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May 14, 2010

Book Notes - Pamela Ribon ("Going in Circles")

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

roller derby and heartbreak in hilarious fashion friends

Few writers are as funny as Pamela Ribon, who infuses her novels with satirical humor alongside honest glimpses into our most intimate relationships.

Going in Circles is her new novel, a work that blends divorce, heartbreak, roller derby, and friendship into one of summer's most absorbing reads.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"Emmy-winning screenwriter, actor, library activist, blogger, and popular novelist Ribon turns in a third tale that is at times poignant, but she more than makes up for any sensitivity with plenty of sarcasm, humor, and spirit."

In her own words, here is Pamela Ribon's Book Notes music playlist for her novel, Going in Circles:

The main character in this book is frozen at the edge of a divorce. This is a time when music becomes the enemy. Every song is loaded, too much, too raw, the words attacking your heart, no matter the song. And you can't avoid it. Music finds you, especially in those moments when you are completely unequipped to be functional -- in an elevator just after seeing your therapist, playing ever-so-faintly somewhere as you try to order a drink at a bar, blasting over the loudspeakers as you wait for your car to be serviced. Music, in those moments, is kind of an asshole.

This is a book about finding yourself stuck, spinning, unable to come to terms with the fact that even when your life seems completely out of your control, you're the only one who can do anything about it. And sometimes when it gets that confusing, that crazy, you have to do something crazier. Like roller derby.

It's not an easy sport to learn. There's a lot of falling. There's a lot of pain. And I won't explain how the game works here, but know that it's intense. There's a lot of chaos and confusion as all these other players surround you -- half of whom are your teammates there to win with you, and the other half who have one goal: knock you to the ground. The whistle blows and you have to one minute to figure it out, to hit first and hit harder so that you're still standing when it's all over. Just like a break-up. You have to learn to be tough. Not look tough. That's not going to cut it. It doesn't matter how shitty your real life is. You could have driven the entire way to practice crying hysterically because they played that fucking Crowded House song on the soft rock station right when you got on the highway. But once you're geared up and on the track you have to be ready to be impenetrable.

Anybody who loves a sports movie knows how you get to be a champion. You have a kickass soundtrack to a hardcore training montage.

So here's my mixtape for Going in Circles. These are the songs that got me through this book, that got the words out. Half of them hurt, the other half helped. Songs that will forever remind me of this time in my life when I was learning to keep fighting.

"Grounds for Divorce" - Elbow

I love this song, even though it is dangerous for driving under the influence of a divorce. It has that powerful emotional mixture of slogging through hangover anger, unfocused anxiety and a sinking, falling feeling you just can't shake.

"Fences" - Phoenix

Because someone once referred to me with this lyric: "She's been building up a castle in LA..."

"Does My Ring Burn Your Finger" - Solomon Burke

You know, when you're really in the grip of a This-Is-Happening break-up, you start imagining yourself in all these moments, these lives you probably will never have. This song is the background for that one fantasy where you own a bar in the South and a fight breaks out and you hike up your sundress, grab a baseball bat, and jump the bar to break those boys up from killing each other, which is why they love you, which is why they'll be here again tomorrow night, drinking and sweating until they get into a fight, which they really only do so that you break them up, because that's when they get just a hint of the way your skin smells when it's right up on you.

"Are You Alright" - Lucinda Williams

The pain! Why am I doing this to myself?! I'm just writing these songs down and I'm getting upset. If you don't know this song, go listen to it somewhere. I don't really have to explain why this one is here. I have got to find a happy song.

"Pork & Beans" - Weezer

Whee! Yay! "Imma do the things that I wanna do! I ain't gotta thing to prove to you!" Screw you, grammar! I'm the awesomist!

Actually, this song played all the time when I first started playing roller derby, and whenever I hear it I feel myself drenched in sweat, my face tight and salty, my thighs quivering as I stopped at this one light on Santa Monica Boulevard and danced. Then the trailer for Whip-It came out with this song playing in the background and I got a little depressed that some of my more triumphant moments might actually be extremely trite.

"Bruises" - Chairlift

I have called this the derby girl's love song. I can't hear it without thinking about the lovely dichotomy of some of the girls in my derby league. They will smash the crap out of you, yell at you, get so aggressive you wonder what you must have done to personally offend them... and then the second practice is over they're skipping up to you, sweaty pigtails dripping, all smiles and hugs, asking sweetly, "Shall we go get beers and fun now?"

"Kiss With a Fist" - Florence + the Machine

How are people just now starting to find out about this band? Anyway, this song where love is a fist fight pretty much sums up everything.

"How Deep Is Your Love" - Bird and the Bee

This used to just be a pretty song to me, but now when I hear it I only feel the pleading. The desperate need to know HOW DEEP IS YOUR LOVE because these fools trying to break them down just might succeed if we don't start getting really honest with each other. Yes. This is how sensitive I've gotten. Damn you, Gibbs!

"It Doesn't Have To Be Beautiful" - Slow Club

Oh, here's a sweet song with pretty vocals and I'll just pay attention to the lyrics and DAMMIT, I AM CRYING AGAIN. No, really, it's a very pretty song...that hurts like ninja stars.

Fordlândia - Jóhann Jóhannsson

I edited the manuscript to this album. I love this song that just grows more and more beautiful as it continues and suddenly you get hit with this feeling of hope. Like clouds parting. Like someone finding you in a crowded, dark hallway, grabbing your hand and going, "This way." The path out. The first footsteps to the next big thing.

"Brooklyn (We Go Hard)" - Jay-Z

So we celebrate. My sports montage filled with lots of push-ups, treadmills, squats, crunches, burpees, stretching and skating lap after lap on the track starts with this song and then goes through the next two.

"Move (If You Wanna)" - MIMS

I cannot contain myself from bouncing like an idiot to this song. Unfortunately there is footage of this somewhere, as I pretty much tortured two companions in a car I was driving in through Austin. Which reminds me that I need to go pay to have that footage destroyed. I played this song for myself when I needed a break from the writing, when my own story was getting too close to the fictional one I was trying to tell. I am grateful for how powerful this song is, that it truly takes me away to a very silly place.

"Number One Spot" - Ludacris

And when I want to stay in that silly place, I play some Luda! This is also another roller-derby song for me, keeping me motivated when I was physically exhausted. Writing about that kind of grueling mental game -- when you are aware enough to ask yourself, "What the fuck am I doing? Why am I doing this? This HURTS!" but yet keep going because you know somewhere inside that you have to. 'Cause you're coming for that number one spot. What-WHAT?!

"Can You Tell" - Ra Ra Riot

This song is like hesitant springtime to me. That first moment when you're just starting to heal, when you think, "Maybe. Maybe I can let someone in again. Is it okay if it's you?" But the problem is you're probably not ready and you're like, "YOU'RE NICE. I LIKE YOU ALL THE WAY. I MADE YOU A COPY OF THE MIXTAPE I MADE FOR MY BOOK. PLEASE LOVE ME. HERE IS MY HEART I PUT IT IN A BOX FOR YOU."

You know, I read Book Notes all the time. All the other authors really do sound cool when they list the songs that influenced their latest work or could compliment the themes they were discussing. They list like, five songs that include "How Soon is Now" and "Love Will Tear Us Apart" and they move on, seemingly unmoved. How do they do that? I have to go take a nap.

Pamela Ribon and Going in Circles links:

the author's website
the author's Wikipedia entry
Dewey Donation System (the author's book donations for libraries site)

Booklist review review
The Juggler review
Lainey Gossip review
Pie Not Included review
Speed Reading Book Nerd Reviews review
The Unimaginary Book Club review
Whatever review

Jacket Copy interview with the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes music playlist by the author for her novel Why Moms Are Weird
The Outside Lane interview with the author
Whatever interview with 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