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October 11, 2017

Book Notes - Celeste Ng "Little Fires Everywhere"

Little Fires Everywhere

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.

Celeste Ng's powerful novel Little Fires Everywhere is a nuanced portrait of motherhood, community, and identity.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"Both an intricate and captivating portrait of an eerily perfect suburban town with its dark undertones not-quite-hidden from view and a powerful and suspenseful novel about motherhood... Ng explores the complexities of adoption, surrogacy, abortion, privacy, and class, questioning all the while who earns, who claims, and who loses the right to be called a mother. This is an impressive accomplishment."

In her own words, here is Celeste Ng's Book Notes music playlist for her novel Little Fires Everywhere:

Little Fires Everywhere takes place in 1997 and 1998, so how could I resist the opportunity to put together a playlist of the '90s music I grew up with? Each main character in the book would have listened to very different music, so here is a song for each—one that they'd both listen to and that captures their personality.

Lexie: "Spin the Bottle" (The Juliana Hatfield Three)
Parties, truth or dare, kissing a movie start: this is the perfect blend of teen innocence–meets–burgeoning sexuality, and perfectly encapsulates Lexie's golden, slightly dizzy view of life.

Trip: "Insane in the Brain" (Cypress Hill)
For me, this is a classic jump-around-get-stupid party song, ridiculously catchy, just the kind of thing Trip would have blasted from the rolled-down windows of his Jeep. I suspect he'd have been oblivious to the complexities of the song and the connotations of the lyrics and just enjoyed the beat.

Moody: "Good Intentions" (Toad the Wet Sprocket)
Moody would've been into alternative and the melancholy of Toad the Wet Sprocket would have been right up Moody's alley. And of course the regret of this particular song—"It's hard to rely on my good intentions"—is Moody in a nutshell.

Izzy: "What's Up?" (Four Non-Blondes)
The existential angst, the crescendo from resigned frustration to furious scream, the prayer for a revolution: I can't think of a song that better captures Izzy.

Pearl: "One Hand in my Pocket" (Alanis Morissette)
"Ironic" might be the Alanis song that best represents the '90s, but this has always been my favorite, and the most like Pearl: startlingly earnest, a bit confused and contradictory, still figuring it all out and doing the best she can.

Mrs. Richardson: "Pleasant Valley Sunday" (The Monkees)
Of course Mrs. Richardson needs a song about suburbia—but not just any song. "Pleasant Valley Sunday" is about how perfect life isn't quite as perfect as it seems. At the same time, it's a song criticizing conformity and artificiality... by The Monkees, a band manufactured for TV. The levels of irony keep echoing right through that reverb-soaked ending. (Plus, some people insist it's about being trapped in an insane asylum—a whole other level of commentary on suburbia, maybe.)

Mia: "1979" (Smashing Pumpkins)
When I was seventeen, I'd put this song on the tape deck in my car and roll down the windows and just drive. And that's actually what this song is about—youth and recklessness and the intoxication of being constantly on the move.

You can hear all of these songs—plus a few extras to accompany key moments in the book—on Spotify.

Celeste Ng and Little Fires Everywhere links:

the author's website

Chicago Tribune review
Kirkus review
Los Angeles Times review
New York Times review
Publishers Weekly review
San Francisco Chronicle review
Washington Post review

New York Times interview with the author
TIME profile of the author
Weekend Edition 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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