Author Playlists

Ken Sparling’s Playlist for His Novel “Not Anywhere, Just Not”

“Occasionally I hear a song that makes me irrationally optimistic. It’s like unexpectedly coming upon a transcendent piece of art in an unlikely area of the city.”

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.

Ken Sparling’s Book Notes music playlist for his novel Not Anywhere, Just Not is a compelling and surreal domestic novel.

Quill & Quire wrote of the book:

“In Ken Sparling’s sixth novel, people sometimes just disappear. And when they reappear, they can’t quite say where they’ve been. When this happens to one half of a middle-aged couple, the partner who remains frets about his eventual return. Bordering magic realism and absurdity, Not Anywhere, Just Not is sure to be a metaphysical delight..”

In his own words, here is Ken Sparling’s Book Notes music playlist for his novel Not Anywhere, Just Not:

Not Anywhere, Just Not is about a boy and a girl and their cat. The cat mostly watches the boy and the girl – or cleans itself, or sleeps – while the boy and the girl go about making coffee, eating toast, watching TV, moving to different parts of their house, visiting with God and an angel… all the while trying again and again to find each other. 

Much like the book, this playlist wanders – through the lives of my characters, through my life, and through the indeterminate space where my life intersects with the lives of the boy and the girl.  

Watch Her Disappear – Tom Waits

When the boy in Not Anywhere, Just Not disappears, the girl watches him in her mind in much the same way Tom Waits’ protagonist watches the woman in this song — until she disappears. It’s about the way all of us disappear, only to reappear from time to time in the minds of the people we’ve loved.  

Do What You Wanna Do (Disco Version) – T-Connection

This is the song that is playing in the disco where the boy first meets the girl. The boy is scared to ask the girl to dance, but when this song comes on, it helps him get up his nerve.

Between Two Worlds (acapella) – Mili

What the girl hears in her head when she is trying to resurrect the music she and the boy made together is something like this song. But the girl can’t quite get hold of it, because the boy isn’t there to complete the harmonies.

I’ll Be There – Jackson 5

This is the song the boy and the girl dance to for the first time after they are married. 

Nap Time – Mark Sparling

In another book, the boy and the girl have a couple of sons, and one of them grows up to make this song.

Don’t Go – Yaz

Everytime I reread the part in Not Anywhere, Just Not about Dick being uptown looking for shoes with his mother, and it says that he “swung around when he heard the sound of footsteps,” this song plays in my head.

God’s Song – Randy Newman

Randy Newman’s God is probably something like the one who appears in Not Anywhere, Just Not. She’s too busy sitting by the pool enjoying cocktails to get too worked up about the human condition.

Sheol, Pt. 1 and Pt. 2 – Hypno5e

This was the music I listened to when I got mad at Not Anywhere, Just Not. Of course, I was really just mad at myself for getting frustrated by the book. There were other songs like this one, whose mix of aggressive noise and haunting moodiness seemed to have a therapeutic effect on me. 

Till the Morning Comes – Neil Young

Before the girl went away for a summer job in the early days of their courtship, the boy gave her his scratched up Neil Young album, After the Goldrush.

Down the Dip – Aztec Camera

The boy and the girl had been married for a few years when they went to see Aztec Camera at the El Mocambo. Roddy Frame looked so happy up on the little stage, playing his guitar and singing.

Bang Bang – Morie Briscoe

To a large extent, Not Anywhere, Just Not began with me combing through old computer files, pulling out sentences, paragraphs, phrases, and dumping them into a single new file. That’s a lot like how I came across this song, rooting around online for covers of old tunes I loved when I was a boy. 

Too Many Moons Ago – Thierry Lang

This song represents a kind of danger I face when I listen to music while I’m writing and revising. Everything seems more beautiful with an evanescent soundtrack like this playing on my headphones. I don’t know if it shifts me into the correct mood for editing my stuff, or into a mood where I’m useless for the job of determining what might or might not be working. 

Mississippi Queen – Mountain

In the early 70s, all the pop tunes I loved were short, some of them not much more than two minutes. I like to sculpt my writing into the same sort of short musical bursts, like the sound of a boot crunching in the snow, or the flap of a flag in a sudden gust of wind, or the silence of someone pointing a gun. 

Mr. Magic – Reliqa

Occasionally I hear a song that makes me irrationally optimistic. It’s like unexpectedly coming upon a transcendent piece of art in an unlikely area of the city. What I feel is something like a desire to be a part of the world it comes from. Not by making a song myself, or a piece of art, but just quick, write something that captures the crazy syncopated energy of a song like this.

Overnight Angels – Ian Hunter

Sometimes, someone you love is suddenly inhabited by an angel. Then, just as suddenly, the angel departs, and you are left alone with this person, wondering if it was them you loved, or the angel that inhabited them.

Nirvana – Tom Waits/Charles Bukowski

This is like when the boy goes into the diner for breakfast one morning and the waitress smiles and makes small talk.

Ken Sparling is the author of six novels: Dad Says He Saw You at the Mall, commissioned by Gordon Lish; Hush Up and Listen Stinky Poo Butt, handmade using discarded library books and a sewing machine; a novel with no title; For Those Whom God Has Blessed with Fingers; Book, which was shortlisted for the Trillium Award; Intention | Implication | Wind; and This Poem is a House. He lives in Richmond Hill, Ontario, and shares his handmade books at and on Instagram @kensparling.

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