May 31, 2017

Book Notes - Paul Youngquist "A Pure Solar World: Sun Ra and the Birth of Afrofuturism"

A Pure Solar World: Sun Ra and the Birth of Afrofuturism

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.

Paul Youngquist's book A Pure Solar World is a fascinating exploration into the life, music, and legacy of Sun Ra.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"An academic specializing in literature and cultural studies, Youngquist presents a critical analysis of Ra's life and work that expounds on the poetry and Afrocentric mythology Ra created in order to show how Ra laid the groundwork for what became Afrofuturism. Through Youngquist's appreciation of the joyful noise Sun Ra gifted to this planet during his brief visit, readers will surely be inspired to explore Ra’s extensive catalog."


In his own words, here is Paul Youngquist's Book Notes music playlist for his book A Pure Solar World: Sun Ra and the Birth of Afrofuturism:



I listened to a lot of Sun Ra and his various Arkestras while writing A Pure Solar World: Sun Ra and the Birth of Afrofuturism. I've produced a playlist, however, without a single track from their endless discography. I hope you'll explore that on your own. This playlist tells the sonic backstory of A Pure Solar World. It combines music that influenced Sun Ra with music he influenced to convey a sense of the tonal vistas he traversed as he travelled the spaceways. Maybe it's just an alibi for the impossible: writing about music. I'm the first to admit that such writing can feel beside the point. Sound resists sense. Music eats words. The perfect book about music would be one that, when opened, simply played—which I guess is how a playlist works. If so, this playlist might function as an ambient narrative. That's what I'm after here, sonic fiction to intensify all those words in A Pure Solar World. Never mind the cultural problem of being a white guy writing about a black musician, an impossible problem really. Whitey doesn't have the chops to keep up musically. Not this whitey. So whitey writes. But like Sun Ra says, "the possible has been tried. It's time to try the impossible."

Sometimes I wonder how I came to love Sun Ra's music. A preacher's kid from St. Paul, Minnesota, I'm about as hip as Velveeta cheese. But I realize now that certain sounds prepped me for the arrival, in my square world, of the visitor from Saturn. The tsunami sound of MC5, for instance, opened otherworldly vistas. The last track on the band's debut recording, Kick Out the Jams (1969), planted an alien flag that would unfurl in my head. "Starship" is much more than a rock-n-roll tribute to Sun Ra. It takes white-boy overdrive down strange celestial roads, turning distortion into a vehicle for space exploration. Feedback soon dwindles into vocal sighs and electronic chatter, creating an open space beyond four-four time that darkens and warps into prophecy: the spoken word of a Sun Ra poem ("There is a land where the sun shines eternally, / Eternally eternal / Out in outer space"). In 1969 Sun Ra and the Arkestra would perform twice in Detroit on the same bill as MC5, a conjunction of stars I was much too young to witness. But their sounds lit the way to infinity. FM radio beamed other influences too, secrets of the sun: Earth, Wind, and Fire's 1975 number one hit, "Shining Star," for instance, whose title was not its sole solar credential. Unknown to me at the time, the popular funk band owed its origin to the Arkestra. Among its members were players from Chicago's Artistic Heritage Ensemble, founded by an early Arkestra alum, trumpeter Phil Cohran,. "Born a man child of the sun," as the song goes: I now hear Sun Ra way back in the mix.

Sun Ra landed in Chicago in 1946. He was Herman Poole Blount then, "Sonny" for short. The city, among the most segregated in America, was awash in music. If you hustled, you could make a living on the South Side as a player. That's how this Alabama born alien spent his early days. But what do I know of Chicago? Little beyond its music. I've stitched together a phantasmal backdrop to his early efforts, a tapestry of Chicago sounds. Mahalia Jackson was in the air, however uninspiring her Christian message to Sonny's ears. Her glorious rendering of "His Eye Is on the Sparrow" channels a spiritual intensity that can be contested but not denied. I won't argue for its influence on Sonny's later music, but I will note that "Song of the Sparer" from Outer Spaceways Incorporated alludes to the sparrow ("sparer" with a southern accent) as a vehicle for astral travels. Sonny found a more direct and terrestrial influence in the country blues of Lil Green, for whom he worked as piano player and arranger for a year in the mid 1940s. "Why Don't You Do Right?" was her big hit: "Get out of here and get me some money too." Lil didn't fuck around. Neither did Chicago. It would break you if you let it. McKinley Morganfield, better known as Muddy Waters, provides another instance of its sounds—as he should. He perfected the Chicago Blues. In "Honey Bee," he creates the blues equivalent of free jazz dissonance. Listen as he assaults that Telecaster with his slide. Its shriek rips a passage to some carnal heaven. Chicago sounds transfigure spirit into flesh.

Those sounds inspire happiness too. That's how Sun Ra defined jazz: happiness. What happier music than swing? Maybe it kills whatever cool I could claim, but swing makes me smile. It's the music Sun Ra heard first in hometown Birmingham, and he made it a perennial idiom. Over the course his long career, he never stopped playing it. Fortune favored Sonny in Chicago. In the mid-forties, the great Fletcher Henderson was playing an extended gig at Club De Lisa, and he needed a rehearsal pianist. Sonny fit the bill. He revered Henderson for the precision playing of his ensemble, its disciplined fidelity to arrangement and rhythm. "Precision-discipline" would become a catch phrase for the Arkestra's craft. You can hear how it sounds on Henderson's 1933 recording of "Yeah Man!," a tune that entered the Arkestra's book early and never disappeared. The Henderson orchestra plays in crisp sections over the perfect pulse of piano and bass, soloists blowing sleek lines up above. Later Arkestra renditions of "Yeah Man!" can get raucous, but they never forsake Henderson's trademark coherence. A band like Billy Eckstine's ups the rhythmic ante even further. "Love Me or Leave Me" (1944) provides a happy example that owes everything to rhythms building relentlessly from chorus to chorus. Sonny listened and learned. He innovated too, transforming the piano's role in the swing ensemble from metronome to meteor, cutting a path across orchestrated skies. In this he owes much to Thelonious Monk's strange combination of angularity and stress. Monk doesn't swing. He struts, treating the beat like a law of nature that his harmonies shun, as on "Misterioso" (1958). In walks Ra: "some call me Mr. Ra, others call me Mr. Ree. You can call me Mr. Mystery." Sonny's piano propels swing to higher musical spheres.

Sun Ra used music to explore the cosmos. When I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut too. It was the Space Age, after all. I felt the pull of outer space, the pulse of alien skies. As America prepared to hurl a man into orbit through the combined powers of technology and democracy, popular culture evolved a snappy soundtrack for technocratic fantasies: exotica. With rocketry shooting the moon and decolonization transforming the globe, pop music took up the dual task of orchestrating the Space Age and exoticizing alien cultures. Exotica (since rebranded as Space Age Bachelor Pad Music) crossed cocktails with sultry rhythms, gingham with unctuous strings, and created sounds to lounge by—preferably with a hottie on the couch. Les Baxter, Martin Denny, Esquivel: these were names for necking, maybe dancing a little too—with the clear conscience that comes with knowing that the only thing alien about this music was the ersatz savage on the record jacket (usually a white chick in a wee bikini). Sun Ra took full musical advantage of the idiom. It inspires the ambient shimmer and dark rhythms of numerous early Arkestra recordings. Martin Denny's "Jungle Flower" from his aptly named Exotica LP (1957) provides a luscious example: chunky piano over lumbering congas under twinkling chimes punctuated (it's the jungle) by uncanny (possibly animal?) cries. Repurposing such sounds for liftoff was a simple matter of citation: change "jungle" to "space" and exotica blasts off, as on Les Baxter's otherwise pretty terrestrial LP, Space Escapade, whose tracks bear titles like "A Distant Star," "Winds of Sirius," and "The Other Side of the Moon." "Saturday Night on Saturn," in spite of stabbing strings and hipster congas, approaches Sun Ra perihelion in its bold, cycling bass line and jagged brass. Space Age exotica reaches sublime heights, however, in Russ Garcia's 1958 LP Fantastica, which mixes electronic with traditional instruments to create sounds that anticipate Sun Ra's Mini Moog explorations. "Red Sands of Mars" is a spare and spooky track. It opens with a drone of (obviously) extraterrestrial origin that crash-lands on a Martian soundscape: drifting flute, sinewy oboe, and harmonized horns over interplanetary congas. This is Space Age Bachelor Pad music worthy of the lifelong Space Age bachelor Sun Ra.

Sun Ra and the Arkestra moved from Chicago to New York in 1961, seeking an audience for their innovative music. They stayed for most of the decade. I was a child during the sixties, and for me New York existed only on TV, the place where the evening news originated, beaming its images into my Midwestern home: a belly shot Lee Harvey Oswald, bleeding Viet Cong, brutalized southern blacks, a row of men in sport coats on the balcony of a Memphis motel, pointing upward. A new spirit animated the Arkestra in New York, bringing openness, intensity, and improvisatory elan to rehearsal and performance. A political insistence set in too, oblique but indignant. Sun Ra broadcast a subversive message for black people: forsake the cage called America, look to the Cosmos, and seek a better world. He composed space music to defy sonic and social prejudice. Its sound channels similar acts of musical insubordination, and New York was full of them. John Coltrane recorded "Alabama" live at Birdland in 1963 to commemorate four young black girls killed by a Ku Klux Klan bombing in Birmingham. Coltrane's saxophone intones a solemn invocation, sustained by McCoy Tyner's trembling piano: an auditory epitaph. Only music can extenuate a deed so senseless, so stupid, so corrupt. The work of Archie Shepp, another tenor player, adds indignation to consolation. His strident 1965 recording entitled "Rufus (Swung His Face At Last To The Wind, Then His Neck Snapped)" eschews forgiveness. Its strangled phrases rage against the violence blacks experience everywhere, every day. "Hear me," his saxophone screams. "In the name of this tortured sound, stop the persecution." Albert Ayler goes one step further, summoning spirits to redress injustice. His composition "Ghosts," from the 1964 LP Spiritual Unity, conjures restitution for black suffering. Only spirit can bequeath it. A hymn-like melody gives way to harrowing evocation: guttural growls, plangent squeals, freakish transients crying the spirit home: "we are ghosts, living and dead." Sun Ra heard such judgments in the music suffusing in New York. He responded with openness and improvisation, space music for a better tomorrow.

Sun Ra and the Arkestra traveled the spaceways through the seventies, eighties, and nineties, down to the present. Contrails of their explorations still hang in the black sky, signage for new worlds. I came late to those astral sounds, long after I left St. Paul to attend grad school back east (as they say in Minnesota), where I somehow discovered Sun Ra. Or perhaps he discovered me, becoming in a profound sense my teacher. Like the best teachers, he changed my life. He'll change yours too, if you listen with an open heart to the happy music he made with his various Arkestras. Many are their musical legacies, too many to notice here, but a few deserve mention. Chicago remains the place of Sun Ra's greatest influence. The Arkestra transformed that highly segregated place into an open space of experimentation. It continues in the street-wise cacophonies of The Art Ensemble of Chicago, a mobile laboratory for sound reinvention that grew out of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. The Art Ensemble took the Arkestra's space explorations to the streets with rowdy Afro-surreal assaults on conventional tones, times, and timbres. Then, like the Arkestra, they took Chicago to the world. In 1974 they recorded Fanfare for the Warriors, whose title track shows the Arkestra's sidereal touch in its superheated ensemble screams, but the clarity of its solos, buttressed by a flirtatious bass, keeps everything grounded. Art Ensemble as Earth Arkestra? Not really, but the band illuminates Sun Ra's more terrestrial possibilities. These acquire a Life of Their Own and ravage the planet in the alien-invader funk of George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic. Clinton pirates Sun Ra's space machine and lands a band of extraterrestrial brothers back on Earth. He strips down the Arkestra's polyrhythmic probing—it's all about the one, after all—and retrofits infinity to funk. The Mothership flies much lower than the Arkestra, but works its tellurian magic to surprising effect. "Unfunky UFO" (dig Bootsy's concussive bass) provides hope where it's not expected: "You've got all that is really needed / To save a dying world from its funklessness." It's the Arkestra as accidental funk engine, unexpected vehicle of earthly delight. Sun Ra approves, flattering the flatterer with the groove heavy "UFO" from his 1979 LP On Jupiter. When space music meets funk, planets align. But funking things up might not be Sun Ra's most luminous legacy. His greatest heirs and innovators practice an ars electronica. Sun Ra's singular achievement on synthesizer—Mini Moog and cousin keyboards—inspires electronic explorations of thrilling audacity. The work of Ras G and the African Space Program (aka Gregory Shorter, Jr.) sets a high standard for sonic density and disturbance. He openly claims a solar lineage in the way he titles his recordings: Ghetto Scifi (2008), I of the Cosmos (2008), Alternate Destiny (2010), Spacebase is the Place (2011), Back on the Planet (2013), Other Worlds (2015). On the track called "Back on the Planet" from the CD of the same name, Ras G eschews music in any conventional sense in order to cast and carve sound. Intense, compressed jags of electronic noise build over a blistering beat punctuated by spoken phrases ("it's a whole 'nother world up here") and unearthly drones. This is the space Sun Ra and the Arkestra flew through first. Its most daring cartographer, master navigator of infinite sounds, is Jamal Moss, better known as Hieroglyphic Being. Everything he produces honors the master. It's pointless to list titles. They all orbit the sun. Hieroglyphic Being charts space in multiple dimensions, creating "beta music for beta people," as Sun Ra would say. Some work gestures toward lost histories to remediate a soulless present, as with The Disco's of Imhotep (2016). Other work makes bold crossings from digital to analog worlds and back. An exhilarating instance appears on a recording with the J.I.T.U Ahn-Sam-Buhl entitled We Are Not the First (2015). Marshall Allen, the old Arkestra stalwart, appears with Heiroglyphic Being and a host of other great players to create a series of auditory provocations. "Fuck the Ghetto, Think About Outer Space" answers social crisis with music in a way only Sun Ra could inspire. It dares listeners to listen better, to hear spirit where only misery prevails.

Or seems to. Learn the lesson. Think about outer space. Travel the spaceways.


Paul Youngquist and A Pure Solar World: Sun Ra and the Birth of Afrofuturism links:

excerpt from the book
video trailer for the book

Booklist review
The Free Jazz Collective review
PopMatters review
Public Seminar review

VICE 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

Largehearted Boy's 2017 Summer Reading Suggestions

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





May 31, 2017

Book Notes - Stephanie Powell Watts "No One Is Coming to Save Us"

No One Is Coming to Save Us

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.

Stephanie Powell Watts' debut novel No One Is Coming to Save Us is a brilliant reimagining of The Great Gatsby set in rural North Carolina.

The New York Times wrote of the book:

"Watts writes about ordinary people leading ordinary lives with an extraordinary level of empathy and attention...The novel's intricately plotted relationships pay off satisfyingly in its final chapters."


In her own words, here is Stephanie Powell Watts' Book Notes music playlist for her novel No One Is Coming to Save Us:



No One Is Coming to Save Us is the story of Sylvia, her daughter Ava, Sylvia’s sister Lana and the men they try to build their lives with in rural North Carolina. Into this setting reappears JJ Ferguson, an old love of Ava’s whose mission is to try to convince Ava to reboot and start a new life with him. The characters live in a once thriving factory town, where most of its residents work elsewhere or not at all. The story is in conversation with The Great Gatsby in that there are characters desperately trying to move up in the world and grab hold of their piece of the American dream. My novel is not a retelling of that story, but another version of the struggle to transcend class, break free from the past, and start again, all told from America’s cheap seats. I’ve chosen mostly old songs, R & B jams from the seventies and eighties to navigate the story. At the heart of No One is Sylvia’s thinking, her hopes, and for the most part, the songs I’ve chosen would have been the background music for her young adulthood.


“Fire and Desire" by Rick James and Tina Marie

This song thrilled me when I first heard it. It starts in that way that many old R & B jams start with the singer talking not singing. When I was a kid I’d sit up like a meerkat if I heard the singer start talking, like he or she was in the room with me and needed me to know something vital, like a voice from the beyond, like a friend who could not risk me misunderstanding what he or she might sing. In this case Rick James and Tina Marie have met after some time apart, they exchange pleasantries and then begin singing about their old love affair and what they learned from each other that they will carry into their subsequent relationships and into the rest of their lives. Rick James could sing and not just about Mary Jane! If you just know him from Super Freak, you are missing it. My characters all have these moments when they are reaching for a past and a moment that they know in their bones is gone. They talk together and sit together not always hoping to rekindle a passion, but just to feel some of the warmth of that old fire. Reliving that past, understanding what you know now because you lived it, is a deeply satisfying and emotional moment. What my characters learn, what we all learn is those moments are not engines (they transport but do not propel), but fires—warm yourself and keep it moving. You should listen to this song without irony. That’s important. The emotions are so concentrated you might be tempted to discount them, but the intensity is intentional. Like the best gospel music, this song offers you a moment to grieve and wail and lament without self-censorship. Take it.


“If You Think You’re Lonely Now" by Bobby Womack

You see tonight's the night when the needs come out

When your needs come out to breathe

And you toast the stars and there ain't no way you can sleep

Bobby Womack kills this song. There are few lyrics, just a steady chorus of background singers almost chanting “if you think you’re lonely now,” while Bobby screams and growls and wails his insistence that the pain is coming and you won’t will it or wish it or pray it away. Sylvia works full time at a decent job; she sees her daughter often; she talks several times a day to her sister; but the nights are lonely and remind her of the many ghosts she is trying to ignore. She tries to avoid the darkness, but the night always comes.


“Beautiful Ones" by Prince

Prince is pleading at the end of this song, “Do you want him or do you want me!” That’s the bottom line question in every love triangle. But what makes the song genius for me is Prince’s vulnerability. His passion is not fueled by anger, though he is screaming through the limits of his voice, but by need and desire. My characters need so much, but they are afraid if they scream they will not be heard or worse ignored. If you say nothing and are ignored, well, you can survive the indignity that nobody thought enough of you to ask, but if you speak the fullness of your heart and no damn body cares, how do you survive that? Prince finally declares at the end of the song, “I want you. Yes, I do.” All of my characters have their “beautiful ones” moment when they face the thing they’ve been avoiding or ducking or trying to minimize. In a tension-filled moment in my story, JJ Ferguson has to face the memory of his family, the loss of his mother and sister, the guilt and shame of his father. In melodrama, characters are mute and pawns of circumstance. My characters are desperate to step into their own stories and finally say what needs to be said.


“Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair” by Nina Simone

Nina Simone is from North Carolina as am I, but I was in my late twenties before I heard her voice. I heard her for the first time when I was trying to find a decent radio station on a long driving trip. I had to pull the car over. I love her version of this folk song because the lyrics are simple but there are worlds of meaning: a black, dark-skinned woman, singing the word black over and over, singing about loving hair, singing into being the idea of a unity in love that goes beyond sexual unity. This is a fantastic version. My characters are all trying to figure out their place in a racial landscape that has changed dramatically (though not always definitively) in a short period. When every word and gesture is laden with meaning even something as innocuous as the simple words in a folk song can take on outsized meaning.


“Our Town" by Iris Dement

And you know the sun's settin' fast

And just like they say nothing good ever lasts

Well, go on now and kiss it goodbye but hold on to your lover

'Cause your heart's bound to die

Go on now and say goodbye to our town, to our town

Can't you see the sun's settin' down on our town, on our town

Goodnight

The fictional town of Pinewood has seen the closing of most of the furniture factories-- the town’s main employer. Rather than think about an uncertain future of the town, the people look to the past and the stories of the past for comfort. Nostalgia is always a Band Aid, but is no cure. This is a sad, sad, song sung with Dement’s hardened, dead-eyed, young girl lilt. I love the way she twangs around the lyrics like she’s talking about making fruit preserves instead of witnessing apocalypse. It is the end of the world or at least the end of her world—which is, of course, the same thing.


“Take a Chance on Me" by ABBA

When this song comes on the radio, it is such a treat. I love the harmony. I love the contrast of the women’s voices and the awful plea they make. The singers affirm a resolute desire to be waiting for the slightest change of heart of the lover. This heartbreak is not pitiful, but is no less real or meaningful. My characters understand the idea of using what you have, surviving and even living a little despite unrequited desires. You put on the good face. You make do. You look like you are fine while you are doing it.


“Betcha By Golly Wow" by Stylistics

“Betcha by golly wow, you’re the one that I’ve been waiting for, forever.”

I learned irony from thirty years of watching David Letterman and for that I am deeply grateful. But there are some moments that are sappy and ridiculous and completely true and free of irony. JJ Ferguson is a forty year old, black man with a troubled and tragic past and he has figured out some way to manage to believe in miracles or at least to try to believe that the most unlikely event could happen to him. At least he believes enough to try.


“Where is the Love?” by Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway

Where is the love,
You said was mine all mine, till the end of time

Was it just a lie

Where is the love

I love the phrasing of this song. The accusations, the pain come through in the question ‘was it just a lie.” Isn’t that question at the heart of every love gone wrong story in the world? Did you ever even love me? My characters sidestep this question. What good can come from knowing that you have been clowned again, the butt of the joke? That doesn’t mean they don’t feel this question. That doesn’t meant they wouldn’t give good money to know the truth of it.


“I’ll be Around" by Spinners

The song starts “This is my fork in the road. Love’s last episode. There’s nowhere to go.” I have loved this song since I was a very young kid listening to my mother play (loudly) Spinners records to wake us up in the morning. The singer tells his lover who has chosen someone over him that he will “bow out gracefully” from his/her life but he will always be a phone call away. This song manages to sound wistful and loving and not stalker-y. If you couldn’t make out the words in this song you might image that it was a joyful, smooth groove, a song to hand dance to. But you know this dude is cracking up inside, dying, but he’s almost breezy and light in his insistence that he’ll be around. The most obvious connection to my novel is JJ’s love for Ava and the return to her that is the driving force for the story. However, Sylvia loves her difficult husband and despite how it might look he loves her too. They are permanent parts of each other’s lives and they both realize it. In fact, all of the characters have ghost lives that intrude on their everyday living. The trick is not to appease the ghosts but to acknowledge them. Tip the hat to the ghosts, occasionally shake a hand, they ain’t going nowhere so best to get used to them. I wish every relationship felt mutually gratifying and safe. I wish we all got what we needed when we want it. But for most of us, love is a process, and a series of accommodations and compromises. Would that it weren’t. But we shouldn’t be sad for that. Life means getting yet another chance.


Stephanie Powell Watts and No One Is Coming to Save Us links:

the author's website
the author's Wikipedia entry

Dallas Morning News review
Kirkus Reviews review
New York Times review
Publishers Weekly review
St. Louis Post-Dispatch review
TIME review
USA Today review
Washington Post review

All Things Considered interview with the author
Durham Herald Sun profile of the author
Vol. 1 Brooklyn 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

Largehearted Boy's 2017 Summer Reading Suggestions

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

Shorties (The Legacy of One Hundred Years of Solitude, Summer's Best Music Books, and more)

Newsweek examined the cultural legacy of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's novel One Hundred Years of Solitude.


The New York Times recommended summer's best music books.


Hazlitt interviewed author Elizabeth Strout.


The A.V. Club previewed June's music releases.


Al Franken talked to Fresh Air about his new book Giant in the Senate.


Diablo Cody is writing a musical based on Alanis Morissette’s album Jagged Little Pill.


Literary Hub and Salon remembered author Denis Johnson.


Paste listed the best television theme songs of all time.


Literary Hub recommended June's best new books.


Stereogum interviewed Adrianne Lenker of the band Big Thief.


Tin House shared an excerpt from Chavisa Woods' short story collection Things To Do When You’re Goth In the Country.


Stream a new song by The Drums.


CarolineLeavittville interviewed author Stephen O'Connor .


BARB interviewed author Fiona Maazel.


The Oxford American shared an excerpt from Jesmyn Ward's forthcoming novel Sing, Unburied, Sing.


Chris Kraus shared her love for Eileen Myles' debut novel Cool for You at Literary Hub.


Momus walked The Quietus through his music and literary career.


n+1 shared an excerpt from Francesco Pacifico's novel Class.


The Afghan Whigs covered the Allman Brothers Band's "Melissa."


The Library of America reexamined the 1972 film adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut's novel Slaughterhouse-Five.


BrooklynVegan interviewed singer-songwriter Nicole Atkins.


Literary Hub shared an excerpt from Jonathan Gould's book Otis Redding: An Unfinished Life.


Stream a new Ratboys song.


The Millions examined the economics behind literary magazines.


Walter Martin talked about his music gear with Baeble.


Samantha Irby talked to Literary Hub about her essay collection We Are Never Meeting in Real Life.


Members of Alt-J talked to All Things Considered about the band's new album Relaxer.


Tin House interviewed author Andrew Ervin about his book Bit by Bit: How Video Games Transformed Our World.


The Guardian listed ten of the best songs by The The.


The Guardian recommended books about Weimar and Nazi Berlin.


Stereogum is streaming the new Art Contest album Two Songs.


The A.V. Club shared an excerpt from Jillian Tamaki's new comics collection Boundless.


PopMatters interviewed members of the band Son Lux.


The Big Issue profiled author Richard Ford.


Stream a new song by The Fall.


Paste interviewed cartoonist Elise Gravel.


The Independent profiled singer-songwriter Joan Shelley.


Poets & Writers features a new essay on writing by Megan Stielstra.


Stream a new Ladi6 song.


eBooks on sale for $1.50 today:

My Mother Was Nuts by Penny Marshall

eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi Durrow
Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
Life at the Dakota: New York's Most Unusual Address by Stephen Birmingham
Orient by Christopher Bollen
The Private Life of Mrs Sharma by Ratika Kapur
Robert Plant: A Life by Paul Rees
The Son by Philipp Meyer
The Universal Baseball Association Inc. by Robert Coover
The Virginity of Famous Men by Christine Sneed
Wicked by Gregory Maguire

eBooks on sale for $2.99 today:

Cutting Teeth by Julia Fierro
Erasure by Percival Everett
The Gueniveres by Sarah Domet
Notes from No Man's Land by Eula Biss



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

May 30, 2017

Book Notes - Courtney Maum "Touch"

Touch

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.

Courtney Maum's Touch is a smart, funny, and insightful novel about our culture of connectedness.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"...Maum’s incisive, charming, and funny novel ebulliently champions the healing powers of touch, the living world, and love in all its crazy risks, surprises, and sustaining radiance."


In her own words, here is Courtney Maum's Book Notes music playlist for her novel Touch:



I don't listen to music while I write or edit. In fact, I work in totalitarian silence—my husband jokes that he wants to get a "Beware: Angry Dog" song for my closed door when I'm writing because I get prickly when I'm interrupted from something I'm really focused on. But when I'm away from my desk, music is a really important outlet for me, and definitely part of the creative writing and revising process. If I'm listening to music, it's either because I'm driving alone, which is when I tend to get some of my best creative thinking done, or because I'm doing some kind of physical activity—either running, or dancing in my living room, celebrating a good writing day or just trying to shake off some stress. This might be an uneven playlist because I listen to some pretty cheesy music when I run!

Octet "Blind Repetition"
This is a song I listened to a lot in 2004 when I still lived in Paris, and I sort of re-discovered it this past year and listened to it all the time when I was driving. It starts with these sputtering RJD2, computer-booting-up type sounds laid under this minor arpeggio that sounds naïve and simple, but then the main melody kicks in, and it is so sad and filled with such yearning—whenever I hear this song, I think of a closed-up person's desire to connect, to be someone who can make emotional connections. It reminded me of what I was going for with Touch's main character, Sloane, a futurist who is really famous, and completely on top of everything "game changing" that's happening in the tech world, but she's also completely alone.

Ratatat "Abrasive"
Oh, how I love this song! I've been a huge fan of Ratatat since the early 2000s. (They have the best live shows, full stop.) This particular song has such control to it, it's almost Bach-ian, but you can just feel the joy and excitement yearning to break through, which of course, it does. This is the song I heard in my head when my main character decided to go rogue.

The Killers "Human"
I'm pretty old fashioned with the way I listen to music. I've never downloaded a single song to my iPhone. I still use my 2005 iPod, especially when I run. But because my ancient iPod isn't compatible with my computer, I can't put new music on it. So I listen to Pandora sometimes, the free version with the annoying ads. I'm in a beginner's polo league that plays on Wednesday nights, and The Killers was the Pandora station I'd listen en route to my coached games. "Human" would always come on, and the line "When the call came down the line" always got me excited—I'd picture myself being "on the line," which in polo, means you're the next one in line for the ball, in case your teammate misses it. This song always gets me psyched up for my matches, and it kind of bled into my writing process, too, over the last year. It became a rallying song.

Justin Bieber "What Do You Mean"
I got into this song because of the viral "DavidMooreTV" hoverboard video that starts with this guy reading a disappointing text and then he's joined by an entourage of other dudes on hoverboards to dance it out. It's a super complicated choreography that was filmed in just one take and I just think it's fresh and funny and inspiring, and also kind of nuts to think how much work went into getting it just right. Something about the beat of this song makes it the perfect song to run to, and I have these really positive, Pavlovian-type responses to it because I always imagine the video when this song comes on.

Drake "0 to 100 / The Catch Up"
If there is a song that better encapsulates the feeling of having had a really kick-ass writing day, than I don't know what that song is.

Madonna "Bitch I'm Madonna"
Okay, maybe I do know what that song is. It's this one.

Selena Gomez "Same Old Love"
We've all been stuck in relationship ruts. Sometimes, the rut goes really deep. I liked listening to this song while writing Touch because it called up the way the main character, Sloane, was feeling about her life partner, who announces that he doesn't want to have sex with her any more. She's been in this loveless relationship for a decade, and she's finally, truly, sick of it.

Dory Previn "Going Home"
I don't think I've ever got through a listen without crying. Dory Previn was the bad-ass, trenchant Joni Mitchell of her generation, but she never reached Joni's fame. In my book, she's unmatched as a lyricist, and this song, about a lonely woman trying to make a one-night-stand comfortable in her ratty home, is so human, and so heartbreaking, and just so real and lovely. It's an anthem about the need for kindness and human contact.

Migos "T-Shirt"
While I was revising Touch, I watched a lot of "Atlanta," the show about up-and-coming rappers in Atlanta created by Donald Glover. That's how I discovered Migos. I listened to "T-Shirt" obsessively—dancing around the living room with our little toddler. The staccato in it is thrilling; it's a totally hypnotic song.


Courtney Maum and Touch links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

Booklist review
BookPage review
Kirkus Reviews review
Publishers Weekly review

Electric Literature essay by the author
The Millions 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

Largehearted Boy's 2017 Summer Reading Suggestions

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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Book Notes - Val Emmich "The Reminders"

The Reminders

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.

Val Emmich's novel The Reminders is a heartfelt and compelling debut.

Library Journal wrote of the book:

"Emmich captures the voices of Joan and Gavin, two such different characters, brilliantly. Actor and musician Emmich (Vinyl; Ugly Betty; 30 Rock) can confidently add "novelist" to his list of achievements. He has written a quirky, touching, and addictive read."


In his own words, here is Val Emmich's Book Notes music playlist for his debut novel The Reminders:



In The Reminders, ten-year-old Joan uses her uncanny memory to help Gavin shed light on the final days of his partner Sydney's life.

When I'm writing prose, the music I listen to falls into two categories: songs that fuel the writing and songs that inform the writing. These are imprecise distinctions, but it's the best I've come up with.

While in the act of writing, I'm trying to ignore the very things I've spent my entire career as a singer-songwriter paying attention to—musicality and lyrics. I'm hoping just to lose myself in a mood, energy or feeling that matches whatever the book is trying to be.

When I'm not physically at my computer typing out words, I listen to music differently. I'm absorbing lyrics how my characters might. I'm isolating lines that highlight a sentiment I haven't found a way to communicate. I'm saying to myself, "I want the book to feel like this song feels."

This list is a combination of those two types of songs.

"Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks" by The National

This song just moves me. I was wary of using it to aid my writing. I didn't want to ruin it for myself by playing it too often. But in order to get inside Gavin's emotional state I needed the help of some strong stuff.

"Where Do I Begin" by Wilco

Jeff Tweedy sings "from where we end to where do I begin." It feels like that sentence desires punctuation but doesn't know where to put it. Every end is a beginning, on and on and on. From "we" to "I"—the transition can cause whiplash. Wilco mimics that abrupt change with the music, taking the song from a quiet ballad to a drum-heavy, backwards playing, psychedelic crescendo. I hear hope in the confusion. I picture a caterpillar-turned-butterfly breaking from its cocoon.

"Home" by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros

A duet. The Reminders is a duet. "Home is wherever I'm with you." When Sydney passes, Gavin isn't sure where home is anymore.

"(There's) Always Something There To Remind Me" by Dionne Warwick

Reminders can be both comforting and torturous. This song sounds like a celebration: "I was born to love you." And also a trap: "I will never be free. You'll always be a part of me."

"Thumbing My Way" by Pearl Jam

I've been a Pearl Jam fan since I was in high school and even though I haven't felt a strong connection to their music in recent years, I still keep tabs on what they're up to. This is one of their best songs from the latter part of their career. When the protagonist of the song tries to find optimism, he fails: "No matter how cold the winter, there's a springtime ahead. I smile, but who am I kidding?"

"I Know It's True" by Ben Talmi

I'd often write to this song. Every time it started up, it triggered an innocence in me. Ben Talmi almost sounds like a child when he sings. Somehow that—along with the lush and colorful sonic landscape—coaxed me into the mindset of my young protagonist.

"Water" by Ra Ra Riot

After my book was sold and I was finishing up the last edit, I started feeling tremendous anxiety about what I had made. Fatherhood made me softer and that softness found its way into the book and I started worrying that that might leave me susceptible to poking. There's a line that repeats in the song: "Don't punish me for what I feel." It's become a kind of mantra. At the end of the day, if we're not doing something with our art that feels daring, why are we even bothering? On the last chorus, Wes Miles seemingly pushes his voice as high as it'll get, just going for it. "So I crawled out of the back door, took off all these tight clothes, jumped into the water." That's what I tried to do with this book. I stripped and jumped. I hope I don't drown.

"Don't Let Me Down" by The Beatles

Joan and her father are obsessed with the Beatles (especially John Lennon), as am I. This has always been one of my favorite songs of theirs. The refrain is shaped like a command, but really it's a request. Don't Let Me Down was the original title of my novel. Joan doesn't want to be let down by the world—she wants to be remembered. Gavin doesn't want to be let down by the man he loved. Maybe it sums us all up. Lennon was good like that.

"Convince Me" by Val Emmich

Have you heard of this Val Emmich guy? Total hack, but he does have a few decent songs. Okay, I feel silly listing one of my own tunes, but it just so happens that this song really does capture the heart of the book. It's a duet I did with Allie Moss (she's great, check her out!). The song is a conversation between a realist and a dreamer who are trying to convince each other that their own outlook is the right one. The same battle of perspective occurs in the book with Gavin and Joan. I wrote the song in 2009. I guess I'm still unconvinced as to who is right.


Val Emmich and The Reminders links:

the author's website
the author's Wikipedia entry
video trailer for the book
EP by the author inspired by the book

Kirkus review

Jersey Journal profile of the author
Weekend Edition 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

Largehearted Boy's 2017 Summer Reading Suggestions

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 (More Summer Reading Lists, Stream a New Against Me! Live Film, and more)

Largehearted Boy, WIRED, HuffPost, The Interrobang, and PBS Newshour recommended summer reading.


Stream Against Me!'s new live film.


VICE shared an excerpt from Catherine Lacey's novel The Answers.


The Fall announced details of its forthcoming studio album (the band's 32nd).


The Guardian reconsidered One Hundred Years of Solitude fifty years after it was first published.


Pitchfork reconsidered Patti Smith's Easter album.


The Brooklyn Rail interviewed author Kate Zambreno.


Stream a new song by the New Year.


The Food 4 Thot podcast interviewed author Alexander Chee.


Stream two Vashti Bunyan covers by Mutual Benefit.


Tobias Woff remembered Denis Johnson at the New Yorker.


Drowned in Sound interviewed Noveller, AKA Sarah Lipstate.


The Guardian shared an excerpt from Arundhati Roy's novel The Ministry of Utmost Happiness.


NYCTaper shared a recent Animal Collective show.


Curtis Sittenfeld discussed her short story in this week's issue with the New Yorker.


Tone Deaf listed soundtracks that were better than their films.


Literary Hub features a new essay by Rebecca Solnit.


The band Real Estate has designed shoes that will be sold with a cassette of new music.


Elena Ferrante discussed the television adaptation of her novel My Brilliant Friend with the New York Times.


Salon recommended recently released albums you may have missed.


Literary Hub recommended June's best crime books.


Old 97's visited World Cafe for an interview and live performance.


The Millions wondered about the existence of the great American basketball novel.


Drowned in Sound reconsidered Regina Spektor's Soviet Kitsch album.


Val Emmich discussed his debut novel The Reminders with Weekend Edition.


Members of the band Sharkmuffin talked style with Paste.


VICE recommended books about war by authors who have experienced it.


Justin Townes Earle visited The Current studio for a live performance and interview.

Paste also interviewed Earle.


The Guardian profiled Chris Kraus.


Blondie visited World Cafe for an interview and live performance.


The Times Literary Supplement interviewed author China Mieville.


Paste listed the best New Order songs.


Literary Hub shared an excerpt from Courtney Maum's novel Touch.


Stream Panther Hollow's new EP, People Synesthesia.


Vox interviewed author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.


Musicians discussed the musical legacy of the band Brainiac at Pitchfork.


Electric Literature listed the most disastrous vacations in fiction.


Oneohtrix Point Never’s Good Time score has been awarded the Soundtrack Award at Cannes Film Festival.


Morning Edition interviewed Mike Tyson about his book Iron Ambition: My Life with Cus D'Amato.


Pitchfork recommended entry points into the music of Nick Cave.


eBooks on sale for $1.50 today:

My Mother Was Nuts by Penny Marshall

eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi Durrow
Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
Life at the Dakota: New York's Most Unusual Address by Stephen Birmingham
Orient by Christopher Bollen
The Private Life of Mrs Sharma by Ratika Kapur
Robert Plant: A Life by Paul Rees
The Son by Philipp Meyer
The Universal Baseball Association Inc. by Robert Coover
The Virginity of Famous Men by Christine Sneed
Wicked by Gregory Maguire

eBooks on sale for $2.99 today:

Cutting Teeth by Julia Fierro
Erasure by Percival Everett
The Gueniveres by Sarah Domet
Notes from No Man's Land by Eula Biss



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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May 29, 2017

2017 Summer Reading Suggestions

Since Memorial Day is considered the unofficial kickoff of summer, here are my reading suggestions for the season. These are my favorite books published in 2017 so far.


Always Happy Hour

Always Happy Hour
by Mary Miller

Mary Miller's Always Happy Hour is one of the year's finest short story collections, one filled with characters so realistically portrayed they seem personally familiar.


The Book of Joan

The Book of Joan
by Lidia Yuknavitch

Lidia Yuknavitch's ambitious and accomplished novel The Book of Joan, a dystopic and science fiction retelling of Joan of Arc, might be the perfect novel for our times.


The Evening Road

The Evening Road
by Laird Hunt

Filled with strong characters and lyrical prose, Laird Hunt's The Evening Road is one of the year's finest novels.


Exes

Exes
by Max Winter

Max Winter's debut novel Exes is cleverly put together, compulsively readable, and poignant.


Exit West

Exit West
by Mohsin Hamid

Mohsin Hamid's novel Exit West is powerful and timely.


The Gift

The Gift
by Barbara Browning

Barbara Browning's novel The Gift is a brilliant work of autofiction from one of my favorite writers.


Harmless Like You

Harmless Like You"
by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

Rowan Hisayo Buchanan's novel Harmless Like You is a dazzling debut about family, home, and love. One of the best books I have read this year.


Imagine Wanting Only This

Imagine Wanting Only This
by Kristen Radtke

Kristen Radtke's graphic memoir Imagine Imagine Wanting Only This is one of the most moving and thoughtful comics I have read in years.


My Favorite Thing Is Monsters

My Favorite Thing Is Monsters
by Emil Ferris

Emil Ferris's My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is the best graphic novel I have read in years.


Sorry to Disrupt the Peace

Sorry to Disrupt the Peace
by Patty Yumi Cottrell

Patty Yumi Cottrell's novel Sorry to Disrupt the Peace is a brilliant, darkly comic debut, and my favorite book of the year so far.


Sympathy

Sympathy
by Olivia Sudjic

Olivia Sudjic's debut Sympathy is a startlingly original novel about obsession and identity.


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

Other Largehearted Boy lists

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

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May 28, 2017

Atomic Books Comics Preview - May 28, 2017

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

Benn Ray is the owner of Atomic Books, an independent bookstore in Baltimore. He also runs the Mutant Funnies Tumblr.

Atomic Books has been named one of BuzzFeed's Great American Bookstores, as well as one of Flavorwire's 10 greatest comic and graphic novel stores in America.


CARtoons Magazine #9

CARtoons Magazine #9
edited by Marc Methot

Growing up the son of an auto mechanic in the late 1960s/early 1970s, CARtoons comics were easily found around the house. I would gaze over the panels for hours and then try to draw my own monster cars. Gone for 25 years, CARtoons has now returned with art and stories and crazy car illustrations every bit as excellent as the original run.


Everything Is Flammable

Everything Is Flammable
by Gabrielle Bell

I have long been a fan of Bell's autobiographical story telling and art. But here the full color treatment adds a new depth to her work I didn't think possible for an artist as considered and honest as she is. A fire sets in motion this revealing look at returning home and mother-daughter relationships.


Fante Bukowski Volume 2

Fante Bukowski Volume 2
by Noah Van Sciver

The second volume of misadventures from everyone's favorite self-styled literary genius, Fante Bukowski, is even better than the first - with more depth to the characters, one actually begins to feel pity for the title character, even if he may not deserve it. But for those who remember reading the Black Sparrow Press editions of Charles Bukowski and John Fante's books, the cover design is also a real treat - such a close parody that one could be forgiven for mistaking it for an actual Black Sparrow Press book - complete with an "price tag adhesive shadow" on the back cover of the book. Genius.


My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness

My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness
by Kabi Nagata

A remarkably heartfelt autobiographical manga comic about a young woman growing up and coming to terms with her own sexuality.


On The Camino

On The Camino
by Jason

To celebrate turning 50, Norwegian cartoonist Jason not only decided to make the pilgrimage along route of The Camino de Santiago in Spain but to document the triumphs, set backs and odd encounters in comic form for our reading enjoyment. Jason made the pilgrimage so we don't have to. He also turned 50 so we don't have to. Thanks, Jason!


One More Year

One More Year
by Simon Hanselmann

It's the thinking stoner comics fan's event of the year as this new Hanselmann book collects the further adventures of Megg the witch and Mogg the cat.


Resurrection Perverts: Hunter's Point

Resurrection Perverts: Hunter's Point
by Danny Hellman

Failing porn publisher Harry Homburg intends to use photos of a U.S. President caught in the act to save his business. Meanwhile, a b-list/has-been celebrity serial killer is making the rounds. Told in a one-panel per page format, Hellman brings up issues like freedom of speech, American puritanical hypocrisy and more. This very much looks like the beginning of the masterpiece "Dirty" Danny Hellman has been meant to create.


Questions, concerns, comments or gripes – e-mail benn@atomicbooks.com. If there’s a comic I should know about, send it my way at Atomic, c/o Atomic Books 3620 Falls Rd., Baltimore, MD 21211.


Atomic Books & Benn Ray links:

Atomic Books website
Atomic Books on Twitter
Atomic Books on Facebook
Benn Ray's blog (The Mobtown Shank)
Benn Ray's comic, Mutant Funnies


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

other Atomic Books Comics Preview lists (weekly new comics & graphic novel highlights)

Online "Best of 2015" Book Lists

Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Book Notes (authors create music playlists for their book)
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
WORD Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)

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May 26, 2017

Book Notes - Michael Seidlinger "Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves"

Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves

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.

In Michael J. Seidlinger's contribution to Ig Publishing's Bookmarked series, he offer impressive insight into Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves as well as his own writing process.

Shelf Awareness wrote of the book:

"In this addition to Ig Publishing's Bookmarked series, in which authors reflect on books that have shaped their lives and careers, Seidlinger hurls himself through a personal maze of self-reflection, literary influences and a writing process as winding and wondrous as Danielewski's house. As Seidlinger processes the novel chapter by chapter, each new element sends him on long, frequently footnoted discourses about his journey as a writer that are as heartfelt as they are illuminating. Fans of House of Leaves and those interested in behind-the-scenes glimpses of the creative process will enjoy this volume of Bookmarked."


In his own words, here is Michael J. Seidlinger's Book Notes music playlist for his book Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves:


My contribution to Ig Publishing's Bookmarked series, a volume on House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, turned into (or should I say derailed into?) an exploration about both my own writing process and writer's block, particularly the latter. When Robert Lasner approached me about writing a book for the series, I was suffering from one of my longest bouts of writer's block I've ever experienced; I was drinking a lot, depressed, and quite delusional about my personal life (whereas professionally, CCM, work, and the many many moving parts that I maintain continued unabated; few recognized truly how depressed I was).

The exploration resulted in a lot of whining and rambling about what it means to write, writing rituals, and more. One ritual I didn't explore as much as I should have in the book itself is the importance of music. I can't write without noise-cancelling headphones and a nice playlist. So, for this foray into Book Notes, I figure I'd offer up a playlist that has worked tremendously well for clearing out the rust, warming up those creative juices, and getting the words flowing out onto the page. These are songs I've written to, am writing to, and/or will one day be the soundtrack to what I write.


Notice anything? Yeah, I can't write to anything with vocals. If I hear and understand the words, it takes me right out of the rhythms of writing. Lots of esoteric instrumentals, post-rock/post-metal, chillout, etc.


Michael Seidlinger and Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

Shelf Awareness review

Largehearted Boy Book Notes playlist by the author for Falter Kingdom
Largehearted Boy Book Notes playlist by the author for The Fun We've Had
Largehearted Boy Book Notes playlist by the author for The Strangest
The Rumpus 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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This Week's Interesting Music Releases - May 26, 2017

Hazel English

Hazel English's Just Give In / Never Going Home and Justin Townes Earle's Kids In The Street are two new albums I can recommend this week.

Also in stores and streaming is the soundtrack to Martin Scorsese's Grateful Dead documentary Long Strange Trip.

Reissues include remastered editions of The Art of Noise's In Visible Silence and a 50th anniversary edition of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.


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


This week's interesting music releases:

The Art of Noise: In Visible Silence (remastered and expanded)
Bad Company: Burnin' Sky (remastered and expanded)
Bad Company: Run with the Pack (remastered and expanded)
Beatles: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (50th anniversary edition) (remastered)
Big Star: Complete Third: Vol. 3: Final Masters [vinyl]
Bill Frisell & Thomas Morgan: Small Town
Bishop Briggs: Bishop Briggs
Blaze Foley: Lost Muscle Shoals Recordings [vinyl]
Burial: Subtemple / Beachfires [vinyl]
Chainsmokers: Memories...Do Not Open [vinyl]
The Charlatans: Different Days
Danzig: Black Laden Crown
Durutti Colum: Domo Arigato Deluxe
Emerson Lake and Palmer: Love Beach (remastered and expanded)
Emerson Lake and Palmer: Works Volume 2 (remastered and expanded)
Fleetwood Mac: Mirage (reissue)
Fleetwood Mac: Tango in the Night (remastered)
Foreigner: 40
Hazel English: Just Give In / Never Going Home
Grateful Dead: Long Strange Trip (soundtrack)
Jamie Saft, Steve Swallow, Bobby Previte: Loneliness Road
Jed Kurzel: Alien: Covenant (soundtrack)
John Mayer: The Search for Everything [vinyl]
Judy Collins: Sings Lennon & McCartney
Justin Townes Earle: Kids In The Street
Kraftwerk: 3-D: The Catalogue (8-CD box set)
Lil Yachty: Teenage Emotions
Mark Slaughter: Halfway There
Martin Rev: Demolition 9
Midnight Oil: The Overflow Tank (12-disc box set)
Olafur Arnalds: Broadchurch - The Final Chapter
Pet Symmetry: Vision
Rolling Stones: Olé Olé Olé! A Trip Across Latin America [dvd]
Sam Amidon: The Following Mountain
Shakira: El Dorado
Skye Steele: All That Light
Suzanne Vega: Solitude Standing (reissue) [vinyl]
Thunder Dreamer: Capture
Todd Rundgren: White Knight [vinyl]
Tricot: 3 [vinyl]
Umphrey's McGee: Zonkey [vinyl]
Various Artists: Ambience: 63 Nuggets From the Cramps' Record Vault
Various Artists: Gentle Giants: The Songs of Don Williams
Various Artists: The Music of Nashville (Season 5, Vol 2)
Various Artists: Putumayo Kids Presents: Cuban Playground
Various Artists: Putumayo Presents: Cuba! Cuba!
Various Artists: Rough Guide To Jug Band Blues Import (reissue)


also at Largehearted Boy:

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weekly music release lists

Book Notes (authors create music playlists for their book)
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Shorties (Mohsin Hamid on Books and Reading, Shonen Knife on The Band's Ramen Tour, and more)

Mohsin Hamid talked books and reading with the Boston Globe.


The members of Shonen Knife talked to All Things Considered about their current ramen tour.


Literary Hub recommended books of political intrigue.


Pinegrove visited World Cafe for an interview and live performance.


Electric Literature listed the creepiest companies in literature.


The WTF podcast interviewed J. Mascis.


The Awl features a new poem by Tracy K. Smith.


Deerhoof released four albums yesterday (with a fifth to come) this year on a pay-what-you-want model, with proceeds going to Brand New Congress, a progressive political action committee.


The Riveter interviewed author Sarah Manguso.


Stream a new Night Things song.


Literary Hub interviewed author Madeleine Thien .


Stream a new Sia song.


The Guardian profiled Elif Batuman.


John Cale will perform two Velvet Underground & Nico 50th anniversary shows in Brooklyn this summer.


Fonograph Editions is a vinyl-only poetry press.


Stream two new Eerie Gaits songs.


PopMatters reconsidered Roxy Music's Avalon album.


Bookworm interviewed poet Morgan Parker.


Stream a new Bleachers song.


James Sturm talked to The Millions about his graphic novel The Golem's Mighty Swing.


Dinosaur Jr. emojis!


Slate examined the recent forays of literary authors into science fiction.


Bonnie 'Prince' Billy covered Merle Haggard & Iris Dement's "No Time To Cry."


Esquire interviewed Scaachi Koul about her new essay collection One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter.


Stream an unreleased Nick Lowe song.


Victor LaValle discussed his new comic Destroyer with Paste.


Stream a new song by Washed Out.


Tony Tulathimutte shared advice on creating a writing career at Catapult.


Paste ranked 2017's music festival lineups.


Literary Hub shared an excerpt from Barbara Browning's novel The Gift.


eBooks on sale for $1.50 today:

My Mother Was Nuts by Penny Marshall

eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi Durrow
Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
Life at the Dakota: New York's Most Unusual Address by Stephen Birmingham
Orient by Christopher Bollen
The Private Life of Mrs Sharma by Ratika Kapur
Robert Plant: A Life by Paul Rees
The Son by Philipp Meyer
The Universal Baseball Association Inc. by Robert Coover
The Virginity of Famous Men by Christine Sneed
Wicked by Gregory Maguire

eBooks on sale for $2.99 today:

Cutting Teeth by Julia Fierro
Erasure by Percival Everett
The Gueniveres by Sarah Domet
Notes from No Man's Land by Eula Biss



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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May 25, 2017

Book Notes - Brian Jabas Smith "Spent Saints"

Spent Saints

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.

Spent Saints is a remarkable debut collection by Brian Jabas Smith, filled with indelible, dark linked stories.


In his own words, here is Brian Jabas Smith's Book Notes music playlist for his short story collection Spent Saints:



Music connected me to worlds beyond my grasp, places that bloomed in daydreams, and later became real. If you listen hard enough, things happen. Music also nearly ruined my life a few times. But at a tender age it mostly changed me; taught me what to read, and how to think, and dream. Before books, and before sadnesses of living set in, there was the music.

This playlist loosely fits the short stories in this collection mainly because these were songs I listened to while writing them. Some fit the narratives and others the tone—from the punk rock to the wrenching soul ballads. In fact, each story has its own playlist in the book, some of which include 25 songs, so it was actually kind of difficult whittling those down for this. Still the songs aren't meant to enhance Spent Saints, but maybe to use as a kind of soundtrack, away from the book, like emotional bookmarks. Maybe that's bad. But that's how the songs work for me.

Some I listened to crazily, over and over and over, especially those that helped me to withdraw to that place where no one else exists, in that same melancholy corner I lived in as a kid. These are mostly older songs, which I use for contextual nostalgia that's usually not even my own, if that makes any sense. The songs often provide a weird longing where the writing lives.

Buzzcocks — "Why Can't I Touch It"
To me this is the most tender song from the punk-rock era, and not just because of the hypnotic bassline, but also because it's all yearning, sexual or otherwise. The main character, Rowdy, who awakens hungover on someone's front lawn in the story "Lost in the Supermarket" sees suburbia as a place where wounds heal not fester, and he regards it as a kind of pedestal of emotional and financial security. It's deception, of course, because suburbia, by its very design, is persuasive as hell if you've never enjoyed emotional or financial security. This song nailed me as a boy, defined the insecurities, and all the song's pretty major-key repetitiveness translated to a real, unending longing for me out in suburban Tucson where I grew up—a kind of doom against which art and music and books was no defense—where no one listened to The Buzzcocks. (If they found out you did, you'd get your head pounded for it.) Punk rock was truly subversive. It didn't fit there, and neither did Rowdy.

Gin Blossoms — "Lost Horizons"
Doug Hopkins, the Gin Blossoms founder, was one of my best friends when he committed suicide. His life (and death) had a huge impact on me, how I see things. Not a day goes by when I don't think about him. He was a hyper-literate, and funny-as-shit songwriter brilliant at creating singsong refrains and mountainous power-pop hooks from inexorable personal sadnesses and tragedies. This song, which, incidentally, Hopkins had pieced together from two of his older ones, rises on lovely lines like, "Turn summer trees to bones and ice/Turn insect songs against the night." Whole song is lyrical wonder, and it's difficult to believe such lines populate a '90s college-rage album that sold millions of copies. Think of this: "She had nothing left to say/So she said she loved me/And I stood there grateful for the lie/I'll drink enough of anything to make this world look new again." That's what we did, and we were "Drunk, drunk, drunk in the gardens and the graves." His lust for life matched a fascination with its cryptic flipside, the drinking enabled and crippled him. Hopkins influence on these stories is undeniable, and this song fits any in this collection, but is best suited to the suburbia of "Lost in the Supermarket," and the ending of "Eye for Sin" where an Arizona sunrise on citrus groves sparks a rare flash of hope that dovetails a malt-liquor buzz and a crystal-meth high. This song has haunted me since the day Hopkins pieced it together, back in Tempe, Arizona, all those years ago.

Tim Hardin — "Black Sheep Boy"
The hard-living Tim Hardin penned this in the early to mid-'60s, which placed him ahead of Dylan and the era's folkies in terms of detailing personal alienation. The theme's in the title, and Hardin shows us, lullaby-like, deep personal turmoil in deceptively simple singsong turns. It is mind-boggling simplicity filled with ache, and the lyrics helped me to connect to Spent Saints' main character Julian —a kid wholly disconnected from family, and anyone his age.

Big Star – "Thirteen"
Shows the innocence in young Julian, the bike-racing champ who bailed on high school and summer swimming pools and the promise of girls, and any semblance of normalcy, to suffer on the bike. In a weird out-of-time nostalgic way, this song sweetly offers up the innocence Julian missed out on.

The Clash — "Stay Free"
In "The Grand Prix" Julian triumphantly defies athletic odds and a crippling loop of parental abuse, literally and metaphorically. The biggest riffs are for the finale. To me, this is the greatest Clash song; a vulnerable Mick Jones loss-of-innocence yarn that doubles neatly as a regret-tinged and tender-aged backward gaze. White boy in suburban palais, indeed.

Graham Nash — "Wounded Bird"
My big sister wore the grooves off this when I was a little boy. There's inescapable sadness in Nash's unsullied voice here, which also somehow triggers nostalgia that couldn't be my own. The best music and fiction rattles like that. This one's for Southern California, especially canyons Benedict, Topanga and Laurel, to uphold the heartbreak and downed dreams in Spent Saints' title story.

Sparklehorse — "Someday I Will Treat You Good"
Julian's heroin-addict wife in the title story, which is set in 1999 or so, can only offer promises. Julian's interior voice has yet to throttle him—he's still a budding alchy at this point—so he fancies himself her savior. The song is a stomping yet brooding (and ironic) powerhouse that suits the story's obvious allegory: Like glints of old Hollywood celebrity, and the mechanics of the music industry in 1999, and a failing young marriage, the future is abject misery.

Dennis Wilson — "Love Remember Me"
After Pet Sounds, Dennis Wilson came into his own as a songwriter and producer, and he was also pals with Charlie Manson, pre-Tate murders, which went down around the corner from where most of the title story is set. Dennis's voice could convey real melancholy, which he spent most of his songwriting life trying to articulate. That audible struggle made him an incredible singer and songwriter because it was honest, real, unironic. We can hear that struggle in pretty much everything he recorded after Pet Sounds, as a Beach Boy and solo. When you sense that tension, as a reader or writer or listener, you know you're onto something. All my favorite writers had that. Dennis's struggle is powerful to me; led to the inspiration of this story. This song upholds my unyielding fascination with haunted L.A.—from the Manson girls to old Buk to The Weirdos to Rodney on the Roc. It's a drive along Mulholland at twilight, the scent of blossoms in the air. It's the ghosts of troubled drunks in the L.A. canyons—the John Barrymores, the Veronica Lakes, the Alice Coopers, the John Gilberts, and Beach Boy Dennis Wilson.

Beach Boys — "Never Learn Not to Love"
The Dennis Wilson co-write with Charlie Manson could be the most eerie pop song ever recorded, with lyrics upholding Manson's philosophies of submission: "Cease to exist …. Give up your world/C'mon and be with me." The Beach Boys drone-y soundscapes, harmonies and echoes, and barely audible hair-raising yelps rise to a sonic release that's as creepy as the Hollywood Hills are haunted. The title story is place-based allegory.

Curtis Mayfield — "Wild and Free"
My fave Curtis Mayfield song, buried deep on the 1970 Curtis album. It's a beautiful civil rights rally cry, but it's also a romantic and spiritual quest. So, in the title story, the tune represents the flipside to celebrity and stardom-chasing. It soundtracks a bunch of rock 'n' roll kids slipping nervously into a sleazy universe ruled by a shyster Hollywood dream merchant oblivious to Tinseltown's tragic, sad and broken past. More, the vocal-answering trumpet in the verses makes my stomach surge. I've listened insanely over and over to get that surge when I write.

Dan Stuart — "Gap Toothed Girl"
The story "Eye for Sin" features a woman who snorted larvae-rich meth and worms had eaten away half of her mouth and nasal passage. Her neglected teeth were forever visible. I knew of a person to whom this actually happened. This purposely droll inclusion was penned by former Green on Red frontman Dan Stuart, a helluva songsmith, and also a gifted writer.

Alice Cooper — "You Drive Me Nervous"
The story "Eye for Sin" centers on a hyper-tense meth score gone haywire and features a Nazi called Jesus and his pregnant tweaker girlfriend. It shows how crystal obliterates all beauty in the world. This song's noose-like wind-up of squalling guitars, Stones-y swagger and Cooper's Budweiser-drenched howls sonically defines the bone-ache anxiety of jonesing for speed, and explodes into a thrilling glam slam, which was punk rock way back in 1972.

Aimee Mann — "Phoenix"
This gentle string-stoked epistle to escape transcends the DUIs and barrio nights in Phoenix where the story "No Wheels" takes place. Where everybody feels ready to be traded in.

David Garza — "Lost"
A song that's muted and exuberant. There's a warm, brooding glow in the whispered vocals and hushed choruses, and it makes a sentimental yet slightly weather-beaten entry for the story "The Delivery Man."

Dope Lemon — "How Many Times"
A wonderfully repetitive and floating druggy jam for "The Delivery Man," where the story's only hope is the brown-uniformed UPS man. He's a kind of fucked-up totemic angel offering redemption where hell had already descended.

The Bee Gees — "Edge of the Universe"
This peculiarly beautiful song links early psych Bee Gees to their later R&B and disco world takeover. There's whimsy, loneliness and joy. I always somehow likened it to new sobriety, yet in an ironic way it works for Spent Saints' darkest passage, where Julian and Serena are strung out on porn and meth in "The Delivery Man."

The Ramones — "Ramona"
Serena, the female protagonist in several Spent Saints stories, lived and breathed The Ramones—her stripper stage name is Ramona. Julian fell in love with her dancing to early Ramones in the story "Grams."

T. Rex — "Jupiter Liar"
Shows there was real soul in Bolan's gold velvet trou, despite purposely juvenile and cockeyed wordplay—it really is a funny little love song inside its sauntering sexual groove. Heard this overlooked T. Rex gem with all the nude dancers in "Grams."

Esther Phillips — "(Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher and Higher"
Esther Phillips' rare mid-'70s R&B/dancefloor stab wasn't a hit for her, but it did hit huge for Detroiter Jackie Wilson years before. Imbued with a crazy-hypnotic bass groove and a glimmering sentiment rooted in southern gospel and soul … this version is pure euphoria. It always reminds me of the soul of Detroit, an invisible player in "Old Ladies in Church Hats."

The Osmonds — "Crazy Horses"
If ever there was an Osmonds statement song, it's this one. (Hell, it's one of the greatest rock 'n' roll songs ever, partly because it is The Osmonds.) But in my mind, it's all about the frightening, meth-blooded crazies dealing in west Phoenix hoods, in the stories "Grams" and "Eye for Sin."

Mott the Hoople — "Angel of Eighth Avenue"
There's no escaping Mott The Hoople's cross of Dylan, The Band and glitter rock, and this is the first in a string of brilliant Ian Hunter ballads where imagery and melody define longing. We hear Hunter's beating heart beneath each line, each chord change, each tinkling piano run. Takes me to Serena, especially in "Grams," and that motherhood sadness and fading grace.

Barbara Lynn — "This is the Thanks I Get"
She's a left-handed African-American female guitarist and soul singer from Texas who wrote her own songs. And she released this in 1968. You don't think the odds were stacked against her? For starters, nobody should underestimate quite how difficult it was touring the Jim Crow south as a black musician. Had Lynn been white she would've ruled the world, and there isn't a white singer on earth who could touch her. This sweet soul side sports toughness beneath the sugar, a bra-burning fuck-you to her neglectful man. It reminds me of elderly ladies in Detroit, especially Gurvene, the character in "Old Ladies in Church Hats." These descendants of southern slavery lived through poverty and racism and riots and murder, and were tough and gentle and true. This song takes me right to Detroit, and was a solid accompaniment to the writing of the story.

Doris Duke — "I Don't Care Anymore"
The withering personal worldview in this stunner is absolutely unequalled by any soul or pop song. It's a bizarrely bouncy tune of utter hopelessness, where only two emotional dots are connected—bleakness and doom. It's about a woman arriving in a city like Detroit from "the deep south when the mills shut down." Her winding journey ultimately sees her emotionally cracked on a bumpy prostitute mattress thinking she's better off dead. Hard to believe it was ever green-lit for recording. The tone suits the mid-story desperation and withdrawals in "Old Ladies in Church Hats."

The Temptations "I Wish It Would Rain"
Spent Saints story "Ghosts and Fireflies" unwinds in Detroit, a city whose life-long inhabitants show tremendous will and strength. Wish for rain to hide the tears sounds like self-pity but in Detroit it's a sentiment rooted in something deeper, and only David Ruffin, probably my favorite singer ever, can handle it. (The song's lyricist committed suicide not long after writing this, and before he could see the tune become a huge hit in the '60s.)

Todd Snider — "All of My Life"
One of the weightiest love confessionals I've ever heard. There's zero irony, yet it never dips into the maudlin; just a voice, organ and acoustic, and heart-stinging lyric. It works as Julian ties off "Ghosts and Fireflies" with, finally, a gracious, life-affirming realization. The realization holds through the Lord Huron song below.

Lord Huron — "Ends of the Earth"
The heart-swelling sentiment here lifts, turns euphoric. It's as pure a love song as ever been written.

Ronnie Lane — "Roll on Babe"
No one in rock 'n' roll could capture bittersweetness better than this man, who happened to be the heart and soul in the mighty Faces. This is one of those melancholy songs that can make you cry and laugh at the same time. I like to dream it was written for my character Serena.

Velvet Crush — "Time Wraps Around You"
And few managed melancholy powerpop better than this hugely ignored band. Its guitars sway gently but it's hardly light-hearted, which is why it works for young Cassidy, the girl who survives crushing loss in "Sirens."

Karen Dalton — "Something on Your Mind"
This droning, violin-stoked gem is better than the Velvet Underground and it weirdly (and beautifully) channels a more-tattered Nina Simone and, somehow, forgotten Oklahoma writer Tillie Olsen, one of my all-time faves. The song is tough, working class, and sweetly pristine, sort of like Serena in "Sirens."

Billy Sedlmyar — "Tucson Kills"
This scarily lovely glimpse into youth and the rattling hedonistic side of Tucson, Arizona brims with ache and regret. Fits the story "Sirens" beautifully—there's an end-of-the-world futility so apparent in the Virgin of Guadalupe grottos and chain-link yards in Tucson hoods, in the searing Sonoran Desert. It's dusted with Tucson references to the point of mythology—from the fading 6th Avenue whores and scoring dope in barrios to "going crazy" in prison yards and a legendary hotel fire that killed nearly 30 people. The production is sweetly spare and the mournful Mexican horns kick up goosebumps handily.

Emmylou Harris — "May This Be Love"
Daniel Lanois producing country-rock goddess Emmylou covering Hendrix. It's a droning sonic wonder. A late-night window-down roll through southwestern desert highways, where life feels unending, no drugs or alcohol needed. It's also a bond of a mother whose inner wounds still rarely keep her daughters at arm's length, until the "Sirens" come.


Brian Jabas Smith and Spent Saints links:

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

Phoenix 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

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
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weekly music release lists

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