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May 20, 2010

Book Notes - Evgenia Citkowitz ("Ether")

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

Evgenia Citkowitz's new book Ether collects seven sort stories and a novella, all of which center around characters on the edge. As her down on their luck protagonists teeter on the brink of choice, Citkowitz offers rare insight into the human condition.

The Christian Science Monitor wrote of the collection:

"Citkowitz's strength is social criticism, and she captures tensions and pretensions with killer details – such as the supposedly indifferent mistress who digs her nails into her departing lover's arm when she leans in for a perfunctory kiss in front of her husband. Her characters struggle to find their moral bearings and their identity, often without benefit of a known father. Many are privileged, but not in parental love. "

In her own words, here is Evgenia Citkowitz's Book Notes music playlist for her short story collection, Ether: Seven Stories and a Novella:

I don't listen to music when I write. It's too powerful. It's like that game rock-paper-scissors where the rock crushes the scissors, or the paper smothers the rock, music smashes the train of thought and envelops the senses. Music overcomes. So my playlist isn't so much a soundtrack to my writing, as the counterpoint of my life in between. I live in L.A. so most of my musical life takes place in the car. It's random. I'll alternate Classical stations with NPR and K Rock, as the best Indie Rock station - 103.1 - mysteriously now only plays salsa. Making this list, I realize that much of the music I'm drawn to is melodic and rhapsodic. I spend so much of my day in an intense dialogue with my imaginary friends, many of whom are on the edge, I need to get away and go some place else.

"Beautiful Child" by Rufus Wainwright

A glorious song of transcendence. Was there ever a sexier voice? Tim Curry's, perhaps?

"Memory of a Free Festival" by David Bowie

A look back at a summer's day. Heady and nostalgic – reminds me of feral afternoons at the boarding school I went to in England.

Schubert Piano Sonatas D.958, D.959 and D. 960

Played by the masterful Alfred Brendel. Schubert's last works. Metaphysical shades of darkness and light.

"Sunday Bloody Sunday" by U2

(I like to sing with Bono.)

"The Needle and the Damage Done" by Neil Young.

This song captures the destruction and pathos of addiction. It relates to Ether as some of my characters are in the throes of addictions, whether it's to hope or, sex, alcohol or drugs. Quickly followed by Don't Let it Bring you Down although after the previous song it's too late, but at least it's something of a redemption. Look up Neil Young at Glastonbury, 2009, a warhorse Rocking in the Free World.

Click and Clack on Car Talk KPCC

No interest in cars but these guys combine mechanical stuff with irreverent, dumb-ass humor. They laugh at their own jokes. They make me smile.

"Curiosity" by Maesa Rae

She's a wise child with a heartbreaking voice that slides effortlessly between folk and blues and her own inimitable sound.

Bach's Goldberg Variations played by Glenn Gould

Tempers the mind

Patt Morrison on KPCC

Also tempers the mind with wide-ranging intelligence. A voice of reason.

"Tambourine Man" by Bob Dylan

The joie of the poet troubadour. Its purity and sweetness makes me weep.

Violin Concerto D Minor no. 47 by Jean Sibelius

Embodies the romantic experience. Whoever said that the Allegro sounded like polar bears dancing was right.

Nocturne Number 19, Op 72, No. 1 in E Minor by Frederic Chopin

Full of mystery and wonder. Chopin's most sublime work. Played by Arthur Rubinstein or Vladimir Horowitz.

"I Am the Walrus" by the Beatles

Have listened to this song for decades and it still feels progressive. Possesses a strange, psychedelic power.

Four Last Songs by Richard Strauss

A profound and moving journey through life to an acceptance of mortality.

"Strings in the Earth and Air" by Israel Citkowitz

Based on a poem by James Joyce, an art song of rare beauty composed by my father.

Evgenia Citkowitz and Ether: Seven Stories and a Novella links:

1904 review
Booklist review
Christian Science Monitor review
Huffington Post review
Publishers Weekly review

Daily Beast essay by the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

other Book Notes playlists (authors create music playlists for their book)

52 Books, 52 Weeks (weekly book reviews)
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly highlights of comics & graphic novels)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly highlights of new books)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from this week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists