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April 13, 2016

Book Notes - Leah Umansky "Straight Away the Emptied World"

Straight Away the Emptied World

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

Leah Umansky's new chapbook Straight Away the Emptied World eloquently explores dystopias both universal and personal though a feminist lens.

Sabotage Reviews wrote of the book:

"In this speculative knowledge-vacuum, myths and fantasies are constructed, reminiscent of David Bowie song lyrics: 'My meteor and I ride the galaxies. / It isn't until my Crater-Queen calls that I have to return.' This dystopia feels more like a theme park (Welcome to THE EMPTIED WORLD: RIDES, RIDES, RIDES!!!) but if these poems are fanciful, they are boldly so, creating webs of complex likenings."

In her own words, here is Leah Umansky's Book Notes music playlist for her poetry chapbook Straight Away the Emptied World:

Straight Away the Emptied World is equal parts dystopian-themed poems, feminist yearning, and a "sci-fi escape." It's a chapbook that's trying to question the beauty and despair in the 21st century, specifically, but not exclusively, for us women. There is so much hope in the world. Tomorrow is another day, and the future, the future is still full of promise. This book is about keeping your head up, facing the stars and the cosmos with a heart full of light and an ear open to the past. There are birds, wolves and heroines within. There is a time-spanning wilderness on these pages where the future and the past try to meet to make some kind of sense of our world. In my head, there is always music. Music and reading are ways I keep myself hopeful and happy. After all, I am my own heroine.

"The Universal" – Blur

It's no secret that I'm a massive Britpop fan. I finally had the opportunity to see Blur this fall at Madison Square Garden, so I was listening to a lot of them when editing proofs of the chapbook. "The Universal" is one of my favorite Blur songs because of its melody but also its message of hope:

"Yes, it really, really, really could happen
When the days they seem to fall through you, well just let them go"

"Don't Panic" – Coldplay

I haven't loved a Coldplay album in a few years, but their first, Parachutes, is still a favorite. Following the dystopian vein, this song is one that comes to mind reminding us, not to despair, for

"We live in a beautiful world…"

I definitely listened to this a lot in writing these poems.

"A Million Years Ago" – Adele

I've been listening to 25 on repeat since the album came out in the fall and so she needs to be a part of this playlist. The yearning for happier days…easier days….

"Skyfall" – Adele

Not because of James Bond, Sean Connery will always be Bond to me, but because of the dystopian edge. What a song, and what a voice!

"God Protect Your Soul" – Ed Harcourt

A bittersweet sort of evil little gem. Love it. If you don't know Ed Harcourt, look him up.

"Starlight" – Muse

Dystopia is so much about "hopes and expectations." This is a book of so much of that and of "starlight." I love this song. I saw Muse once when they opened for U2 at Giant Stadium about four years ago, and was blown away.

"Howl" – Florence and the Machine

All of that wolf imagery. How could you not?

"In the City" – The Jam

As much as this is a book about a dystopian future it's also partly about a dystopian present. Living in the 21st century. Living in a city. Living in NEW YORK CITY. This song totally captures that rush. Mostly, that rush is magic. I saw this amazing documentary on the Jam on my flight home from London in March called "About the Young Idea," and so The Jam has been on my mind over the last few weeks while I've been drafting this. (Paul Weller will always have my heart.)

"And Your Bird Can Sing" – The Beatles

I couldn't resist the temptation to choose a song with a bird in it. After all, I've had birds on the brain for the last year or so. The title of this book is a phrase from Helen Macdonald's H is for Hawk. As a die-hard Beatles fan, I had to go with this one.

"I Want it All" – Queen

Part of this modern world is wanting and having and finding a balance in what makes you happy. There is so much the speaker in these poems wants, and I don't mean just a new imagined world, but a new way of living. As women, we're often told not to be too needy, not to be too this or too that, but this speaker goes for it. She's going to create her own team, "The Love Orphans," and she wants it all.

"Blackstar" – David Bowie

Because I'm still sad about Bowie, and his swan song is just beautiful and heartbreaking. I will end with him because of "Space Oddity," "Starman," and his always looking into the future…

Leah Umansky and Straight Away the Emptied World links:

the author's website
excerpts from the book

Sabotage Reviews review

Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Domestic Uncertanties
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Don Dreams and I Dream
Luna Luna 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

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)
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)