Author Playlists

Matthew Binder’s Playlist for His Novel “Pure Cosmos Club”

“Sometimes I think I had to lose music to find writing, though maybe that’s not right because while I don’t do it like I used to, I still can’t keep from writing my songs.”

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, Roxane Gay, and many others.

Matthew Binder’s Pure Cosmos Club is one of the funniest novels I have read in years, a propulsive and thought-provoking satire of the art world. And my favorite fictional dog, ever.

Clancy Martin wrote of the book:

“Binder is our American Murakami. He takes tragic themes and makes them hilarious but also mind-blowing, cosmos erupting. Binder’s enormous delight in language and life is irresistible.”

In his own words, here is Matthew Binder’s Book Notes music playlist for his novel Pure Cosmos Club:

I spent the bulk of my twenties playing in bands. Finally, at twenty-seven—the same age so many rock stars have died—I came home from a particularly brutal tour and quit. An old college buddy hooked me up with a job, and for the next three years I worked on spreadsheets and made more money than I knew what to do with. I couldn’t listen to music much then—it made me too sad. At thirty, I went home to Albuquerque for Thanksgiving, but I wasn’t thankful at all. I decided to write a novel and spent the drive back to California plotting it out. I had enough money saved up to last me a year while I wrote, so I quit my job the day I got home. I wrote the novel, but it was never published. That, really, wasn’t so important. What was important was that I wrote it, and then I wrote another, and then I wrote Pure Cosmos Club. Sometimes I think I had to lose music to find writing, though maybe that’s not right because while I don’t do it like I used to, I still can’t keep from writing my songs. Probably I just had to lose the spreadsheets.

“Never Learn Not To Love,” by The Beach Boys

Pure Cosmos Club is about an artist who falls under the influence of a New Age guru and spirals into a cult. This Beach Boys song is essential to any cult-related playlist—the tune was actually written and recorded by Charles Manson! Soon after that, Manson struck up a friendship with Dennis Wilson, who liked the song so much he bought the rights to it, only to change all the lyrics and make it poppy. This pissed off Manson so much that he threatened Wilson with a bullet, at which point Wilson beat the crap out of him.

“My Sweet Lord,” by George Harrison

The book’s narrator, Paul, is desperately searching for meaning, to the point that he’s willing to forfeit everything to attain it. That’s what this song is all about. It’s Harrison plea to God for salvation. My great hope in life is one day to feel this spiritual impulse.

“Je t’aime moi non plus,” by Serge Gainsbourg

The character Danny is an artist who’s finished with making “museum artifacts.”  He declares that everything he makes must now come from nature and serve a function. His newest venture is a “cat bag” collaboration with a French luxury fashion brand. To help him with the project, Danny imports a team of seamstresses from Paris and turns his studio into a French atelier. He even goes so far as to hang photos of Charles de Gaulle on the wall and have the local patisserie deliver daily baskets of baguettes and cases of premium Bordeaux. Gainsbourg’s classic tune is what the seamstresses listen to while they work.

“Dancing Queen,” by Abba

The real star of Pure Cosmos Club is Paul’s dog, Blanche. She’s a disabled, quiche-obsessed terrier-mix who requires loud music to sleep. In one scene, Paul blasts “Dancing Queen” so Blanche will go to bed. This, of course, leads to a regrettable encounter with an angry neighbor.

“Let’s Not Continue This Charade,” by Bang Bang Jet Away

While writing Pure Cosmos Club, I was in the midst of a prolonged breakup, made more complicated, if that were possible, by the pandemic. I couldn’t put anything about the breakup in the book, because neither had anything to do with the other. That didn’t mean I didn’t need to process the collapse of my relationship. Sadly, the only way I knew how to do it was to pen this tune.

Matthew Binder is the author of the novels High in the Streets and The Absolved. He is also a primary member of the recording project Bang Bang Jet Away.

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