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November 29, 2017

Book Notes - Ross Simonini "The Book of Formation"

The Book of Formation

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.

Ross Simonini's novel-in-interviews The Book of Formation is an imaginatively told and thought-provoking debut.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"A debut reminiscent of modern art—often unsettling, not always easy or beautiful, but rewarding to the reader willing to grapple with its questions."

In his own words, here is Ross Simonini's Book Notes music playlist for his debut novel The Book of Formation:



The below playlist follows the chronology of The Book of Formation, which take place at 8 moments over 20 years. Each song corresponds to a chapter and the time of that chapter. Over this period, the characters in the book are influenced by the media events and the pop culture around them, just as I was.


"Lake of Fire"

In 1993, at the age of twelve, Polly Klass was having a slumber party at her mother's home in Petaluma, 15 minutes from where I, another twelve year old, was sleeping. A terrifying looking man with a knife entered her home and kidnapped her at knifepoint. Her friends were with her, but they couldn't stop it from happening. All the parents in the area became paranoid. Curfews tightened. But to me, it was a fantasy occurring a million miles away.

Nine Inch Nails

In Detroit, at the beginning of 1994, Olympic skater Nancy Kerrigan was hit with a club on the back of her knee and she cried out in pain: "Why me!" The news revealed a nefarious plot behind the attack and my mom and I watched it unfold on the television. I didn't understand ambition yet. I just wanted to be in my room, listening to music, thrashing around like a wild animal.


Sophie B. Hawkins
"As I Lay Me Down"

In late summer of 1995, at age 53, Jerry Garcia died in his room at a rehabilitation clinic from a heart attack. I lived a few minutes down the road from Garcia's house. I attended school with his family members. When I listened to the Dead, I thought of him as a kindly neighbor I had seen driving around town in his BMW. The singer of Sublime, Bradley Nowell died shortly after. I listened to both bands enough to identify myself with whatever philosophies surrounded them. I had recently fallen in love for the first time.


Fiona Apple

Bill Clinton received a blowjob and became the second president to be impeached. Later, at Columbine High School, 15 kids were murdered by two of the their fellow students. I was also in high school. Police officers came to our school to discuss what had happened, and to discourage us from killing each other. Around this time, a boy from my class, who had once thrown rocks at me, killed himself with a shotgun. I had mixed feelings about it.



At this point, it had been a few months since the country crossed the threshold, from pre- to post-9/11. I was in college, living in a bubble by the sea, playing music every day, eating burritos. I slept late on the morning of the attacks and my mom woke me by turning on the television.


"Confessions part II"

In December, Saddam Hussein was hanged. Every one I knew hated George Bush. I moved to Los Angeles around this time and lived with my best friend across the street from a music venue. I worked at bookstore in Brentwood, where movie stars came to buy their books. I only listened to music by the band Talk Talk for a year. I signed with a record label owned by the Cocteau Twins and went on tour in Europe playing dreamy music, opening for dreamy bands. When I wasn't on tour, I gave music lessons to my co-worker's daughter in exchange for dinner.


Wyclef Jean
"Sweetest Girl (Dollar Bill)"

Tom Cruise jumped on Oprah's coach and declared his love for Katie Holmes. We could all see the Scientology leaking out of him, and we all stopped respecting him for being so overwhelmed by ideology. I stopped paying attention to the news for several years. I questioned the benefit of it, of being aware of all the events in the world, most of them horrifying. What was it doing for me? Pop music was such an easy, beautiful companion.


Carly Rae Jepsen
"Run Away With Me"

Michael Jackson died. All the pop stars I grew up were dead or irrelevant. I lived in New York where dead or relevant were the only two states of being. When I eventually left New York, I and started reading about the world again. Culture seemed exciting. So much to catch up on. It turns out America had a likable president for a moment. Also, the weather is our fault, and we're all going to die because of it. So it turns out we were right all along: the world really does revolve around us.


Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda
"Om Rama"

Ross Simonini and The Book of Formation links:

the author's website

Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review

Culture Trip 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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