Author Playlists

David Connor’s Playlist for His Novel “Oh God, The Sun Goes”

“I find a lot of inspiration for writing in lyrics and in music. The roundness of Paul Simon’s vowels, the harsh astringent chord changes of a Richard Hell song, or XTC. I’m a big fan of enunciation, timbre, the way words can feel in the mouth and throat and gut.”

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.

David Connor’s novel Oh God, The Sun Goes is a stunning debut, profound and philosophical fiction that defies genre.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

“…wondrous…mysterious…Connor lands plenty of stimulating riffs on themes of memory, love, and loss, all in lyrical prose and suffused with surreal imagery. This offbeat tale is worth a look.”

In his own words, here is David Connor’s Book Notes music playlist for his debut novel Oh God, The Sun Goes:

Oh God, The Sun Goes is my first book, a novel, and I’ve written it in a “lyrical” prose style. I find a lot of inspiration for writing in lyrics and in music. The roundness of Paul Simon’s vowels, the harsh astringent chord changes of a Richard Hell song, or XTC. I’m a big fan of enunciation, timbre, the way words can feel in the mouth and throat and gut. I write this way. I feel each word somewhere in my body before I get it out. The process feels much more like songwriting than story writing sometimes, and I like it that way – it gets at something visceral. So much of writing exists up here, in the head, obviously, where words float around like holographs. So much of writing can be a who’s-smart competition. I love David Foster Wallace, but sometimes I get annoyed by how intelligent and impressive he is. I think something that music gets that sometimes writing doesn’t is the aesthetic virtues of stupidity, shutting off that holograph thought and sinking into something basic. Music does this for me. Lyrics do this for me. That’s where I like to write from. Oh god.

The following list of songs appear in my book. They’re lyrics extracted from melody and tempo, and laid flat on the page to stand alone. How unfair to them but nice for me. These are musicians I admire so much, and it’s a real pleasure, however unfair, to see their words next to mine. I’ve added a few songs to the end of the list that didn’t make the cut but could have, and almost did in some cases. It was truly hard not to place the lyrics of “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” at the very end of this book.

“All of Sudden” – Laraaji

Laraaji lives on another plane and so does my book. “Something is not the same/ Something is different” appears as the epigraph, and I feel it initiates the reader into my story as I’d like. Into the strange world of Laraaji, which is both unfamiliar and oddly comforting. Like a bright hug in a K hole of the mind. New age but in a good way. Laraaji is an absolute legend, and it’s an honor to have his lyrics opening my book.

“Ain’t No Sunshine” – Bill Withers

Bill Withers. My favorite song of his might be “Lovely Day.” There’s nothing wrong with “Grandma’s Hands” or “Use Me” either. But “Ain’t No Sunshine” is the central song of my story. The metaphor is simple – she’s gone, sun’s gone – which is the metaphor of a lot of songs on this list. Then of course there are those twenty-six “I know”s at the end, which as the story goes, were chosen as filler-lyrics to be replaced later but never were. I like them because they present a different kind of knowing, one that emphasizes the “o” of knowing, again and again, twenty-six times, one for each letter of the alphabet.

“Mr. Blue” (A Capella Version) – the Fleetwoods

I love how sweet and naïve it is, and how music from that era was. Gary Troxel’s voice is tender, lovesick, and kind. Worth listening to the non-acapella version too.

“On the Radio” – Donna Summer

It’s a poignant lyrical concept, a lost lover hearing a message for her on the radio. I think that’s what writing is for me, this strange movement into the blank space of a page towards someone who isn’t there, who’s maybe never been there. Only hope is someday they’ll find what I’ve written, maybe. Donna Summer is one of my favorite artists too, I’ll add. I could begin naming a dozen of her songs, which feels obnoxious, so I’ll just say “I Feel Love” and leave it at that.

“The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” – The Walker Brothers

Scott Walker, like Laraaji, is a tripped-out dude. I think this is his best song. I see Southern California whenever I hear this song – that horn, shaker – like a lot of the Walker Brother’s music, it’s rather cinematic. Again, it’s comforting yet heartbreaking, which is a dangerous combo I’ve known too well. “Loneliness is the cloak you wear/ A deep shade of blue is always there.” The song revels in its own heartbreak in a way, which Scott Walker loves to do.

“Who’s in Love?” – Laraaji

Laraaji’s lyrics appear again at the very end of my book, in the final chapter. It felt fitting to start and end there, a full cosmic lyrical circle. “Who’s in Love?” basks in the beauty of the human mind, of consciousness, of the infinite worlds within. It celebrates fantasy, delusion, confusion, and light.

“By the Time I Get to Phoenix” – Glen Campbell

Now we enter the section of songs that almost made the cut. I like this song for many reasons, one of which is its treatment of Phoenix as both place and myth – and as a stand-in for an oldlove. It’s dreamy and nostalgic. And Glen Campbell’s voice is so beautiful.

“The End of the World” – Skeeter Davis

An old professor of mine Jon Wagner suggested I use these lyrics, which, if there were space, would have worked well. I love how unabashedly dire it is, how the sweetness of Skeeter’s voice belies what is ultimately an apocalyptic song.

“Who Loves the Sun?” – The Velvet Underground

Velvet Underground flies as close to the Beatles as they can without getting burned.

“Tarmac 23” – Sun City Girls

I wanted to throw the Sun City Girls in here, as Sun City is an important location in my story. It’s a real-estate development that began in the early 1960’s and spread throughout the US. Its first development is located just outside of Phoenix, a massive master-planned retirement community whose concentric grid forms the shape of a sun.

“Swimmer” – Helena Deland

I wanted to include one contemporary song so it doesn’t seem like I’m totally stuck in the past. Helena Deland is a profoundly talented singer-songwriter whose lyrics and melodies ring with vibrant colors and layered feelings. “Swimmer” balances a lyrical grief story of personal loss colliding with ecological catastrophe. Totally my vibe.

David Connor studied at Pomona College and the California Institute of the Arts, where he was the recipient of the William H. Ahmanson Endowed Scholarship Award. He lives in New York City and Montreal, Canada. Oh God, the Sun Goes is his first novel.

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