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August 28, 2017

Book Notes - Victor Corona "Night Class"

Night Class

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.

Victor Corona's Night Class is a fascinating blend of memoir and sociological study of the night life of downtown Manhattan.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"An engaging, if unlikely, memoir of a scholar by day, club hopper by night… Sociology taken to the streets and basements, yielding a well-wrought introduction to a scene little known―and perhaps little imagined―to outsiders."

In his own words, here is Victor Corona's Book Notes music playlist for his memoir Night Class:

Stream the playlist at Spotify.

In Night Class: A Downtown Memoir, I meet Lady Gaga’s old Lower East Side tribe, dive into the midnight madness of wild hotspot The Box, and hang out with grown up Limelight club kids and surviving Factory Superstars still shadowed by their friendship with Andy Warhol. I discuss the legacies of two matriarchs: nightlife queen Susanne Bartsch and Sex and the City costume designer Patricia Field. And I tell all about my summer spent working as assistant to Party Monster and Club Kid Killer Michael Alig after his release from prison. I also describe my own journey from young, closeted, and illegal Mexican immigrant to studying sociology at Yale and Columbia and now teaching at NYU.

"Bad Romance" - Lady Gaga
As I say in the prologue, the video for this hit Gaga song ended up being a push down a rabbit hole that led to the whole book. I spend chapter 1 trying to make sense of how Gaga extracted downtown New York’s spirit and sold it to the world. I really got to know the old Lower East Side crew that she left behind and I try to relay their stories.

"Empty" - The Cranberries
Chapter 2 starts off with my high school years in suburban Westchester: being an awkward, closeted, undocumented kid in a mostly white all-boys Catholic high school. I survived only because of the amazing teachers who put up with my craziness. The first band that I ever loved was The Cranberries. “Empty” is filled with hopelessness and yearning, the two moods that I bounced between in high school.

"Sleep the Clock Around" - Belle & Sebastian
In college, thanks to my friend and roommate Shonu, I discovered Belle & Sebastian, whom I finally got to see in concert in 2015. I love so many of their songs, but “Sleep the Clock Around” always reminds me of my time at Yale and working in New Haven politics. I describe that time in chapter 4 and discuss how hierarchy reproduces itself everywhere, whether in city politics or downtown nightlife.

"Dancing in the Dark" - Bruce Springsteen
The song that always cheers me up! We all have / need a song like this. Doing a Ph.D. in sociology at Columbia was a long, hard, frustrating slog and I start chapter 5 talking about how alienating grad school was. It’s easy to fall into some really deep pits of despair. If you’re there, Bruce might pull you out! “You can’t start a fire / sitting ’round crying from a broken heart.”

"Not In Love" - Crystal Castles feat. Robert Smith
Now for some songs from the last six years of my life, when I immersed myself in the downtown New York scenes that I try to document in the book. I discovered this song at the Hudson Hotel, where I start the whole book. You know when you’re trying to get over an ex-crush and you feel like you just can’t? For me, the song brimmed with that denial. I was trying to get over this boy I call F in the book, my own “bad romance,” and I just couldn’t.

"Goodbye" - Feder feat. Lyse
And then this song I mention in the book when I realized that I was finally over F! We were at the Stonewall Inn, parting ways, and I realized that I no longer cared about this person who had so thoroughly broken my heart a few years prior. Maybe we’ve all been there? That powerful, liberating moment of really, truly, finally saying goodbye.

"Two Weeks" - fka Twigs
Chapter 6 explores what I consider to be the best nightclub in New York, The Box, where you’ll see some of the most outrageous performance art anywhere. I talk about taking a date there. We had an amazing time together and later he played me this song at his apartment. It’s beautiful, raw, and extremely passionate. It reminds me of the night at The Box and how absolutely magical the place can be.

"Off to the Races" - Lana Del Rey
As I say in Night Class, this is my pregame song, now and forever! The minute I hop into a car on my way to a club, I put this song on. No question. Try it! Lana will amp you up for the night, get you ready for the thrill of the unexpected that awaits you at whatever club, bar, party you’re heading off to.

"Poor Old Ra" - The Pica Beats
I’m a huge TV fan so I often wind down my days with some Netflix or Hulu. This song was featured on the show You’re the Worst and I was hooked right away. Egyptian mythology is referenced throughout and the meaning of the song isn’t entirely intelligible, at least to me. But it was the PERFECT writing song. The last few versions of the book were birthed through this song. I wish I could sing well just so I could sing this song.

"Everlong" - Foo Fighters
I’m working on a TV adaptation of the book and I would love for this song to close the first season. It just pulls together the whole book from me. From the misery of high school, through studying sociology in college and grad school, and now the magic and mania of New York’s downtown scenes.

Victor Corona and Night Class links:

the book's website

Booklist review
Kirkus review

The Blue and White Magazine interview with the author
Electric Literature interview with the author interview with the author
Quiet Lunch interview with the author

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)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
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