.


The Guardian recommended books about strange towns.


Noisey interviewed singer-songwriter John Prine.


The Rumpus interviewed author Kristi Coulter.


Stream a new Valley Maker song.


Hazlitt features a new essay by Deborah Levy.


Stream a new J Mascis song.


Paste recapped August's best books.


Stream a new Wild Nothing song.


Ling Ma discussed her debut novel Severance with the Paris Review.


Soccer Mommy covered Bruce Springsteen's "I'm on Fire."


Literary Hub interviewed author Ben Marcus.


Stream a new Weakened Friends song.


Literary Hub shared an excerpt from John Larison's novel Whiskey When We're Dry.


Stream Soft Cell's first new song in 15 years.


Stream a new song by North Americans.



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

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

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

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

August 21, 2018

Seth Greenland's Playlist for His Novel "The Hazards of Good Fortune"

The Hazards of Good Fortune

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 Jesmyn Ward, Lauren Groff, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Seth Greenland's novel The Hazards of Good Fortune is a funny and thought-provoking pageturner.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"Greenland takes a Dickensian delight in letting the plot sprawl with parallels, digressions, false leads, and twists. . . An entertaining tale rich in schadenfreude as bad things happen to a hapless billionaire."


In his own words, here is Seth Greenland's Book Notes music playlist for his novel The Hazards of Good Fortune:



A white cop shoots an unarmed black man in ambiguous circumstances, and the reverberations reach all the way up to the highest levels of society. Combining elements of comedy and tragedy, The Hazards of Good Fortune is a big, sprawling New York novel about power, race, money, sex, ambition, family, and real estate. The myriad plot threads wind around a successful and philanthropic property developer named Jay Gladstone who also happens to own an NBA team. How this paragon of New York society deals with the wholly unforeseen and increasingly dire circumstances in which he finds himself is the heart of the novel.

"Empire State of Mind" by Jay-Z
Like Jay-Z, Jay Gladstone is a titan of New York City, and there is no song that better captures what it means to bestride the metropolis like a modern Colossus than this hip hop classic. Jay-Z conveys the sense of what it feels like when the city is your personal playground. “Sittin’ courtside, Knicks and Nets give me high fives” sums up the level of public status he’s singing about and Jay Gladstone embodies it.

"Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" by Metallica
The action of the novel kicks into high gear when a scared white cop shoots a black man who has been acting erratically. The victim is John Eagle, an American veteran of the Iraq war who is battling mental illness. Troops in Iraq would blast heavy metal to psych themselves to go out on patrol. This Metallica song is based on the great Ken Kesey novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which is set in a mental hospital. If you’ve only seen the movie, do yourself a favor and read the book.

Overture to La Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi
Westchester County District Attorney Christine Lupo has an extremely stressful job. And as if locking up murderers, drug dealers, and rapists isn’t enough, she’s planning to run for Governor of New York. That she suspects her husband is cheating on her does little to lower her tension level. To relax, she listens to opera on an iPod. When we meet her, she’s bumping Verdi’s La Traviata.

"Shook Ones" by Mobb Deep
The star player on the NBA team owned by Jay Gladstone is Dag Maxwell, a charismatic high scoring forward with a complicated personal life. In the middle of a difficult contract negotiation, Dag has been invited by the owner to a fundraiser for President Obama’s re-election campaign. As his brother drives him from their New Jersey home into New York City for the event, the gritty hip hop of Mob Deep is blasting from the speakers of Dag’s McClaren while they sail over the George Washington Bridge. If you watch the video of the song, you see the Mobb Deep members driving over several NYC bridges and I like the symmetry.

"I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor
In the 1970s, when the Soviet Union began to relax their emigration restrictions and Jews were allowed to leave the country, Jay’s older cousin Marat Reznikov was among the first wave of refugees. Although he began his American odyssey working for Jay’s father, Marat subsequently became a charter member of the Russian Mob. One of his businesses is a nightclub in Brooklyn. When Jay visits him there to ask for a favor, Marat is auditioning an African-American singer, and she is singing "I Will Survive" – in Russian. I would’ve liked to link to the Russian language version but it’s not on Spotify.

"Me and Mrs. Jones" by Billy Paul
One of the key scenes in the novel involves a spectacular act of marital infidelity. There are lots of great songs about infidelity; "Your Cheatin’ Heart" by Hank Williams and Marvin Gaye’s immortal "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" come immediately to mind. But for my money, none surpasses Billy Paul’s sinuous 1970s sweet soul gem – “We got a thing goin’ on…” A section of the novel takes place in that decade, so it feels right to hit it again.

"Oblivion" by Grimes
Jay’s daughter Aviva Gladstone is a student who, for her senior project at the liberal arts college she attends, is creating a theatre piece about Patty Hearst. Like post-kidnapping Patty, Aviva is an heiress who feels misunderstood. Deeply sympathetic to leftist causes, she worries that her more woke classmates judge her for her family’s wealth. Despite the echelon of society Aviva hails from, she is compassionate and sensitive. Although the music of Grimes does not appear in the book, you would find it in Aviva’s iTunes.

"Smooth Operator" by Sade
Jay Gladstone’s younger sister Bebe is a high-ranking executive in the Gladstone Group, the holding company that controls the various businesses the family owns. While she is not as prominent as Jay in terms of public awareness, Bebe exercises her strength no less powerfully. Shrewd and calculating, she is deeply loyal to her older brother. In the 80s, between dinners at Odeon and weekends in the Hamptons, she probably listened to a lot of Sade.

"Scenes from an Italian Restaurant" by Billy Joel
Jay’s cousin Franklin Gladstone is his partner in the family business, which they inherited from their fathers. Franklin has envied Jay for their entire lives and although Jay long ago won whatever competition there was, Franklin’s struggle to equal his cousin continues. One of the ways he’s doing this is to stick his toe into politics by funding Christine Lupo’s campaign for the Governorship of New York. Franklin and Christine cement their arrangement at the table of a restaurant in the East 60s. It’s not actually an Italian restaurant but Franklin is from Long Island and he’s the kind of guy that loves Billy Joel, so this song is close enough.

"Killing in the Name" by Against the Machine
Aviva’s friend Axel Testa is directing her show about the tribulations of Patty Hearst. The son of radical European academics, he learned to fire a semi-automatic weapon from a former member of the PLO and lords his left wing bona fides over his more timorous friends. In 2012, when the main action of the novel takes place and before the American left received the booster shot provided by the Bernie Sanders campaign, Axel is a contemporary echo of the Weathermen, and his passions are in danger of crossing the line and sliding into violence. Rage Against the Machine is what he hears when he closes his eyes at night.


Seth Greenland and The Hazards of Good Fortune links:

the author's website

Kirkus review
Newsday review
San Francisco Chronicle review

Largehearted Boy playlist by the author for The Angry Buddhist
Largehearted Boy playlist by the author for I Regret Everything
Writers & Readers 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

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

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Shorties (Fall's Most Anticipated Fiction, Jason Isbell Profiled, and more)

Killing Commendatore

BookPage previewed fall's most anticipated fiction.


The Austin American-Statesman profiled singer-songwriter Jason Isbell.


eBook on sale for $1.99 today:

Euphoria by Lily King


The Smart Set reconsidered Randy Newman's Land of Dreams album.


Kate Walbert recommended novels at BookMarks.


Paste recommended new Liverpool bands.


Esquire listed 2018's best movies based on books (so far).


Stream a new Elijah Wolf song.


Electric Literature recommended books by adventurous women about the great outdoors.


Stream a new song by Villagers.


The Millions recommended books written by women from the Balkans.


Stream a new Watson Twins song.


Electric Literature interviewed Kevin Wilson about his story collection Baby, You're Gonna Be Mine.


Stream a new Charalambides song.


Kwame Anthony Appiah recommended books about individuality and identity at BookMarks.


Stream two new Empress Of songs.


CrimeReads recommended Western novels that are also crime fiction.


Japanese Breakfast’s Michelle Zauner has an essay in the New Yorker.


Publishers Weekly interviewed author George Pelecanos.


Josh T. Pearson covered Depeche Mode's "Cover Me."



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

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

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

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August 20, 2018

Peter Anderson's Playlist for His Story Collection "Where The Marshland Came To Flower"

Where The Marshland Came To Flower

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 Jesmyn Ward, Lauren Groff, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Each story in Peter Anderson's impressive collection Where The Marshland Came To Flower is inspired by a song on Lou Reed's New York album.


In his own words, here is Peter Anderson's Book Notes music playlist for his story collection Where The Marshland Came To Flower:



I’ve been a fan of Largehearted Boy, and especially Book Notes, for a long time now. As my short story collection Where The Marshland Came To Flower approached publication, I realized the book would be a perfect fit for Book Notes: each of the fourteen stories was inspired by a song on Lou Reed’s great album New York. But my stories aren’t at all a continuation or response to Reed’s songs—besides being set in Chicago, the stories don’t explicitly share Reed’s narratives or themes. Instead, I riffed off of one or two lines from each song and created something new. Here is each story, and how it echoes each song (story title first, corresponding song in parentheses).

“Prime Time” (“Romeo Had Juliette”)

Reed’s Romeo and Juliette aren’t star-crossed Italian nobles, but Puerto Rican teenagers in New York City. I’ve always thought of this Romeo’s stance as mere posturing, pretend defiance, a young man asserting himself in an adult world by blaspheming the faith of his elders. My protagonist, Mario, is a teenager in Humboldt Park who longs to defy his overbearing mother, and is considering a similar blasphemy—wanting to change from Catholic high school to public, and sending her a message with the haircut she insists on. But he can’t quite escape her grip, for now—though maybe that will come later.

“Disappearing Into the Night” (“Halloween Parade”)

In the early years of the AIDS crisis, Reed reflects on the many friends and faces he has already lost. The entire book started from this song. One day, riding my Metra train to work, I heard the intercom voice announce the 103rd Street stop in Washington Heights on the South Side, and thought immediately of Reed’s elegiac song. A white suburban commuter has a brief encounter with a forlorn black man as the latter exits the train at the Washington Heights stop, and spends the following weeks obsessing over what became of him. It’s not Reed’s reflections on the fates of dozens, but one man worrying over another.

“Valentino’s Return” (“Dirty Blvd.”)

Reed’s Pedro lives in a crowded—“nine brothers and sisters”—and fragile household, and dreams of getting out, beyond not just the house but the rough streets that surround it, to something better. In my story, the widow Giovanna frets about her teenaged son Valentino—her only child—as she feels him growing up and drifting away from her. She secludes herself in their tiny house on a busy stretch of Archer Avenue, worrying about him every moment he’s away, facing the temptations of the same streets that Reed’s teenager strove to move beyond.

“Here the Elms Stood Tall” (“Endless Cycle”)

Reed writes about addiction, and how parents pass their habits on to their children, if not genetically then by example. My story isn’t as severe—there’s no chemical addiction in this three-generation household, but instead nostalgia, and how endlessly reflecting on the past can stop you from moving forward. The grandfather, once an active man but now semi-disabled and retired, watches countless hours of The History Channel, and his example is emulated by his teenaged granddaughter, who compulsively reads her history textbook, at the expense of all other homework, and fantasizes herself into historical events.

“Hope and Change” (“There Is No Time”)

Reed issues an angry call to arms—to not be complacent, to not accept the unfair world as it is, to fight for change. The song is Reed at his most political. And although at the time I wrote “Hope and Change”—near the end of Bush’s second term—I was avidly, almost obsessively political, this is probably the only overtly political story in the book. A retired electrical worker—a devoted union man who has voted Republican for most of his life—is confronted by an idealistic campaign worker, and is driven to reassess what he truly believes.

“Sous” (“The Last Great American Whale”)

This song is a strange metaphor about environmental degradation, which despite hundreds of listenings I’ve never been able to fully comprehend. So in writing my story I took away just one line, about a man without an enemy, which is of course unrealistic. Instead I thought of a man from the past who was revered, so much that those who remember him imagine that he didn’t have an enemy. And of his grandson Louis, who has dreams of becoming a gourmet chef, defying his father’s wishes. Louis rightly sees his grandfather as never having achieved his dreams, and strives to achieve his own, even if they’re not what his family wants for him.

“Regular” (“Beginning of a Great Adventure”)

Reed’s narrator—an expectant father—looks ahead, with excitement and fear, to what kind of father he’ll become. An interesting perspective, given that Reed never had any children of his own. My protagonist, Tommy Bohan, is a regular guy from the Southwest Side who spends too much time in bars, and too much time alone with his thoughts. Most of his thoughts are about what kind of father he might be, and memories of his own father and the example he set. The example that Tommy might never be able to follow.

“Nobody Else” (“Busload of Faith”)

Reed’s view of the world here is negative—it’s cold and indifferent, you can’t depend on anyone else, and all you have is faith. But to him that faith isn’t religious, in a benevolent higher power, but instead the thinnest of hopes. In my story, single mother Violet lives in public housing on the far Southwest Side, and believes much the same—she’s tried to have faith in the world but it’s been indifferent to her, she has hopes and dreams but doesn’t quite believe they will ever come true. Then, from out of nowhere, comes a potential benefactor, a graying guardian angel.

“Constant Volume” (“Sick of You”)

Reed’s narrator recites a familiar litany of society’s outrages—yes, another rant—but personalizes it, questioning how his significant other, with all that’s wrong with the world, can make his own world even worse by leaving him. But he feigns indifference, saying he was sick of her/him anyway. In my story, the unwilling building superintendent George Borowski—laid off from his taxi mechanic job with the sharp drop in tourism after 9/11—endures a similarly senseless breakup. He buries his grief and regret with busywork—fastidiously cleaning his tiny basement apartment, obsessively shoveling snow from the sidewalks outside the building—and watching CNN at deafening volumes. He tells himself he’ll bounce back, daydreaming about his revival but never quite believing it, until one snowy day when salvation unexpectedly comes from the scruffy college student who lives at the end of the hall.

“Eyewitness” (“Hold On”)

Reed’s angry State of the City diatribe was so timely and spot-on that the New York Times published it verbatim as an op-ed piece. His specifics have faded somewhat from the collective consciousness—though Bernhard Goetz and Howard Beach are still at least vaguely familiar—which is one of the risks of being “timely.” The real-life inspiration for my story, Derrion Albert—a Chicago teenager who was the victim of senseless street violence—might also, sadly and unjustly, be fading from public memory. Though I know that his family, and hopefully many of his Roseland neighbors, still remember. This story is my small effort to stoke his memory, through the character Mrs. Winters, an old woman who insists she witnessed a murder, and wants to help the police in any way she can.

“Singing for the Here and Now” (“Good Evening Mr. Waldheim”)

Reed plays free association, somehow linking Jesse Jackson, Pope John Paul II, Louis Farrakhan and Karl Waldheim, the UN Secretary-General who was accused of having been a Nazi collaborator during World War II. I steered clear of the topical (and now somewhat dated) references, and focused on the line about the words falling and dancing from Jesse Jackson’s lips. This made me imagine a small storefront gospel church and its charismatic preacher, to which I added the pragmatic Tonya, a character whom I rescued from an unpublished story I wrote years earlier. The story balances (not heavy-handedly, I hope) the sacred versus the secular, worship and prayer versus action. I do know that the story must have worked for at least one person—it’s the only one in the collection to have been previously published, in the journal Anthology of Chicago.

“Bullets and Steel” (“Xmas in February”)

Reed writes a moving narrative about Sam, a war veteran who leaves his dead-end steel mill town, only to lose his arm in combat in Vietnam, after which he returns home only to lose his wife, children and job. (It’s not clear how he’s connected to New York City, unless maybe he drifted to the city, hoping the begging there would be more lucrative than back home.) With such a vivid image of Sam in mind, it was inevitable that I would also write about a disabled homeless veteran. But my vet is mostly non-communicative, leaving it to the young professional who finds him to figure out the details of the vet’s past and present. Sam sounds like he’ll never find the help he needs to survive, but my vet just might.

“Sixty Thousand Dollar Car” (“Strawman”)

Reed rails again, this time specifically against inequality and injustice, racism and corruption. Sometime in the early 1990s, after twenty or thirty listenings of New York imprinted “Strawman” on my brain, I happened to see a homeless man begging next to an expressway ramp. Towering over him was a billboard advertising a gleaming new BMW, and my mind immediately framed a photograph—homeless man in the lower left corner, billboard in the upper right—that I would have taken had I had my camera with me. This story—about a hustling young used car salesman who moonlights as a repo man, and who senses the same injustice and self-indulgence that Reed decried—is the closest I’ll ever come to capturing that missed photograph.

“The Bells Will Ring for You” (“Dime Store Mystery”)

The song is Reed’s elegy to his good friend and mentor Andy Warhol, who died two years before the album was released. “The bells will ring for you” is one of the few lines from New York that I lifted verbatim, and the only one used prominently enough to be a story title. Reed was referring to Warhol’s memorial service in Manhattan, but my story refers to Old St. Patrick’s, the ancient Irish Catholic church on Chicago’s Near West Side, where my protagonist, the devout retiree Ed Cullen, made confession every workday morning. The line is spoken by his childhood friend Frank, as the two commiserate over breakfast about their old neighborhood of Austin, where Ed moved away from during the white flight of the 1960s and 1970s, but never quite left behind in his heart. In a way, the story is Ed’s elegy for the Austin that he remembers, but also offers hope for its future.


Peter Anderson and Where The Marshland Came To Flower links:

the author's website

Largehearted Boy playlist for Wheatyards by 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

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

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

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