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January 20, 2016

Book Notes - Berit Ellingsen "Not Dark Yet"

Not Dark Yet

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, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Berit Ellingsen's novel Not Dark Yet is disturbingly suspenseful, an unsettling and remarkable book.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"Ellingsen (Beneath Liquid Skin) projects a feeling of encroaching darkness on every page, 'the shadow of a Kraken passing beneath the surface,' and this tension guides the narrative like a purposeful current. Expansive and unsettling descriptions make it easy to fall under the story's spell. This is a remarkable novel from a very talented author."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.

In her own words, here is Berit Ellingsen's Book Notes music playlist for her novel Not Dark Yet:

In general I don't listen to music when I write, whether I'm writing fiction or non-fiction. The same goes for editing. Thus, there are few tracks I listened to whole writing Not Dark Yet, but there are several I had in mind during the process and which I listened to between the writing and editing. Here are some of them.

"Xavier" by Dead Can Dance

Xavier is a track from Dead Can Dance's second album In The Realm Of The Dying Sun. I first bought this album when I was 15 and it's followed me since. I listen to it regularly, and every time it strikes me how powerful the music is and how archetypal the lyrics are. I will probably always own a copy of this album. It's something of the most perfect and timeless music I know.

"Moya" by Godspeed You! Black Emperor

Godspeed is the band I'd prefer made the soundtrack for Not Dark Yet. Their songs are very powerful and Moya from the EP Slow Riot For New Zerø Kanada is my favorite of their work. Their music is melancholic, dark, but also hopeful, and boldly outspoken about the state of our world.

"Opera of Northern Ocean" by Rex Mundi

When this track came out it, it immediately became a hit in trance music circles Europe. The clear rising and falling of this track is a lesson in building tension and anticipation, which should be useful for any storyteller. I listened to this track on and off when I wrote Not Dark Yet and during the rounds of editing that followed. I also wrote about it in my short story "Dancing On The Red Planet."

"Empty Streets" by Midnight Alumni

This is one of the few tracks I had in mind when I wrote Not Dark Yet. The city which the early parts of the novel are set in, is wrapped in an autumn fog that doesn't seem to end. This song makes me think of empty city streets in the fog and gray light that appears right before dawn in the late summer and early fall. Perhaps the only time in the 24 hour cycle that the streets of a modern city are empty.

"Music And Dream Sequence" from Stalker, directed by Andrei Tarkovsky

Stalker is the film that inspired Not Dark Yet the most. The rain scene at the end of Stalker is something I watch again and again, maybe as often as once a year. Tarkovsky was an expert at filming water, its surface and light, and I think his treatment of water was very much at the back of my mind when I wrote the novel. The same with his long, slow, expansive takes of the characters set against the landscape. This track is from a scene of a dream of water.

"Hollow Talk" by Choir of Young Believers

This track was used as opening theme for the Danish-Swedish crime series The Bridge. The series uses the Scandinavian climate, winter darkness, and its cities, which are a mixture of historical architecture and modern design, to tell very intense and dark stories that are somehow personal and cold at the same time. All of that definitely inspired Not Dark Yet. The further away I get to the novel, the more Scandinavian I can see it is.

"Scratched" by Etienne de Crecy

Etienne de Crecy made French electropop before Daft Punk got big. This particular track has a fantastic music video made entirely with computer graphics, but having a whole unique look and architecture. The scene in Not Dark Yet where the protagonist walks through a whole unfinished neighborhood was inspired by the sequence of unfinished houses you can see in the middle of this video.

View From The ISS At Night - video by Knate Myers - music is "Sunshine (Adagio In D Minor)" by John Murphy

This is a video made from timelapse photography taken from the International Space Station, showing bright cities, clouds, lightning, northern and southern lights of various colors, and the stars. The music is from a science fiction movie called Sunshine. The video clearly shows the Earth from space, seen against the enormous background of the cosmos. The connection here is that the protagonist in Not Dark Yet participates in testing for an astronaut program and wants to go to space.

"Missing" by Everything But The Girl

Maybe the most perfect pop song ever made. It's about not knowing what's happened with the person you loved once upon a time, and trying to get hold of them again. Something about this song is also deeply urban. The name of the band indicates someone who gets everything in the end but their love. There are whole novels in that name.

"In The Air Tonight" by Phil Collins

I've seen comments about this song being about revenge long-coming and secrets forcing themselves to the surface, and I agree with that. Those are themes that inspired Not Dark Yet. The dark tone and feel of this song makes it a fascinating whole, even though it's pure pop, even 80s pop. It's one of the most operatic pop songs I know, and I like the melodrama of opera.

Berit Ellingsen and Not Dark Yet links:

the author's website

Electric Literature review
Entropy review
The Los Angeles Review review
Music and Literature review
Publishers Weekly review

Late Night Library interview with the author
Two Dollar Radio interview with the author
Vol. 1 Brooklyn interview with the author

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

Online "Best of 2015" Book 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)