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January 6, 2015

Book Notes - Rikki Ducornet "The Deep Zoo"

The Deep Zoo

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, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Rikki Ducornet's new collection The Deep Zoo is filled with smart and surprising essays that explore our connections to the world through art.

Tobias Carroll wrote of the book in the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

"'The Deep Zoo' examines alphabets and systems of categorization; from them, she argues, we can learn more about the state of being human. The duels found in this book between insightful observations of art and literature and rage at political and societal abuses sometimes make for an unpredictable reading experience. But Ducornet’s skill at drawing unexpected connections, and her ability to move between outrage and meditativeness, are gripping to behold."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.

In her own words, here is Rikki Ducornet's Book Notes music playlist for her essay collection The Deep Zoo:

Somewhere in the middle of writing The Deep Zoo, a friend and music lover introduced me to Moon Dog's "Bird's Lament," which I listened to time and time again in the interstices of the writing. Moon Dog was blind, a street musician and performer of his own compositions on instruments of his own invention. He wrote in what he called ‘snake time' the music's many melodic serpents ideally synchronized. My friend says "Bird's Lament" has a sharp edge that speaks of Manhattan.

When I listen to it, I too find myself in that city, most often at dawn and after a long night, lonely at best, at the moment things are beginning to pick up, Yes! They are picking up! One by one people are coming into the street, getting on with things. There's this radiance that has everything to do with being alive, and everybody's beautiful, stepping out – and some have plans! Turns out they all have plans! The music is sexy; it makes you move and it is saturated with comedy. But just when you think it all coalesces - it's over! You wanted it to go on forever, or at least a little longer - but it doesn't because "Bird's Lament" is also all about the fleetingness of things.

At some point I found myself writing about Marco Ferreri's great cult film: La Grande Bouffe (Blow Out) in which a feast is taken to lethal extremes by four existentially exhausted friends. Returning to the film I was struck by Philippe Sarde's great theme – an appealing and romantic tango, urbane, sexy and wistful. I recalled that the first time I heard it, I was certain Sarde had lifted the melody from Bird's Lament - which is ridiculous! Yet listening to it again I was struck by what seemed to be a real similarity, and I had to listen to both side by side to admit that in fact, the two pieces of music do not sound alike; the melodies could not be more different. But here's the thing: both have melodies and arrangements that are irresistible and memorable, and both are full of joy in life, Eros, and profound sadness.

There are fantastic versions of these pieces online. Check out "Bird's Lament" reconfigured in Mr. Scruff's mix of "Get a Move On," and a beautiful interpretation on the Cello. As for La Grande Bouffe, there is a gorgeous piano solo, as well as the original score, bien sûr.

Rikki Ducornet and The Deep Zoo links:

the author's website

Minneapolis Star Tribune review

Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay for Netsuke

also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (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

List of Online "Best of 2014" Book Lists
Essential and Interesting 2014 Year-End Music Lists

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
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
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
Word Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)