April 20, 2018

This Week's Interesting Music Releases - April 20, 2018

DRINKS

DRINKS' Hippo Lite (the second album from Cate LeBon and Tim Presley's collaboration), Lord Huron's Vide Noir, and Sera Cahoone's The Flora String Sessions are the new releases I can recommend this week.

Roxy - Tonight's the Night Live captures highlights of two 1973 Neil Young performances.

Reissues include a remastered and expanded edition of Pete Townshend's Who Came First.


This week's interesting music releases:


Alexis Taylor: Beautiful Thing
Alison Moyet: The Other Live Collection
A Perfect Circle: Eat The Elephant
Bishop Briggs: Church Of Scars
Black Stone Cherry: Family Tree
Bonnie 'Prince' Billy: Wolf of the Cosmos [vinyl]
Brothers Osborne: Port Saint Joe
Cheech & Chong: Up In Smoke 40th Anniversary Deluxe Collection (4-disc box set)
Donovan Woods: Both Ways
DRINKS: Hippo Lite
Flaming Lips: Scratching The Door: The First Recordings Of the Flaming Lips
Various Artists: Hopes & Dreams: The Lullaby Project
Henry Mancini: Breakfast at Tiffany's (soundtrack) (reissue) [vinyl]
J. Cole: Kod
Jackson Browne: Broadcast Archive (4-CD box set)
John Zorn: Insurrection
Jonny Greenwood: Phantom Thread (soundtrack) [vinyl]
Joshua Hedley: Mr. Jukebox
Kimbra: Primal Heart
Larkin Poe: Peach
Linda Ronstadt: Mad Love (reissue)
Lord Huron: Vide Noir
Manic Street Preachers: Resistance Is Futile
Marcia Ball: Shine Bright
Melvins: Pinkus Abortion Technician
Neil Young: Roxy - Tonight's the Night Live
New York Dolls: Personality Crisis: Live Recordings & Studio Demos 1972-1975 (5-CD box set)
Old Crow Medicine Show: Volunteer
Pennywise: Never Gonna Die
Pete Townshend: Who Came First (remastered and expanded)
Post Animal: When I Think Of You In A Castle
The Promise Ring: Nothing Feels Good (reissue) [vinyl]
Sera Cahoone: The Flora String Sessions
Sting & Shaggy: 44/876
Stryper: God Damn Evil
Sufjan Stevens: Tonya Harding [vinyl]
Sweet Valley: Eternal Champ II
Tesseract: Sonder
Thievery Corporation: Treasure From The Temple
Todd Rundgren & Utopia: The Road To Utopia - The Complete Recordings 1974-82 Original Recording Masters (7-CD box set)
Various Artists: Brown Acid - The Sixth Trip - Heavy Rock from the Underground Comedown
Various Artists: Songs from Coco (soundtrack) [vinyl]
The Who: Live at the Fillmore East: 1968
Widespread Panic: Light Fuse, Get Away (4-LPs) [vinyl]


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

weekly music release lists

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)
Shorties (daily book and music news and links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)

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






April 20, 2018

Shorties (An Interview with Alexander Chee, A Demo from Liz Phair's New Box Set, and more)

Liz Phair

Poets & Writers interviewed author Alexander Chee.


Stream Liz Phair's demo for "Stratford -on-Guy," from her forthcoming Girly-Sound To Guyville box set.


April's best eBook deals.


Stream a new Courtney Barnett song.


Signature recommended political poetry collections published this year.


Hot Chip's Alexis Taylor on his favorite books.


Vol. 1 Brooklyn interviewed author Jordan A. Rothacker.


Stream a previously unreleased Brian Eno track.


John Moreland played a Tiny Desk Concert.


Maria Enriquez discussed her story collection Things We Lost in the Fire with Literary Hub.


Stream a new Aquaserge song.


Richard Powers talked to All Things Considered about his new novel The Overstory.


L7 visited The Current studio for an interview and live performance.


Tin House interviewed author Rowan Hisayo Buchanan.


Stream a new Innocence Mission song.


But That's Another Story interviewed author and editor Julie Buntin.


Half Waif visited Paste for a video session.


Literary Hub shared an excerpt from Jonathan Evison's novel Lawn Boy.


Stream two new Lykke Li songs.


Sofija Stefanovic discussed her memoir Miss Ex-Yugoslavia with CarolineLeavittville.


Aquarium Drunkard interviewed the members of Wye Oak about the duo's new album.


The shortlist for the 2018 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction has been announced.


Stream a new song by Yuno.


The Los Angeles Review of Books interviewed poet Hannah Sullivan.


Erika Wennerstrom of Heartless Bastards visited World Cafe for a live performance and interview.


The Rumpus interviewed singer-songwriter Juliana Hatfield.


Bradford Cox discussed the new Deerhunter album with Vogue.


Stream a new song by Roseblood (the new band of Kathy Foster of the Thermals).



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

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

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

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

April 19, 2018

Malinda McCollum's Playlist for Her Short Story Collection "The Surprising Place"

The Surprising Place

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

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

Awarded the 2017 Juniper Prize for Fiction, Malinda McCollum's The Surprising Place is an impressive debut story collection.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"The 12 loosely linked tales in McCollum's prize-winning, virtuosic debut are as funny and vivid as the characters are lonely and desperate . . . Darkly comic and brimming with conviction, McCollum's taut collection is an inverted portrait of the American dream."


In her own words, here is Malinda McCollum's Book Notes music playlist for her short story collection The Surprising Place:



Most of the stories in The Surprising Place are set in Des Moines, Iowa, where I grew up. I haven't lived in Des Moines for a while, but I still visit Iowa every summer, and the moment I get off the plane, there's something about the light and landscape that stirs me. The expansiveness of the horizon makes me think of an empty movie screen, and I can remember the restless anticipation I felt when I lived there, like, When's this movie going to start? What you eventually realize, as a Midwesterner, is that if you want a movie, you have to make it yourself. And, of course, an essential part of any movie is its soundtrack. Since many of the stories in The Surprising Place unfold in the 1990's, music from that decade features prominently in my playlist. The Quiet-Loud-Quiet scheme you hear in a lot of 90's songs also lines up with my book's characters, who often struggle to articulate what they most long for––and then suddenly explode.

"Violet," Hole

Different stories spring from different sources, and "Kicks," the first piece I wrote in The Surprising Place, came from a specific action: punching out a window. I'd heard the act of punching through a window doesn't hurt you, and that the injury actually comes afterwards, when you try to retract your arm through broken glass. This struck me an amazing metaphor––for something?––so I started thinking about a person who might punch a window, which led to Severa, a raging, grieving teenage girl. I went on to write two more stories about Severa, and while writing them, I had Live Through This and Celebrity Skin on repeat. In "Violet," I love the odd images in the opening lines: And the sky was made of amethyst/And all the stars were just like little fish. Then there's the chorus, which moves from a lilting singsong––When they get what they want, and they never want it again––to a full-blown scream: Go on, take everything, take everything, I want you to! For me, Courtney Love's singing is the vocal equivalent of smashing a window with your fist.

"Blister in the Sun," Violent Femmes

To the surprise of almost everyone who knows me now, I used to be a synchronized swimmer. In my story "Sharks," a high school synchronized swimming team performs (badly) to Falco's "Rock Me Amadeus," but the routine that sticks with me from my own adolescence was set to "Blister in the Sun." It sticks with me because before we started practicing in the pool, we spent six weeks walking through our routines on land, using our arms to mimic what our legs would do in the water. That felt weird, and it felt even weirder to pair precise, regimented synchro moves (barracudas, oysters, flamingo turns) with "Blister's" jittery beats and Gordon Gano's dynamic–-first punchy, then languid––delivery.

"Numb," Portishead

An element that pops up throughout The Surprising Place is the emergence of 17-year cicadas in the trees around Des Moines. The cicadas' incessant keening––and their shed skins littering the ground––transform the town and evoke anxiety and awe. This mix of uneasiness and wonder is something my stories aim for, and I think "Numb" embodies that unsettling, mesmerizing feel. Hearing "Numb" creeps me out, but I can't stop listening to it. I'm compelled by its discordant moments and by its spooky voices that seem to be calling from very far away.

"6'1"," Liz Phair

When writing, I usually listen to the same music over and over again, and Exile In Guyville fueled a lot of The Surprising Place (along with every other Liz Phair album.) "6'1" is the first track on Exile In Guyville, and as soon as I'd hear the intro––even before Phair starts singing––I'd know it was time to get to work. Once Phair is singing, she somehow manages to sound cool, but not cold, and eerily distant, even as she's right up in your face. That tension is irresistible to me, and I hoped it would infuse my collection.

"Everything is Everything," Lauryn Hill

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is another album I listened to again and again while writing The Surprising Place. I'm drawn to authors and artists with strong, singular voices that instantly immerse you in their distinctive vision. That's Lauryn Hill, for sure, and while this whole album kills me, "Everything is Everything" is one of my favorites, especially the way she sings, After winter, must come spring. Her rendition of this line comes into my mind a lot, like a mantra.

"California," Joni Mitchell

I couldn't love Joni Mitchell more, and "California" appears in "The Fifth Wall," during a scene in which a young girl is abandoned on a cross-country road trip. I love everything Joni Mitchell's ever done––did I already mention that?––but this particular song resonates because many of the people in The Surprising Place are lured by the image of California as radically different from Iowa in terms of landscape and vibe. They imagine a change in location will ease their burdens and transform their lives, but discover they can't outrun who they are. "California" ends with Mitchell's repeated, escalating pleas for acceptance: Oh will you take me as I am? Will you take me as I am? Will you? Will you take me as I am? It's such a scary question to put out into the world, and her voice strains when she asks it, but never breaks.


Malinda McCollum and The Surprising Place links:

the author's website

Booklist 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

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 19, 2018

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

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


The Dangerous Journey

The Dangerous Journey
by Tove Jansson

This new release by Drawn & Quarterly was the last picture book completed by our collective fairy grandmother Tove Jansson. In gorgeous watercolour illustrations and a whimsical lyricism, Jansson tells the story of Susanna, a precocious youth fed up with her humdrum day-to-day. She aches for adventure. A story or adults and children, the serious and the impish, alike.


Your Black Friend and Other Strangers

Your Black Friend and Other Strangers
by Ben Passmore

As the name suggests, this comic collection is written pointedly for white readers. Told through challenging and humorous stories, it's broadly about the ways in which today's social and moral contacts are failing black people and the vulnerable. Specifically, it's about characters tinted in purple and pink hues just trying to get through the daily chaos.


Authenticity Is a Feeling

Authenticity Is a Feeling
by Jacob Wren

In this collection of essays, local Montreal writer/artist/sage Jacob Wren shares his experiences in multi-disciplinary performance. As a member of the bilingual collective PME-ART, Wren recounts his theatrical and musical experiments through this intimate collage-memoir-diary.


Building and Dwelling: Ethics for the City

Building and Dwelling: Ethics for the City
by Richard Sennett

A deep dive consideration of cities, how they are built, and how we live in them. Sennett looks at the evolution of cities in widely different locals, For everyone who lives in a city (yes, you!), because they are not indifferent settings but trace long histories of disparity, growth, and unusual adaptations.


Milk

Milk
by Dorothea Lasky

Opening with a startling and vivid line by Ovid, Lasky's collection of poetry is a series of shudders. Each line stands on its own and demands the imagination, longing, and sorrow of the reader. She writes with tender aches and pains about her body changing into a maternal one and the loss she subsequently encounters.


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 (A Book About Touring with the Replacements, Stream the New Speedy Ortiz Album, and more) Stream he New Speedy Ortiz Album, and more)

Lemon Jail

Bill Sullivan discussed his book Lemon Jail: On the Road with the Replacements with Minneapolis City Pages.


NPR Music is streaming Speedy Ortiz's new album, Twerp Verse.


April's best eBook deals.


NPR Music is streaming Half Waif's new album, Lavender.


The Los Angeles Review of Books interviewed author Hanif Abdurraqib.

The Rumpus shared two poems by Abdurraqib.


Paste profiled singer-songwriter Lucy Dacus.


Cosmopolitan UK recommended books to read this summer.


Stream a new song by Let's Eat Grandma.


Dan Sheehan discussed his novel Restless Souls with BOMB.


The Washington Post examined the state of Prince's estate and legacy.


Art Spiegelman on the genius of comics pioneer Lynd Ward.


Stream a new Iceage song.


The Millions shared an excerpt from Genevieve Hudson's book A Little in Love with Everyone: Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home.


NPR Music is streaming Okkervil River's new album In the Rainbow Rain.


Full Stop shared Rivka Galchen's introduction to Bruno Schultz's Collected Stories.


Superorganism visited World Cafe for an interview and live performance.


Ronan Farrow discussed his book War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence with Morning Edition.


Ryan Walsh discussed his book Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968 with Full Stop.


Alexander Chee discussed his essay collection How to Write an Autobiographical Novel with the Los Angeles Times.


Noisey profiled the band Forth Wanderers.


Bookworm interviewed author Christine Schutt.


Prince's unfinished memoir will be published later this year.


The New York Times interviewed authors Tracy K. Smith and Jacqueline Woodson.


Steam a new Carla Bozulich song.


The OTHERPPL podcast interviewed author Steve Almond.


The Quietus profiled the band The Messthetics.


The Paris Review interviewed Jhumpa Lahiri on her work as a translator.



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

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

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

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

April 18, 2018

Elise Juska's Playlist for Her Novel "If We Had Known"

If We Had Known

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

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

Elise Juska's novel If We Had Known is a timely and important literary page-turner about a mas shooting at a mall.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"Switching between viewpoints, Juska contrasts the actions of a split second and the slow burn of a lifetime of behavior to show that both can have extensive, damning consequences that are rarely foreseen."


In her own words, here is Elise Juska's Book Notes music playlist for her debut novel If We Had Known:



My three-year-old's favorite thing to watch is a YouTube video about musical instruments. "Music is everywhere," the narrator intones. He goes on to name the places music can be heard—in the wind, the rain—and the range of feelings it can evoke. This music is peaceful, my son will often report when listening to a song. This music is silly. Serious. Sad.

If I were to attach such terms to the music accompanying this novel, they would be stunned. Anxious. Isolated. Scared. In the opening chapters, which take place in the days after a mass shooting in a mall in a small town in Maine, these were the feelings the characters were experiencing. They were my feelings too, over the years I wrote this book, as the real-world headlines grew only more harrowing. (This music is heartbroken. This music is enraged.)

The novel is written from multiple points of view—including Maggie Daley, the shooter's former English professor, and her teenage daughter—and traces the ripple effect of this tragedy as the characters are impacted in different ways; for each, I chose a song whose lyrics (or absence of them) reflected their particular emotional state.

Though the novel takes place in Fall 2015 and is decidedly contemporary, writing it—and, later, thinking about this essay—coincided with a household cleaning project: digging through a formidable pile of old boxes from my mom's attic, which included hundreds of cassettes. Many of these were mixed tapes from high school/college/grad school, roughly 1988-1997, carefully curated playlists with titles like Music for Driving or Songs for When You're Down. As I sifted through them, I remembered the songs instantly and viscerally, music that at the time was lonely, heartbroken, confused—a counterpoint to my own teenaged angst and that I listened to repeatedly, as if scraping at a wound.

Now, February 2018, as I watch the news of the horrific shooting at Marjory Stoneham Douglas High School, returning to these songs evokes something more than nostalgia. It's freighted with a deeper grief—not just that my own high school experience is over, but that the experience of high school is changed, gone in a larger way. Because of the convergence of these things—the news, the novel, the obsolete mixed tapes—some of those songs found their way onto this list.

"I Don't Like Mondays" - The Boomtown Rats

In the opening pages of the novel, as news of the shooting emerges, one of the first lines of inquiry is who the shooter is and why he did it. I have a clear memory of this Boomtown Rats song coming on the radio of our Datsun when I was ten or eleven, and my dad explaining that it was written about a shooting. That the shooter, upon being asked why she did it, replied: "I don't like Mondays." Maybe it's because this response, in the ordered world of my childhood, was so warped and disordered that I remember the moment so vividly: sitting at a red light, looking out the window, trying to wrap my mind around this senselessness.

"Green Arrow" - Yo La Tengo

Upon hearing about the tragedy, Maggie immediately realizes the gunman, Nathan Dugan, had been her student. She later discovers something he wrote for her freshman composition class, four years prior, that may have signaled he was violent. A devoted teacher who prides herself on her ability to detect subtext and subtlety, it seems impossible that her eye for language might have, in this instance, failed her so critically. This Yo La Tengo instrumental evokes a summer night—not unlike the August night, quiet and mournful and even ironically peaceful, when Maggie is processing the news—and has no words.

"Kid Fears" - Indigo Girls

Anna, Maggie's daughter, has suffered from anxiety since she was a child. On the weekend of the shooting, she's about to leave for college and is in a relatively stable place. But the news of the shooting and subsequent flood of discussion on social media gradually reignite her old worries, as her "kid fears"—scenarios that used to frighten her but seemed ultimately abstract, impossible—have turned real.

"Wise Up" - Aimee Mann

Suzanne, the wife of a professor at the college, suspects her husband is having an affair but can't bring herself to ask. When the victims' names are released—one of them a teenage girl with whom Suzanne had a brief but deeply affecting conversation a few months prior—it levels her, and she's no longer willing or able to ignore the realities of her own life.

"I Think I'll Make Another World" - Magnetic Fields

Luke, another former student of Maggie's, took to social media after the shooting, writing a quick, unfiltered Facebook post about his memories of his classmate Nathan, his guilt about not befriending him. Though Luke doesn't expect anyone to notice, his post unexpectedly and unsettlingly goes viral. Suddenly he's connected with thousands of strangers, immersed in an online world of his own creation, but feels only more isolated, stuck, strange.

"Your Ghost" - Kristen Hersh

Marielle, the shooter's mother, disappears inside her house in the weeks following the tragedy, trying to reconcile her grief for her son with her horror at what he's done. "Your Ghost" is a lament, as she mourns the loss of her boy—or the boy she thought she knew—and is haunted by one that he became.

"You Are Not Alone" - Patty Griffin

Despite the loneliness and unreality of the online world—and the fear and anxiety of the real one—some of the characters in the novel are ultimately able to move forward, form new and meaningful connections. "Put out the fire in your head," the song says, just a voice and a guitar. "You are not alone." This music is sad. But hopeful.


Elise Juska and If We Had Known links:

the author's website

Kirkus 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

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 (Books That Reimagine Classic Myths, New Music from Mazzy Star, and more)

Circe

Signature recommended books that reimagine classic myths.


Stream a new Mazzy Star song.


April's best eBook deals.


Stream a new Jim James song.


Sergio De La Pava discussed his brilliant new novel with BOMB.


Philadelphia Weekly profiled the shoegaze band King Woman.


eBook on sale today for $2.99:

The Color Purple by Alice Walker


Stream a new song by The Essex Green.


Paste listed America's best music festivals.


Entertainment Weekly reports that Nicole Kidman will adapt and star in an adaptation of Meg Wolitzer's novel The Female Persuasion.


Julien Baker covered the Mountain Goats' "No Children."


Book Riot shared a primer on Japanese horror fiction.


Bill Sullivan discussed his new book Lemon Jail: On the Road with the Replacements with The Current.


VICE shared a new comic by Anya Davidson.


Stream a new Deafheaven song.


Literary Hub features a new essay by Rebecca Solnit.


PopMatters interviewed Ripley Johnson of the band Wooden Shjips.


BookPage interviewed author Aimee Nezhukumatathil.


Stream a new Frog Eyes song.


Unbound Worlds interviewed Chandler Klang Smith about her novel The Sky is Yours.


Get a David Bowie MetroCard.


Tor.com recommended horror novels with unreliable narrators.


Stream a new song by Sibille Attar.


Madeline Miller talked to BookPage about her novel Circe.


Stream a new song by Laura Jane Grace song.



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

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

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

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

April 17, 2018

Rebekah Frumkin's Playlist for Her Novel "The Comedown"

The Comedown

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

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

Rebekah Frumkin's ambitious debut novel The Comedown is an impressive account of American life across generations.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"Frumkin's powerfully drawn moments present themes of race, religion, and education; addiction and mental illness; sex, love, and inheritance....Frumkin displays a real knack for creating lifelike, original characters and letting them do the talking."


In her own words, here is Rebekah Frumkin's Book Notes music playlist for her debut novel The Comedown:



The Comedown is multi-generational, and so was the music I listened to while I wrote it. This playlist is so inspired by my characters’ preferences that it doesn’t feel like my own. I tend to approach my writing like a method actor studying for a role: if I’m going to inhabit the psyche of a baby boomer, for instance, then I’ll listen to her music, read her books, watch her TV, talk to people who knew her in an effort to understand her. Most importantly, I’ll draw upon moments of intense emotion in my own life that could possibly bring me closer to hers. Music elicits emotion in me like almost nothing else, which is good news for my “performance” on the page – if the song makes me feel happy then I’m better able to channel a character’s happiness. And that happiness changes with the variables of the character’s identity. A middle-aged, straight fisherman’s happiness is an entirely different genre from a young, queer prison abolitionist’s happiness. Picking the right song for the right emotion for the right character was one of my favorite parts of writing this novel.


“God Only Knows” by the Beach Boys

Pet Sounds was an earth-shattering album, and “God Only Knows” is a harmonized prayer right in the middle of it. Writing to this song was like writing in my sleep – I was putting words on the page but in an abstracted, dreamy way, watching myself write from a distance and nodding and thinking, “Good job, Rebekah.” I listened to this song most when I was writing a character, Melinda, who takes up space in a way women aren’t supposed to, who is married to a coke-addicted egomaniac, and whose son is one of her few tethers to reality. She isn’t the picture of confidence, but she never collapses into a pile of self-loathing. She manages, despite everything, to love herself: instead of “god only knows what I’d be without you,” “god only knows where I’d be without me.”

“To Love Somebody” by the Bee Gees

This is one of a handful of songs I played on repeat for hours while writing The Comedown. The Bee Gees are typically associated with a semi-nude John Travolta combing his hair in Saturday Night Fever, but they’re more than a shaggy disco band. They wrote ballads like “To Love Somebody,” which contains the powerful refrain: “You don’t know what it’s like / Baby you don’t know what it’s like / To love somebody / To love somebody / The way I love you.” Those lines almost sound like a parent talking to their child. And even though many baby boomers hated disco for its encroachment on the folk, rock, and folk-rock of the ‘60s – there was even a Disco Demolition at Comiskey Park in 1979 that turned into a riot – I think the refrain of “To Love Somebody” applies to Reggie, Natasha, and Melinda, all boomers passionately devoted to their children. Even Leland Sr. manages to collect himself enough to care about the younger of his two sons. I’ve never been a parent, but the Bee Gees helped me write about them.

“I Want You Back” by the Jackson 5

I recently watched the Goin’ Back to Indiana version of this song and felt bad for how little I cared about the other brothers: the only person onstage was Michael in his weird sunflower costume, clapping his hands and dancing with perfect rhythm. Michael, like Brian Wilson, was a massive talent with a tyrannical father-manager. “I Want You Back” has him screaming at the top of his lungs, desperately fighting for a second chance with a woman who’s abandoned him. The song should be sung by someone three times his age, but somehow he manages to fill it with enough emotion to outstrip the abilities of any adult. Reggie would have been a young man when this song topped the Billboard Hot 100 – in an earlier version of the book, this song is playing when he first meets Sunny. My editor wanted me to rewrite the scene for practical reasons, but I still kept the spirit of Michael in the book, populating it with fans of his music and child prodigies alike.

“Tell Me Something Good” by Chaka Khan and Rufus

In this song, Chaka Khan appears to have the world’s worst lover, some guy totally underserving of her. I kept listening to this funky, sexy, song over and over, trying to piece together why Chaka Khan is begging this lame dude to tell her something good. Just leave him, I’d think, you can do so much better. Still, I can’t get enough of this song – it’s a quintessential 70s track, the kind of record that would be playing while Reggie and Natasha were having sex. The wah wah of the synthy talkbox somehow calls to mind the debauchery that went on behind bedroom doors in 1974: stolen kisses and psychedelic trips and plots against unhip parents. The fact that Chaka Khan was a member of the Black Panther Party would probably still the hearts of many a white kid who was more into the civil rights thing for the drugs than the liberation of marginalized people – there were (and continue to be) many such white kids. But they don’t matter. What matters is how Chaka’s brilliance shines through in this song. Her talent for music is like Natasha’s for criticism: persistent, undeniable, and beautiful.

“Heart of Glass” by Blondie

Cocaine is basically its own character in the book, so I’ve dedicated two songs on this playlist to it. This is the first. Blondie, hanging out in Studio 54 with her band of L.L. Bean models, might as well be singing about addiction and recovery: “Once I had a love and it was divine / Soon found out I was losing my mind / It seemed like the real thing but I was so blind / Mucho mistrust, love’s gone behind.” Leland Sr. never recovers from his addiction and Lee seems to be headed into the same territory. This song helped me write their drug-fueled manias: the beat is just cheerful enough to call to mind cocaine’s quick-wittedness and self-possession but not its jagged aftereffects. That part is for the lyrics.

“Atmosphere” by Joy Division

This is a beautiful song which sounds like a funeral dirge for Joy Division’s lead singer, Ian Curtis. It was released just two months before Curtis’s suicide, and the lyrics seem to be calling him back to earth: “Don’t walk away, in silence / See the danger / Always danger.” The Comedown has characters who suffer, like Curtis did, from disturbances in their mental health: Leland Sr., Leland Jr., Caleb, Lee, Tarzan/Tweety, and Maria Timpano are some of the most notable in the book. Curtis was epileptic, prescribed a cocktail of anticonvulsants to keep his brain’s electricity in order. It’s hard not to compare him to Maria Timpano, who has a chronic brain disorder that nearly kills her and grants her a 200+ IQ. I’m not a terribly big fan of the “mentally ill genius” trope, often because it functions as an apologia for (men’s) shitty behavior, but I do think there’s something to be said for one’s disability informing one’s view of the world. Curtis would not have sang how he sang and danced how he danced without his neurodivergent brain. Neither would Maria Timpano have written how she wrote or loved how she loved.

“Just a Friend” by Biz Markie

I fell in love with the Freddie Scott track Biz samples from before I’d even heard of this song, which (the song) is boy-dorky, like if an overindulged class clown started rapping a chart-topping single. “(You) Got What I Need” is an example of R&B wizardry, and Biz’s track doesn’t deny its power. Instead, Freddie Scott’s love story becomes the irresistibly catchy refrain to Biz’s corny heartbreak. Of all the characters in the novel, this song reminds me the most of Aaron. He would have been almost 20 in 1989, the year Biz topped the charts with “Just a Friend.” And, like Biz, Skee-Lo, and others who rapped about how great it would be if they could just pull hot ladies, he would have been a “nice guy,” the kind of straight, cis man who talks about “the mysteries of the female sex” and bemoans other men’s attractiveness. At least Biz doesn’t take himself too seriously – I’m not sure the same can be said for any man in my novel.

“Debra” by Beck

This is the second of the two cocaine songs on this playlist. Although it’s a Beck-proclaimed “slow jam,” there’s something about it that reminds me of the bedraggled morning after a night of indulgence. If you had just blown lines and lines of amphetamines and were so energetic you had to walk two miles to a park, where you would then sit sweating on a bench, wide awake and underslept, watching the sun come up, this song would be playing in your head. This song would be playing in your head as you were arrested for loitering around 5:00am, as you were chatting people up in jail, as cops leered at you while you paced your cell. “I pick you up late after work / I say, ‘Girl, step inside my Hyundai’” – that is exactly the kind of thing Leland Sr. would say to a woman he was trying to court. In my mind, Leland Sr. even looks a little like Beck: a thin white dude in a wide-lapeled suit, singing about stuff that doesn’t make any sense.

“A.D.H.D.” by Kendrick Lamar

Finally, a song about the millennial drug-taking experience! “My generation sipping cough syrup like it’s water / Never no pancakes in the kitchen / Man, no wonder our lives is caught up in the daily superstition / That the world is ‘bout to end / Who gives a fuck? We never do listen.” Kendrick Lamar is brilliant without bounds, the kind of talent that makes you weak in the knees when you listen to his early stuff: the fact that he only got better after Section.80 is almost unfair to other rappers. This song almost exactly captures the drug-glazed apathy of Netta’s college years, the hedonism of Lee and Tarzan/Tweety’s adolescence. Kendrick is talking about a generation that was born into the crack epidemic and matured into DSM diagnoses like A.D.H.D. While Netta, Lee, and Tarzan/Tweety may be privileged in ways Kendrick’s subjects are not, they share a desire to get as fucked up as possible and forget about the world crumbling around them.

“Chanel” by Frank Ocean

Although many have hoisted him aloft as a queer icon, Frank Ocean has resisted categorization. Other than revealing that his first love was a member of the same gender, he hasn’t adopted any labels for himself. His music revels in ambiguity. When I think of “Chanel” I think of Tarzan/Tweety, a person who doesn’t want to be defined by their appearance or pronouns, who wants to live in that murky suspension before all the categorization and delineation that goes on in our world. “I see both sides like Chanel” refers to the interlocking Cs of the Chanel logo, as well as, perhaps, Frank’s quicksilver fluidity. He’s bisexual one minute, pansexual the next, gay another: there’s no pinning him down, hard as Gen X music critics might try. He’s no one’s symbol, and neither is Tarzan/Tweety.


Rebekah Frumkin and The Comedown links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

BookPage review
Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

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

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

Sofija Stefanovic's Playlist for Her Memoir "Miss Ex-Yugoslavia"

Miss Ex-Yugoslavia

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

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

Sofija Stefanovic's Miss Ex-Yugoslavia is a timely and beautifully told memoir of immigration.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"Smart, spirited….Full of lively anecdotes. Stefanovic tells her story of immigration and displacement, childhood pleasures and teenage angst."


In her own words, here is Sofija Stefanovic's Book Notes music playlist for her memoir Miss Ex-Yugoslavia:



My memoir Miss Ex-Yugoslavia is a sometimes-funny sometimes-dark story about me as an immigrant kid. In the 90s, my family moved between socialist Yugoslavia, where I was born, and Australia, which was so far away and strange, that my mother referred to it as “the asshole of the world”. While I was writing this book, I needed to access a lot of old memories, and one of my preferred methods was to listen to the music that coincided with the various chapters of our lives.

1 Djurdjevdan – Bijelo Dugme
My favorite song from ex-Yugoslavia. This is one I listen to when I’m stuck with my writing and I want to loosen up my memories and let them flow. The song’s lyrics are roughly, “Here comes the dawn – it’s St George’s day, and I’m not with the one I love.” Like many songs from my region, this one is about heartbreak and longing, and just the thing to provoke emotion when you’re getting into a memoir-writing mood.

2 Billie Jean – Michael Jackson
This song was released in 1982 – the year I was born in Belgrade, in the middle of an electricity outage. I wrote a chapter about my birth, trying to imagine what Belgrade was like back then. My mother had a perm and she drew on her eyebrows, my father had a shaggy beard and aspirations of moving to the west. Yugoslavia was a socialist country, but not behind the Iron Curtain. Our leader of forty years, Marshal Tito had allowed influences from the east and west to enter, and in many ways, Yugoslavia was liberated, refusing to take the side of either Cold War giant. Russians came to Yugoslavia to buy Michael Jackson and David Bowie records. Perhaps 'Billie Jean' was playing on the stereo as the neighbor sped my parents to the hospital where I would be born.

3 Tramvaj Kreće – Bijelo Dugme
I was born into a unified Yugoslavia, where young people from all republics (Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia) enjoyed listening to western-inspired Yugo Rock. Once the country fell apart several years later, we Yugo-nostalgics continued listening to Yugo rock, remembering the old days, or creating an idealized Yugoslavia in our minds. I listened to this song a lot as I wrote the Yugoslavian parts of my story.

4 Stop! – Sam Brown
I didn’t speak English when we emigrated to Australia and my mother’s tactic for helping me learn the language was to let me watch as much TV as I wanted. I remember watching Video Hits and this clip showing a blonde-bobbed, husky-voiced Sam Brown was often on. Though I didn’t understand all the words, “stop” was a pretty easy one, and I became an immediate fan of this song. My parents would come to the room when it came on because they loved it too, and we would sing along in our accented English.

5 Twin Peaks Theme – Angelo Badalamenti
We lived in a weird small town in South Australia for a while, in a little portable house surrounded by red earth and scrub. My mother was depressed because she hated the town and missed our family and friends. Meanwhile, the war was going on back in Yugoslavia. As if it wasn’t enough to be living in a creepy small town while people were killing each other back home, she watched Twin Peaks all the time – about a creepy small town where people get killed. I remember hearing the Twin Peaks theme song from the living room when I was in bed, as the smell of her cigarette smoke wafted in.

6 Dream a Little Dream – Mama Cass Elliot
As a kid who didn’t quite fit in, I found solace in reading, watching films and listening to music that had been popular decades before. For our end-of-year school show, instead of joining the other girls in a synchronized dance, I decided to lip-sync “Dream a Little Dream of Me” in front of my whole school, hoping that all the kids would love me and that I would achieve some sort of iconic status, where they would sing along, swaying in the audience. They did not, and I got booed off stage. (I still love this song though.)

7 Gloomy Sunday – Billie Holiday
When I was a teenager, tragedy touched our family. I withdrew into myself even more so than a usual thirteen-year-old and I believed all songs about grief and heartbreak were directed at me, personally. I listened to the Billie Holiday version of 'Gloomy Sunday' on repeat and I was particularly impressed that the song was originally from Eastern Europe, just like me (it had been known as the “Hungarian Suicide Song”).

8 Aretha Franklin – Runnin’ Out of Fools
When I was sixteen overheard someone say that “every woman who’s had her heart broken should have an Aretha Franklin album.” As someone who was often in unrequited love, I immediately ran out and got an Aretha Franklin album. 'Runnin’ Out of Fools' reminds me of an uncertain teenaged time of life where I felt misunderstood, and I was always in love with someone who didn’t care about me.

9 Demain – Les Nubians
My family rarely went on vacation, but when I was sixteen, we visited Belgrade, where I felt out of place and strange even though it is my hometown. Then we went to Paris, where my best friend Harry was on an exchange program. Harry and I left my family behind and got a bottle of wine and drank it on a park bench in Pigalle. I felt suddenly adult, and also uninhibited and inspired to be an artist – I was in Paris for gods’ sake! This song stuck in my head that night; “Demain” means tomorrow, and I felt like the future was full of possibility.

11 Igra Rokenrol Cela Jugoslavija – Električni Orgazam
After around a decade of war, Yugoslavia’s leader, Slobodan Milošević was brought down. My family, who had protested against him, who had moved to Australia thanks to his politics, went nuts. I danced around with my sister while all our friends sang in Serbo-Croatian “All of Yugoslavia is Dancing to Rock n Roll” as we celebrated the end of horrible news reports from back home.

12 As Time Goes By – (as sung by Dooley Wilson in Casablanca)
The film Casablanca has always held a special place: it was my dad’s favorite film, and I also like it because it’s about immigrants, like us. The beginning of the film sees people fleeing war-torn Europe, a hodge-podge of Europeans from various countries ending up in the exotic Casablanca as they wait to get visas to emigrate elsewhere. Even though suburban Melbourne, where we ended up, is so different to the fantasy world of Casablanca, there’s a warm connection I feel for this film, and its iconic song, which provokes nostalgia in its lead characters. And, as someone who writes about her childhood constantly and tearfully, nostalgic songs always hit the spot.


Sofija Stefanovic and Miss Ex-Yugoslavia links:

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

Booklist review
Kirkus 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

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 (Novels That Tackle Gun Violence, The Breeders' Tiny Desk Concert, and more)

Gun Love

Entertainment Weekly recommended recently published novels that tackle gun violence.


The Breeders played a Tiny Desk Concert.


April's best eBook deals.


Kendrick Lamar has been awarded the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for his album DAMN.


Mashable recommended spring's best books.


Stream a new Gang of Four song.


Elle Nash discussed her novel Animals Eat Each Other with Vol. 1 Brooklyn.


Field Report visited World Cafe for an interview and live performance.


The 2018 Young Lions Fiction Award Finalists have been announced.


Stream a new METZ video.


Pigeon Pages interviewed author Rachel Lyon.


Stream a new song by audiobooks.


Andrew Sean Greer's novel Less has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

Read his playlist for the book.


Stereogum profiled the band Lord Huron.


James Comey talked to Morning Edition about hos book A Higher Truth.


A skateboard inspired by the Grinderman song "Heathen Child."


Alexander Chee talked books and reading with Literary Hub.


Pitchfork recommended summer music festivals.


Bookforum interviewed author Wayne Koestenbaum.


Stream a new Okkervil River song.


Literary Hub shared an excerpt from Sofija Stefanovic's memoir Miss Ex-Yugoslavia.



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

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

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

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

April 16, 2018

Shorties (An Interview with Ayòbámi Adébáyò, The Best Dream Pop Albums, and more)

Stay With Me

Ayòbámi Adébáyò discussed her novel Stay With Me with the Guardian.


Pitchfork listed the best dream pop albums.


April's best eBook deals.


Stream a new Sleepyhead song.


Weekend Edition interviewed Madeline Miller about her new book, Circe.


Amanda Petrusich on the music of John Fahey at the New Yorker.


Rolling Stone profiled author Emma Cline.


Stereogum reconsidered M83's Saturdays = Youth album, first released ten years ago.


BOMB interviewed poet Jenny Xie.


PopMatters listed the Posies' best songs.


The New Yorker examined the writings and art of Edward Lear.


Laura Veirs visited World Cafe for an interview and live performance.


The New York Times interviewed author Paul Theroux.


Stream a new song by Wet.


The New Yorker interviewed Yiyun Li about her story in this week's issue.


NYCTaper shared a recording of a recent Jeff Tweedy performance.


The Rumpus interviewed author Will Boast.


Nafissa Thompson-Spires discussed her story collection Heads of the Colored People with the New York Times.


Drowned in Sound interviewed Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak.


The Los Angeles review of Books podcast interviewed author Junot Diaz.


Stereogum reconsidered Frightened Rabbit's album The Midnight Organ Fight, first released ten years ago.



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

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

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

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

April 13, 2018

Jackson Ellis's Playlist for His Novel "Lords of St. Thomas"

Lords of St. Thomas

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

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

Winner of the 2017 Howard Frank Mosher First Novel Prize, Jackson Ellis's Lords of St. Thomas is an impressive debut.

New England Review of Books wrote of the book:

"A thrilling story where readers measure how much they value their rights and how far they're willing to fight for them... Ellis does a compelling job of showing the Lord family's hopelessness in their fight to change a fait accompli, without capitulating to sentimentality. This tragic note gives a particular, Steinbeckian vividness to the familiar templates of multigenerational family tale (the story of the Lords) and the American coming-of-age narrative (the story of Little Henry)."


In his own words, here is Jackson Ellis's Book Notes music playlist for his debut novel Lords of St. Thomas:



In my debut novel, Lords of St. Thomas, the members of the Lord family must face their worst nightmare: the loss of their home, land, and livelihood. The desert town in which they live, St. Thomas, Nevada, is doomed to destruction via flooding by Lake Mead, which is to be created upon completion of the Hoover Dam. The federal government offers to buy out the Lords, but the family, torn apart by conflicting ideals, declines the offer and stays put. Caught in the turmoil is the central character and youngest member of the family, "Little" Henry Lord (who is also the narrator). Many early readers have commented upon the historic and familial aspects of the Lords of St. Thomas, but to me, it is the lonely life that Little Henry is born into and how it shapes his worldview that is most powerful. A number of these songs reflect that desolate perspective.

Money, by Embrace

It is Little Henry's grandfather, Henry Lord (for whom his grandson is named), who ultimately decides to stay in St. Thomas, refusing the federal government's offer to purchase his property. Though the conversation he has with the government official is slightly more civil, in essence, his words echo Ian MacKaye's opening lyrics: "I can truly say I don't give a fuck about your money."

Lungs, by Townes Van Zandt

This is one of my favorite songs by Townes Van Zandt, and it features the line, "Seal the river at its mouth, take the water prisoner/Fill the skies with screams and cries, bathe in fiery answers." Van Zandt wrote the song while suffering from pneumonia, but his metaphorical lyrics, when taken literally, apply quite well to the fates of the Lords and the personal hell they found in Lake Mead.

Desert Sea, by Jawbox

"Half-submerged in the desert sea, an ex-paradise/Keepsakes down there for me" -- I would not be surprised if it were, in fact, Lake Mead that inspired J. Robbins to write the lyrics to this song. The ruins of the real-life town of St. Thomas were submerged below up to 70 feet of water for more than six decades, finally exposed in 2002 after a lengthy (and ongoing) drought. When I first visited, I was amazed at how intact parts of the village remained -- you can stroll down Main Street; you can walk around in the foundation of the St. Thomas School and see where dozens of homes sat. It was, to many, an "ex-paradise" they were forced to leave -- and I wondered, if someone were to actually leave a keepsake behind as a child that could be retrieved decades later (after sitting underwater for so long), what would it be? That is what I set out to discover when I wrote this story.

Things Could Turn Around, by fIREHOSE

This is a beautiful track by a very underrated band. Ed Crawford's vocal delivery is perfect, but the lyrics were actually written by Kira Roessler, the former Black Flag bassist who was, at the time, married to fIREHOSE bassist Mike Watt. Despite the track's title, Roessler's lyrics do not inspire much hope that things could actually turn around -- and, given the inevitability of St. Thomas's fate back in the early 1930s, I do not believe any of the town's holdouts truly believed that things would get any better.

The Boat Dreams From the Hill, by Jawbreaker

When I lived in Nevada, I never became completely accustomed to seeing civilization in such a brutally inhospitable climate. Strangest to me, though, was when I went out exploring in the desert and stumbled upon random signs of civilization miles from Las Vegas or the nearest outpost: pickup tailgates, couches, empty laundry detergent bottles; you name it, you can probably find it littered somewhere out in the middle of the desert, devoid of context. And because of Lake Mead, I saw lots of boats everywhere -- and many, like the boat described in this song, had not touched water in years and years. There is something strikingly depressing about seeing an object created for joy not just abandoned, but abandoned in a place completely antithetical to the environment for which it was created. I felt this same pang of sadness walking through St. Thomas. It is littered not only with the remnants of a past thriving civilization, but also with the remnants of a lake that long ago receded: mussel shells and boat anchors lie scattered across the ruins. It is both a ghost town and a ghost lake in a scorching desert suited to neither.

Rowboat, by Beck

On the whole, I don't particularly care for Stereopathetic Soulmanure, but it does contain my all-time favorite Beck song, "Rowboat." A rowboat features prominently in Lords of St. Thomas (note the cover art by my Verbicide co-publisher Nate Pollard), and the sad, lo-fi country twang of this track fits well with the book --for a time, I even considered titling it Rowboat. (I'm glad to have reconsidered.)

Let Me Drown, by Soundgarden

I wrote my book between 2013 and 2014, but the final round of editing was completed in 2017. During this process, Chris Cornell committed suicide. It hit me especially hard, because when I was an adolescent, confronted for the first time by death, rejection, and loneliness, I often leaned on music to get by, and Cornell's lyrics -- especially in the elegiac yet oddly upbeat Temple of the Dog album -- became very important to me. Upon Cornell's death, I revisited much of his music, and found this song to be quite appropriate, as I was reworking a book about a town that literally was allowed to drown. "I'm going to the lonely place," Cornell wails toward the song's end. The real-life ghost town of St. Thomas is indeed one of the loneliest places anyone could ever find.

Humming, by Portishead

If I could give each character a theme song, this would be the one for Little Henry's mother, Ellen Lord. "Unresolved," "unredeemed," "so wrong" -- she is a woman who lives a life that is marred by tragedy year upon year. Like Little Henry's grandfather, the elder Henry Lord, Ellen too wishes to stay on in St. Thomas -- but her reasoning for staying is less rooted in obstinacy than in the fear that she could lose the very last things that have not yet been taken from her by force or by cruel fate.

Remember the Mountain Bed, by Billy Bragg and Wilco, written by Woody Guthrie

The titular "mountain bed" that Guthrie wrote about in this poem-turned-song by Billy Bragg and Wilco couldn't be further from the harsh desert landscape in Nevada where Lords of St. Thomas is set. Still, in this song, a man returns to an idealized place from his past to reflect on the course his life has taken -- much like Little Henry returning to St. Thomas as an old man.

Father to a Sister of Thought, by Pavement

Everything eventually meets its end: towns, civilizations, and the lives of every human/plant/animal. The older you grow and the closer you come to meeting your own fate, the harder it is to put this thought out of your mind. The alt-country-western style of this song, atypical to Pavement's usual output, perfectly fits the tone of the book as it comes to a close, as do Stephen Malkmus's penultimate lyrics: "I know I'm leaning in to the end."


Jackson Ellis and Lords of St. Thomas links:

the author's website

New England Review of Books review
Newfound review
Seven Days review

Linda's Book Bag interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

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

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

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

Google
  Web largeheartedboy.com