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September 13, 2017

Book Notes - Zachary Schomburg "Mammother"


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.

Zachary Schomburg's novel Mammother is a marvelously surreal and inventive debut.

Aimee Bender wrote of the book:

"Like the younger sibling of Richard Brautigan's In Watermelon Sugar, but boxier and more etched on the page. And, Schomburg's book is still utterly its own thing, strange and wondrous."

In his own words, here is Zachary Schomburg's Book Notes music playlist for his debut novel Mammother:

I wrote the entirety of the first draft of Mammother in 48 days in the largest room of the Chateau de Monthelon outside of a small town called Montreal in Burgundy, France. The enormous room didn't have access to wifi, which was the key for me, but it meant that I was limited to listening to the dozen or fewer albums I had downloaded onto my laptop, which I'll list below.

The most special days for writing to music were Tuesdays. On Tuesday afternoons, Pasqual, the chateau's plumber would make the rounds but have very little to fix. So, he spent about an hour--sometimes more--at the piano on one side of the room while I wrote on the other side. We never spoke to one another after our first failed try. I listened to him play with writing and looking at the valley through the windows to the west. Those were my best ever hours of novel writing. I recorded a bit of Pasqual's playing in that room here. I call it "Pasqual's Lament."

On the other days, I wrote mostly to Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring. It represents such clear bursts of narrative sequences, so it was easy to imagine action unfolding as I wrote. The music encouraged more to happen, next, next, more, further, darker, darker. It was like I was writing on top of all that sound. When I listen to The Rite of Spring, I can see dead bodies floating down a river, being captured, and stacked into a pyramid. So I wrote those scenes.

I also fell in love with a lot of minimalist and lowercase albums. I had Alva Noto and Ryuchi Sakamoto's Vrioon I and Insen pretty much on repeat. Several of the scenes I wrote with Enid, who wanted so much, I was listening to Saetia and Boys' Life Departures and Landfalls. Many of the other albums I listened to during those 48 days were sent to me by my friend Mathias Svalina: Tehn's Tomorrow Perhaps, Efterklang's Tripper, Phillip Glass' Dracula, Mata Hari's I Shall Sound my Own Reveille, Godspeed You Black Emprorer's Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress, and Tim Hecker's Haunt Me.

Each day, I had to write at least 2k words before I could stop. Sometimes I was done writing around 1pm, and other days I was done as late 4pm. But every day, after writing, I'd go on a long walk in the early evening with my partner, Brandi, or sometimes by myself, in the valley around the chateau, through nearly-abandoned medieval farm towns. I would think about what I just wrote, and where the story should go next. If I was by myself, I had only two albums, more or less, to sing along to. Red House Painters 1, of which I could probably sing every word without listening to it, and Grouper's The Man Who Died in his Boat, of which I pretty much just listened to the last song, "Living Room". I listened to that song at least 50 times walking around in those hills. I sang it out loud to the cows as I walked past them.

Now I'm writing a second novel primarily to Haruomi's Hosono's Watering a Flower.

Zachary Schomburg and Mammother links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

Portland Mercury review
Queen Mobs Tea House review

Willamette Week profile of 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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