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June 24, 2011

Book Notes - Ofelia Hunt ("Today & Tomorrow")

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

Ofelia Hunt's novel Today & Tomorrow brilliantly captures the scattered mind of its unreliable narrator with its blend of non sequiturs, real and imagined violence, and perfectly crafted sentences.

The Hipster Book Club wrote of the book:

"There’s a degree of realism to be extrapolated in the noise and the random violence and the fantasy. If literature is a reflection of a society and its values, then Today & Tomorrow mirrors what we’re all thinking but know better than to say aloud. It’s a reflection of a youth in danger of being so detached from one another and from themselves that they become desensitized to cruelty, to humanness, to logic and reality, and eventually cross the line between imagining violence and acting it out. We’re exposed to the fantasy enough through films, whether they be Bottle Rocket or Bad Boys, but Hunt brings readers closer to it by pulling us into the first person narrative. It’s not an easy mind to explore, but then again no mind should be."

In her own words, here is Ofelia Hunt's Book Notes music playlist for her novel, Today & Tomorrow:

Today & Tomorrow is a novel in two parts about an unnamed narrator's twentieth birthday. As I wrote and edited I was thinking about violence, death, family, identity. I was thinking about how bodies can be separated into parts, how a bodies are merely containers (or aren't containers at all), about Bill Murray. I always listen to music while writing. Right now I'm listening to "Exoskeleton" by Rodan, and now "Goodbye Enemy Airship" by Do Make Say Think. I'm not sure if music informs T&T directly. I have the urge to say, 'violence and anomie mofos.' I don't know what that means.

1. Judy Garland – "Battle Hymn of the Republic"

Listening to this song I have the sudden fear that either God or President Obama is going to attack me with a saber. "He has loosed the lightening with his terrible swift sword." This song will put you in a kind of pseudo-depression, perfect for writing, but only a low-level depression that easily dissipates after a few moments of concerted effort, on a sentence for example.

2. Blonde Redhead – "I Am There While You Choke On Me"

Kazu Makino has an unparalleled ability to scream. This song does not provide plot, context, or very many nouns. The title of this song should be the title of a story. Though it's never mentioned in the novel, T&T's unnamed narrator listens to this song at volume level eight each day after finishing her shift at Target. She leaves her red Target t-shirt on while she listens. She nods her head infinitesimally to the drums.

3. Frente! – "Bizarre Love Triangle"

T&T has a kind of love triangle between the unnamed I, Aaron, and Erik/Todd. Why are covers of New Order songs always better than the New Order versions? This song has a nice balance between cute and mortified, and watching the music video will make you momentarily want a nose ring.

4. Modest Mouse – "Custom Concern"

"Goes through the parking lot fields…" I think about parking lots a lot. Their strange sameness and orderliness. T&T is full of them. This song is about the Pacific Northwest. I think T&T is probably set in the PNW, though not explicitly. I like how the lyrics detail the process of movement, as in: "My head sends a message for me to reach for my shoes and then walk…" This song might be the mild despair of working retail at suburban shopping malls.

5. Themselves – "Revenge of the Fern"

One word: robots. This song makes me feel robotic. "It's hurting your babies." The unnamed narrator of T&T is obsessed with robots. How people might sometimes be robots, or machines. How much easier it would be to repair people if they were machines.

6. The Beatles – "Happiness is a Warm Gun"

I can't sensibly/logically process this song. I'm continually surprised by it. And its strange violence is weirdly attractive.

7. Battles – "Tras"

This song is reprogramming me.

8. Cat Power – "Nude as the News"

"I still have a flame gun for the cute ones." In the movie version of T&T, I imagine this as the theme song for the 'thin man' (a half-character that appears in the latter third of the book). The unnamed I is obsessed with cats and kittens. And to some degree, this song contains within it love triangles and macabre/cute violence.

9. 764-HERO – "High School Poetry"

This song is what it's like to go to high school in Seattle, probably.

10. The Silver Jews – "New Orleans"

Structurally, I like songs that seem to 'go off the rails,' or 'get a little sideways.' "New Orleans" does that perfectly. It's probably a terrible song. But its terribleness is calculated for maximum pleasure. This song makes me laugh and sing along. "And trouble in the trouble that's troubling the air," and "There is a house in New Orleans, not the one you heard about, I'm talking 'bout another house."

This song takes awkward lyrics to 'a whole nother level.' I want to type out the entire song right now.

Ofelia Hunt and Today & Tomorrow links:

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

The Hipster Book Club review
Monkeybicycle review
San Diego CityBEAT review
You Should Be a Movie Critic review

Monkeybicycle interview with the author
NOO Journal interview with the author
We Who Are About to Die 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