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May 5, 2014

Book Notes - K. Anis Ahmed "Good Night, Mr. Kissinger"

Good Night, Mr. Kissinger

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.

K. Anis Ahmed's short story collection Good Night, Mr. Kissinger offers a detailed and thoughtful portrait of the Bangladeshi city Dhaka, and support World Literature Today's assertion that the author is "the most exciting new Bangladeshi talent writing in English."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.

In his own words, here is K. Anis Ahmed's Book Notes music playlist for his short story collection, Good Night, Mr. Kissinger:

Creedence Clearwater Revival, "Have You Ever Seen The Rain" (1971)
I have always thought of this as a 'Vietnam' song; maybe it is, maybe it's not. But the refrain and the way John Fogerty sings it is steeped with the pain of wisdom. An ironic choice too for a story about Bangladesh's Liberation War, given America's official position at the time. But the popular support in America was with us, and I had an uncle who went off to become a guerrilla fighter with American rock music - among other inspirations - in his heart.

Rolling Stones, "You Can't Always Get What You Want" (1969)
One of life's hardest lessons, and as in the story about Bahram and Jamshed, it seems to come invariably in one's adolescence, if not earlier. And the Stones are possibly my biggest all-time favorites - and they have always been big in Dhaka too.

America, "Don't Cross The River" (1975)
This song reminds me of girls like Ayesha. Struck by fate, but captivating and ultimately unattainable.

Tracy Chapman, "Fast Car" (1987)
A song about disappointment but also looking ahead. "Happiest Day of His Life" chronicles the disaffected part of the character's story, but I'd like to think he will come out of his funk in due course. Despite the vastly different contexts of the song and the story, the deep hunger for simplicity and contentment is the same.

Azam Khan, "Hariye Gechey" (unknown)
Azam Khan is one of the most iconic pop-rock singers of Bangladesh. He was also a freedom fighter and this song about loss seems fitting for the title story. Bangladesh won its liberation, true, but at such great human cost that all joy and pride is inevitably tinged with sorrow. And no one better to give that voice than the man who is known throughout Bangladesh simply as the Guru.

Salif Keita, "Folon" (1995)
This song by Malian great Salif Keita is totally out of order in time for this list, but I love its simple soulfulness. The song is about the crumbling hopes of someone in the lower economic strata. Yet, the music has always evoked for me the sorrow of all isolated characters and thus a pick for The Year of Return.

Pet Shop Boys, "Delusions of Grandeur" (1996)
The title says all you need to know about Ramkamal! And Dhaka too went through a phase of really loving Brit Pop, so no list tracing Dhaka's musical soul would be complete without a nod to electro-pop.

Femi Kuti, "What Will Tomorrow Bring" (1996)
By the son of Nigerian great Fela Kuti, though a great by his own right by now, the agonized realizations of this song could easily be transferred to any Third World country, even outside Africa. A fine song to mark the deeper distress of a story like "Elephant Road." A favorite from my New York days.

The Strokes, "Is This It" (2001)
This song is about a failed relationship and the general despondency that that engenders. This story collection is also often about characters and their failed relationships with a city. For me personally, this was a song I listened to a lot when I first came back to Dhaka, and it reminded me of my other home - New York.

K. Anis Ahmed and Good Night, Mr. Kissinger links:

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

Literary Aficionado review profile of the author
Elle India interview with the author
Random Reads interview with the author

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
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)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists