August 20, 2018

Shorties (Barack Obama's favorite Books of the Summer, A Profile of Musician Elizabete Balčus, and more)

Elizabete Balčus

Barack Obama shared the best books he read this summer.


Drowned in Sound interviewed Latvian musician Elizabete Balčus, who has been compared to St. Vincent and Bjork.


eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

The End of the World: Stories of the Apocalypse
The Quiet American by Graham Greene
Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham


Paste profiled singer-songwriter Amanda Shires.


Read a new Mark Doten short story at n+1.


Silent Motorist interviewed author Elle Nash.


Cosmonauts Avenue is crowdfunding a new anthology.


Stereogum reconsidered Deerhunter's Microcastle and Weird Era Cont. albums, which celebrate their 10th anniversaries this year.


The Guardian profiled author Miriam Toews.


Stream a new track by Running and Ryley Walker.


The 2018 Hugo Award winners have been announced.


Sana Krasikov talked to the New Yorker about his story in this week's issue.



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

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

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

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August 17, 2018

Kristi Coulter's Playlist for Her Essay Collection "Nothing Good Can Come from This"

Nothing Good Can Come from This

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

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

Kristi Coulter's essay collection Nothing Good Can Come from This is a witty and poignant examination of her transition from drinking to sobriety.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote of the book:

"Deeply human. Taken together, the collection is about more than sobriety. It's a celebration of the quotidian, a love letter to the breathtaking beauty of the mundane."


In her own words, here is Kristi Coulter's Book Notes music playlist for her essay collection Nothing Good Can Come from This:



“Jesus’s Hands,” American Music Club
I was never a woo-girl kind of drinker; even as a teenager I was always using booze to try to tap into something grave and serious and bigger than myself, the way more efficient people might use hallucinogens. (In some ways I was trying and failing to be a boy-poet drinker in the Bukowski/Tom Waits mode.) Drinking for me held the promise of the kind of warmth and connection and acceptance embodied here in the voice of Mark Eitzel, one of the great boy-poet drinkers.

“The Fear,” Pulp
Have you ever woken up after a night of drinking feeling sick and regretful and worried about something you might have said or done? There’s some small-f fear in that. Have you ever woken up sick and regretful and worried more often than not for months or even years on end, even though you promise yourself every night that you’ll only have two glasses of wine? And when you wake up sick and regretful and worried, do you already know you’ll be making and breaking that promise again tonight, because you don’t know how to stop yourself from doing this thing that you actually hate? That’s the Fear with a capital F, and this is the song that finally named it for me.

“My Backwards Walk,” Frightened Rabbit
This song is about trying over and over again to leave a relationship, but I associate with the four thousand years I spent trying to become a moderate drinker rather than quit completely. (Pro tip for anyone stuck in that morass right now: it’s way easier to just quit. I know, I didn’t believe it either. But it’s true.) Also, I tripped on a stair the night I first heard it performed and bruised my knee, and for years it hurt when I put pressure on the wrong spot. I called it my Drunkard’s Knee, because I like old-timey sounding ailments and because I needed bad things that happened to me while I was drinking to seem madcap vs. stupid. Scott Hutchison, the brilliant and funny frontman for Frightened Rabbit, wrote frequently about his own destructive drinking. He killed himself a few months ago. I eventually saw him play this live a half-dozen times and I wish I could again.

“Lived in Bars,” Cat Power
Because not all my drinking was a drag, or I wouldn’t have done so much of it. A lot of it was great. And when it was great, it felt like this.

“Thank U,” Alanis Morissette
The essay “Desire Lines” explores my lifelong fear of being what science would now call ‘basic.’ A few unpopular years in middle school resulted in decades of aversion to Yankee Candles and flavored lattes. So it’s probably karmic justice that within days of quitting drinking I had this song on a loop in my head. I didn’t even know I knew it! But the line “the moment I jumped off of it is the moment I touched down” is exactly what quitting felt like for me. I didn’t feel “ready” to stop drinking when I did; I just didn’t have anything else left to try. But almost as soon as I stopped I realized that while getting sober was going to be hard, it wasn’t going to be the full-on horror show I’d imagined it to be. I’d jumped, and landed. Five years later I still love this song, and I also still wonder what the ‘thin transparent dangling carrots’ are all about. (Are they earrings? I keep picturing them as earrings.)

“Strong Swimmer,” Shelby Earl
Shelby is a local singer-songwriter and former co-worker I’m pretty crazy about, and not only because she was such a good sport about how we liked to say her name as though announcing her in Branson, MO: “Shelllllllllby Earl!” (It’s just hard not to.) I’ve done a lot of athletic training where you have to go through the slog and soreness of building new muscles, and that’s what new sobriety was like for me. You’ve got to swim the laps and do the dumb kickboard exercises and all the other un-fun stuff, knowing eventually you’ll be a strong swimmer. There’s really no shortcut.

“Scent of Lime,” the Long Winters and “Rainfall,” Hey Marseilles
Nothing Good Can Come from This is very much a Seattle book, and these are two of my favorite Seattle bands. I used to have both of these songs on my running playlist—yes, I do enjoy running to slow, demotivating music--and in early sobriety a line from “Scent of Lime” became sort of a mantra: “The worst you can do is harm.” When I first quit drinking, my only job on any given day was just not to drink. “The worst you can do is harm,” I’d tell myself when I felt shaky. Even now, I lean on that line sometimes in a bad situation. Just don’t make it worse, I think. Start there.

“Clean Get-Away,” Lori Carson
I went through this lovely period in my first or second year of sobriety where I thought my slate was wiped clean, and none of my old habits or problematic relationships would ever be an issue again. Oh, it was wonderful while it lasted.

“Don’t Dream It’s Over,” Crowded House
Neil Finn solo is the first show I ever saw completely sober, and walking through that door was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. And I’ve been to so many shows, and always been the kind of person wants to be right up front in the thick of it. I’ve been knocked out cold by a stage diver. Al Jourgenson from Ministry once stepped on my freaking hand. But it was the prospect of seeing nice Neil Finn sing beautiful songs in his cute accent that gripped me with fear. But it was fine. More than fine. I actually see more live music now than I did as a drinker, and I love it.

“Calling Cards,” Neko Case and “If We Never Meet Again,” the Reckless Sleepers
The essay “Fascination” is about discovering my own gaze and capacity for desire in sobriety, after a lifetime trying to look good in the male one. That discovery eventually leads me into…a situation. But as I put it in the book, in the pre-situation years I “behaved myself (mostly).” “There’s an ocean of room in that ‘mostly,’ an interviewer recently noted. Yes. Yes there is, and what’s in that ocean sounds like these two songs.

“Daughters of the Soho Riots,” the National
I almost used a line from this song as the book’s epigraph: “How can anybody know how they got to be this way?” Because I could speculate all day about what combination of genes, experiences, and circumstances led me into alcoholism and out again. I know other people in recovery who’ve got it down to an elevator speech. But ultimately, I just don’t fully know. And I don’t care that much. I was there. Now I’m here. I’m on my way somewhere else. That’s what I care about.

“Do You,” Spoon
I guess this is sort of a summer-barbecue song, but I find it strangely moving and the chorus has become a sort of catechism, a series of questions I ask myself now and then: “Do you want to get understood? Do you want one thing or are you looking for sainthood? Do you run when it’s just getting good?” (Yes but a little bit no; not sainthood; sometimes.) I didn’t ask myself those sorts of questions very much as a drinker—or I’d try, but I would have forgotten the question by the time I had any sort of answer.

“Proclaim Your Joy,” Mark Eitzel
Because the king of boy-poet drinkers can also be exuberant and goofy and full of love, sober or drunk. Because so can I. This book isn’t about everything being one way and then flipping the Light Switch of Betterment. Everything I am now was in me then, for good or ill. I just couldn’t see it, because my field of vision was so narrow, and further contracting every day.

“Unsatisfied,” the Replacements
The book’s epigraph comes from this song because, I mean, my God. How could it not? It’s all in that unbelievable Westerberg vocal that’s daring you to tell him he’s gotten what he wants. Before I quit drinking, I had a vague idea that sobriety would mean a Zen state of perfect contentment, which was both attractive and somehow terrifying. Actually getting sober killed that illusion. I’m here. I’m awake. I want things. No, I’m not satisfied. Are you?

Kristi Coulter and Nothing Good Can Come from This links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

Booklist review
Los Angeles Review of Books review
Minneapolis Star Tribune review
Seattle Times 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

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This Week's Interesting Music Releases - August 17, 2018

Mitski

Mitski's Be The Cowboy is her strongest effort yet, easily one of the year's best albums.

Oh Sees' Smote Reverser is another album I can recommend this week.

Reissues include vinyl editions of four Siouxsie & The Banshees albums (Join Hands, Juju, Through The Looking Glass, Tinderbox) and five Teenage Fanclub releases (Bandwagonesque, Grand Prix, Howdy, Songs From Northern Britain, Thirteen ).


This week's interesting music releases:


Animal Collective: Tangerine Reef
Ariana Grande: Sweetener
Austin Lucas: Immortal Americans
Bad Religion: The New America (reissue) [vinyl]
Beach Boys: With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra [vinyl]
Blue October: I Hope You're Happy
Circles Around The Sun: Let It Wander
Conner Youngblood: Cheyenne
Cullen Omori: The Diet
Death Cab For Cutie: Thank You For Today
Dizzy: Baby Teeth
Dragon Inn 3: Double Line
Great Lake Swimmers: The Waves, The Wake
Julee Cruise: Three Demos
Julee Cruise: The Voice of Love (reissue) [vinyl]
Justin Hiltner & Jon Weisberger: Watch It Burn
Miles Davis: Bitches Brew (Quadraphonic Multi-Channel SACD)
Misfits: Famous Monsters (reissue) [vinyl]
Mitski: Be The Cowboy
Neil Diamond: Hot August Night III (2-CD, DVD)
Nicki Minaj: Queen
Oh Sees: Smote Reverser
Papa M: A Broke Moon Rises
Pere Ubu: Cloudland (reissue)
Ra Ra Riot: The Rhumb Line (reissue) [vinyl]
Siouxsie & The Banshees: Join Hands (reissue) [vinyl]
Siouxsie & The Banshees: Juju (reissue) [vinyl]
Siouxsie & The Banshees: Through The Looking Glass (reissue) [vinyl]
Siouxsie & The Banshees: Tinderbox (reissue) [vinyl]
Slaves: Acts Of Fear And Love
Still Corners: Slow Air
Teenage Fanclub: Bandwagonesque (reissue) [vinyl]
Teenage Fanclub: Grand Prix (reissue) [vinyl]
Teenage Fanclub: Howdy (reissue) [vinyl]
Teenage Fanclub: Songs From Northern Britain (reissue) [vinyl]
Teenage Fanclub: Thirteen (reissue) [vinyl]
Toots and the Maytals: Funky Kingston (reissue) [vinyl]
Trevor Powers: Mulberry Violence
Various Artists: Teen Expo: The Cleopatra Label
Wild Pink: Yolk in the Fur [vinyl]
Yo-Yo Ma: Six Evolutions - Bach: Cello Suites


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

Shorties (An Interview with Harold Bloom, Reconsidering Death Cab for Cutie's Debut Album on Its 20th Anniversary, and more)

Death Cab for Cutie

Joshua Cohen interviewed Harold Bloom at the Los Angeles Review of Books.


Stereogum reconsidered Death Cab for Cutie's Something About Airplanes album on its 20th anniversary.


Rebecca Solnit talked books and reading with the New York Times.


Yo-Yo Ma played a Tiny Desk Concert.


Will Self talked books and reading with the Guardian.


Stream a new Blood Orange song.


Melanie Abrams discussed her forthcoming novel Meadowlark with The Rumpus.


John Vanderslice talked to KQED about his living room tour, which kicks off August 20th in Chicago.


Laura June recommended books that capture the pain and chaos of alcoholism at Literary Hub.


Stream a new Christine and the Queens song.


Heavy listed the best travel books.


Cosey Fanni Tutti talked gardening with The Quietus.


Literary Hub recommended books for adults that feature talking animals.


Stream a new Lonely Parade song.


Vulture recommended books to read if you enjoy the show Sharp Objects.


Aquarium Drunkard interviewed Nik Rayne of the Myrrors.


Ottessa Moshfegh discussed her novel My Year of Rest and Relaxation with the Amazon Book Review.



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

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

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

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

August 16, 2018

Rebecca Makkai's Playlist for Her Novel "The Great Believers"

The Great Believers

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

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

Rebecca Makkai's novel The Great Believers is an engrossing multi-generational exploration of the AIDS crisis and its lasting effects on families.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"With its broad time span and bedrock of ferocious, loving friendships, [The Great Believers] might remind readers of Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life…though it is, overall, far brighter than that novel. As her intimately portrayed characters wrestle with painful pasts and fight to love one another and find joy in the present in spite of what is to come, Makkai carefully reconstructs 1980s Chicago, WWI-era and present day Paris, and scenes of the early days of the AIDS epidemic. A tribute to the enduring forces of love and art, over everything."


In her own words, here is Rebecca Makkai's Book Notes music playlist for her novel The Great Believers:



The Great Believers is about AIDS in Chicago, and it’s about someone looking back on that time from modern-day Paris. In other words, it’s about loss and survival and memory—sentiments probably better expressed in a three-minute song than a four-hundred-page novel. That didn’t stop me from trying. There’s a lot of music in the book—songs referenced or listened to or sung along to—and while some of that music doesn’t speak to the book’s themes (Billy Joel’s “Always a Woman,” anybody?) plenty of it was the music I myself heard as I wrote. I write in silence, as I don’t want lyrics chewing up any of the linguistic part of my brain, but I’ve never in my life been without a song playing in my head. Here are a few of them.


“America,” by Simon and Garfunkel

I was at an artists’ residency during the 2014 election, an election that did not go very well, and the next morning another writer posted “America” on Facebook in response. I wasn’t totally preoccupied with politics (ahhhh, 2014), and so the song spoke instead to the novel-writing part of my mind, the part that was just starting to grapple with my opening scene. I didn’t know anything yet about the man whose memorial would start the book, but I decided this was his favorite song, this anti-anthem, this song of wandering and yearning, of being young and lost. I built him from there, and I built the scene around this song being played at the memorial. In the early days of writing, when the book was still a slippery thing that would sometimes evade my grasp, I’d watch the video of Simon and Garfunkel playing that song in Central Park, and boom, I’d be back in the world of my story.


“Pie Jesu,” by Andrew Lloyd Webber

Webber’s requiem was new in 1985, and this felt like the right piece for a 1986 funeral. It was written for a soprano, and made famous by Sarah Brightman’s recording with boy soprano Paul Miles-Kingston, but in my novel it’s Yale’s secret crush, Asher, who sings it. Asher is all voice throughout the book—protesting, speechifying, pontificating—and so it made sense to me that he’d be a singer, too. I put in that he was a classically trained baritone, which suggested to me a depth beyond all that shouting.


“You Spin Me Round,” by Dead or Alive

This is the song being blasted at the 1987 Pride parade from the float on which Yale’s ex-lover, Charlie, is tossing condoms. I found the lyrics appropriate to the way Charlie had treated Yale; Charlie is a piece of work. I’d originally had Donna Summer’s “Protection” playing here, in what would have been a cheeky nod to the condom distribution on behalf of the float organizers—but then I learned that in the late ‘80s, the gay community was livid with Donna Summer for allegedly suggesting that AIDS was a punishment from God, and never would have played her music in this context.


“Moon River,” by Mancini and Mercer

This is a song Yale was smitten with as a child, when he watched Audrey Hepburn sing it in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. It’s a song he associates (irrationally) with mothers, although he doesn’t have much of a mother himself. It’s the song he asks Fiona to sing him late in the book, and she tries, despite not knowing the words. I can’t say too much more here without giving major spoilers, but I love the wistful nature of this song, and I love the line about “two drifters, off to see the world.” Fiona will get to live on, traveling far and seeing the world, when not all of the men she looks after will.


“Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want,” by The Smiths

Yale is going out and dancing to Bronski Beat, but at home he’s listening to New Order and The Smiths and REM. I don’t believe I ever stipulated what particular Smiths songs he’s listening to, but in my mind it’s this one. The lyrics “the life I’ve had / Can make a good man bad” are pretty damn bleak, but appropriate to a lot of my characters and the decisions they make (or abdicate) under extreme stress. And Yale’s entire story is about both getting what he wants and losing everything he has.


“Being Boring,“ by Pet Shop Boys

I didn’t have this song in mind as I wrote, but someone online suggested recently that it was the perfect soundtrack for The Great Believers, and I think he was right. It’s about looking back on times with lost friends, it’s about caches of old photographs, and it’s about suddenly finding yourself in the future, realizing the life you knew best is now the past. If The Great Believers were ever made into a movie, I wouldn’t at all mind this playing as the credits rolled.


Rebecca Makkai and The Great Believers links:

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

Boston Globe review
Kirkus review
New York Times review
Publishers Weekly review
San Francisco Chronicle review

Chicago Review of Books interview with the author
Electric Literature interview with the author
Largehearted Boy playlist by the author for Music for Wartime
Los Angeles Times interview with the author
WBEZ interview with the author
WBUR interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

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

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

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

Shorties (The 100 Best Horror Books and Stories, R.I.P Aretha Franklin, and more)

Aretha Franklin

NPR Books recommended the 100 best horror books and stories.


R.I.P., Aretha Franklin.

Paste listed Franklin's best songs.


eBook on sale for $1.99 today:

Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

eBook on sale for $2.99 today:

Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges


Guitarist Gwenifer Raymond shared a mixtape at Aquarium Drunkard.


Electric Literature interviewed author Nick Mamatas.


Drowned in Sound interviewed Interpol's Paul Banks.


Literary Hub shared an excerpt from Olga Tokarczuk's novel, Flights.


Stream a new Kurt Vile song.


The Oxford American features a new essay by Leesa Cross-Smith.


Stream a new Mudhoney song.


Ms. Magazine recommended feminist fiction for the end of summer.


Stream a new song by Low.


Cartoonist Kate Gavino discussed her graphic novel Sanpaku with Paste.


Stream a new Joyce Manor song.


Nico Walker discussed his debut novel Cherry with All Things Considered.


BrooklynVegan previewed fall's best albums.


Bookworm interviewed author B. Catling.


Courtney Barnett interviewed Elyse Weinberg's "Houses."


Entropy interviewed poet Natalie Eilbert.


Stream a new Spirit of the Beehive song.


Lily Allen's memoir My Thoughts Exactly will be published in the US in December.



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

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

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

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

August 15, 2018

Inman Majors' Playlist for His Novel "Penelope Lemon"

Penelope Lemon

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

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

Inman Majors has been compared to P. G. Wodehouse and Anne Tyler, and his novel Penelope Lemon is a fiercely funny and moving book about female friendship.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"A laugh-out-loud funny tale of misfortune and female friendship. Majors' latest is a riot from beginning to end."


In his own words, here is Inman Majors' Book Notes music playlist for his novel Penelope Lemon:



Penelope Lemon: Game On! my fifth novel, is a comedy about a forty-year-old, small town Virginia mom, recently divorced for the second time, who finds herself thrown back into the work place and the dating life in middle age. It’s a short, light read that I think of as the love child of an R-rated Parks and Rec set in a ribald Mayberry. It's meant to be the first in a series. (I wrapped up the second installment just last month). I’m hoping to do something akin to the PG Wodehouse Bertie/Jeeves series, but southern, rural, and with a female lead. It’s meant to be literary and stylish, but also goofy and fun—escapist fiction to the max.

Penelope is a big music fan, an MTV kid of the 80s, and music plays a big role in the book. In fact, the main plot point revolves around the Van Halen song, "Hot for Teacher." Penelope is cyber-snooping on her ex husband when she notices he has added a new song to his FACEBOOK favorites list. Along with this song and other clues (Mr. Holland’s Opus, etc.) she surmises that her ex has started dating their son’s 3rd grade teacher. A fair portion of the rest of the book revolves—comedically-- on Penelope’s detective work to see if this is indeed the case.

All of these songs or musicians are mentioned during the course of the novel.


“You Really Got Me” by Van Halen

In the first chapter, Penelope is at her son’s baseball practice when she notices another mom sitting off by herself reading an erotic novel called The Tycoon’s Dare. Penelope, something of an outlier among the other parents in attendance, is intrigued and moves closer to check-out the woman. The woman’s name is Missy and she is not just reading erotica in public but also wearing a black Van Halen t-shirt. Penelope takes both of these as good signs and they make friends on the spot.

“California Dreamin’” by the Mammas and the Poppas

Financially strained, Penelope is forced to move into the basement of her childhood home with her mom and step-dad. After discovering the clues to her ex husband’s new flame, she goes to the kitchen for a glass of wine to try and wind down. While there, her elderly mother comes flouncing into the kitchen in an un-cinched robe, fresh—it seems certain—from a lovemaking session. During their encounter, Penelope discovers that her mother has become wise to the ways of modern personal grooming. As she floats happily around the kitchen, she hums "California Dreamin’." Penelope finds all of this unfortunate.

“Country Boy Party” by Inman Majors

I truly and completely can’t stand New Country music (though I love the old stuff). And the worst of New Country, in my opinion, is of the Party Boy variety. Penelope’s first job after her divorce is waiting tables at a place called Coonskins. It’s one of those joints posing as a frontier roadhouse where people throw peanut shells on the floor and there’s a ton of stuffed mammals all over the place. The fictitious song on the radio when she gets fired for a confrontation with a customer is "Country Boy Party." Here is a sample:

Pull down the tailgate and ice the keg
Them rowdy boys got some hollow legs

Dancing Daisy Dukes, swaying Elly Mays
They won’t ask for your dossier

Yes it’s a risqué soiree
Kissing au francais
Country girl parfait
Look at them sashay

“Gimme Two Steps” by Lynyrd Skynyrd

At one point Penelope discovers that a nude photo, taken after a drunken day at the lake with her first husband when she was in her twenties, had made it onto the Internet. She recalls that this song was playing as she posed, on a waterbed, under a mounted largemouth bass, and that her first husband, the HHR (huge, huge redneck) was performing a nude Texas Two-Step save for high top Converse and a bandana, as he snapped away with his Polaroid.

“Paranoid” by Black Sabbath

The nude photo has appeared on a website called Paybacks Are Hell Heaven! While evaluating her young, carefree self, Penelope notes a Black Sabbath sticker on the waterbed upon which she lounges. A green bong, with which she was once familiar, can also be seen in the shot. The bong’s name was Tinkerbelle.

Recalling all this, Penelope spent a moment wondering if she was really meant for life in the middle class.

“Burnin’ For You” by Blue Oyster Cult

When Penelope calls the HHR to confront him about the nude photo on the internet, she finds that he is, per usual, stoned out of his mind. On the other hand, his tale of erotica stolen during a recent break-in does ring true. He’s been on the defensive during the whole of the phone conversation against Penelope’s understandable rage, but after another hit from the hookah, he is coming back to himself:

Penelope could tell the HHR was about to quote something about character or forgiveness from Duane Allman or the Blue Oyster Cult.

“Smells like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana

When Penelope needs a night out on the town, she meets up with Missy, the public erotica reader, at Applebee’s for a couple of drinks. They show up wearing matching Nirvana t-shirts, the one with the screwy-looking Happy Face.

“Crimson and Clover” by Joan Jett

While Penelope and Missy are at Applebee’s, Penelope receives an invitation to go to an outdoor party from BrettCorinthians2:2, someone she has cyber-met on the Christian dating app her mother got her for her 40th birthday. When they get to the party they discover that it is a gathering of an evangelical young adult group, centered around the beanbag-tossing game, Cornhole, and Christian rock music. That combination leads to this monologue from Missy:

“Do they have even one song that doesn’t have the Jehovah in it?” Missy asked. “It’s a damn hard word to rhyme. Noah. Leaf blowa. Tabula Rasa. Crimson and Clover. That’s Joan Jett. God, I love Joan Jett. I mean, Jehovah, I love Joan Jett.”

She began to sing now, quietly, so no one but Penelope could hear.

O Jehovah, bring me a whiskey and soda
Or maybe a mimosa
I’ll drink it in my Toyota
And let that Christian boy turn me ova

“Immigrant Song” by Led Zeppelin

While driving BrettCorinthians2:2 to Missy’s house for a little night-time swimming after the Cornhole party, he turns down "Immigrant Song" on her stereo without asking permission. Thus ends BrettCorinthians2:2’s slim chance of a casual make-out session.

“I’ve Got a Tiger by the Tail” by Buck Owens

Penelope’s car blows a head gasket that she can’t afford to get fixed, so her stepfather, George, lets her drive his old pickup, a yellow 1970 Chevy named Daisy. Penelope learned to drive on this truck with George while listening to the great Buck Owens.

“Hot for Teacher” by Van Halen

At the end of the book, when the mystery of her ex-husband’s love life has been solved, Penelope goes to hangout with some old friends from her neighborhood. After a series of setbacks, her life is finally moving in the right direction. The last music you hear in the book is, appropriately, Van Halen.

Penelope currently had a brain freeze from drinking her blueberry Slurpee too fast, but this too would pass. She reached for the volume knob, but it was already as loud as she could get it. How could anyone not like Eddie Van and David Lee? No one rocked harder.

The author agrees with this sentiment.


Inman Majors and Penelope Lemon links:

the author's website

Kirkus review
Deborah Kalb interview with the author
Tuck Magazine interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

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

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

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

Shorties (Anthony Bourdain Fan Fiction, A New Cat Power Song, and more)

Cat Power

Helen Rosner recommended Anthony Bourdain fan fiction at the New Yorker.


Stream a new Cat Power song (that features Lana Del Rey).


Vol. 1 Brooklyn interviewed author Brian Alan Ellis.


Stream three new Mountain Man songs.


Longreads features a new essay by A. M. Homes.


Stream a new song by Justus Proffit and Jay Som.


Ada Limon discussed her new poetry collection The Carrying with BOMB.


Stream a new Doe Paoro song.


R. O. Kwan talked book tour food with Grub Street.


Stream a new Black Belt Eagle Scout song.


The Guardian recommended books about Americans abroad.


Stream a new Madeline Kenney song.


Bookworm interviewed author Christian Kracht.


Stream Oh Sees' new album Smote Reverser at Stereogum.


Literary Hub shared an excerpt from Ling Ma's debut novel, Severance.


Stream a new Roosevelt song.


Book Riot recommended baseball books.



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

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

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

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

August 14, 2018

Ling Ma's Playlist for Her Novel "Severance"

Severance

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

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

Ling Ma's novel Severance is an astute combination of workplace novel and apocalyptic tale. Smart and filled with humanity, this debut is one of the year's best books.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"A biting indictment of late-stage capitalism and a chilling vision of what comes after . . . [Ma] knows her craft, and it shows. [Her protagonist] is a wonderful mix of vulnerability, wry humor, and steely strength.... Ma also offers lovely meditations on memory and the immigrant experience. Smart, funny, humane, and superbly well-written."


In her own words, here is Ling Ma's Book Notes music playlist for her debut novel Severance:



Severance is an apocalyptic office novel. It features Candace Chen, who works as a production coordinator of Bible manufacture as the world comes to an end. The Bibles, considered a labor-intensive product, are produced by suppliers in China. Although she works out of New York, the novel and Candace’s story spans Hong Kong, New York, Fuzhou, Shenzhen, and Salt Lake City. Similarly, I listened to a pretty wide-ranging mix of tracks (albeit almost all American) while writing this novel. I needed a good beat to keep the rhythm of my sentences, and to give the narrative energy. I also tried to find songs that tapped into emotions that informed the scene at hand. This is an incomplete playlist.


“Dark Fantasy,” Kanye
Sometimes my taste isn’t all that different from that of 20-year-old frat boys. But I love the maximalist emotional approach on this album: anger tempered by flashes of humor, sadness cut by bravado. Writing from Candace’s point of view, I wanted to capture that multiplicity. The energy on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is so infectious, its puns so sharp, that it jumpstarted a lot of my writing at the time.

“I Get Nervous,” Lower Dens
That ticker-tape guitar captures the anxious frequency of living in New York. The Lower Dens are fronted by Jana Hunter. Her solo work, particularly “Vultures” reminds me of my time living in New York, back when Cake Shop (rip) was still open.

“Fake Empire,” The National
When you’re single and you live in New York, that moment before the dusk comes and it’s dinnertime but you haven’t invested in making anything. Through the windows of surrounding buildings, everyone around you is making dinner. They have out their bags of rhubarb and veggies from the farmer’s markets. It’s a specific type of loneliness.

“Money Trees,” Kendrick Lamar
“A dollar just might make that lane switch.” Anyone can get bought out. I really vibed with this track while writing.

“More Than This,” Roxy Music
I associate the entire Avalon album with Hong Kong, and the particular romanticism of cities in southeast Asia. The way those cities look, to me as a kid, was so exciting. I remember riding in a car through city streets for the first time, how it was such a strange sensation. This was back when everyone still rode bikes. And at my aunt’s house, my grandpa and uncle smoking cigarettes while conversing with each other, their elegant ankle socks in slippers against the concrete floor.

“Unchained Melody,” The Righteous Brothers
Sunday afternoon TV infomercials introduced me to the Righteous Brothers, but this is one of those songs that you know even before hearing it. It has the feel of a religious hymnal, but the lyrics about secular love, and the desperation of the delivery, sound almost profane. “God speed your love to me.” Wow!

“Satisfaction,” Cat Power
I listen to this Rolling Stones cover when I need a palate cleanser, to reset. I like the lyrics about being sold to: “When I’m watching my tv and a man comes on to tell me / how white my shirts can be / But he can’t be a man cause he doesn’t smoke / the same cigarettes as me.” The languid pace says that I can take as long as I need.

“Crying,” Roy Orbison
This is classic. I like the strain of Orbison’s voice as he hits the high notes. I always thought Candace was more torn up about her breakup with Jonathan than she let on. I feel this song is a possibility for how she felt, if she had let herself.

“Ocean Floor for Everything,” How to Dress Well
If there’s an ocean floor for everything, then nothing is ever really lost. I liked that burst of light at the end. Tom Krell’s work throws back to 90s R&B, which is the genre that most reminds me of immigrating from China to the US. This live version is even better. And his cover of R Kelly’s “I Wish” tears me up.

“Who Is It,” Michael Jackson
I could recognize the opening strains of this track anywhere, its agitated mix of funk and R&B. I might’ve been in first grade when I first heard it. One of my Chinese friends had a cassette tape, and I duplicated it.

“Consideration,” Rihanna
Rihanna shows up a lot in Severance. I often thought of this track as Candace’s power song. I listened to this a lot as things got worse and worse for her. I might’ve been listening to this when I wrote the end.


Ling Ma and Severance links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

Chicago Tribune review
Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review

All Things Considered 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

Julian Gough's Playlist for His Novel "Connect"

Connect

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

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

Julian Gough's novel Connect is propulsive and ambitious, one of the most thought-provoking books of the year.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"Connect imagines a world of systems within systems in which the alteration of a few human cells could have far-reaching and astounding effects on the universe. Recommended for those who enjoy near-future speculation coupled with an engaging and effective exploration of a fractured family."


In his own words, here is Julian Gough's Book Notes music playlist for his novel Connect:



I’m a word guy, so I tend to fall in love with songs for their lyrics. And I also like songs with dramatic or surprising structures – the arrival of the crazy-loud strings, halfway through Julie Cruise’s "Falling in Love"; the wild, wonderful, unsettling way Mary Margaret O’Hara sings "Body’s In Trouble". But, to my sorrow, I can’t listen to anything with lyrics, or anything dramatic, when I’m writing. Yet I do like to listen to something, if only to mask the passing trains, car horns, and random shouts of Berlin street life. So the stuff I listen to when I’m actually writing is very different to the stuff I listen to for pleasure. Unobtrusive modern classical stuff by people like Arvo Pärt; Górecki’s Symphony No. 3 (though that gets waaaaay too emotionally overwhelming towards the end). Side two of Low by David Bowie (the first album I ever bought; still endlessly new, endlessly good). Sometimes the low-fat version: Philip Glass’s Low Symphony. Or, above all…


Brian Eno, Music for Airports. This is the album I listened to again and again and again and again and again while writing Connect. It’s the album I listen to while writing everything. Except, of course, I don’t actually listen to it any more… Which is the whole point of Music for Airports. It was the first ambient album; the first album deliberately designed to exist in the background, at any volume, not drawing attention to itself. And after all these years, I don’t even hear it, it’s just a sound that subliminally tells me I’m at work. Very occasionally I’ll realise it’s on, and pay attention for a few moments, and, startled, realise: it’s a really beautiful piece of music.



I love the origin story of this album, this genre: Brain Eno had been hit by a taxi, and was in bed with a broken leg, recovering. He asked a visiting friend, just as she was leaving, to put on an album of harpsichord music for him. But she’d accidentally put it on at the wrong volume, far too low, and Eno could hardly hear it. He couldn’t get out of bed to change the volume, and so he had to listen to it in this unfamiliar way: the harpsichord music mingling on equal terms with the sound of the rain on the window and the wind in the leaves of the trees outside. And it gave him an idea for a new kind of music…

And so I still tend to think of Eno’s ambient music as music for people trapped, with a broken leg, unable to move. Which feels right, when I’m writing a book; as the day goes on, my feet get bored of sitting flat to the floor; my legs rebel, sick of the dark space under the desk, and they lift, writhe, and knot themselves into pretzels under me as I sit there in the chair, the chair, the chair, the chair, the chair, THE CHAIR in which I will be trapped for the next couple of years, inventing a world.

Sitting in front of a bright, clean screen for years (as my life, ignored, got messier), writing a novel about a boy who would rather live in a bright, clean virtual world than the living moment of this messy real world, got weirdly meta. Writing about alienation can get a little alienating. Working on a computer, writing a story about computers and how they change us.

And so, in the last couple of years of writing Connect, I fell in love with a whole other world of music, that exists outside of technology, a tradition that’s far older than Western civilisation; the singing and music of the Aka people, the Baka, the Mbuti, and the other peoples that the Greeks, two thousand years ago, called “pygmies”. (An aside: These culturally gifted but politically powerless people, by the way, are currently being raped, enslaved and murdered with impunity, particularly in the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. That is a whole other story, but do google them, and their appalling situation, and if you can lean on a politician to do something about it, please do so.)

There are “official” albums of such music and singing, albums like Music for the Buma Dance, recorded in Cameroon, with drums, with everybody singing call and response, and all the kids singing harmonies. (That’s a Baka album.) There are formal albums of hunting songs available, too, powerful and structured. They’re great; but I prefer the more casual singing you hear in random clips of everyday Aka and Baka life posted on Youtube. It’s the opposite of Brian Eno, and yet it also the place Brian Eno is trying to get to. It’s music that is totally holistic, music you can’t unpeel from its place; in the opening moments, you might hear a bird sing. Then a woman, looking up casually from weaving, or cooking, will sing notes that feel like a response to the bird; another woman will join in. A man in the distance will join them. And all the time, you can also hear the sounds of the birds and animals to which the people are responding. And the birds, the animals, respond in turn to the human singing. Some go quiet; some change their call. Everything alive is a singer, everyone joins in. Singing isn’t separated out from life.




It’s a deep privilege to be allowed listen in on these moments. They’re a reminder that music used to be something we all made, not just something we consumed. Those moments exist still in the delightful and decadent west, they’re just hard to find. But they’re worth seeking out. Hell, they’re worth joining in. If you know nothing about music, that’s OK. Learn by doing. Start simple. Buy a harmonica; all the notes are in the same key, so you can’t play a bad note. Go for a walk with the harmonica in your mouth, and you’ll make music as you move, just breathing. Change the shape of your mouth, it’ll change the tone of the notes. Don’t tense up and “try to play”: relax, and mess about with it. Don’t think about tunes, notes, rules. Just move the harmonica around your mouth as you move. Learn to breathe music. Yes, people will laugh at you. So what.

I lived for years in Galway, in the west of Ireland, where music is also a living tradition, where there are still some places where a musical session (or “sessiún,” pronounced sesh-oon, in Irish) can break out at any time, with musicians turning up and joining in and leaving as they feel moved to. Here’s a tip, if you’re ever in Ireland: Upstairs in the Crane Bar, on Sea Road, has the best sessiún in Galway, but be respectful: you’re not in the audience at a gig, you are inside a living, unfolding moment that is not for your pleasure, that is just about itself. You have become part of it by turning up. Be present. Pay attention. And yes, join in, if you can, and if they give you the nod. You are not a spectator. You’ll hear tunes a thousand years old, and songs that are recent, but that sounded timeless the day they were written. Songs like "Raglan Road," a poem by Patrick Kavanagh (a fine Irish poet, perpetually penniless, who spent much of his life sleeping on friends’ sofas), set to music by Luke Kelly the year the Beatles released Revolver.



For years, I lived in a flat just a few hundred yards from The Crane; an ever-changing, international bunch of broke, scruffy, cheerful, traditional musicians lived in the flat above me. When I was in bed, I could hear, directly above my head, a foot tapping on their floor, my ceiling, keeping time in a never ending sessiún. I would drift off to sleep at midnight with the foot tapping away, and, more distantly, the sound of the uilleann pipes, a tin whistle, a fiddle, a balalaika. I’d wake for a moment at 4am, and the tap tap tap, the whistle, the drone, dreamily continued.

Years before that, thought, as a kid growing up in Tipperary, in rural Ireland, I grew up in a very different musical tradition: post-punk. And so, at 15, I decided I was going to be a pop star in my twenties, and a novelist in my thirties. In the end, my weird, underground, literary band, Toasted Heretic, released four albums, and had a top ten hit in Ireland.



So my first decade of writing was spent on the lyrics to pop songs. It has, I think, fed into the way I write novels. I write words to be heard through the air: the voice is conversational. (You can tell Henry James never fronted a post-punk outfit.) And I love a sentence with a bit of snap and crackle. As a result, Connect is full of epigraphs (they form a kind of book-within-a-book); mostly male voices, talking our world of technology into being. Sometimes they argue with each other, form a kind of call-and-response, like the three epigraphs introducing Section Eight:

‘There must be an immortal, unchanging being, ultimately responsible for all wholeness and orderliness in the sensible world.” — Aristotle

‘Aristotle could have avoided the mistake of thinking that women have fewer teeth than men, by the simple device of asking Mrs. Aristotle to keep her mouth open while he counted.’ — Bertrand Russell

‘Everybody knows that Aristotelian two-value logic is fucked.’ — Philip K. Dick

And sometimes the epigraphs are lines from songs, that illustrate the themes of the book. And sometimes they are just nods to artists that I love. I threw in a couple of mentions of Silver Jews, because American Water is one of my favourite albums, and because not enough people have heard it. (Main man David Berman’s book of poetry, Actual Air, is pretty great, too: go get that.) Stephen Malkmus and half of Pavement back Berman, and play a simple, harsh, American music, as Berman sings: so cracked and broken. You can hear his despair, his stage fright, his credit card debt. You can fit so much life, so much pain, into a three minute song.



Songs, songs, songs… Yes, sometimes, living now, in Berlin, I just want to listen to a song. Not the Aka. Not traditional Irish music. Not ambient. Something produced. Arranged. Recorded in a studio. And so, when I’m not writing… when I escape the chair, I go back to old favourites, and new ones, obsessively. Here’s a handful…

Tracey Thorn Oh, The Divorces!. The family at the heart of Connect has fallen apart before the book begins. But a family, like a war, never really ends. The cascade of consequences goes on for years after it’s officially over. And so the book is, in some ways, custody battle as apocalypse: As Colt’s parents struggle for his soul, Las Vegas ends up burning; collateral damage.

My own first marriage fell apart over the course of writing the book, so that’s all in there, somewhere. And, sensitised to the subject, I fell hard for Tracey Thorn’s “Oh! The Divorces”, from her 2010 album, Love And Its Opposite. It’s very English, very understated, very beautiful. “The afternoon handovers by the swings…” Thorn just gets better and better. Her new album, Record, might be her best. (Go check it out.)




Gil Scott Heron, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Gil Scott Heron’s smart 1970 deconstruction of mass media, of how TV culture masks reality in America, feels so brutally up to date right now. (Not surprising it popped up in Black Panther.) The technology has changed (swap “internet” for “TV”, and “algorithmic social media manipulation” for “advertising”), but the dynamics are the same.


Turtles All The Way Down, by Sturgill Simpson. This is insanely great. Gorgeous, lyrically wild, in the great psychedelic country tradition of Jimmy Webb (who wrote "The Highwayman," and "Wichita Lineman.") When country singers do magic mushrooms, wonderful things happen. That sense that it’s all connected, that there’s a greater meaning behind the chaos of our lives, and that no God is required for this: that the astonishing glory of this dynamic, self-assembling universe with its 1,000,000,000,000 galaxies, each containing 1,000,000,000,000 stars, is entirely enough, if you can see it clean. Connect is an attempt, over 500 pages, to see the universe, and our place in it, clean. But Sturgill Simpson does it in three minutes.



Nick Cave, generally. With and without the Bad Seeds. There are a lot of Nick Cave songs in the book. (Colt’s father, Ryan, likes Nick Cave.) And Sasha, the young hacker who upends Colt’s world, wears a black T-shirt with “Bad Seed” on it. That T-shirt actually belongs to the woman Connect is dedicated to, Solana Joy, who was upending my world (in a good way) around the time I wrote those scenes. (Reader, I married her.)



Kate Bush, Cloudbusting. Her amazing take on the life of Wilhelm Reich, whose lifetime of research was burned by the FBI… A song written from the point of view of a boy, whose parent is a scientist, whose research gets them into a lot of trouble with the government… So yes, "Cloudbusting" totally ties in with the themes of the book. But mainly it’s a song that makes me cry.


Anyway, all the above, in their various ways, fed into Connect. I can’t simplify the book here, or sum it up: it took me seven years to write because I was trying to do everything I’m capable of doing, in layer after layer after layer. Trying to do all the things my favourite music does, all at once. Thrill you; amuse you; console you; blow your mind. And so, if you’ve made it this far, I’ll ask you one small favour, directly, even though I know we are supposed to play it cool: go into your local bookstore (or if you don’t have one nearby, go click on Look Inside on Amazon), read the first five pages of Connect, and see if I wrote it for you. I tried to. I hope I did.


Julian Gough and Connect links:

the author's website

Guardian review

Irish Times profile of the author
Unbound Worlds interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

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

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

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

Shorties (An Excerpt from Thomas Page McBee's Memoir, Jeff Tweedy's Forthcoming Memoir, and more)

Jeff Tweedy

Literary Hub shared an excerpt from Thomas Page McBee's memoir Amateur.


Jeff Tweedy's memoir Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back): A Memoir of Recording and Discording With Wilco, Etc. will be published November 13th.


eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan
A House Divided by Pearl S. Buck


The Oxford American features a new essay by singer-songwriter Julien Baker.


Work in Progress shared a conversation between authors Sloane Crosley and Zadie Smith.


Stream a new Henry Nowhere song.


The Millions shared a conversation between authors Jordy Rosenberg and Andrea Lawlor.


NPR Music is streaming the new Death Cab for Cutie album Thank You for Today.


Photographers, curators, and others recommend the photo books that have inspired them at The Observers.


Nate Chinen talked about his book Playing Changes: Jazz for the New Century with Morning Edition.


Ling Ma discussed her debut novel Severance with All Things Considered.


Stream a song from Mount Eerie's forthcoming live album.


Bookworm interviewed author Lydia Millet.


Stream a new Cloud Nothings song.


David Joy discussed his novel The Line That Held Us with Weekend Edition.


Stereogum profiled the band Young Jesus.


Salon interviewed author Amanda Stern about her memoir Little Panic.


Pure Bathing Culture covered the Blue Nile's "The Downtown Lights."


Stereogum listed obscure cover songs better than the originals.


Stream a new Saintseneca song.



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

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

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

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

August 13, 2018

Nicole Rivas's Playlist for Her Flash Fiction Collection "A Bright and Pleading Dagger"

A Bright and Pleading Dagger

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

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

Nicole Rivas's chapbook A Bright and Pleading Dagger is a testament to the power of flash fiction.

Rigoberto Gonzalez wrote of the book:

"For their thought-provoking denouements and skillful use of compression, the stories of Nicole Rivas beg comparisons to the celebrated stories of the surrealist painter Leonora Carrington. For their arresting strangeness, readers of Latin American literature will recall the stories of Clarice Lispector. But for their edginess and fearless wit, a more contemporary sister is Carmen Maria Machado. Yet Rivas will thrive on her own terms. A Bright and Pleading Dagger is truly a compelling and unforgettable journey into the dark but poignant experiences of women."


In her own words, here is Nicole Rivas's Book Notes music playlist for her flash fiction collection A Bright and Pleading Dagger:



I’ve heard the sentiment that the writing we do, the art we make, reveals just as much about ourselves--and our obsessions--as it reveals the interiority of the characters and worlds we create. More and more, I find this to be true. And how fun--obsessions are fascinating, especially if they’re not our own. Though I rarely set out to write around a certain theme or express a known-obsession, many of the stories in A Bright and Pleading Dagger share an interest in women and girls who are going through a profound life difficulty, whether it’s the feeling of artistic failure, social inadequacy, or engulfment by the complexities of sexuality and love. Women on the cusp of birth or death, women always at a crossroads. The following playlist contains songs and artists I’ve obsessed over throughout the years--often while at my own crossroads--and that inform their paired stories in some way or another:

Mirah - “Light the Match” ("Death of an Ortolan")
In “Death of an Ortolan,” a first few dates aren’t as conventional as one young woman expects, and she turns out to surprise even herself. Mirah’s accordion-laden song delights in the intensity underlining the most fiery and subversive of pairings.

Franz Lizst - “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2” (Piano Version) ("Gretel's Escape")
In this brief fairytale reimagining, Gretel runs away from Hansel, seeking to break away from her written fate and an unwanted relationship. Just as she runs away toward predictability, Lizst’s hypnotic and nostalogic masterpiece simultaneously feels like a rollercoaster escape and a dreadful sentencing.

Beat Happening - "That Girl" ("Crush")
Nothing says ‘middle-school romance’ to me quite like clammy hands, bad microwaveable food, strange body odor, and the stabbing joy of firsts. As Calvin Johnston bellows in “That Girl,” “There’s a new girl in this town. She’s been a lot of places, worn a lot of crowns. I wanna touch her hair and tell her she is fine.” Easier said than done.

The Melvins - "Going Blind" ("The Staring Contest")
We’ve all heard the saying that eyes are the windows to the soul, but only some of us believe it. In “The Staring Contest,” speed dating is reimagined as a romanticized staring contest between a young woman and a much older man. The Melvins provide a sludgy, sardonic soundtrack to this unconventional affair.

Django Reinhardt - "I've Found a New Baby" ("The Woman on the Bus")
As the protagonist of “The Woman on the Bus” ensues in a physical and emotional struggle with her beau in a New Orleans café, this iconic tune plays in the background. I appreciate that Django Reinhardt’s full band version is both gaudy and beautiful, flippant and sincere, perhaps much like the throws of a new and enigmatic love.

Bikini Kill - "Feels Blind" ("Thirst")
This is one of my favorite Bikini Kill songs--it’s quiet, loud, morose, and angry, all in the span of a few minutes. Kathleen Hannah sings, “As a woman as I was told to I was being hungry. Yeah, women are well-acquainted with thirst. Oh, I could eat just about anything. We might even eat your hate up like love.” By the end of “Thirst,” our narrator seems to be able to well-relate.

The Mountain Goats - "Up the Wolves" ("A Bright and Pleading Dagger")
John Darnielle’s lyrics are well-known for their poetic bite and personal relevance, and “Up the Wolves” is no different. In “A Bright and Pleading Dagger,” two teenage girls share a traumatic experience at the hands of two men who offer them a ride home, and Darnielle seems to get to the core of the narrator’s heart when he sings, “There’s bound to be a ghost at the back of your closet, no matter where you live. There’ll always be a few things, maybe several things, that you’re gonna find really difficult to forgive.”


Nicole Rivas and A Bright and Pleading Dagger links:

the author's website
video trailer for the book

Roo Black review


also at Largehearted Boy:

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