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Claire Donato’s playlist for her story collection “Kind Mirrors, Ugly Ghosts”

“Here is a list of eight songs that appear in Kind Mirrors, Ugly Ghosts, my first fiction book in ten years.”

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.

Claire Donato’s collection Kind Mirrors, Ugly Ghosts is inventive and marvelously complex.

Blake Butler wrote of the book:

“Kind Mirrors, Ugly Ghosts moves and feels like a novel of ideas, yes, but also a lookbook of Rorshachs; a concept cookbook for famished phantoms; a fragmentary tour de force a la Duras. On every page, it lines the mind with vibrant space, as extraordinary in its candor about desire, artifice, and intimacy as it is with wordplay, wit, and social theory. ‘Death is a mirror of time, and life is not as heavy as it seems,’ Donato writes, beckoning us forward through the void of realism as might an imaginary friend we thought we’d lost—or should I say ‘guardian angel’.”

In her own words, here is Claire Donato’s Book Notes music playlist for her story collection Kind Mirrors, Ugly Ghosts:

Here is a list of eight songs that appear in Kind Mirrors, Ugly Ghosts, my first fiction book in ten years. During those years, I was breaking apart and coming back together, much like the ocean or a couple. Now I am someone else, and I am not sure that this someone else I am would ever write the same book containing these same songs, which I offer to you in a Works Cited list. This is because my book concludes with a longer Works Cited list. By reading this Works Cited list, it’s almost as if you’ve already finished my book.

Works Cited

Baier, Sibylle. “I Lost Something in the Hills.” Colour Green. Orange Twin Records, 2006.

Girl Ray. “Preacher.” Earl Grey. Moshi Moshi, 2017.
Hecker, Tim. “October Pt. 1.” Haunt Me, Haunt Me Do It Again. Substractif, 2001.

Joy Division. “Disorder.” Unknown Pleasures. Factory Records, 1979.

Smog. “River Guard.” Knock Knock. Drag City, 1999.
Judee Sill. “The Donor.” Heart Food. Asylum Records, 1973.

Spacemen 3. “Set Me Free/I’ve Got the Key.” Recurring. Fire Records, 1991.

The Sundays. “Can’t Be Sure.” Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic. DGC Records, 1990.

Notes

“I Lost Something in the Hills” by Sibylle Baier appears in Kind Mirrors, Ugly Ghosts’ first story, “Colour Green,” which deals in part with a narrator exchanging erotic text messages—as well as less lascivious text messages about Sibylle Baier’s Colour Green—with a plant. This plant may be a succulent, but it may also be “a person posing as someone they are not, a spy or some sort of informant placed into a zone that is not theirs for nefarious reasons.” 

“Preacher” by Girl Ray appears in the eponymous story wherein a narrator recalls being raped by a man who is now a preacher in a megachurch. 

“October Pt. I” by Tim Hecker does not actually appear in Kind Mirrors, Ugly Ghosts by its name. However, the narrator of the collection’s final novella, “Gravity and Grace, the Chicken and the Egg, or: How to Cook Everything Vegetarian,” masturbates with a fancy new vibrator while listening to Tim Hecker’s Haunt Me, Haunt Me Do It Again during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. I imagine her masturbating to this song.

“Disorder” by Joy Division appears in “Donnie Darko,” a new wave story. 

The narrator of “Gravity and Grace, the Chicken and the Egg, or: How to Cook Everything Vegetarian” remembers listening to “River Guard” by Smog at a Smog concert to which she was gifted a ticket by a man she tried to seduce online. In the novella, I never name the song, nor do I reference Smog by name.

“The Donor” by Judee Sill is a song the narrator of “My Albatross” remembers listening to while working in an antiquarian bookshop as a self-harming college junior.

“Set Me Free/I’ve Got the Key” by Spacemen 3 appears in the same story. My Albatross—a bad boyfriend, a large oceanic bird, a curse—plays it on a jukebox in a dive bar called Cookie’s, drunkenly singing along.

“Can’t Be Sure” by The Sundays is a song hummed in “Gravity and Grace, the Chicken and the Egg, or: How to Cook Everything Vegetarian” while the novella’s narrator cooks an egg and “mourns her life before and after the [COVID-19] virus, the split between her and her friends, the gym where she would try to regulate her moods, and the food coop where she would work and retrieve quality ingredients for omelets.” 


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Claire Donato is the author of Burial, a fiction novella, and The Second Body, a full-length collection of poems. Her work has been included in numerous anthologies, and recent writing has appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, Fence, The Chicago Review, Forever, BOMB, The Elephants, DIAGRAM, and GoldFlakePaint. She also contributed an introduction to The One on Earth: Selected Works of Mark Baumer. In addition to writing books, Claire makes music, illustrates, and has a 35mm photography practice. Currently, she works as Acting Chairperson of Writing at Pratt Institute, where she received the 2020-2021 Distinguished Teacher Award. She lives in Brooklyn with her cat Woebegone.


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