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July 6, 2017

Book Notes - Bill Roorbach "The Girl of the Lake"

The Girl of the Lake

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.

Bill Roorbach's collection The Girl of the Lake is filled with imaginative and moving short stories.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"Each meticulously chiseled-down and polished tale contains enough plot, character development, and emotion to fill a novel . . . These stories, with their smart and funny dialogue, characters both wise and fallible, are sure to capture the reader’s imagination, and heart. For fans of Richard Russo and Russell Banks."

In his own words, here is Bill Roorbach's Book Notes music playlist for his short story collection The Girl of the Lake:

Nine stories, nine protagonists, nine slices of time, or even double time. A think a song a story will make a nice playlist for The Girl of the Lake.

The Planets, Gustav Holst

In "Harbinger Hall," an adventurous boy meets an old man who tells him stories that offer harrowing lessons from the past. So the first song is a symphony, The Planets, by Gustav Holst, which was written as a response to the advent of WWI.

"Single Girl," by the Hayden Triplets

In "Kiva" an Afghan-American kid tries to bridge his father's culture with the culture of New Mexico, where they've ended up after disasters both political and personal. One way might be to date the unreachable daughter of his father's piggish boss. But the boss has three daughters.

"I Walk the Line" by Johnny Cash

In "The Fall," a boy-girl couple goes hiking, and that certain brand of exercise irritation sets in, not quite mitigated by sex al fresco. They've got to walk a ridge called the Knife's Edge, which brings them to the end of the line.

"A Cottage for Sale," by Willard Robinson and Larry Conley. Judy Garland version.

There are a lot of ways to get a good deal on a house. "Murder Cottage," offers one. Let's think of the song as sung by the prior owners. Judy makes it super sad and a little boozy, which seems about right.

"Barcelona," Giulia y Los Tellarini

Tessa Embrodar, the princesa of "Princesa" is an exquisitely delicate and brilliant actress taking a break in Ibiza from filming something big and new with Pedro Almodovar. Our hero chances to meet her and can't separate actress from her characters, disastrous. Tessa's from Barcelona, of course. She does a pretty good American accent when necessary.

"Blue Hawaii," by Elvis Presley

The song is almost a parody of itself, pedal steels and oooh-ahhh choir backgrounds, but it still gets to me, and no doubt to the Wall Street-shark protagonist of "Broadax, Inc.," who is forced to make a last stand with his beloved in dreamy, blue Hawaii.

"Till There Was You," by Meredith Willson, from The Music Man. The Beatles version

The protagonist of "The Tragedie of King Lear" has lost his wife, and oh, the songs that play through his head. She played Marian in The Music Man, once upon a time, and it's her love of the theater that has brought him to his, and to the moment of this story.

"Wonderful Tonight," by Eric Clapton

I always found this song poignant more than lovey-dovey, just knowing all the shit Eric Clapton has been through, including the death of a child, terrible. And yet there's your lover coming down the stairs. In "Some Should" a couple of fairly hardened cases, one a priest, the other a boutique farmer, come together and fall hard.

"The Dung Beetle Song"

I made this one up, but can about hear it in my head, the characters of "Dung Beetle"—two young boy-girl couples—marching drunk with linked arms through the streets of London singing the national song of the African boy. The lyrics are partly in there—"The dung beetle keeps on going, keeps rolling his ball of shit." And I invite anyone out there to provide the music, finish the lyrics. Make it martial, make it anthemic, make it a song to sing when drunk with your mates on the streets of London, triumphal, but with the scent of failure.

"Have I Told you Lately that I Love You," by Van Morrison

Okay, I know this is a crazy list, a mix of chestnuts and bubblegum with a few glass boulders. But "The Girl of the Lake" is a love story, and a story of devotion that reaches far beyond the beautiful ghost of the title, to devotion to our planet. But mostly I just love the later, more obscure Van Morrison, which this isn't, thanks to Rod Stewart, who covered it. So let's use his version for the list.

Bill Roorbach and The Girl of the Lake links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

Kirkus review
Michigan Daily review
Portland Press Herald review
Publishers Weekly review

Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Life Among Giants
Largehearted Boy Book Notes playlist by the author for The Remedy for Love

also at Largehearted Boy:

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Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (authors create music playlists for their book)
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my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

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