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August 29, 2013

Book Notes - Patricia Engel "It's Not Love, It's Just Paris"

It's Not Love, It's Just Paris

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

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, George Pelecanos, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Myla Goldberg, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Patricia Engle's engaging debut novel It's Not Love, It's Just Paris is filled with crystalline prose, a coming of age story both moving and surprising.

The Miami Herald wrote of the book:

"Engel crafts her sentences with narrowed eyes and a sardonic air, heavy on observation, discerning in details. We're here for a story, too, the sort of full-on, hurts-so-good tale of transformation that Engel delivers with a surprising mix of tenderness and skepticism."

Stream a Spotify playlist of these tunes. If you don't have Spotify yet, sign up for the free service.

In her own words, here is Patricia Engel's Book Notes music playlist for her debut novel, It's Not Love, It's Just Paris:

I come from a family of musicians, and though I have very limited musical ability, I possess a pretty impressive auditory memory, which I discovered at 15, when I won a "Name that Tune" contest based on the first two notes of the theme song to the film Yentl, which I had no recollection of ever seeing or hearing. So, even though I don't listen to music while writing, I know it's imprinted on my subconscious, and manifests in my fiction in powerful ways.

The following list of songs were either direct inspirations or influences on my new novel, It's Not Love, It's Just Paris, or are extensions of its essence and creation, like a musical hangover:

"Les Temps Changent" by MC Solaar

It's Not Love, It's Just Paris is set between the summers of 1997 and 1998, when MC Solaar's album, Paradisiaque, was released. This song became an anthem to youthful nostalgia and in my mind, an anthem to the novel. This entire list could be comprised of just MC Solaar songs, including "Obsoléte," which is named in the book.

"Quelque chose de Tennessee" by Johnny Hallyday

This song always burns my heart with its melancholy and dreamy longing for a more innocent time, which reminds me of the novel's narrator, Lita, looking back on her year in Paris.

"Né Ici" by Doc Gyneco

With wrenching imagery of dead Paris streets contrasted with the lush beauty of Guadeloupe, this song speaks to the bicultural generation, forever outsiders, unsure where to call home, as is the case with Colombian-American Lita and many other characters in the novel, and a reflection of the changing face of France.

"Je l'aime à Mourir" by Francis Cabrel

I love a good love song as much as I love a good love story. This one is a classic, and the first of several love songs on this list. The proof of its resonance is that it's been translated into several languages and is beloved in all of them.

"Tú" by Shakira

You could get drunk on the romanticism in this song. It describes the intoxicating possession of fresh love, when one hands oneself over entirely to the other person, as Lita does with Cato, and he with her.

"Gibraltar" by Abd al Malik

This song's pulse and lyrics capture the spirit of Paris at the turn of the millennium, full of racial and economic tensions, and the silencing of minority voices that persists to this day. Abd al Malik was an inspiration for the character of Rachid, a slam poet.

"Ma France à Moi" by Diam's

This is a rap of the malaise felt by the young generation of French immigrant kids in relation to extremist politicians like those that inspired the character of Antoine de Manou.

"Do You Remember" by Robi Draco Rosa

As long as we're talking love songs, this might be my favorite of all time. It describes a relentless, feverish love, questioning whether it's meant to be forever or to fade away. It echoes Lita and Cato's love (and so many others), on that tender precipice.

"Out of Tears" by the Rolling Stones

At one point, Lita and Cato split up and this song paints the stubborn sorrow I tried to conjure within Lita as she struggles to forget him. The Rolling Stones also figure in the novel when Lita discovers December's Children on Cato's record player.

"Ya Rayah" by Rachid Taha

It would be impossible to have a playlist for this novel and not include any Rai music, which was enormously popular in Paris of the late 90s, heard in bars and clubs in every quartier. This song's groove is particularly infectious.

"Pas Toi" by Jean-Jacques Goldman

The Melgroove cover of this song came out in 1998, and I prefer it to the original, but Goldman's lyrics tell of the devastation of being abandoned by a lover, something I tried to capture in the affairs of some of the House of Stars characters.

"Snow" by Craig Armstrong and David McAlmont

Is there a word for that feeling of knowing the person you love is keeping something from you, and that they are slipping away? I don't think so, but this is definitely the song for it, and for several moments of doubt and reckoning between Cato and Lita.

"La Vie" by Manu Chao

This song is a Molotov cocktail of hostility and affection, because nothing opens the door to pain like love and desire, and it reminds me of the complex friendship between Lita and Romain, teetering on the brink of something more.

"La Tierra" by Ekhymosis

Before Juanes was an international superstar, he fronted this Colombian band and gave us this chant for the motherland. I thought of it often when describing Lita's love and loyalty to her family, and her devotion to her Colombian parents.

"Mad Love" by Robi Draco Rosa

I won't give the novel away, but this song captures the final chapters between Lita and Cato, when their love, for better or worse, becomes immortal.

Patricia Engel and It's Not Love, It's Just Paris links:

the author's website

Bustle review
Miami Herald review
San Francisco Chronicle review
Tampa Bay Times review

Edwidge Danticat on a passage from the book (at The Atlantic)

also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2012 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
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