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March 17, 2011

Book Notes - Jonathan Evison ("West of Here")

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

West of Here is an epic novel from Jonathan Evison. Sprawling and ambitious, the book spans the late 1800s to 2006 and contains no less than 42 well-constructed and believable characters in its 500+ pages. Evison moves seamlessly through the two time periods as the story unfolds, and though his canvas is expansive he never overreaches.

Jonathan Evison's debut novel Book Notes for All About Lulu impressed me greatly, as much for its writing as the unlimited literary potential of its author. West of Here was among my most anticipated reads of 2011, and shows Evison fulfilling that promise.

The Oregonian wrote of the book:

Throughout, Evison's constant, confident voice feels as comfortable relating mystical monologues from tribal elders as it does relating the history of Native American members of the X-Men. The Northwest references, from Kilt Lifter Ale to Sasquatch itself, are incorporated smoothly. Reading "West of Here," you feel as at home among the mountain men, prostitutes and crusaders of the 19th-century mudscape as among the parolees, bartenders and former high-school basketball stars of the 21st. Ultimately, though, "West of Here" is about a place more than people. A place that, like any, can be a prison, a set of too-tight clothes, a haunted past; or, in the right light, a key, a broken-in pair of shoes, an unlimited future.

In his own words, here is Jonathan Evison's Book Notes music playlist for his novel, West of Here:

For an explanation of how music informs my writing, generally, see my Book Notes for All About Lulu.

Franklin Bell, is a 54 year old parole officer in the small town of Port Bonita, Washington, the setting of my novel, West of Here. Franklin lives in a dumpy apartment behind Bonita Lanes with his bull mastiff, where he eats cold Chinese food and swills egg nog all year long. Franklin hasn't had a successful date in over two years. It probably doesn't help that he's the only black dude in Port Bonita, a rural outpost so staid in its social conventions, that orange juice is still just for breakfast. It helps even less that Franklin Bell's got the worst, and dare I say "whitest," taste in music ever. He strikes out with the Longaberger basket rep from Port Townsend to the tune of Neil Sedaka's "King of Clowns," fails miserably with the administrative assistant from the womens correctional facility in Purdy to the accompaniment of Steve Forbert's "Jackrabbit Slim," and finally puts his romance on ice with a sexually conflicted fish and wildlife warden, spinning Bob Seger's "Night Moves"—although to his credit (and Bob Seger's), on this final count, he enjoys a bit of success before things go south. Seger has his moments.

Below, is Franklin Bell's desert island playlist, a mixed CD guaranteed not to get you laid, gentleman. The first three folks who send me a convincing e-mail as to why they must own this mixed CD, will receive said mixed CD in the mail compliments of yours truly (don't tell ASCAP!). Be sure an include an address! Oh, and my e-mail is johnny(at) . . .

Dr. Hook – "Sharing the Night Together"
Michael McDonald – "Any Foolish Thing"
Jefferson Starship - "Miracles"
Pablo Cruise – "What You Gonna' Do (when she says goodbye)?"
Henry Gross – "Shannon"
Starland Vocal Band – "Starland"
Jay Ferguson – "Thunder Island"
Air Supply – "Lost in Love"
Robbie Dupree – "Steal Away"
Ambrosia – "Holdin' onto Yesterday"
Rupert Holmes – "Him"
Benny Mardones -"Into the Night"
Christopher Cross – "Ride Like the Wind"

Jonathan Evison and West of Here links:

the author's Wikipedia entry
the book's website
excerpt from the book

Beth Fish Reads review
The Book Catapult review
The Book Lady's Blog review
Bookreporter review
CCLaP review
Cleveland Plain Dealer review
Coast Weekend review
Denver Post review
Kirkus Reviews review
Los Angeles Times review
Miami Herald review
National Post review
New West review
New York Journal of Books review
New York Times review
Oregonian review
The Outlet review
Salisbury Post review
San Francisco Chronicle review
Seattle Times review
Time Out Chicago review
[tk] reviews review
USA Today review
Washington Post review

Bainbridge Island Review profile of the author
Bellingham Herald profile of the author
Deseret News profile of the author
Evanston review interview with the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes piece by the author for his novel All About Lulu
Morning Edition interview with the author
Village Books Blog guest post by the author
Words With Writers 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 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