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April 16, 2008

Book Notes - Rudolph Wurlitzer ("The Drop Edge of Yonder")

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that is in some way relevant to their recently published books.

Powerful, funny, and dark, Rudolph Wurlitzer's novel The Drop Edge of Yonder is simply the most wonderful book I have read all year. Filled with perfect, cutting, witty dialogue, it is easy to see how this book began its life as a screenplay. I would never pick up a Western novel on my own, but Wurlitzer transcends the genre and makes the west of the gold rush a character in it own right.

Of the book, poet John Ashbery wrote:

"If Mel Brooks, William Burroughs and Jack Smith collaborated on a scenario for Ramona, then had a falling out and were replaced by Guy Maddin, the result might bear some resemblance to Rudolph Wurlitzer's tender, hair-raising, obscene and gloriously funny new novel, The Drop Edge of Yonder. Wurlitzer is back in top form and is, as always, a somber joy to read."

In his own words, here is Rudolph Wurlitzer's Book Notes essay for his novel, The Drop Edge of Yonder:

I've been involved with music almost from birth when my grandfather, who ran a company that made musical instruments, placed a small violin in my crib, a gift which unfortunately failed to empower or prolong my skills as a violinist. When my family, through various complex maneuvers, lost control of the company and my father became a dealer in rare stringed instruments, I still carried the brand name, like a tattoo awkwardly placed, a brand that was, in my early years, somewhat of a mixed blessing. The first review I received for my first novel, Nog, opened with the memorable line: "Wurlitzer is a name that means music to millions, and obviously literature to none."

Carrying on the tradition, I usually hum or listen to a few songs to help me through whatever long siege of scribbling I'm involved in, including the perils and tribulations of my last novel, The Drop Edge of Yonder.

'Rehab', Amy Winehouse ... The perversely brilliant, stubborn and terrifying refusal to be saved, to keep singing, and singing again, no matter what.

'Knock, Knock, Knockin' On Heaven's Door', Bob Dylan. The fear of, the longing for, the avoidance of death, along with the longing for redemption and karmic resolution... all the various tributaries that lead one to the Big River and then to the sea, and finally to the 'misty beyond'. Also, linked together, Dylan's 'When the Deal Goes Down', which resonates and informs the main theme of the novel.

'Crazy', Gnarles Barkley ... Am I? Are you? Aren't we all?

'In My Secret Life', Leonard Cohen ... secret loves, secret fears, secret longings, all revealed, or almost, or just a little.

'Amazing Grace', Aaron Neville ... distant, unattainable, totally present, the transcendent chord that keeps one going.

'I Can't Get No Satisfaction', the Rolling Stones ... the futility of the act, the desperation of the pursuit, the illusory result, not to mention what happens if some flicker of satisfaction does take up residence in the room.

'Deep Water', Willie Nelson ... the pull of the unconscious, the fear of drifting deeper, the demons met along the way. 'Come closer', they seem to say ... no matter what.

'Me and Bobby McGee' Janis Joplin ...Love: misunderstood, deluded and betrayed, always unattainable, unforgiven, disastrous and always necessary.

Rudolph Wurlitzer and The Drop Edge of Yonder links:

the author's website
the author's Wikipedia entry
the author's IMDb entry
the book's website
the book's page at the publisher
excerpt from the novel

Barnes and Noble review
Bookforum review
Publishers Weekly
Time Out New York review
Wall Street Journal review

Dennis Cooper's profile of the author
Entertainment Weekly profile of the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

Previous Book Notes submissions (authors create playlists for their book)

Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
guest book reviews
musician/author interviews
directors and actors discuss their film's soundtracks
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2008 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2007 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2006 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2005 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2004 Edition)