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August 25, 2022

Lynn Sloan's Playlist for Her Novel "Midstream"

Midstream by Lynn Sloan

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, Roxane Gay, and many others.

Lynn Sloan's new novel is compelling, cinematic, and moving.

NewCity Lit wrote of the book:

"Sloan in Midstream treats us to believable characters and a high-stakes plot that involves work, love and friendship."

In her own words, here is 's Book Notes music playlist for her novel :

Between the summer of 1974, when Midstream opens and Polly Wainwright enters a crowded corporate elevator and the year 1962 when her story begins, a revolution invaded pop music. The Beatles burst onto the world stage, became a phenom, and imploded, but in those years, little changed on the radio in Chicago. Top Forty dominated the AM air waves and provided the background musical score for people like Polly, twenty-somethings striving to find their place in the ground-shifting culture.

“Mash Potato Time,” Dee Dee Sharp
“Roses are Red (My Love),” Bobby Vinton

In 1962 the top of the Top Forty included Dee Dee Sharp’s “Mash Potato Time” and Bobby Vinton’s “Roses are Red (My Love),” which Polly loathed.

“It’s Only Rock and Roll (But I Like It)” the Rolling Stones.
“Sweet Home Alabama” Lynyrd Skynyrd

In 1974, the biggest hits included the Rolling Stones, “It’s Only Rock and Roll (But I Like It),” which Polly likes, and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama,” which she doesn’t. This is the music Polly hears on the static-y plastic radio on her kitchen shelf as she waits for the weather forecast, or drifting from the open windows of passing cars, or throbbing from the portable radio someone can be counted on to bring to parties at North Avenue Beach. It’s not music to listen to. It’s elevator music before it became actual elevator music.

“City of New Orleans” Steve Goodman
“Far from Me” John Prine
“Angel from Montgomery” John Prine

Polly listens, really listens, to music late at night, in her apartment or when she hits the Northside Chicago bars with her friends to hear great musicians like Steve Goodman, Jim Croce, and John Prine who perform at places like The Earl of Old Town and The Quiet Knight. Sometimes, not always, a two-dollar cover and a two-drink minimum, but always an overturned hat for tips. Steve Goodman’s “City of New Orleans” makes Polly feel nostalgic for places she’s never been and doesn’t want to go to. That’s the only song of his that sticks with her. John Prine, a mailman from Maywood, is another regular at The Earl. Just about everything he sings makes her feel for two minutes or four or maybe forever that she has lived an existence in an alternate America. “Far from Me” is one of many, but her favorite, entirely different, is “Angel from Montgomery.”

“Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” Jim Croce
“Operator” Jim Croce

Less frequently, she and her friends catch Jim Croce. His “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” will have them pounding their beer mugs on the table, and, if there’s room enough between those tables, dancing. What Polly really loves is his ballad “Operator” that never not-makes her cry.

“The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” Marianne Faithfull

The music Polly listens to when she’s in public with her friends takes her out of her own life. At home, she turns to music that makes her feel close to those she loves who are far away. Her boyfriend is in Saigon reporting for the Associated Press on the death throes of the Viet Nam war. His letters come in infrequent batches. When she aches for him, she’ll put on Maryanne Faithfull’s album North Country. Lying out on her back on her living room floor, she listens to “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” again and again, crying, tears slipping down her temples to pool in her ears until she laughs at herself, thinking “I’ve Got Tears in my Ears Over You” would be a great title for a country song.

Στο Ρυθμό του Αγέρα (In the Rhythm of the Wind) Arleta

More often, she misses her best friend, Eugenia, who has moved to NYC. She’ll play the records Eugenia left behind, the soulful Greek singers, Soula Berbeli, Arleta, and Popi Asteriadi, whose names Eugenia translated, since nothing on the albums is in English, and Polly will feel wise and safe.

“What Good Can Drinking Do?” Janis Joplin
"Try Just a Little Bit Harder” Janis Joplin

She and Eugenia were roommates in college and shared an apartment when they came to Chicago, intent on building their careers, Polly as a filmmaker, Eugenia as a poet. Early on, stuck in dead-end jobs and drinking too much, they latched onto Janis Joplin’s “What Good Can Drinking Do?” and imitated her growl. After they saw her perform, they liked everything about her, especially her toughness and exuberance. Paying no attention to the lyrics about loving an unattainable guy, her song “Try Just a Little Bit Harder,” became their song.

“All I Want” Joni Mitchell

What Polly shares with no one, not her boyfriend, not her best friend, not those she’s with, is after a night of drinking and dancing what surges through Polly is Joni Mitchell’s “All I Want.” “I wanna be strong I wanna laugh along/ I wanna belong to the living.”

​Lynn Sloan is a writer and photographer. MIDSTREAM, her second novel, will appear in August, 2022. She is the author of the story collection THE FAR ISN'T FAR ENOUGH and the novel PRINCIPLES OF NAVIGATION, which was chosen for Chicago Book Review’s Best Books of 2015. FORTUNE COOKIES, a fine press art book featuring her flash fiction, was produced by Lark Sparrow Press in 2022. Her short fiction has appeared in Ploughshares, Shenandoah, American Literary Fiction, and included in NPR’s Selected Shorts. She graduated from Northwestern University, earned a master’s degree in photography at The Institute of Design, formerly the New Bauhaus, and exhibited her work nationally and internationally. For many years she taught photography in the MFA program of Columbia College Chicago, where she founded Occasional Readings in Photography and contributed to Afterimage, Art Week, and Exposure before turning to fiction writing. She lives near Chicago.

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