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April 7, 2020

Kelly Fordon's Playlist for Her Story Collection "I Have the Answer"

I Have the Answer

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, Roxane Gay, and many others.

Kelly Fordon's story collection I Have the Answer impresses with its compassion and wit.

Will Allison wrote of the book:

"With this surprising collection of stories set mostly in Michigan, Kelly Fordon takes her place among our most compassionate, insightful, and wry observers of contemporary American life. These are stories of mothers and daughters, wives and widows, rendered in prose that is at once poetic and plainspoken, with genuine heart and a connoisseur’s eye for the absurd."

In her own words, here is Kelly Fordon's Book Notes music playlist for her story collection I Have the Answer:

Here are the songs I picked for each of the stories in my short story collection, I Have the Answer, published by Wayne State University Press, April 7, 2020.

Can I be honest? I was raised in a very strict Catholic household during the era when Tipper Gore formed the Parents Music Resource Center. Here’s a link to the Wikipedia page and that whole debacle.

Because my mother loved Tipper Gore’s initiative and I was not allowed to buy many records, I missed a lot when I was growing up in the '70s/'80s. But every now and then I would hear a song on a passing boombox and it would stick. When I’m writing now, one song always fly tapes itself to the project. Luckily I’m also married to a man who loves music so much he was the music reviewer for his high school newspaper, and my daughter’s bedroom walls are papered with posters featuring all the musicians I missed. Slowly I am recovering those lost years.

Shorebirds and the Shaman

Fields of Gold by Eva Cassidy

The main character in “Shorebirds,” who is trying to deal with the sudden loss of her husband, immediately comes to mind when I think of this song.

Jungle Life

Bridge over Troubled Water by Simon & Garfunkel

The father in this story keeps telling his son different versions of the same story as he descends into dementia, and the son is trying to figure out which one is the real story. Jungle Life is about watching someone you love decline, and these lines in particular resonated with me:

“When you're down and out
When you're on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you
I'll take your part, oh, when darkness comes…”

The Devil’s Proof

Only the Good Die Young by Billy Joel

This is the story of a young, naïve girl in Washington, D.C. who is assaulted. Sound familiar? Well, I’m here to tell you--it happened to a lot of people. Chrissy Blasey Ford’s story is not the only one. I grew up in DC in the 80s too.

When I was young and steeped in Catholicism, I thought this song was so evil. I surreptitiously purchased The Stranger but whenever this song came on, I would skip over it, thinking the devil was going to get me. Now, when I think about sexual assault, I think “Only the Good Die Young” is so true in a variety of ways. The good in us, meaning our joy and our hope and our trust, sometimes dies young because not only are we physically attacked, afterwards no one believes us. What could be more soul-crushing than that?

Get a Grip

Hit the Road, Jack by Ray Charles

This story is about a woman who becomes agoraphobic after her husband leaves her. This song is the one I picture her singing as she emerges from her cocoon.

How it Passed

Oh Very Young by Cat Stevens

This is a story about how quickly life passes and how we don’t fully comprehend we’re “dancing on this earth for a short while.”

Where’s the Baby?

You Made Me Love You by Smoking Time Jazz Club Band

One of the characters in this story has spent her life as the lead singer in a New Orleans band and The Smoking Time Jazz Club Band is my favorite New Orleans Band. You can catch them on Tuesday nights at the Spotted Cat Jazz Club, which is where I first saw them:

The Phantom Arm

Seeing Things by The Black Crowes

I have two stories in this collection about people who might be labeled as disturbed or even crazy on a clinical level, but who, in my stories, are really saner than the rest of the folks in their particular worlds. I like to think that possibly when we dismiss people or write them off as “crazy” we are misguided. Perhaps they are only looking through another lens, and who’s to say it’s not a better one?

The Visit: 1976

Crocodile Rock by Elton John

Crocodile Rock really has nothing to do with this story, it’s just the song that always plays in my head when I remember my own childhood, and this fictional story takes place in the neighborhood where I grew up. It was fun to write this story and situate it in one of my favorite places on earth. So why not add a favorite song to the mix?


The Sound of Silence by Disturbed

I picked this rendition of the song because of the power of David Draiman’s voice. The Simon & Garfunkel version is too sedate for my story, which is about a heroin overdose. When I was writing it, I was sad and angry about several recent deaths in my neighborhood, which is, if you watch the video, exactly how David Draiman appears.

In the Dog House

Can’t Buy Me Love by the Beatles

When I wrote this story I was thinking a lot about the nature of love and money and the fact that even though we sometimes envy people with money, they are often very unhappy.

Superman at Hogback Ridge

Superman by R.E.M., for obvious reasons.

I love the line, “I am Superman, and I know what’s happening,” because in my story no one knows what the heck is happening.

Why Did I Ever Think This Was a Good Idea


Even though the main character in this story spends some time dancing to Dancing Queen, I really think her anthem is SOS. She’s spent her whole life raising kids, and she’s wondering WTF do I do now?

Kelly Fordon is the author of an award-winning short story collection, Garden for the Blind (Wayne State University Press, 2015); a poetry chapbook, The Witness, which won the Eric Hoffer Award for the Chapbook; and a poetry collection, Goodbye Toothless House.

also at Largehearted Boy:

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Book Notes (2015 - 2017) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (authors create music playlists for their book)
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