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October 18, 2018

Donald Quist's Playlist for His Short Story Collection "For Other Ghosts"

For Other Ghosts

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 Jesmyn Ward, Lauren Groff, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Donald Quist's impressive story collection For Other Ghosts features a diverse and three-dimensional cast of characters.

Jamel Brinkley wrote of the book:

"The words gathered into a book of fiction are often said to conjure up a world. Usually this is an exaggeration, but what Donald Quist has accomplished in For Other Ghosts is to truly give us what feels like an entire world's breadth and depth. The range, sensitivity, and brilliance of these stories are astounding. His readers are in for a mind-expanding experience."

In his own words, here is Donald Quist's Book Notes music playlist for his short story collection For Other Ghosts:

I write to music. Often when working on a piece, I’ll inevitably choose a song that inspires me and listen to that track on repeat throughout the process. My linked short story collection, For Other Ghosts, was composed the same way. Below is a list of tracks, one for every story in the book, that ultimately helped me better shape and define the direction of these narratives. In addition to the playlist on Spotify, there are links to each song on YouTube. Enjoy!

“Cast No Shadow” by Oasis for “They Would Be Waiting”
When his grandmother’s funeral procession is halted by a band of desperate soldiers, a young American boy reflects on ancestry, his immigrant father, and a changing West Africa. Oasis mirrors the narrator’s meditations on inherited oppression and how the lingering effects of colonialism can make a person feel less visible: “Bound with all the weight of all the words he tried to say / Chained to all the places that he never wished to stay / Bound with all the weight of all the words he tried to say / As he faced the sun he cast no shadow.”

“Far Away“ by Sleater-Kinney for “Memorials”
When a local tragedy becomes national news, two vastly different strangers are bound together by fear and devotion. Wailing against slow pounding drums and atonal guitar, Corin Tucker encapsulates the theme of this narrative: “And the heart is hit / in a city far away / but it feels so close.”

“1901” by Birdy for “Lalita Rattapong’s New Microwave”
Lalita Rattapong discovers her new microwave is capable of creating space-time anomalies, and now the author of her life is unsure what comes next. Originally recorded by the band Phoenix, this cover by Birdy best reflects the mood of Lalita’s adventure through Thai history, “Counting all different ideas drifting away / Past and present they don’t matter / Now the future’s sorted out / Watch her moving in elliptical patterns.”

“Giants” by Now, Now for “Preface to Tales of River”
“Like an animal burying its bones / but leaving fingerprints on the walls inside my home.”
Maybe it’s a song about teen angst, or a breakup, or the 2008 market crash and subsequent housing crisis, but its lyrics can be used to articulate the voice of indigenous populations suffering in the shadow of capitalist transnational border policies. As Cacie Dalager sings, “You take our homes but your framework doesn’t hold / against the feet of us giants,” her tone is somber, confident, and a bit ominous. It’s not a threat; it’s a promise not to be disappeared, to continue a culture, a legacy, a mythology. It’s a tone that could come from the story’s central figure, Coventina, who haunts an ESL teacher from a neighboring wealthy nation.

“A Long Walk” by Jill Scott for “She Is a Cosmos”
Alma awakens after a one-night stand, but there’s more to it than that, and so many possibilities.
“...After dark / Find a spot for us to spark / Conversation, verbal elation, stimulation / Share our situations, temptations, education, relaxations…”

“Holy Roller” by Thao & The Get Down Stay Down for “Takeaway”
Nahm is finally attending the annual Chinese New Year dinner with her partner’s upper-class family. It’s an event tense with subtext, made all the more anxiety-inducing by the mobs of protesters roaming the streets outside. As Thao suggests, everyone in this narrative has “minds to ease and thoughts to think through.” They’ve all “got words to keep and lies to make true.”

“Modern Girl” by Sleater-Kinney for “(No Subject)”
There is a sense of irony as Carrie Brownstein croons, “my whole life / was like a picture of a sunny day” against rising distortion; an uneasiness when she suggests that “TV brings me / closer to world.” There is a similar dissonance in this narrative email written by an unnamed protagonist processing how sick they are “of this brave new world.”

“Binary Sea” by Death Cab for Cutie for “#COOKIEMONSTER”
Xiaoting “Rosa” Chen faces manslaughter charges after sixteen-year-old James Hurtado chokes to death on a cookie. But can she receive a fair trial when real life events are so often filtered, edited, or reshaped by the Internet? Is there space for complexity or nuance, for justice, for anyone, in a sea of binary?

“Joyful Girl” by Ani DiFranco for “Twin Pilgrims”
“Everything I do is judged / And they mostly get it wrong / But oh well / 'Cause / the bathroom mirror has not budged / And the woman who lives there can tell / The truth from the stuff that they say / And she looks me in the eye / And says, ‘would you prefer the easy way? / No? Well, okay, then …’” Geri isn’t joyful, but she wants to be so desperately. And she wants to watch the historic landing of the first manned mission to Mars, but her sister, Livy, won’t stop making noise.

“Recover” by CHVRCHES for “Testaments”
What better track for a reluctant mother/daughter road trip at the end of the world? If they recover, could they be each other’s comfort?

“Hand In My Pocket” by Alanis Morissette for “A Selfish Invention”
It is a late, cold night at a fine arts college in New England, and DaYana is outside her dorm thinking about a short story she’s working on involving a Chinese factory worker. Famed novelist and visiting faculty member Phillip Dawkins is awake too, roaming the campus in search of his missing muse. Maybe DaYana and Dawkins can help one another, since “no one's really got it figured out just yet.”

“Andromeda” by Hopesfall for “The Ghosts of Takahiro Okyo”
Daisuke is a forest worker in Aokigahara, the Sea of Trees bordering Mt. Fuji. It is a popular destination for people to commit suicide, and Daisuke has displayed a gift for discovering the corpses tormented souls leave behind. But on his first patrol with a new coworker, Daisuke learns that his ability to locate the dead might have greater implications.

Donald Quist and For Other Ghosts links:

the author's website

AGNI interview with the author
Fiction Writers Review interview with the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

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