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September 24, 2010

Book Notes - Matthew Sharpe ("You Were Wrong")

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

Lydia Millet called Matthew Sharpe's new novel You Were Wrong "a sharply funny, almost old-fashioned social farce with the structure of a P.G. Wodehouse comedy of errors and the bitter wit of a John Kennedy Toole," and I have to agree. Clever, funny, and often truly surprising, this book is one of the year's most enjoyable reads.

The Boston Globe wrote of the book:

"Matthew Sharpe sets himself some high hurdles to clear in a novel that can cautiously be characterized as offbeat. Sullen, sluggish, and self-involved as any teenager, Karl is not a natural hero. To raise the ante, Sharpe uses an edgy, ironic narrative voice that keeps us guessing where to place our emotional bets. With craft and wit he meets the challenge, producing one of the weirdest love stories we’re likely to read anytime soon."

In his own words, here is Matthew Sharpe's Book Notes music playlist for his novel, You Were Wrong:

When you write a novel called You Were Wrong, as I did, and are asked to make a playlist, and you wonder, "How about a playlist on the theme of my book's title?," you then begin to realize just how many songs there are in which someone is or has been wrong. These are mostly love songs. Here is a CD's worth of such songs, with a relevant sample lyric from each. The mode of lamentation is in some cases psychological ("What can you say that won't make them defensive?"), in others linguistic ("his vocabulary is killing this romance"), in others pastoral ("the wind was fresh on the hills"). To the sad or bitter tone of many of these I offer this modest counterpoint: while inevitable, being wrong is not always so bad, and can be at times useful.

"Hang onto Your Ego," by Brian Wilson, as performed by The Beach Boys

I know so many people who think they can do it alone. They isolate their heads and stay in their safety zone. What can you tell them? What can you say that won't make them defensive? Hang onto your ego, hang on but you know you're gonna lose the fight.

"Meaningless," by Stephen Merritt, as performed by The Magnetic Fields

And if some dim bulb should say we were in love in some way, kick all his teeth in for me, and if you feel like keeping on kicking, feel free.

"Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," by Jerome Kern and Otto Harbach, as performed by The Platters.

They asked me how I knew my true love was true. I of course replied, "Something here inside cannot be denied."

"Murder, He Says," by Frank Loesser and Jimmy McHugh, as sung by Tori Amos

Finally found a fellow, almost completely divine, but his vocabulary is killing this romance of mine.

"Miss Otis Regrets," by Cole Porter, as sung by Ella Fitzgerald

When she woke up and found her dream of love had gone, she ran to the man who had led her so far astray, and from under her velvet gown she drew a gun and shot her lover down. Miss Otis regrets she's unable to lunch today.

"Makin' Whoopie," by Walter Donaldson and Gus Kahn, as sung by Louis Armstrong

He doesn't make much money—only five thousand per. Some judge who thinks he's funny says, "You'll pay six to her." He says, "Now judge, suppose I fail?" Judge says, "Budge, right into jail. You'd better keep her, I think it's cheaper than makin' whoopee."

"Somebody That I Used to Know," Elliot Smith

I had tender feelings that you made hard, but it's your life, not mine, that's scarred.

"Twisted," by Annie Ross, as sung by Bette Midler

My analyst told me that I was right out of my head. The way he described it, he said, "You'd be better off dead than alive." I didn't listen to his jive. I knew all along that he was all wrong, and I knew that he thought I was crazy, but you know I'm not. Oh, no!

"An Army of Me," Bjork

You're all right, there's nothing wrong, self-sufficiency please! And get to work.

"Idiot Wind," Bob Dylan

Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your mouth.

"Pimper's Paradise," Bob Marley

Now she is bluesing when there ain't no blues.

"I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone," by Stan Kesler and Bill Taylor, as sung by Elvis Presley

But how was I to know that she was not the one for me?

"Your Mind Is On Vacation," Mose Allison

If silence was golden, you couldn't raise a dime.

"Billie Jean," Michael Jackson

The kid is not my son!

"Who Was I Kidding?" Martha Wainwright

I never liked myself before. Now even less. When it rains it pours down my hard head forever more.

"Easy to Be Hard," James Rado and Gerome Ragni, as sung by Anabel Leventon

And especially people who care about strangers, who say they care about social injustice: do you only care about the bleeding crowd? How about a needing friend? I need a friend.

"Everything Happens to Me," by Tom Adair and Matt Dennis, as sung by Frank Sinatra

I make a date for golf and you can bet your life it rains. I try to throw a party but the guy upstairs complains. I guess I'll go through life catching colds and missing trains.

"Now at Last," Feist

When the wind was fresh on the hills, and the stars were new in the sky, and a lark was heard in the still, where was I? Where was I?

"Odorono," by Pete Townshend, as performed by The Who

She was happier than she'd ever been as he praised her for her grace. But his expression changed, she had seen as he leant to kiss her face. It ended there—he claimed a late appointment. She quickly turned to hide her disappointment.

She ripped her glittering gown—couldn't face another show, no! Her deodorant had let her down: she should have used Odorono.

"Anywhere on this Road," Lhasa de Sela

My heart is breaking, I cannot sleep. I love a man who's afraid of me. He believes if he doesn't stand guard with a knife I'll make him my slave for the rest of his life.

"Barbara Allen" (traditional)

They buried her in the old churchyard, they buried him in the choir. From his grave grew a red red rose, and from her grave a green briar. They grew and grew to the steeple top, till they could grow no higher, and there they twined in a true love's knot, red rose around green briar.

Matthew Sharpe and You Were Wrong links:

the author's website
video trailers for the book

The Barnes & Noble Review review
Bookforum review
Boston Globe reviews
The Brooklyn Rail review
Kirkus Reviews review
Los Angeles Times review
New York Times review
Time Out Chicago review

Five Chapters short story by the author
Paper Cuts Living With Music 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 comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from the week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists