Author Playlists

Elle Nash’s playlist for her novel “Deliver Me”

“These songs pay reverence to romance as if it is a god itself…”

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.

In her own words, here is Elle Nash’s Deliver Me is a novel as unsettling as it is propulsive, a startling work from a talented author.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

“Haunting and at times relentlessly cruel, this novel will keep readers guessing.”

In her own words, here is Elle Nash’s Book Notes music playlist for her novel Deliver Me:

This playlist began after the novel had already gone through a few drafts. I had just moved out of the United States, into my new flat in Glasgow, and this brilliant song by Lee Hazlewood had randomly come up on YouTube. I was enraptured. It took me back to my time living in Arkansas, where I wrote the first draft of Deliver Me, and sticky summer nights spent drinking rum like tap water, listening to outlaw country, building immense (and probably illegal) bonfires in the woods with my friends. Now that I lived across the world, I needed a way to bring me back to the world of my narrator, Dee-Dee, so every time I came across something that felt haunted with a little bit of vintage sadness I added it to my list. They’re different from my everyday fare and that’s what I love about them, it’s a treat to inhabit their sound. These songs pay reverence to romance as if it is a god itself—they embody the sense of yearning I needed to feel when I wrote into Dee-Dee’s mind. If I felt pulled out of the story, I would play some of these songs on repeat at full volume and sing them as loud as I could. This playlist has that quality to me: a totally enrapturing, timeless place you enter when you listen. There’s about 35 songs on the full list but I’ll detail notes about my favorite thirteen.

You Sweet Love, Lee Hazlewood

In my twenties when Lana came on the scene, she embodied this deep, pure romance that singers like Lee Hazlewood had captured but in a modern way, so I love going back to this era. That full orchestra and the rich amber of his vocals take me out of this world and into one where the shameless sincerity of that ‘sweet love’ can be fully experienced.

Crying, Roy Orbison

The first time I encountered Roy Orbison was in the final scenes of Harmony Korine’s Gummo, which follows around the residents of a town in Ohio struck by tornados. For me, Gummo was the first time I both saw experiences of my life represented in film and realized that art could express these kinds of experiences. I was nineteen years old, and in a way, it opened my world. In the part of the film that features Orbison’s song, the two boys Solomon and Tummler, endlessly shoot an already dead stray cat with BB guns. They stare at it expectantly as if they are hoping to feel something, anything. But it’s over, there is no climax to this experience—it’s downhill forever. The way Korine juxtaposes the lyrics of this moment (‘I thought that I was over you, but it’s true, so true’) heightens the tragedy: there’s nothing left for the boys or anyone here. This is what you’ve got. Scenes of the tornado rip through homes when Orbison helplessly sings ‘Darling, what can I do? You don’t love me.’ In this moment, the hopelessness crescendos in the brackish destruction of flyover country, showing us that rebuilding isn’t something that happens here, the entropy takes them all. I love this song so much for that; for any one who has grown up or lived in a small rural town and felt like an outsider, that nihilistic feeling exists, especially as a teenager, like what Sloane and Dee-Dee experience in Deliver Me. There’s this way the melody falls in Orbison’s voice when Bunny Boy runs to the camera in that last scene, showing us the gruesome outcome. The finality of these verses by Orbison, and the orchestra here, hits so hard.

Death Don’t Have No Mercy, Reverend Gary Davis

Recorded in 1960, this song captures an immense amount of religious and emotional tension. All I can say when I hear Davis’ sing is ‘Goddamn.’ Not sure what it says about me that I’m vehemently not a Christian and yet feel so touched by holy blues, but I won’t question it—Reverend Gary Davis was a legend and he was right about death.

Wicked Game, Chris Isaak

Wicked Game opens with the most seductive guitar and brooding lyrics about wanting someone you can’t have. The song is so simple and understated, but absolutely otherworldly—they say that falling in love mimics the experiences of being addicted to a drug, where the only thing you want is to seek it out, and seek out more. This song reminds me of the way Dee-Dee feels for Sloane and the way she feels about wanting a baby: there’s an obsessive quality to her wanting, something that is at once painful and ecstatic, something she both wants to avoid and doesn’t want to avoid, something she fears but feels compelled to run deeper into.

A Violent Flammable Flammable World, Au Revoir Simone

From Twin Peaks (incidentally, Wicked Game is another Lynch soundtrack song), these pastel vocals feel painted over dark dreamy chords. The song pulls me up into fantasy, as such the Deliver Me narrator Dee-Dee lives in a bubble of her own making, wanting to block out the harshness of reality. ‘I swear I saw him somewhere waiting…’

Romanian Folk Dances Sz 56: III Andarte, Composed by Bela Bartok and piano by Andrew Rangell

This is a haunting little tiptoe melody I wish was about five hours longer than it is. There’s another classical song on the playlist, Grande messe des morts, Op. 5 “Requiem”: Agnus Dei by Berlioz that is heavenly, like praying in a cathedral. I’m sure Dee-Dee’s mother would call it Satanic.

I Only Have Eyes for You, The Flamingos

Just try to listen to this and not want to sing it.

Crazy, Patsy Cline

This, and so many of these songs are ones I wish I could listen on a good, long road trip, sing as loudly to myself as I can…. living in Glasgow I use public transportation and just have my headphones to soothe me; singing that loudly on a train just seems criminal…..

Lately, Stevie Wonder

Probably one of the best love songs I’ve encountered in the last few years. The soothing piano and the poetry of Wonder’s words detail the story of a man who suspects his lover of engaging in an affair, and while he tries to not let on that he feels this way, his emotions betray and overcome him. In Deliver Me, Dee-Dee becomes suspicious of her boyfriend and Sloane, and her jealousy gets so far away from her that she can’t control it anymore—rather than facing goodbye, her actions run things aground in a disastrous way.

Sleepwalk, Santo & Johnny

I can’t remember when I first heard this song—it’s been years. One of my earliest exposures to music from the sixties, the guitars are engulfing in a melancholic, yearning way.

I’d Rather Go Blind, Etta James

I would give my left foot to have seen Etta James live. That lyric, ‘Most of all, I just don’t want to be free, no,” truly encapsulates the depth of wanting and romance — how it can be, not wanting to let go, knowing the sweet torture!

Waiting for a Girl Like You, Foreigner

Once on shuffle, the algorithm reminded me of this gem. I like to envision Sloane’s boyfriend playing this to her at full volume in their fancy little house after a couple of beers. That chorus begs you to croon.

True Romance, Tove Lo

One of the rare contemporary songs on the list, the pulsing bass lines of this song take me to some of the last scenes in my novel, capturing that feeling of driving through the dark of a country highway at night, headlights showing only the road ahead, no other cars, knowing you’re heading toward something big, knowing you’d dedicate your life to a certain kind of love or die trying, that you’d want it so badly, you’d annihilate the world you inhabit now just to have it….

also at Largehearted Boy:

Elle Nash’s Playlist for Her Novel Animals Eat Each Other

For book & music links, themed playlists, a wrap-up of Largehearted Boy feature posts, and more, check out Largehearted Boy’s weekly newsletter.

Elle Nash is the author of the novel Animals Eat Each Other (Dzanc Books), which was featured in O Magazine and hailed by Publishers Weekly as a “complex, impressive exploration of obsession and desire.” Upon publication of her novel in the UK, she appeared at the Edinburgh International Book Festival to present the work of under-represented voices with Amnesty International, and to speak about sex, death and feminism in literature. Her work appears in Guernica, Adroit, The Creative Independent, Hazlitt, Literary Hub, Cosmopolitan, New York Tyrant and elsewhere. She is a founding editor of Witch Craft Magazine and currently lives in Glasgow, Scotland.

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