April 10, 2017

Shorties (A Profile of Margaret Atwood, A New Jason Molina Biography, and more)

The New Yorker profiled author Margaret Atwood.


Jason Molina: Riding with the Ghost, an authorized biography of the Songs:Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co. frontman, will be published on May 15th.


eBooks on sale for $1.50 today:

After Disasters by Viet Dinh
The Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks by Donald Harington
We're All Damaged by Matthew Norman

eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

Band of Brothers by Stephen E. Ambrose
The Course of Love by Alain de Botton
Georgia O'Keefe: A Life by Roxana Robinson
Henry and June by Anais Nin
I'm Just a Person by Tig Notaro

eBooks on sale for $2.99 today:

Familiar by J. Robert Lennon
Hitch-22 by Christopher Hitchens
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
On Immunity by Eula Biss
Pieces for the Left Hand by J. Robert Lennon


Literary Hub shared an excerpt from Alan Carter's book The Decibel Diaries: A Journey through Rock in 50 Concerts.


n+1 shared new short fiction by Justin Taylor.


The Quietus shared an excerpt from Robert Barry's book The Music Of The Future.


Literary Hub shared an excerpt from Fiona Maazel's new novel A Little More Human.


The Tennessean profiled singer-songwriter Karen Elson.


Jack Kerouac's Florida home may be turned into a museum.


The Quietus interviewed Martin Gore of Depeche Mode.


The New Yorker interviewed Akhil Sharma about his story in this week's issue.


Stereogum reconsidered Chemical Brothers' Dig Your Own Hole album on it's 20th anniversary.


Tor.com recommended satanic pulp fiction from the 1970s.


Stream a new song by Dr. Dog's Eric Slick.


The Guardian examined the science behind the smell of physical books.


Stereogum reconsidered Sleater-Kinney's album Dig Me Out on its 20th anniversary.


Mat Johnson recommended books at the Houston Chronicle.


Mitski covered One Direction's "Fireproof."


Chef Barbara Lynch talked to Weekend Edition about her memoir Out of Line.


Stream a new Sean Watkins song.


Rebecca Skloot recommended her favorite book at The Week.


PopMatters interviewed Carl Newman of the New Pornographers.


Hazlitt interviewed author Durga Chew-Bose.


Ben Greenman talked to All Things Considered about his new book Dig If You Will The Picture: Funk, Sex, God and Genius in the Music of Prince.


The Guardian profiled author and artist Leonora Carrington.


The Rumpus interviewed members of The Feelies.


Electric Literature predicted the winner for this year's Pulitzer Prize for literature.


The Creative Independent interviewed Mike Hadreas of Perfume Genius.


Hazlitt interviewed author Darcie Wilder.



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
WORD Bookstores Books of the Week (recommended new books)
weekly music release lists

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





April 7, 2017

Book Notes - Kelly Jensen "Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World"

Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World

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.

The important anthology Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World (which includes contributions from Roxane Gay, Liz Prince, Sarah McCarry and others) is accessible, informative, intelligent, and entertaining.

Kirkus Reviews wrote of the book:

"A progressive antidote to the ancient teen health textbooks that mull over the dry basics of teen identity . . . a stellar collection . . . An embarrassment of riches."


In her own words, here is Kelly Jensen's Book Notes music playlist for the anthology Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World:



One of the unique things about Here We Are: Feminism For The Real World is that it's packaged like a scrapbook. So in addition to having an array of essays exploring myriad facets of feminism, the anthology also has things like top ten lists, art, comics, photographs, and other ephemera. Kody Keplinger, one of the 44 contributors, created a really fabulous playlist in the collection that's worth checking out not only because of the song selections but also because of how it sort of captures a lot of the feel of the anthology without her ever knowing what the pieces look like.

It's neat how an anthology where contributors all worked in a vacuum managed to convey so many similar messages and feelings.

While I didn't create a specific playlist that I worked to while editing, I did create a number of playlists that captured the feel of the book and the sorts of things I hoped readers would take away. I used them for everything unrelated to writing and editing that still managed to spark something for the process, even if it wasn't with specific intent.

Worth noting: this isn't necessarily a "feminist playlist."You can find those on Google and frankly, most of them have the same songs on them, along with a bunch of comments about the songs not included. I've instead highlighted specific songs that reflect themes and ideas among the essays in the collection. So while I'm bummed there's no Rihanna here, and there's no Spice Girls, no TLC (though those ladies are name-dropped in at least one essay!), and there's no Dolly Parton, I needed to make some Hard Choices.

I want to make a joke about how it's hard out here for a bitch (ty, Lily Allen) but...well, looks like I've made the joke now and can't take it back.


"Can't Pin Me Down" by Marina and the Diamonds

I could name any number of songs by Marina, but this one really strikes me as fitting Here We Are. It's about being unable to easily "pin someone down"as a certain type or attribute an easy label to them; but it's more than that -- it's about the tone of the song, the way it's being sung, that really makes this one fit. There's a tiny edge of sarcasm that comes through, particularly in a line that many fans find to be really disconcerting: "Do you really want me to write a feminist anthem? I'm happy making dinner in the kitchen for my husband." Where many saw it as Marina rejecting feminism for the sake of traditional gender roles, in the context of the song and in the intonation, it's absolutely clear that as a complex female human being, she is able to be any and everything she wants to be. She doesn't need to reject things like cooking dinner for someone else if it fulfills her, and it doesn't mean she's not a good feminist for doing so.*

I can't help but see how well this song fits with many of the pieces in the collection, but it especially resonates with those pieces that highlight that "traditional femininity"is okay. Constance Augusta Zabar, for example, talks about being a trans woman who loves makeup and isn't ashamed about it, and Jessica Luther's essay highlights the ups and downs of what it means to be in a long-term, committed relationship.


"It" by Christine and the Queens

I've been preaching the gospel of Christine and the Queens since I saw her in late 2015, and It is one of those songs on constant loop in my house. This is 100% a song about gender identity and the ways in which people are boxed into one identity by society and how it's not up to society to make those choices for another person. "No, I've got it. I'm a man now. And there's nothing you can do to make me change my mind. I'm a man now."

This is another song that could correspond to a bulk of the essays, but perhaps Rafe Posey's essay about discovering and acknowledging he's male and living as his true self is one that really pairs well with this song. I'd also pair this one with Liz Prince's comic about coming to terms with the word "feminism"and owning it as part of her identity.


"Giants" by Matt Nathanson

I grew up on Matt Nathanson's music. It was the soundtrack through my teen years, and I've followed his career from wayyyy back in the day. So when I asked him out of the blue if he'd consider writing an essay for Here We Are, imagine my surprise when he said yes . . . and more, the way I thought about how my teenage self would think about how I got to work with one of my favorite humans professionally in my adulthood.

Though any number of songs by Nathanson offer up feminist themes and ideas, the one that really struck me and one that I've been seriously consider getting a tattoo in honor of, is Giants. The song is about how much better our world would be if we were able to ignore the ideas of one side vs. another and instead embrace, acknowledge, and respect the differences that exist among us. That rather than being made small because of those labels, we'd be made into giants. I could quote any number of lyrics that get my heart in my throat, but the one that really hits hard is "We're only hearts and bones and blood, but we are giants."Because it's really and truly that simple. Maybe also "Everybody's scared of things they don't understand and all of the living that they don't do."

Would it be cheating to say this song pairs with Nathanson's essay about why he as a straight white guy needs feminism? Because I'm cheating and saying that. But more, this piece also cuts to the core of what Daniel José Older writes about when he had his big awakening to feminism, while also tying nicely into Siobhan Vivian's personal exploration of experiencing love and romance after first choosing to reject them as powerful parts of one's life.

Matt Nathanson and Kelly Jensen


"***Flawless" by Beyonce (featuring Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)

Perhaps the most obvious song on this list is the power anthem from Queen Beyonce, but I see it not only because of what it says about the power girls have. What really works for this song and why it's included is because of the very beginning: we get a short introduction from back in Beyonce's days as a member of "Girls Time."We hear the very beginning of her career and how she came from modest means in Houston to go on, pursuing her artistic career, no matter what got in her way.

For me, this song is the essence of Malinda Lo's piece which opens Here We Are. She talks about the ways her grandmother influenced her, even if she didn't expect her grandmother to label herself as a feminist. It's also about the books she read as a child opening up her world and inviting her to become the storyteller she is today. I'd also lean toward including Alida Nugent's essay as one that this song speaks to, too -- her piece, which is chock full of humor, talks about how she wanted a nose job in high school so she'd better fit in with her white suburban peers. But, when she goes to Puerto Rico on a trip, she discovers how beautiful and colorful and shapely everyone is there and it really made her understand her own uniqueness and embrace it as flawlessly her own.


"One Chance" by Modest Mouse

I love Modest Mouse. I consider them my "wall of noise"and when I am having Feelings Of Any Kind, blasting them makes me feel good because I will never be that angry or loud.

This song, though, is one that's unexpected and moderately quiet. The lyrics speak to being a box in a cage, about the way society traps us into different molds and that it's up to us to make the difference in our lives, as well as the lives of others. The last part of the song really nails it, though: "We have one chance, One chance to get everything right. My friends, my habits, my family,
They mean so much to me. I just don't think that it's right. I've seen so many ships sail in, Just to head back out again and go off sinking.”

As a whole, I hope this book helps give people the buoys they need to hop off the sailing ship, stay afloat, and find their way to the places they deserve. IS THIS NOT CHEESY AND HOKEY? It's true, though. And I found a way to shove cheese into my explanation for a Modest Mouse song.

(ducks)


"Little Plastic Castle" by Ani DiFranco

I think I first heard this song when I was a freshman in high school and it kind of changed my life. The lyrics that did it, and the lyrics which make this one fit Here We Are, are these: "People talk About my image, Like I come in two dimensions, Like lipstick is a sign of my declining mind Like what I happen to be wearing, The day that someone takes a picture, Is my new statement for all of womankind."The song is about how quick we want to box people in and take every single thing that they do as a grand statement for their beliefs. DiFranco says that doing so flattens us all and keeps us from being unable to become fully functioning, messy human beings.

"Bad Feminist, Part 2"by Roxane Gay is a reprint I got for the anthology and obviously, I couldn't pick a more fitting piece-song pairing. But even beyond Gay's tremendous essay, Sarah McCarry's take on friendship and the idea of not being "like other girls"digs into the ways that we're (female-identifying people primarily, but also certainly other genders) socialized to believe girls are all one kind of thing and best to not be befriended.

I'd also easily see this song fitting the themes that Mikki Kendall talks about in her essay about how you have to find your own feminism and that making a judgment about how one person practices feminism is a knock against the movement as a whole. More, one person's feminism cannot and should not speak for the feminism of others, particularly of communities that are marginalized.

*I see so many echoes from this song in the Marina and the Diamonds song listed first.


"Bravado" by Lorde

If we take the song to be about anxiety and fear -- "I was fighting off every little thing that I thought was out to get me down, To trip me up and laugh at me, But I look not to hold, The quiet of the room with no one around to find me out, I want the applause the approval the things that make me go oh"-- and then we get to the crescendo of the song "And I can tell you that, when the lights come on I'll be ready for this, It's in your bloodstream, A collision of atoms that happens before your eyes, It's a marathon run or a mountain you scale without thinking of size,"then it's hard to ignore how this song could fit the themes of many essays throughout Here We Are, including my own.

I'd also easily pair this song with Nova Ren Suma's essay, wherein she talks about an experience she had with a high school teacher who never assigned women writers in his excellent literature from around the world course. This angered her and set her off on a path to discovering the amazing voices of women in her personal reading life. Perhaps I could also suggest this song going with Shveta Thakrar's piece about finding her own voice and Kaye Mirza's essay about how her faith helps her feminism.


"Stronger" by Britney Spears

Britney Spears is a queen and anyone who disagrees can see themselves out. This song is such a power ballad about self-love, about learning how to be herself, and how her past self helped her become the person she is now. Her independence is important to her, and even though she's dealt with hard stuff, she's taken that to make herself who she is today.

Both Wendys in Here We Are deserve this anthem for their pieces. Wendy Davis for her gut punch of a piece about how sometimes it just sucks to lose...but you get up and get back into the game because that's how you keep on playing. Wendy Xu whose comic explores a relationship she had where her identity became a fetish for her partner and, from that relationship, she was able to learn how to value her own self and identity and not allow others to take it from her.


"Extraordinary Machine" by Fiona Apple

On the surface, Apple's song about an independent woman could easily relate to many of the essays in the collection and, perhaps, much of the overall tone of the collection. But this song very specifically talks to the idea of living one's life for one's self, even with others who do or don't approve. "Be kind to me, or treat me mean, I'll make the most of it, I'm an extraordinary machine."

This song speaks perfectly to Courtney Summer's piece on the unlikable female character and the way we judge the motivations and decisions that so-called "tough"girls make. Her piece says essentially the song does: people like to judge a girl who is living her life if she's not doing it within the neat lines society's drawn for her and yet, she's still going to do her thing. I also see a lot of the piece Kayla Whaley wrote here, too -- her essay, which is a letter to her younger self, talks about the horrible experiences she had as a disabled girl in a wheelchair, being overlooked and being told she "doesn't count"as a person. The letter, which speaks to those hard moments, also offers up those incredibly moving moments of tenderness, wherein Older Kayla tells Younger Kayla she matters and she's loved and to keep on with her badass self.


Kelly Jensen and Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World links:

the editor's website

Kirkus Reviews review
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel review
Publishers Weekly review
Teenreads review

Chicago Tribune profile of the editor
School Library Journal profile of the author
Teen Vogue interview with the editor


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

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

This Week's Interesting Music Releases - April 7, 2017

Resistance Radio

Resistance Radio: The Man in the High Castle Album collects cover songs from Sharon Van Etten, Beck, Angel Olsen, Karen O, and others.

I can also recommend Diet Cig's Swear I'm Good At This, San Fermin's Belong, Timber Timbre's Sincerely, Future Pollution.

Other new albums include Father John Misty's Pure Comedy, Guided by Voices' August By Cake, and The New Pornographers' Whiteout Conditions.

Two Elliott Smith albums are reissued on vinyl today: Figure 8 and XO.

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


This week's interesting music releases:

Andrew Combs: Canyons Of My Mind
Arca: Arca
Beck: Mutations (reissue) [vinyl]
The Big Moon: Love In The 4th Dimension
Bill Evans: The Definitive Rare Albums Collection 1960-1966 (4-CD box set)
Blaenavon: That's Your Lot
Bob Dylan: Under the Covers
Boss Hogg: Brood X [vinyl]
The Byrds: Live at the Fillmore
The Chainsmokers: Memories...Do Not Open
Clark: Death Peak
Cold War Kids: L.A. Divine
Cory Branan: Adios
Cotton Mather: Wild Kingdom
Darden Smith: Everything
Deep Purple: InFinite
Diet Cig: Swear I'm Good At This
Elliott Smith: Figure 8 (reissue) [vinyl]
Elliott Smith: XO (reissue) [vinyl]
Falling in Reverse: Coming Home
Father John Misty: Pure Comedy
The Flatliners: Inviting Light
Francoise Hardy: Ma Jeunesse Fout Le Camp (reissue) [vinyl]
Fujiya and Miyagi: EP3
Future Islands: The Far Fields
Guided by Voices: August By Cake
Happyness: Write In
Hauschka: What If [vinyl]
Jack Kerouac and Steve Allen: Poetry for the Beat Generation (Limited Black & White "Beatnik Smoke" Vinyl Edition) [vinyl]
Jamiroquai: Automaton
Joan Baez: The Complete Gold Castle Masters
Joey Bada$$: ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$
Karen Elson: Double Roses
K.Flay: Every Where Is Some Where
Leeroy Stagger: Love Versus
Leonard Cohen: From the Shadows:Live from L'Olympia, Paris
Leonard Cohen - Live In San Sebastian [dvd]
The Maine: Lovely, Little, Lonely
Michelle Branch: Hopeless Romantic
Migos: Culture
Neil Young: Bottom Line 1974
The New Pornographers: Whiteout Conditions
New York Philharmonic: New York Philharmonic (65-CD box set)
Obsessed: Sacred
Paul McCartney: In the 80's
Sam Gellaitry: Escapism III
San Fermin: Belong
Simon and Garfunkel: Tripping Down the Alleyways
The Smith Street Band: More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me
Sun Ra: Thunder of the Gods (reissue)
Timber Timbre: Sincerely, Future Pollution
Tom Petty: Psychotic Reaction
Various Artists: Birth Of Soul - Special Detroit Edition 1961-64
Various Artists: Easter Bunny Hop
Various Artists: Gimme Danger: Music From The Motion Picture [vinyl]
Various Artists: Great Guitars at Sun
Various Artists: Jon Savage's 1967 - The Year Pop Divided
Various Artists: Kids (soundtrack) (reissue) [vinyl]
Various Artists: Outlaw: Celebrating the Music of Waylon Jennings
Various Artists: Resistance Radio: The Man in the High Castle Album
Various Artists: To Love Somebody - The Songs Of The Bee Gees 1966-1970
Various Artists: Twelve Inch 70s: Boogie Wonderland
Various Artists: Twelve Inch Seventies: More More More
Wear Your Wounds: Wear Your Wounds
White Reaper: The World's Best American Band
The Wild Reeds: The World We Built
Wire: Silver/Lead
The Wooden Sky: Swimming In Strange Waters
X-Ray Spex: Germfree Adolescents (Limited Radioactive Green Vinyl Edition) (reissue) [vinyl]
Yo Yo Ma, Chris Thile, and Edgar Meyer: Bach Trios


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

weekly music release 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

Shorties (The 2017 Folio Prize Shortlist, Willie Nelson's Tribute to Merle Haggard, and more)

The 2017 Folio Prize shortlist has been announced.

The Vanishing Man by Laura Cumming
The Return by Hisham Matar
This Census-Taker by China Miéville
The Sport of Kings by CE Morgan
The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
Golden Hill by Francis Spufford
Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien
Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War by Robin Yassin-Kassab and Leila Al-Shami


Willie Nelson paid tribute to Merle Haggard in a new song.


eBooks on sale for $1.50 today:

After Disasters by Viet Dinh
The Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks by Donald Harington
We're All Damaged by Matthew Norman

eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

Band of Brothers by Stephen E. Ambrose
The Course of Love by Alain de Botton
Georgia O'Keefe: A Life by Roxana Robinson
Henry and June by Anais Nin
I'm Just a Person by Tig Notaro

eBooks on sale for $2.99 today:

Familiar by J. Robert Lennon
Hitch-22 by Christopher Hitchens
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
On Immunity by Eula Biss
Pieces for the Left Hand by J. Robert Lennon


The Guardian examined the resurgence in protest music.


Valeria Luiselli discussed her new book Tell Me How It Ends with Rolling Stone.


NYCTaper shared a recent live performance by the band Lambchop.


Literary Hub interviewed author Philipp Meyer.


Stream a new Palehound song.


The Guardian profiled author Jon McGregor.

"I'm allergic to trying to make points in fiction."


Bonnie 'Prince' Billy covered Merle Haggard's "Bad Actor."


Signature shared an excerpt from Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche’s book Dear Ijeawele.


Book Riot recommended books that examine the convergence of racism and the environment.


Stream a new Daddy Issues song.


The OTHERPPL podcast interviewed author Melissa Febos.


Stream a new Into It. Over It. song.


Chicago magazine interviewed Anne Elizabeth Moore about her new book Body Horror.


Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers discussed protest music with the Houston Press.


Jami Attenberg talked to Bustle, the Greenville Journal and Jewish Chronicle about her novel All Grown Up.


The Zebra profiled Son Volt's Jay Farrar.


NPR Books profiled cartoonist Michael DeForge.


Flavorwire previewed April's best new albums.


EW features an excerpt from Tayari Jones' forthcoming novel An American Marriage.


Paste recommended black Americana musicians.


The Porch interviewed poet Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib.


Robyn Hitchcock visited The Current studio for an interview and live performance.

Paste interviewed Hitchcock.


Literary Hub hosted a discussion about the works of the late Brazilian writer João Gilberto Noll.


Drowned in Sound reconsidered Zwan's album Mary, Star of the Sea.


Vol. 1 Brooklyn interviewed author Stephanie Powell Watts.



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
WORD Bookstores Books of the Week (recommended new books)
weekly music release lists

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

April 6, 2017

Book Notes - Kurt Baumeister "Pax Americana"

Pax Americana

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.

Kurt Baumeister's literary thriller Pax Americana is a brilliantly imagined satire.

Sean Beaudoin wrote of the book:

"If there is to be an American peace, it's certainly not going to come on the pages of this lit match of a novel. Kurt Baumeister has fashioned exactly the old school pre-and-post Bond techno X-travaganza everyone bored with explorations of the Louvre has been waiting for. Pax Americana is both dark satire and deeply satisfying, an adrenaline rush that runs through suspect politics, spirituality software, and the sacredly profane.It's a blast. Buy it now."


In his own words, here is Kurt Baumeister's Book Notes music playlist for his debut novel Pax Americana:



To people who don't write satire, it may seem easy. It's just jokes, right? Or not even that, but painfully dry demi-jokes? Constant irony, mistimed whimsy, humor too smitten with itself to know better. Yeah, yeah, the world is a mess. So, what? Always has been. Always will be. Tell me something new.

The thing people miss is that the satirist must be (or, at least, try to be) funny and serious at the same time. The balancing act can be extremely difficult, difficult enough it usually fails. To do it effectively, you must be willing to look at everything—the world, its things, its creatures, and most of all yourself—with something like love and contempt simultaneously.

Pax Americana is a satirical take on the spy novel. Meaning it's both a mockery of and an homage to the form. For me, there's one writer of espionage thrillers, and one hero, who tower above the rest. The writer, Ian Fleming; the hero, James Bond. Now, I've read several Bond novels, the first of them in a bunch when I was a kid, then refreshing my memory of a few (notably Goldfinger and From Russia With Love) over the last several years. The most memorable things about the Bond books, other than Bond himself, of course, are the exotic locals, femme fatales, and larger-than-life nemeses that seem to fill his world. These qualities exist across the books and the movies. One that doesn't, though, is the music. The Bond song has little to do with the Bond books, but it does provide a bridge between Pax Americana and my playlist.


"Live and Let Die" by Wings

Whether this is just an incredibly clever fifty-plus-year marketing campaign or something more, the Bond songs are significant to our culture and, at least for me, "Live and Let Die" is one of, if not the greatest. From the wistful vocals and gentle piano of its beginning to the deadly shamble it reaches and maintains, this is an epic rock song. The first of two classic tracks for which I spent time deciding between the famous original and the only slightly less famous cover that came decades later.

On the face of it, the arrangements seem similar between the Wings version and the cover Guns ‘N Roses did a few decades later, and the overall effect the versions go for, barely controlled musical chaos, is similar. Similar, but not the same. And if I must choose, and, indeed, I must, I'll take the original.

Listening to the two versions one after the other, you get the feeling Axl scream-singing the words acapella would only marginally add to or take away from the Guns version. McCartney's version on the other hand is more soulful; ironically, more cohesive and rangier at the same time; vocals and instrumentation both necessary for the overall effect. Comparatively, G N R's instrumentation sounds simplistic, tinny and thin in a way, for all the growling of Slash's guitar.

Maybe it's the fact that Guns were just too far beyond chaos as a musical effect. Maybe they were chaos in a way that leaves someone else's elegant descent into musical entropy sounding weak in their hands. Or maybe it's the added poignancy, particularly in the beginning of the McCartney version, his willingness to work with rather than overwhelm the music that make his original shine, still after forty years.

"Price Tag" by Jessie J (featuring B.o.B)

"Price Tag" captures one of the ironies at the heart of Pax Americana, but more importantly America and humanity. Deeply infectious and superficially positive, there's more beneath the surface of "Price Tag" and a lot of it's dark.

"It's not about the money money money / We don't need your money money money / We just wanna make the world dance / Forget about the price tag / Ain't about the uh cha-ching cha-ching / Ain't about the yeah b-bling b-bling"

Jessie J's delivery of these lines is somewhere between careless and jaded, pointing to a reality that's confirmed by the video's dizzying array of costume changes and the ubiquitous "b-bling b-bling" and "cha-ching cha-ching" we're shown in spite of what we're told. Ultimately, the protestations are hollow. It really is about the "money money money." But, what isn't?

If you're trying to escape hypocrisy, humanity's not a good place to do it. And, despite "Price Tag's" hypocrisy, I guess, or at least I hope, Pax Americana has some of its attributes. I hope readers enjoy it, that they get swept up in the story, enjoy the plot, and find it a fast read. But I also hope they take away a hunger for greater truth, even though that hunger will invariably prove impossible to sate.

"Perfect World" by Liz Phair

Liz Phair's whitechocolatespaceegg is one of my desert island discs. Though, maybe in these dystopian, Trumpian times it would be better to call it one of my "post-apocalyptic" discs. Call it what you want: There's not a bad song on whitechocolatespaceegg, from the post-consumerist grandeur of "Polyester Bride," to the lurching madness of "Johnny Feelgood" and the mysterious, acoustic kookiness of "Uncle Alvarez." But the track I come back to most often is "Perfect World."

"No need for Lucifer to fall if he'd learned to keep his mouth shut" is the payoff line. That's quintessential Liz Phair, conveying a universal truth with sardonic simplicity. But that's not all there is here. The song's narrator doesn't have to be Phair, but it could be, and certainly, if it were, the irony of a woman as beautiful as Liz Phair envying the "girls who live inside your world…just sitting next to mortals makes their skin crawl" is heavy. Ultimately, the song's narrator, whether it's Phair herself or a constructed character, feels a kinship with the fallen angel, Lucifer, in her realization of the universality, futility, and inescapability of envy.

"Salvation Serenade' by Jehovah's Wishlist (featuring Rake Pennirex)

Pax Americana opens with its antihero, Tuck Squires, on the way to work at the U.S. Internal Defense Bureau (ID). A sunny November morning, and Tuck heads down Constitution Avenue in his green, reptilian, convertible Epiphany, top down, heat cranked, music blaring, the stereo system putting out "Salvation Serenade," the latest from an entirely fabricated band, Jehovah's Wishlist. Their lead singer being an equally fabricated figure, The Angelic Assassin, Rake Pennirex.

I love making things up—part to most of the reason I'm a writer no doubt—from car brands to fictionalized movies and band names, actors and TV shows. So, it's fitting that I start doing that on Page 1 of Pax Americana. I imagine Jehovah's Wishlist as something like a cross between a Christian version of Arctic Monkeys and Creed's nihilistic alter-ego. "Crunchy drums and martial guitars" is the way I describe them in Pax Americana—so basically punked-out Dominionist fascism, right? And who is Rake Pennirex? What does he look like? I'm thinking lots of black leather, long hair, and a crazy-thin moustache. And he's British, definitely British.

"Made to be Remade" by Missionary Situation Reversal

The second of three fictional songs on my playlist, parts of this are sung to Dr. Diana Scorsi, the genius computer scientist who develops the "God software" at the center of Pax Americana. This happens early in the book and it closes a chapter. No doubt there's a cinematic quality here, the idea that the characters are providing soundtrack to the novel. (See "Live and Let Die" above.)

"And I can still hear that old choir of angels / Singin' ‘bout the End of Days / And I can still hear my old preacher screamin' / Screamin' like the wrath of God / Screamin' out the wrath of God / Made to be remade, ooh-ooh-ooh…"

As discussed in the book, Missionary Situation Reversal, MSR, is a "God pop" band that Diana mistakes for country. Which horrifies the people she's with, the men who are singing to her. The song's significance will become clear later in the book, but in addition to alluding to a certain locale, it touches on the theme of gender imbalance (and even misogyny) in many of history's great religions.

"The Man Who Sold the World" by Nirvana

Pax Americana's villain, or antivillain, Ravelton Parlay, may be my favorite character to write. So much of Parlay's world is either comedy, satire, or both; but when I try to think about him seriously, the refrain from this song comes to mind. At times, I can almost hear it when I'm writing him. It makes me sad. I think that if Parlay could hear it, too, he'd imagine I was likening him to Judas, and I probably am.

This is the second track on which I debated between an original and its most famous cover. Yes, Bowie recently died, which makes it sort of sacrilegious to choose Nirvana's version. But, at least on that score, Kurt Cobain's life is a tragedy that stacks up to any, even two decades after his suicide.

I like the instrumentation of the Nirvana version better. Which is probably just an example of more organic music catching up with the trippy studio tricks in Bowie's version. The stripped-down version works for me. No, Cobain's not nearly the pure singer Bowie is and perhaps this is another example of personal taste trumping good sense. In terms of having a distinctive voice, you really can't make a case that McCartney measures up to Axl either.

"If God Will Send His Angels" by U2

Listening to this song, I'm struck by how significant the lyrics are to me and how important they've wound up being to Pax Americana. This shouldn't be too much of a surprise. Anyone who knows me well knows that U2 are my favorite band. No, that's not cool to say these days, and their last album was a bit of a mess. Still, in writing this, I actually found myself pulling the entire sheet of lyrics, then editing down to what seemed a reasonable level; which still amounted to about half the song. Nothing remotely like a reasonable level.

"It's the blind leading the blond / It's the stuff, it's the stuff of country songs"

Pax Americana is based on the premise that America swerved right under George W. Bush (which it did) then just kept going and going and going. And there's little as generally right—and mainstream white—as country music. Now, I don't particularly like country music, but I can get into Bono's lyrics as he simultaneously makes fun of it and himself for going down this road. Yet, somehow, he still manages to touch on the fact that there may be some legitimate soul in country. You have to listen deeper into this song but the country music theme returns—"it's the stuff, it's the stuff of country song, yeah but I guess that's somethin' to go on"— their expression different, their meaning more profound.

Speaking of profound, this line:

"God's got his phone off the hook, babe / Would he even pick up if he could?"

Rather than the presumption that U2's lyrics are overtly Christian, their lyrics have always been about the contradictions of faith, the push and pull between the fraud religion often represents and the idea of actually doing good in the world.

Here, most of a verse:

"It's the blind leading the blond / It's the cops collecting for the cons / So where is the hope and / Where is the faith and the love? / What's that you say to me / Does love light up your Christmas tree? / The next minute you're blowing a fuse / And the cartoon network turns into the news"

The last line about the cartoon network turning into the news speaks to the absurdity of reality, and the plausibility of surrealism, a notion that seems very important in our current political environment in America, a place where facts, logic, and learning seem now to be under daily assault from the highest, most powerful places in our government.

And finally, this:

"Jesus never let me down / You know Jesus used to show me the score / Then they put Jesus in show business / Now it's hard to get in the door"

Much of Pax Americana is about separating religious dogma from the values necessary to do good. It's about the absurdity of religious fundamentalism of any stripe. Though there can be no absolute certainty that one of the extreme fundamentalist interpretations of religion isn't correct, the preponderance of evidence suggests that no fundamentalist view can be true since that would preclude every other religion being even a little bit right.
The notion of an omnipotent, benevolent God that so many religions posit would seem to be at odds with the idea that God is some glorified accountant, keeping score, consigning the spiritual failures—which let's be honest, is most of us—to an eternity of torment. If anything is true about religion or spirituality, logic dictates that beliefs can only be true in their commonalities (e.g. The Golden Rule). This is what's at the heart of Diana Scorsi's software, Symmetra.

"Lambs to the Lord" by Tabby Arnesse

Tabby Arnesse is the last recording star I made up for Pax Americana. The prototypical young, American pop chanteuse, Tabby's one of those gratingly ubiquitous kids who seem to pop up (pun unintended, but accepted) from time to time. Here, though, I've layered on America's mélange of Christianity and capitalism gone nuts; and, voila, a uniquely annoying girlchild you don't even have to see to believe. This, from Tabby's latest #1 "Lambs to the Lord":

"Oh, God is love, can't you see / He rains blessings down on me / Like lambs to the Lord / With fleece as white as snow / Someday God will call us home / Someday God will call us home."

"Lambs to the Lord" is set to the tune of "Knick Knack Paddy Whack" (aka "This Old Man"), and shows up at a gallingly inappropriate time in the text, bedeviling an already bedeviled Dr. Diana Scorsi and resulting in pained singing and lumbering dancing from a certain gigantic, evangelical henchman.

"Born in the USA" by Bruce Springsteen

Perhaps the most misunderstood song in the history of rock ‘n roll—so misunderstood the very misunderstanding is famous—"Born in the USA" may be the best example in this whole playlist of the duality of intent that goes with satire. "Born in the USA" has to be anthemic. It has to sound like a sort of love letter to America, a chest-thumping, fist-bumping apple-pie buy- Chevrolet barbecued chicken of a song, and it even is on some level. Its true meaning, though, as a song of men who gave themselves to their country and were reviled in return is inescapable if you spend more than a second thinking about the lyrics.

"It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" by R.E.M.

In Melbourne, Victoria, a little more than a week before 9/11, I saw an Australian thrash band play a sped-up version of this. It may have been the most exciting (musical) two minutes of my life. Blundering around Oz, smoking and drinking and, at times, playing the stupid American, I had no idea what the U.S. and the world were in for in a few days' time.

The events of 9/11/01 are certainly significant to Pax Americana, just as they are to history. But for that attack, America would have gone on believing itself immune to the terrorism of religious extremists. That didn't happen of course.

I came into Boston's Logan Airport on one of the planes that would, a week later, be used in the 9/11 attacks. I lived in Boston, so there was no chance I would have been heading to New York on one of those fateful trips, even if I'd returned a week later. Still, the proximity, remote though it is, shakes me to this day.

There's a character who goes by the alias of The Angel in Pax Americana, one whose memories of 9/11 are my own. I still see those planes hitting the towers when I close my eyes. Maybe I shouldn't be proud of this writing, but I am:

"Placid sky and reflective glass. Airplanes trapped in pitiless slow-mo hurtling again and again into those stoic towers of steel. Balls of fire flowering like midair cancers. Plumes of thick black gashing the sky. Broken buildings become the ruins of a once-great civilization. People, too, fall. Unable to bear the flames or the fear, they know they're going to their deaths, but take that last step just the same. The lower air soon fills with smoke and debris, screams and dust and death. All of it the work of religion, the fantasy known as God…"

"Redemption Song" by Bob Marley

Hope doesn't necessarily make sense, but I've still got it. And I…well, hope…that comes through in Pax Americana. Despite all the darkness, not only in our world, but in my novel, there's no choice but to have hope. Nor is there any choice but to laugh at reality's rules, things like mortality, the mystery of life after death, our dubious reliance on gods, and all the other uncertainties we live our lives around.

Having listened to Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" hundreds of times, my main takeaway is that you can't fully control your reality, much as you might try. Maybe this desire to control, to make the world in one's own image is at the heart of the philosophy held by various villains in Pax Americana, and maybe that philosophy more than anything else is what we have to fight against. There may not be a god—there almost certainly isn't—but to the extent one exists, there's no reason to believe it's anything but good. I don't mean there's no logic in it. I mean that as Marley says, there's no purpose in it.

"Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery / None but ourselves can free our minds / Have no fear for atomic energy / 'Cause none of them can stop the time"

We make our own prisons. We put ourselves in them. These are horrible truths. The corollary truth is that we can free ourselves from our prisons. Even those of the horrible, hateful gods some of us create. In the end, we're the only ones who can.


Kurt Baumeister and Pax Americana links:

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

Caroline Leavitt interview with the author
Christine Sneed 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

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Shorties (The Best Second Novels of All Time, Stream the New Spoek Mathambo Album, and more)

The Guardian listed the best second novels of all time.


NPR Music is streaming Spoek Mathambo's new album Mzansi Beat Code.


eBooks on sale for $1.50 today:

After Disasters by Viet Dinh
The Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks by Donald Harington
We're All Damaged by Matthew Norman

eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

Band of Brothers by Stephen E. Ambrose
The Course of Love by Alain de Botton
Georgia O'Keefe: A Life by Roxana Robinson
Henry and June by Anais Nin
I'm Just a Person by Tig Notaro

eBooks on sale for $2.99 today:

Familiar by J. Robert Lennon
Hitch-22 by Christopher Hitchens
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
On Immunity by Eula Biss
Pieces for the Left Hand by J. Robert Lennon


The Beijinger interviewed musician Owen Pallett.


Book Riot recommended April's best new small press books.


Stream a new Turtlenecked song.


The Rumpus book club interviewed author Melissa Febos.


Alejandro Escovedo visited World Cafe for an interview and live performance.


Caroline Leavitt interviewed Anne Lamott about her new book Hallelujah Anyway.


Stream a new Beach Fossils song.


Literary Hub shared a history of robots in literature.


Stream a new Chemtrails song.


Elif Batuman talked to the Harvard Crimson about her debut novel The Idiot.


The New York Times interviewed Feist about her forthcoming album.


Paste recommended books to read if you enjoy watching The Good Fight.


Stream a new Charly Bliss song.


Naomi Klein talked to the Guardian about her new book No Is Not Enough.


Stereogum interviewed singer-songwriter Joan Shelley.


Vulture previewed April's best comics and graphic novels.


PopMatters interviewed Volker Bertelmann of Hauschka.


GQ suggested April's must-read books.


Stream a new Feist song (featuring Jarvis Cocker).


Code Speak examined how comics are dealing with race and identity.


Stream a new Den-Mate song.


Alec Baldwin talked to Fresh Air about his memoir Nevertheless.


Composer Max Richter shared his recent musical influences with Deceptive Cadence.


Imbolo Mbue has been awarded the 2017 PEN/Faulkner Award for her debut novel Behold the Dreamers.

Read and stream her playlist for the book.


Relix interviewed Phil Cook of the band Hiss Golden Messenger.


The 2017 Hugo Award finalists have been announced.


Stream a new Milk Music song.


Conversational Reading interviewed author Deepak Unnikrishnan.



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
WORD Bookstores Books of the Week (recommended new books)
weekly music release lists

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April 5, 2017

Book Notes - Bethany Ball "What To Do About The Solomons"

What To Do About The Solomons

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.

Bethany Ball's debut is a stunning multigenerational novel cunningly told from multiple perspectives.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"Ball, with great humor, profound wit, and notable insight, vividly captures a singular family...This novel from a most promising writer has been compared to the work of Isaac B. Singer and Grace Paley, as well as Nathan Englander and Jennifer Egan. Try Eudora Welty with sex and Jews."


In her own words, here is Bethany Ball's Book Notes music playlist for her debut novel What To Do About The Solomons:



I don't listen to music when I write, but when I'm not writing I'm almost always listening to music. I'm certain that all the main characters of my book What To Do About The Solomons are all also music lovers.


"Everybody Daylight" by Brightblack Morning Light
I discovered this in a hipster motel in the Catskills. I'd was there finishing up edits of my book, What To Do About The Solomons. There was no desk in the room, or air conditioning, so I spent a day and early evening out on the picnic table listening to Brightback Morning Light. This album is perfect background music for writing, editing, yoga, staring into space, sex. So quiet, it's mesmerizing. Maybe this is what Shira listens to at her ex's apartment in Los Angeles.

"Homesickness" by Ethiopian singer Emahoy Tseque and Maryam Guebrou

I defy you to listen to this song and not feel some kind of longing. I can imagine that my Algerian matriarch Vivienne was quite worldly in the fifties and was stealing away to record shops in Jerusalem, or maybe Paris with her husband Yakov and finding hot new Jazz records.

"Death of Disco Dancer" by the Smiths from the album Strangeways Here We Come
One of my favorite songs of high school. That song that filled me with longing, comforted me from all my meaningless/meaningful teen angst. I like to imagine this song was a part of my American character Carolyn's childhood. She was an artist and probably wore a lot of black in high school.

"Azawade" by the Toure-Reichel Project
A couple of years ago I saw Idan Reichel in concert. An Israeli kibbutznik who has become a global sensation, his songs are a hybrid of Hebrew, Arab and Ethiopian melodies and instruments. A few years ago he put out an album with the Malian singer Vieux Farka Toure called The Tel Aviv Sessions. "Azawade" is one of my favorite tracks from that album and I like to imagine the kibbutzniks in my book smoking grass mixed with tobacco, and grooving out to the song "Azawade."

A Creature I Don't Know by Laura Marling
Laura Marling is known for being the ex girlfriend of Marcus Mumford, a band I dislike to equal proportion to how much I love Marling. Her folksy music is sophisticated. Her songs are journeys, circling satisfyingly around melody and themes. Each song is a short story.

"Who By Fire" by Leonard Cohen from the album Live in London
If I were going to give a songwriter the Nobel, it would have been him, but his fame was always quieter than Dylan's. I like to imagine my character Marc is a Leonard Cohen man and in the grips of his personal tragedy, he's got this song on repeat.

"Rebel Girl" by Bikini Kill
Like Debbie Harry, my character Maya is beautiful, strange, artistic and rebellious. In my book she's listening to a German punk song called "Selbstmord Schlampe Hündchen" but I'll bet she listened to a lot of Bikini Kill in her time. I know I have.

"Walk Up" by Meklit Hadero
Born in Ethiopia and based in San Francisco, this track is what I listen to when I need quiet fortification. I would play it for my character, the heavily pregnant Maya, as she walks the beaches of Tel Aviv. The San Francisco Chronicle wrote: "She sings of fragility, hope and self-empowerment, and exudes all three. A beautiful voice, beautiful melodies, lyrical poetry and a strange magical rhythm."

Akibar by Afel Boucoum
I had an ex boyfriend in my twenties who had a tiny apartment filled with CDs and LPs and he played the most extraordinary music. From African Head Charge to Sun Ra (who we saw together in concert, although we broke up that night) to my favorite, the griots of Mali. I've listened to Ali Farka Toure-mentored Afel Bocoum's record Akibar thousands of times. The rhythm and melodies of popping steel string guitars, the mix of blues and traditional Malian melodies are rich and meditative. Akibar was recorded on the banks of a river and you can hear the organic improvisational quality in the music.

Weight of Love by the Black Keys
In college my favorite Detroit band was Jason McCauley Berry and the All Night Fish Market. They used to rehearse in my dorm room and the drummer was my boyfriend and then ex boyfriend. Jason was the songwriter and I always used to say his songs were the soundtrack for my personal landscape. Kids who loved music in the Eighties listened to a lot of what they called Classic Rock: Frampton, The Who, the Allman Brothers, Led Zeppelin, funk and blues. We spent a lot of time sneaking into blues bars and drinking beer at Detroit's Blues Festivals. To me, the guitar sound on Weight of Love captures that Detroit early to mid nineties' psychedelic blues sound. Although Carolyn is not a Detroiter, I like to think she went to school in Ann Arbor and saw a lot of Detroit bands, including the All Night Fish Market. She probably still listens to the Black Keys.


Bethany Ball and What To Do About The Solomons links:

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

Publishers Weekly review

Kveller 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

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

Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week - April 5, 2017

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 Comic #4

Art Comic #4
by Matthew Thurber

Matthew Thurber is an artist from New York City and author of the acclaimed comic book Infomaniacs. His series Art Comic is aptly named, as it is indeed a comic about art in all of its manifestations and institutions. The previous installments of the series followed two friends as they chased and obsessed over Matthew Barney, and in this newest Art Comic they finally meet him. Art Comic is a satire and a celebration, laughing at and laughing with—and laughing hard.


Literature Class

Literature Class
by Julio Cortázar

Julio Cortázar is a dazzler. In 1980, the exemplary Argentine was invited to UC Berkeley to deliver eight classes on the cogs and gears of literature. Collected here are Cortázar’s meditations on the short story, eroticism, realism vs the fantasy, and his own body of work. Julio Cortázar’s glittering imagination is matched by his linguistic finesse, combining to offer 1980’s students and 2017’s readers invaluable wisdom.


Along the River

Along the River
by Vanina Starkoff

Along the River features vibrant illustrations from Argentinian artist Vanina Starkoff, and depicts life on a Brazilian river. Boats of all shapes and sizes carry people of all backgrounds to all kinds of places. Day after day on the river teaches one to appreciate the journey over the destination.


Sympathy

Sympathy
by Olivia Sudjic

Cambridge graduate Olivia Sudjic has treated the world with a dark, thrilling first novel. Sympathy follows a twenty-something English woman in New York, who becomes fixated with a Japanese writer named Mizuko Himura, whose life strangely parallels her own. What follows is a brooding tale of obsession in the internet age, and a promising debut from a budding writer.


Home and Away

Home and Away
by Karl Ove Knausgaard & Fredrik Ekelund

Home and Away (Karl Ove Knausgaard & Fredrik Ekelund)

“So that is the basis for this book, isn’t it? Life versus death, yes versus no, Brazil versus Argentina.” During the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, Norwegian novelist Karl Ove Knausgaard and Swedish writer Fredrik Ekelund exchanged a correspondence covering the competition, politics, society, and the beautiful game as a whole.


Librairie Drawn & Quarterly links:

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


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

other Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week

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

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

Shorties (Read Two Leonora Carrington Short Stories, A New Chastity Belt Song, and more)

VICE shared short stories by Leonora Carrington, from her new collection The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington.


Stream a new Chastity Belt song.


eBooks on sale for $1.50 today:

After Disasters by Viet Dinh
The Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks by Donald Harington
We're All Damaged by Matthew Norman

eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

Band of Brothers by Stephen E. Ambrose
The Course of Love by Alain de Botton
Georgia O'Keefe: A Life by Roxana Robinson
Henry and June by Anais Nin
I'm Just a Person by Tig Notaro

eBooks on sale for $2.99 today:

Familiar by J. Robert Lennon
Hitch-22 by Christopher Hitchens
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
On Immunity by Eula Biss
Pieces for the Left Hand by J. Robert Lennon


Stream a new song by the Drums.


Kirkus Reviews interviewed author Deb Olin Unferth.


Jaime Wyatt visited World Cafe for an interview and live performance.


Publishers Weekly listed spring's most anticipated debut novels.


Stream a new Cayetana song.


The New England Review interviewed author Charles Johnson.


Stream a new song by Needles/Pins.


Huffington Post profiled author Jeffery Renard Allen.


Stream a new Made of Oak song.


Hazlitt interviewed author Darcie Wilder.


Stream a new Juliana Hatfield song, "Short-Fingered Man."


BuzzFeed shared an excerpt from Kristen Radtke’s graphic memoir, Imagine Wanting Only This.


KMUW profiled the band the Jayhawks.


Book Riot previewed April's best new graphic novels.


Paste interviewed Mount Eerie's Phil Elverum.


Author Sarah Gerard shared some things she is currently enjoying at Granta.


SPIN listed its favorite television soundtracks of all time.


Book Riot listed its favorite book covers of the year so far.


Giant Drag's Annie Hardy talked stye with Paste.


Time Out New York shared a literary walking tour of NYC.


Stream a new song by Oxbow.


Colum McCann on the poetry of Wendell Berry.


Aimee Mann talked songwriting with All Things Considered.


Jonathan Lethem talked to the New Yorker fiction podcast.


Fresh Air interviewed Against Me!'s Laura Jane Grace.


GQ profiled the band Future Islands.



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
WORD Bookstores Books of the Week (recommended new books)
weekly music release lists

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

April 4, 2017

Book Notes - Laura McNeal "The Practice House"

The Practice House

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.

Laura McNeal's The Practice House is a compelling historical novel.

Kirkus Reviews wrote of the book:

"The memorable characters, well-constructed setting, and beautiful prose make the novel shine. Dust, lust, and human drama rendered with sensitivity, depth, and breadth."


In her own words, here is Laura McNeal's Book Notes music playlist for her novel The Practice House:



The Practice House is an actual building that was constructed in Fallbrook, California in the 1930s to help teach high school girls what parents feared was a dying art: homemaking. The title of the novel also refers to every house the female characters live in as they try to obtain and keep their own homes and families--as they try to find and make their places in the world.

"Leaving of Liverpool" by The Pogues and Dan Zanes

When I started writing The Practice House 15 years ago, I was still singing to our boys at bedtime, the three of us in their shared bed lit only by a slice of light from the hall on a quilt my grandmother had made. I was drawn to cheerfully mournful ballads that I didn't realize were Irish drinking songs (one of those boys is in college now so perhaps the songs are coming in handy). I especially loved "Leaving of Liverpool" because of the way certain syllables have extra notes, drawing the pain up and out of you like a skipping stone. The Pogues do a zealous pub version, but the one that's like a brave homesick smile is by Dan Zanes.

So-o fare thee we-ell, my-y own true love
When I return united we will be
It's not the leaving of Liverpool
That grie-ieves me
But my darling when I think of thee.

Since my main character, Aldine McKenna, leaves Scotland for America in the 1930's, I initially gave her this song. When I pictured her singing it in an attic room in Kansas to 17-year-old Clarence Price, I always saw the quilt in half-darkness over my knees and my little boys' feet.


"Brian O'Linn" by Brendan Nolan

Because a book doesn't actually play the song for a reader, I needed lyrics that would help tell the story, not just a melody that would break your heart. I finally replaced "Leaving of Liverpool" with the darkly comic "Brian O'Linn," a ballad about making do when you have nothing, one with many verses like this:

Now Brian O'Linn to his house had no door
He'd the sky for a roof and the bog for a floor

He'd a way to jump out and a way to swim in
"Tis a fine habitation," says Brian O'Linn

That seemed right for a Scottish girl to sing when she's stranded in Dust Bowl Kansas, teaching in a one-room schoolhouse and living with a family that can't really afford to keep her. Aldine sings in a sweet soprano brogue, but I confess that my fantasy performance features Tom Waits and a piano that's been sitting in a barn for about a century.


"Loch Lomond" by Runrig

My husband and I were married in Alloway, Scotland for lots of reasons, but principally because I wanted (impossibly) to be married in a novel by Thomas Hardy and to live ever after in the 19th century. This was 1993 BI (Before Internet), so we couldn't preview the village, the church, the vicar, or the hotel for its 19th century credentials until we arrived two days before the ceremony. This led to a lot of amusing and fateful surprises, such as the music the hotel manager played on the sound system during our wedding dinner, which was one album after another by his favorite Scottish rock band, Runrig. During the pudding course, Runrig belted out "Loch Lomond," which is normally reverent and soulful, but this was a live version, so when a million passionate Scots joined in on the chorus and the drums kicked in, it was like "Ruby Tuesday" crossed with the Star-Spangled Banner. I fell completely in love with Scotland, Runrig, and "Loch Lomond," and when I needed a song for homesick Aldine to sing a capella for the Price family on one of her first nights in Dorland, Kansas, causing some to fall in love with her and some to set their hearts against her, it could only be this one:

Oh, ye'll tak' the high road, and I'll tak' the low road
And I'll be in Scotland before ye
But trouble it is there, and many hearts are sore
On the bonnie, bonnie banks o' Loch Lomond.


"O, for the Wings of a Dove" by Master Ernest Lough

An English choirboy named Ernest Lough became famous in 1927 for his gramophone rendition of Mendelssohn's prayer, which sold 316,000 copies in six months. People stood in long lines outside the Fleet Street, London, church where Lough sang on Sundays, and sometimes stood on their seats to see him:

O for the wings, for the wings of a dove!

Far away, far away would I rove!

In the wilderness build me a nest,

and remain there forever at rest.

Every time I hear any line of this song, which is so full of desperation and need, the world stops spinning for me. It's the kind of prayer that seems impossible to ignore, a form of communication that would pierce any heart. Aldine's performance of the song prompts someone to love her in a way that will always make her uneasy, and which gives her a secret she never tells. It also buys her a ticket to a place she hopes, correctly and incorrectly, will provide shelter and a nest—Dustbowl Kansas.


"We'll Go No More A-Roving" by Not Dark Yet

When I was an English teacher, I used to make my students choose a poem to memorize, and among the choices was Lord Byron's "We'll Go No More A-Roving." The canny students always saw immediately that it was the shortest poem with the simplest refrain, so they thought they were getting off lightly, but it's the kind of poem that once memorized can haunt you forever:

We'll go no more a-roving
So late into the night
Though the heart be still as loving
And the moon be still as bright

The sword outwears the sheath
The soul outwears out the breast
And the heart must pause to breathe
And love itself have rest.

Though the night was made for loving
And the day returns too soon
We'll go no more a-roving
By the light of the moon.

Clarence Price, who falls hopelessly in love with Aldine on the night of her arrival, has a better memory than most, but he's too besotted to recite the poem, and she has to finish it for him in the classroom. The words have been set to music and recorded by many people, including Joan Baez, but my favorite version is by a young Norwegian band call Not Dark Yet. They add just the right amount of spooky sorrow and youthfulness to the words—you can tell they're not old enough to really feel the pain of what they're saying, but the ache of nostalgia—the foregone conclusion of it—is still there in every word.


"Ain't We Got Fun" by Peggy Lee

I love music from the 1920s and 30s--the brittle, carefree, dance-y rhythms, the gigantic bands in the background, the scratchy recordings that are like beautiful furniture in a ruined, abandoned house. Perhaps the greatest expression of the era lies in the bitter cheer of "Ain't We Got Fun." Peggy Lee (who recorded the song much later, in 1959) can almost make you think she doesn't care at all when she sings:

Even though we owe the grocer
Ain't we got fun?
Tax collector's getting closer
Mmm . . . ain't we got fun!

But when you read the lines, when you can't hear her playful, chipper voice, there's nothing but sadness and reproach. Both things—the sadness and the cheer—are present in every story I read about Depression-era housewives, farmers, and children when I was writing The Practice House. People are never more lovable than when they're trying to put a good face on things for their families, when they're trying to save something or someone they deserve to save.


Laura McNeal and The Practice House links:

the author's website

Kirkus Reviews 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

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Shorties (The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction Shortlist, Sleater-Kinney's Dig Me Out Album Reconsidered, and more)

The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlist has been announced.

Stay With Me by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀̀
The Power by Naomi Alderman
The Dark Circle by Linda Grant
The Sport of Kings by C.E. Morgan
First Love by Gwendoline Riley
Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien


The A.V. Club reconsidered Sleater-Kinney's Dig Me Out album.


eBooks on sale for $1.50 today:

After Disasters by Viet Dinh
The Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks by Donald Harington
We're All Damaged by Matthew Norman

eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

Band of Brothers by Stephen E. Ambrose
The Course of Love by Alain de Botton
Georgia O'Keefe: A Life by Roxana Robinson
Henry and June by Anais Nin
I'm Just a Person by Tig Notaro

eBooks on sale for $2.99 today:

Familiar by J. Robert Lennon
Hitch-22 by Christopher Hitchens
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
On Immunity by Eula Biss
Pieces for the Left Hand by J. Robert Lennon


Out Magazine interviewed author Tommy Pico.


Aquarium Drunkard shared a playlist of songs featuring saxophonist Dudu Pukwana.


VICE profiled author Patricia Lockwood.


Stream a new At the Drive In song.


The Guardian Books podcast interviewed author George Saunders.


Stream a new Protomartyr song.


A translator discussed the challenges of translating the works of Agatha Christie into Icelandic at the Guardian.


Stream a new solo song by A Sunny Day in Glasgow's Jen Goma.


Vogue UK listed spring's must-read books.


Stream a new Beth Ditto song.


R.I.P., poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko.


Stream a new Melody's Echo Chamber song.


Flavorwire interviewed author Jessa Crispin.


Stream a new Bjork video.


Vox interviewed author Roxane Gay.


The Village Voice profiled singer-songwriter Craig Finn.


PEN interviewed author Rion Amilcar Scott.


Carl Newman talked to Salon about the new New Pornographers album.


The Chicago Review of Books interviewed author Jonathan Lethem.


Joyce Carol Oates examined the fiction of Mary Miller at the New York Review of Books.


Mayte Garcia talked to Morning Edition about her book The Most Beautiful: My Life with Prince.


The Brooklyn Rail interviewed author Jonathan Lee.


Paste listed March's best albums.


The Arkansas International interviewed author Sarah Gerard.


The Verge examined how the Roland TR-808 drum machine changed music.


Vol. 1 Brooklyn and VICE previewed April's best new books.



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
WORD Bookstores Books of the Week (recommended new books)
weekly music release lists

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

April 3, 2017

Book Notes - Lance Olsen "Dreamlives of Debris"

Dreamlives of Debris

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.

Lance Olsen's new novel Dreamlives of Debris is a marvelously inventive retelling of the Minotaur myth.

Kirkus Reviews wrote of the book:

"Olsen frequently heads into challenging territory, whether through the juxtaposition of current events with revisionist takes on mythology or through the haunting, fragmented manner in which the story plays out. A reference late in the novel to the work of filmmakers Werner Herzog and David Lynch suggests that not all of Olsen’s aesthetic reference points are literary, and it also suggests a larger structure in which experimental techniques are used to achieve a deeper emotional truth. In this way, the novel manages to be simultaneously experimental and accessible."


In his own words, here is Lance Olsen's Book Notes music playlist for his novel Dreamlives of Debris:



Dreamlives of Debris retells the Minotaur myth — only here we're not talking about a monster with bull's head and human's body, but rather a little deformed girl whose parents hide her away at birth in the labyrinth beneath Knossos.

She calls herself Debris, and can hear/see/feel the thoughts, memories, desires, pasts and futures of others throughout history, from Herodotus and Silk route traders to Derrida and Edward Snowden.

The problem is Debris can't control those voices speaking through her. She's both a kind of living instrument through which time rushes and an emblem for lived experience, in which temporality often feels like a fury of abrupt slaps.

Dreamlives is part speculative fiction, part horror, part nonfiction, part love story, part myth, all narrative experiment, which is to say it requires a pretty outré playlist …


"Dreamlives of Debris" by Karen Power & Lance Olsen

A collaboration between Irish composer/sound artist Karen Power and me that combines lines from Dreamlives with an experiment in aurality (using, in good part, hi-sensitivity recordings from the World War Two bunkers that exist beneath Berlin — you can hear them breathing) in which we asked ourselves: What would a sonic labyrinth sound like? It premiered in Berlin in March, 2016, and was recently featured on Irish radio — Bernard Clarke's Nova, on RTE Lyric; we come in at about 1:33:30.


"Kokhlos" by Gene Coleman & Lance Olsen

Part of a second and much larger collaboration between Philadelphia-based composer Gene Coleman and me: an opera-in-progress for voice and electronics based on Dreamlives. Here Debris is a bass baritone (the extraordinary Nicholas Isherwood), and the project an investigation, among other things, into integrating various cultural sources, from Japanese Bunraku theater to manga, Monteverdi's operas, and neuroscience research. "Kokhlos," by the way, refers to the inner part of the ear — a kind of auditory labyrinth. It has been performed in the U.S., Europe, and New Zealand.


"Homeric Singing" by Georg Danek & Stefan Hagel

Danek and Hagel are a pair of Austrian musicologists who have researched and tried to imagine what ancient Greek music — the kind performed at roughly the same time the events in Dreamlives unfold — sounded like. The result here uses excerpts from The Odyssey.

http://www.oeaw.ac.at/kal/sh/


"The Future" by Leonard Cohen

Think of this track (one of my favorites by Cohen, whom I miss every day) as the color of mood in Dreamlives, rich with gorgeous lines Debris could have spoken and I wish I'd written — "It's lonely here / There's no one left to torture"; "The blizzard, the blizzard of the world / Has crossed the threshold"; "I've seen the future, baby: It is murder."


"It's the End of the World as We Know It" by R.E.M.

Debris learns it's always the end of the world as we know it, every hour, every minute, every second, and if you could compress Dreamlives of Debris into four words, it would be this line from R.E.M.'s song: "Listen to yourself churn."


"Exit Music" by Radiohead

As you can probably tell by now, I'm drawn to retellings — like this one, which recasts Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet. Our culture has always felt retelling essential to the act of knowing. Virgil retells the Odyssey, as does James Joyce, while Robert Coover retells various fairy tales, and so on.

Through retellings we un-tell, compose our present rather than simply perpetuating someone else's past, interrogate the assumptions of received narratives and recast them so they continue to mean for us.

"Scary Monsters" by David Bowie

David Bowie has been a tremendous influence on me, both for his continual challenge to continue innovating, and for his embrace of the thematically and aurally monstrous. Debris, like Bowie's others, isn't fearsome, so much as hurt, enraged, vulnerable, brilliant, frightened, and, finally, loveable — all of which is to say heart-hammeringly human.


"Science Fiction/Double Feature" by Richard O'Brien (Rocky Horror Picture Show)

Speaking of terratoids, I've been obsessed with cultural notions of monstrosity since I got addicted to horror and science fiction films as a kid. I often respond much more profoundly to the Frankensteins, Mothras, Aliens, and, yes, all the other sweet transvestites from Transexual, Transylvania, than I do to the so-called normatives in those flicks.

Another way of saying this: most of us wear our "monsters" on the inside. Debris — like those representations of radical otherness — is just like us, only more so: she wears her insides on her outside.


"Into the Strange" by Kathy Acker and The Mekons

I learned so much from Kathy Acker over the few years I got to know her a little before her death in 1997, and I love her own version of opera in her collaboration with The Mekons. This track functions as marker of a different impulse in Dreamlives: to gender the idea of monstrosity, my decision to make Debris a little girl, so I could explore the ways in which our culture has conceptualized the feminine as atrocity in order to contain and silence it in various social labyrinths beneath the polis.


"5 & ½ Hallway" by Poe

Poe (named after Edgar Allan, which is to say after the gothic) is Mark Danielewski's musician sister, who wrote the album Haunted to converse with Danielewski's House of Leaves. One of his questions in that book intrigued me: How does one not only write a novel, but build one? It's stayed with me through a number of my novels since I first encountered it, including Head in Flames, Theories of Forgetting, and now Dreamlives of Debris.

Something else House of Leaves invited me to consider is the idea of architecture as a kind of literature, literature as a kind of architecture. In Dreamlives, I wanted the protagonist's deformation to be echoed by the infinite space she inhabits (Freud tells us our houses are extensions of our selves) — an impossible liquid architecture that bears no center and hence no discernable perimeter.

"Revolution 9" by The Beatles

I was twelve when I first heard this one on the White Album (shortly after, through a cousin invested in eccentric sonics, I was introduced to Frank Zappa's, John Cage's, and Luciano Berio's work), and ever since I've been trying to rethink what we once called fiction in ways analogous to how this sound experiment rethinks what we once called music.


"Finnegans Wake" by James Joyce

By way of conclusion: a 1929 recording of Joyce reading from the Anna Livia Plurabelle section of what would become Finnegans Wake — a passage proving language is always music, and vice versa.

When beginning a new work, I ask myself what its guiding metaphor is and follow that down from overarching structure to grammar, syntax, word choice, and punctuation — the musical notation of the sentence.

The central metaphor in Dreamlives is the labyrinth, every page a perfect square loud with white space. Each represents a different room in Debris' house. And each arrives without a number, so it's easy (I hope) to become disoriented, lost, as a reader, just as Debris and her victims become disoriented, lost at the level of character.

Because my novel arrives with no conventional location markers, the reader may feel a little freer to jump around, begin to think of reading as a mode of choreography, a way of being in the world, taking various paths as the mood strikes, for as long as the mood strikes, then perhaps wandering off in a different direction.


Lance Olsen and Dreamlives of Debris links:

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

Kirkus Reviews review
Publishers Weekly review

Largehearted Boy Book Notes playlist by the author for [[ there.. ]]
Largehearted Boy Book Notes playlist by the author for Theories of Forgetting
Vol. 1 Brooklyn interview with the author
Welcome to Literary Ashland 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

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

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