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February 22, 2017

Book Notes - Jaimee Wriston Colbert "Wild Things"

Wild Things

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.

Jaimee Wriston Colbert's short story collection Wild Things masterfully portrays the intersection man and nature in its lyrical prose.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"Colbert (Shark Girls, 2009) hones her clarion vision of the interconnectedness and vulnerability of life in this edgy, knowing, situationally complex, and emotionally intricate short story collection. …. Colbert’s divining sense of brokenness and our longing for wholeness makes for extraordinarily incisive, stirring, funny, and haunting all-American stories."


In her own words, here is Jaimee Wriston Colbert's Book Notes music playlist for her short story collection Wild Things:



I don't listen to music while I write. In fact, I so desperately seek silence at my writing desk I once tried factory worker ear plugs, some sort of hardhat version of ear muffs that's supposed to cancel out sounds, just to stop the relay of dogs barking, leaf blowers, lawnmowers, the noise of summer in suburbia. However, before sitting down to write, when I retreat into my head and let my characters show their faces, speak their needs, tell me who they are, that's a story often set to music, some song on a feedback loop that gets stuck in my head until I replace it with another. I could be hiking the trails, a beach, strolling down a city sidewalk and I'm humming this song, plotting the conflict of my story. Or listening to Pandora at night, sprawled across my bed, supposedly doing leg lifts for my knee injury, but instead I'm following lyrics into the heart of a character.

My new linked collection, Wild Things, is about loss—personal, environmental, economical. It takes place primarily in a rural area of upstate New York, where the decline of manufacturing has hit folks pretty hard. It's been tagged "rural noir," and I suspect the noir part has to do with the abduction of a young girl by a man who wants to "save her." References to this create a novelistic arc, and one reads to find out what happens to the girl, but the stories also read as self-contained episodes. In other words, the book is episodic, much like a playlist, and it brings to mind how my teenage kids used to create mix-CDs for me (I'm probably dating myself!), where the songs were all different but somehow worked as a piece—as if all these different artists had gathered together and decided to do an album. So that's what I'm inspired to do here, a playlist for my stories, songs that are representational of the individual, becoming part of the whole, listening to these voices: the lyrics, my characters.

In the Prologue, "Elegy," we begin with loss, a woman whose brother has died, who reappears in several other stories, but this one with its magical realist vision also foreshadows environmental disaster—an ocean receding until dead fish tile the sandy floor, the sea where she scattered her brother's ashes. "Ain't no Sunshine When She's Gone," Bill Withers, 1971, his mournful lyrics: "I know I know I know I know… only darkness every day … anytime she goes away." The Prologue ends with the image of an alala, the nearly extinct Hawaiian crow, tattooed on her brother's shoulder.

In the first story "Gravity," Birdie is obsessed with birds, the freedom of flying away that birds represent, as she deals with her opioids-addicted mother. "White Bird," by It's A Beautiful Day, 1968. "White bird, in a golden cage… alone." A plaintive song with a trilling instrumental opening that sounds almost bird-like. "She must fly, or she will die." Like so many in these post-industrial areas, no jobs or low-paid service jobs, Birdie is trapped in a waitressing life. Sounds like something from a Trump-playbook, but Birdie refuses to be victimized. One day she will escape with her dynamite-wielding boyfriend, or more likely leave him behind, and fly!

We move into the first of two title stories: "Wild Things – Ghosts," and what better to accompany it than Lucinda Williams' evocative song from her new album (February 2016) that bears its name: "Ghosts of Highway 20." Jones, the protagonist in this story is a haunted man, with a past that unfolds like the highway Williams' sings about. The story opens with his memory of being sent to meet the father he never knew, twelve years old, traveling alone in a bus across country. His dad picks him up in Portland, Oregon and drives him to the gritty seacoast town of Seaside, where he manages a rundown motel. "Call me Bruce," his dad says. Williams sings: "And my fears continue to haunt me… truck stops … rundown motels …rusty junkyards," in her raw, gutsy voice. From his dad Jones learns how everything beautiful in the world is in peril, and now as an adult who's lost his mom in a meth lab-explosion (and believes she's returned as a ghost), he abducts a pretty young girl, believing she was in danger of being raped by her drug-dealer boyfriend, holding her captive in his trailer to "protect her."

It's the Cowboy Junkies languorous version of Lou Reed's "Sweet Jane," for the next story. "We Are All In Pieces" is about a teenaged girl whose heroin-addicted brother has disappeared, and her mom is strong-arming her into an abortion she doesn‘t want. Sadie, mourning her brother, knows that once the life inside of her is gone, she will be "as empty as the sky." Margo Timmins' enigmatic, evocative voice singing: "Anyone who's ever had a heart/ Wouldn't turn around and break it..." is the perfect accompaniment. Of course Lou Reed's history with the Velvet Underground is well known, and it's understood that 'Sweet Jane' is code for heroin.

"And here's to you, Mrs. Robinson, Jesus loves you more than you will know…" Simon and Garfunkel's lyrics made famous in the movie The Graduate. Nowadays we'd refer to Anne Bancroft's character as a "cougar"—a hot older woman coming on to a younger guy. Monty in "This is A Success Story" has not hit cougar-status yet, but she's definitely too old for contemplating sex with a teenaged boy. She's a failed mom, daughter of a depressed mom who failed her by committing suicide, who escapes into sexual fantasy, in much the same way as Nora in "Erosion," who can't conceive a child, thinks of sex as "hurting" and likes it rough. We'll call Nora "Wild Thing," since not using that iconic song by The Troggs somewhere in a book called Wild Things would seem remiss. "Wild Thing, I think you move me…." Parallel to Nora's barrenness is the erosion of a land so adversely affected by climate change, literally swallowed by the sea.

I could be cheesy and do something by Three Dog Night for the story "Dog Days." But this story exposes the heart of income inequality and loss in a community that had good jobs and now has nothing. It's the heat of summer and only the Jehovah Witnesses move from broken-down house to broken-down house. In one, a man who once prospered, his uninsured wife dying from lung cancer, tells his son to drown their dog because he can no longer afford to feed it. "Youngstown," Bruce Springsteen's woeful ballad about the demise of steel in Youngstown, Ohio sets the tone: "Now sir you tell me the world's changed/ Once I made you rich enough/ Rich enough to forget my name."

Time for some of the finest jazz ever recorded, Kind of Blue, Miles Davis's masterpiece studio album released in 1959 by Columbia Records. I put this on when I'm "in a mood," so to speak, and am blown away each time by its complexity and beauty. Fortune in "A Kind of Extinction" is obsessed with the color blue. The ignored child of a Tea Party Mom, she spies on her neighbor, the "beatnik," who plays the saxophone, making her feel "all shivery," and she imagines aquamarine, like the dying glaciers her science teacher talks about, "dead ice—a kind of extinction."

Change of mood for the story "Finding the Body," where teenaged Troy, guilt-ridden over the disappearance of his girlfriend (the girl abducted by Jones), and even more guilty over an accident caused by his dad that paralyzes a beautiful young woman, becomes obsessed with this woman and begins stalking her. I can't think of a more famous stalking song than "Every Breath You Take," by The Police. I used to feel more than a little disturbed by Sting's voice whining out those lyrics: "Every breath you take, every move you make…. I'll be watching you." But the wheelchair-bound Lois turns it around on Troy, teaching him a poignant lesson about messing with older women.

"I'm Just Here Until I'm Gone" is my prison story, so of course we have to play Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues." Imagine his deep, rumbly bass—better yet, put it on! "When I hear that whistle blowin', I hang my head and cry."

It's Eric Clapton's "Cocaine" for "The Man Who Jumped," because Janis had quite the problem with it in her earlier years, cocaine, misogynist hookups, all manner of failed jobs and dreams. Now she's with the depressed Ruth, waiting for rescuers to find the body of a man who jumped into the polluted Susquehanna River and disappeared. To the tune of Clapton's unrivaled guitar riffs, the story moves in fragments, each corresponding to the number of days it takes to find the body. "She don't lie, she don't lie, she don't lie."

The beautiful ballad "Trouble," sung by Elliott Smith on the Thumbsucker Soundtrack, accompanies the other "Wild Things" title story, "Migrants." This story gives us Loulie's point of view, the abducted girl, who's been held by Jones for months now and is yearning for her freedom. "Feels like every time I get back on my feet/ She {trouble} come around and knock me down again." Elliott Smith died of an apparent suicide in 2003. Risking a spoiler alert, I will tell you that Loulie does not.

"Suicide Birds" features crystal meth addiction, fracking, and ALS, not to mention a guy building a robot-wife out of Budweiser cans. Going with the drug addiction conceit it's "The Needle and the Damage Done," by Neil Young. "But every junkie's like a settin' sun…." And speaking of addiction, "Things Blow Up" is another story about Janis, who loses her twin brother to a meth overdose. The story remembers a time when they were together as young adults and the world still seemed hopeful, she and her brother wailing down the Massachusetts Turnpike, listening to Bob Dylan on the radio, singing "Knock knock knockin' on Heaven's door." The song hints at what is to come, but at that moment life is good, life wants to live.

"The Sea and the Rhythm" by Iron and Wine, is a passionate love song: "Your hands they move like waves over me…" My final story, "Aftermath," is about a long marriage, and despite Stella's anxiety over their runaway daughter, her husband's joblessness, pot smoking, and the massive destruction in their community from the Susquehanna's 500 year flood, it is their love in the end that sustains.

The Epilogue to Wild Things is "The Hoodie's Tale," featuring the mother of the abducted girl. With the sighting of a luminous, exotic rare bird, that's mysteriously appeared in several other stories, it is ultimately redemptive. And so I end my playlist with the iconic "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen, and to his memory I dedicate this. "There's a blaze of light in every word/ It doesn't matter which you heard/ The holy or the broken Hallelujah."


Jaimee Wriston Colbert and Wild Things links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

Booklist review
Tahoma Literary Review review

Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin profile of the author
Christine Sneed interview with the author
Eco-Fiction interview with the author
Fiction Writers Review interview with the author
Natural Bridge interview with the author
The Other Stories interview with the author
The Rumpus interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

List of Online "Best Books of 2016" Lists

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)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists






February 22, 2017

Shorties (Tom Hanks' Forthcoming Short Story Collection, A List of Great Anti-Trump Songs, and more)

Tom Hanks' short story collection Uncommon Type will be published in October.


Rolling Stone listed great anti-Trump songs.


Stream a 1980 Sun Ra documentary.


Tin House shared new short fiction by Megan Giddings.


Ride shared the band's first new song in 20 years.


Publishers Weekly listed spring's most anticipated debut fiction.


Stream a new Hurray for the Riff Raff song.


Woody Woodmansey, author of Spider From Mars: My Life With David Bowie, shared his favorite Bowie songs (and their backstories) at The Quietus.


Stream a new Bonnie "Prince" Billy song.


John Darnielle talked to Time about his new novel Universal Harvester.

The Boston Globe reviewed the book.


Strand of Oaks shared covers of Stone Roses, Primal Scream, and Phish songs at Aquarium Drunkard.


Publishers Weekly interviewed author Daphne Merkin.


Stream a new Tim Kasher song.


Yiyun LI listed 14 books that changed her life at Read It Forward.


Tone Deaf listed lost pieces of music that should be released.


A lost Walt Whitman novel has been unearthed.


Stream a new Conor Oberst song.


The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America has announced its 2016 Nebula Award nominees.


Pénélope Bagieu talked to the A.V. Club about her graphic biography of Cass Elliott, California Dreamin'.


CarolineLeavittville interviewed author Dan Chaon about his new novel Ill Will.


Paste listed songs inspired by George Orwell's novel 1984.


The Guardian listed the top Hollywood novels.


Elbow's Guy Garvey gave Drowned in Sound a tour of Manchester.


VICE shared a new comic by Gabrielle Bell.


Paste ranked Ryan Adams' albums.


Wow! interviewed Jac Jemc about her blog Rejection Letters.


David Prowse of Japandroids played DJ at The Current.


Signature interviewed author Emma Richler.


Steam a new Spoon song.


Read It Forward shared an excerpt from Mariana Enriquez's short story collection Things We Lost in the Fire.


Pitchfork interviewed Greil Marcus about his new book, The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Ten Songs.


eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen by Sylvie Simmons
In Gratitude by Jenny Diski
Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton
Nashville Chrome by Rick Bass
Our Noise: The Story of Merge Records, the Indie Label That Got Big and Stayed Small
A Replacement Life by Boris Fishman

eBooks on sale for $2.99 today:

The Master by Colm Toibin
Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

previous Shorties posts (daily news and links from the worlds of music, books, and pop culture)

List of Online "Best Books of 2016" Lists
Essential and Interesting Year-End 2016 Music Lists

Atomic Books Comics Preview (the week's best new comics and graphic novels)
Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
weekly music release lists
WORD Bookstores Books of the Week (recommended new books)
weekly music release lists


February 21, 2017

Book Notes - Cara Hoffman "Running"

Running

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.

Cara Hoffman's Running is a starkly lyrical and unforgettable novel from a master storyteller.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"Hoffman is fearless and trusting of her readers, and her precise prose captures the novel's many settings—Greece, Washington State, New York City—and her characters' feelings and actions, vividly."


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



While working on Running, (and while working as a runner in Athens in the late 80s) I listened to The Smiths, Sean Macgowan, Blixa Bargeld, Mick Harvey, David Bowie, Nick Cave, Crime and the City Solution, a lot of IRA songs and Greek folk music. I think the ideal playlist to accompany this novel would simply be the David Bowie album Low played on constant repeat and you would need to stand up every several chapters, and shout along with the song Be My Wife. But for the sake of variety and historical accuracy I offer you the following. Please play it loud and pour yourself a drink.


All Must be Love - Crime and the City Solution
This is from the 1988 album Shine. I love the grit and longing of this song and the dark sexy intelligence of their music, it captures that era in Europe particularly well. I was a fan of The Birthday Party, but a lot of good came from their break up. Like Crime, and like The Bad Seeds.

Disorder – Joy Division
From their first album. They're from Salford, like the character Milo in Running. I love Ian Curtis's voice, the ring of his Mancunian accent. Like a lot of the music on this list, this is a song I remember hearing in bars.

Ask – The Smiths
This song is just good advice for everyone. Tender and funny.

Soul Desert - Blixa Bargeld
I loved Einstürzende Neubauten as a kid, and am fan of Blixa's Bargeld's solo work for its subtlety and restraint. He doesn't exactly scream in this song—but the scream is always there, barely audible beneath the surface.

5/4 - 3 teens kill 4
Hard to find any work by 3 teens kill 4, the band the artist David Wojnarowicz's played in during the 80s. This song is a slow burn collage of sound, similar to VU's Murder Mystery, but far more spare. Wojnarowicz speaks, sings and chants over hypnotic beats, samples, and simple guitar rifs. His voice is beautiful, low and rich.

USA –The Pogues
I felt for a long time this was my theme song. And it gets to the heart of the novel. “When I was young I chewed the leaves, when I was older I drank with thieves.” And the bleak lines “I found the things for which I prayed and came back home to the USA with a heart of stone, and now I know…” It has those driving drums from traditional Irish music, and Shane Macgowan's forthright snarl, and the story is about love and loneliness and about how, as Jasper Lethe put, “there's no way out.”

Sweet Thing/Candidate – David Bowie
This song from Diamond Dogs, has been one of my favorites since I was a teenager. The harmonies are unreal. (Bowie singing with Bowie singing with Bowie, that elegant open throated howl.) And these final lines are like a relentless anthem of cruising. Well on the street where you live I could not hold up my head for I put all I have in another bed, in the back of a car, in a cellar like a church with the door ajar, well I guess we must be looking for a different kind but we can't stop trying til we break up our mind, til the sun drips blood on the seedy young knights who press you to the ground while shaking in fright.

The Rocky Road to Dublin – The Pogues
I grew up on Irish music and listening to it still affects me deeply. The traditional lyrics are lovely, cutting thorns and bogs and rabbits and drinking and working and wandering, Shane McGowan's voice can make any song do what it's supposed to do. Sad, funny, hardboiled, clever, these are nursery songs to me.

From Her to Eternity – Nick Cave
A classic, people know mostly from Nick Cave's cameo in wings of desire. “One more song, and I'm not going to tell you about a girl, I'm not going to tell you about a girl.” I doubt there's a playlist I've made that doesn't have Nick Cave on it. I missed seeing him in Athens in 1990 when I was broke and working at a hotel. I saw him play four years ago, with my best friend (who had also worked as a runner back in the day.) It almost made up for missing him in Athens, and possibly made up for every other bad thing that happened in the years between those shows.

Come out ye Black and Tans – Wolfe Tones
This is a traditional IRA song. Brutal, sarcastic, rousing, historically accurate. Runners sing this in Drink's Time in the novel. More lullaby music. When I was a kid I was in love with a boy who had a poster of Bobby Sands in his bedroom. He was an altar boy and his parents were alcoholics, his father had a plaque with his name on it at the bar where he spent his time. They sent him to Belfast for marching season when he was thirteen. This is something maybe people who grew up in places like I did can understand. They can understand why a person would want to go to the other end of the world and not come back.


Cara Hoffman and Running links:

the author's website
Wikipedia entry for the author

Booklist review
Kirkus Reviews review
Publishers Weekly review

Largehearted Boy playlist by the author for Running
Salon interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

List of Online "Best Books of 2016" Lists

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)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists


Book Notes - Shannon Leone Fowler "Traveling with Ghosts"

Traveling with 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 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.

Shannon Leone Fowler's memoir Traveling with Ghosts is a compelling and poignant book about love, grief, and recovery.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"Fowler has turned her devastating, beautiful, honest, and personal story into something universal. Akin to Cheryl Strayed’s Wild (2012), her book will appeal to globetrotters and readers of hopeful stories chronicling grief and recovery."


In her own words, here is Shannon Leone Fowler's Book Notes music playlist for her memoir Traveling with Ghosts:



Traveling with Ghosts: A Memoir is about my fiancé, Sean. It’s about our relationship, his sudden death in 2002, and the solo journey I took through Eastern Europe in the months that followed. So it might seem strange to say, fourteen years later, that I had fun putting together this playlist. Now a single mum of three young kids, it wasn’t only that I could put on a great song from my younger days, turn it up, and tell myself I was working. It was more because I hadn’t realized what a huge role music had played in my relationship with Sean.

We’d grown up on other sides of the world—I’m from California and Sean was from Melbourne—so we first connected introducing each other to music. He got me into Powderfinger, and for a while I was known among his friends as the chick who turned him on to Ben Harper. We met backpacking through Western Europe, where Sean traveled with a Discman and tinny, portable travel speakers. We listened to music all the time together, especially in bed. We made each other mix tapes while we were apart, that we sent in the post. And after he died, I found meaning in the lyrics of almost every song.

I’ve stuck with the versions of the songs I used to listen to, as that’s where the memories are. Traveling with Ghosts bounces around a lot in time and place, which made it difficult to put the songs in any kind of order that would mirror the book. So I’ve kept the songs in the chronological order they appeared in my life.

“Castles Made of Sand,” The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Axis: Bold as Love

“And so castles made of sand, fall in the sea, eventually.”

There’s a scene in the book in Essaouira, Morocco where a local guide takes Sean and me by camel to see Hendrix’s inspiration for this song—an eighteenth century watchtower now sinking into the sea. It was February 1999; Sean and I had only just met. We were traveling with two other young Australian backpackers, and this was our first excursion just the two of us.

We later found out Hendrix had written the song two years before visiting Morocco. And after Sean died in the ocean—stung by a box jellyfish while we were vacationing in Thailand, the lyrics seemed to represent promises crumbling.

“Too Young to Die,” Jamiroquai, Emergency on Planet Earth

“To put this sad world right.
So don’t you worry,
Suffer no more,
‘Cos we’re too young to die.”

This song also features in a scene in Traveling with Ghosts—my twenty-fifth birthday, March 1999, with Sean in Bled, Slovenia. Sean had introduced me to Jamiroquai, and he bought me this CD for my birthday. We listened to the tracks as he cooked chicken satay, and as we drank cheap white wine out on the balcony. I later put the song on a mix tape I sent to him in Ireland. As with so many of the tracks on this list, the lyrics took on a different meaning for me after his death.

“My Happiness,” Powderfinger, Odyssey Number Five

“If you’re over there when I need you here.”

Powderfinger has always been my favorite of the bands Sean introduced me to. Their CD, Internationalist, was on heavy rotation as we traveled through Europe together in 1999. After that first trip, Sean and I had extended periods of long distance: I was teaching SCUBA in the Caribbean while he worked as a cook in Ireland, I studied Australian sea lions on Kangaroo Island while he worked for Cadbury-Schweppes in Melbourne, I was doing PhD course work in California while he taught marketing in China. This song is about the pain of long distance, and reminds me now of those much simpler times.

“New York, New York,” Ryan Adams, Gold

“Had myself a lover who was finer than gold
But I've been broken up and busted up since.
And love don't play any games with me, anymore
Like she did before.”

In late 2001, Sean and I listened to this album all the time. He bought me the CD for Christmas that year, the first and only Christmas I ever spent with his family.

Like many people, this particular track reminds me of 9/11. I was on Kangaroo Island that day, but had already booked a flight to visit Sean in Melbourne for the day after. I remember the stunned airport employees, and sitting with Sean watching the TV as the towers fell over and over and over.

I was supposed to fly out of Melbourne for a quick holiday on my own in Thailand. But they’d closed the airports soon after I’d landed and no one was sure when they would open again. My parents were panicking. But Sean was the one to talk me into canceling the trip. If I hadn’t, Sean and I would have almost certainly chosen a different country for our vacation a year later. And he’d still be alive.

“A holiday is not worth making your parents miserable,” he’d said. “Thailand will always be there. I’ll go with you.”

“Bubble Toes,” Jack Johnson, Brushfire Fairytales

“When you move like a jellyfish,
Rhythm don’t mean nothing”

In 2001 and 2002, I did many road trips between my field site on Kangaroo Island and Sean’s flat in Melbourne. My car was so old, it only had a tape deck and Brushfire Fairytales was often in it. During an early scene in the book, “Bubble Toes” is playing on the stereo when I first arrive on the island and am trying to find my way around in the dark.

After Sean’s death, more than once, someone tried to pull me up to dance to this song. Coming for me, grinning and waving their arms around like a jellyfish. These lyrics, that new Bridget Jones novel, an old episode of Friends—jellyfish suddenly seemed to be everywhere, inescapable.

“Don’t Forget Me,” Red Hot Chili Peppers, By the Way

“I’m an ocean in your bedroom.”

Sean and I had tickets to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers together in Melbourne on December 1, 2002. I went to visit him in China in July, and we bought By the Way, gearing up for the concert. We’d go to karaoke with his students, and he’d almost always pick a Pepper’s song, "Scar Tissue" or "Breaking the Girl." When Sean died August 9th, these tickets somehow seemed to be yet another piece of evidence that his death was a mistake.

“Mr. Jones,” Counting Crows, August and Everything After

“Help me believe in anything”

This song is the last song Sean ever heard, as we danced together barefoot up and down Haad Rin Nok beach on Ko Pha Ngan island. It’s haunted me ever since. Decades after it’s release, “Mr. Jones” still appears to be a favorite for bar and restaurant playlists all over the world. It actually came on last night, while I was out with a couple of other single mums at the Balham Arms in London, and immediately after they’d asked about my upcoming book.

I never really noticed the album title until I started writing this piece. Since Sean died in August and the book starts there, August and Everything After could have been the title of my memoir.

“Walk Away,” Ben Harper, Welcome to the Cruel World

“Oh no, here comes that sun again
That means another day
Without you my friend.
And it hurts me
To look into the mirror at myself”

Sean and I listened to a lot of Ben Harper. He’d always ask me to put on “the dancing song” before jiggling around to "Homeless Child," as he does at one point in Salamanca, Spain in Traveling with Ghosts.

The day after he died on Ko Pha Ngan, I woke up and "Walk Away’s" opening lyrics (above) got stuck in my head and stayed there for days. I was dealing with the police, his insurance, his family, and the Australian consulate—trying to get his body released and off the island, and these words became the sound track only I could hear.

“In My Life,” The Beatles, Rubber Soul

“In my life, I love you more.”

Sean always referred to The Beatles as “The Boys.” Every mix tape he made would have at least one of their songs. His father, a friend, and I chose the music for Sean’s funeral and there was no question that there would be a couple of Beatles’ songs played. “But of all these friends and lovers / There is no one compares with you / And these memories lose their meaning / When I think of love as something new.”

“Don’t Dream It’s Over,” Crowded House, Crowded House

“But you'll never see the end of the road
While you're traveling with me
Hey now, hey now
Don’t dream it’s over.”

Crowded House was formed in Melbourne in 1985, and I don’t know that I’ve met an Aussie of my generation, certainly not a Melbournian, who didn’t have a strong sense of attachment and pride associated with the band. Sean also had some story he and his mates thought was hilarious about how drunk he got at his first ever gig, watching Crowded House play. This song as well was played at his funeral.

“Say Hello, Wave Goodbye,” David Gray, White Ladder

“Take a look at my face
For the last time.”

One last track played at his funeral, and another song that has continued to haunt me for years after. Recently, I took an overnight trip to Bournemouth on the UK’s south coast to try to write an essay related to Traveling with Ghosts, about how my relationship with the ocean has changed since Sean’s death. I was having dinner alone at Urban Reef—oysters and risotto and wine. It would be Sean’s fortieth birthday the next day, had been fourteen years since he died. The white lights above me shaped like life-rings, and this song came on to the stereo.

“Goodbye,” Patty Griffin, Flaming Red

“And I wonder where you are
And if the pain ends when you die
And I wonder if there was
Some better way to say goodbye
Today my heart is big and sore
It's tryin' to push right through my skin
I won't see you anymore
I guess that's finally sinkin' in.”

After Sean’s funeral in Melbourne, I returned briefly to California before running away to Eastern Europe. My mum owned this album, and every single time we were in the car together that month in September 2002, I played this song over and over again. The lyrics, and the ache in Griffin’s voice, spoke to me in a way nothing else was able to at the time.

“Summertime,” Janis Joplin, Janis Joplin’s Greatest Hits

“No, no, no, no, don't you cry”

This is from a scene in the book, not long after I arrived in Eastern Europe. The night before Sean’s birthday again, but back in 2002, when he should have been turning twenty-six and had been dead only eleven weeks. I was sitting alone in a smoky café in Sopron, Hungary, surrounded by couples and shivering in my winter coat because of the icy draught by the door. The band playing Summertime, though it took me a while to recognize it through their thick Hungarian accents. Everything just felt wrong, and I had no idea what I was doing there.

“Hejnał Mariacki (The Cracow Bugle-call)”, Marek Skwarczynski

I first heard the Hejnał Mariacki, or St Mary’s Dawn, in Kraków, Poland on November 1, 2002. It’s played every hour on the hour by a single trumpeter in the highest tower of Kościół Mariacki, or St. Mary’s Church.

Local legend tells that early one morning in 1241, a lone guard spied approaching Tatar forces. Playing the Hejnał on his trumpet, he woke the residents in time to defend the city. Even as an arrow pierced his throat, and the warning was stopped short.

This song—five simple, direct, drawn-out notes still cut short today—started a shift in the way I was traveling through Eastern Europe. I began to pay attention to the histories of the scarred landscapes, and to the stories of the people left behind.

“All the Things She Said,” t.A.T.u., 200 km/h in the Wrong Lane

“I keep asking myself, wondering how
I keep closing my eyes but I can't block you out”

This song is all about time and place for me. More than any other track, it brings me back to Eastern Europe that winter of 2002. I traveled alone though Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Croatia, Bosnia, Romania, Bulgaria. It was the same handful of songs playing everywhere, but this was the only one from the Eastern Bloc. The girls’ repetition of the chorus, “Running through my head / Running through my head / Running through my head” matched my own mental state at the time.

“The Scientist,” Coldplay, A Rush of Blood to the Head

“Tell me you love me
Come back and haunt me.”

“The Scientist” was another song on heavy rotation that winter. I heard the track throughout my travels—A Rush of Blood to the Head is playing at The Bar in Sarajevo in the book. But I didn’t see the video until I got to Sofia, Bulgaria at the very end of my journey. I remember stopping, frozen, in the hostel lobby and staring at the TV when I saw his dead lover come back through the car’s windshield. Since Traveling with Ghosts ends with Sean and me leaving Shànghăi, about to fly to Thailand, this feels like the song to end on. “Oh, take me back to the start.”


Shannon Leone Fowler and Traveling with Ghosts links:

excerpt from the book

Booklist review
Kirkus Reviews review
Publishers Weekly review
USA Today review

Santa Cruz Sentinel profile of the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

List of Online "Best Books of 2016" Lists

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)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists


Shorties (Books by Women of Color To Read This Year, Stream the New Xiu Xiu Album, and more)

Electric Literature recommended books by women of color to read this year.


Noisey is streaming the new Xiu Xiu album Forget.


The Rumpus interviewed author Angela Palm.


Stream a new Maryn Jones song.


Hazlitt and the OTHERPPL podcast interviewed author Sarah Manguso.


The Quietus interviewed Tinariwen bassist Eyadou Ag Leche.


The Rumpus interviewed author George Saunders.


Stream a new Will Johnson song.


The Guardian explored the literary legacy of Carson McCullers.


Stream a new Passion Pit song.


Slate interviewed author Daphne Merkin.


Stream two new songs by Siamese.


Mariana Enriquez discussed her short story collection Things We Lost in the Fire with Weekend Edition.


Stream a new Speedy Ortiz song.


Sebastian Barry talked to Fresh Air about his novel Days Without End.


Japandroids and Craig Finn covered the Saints "(I’m) Stranded."


Weekend Edition interviewed Elan Mastai about his novel All Our Wrong Todays.


Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols discussed his new memoir Lonely Boy with World Cafe.


The Guardian profiled cartoonist Emil Ferris.


Stream Dolly Parton's cover of Brandi Carlile's "The Story."


Damion Searls talked to All Things Considered about his new book The Inkblots: Hermann Rorschach, His Iconic Test, and the Power of Seeing.


Baeble Music listed the top songs about American presidents.


The Daily Beast recommended the best books about American presidents.


Strand of Oaks' Tim Showalter dicussed the band's new album Hard Love with SPIN.


This Podcast Will Change Your Life interviewed author Wendy C. Ortiz.


The Globe and Mail profiled singer-songwriter Joel Plaskett.


Joyland features new fiction by Diana Wagman.


PopMatters interviewed Glenn Mercer of the Feelies.


Lenny shared excerpts from Morgan Parker's poetry collection There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce.


Kurt Cobain would have turned fifty this week.


eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen by Sylvie Simmons
In Gratitude by Jenny Diski
Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton
Nashville Chrome by Rick Bass
Our Noise: The Story of Merge Records, the Indie Label That Got Big and Stayed Small
A Replacement Life by Boris Fishman

eBooks on sale for $2.99 today:

The Master by Colm Toibin
Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

previous Shorties posts (daily news and links from the worlds of music, books, and pop culture)

List of Online "Best Books of 2016" Lists
Essential and Interesting Year-End 2016 Music Lists

Atomic Books Comics Preview (the week's best new comics and graphic novels)
Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
weekly music release lists
WORD Bookstores Books of the Week (recommended new books)
weekly music release lists


February 20, 2017

Atomic Books Comics Preview - February 20, 2017

In the weekly Atomic Books Comics Preview, Benn Ray highlights notable new comics, graphic novels, and books.

Benn Ray is the owner of Atomic Books, an independent bookstore in Baltimore. He also runs the Mutant Funnies Tumblr.

Atomic Books has been named one of BuzzFeed's Great American Bookstores, as well as one of Flavorwire's 10 greatest comic and graphic novel stores in America.


Complete Little Nemo 1905-1909

Complete Little Nemo 1905-1909
by Winsor McCay

The only way to really encounter Winsor McCay's hugely influential Little Nemo strips is in an oversized format. This new edition from Taschen comes broadsheet-sized and also includes accompanying biographical and historical information.


Haddon Hall: When David Invented Bowie

Haddon Hall: When David Invented Bowie
by Nejib

Of the many recent deaths of beloved artists, few have engendered as many publications as David Bowie. And Haddon Hall is unlike them all. In this graphic novel, Nejib focuses on a very specific era in the life of Bowie - his transformative time at the Haddon Hall commune where a number of his early hits were written.


My Favorite Thing Is Monsters

My Favorite Thing Is Monsters
by Emil Ferris

It is a rare graphic novel where the artwork alone compels you to read it. I mean, actually read it, not just flip through and gaze at the pages. It's even rarer that the story matches up to that artwork. Emil Ferris' debut graphic novel is the best of both worlds - absolutely riveting artwork and a captivating, '60s-era murder mystery set in the form of the diary of a young girl. The best comics debut of the year so far.


Seven to Eternity Volume 1

Seven to Eternity Volume 1
by Rick Remender / Matteo Scalera

The first story arc of Image's new hit epic fantasy series is collected here. A hopeless band of magic users team up to free their world of an evil god.


Why I March: Images from The Women’s March Around the World

Why I March: Images from The Women’s March Around the World

In response to the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president, on January 21, 2017, five million people (from 82 different countries and on every 7 continents - yes INCLUDING Antarctica) stood up to protest. This book collects images from all around the US and the world, commemorating that historic moment - with publisher Abrams donating proceeds from the book to Women's March affiliated non-profits.


Questions, concerns, comments or gripes – e-mail benn@atomicbooks.com. If there’s a comic I should know about, send it my way at Atomic, c/o Atomic Books 3620 Falls Rd., Baltimore, MD 21211.


Atomic Books & Benn Ray links:


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

other Atomic Books Comics Preview lists (weekly new comics & graphic novel highlights)

Online "Best of 2015" Book Lists

Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Book Notes (authors create music playlists for their book)
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
WORD Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)


February 19, 2017

Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week - February 19, 2017

In the weekly Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week, the Montreal bookstore recommends several new works of fiction, art books, periodicals, and comics.

Librairie Drawn & Quarterly is one of Montreal's premiere independent bookstores.


Spaniel Rage

Spaniel Rage
by Vanessa Davis

New D+Q! Spaniel Rage was first published over a decade ago; it collects diary comics and drawings made between 2003/04 by multidisciplinary artist Vanessa Davis. Chock full of frankness and mirth, Davis’s observations are casual but cutting, showcasing some of the best chops in autobiographical comics. These pencil drawn anecdotes offer wry wisdom and gentle self-deprecation, a delight from a talented storyteller!


Lincoln in the Bardo

Lincoln in the Bardo
by George Saunders

Lincoln in the Bardo is the long anticipated first novel from a master of short fiction. George Saunders brings his dark satire to the story of Willie Lincoln, the president’s son who died at age eleven. Saunders anchors Willie in a bizarre, polyphonic purgatory where ghosts mingle and bicker. Formally innovative and endlessly imaginative, this is a crowning achievement from a seasoned dazzler!


Angel Catbird Volume 2: To Castle Catula

Angel Catbird Volume 2: To Castle Catula
by Margaret Atwood, Johnnie Christmas, Tamra Bonvillain

Legendary Canadian novelist, essayist, thinker Margaret Atwood continues her foray into the world of comics with Angel Catbird Volume 2. Dabbling with hybridity, Atwood’s series is at once a good ol’ fashioned superhero comic and a divergent to its conventions, combining pulp adventure with environmental treatise.


The Refugees

The Refugees
by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Nguyen’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Sympathizer propelled the Vietnamese born American author into the literary-limelight. Nguyen has followed up with a collection of short stories set in both Vietnam and America; The Refugees is a geography of displacement, tracing the lives of those torn between adoptive homelands and countries of birth.


My Favourite Thing is Monsters

My Favourite Thing is Monsters
by Emil Ferris

My Favourite Thing is Monsters is a sweeping phantasmagoria set against the turbulent political backdrop of 1960s Chicago. The book is narrated by a precocious ten-year-old who attempts to unravel the murder of her neighbour, a beautiful and mysterious holocaust survivor. Emil Ferris’s debut graphic novel is a B-movie-monster-filled opus, a psychological thriller with a stunningly virtuosic visual style.


Librairie Drawn & Quarterly links:

Librairie Drawn & Quarterly's blog
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Facebook page
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Tumblr
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly on Twitter


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

other Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week

Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly new comics and graphic novel highlights)
Book Notes (authors create music playlists for their book)
guest book reviews
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
WORD Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)


February 17, 2017

Book Notes - Bren McClain "One Good Mama Bone"

One Good Mama Bone

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.

Bren McClain's novel One Good Mama Bone is a poignant and heartrending debut.

Kirkus Reviews wrote of the book:

"McClain’s first novel resists predictability and instead weaves together questions about poverty, class, violence, and religion. . . . A thought-provoking story about families and the animals who sustain them."


In her own words, here is Bren McClain's Book Notes music playlist for her debut novel One Good Mama Bone:



My novel, One Good Mama Bone, chronicles Sarah Creamer's quest to find her "mama bone," after being left to care for her husband's illegitimate son. It's what became of a failed other novel I wrote, a book I think of now as "on the nose." And therein lies the reason for its failure. I heard writer Randall Kenan say one time that when you write a story based on something that really happened, "you have to get the journalism out of the way."

The something that really happened was a secret a former neighbor of mine told me one hot June afternoon in Atlanta, GA about a night when he was six years old and his mother woke him and summoned him to the kitchen where their next-door neighbor lay on their table. She was having a baby, and he was made to watch his own mother do something horrible. He told me he was telling me, knowing I was a writer. When I began to write it, I did so, just as had told it to me, "on the nose." In fact, I kicked off the book with the scene, named the mother Sarah Creamer, and wrote it all the way through. Nobody liked it. Sarah was a monster, most said. But I loved her. It wasn't until a brilliant editor told me, "We don't see that love you have. Show us Sarah's magnificence" that I realized I had to change what happened that night, have Sarah deliver a baby who would become this six-year-old boy and cast Sarah as the hero she did not yet know herself to be.

Music always accompanied me as I wrote and always with large headphones and CDs in a Walkman. Nothing digital – I am old school! And when I found a song I liked – that is, provided the right emotional escort -- I put it on repeat, many times listening to the same song for a full day.

"Why" - Annie Lenox
This was my "go to" song early in the writing. It carries a mournful undergirding, full of regret, which is exactly how I originally cast Sarah. The lyrics also played into the overall feeling, beginning with how the song kicks off – "How many times do I have to try to tell you, That I'm sorry for the things I've done" and the chorus continually asking "why?"

The Piano Soundtrack – Michael Nyman
When I began my rewrite, I didn't want any more lyrics, I wanted only instrumentals, letting the music carry it all. I listened only to soundtracks, and this was the first one. I was attracted to the story the music was telling, a story of bondage and being freed from it. That's exactly what Sarah faced, the emotional bondage her mother loaded her with when her mother told Sarah at age six, "You ain't got you one good mama bone in you, girl." Sarah had to find a way to free herself, to tell herself a brand new narrative. That was the whole impetus for the writing the story, the moment when Sarah freed herself to claim her "mama bone."

"Deep in Thought" from Million Dollar Baby soundtrack - Clint Eastwood
The simple, stark piano keys in the beginning put me in a contemplative mood. How was Sarah going to feed her child with no money and the farm about to be foreclosed on? I could see Sarah sitting in the dark at the kitchen table, the woodstove in front of her with no food being cooked, the flour bin behind her empty, her boy in bed asleep with nothing in his belly but a half a pear. This, in my mind, was where Sarah prepared for the journey ahead.

"Soldiers' Burial" from Merry Christmas soundtrack – Philippe Rombi
Hearing this particular song on the soundtrack is when I knew for sure that Sarah would find a way to claim her "mama bone." The song begins with a bagpipe solo, and, since I was never a big fan of that instrument, I almost skipped ahead, but then the song brings in a piano and strings, and there is there is this triumphant feeling, and all I can say is I could see light and joy. I knew then that Sarah would find her way. I didn't know how yet, but I let myself feel that release of happiness.

"Gracie's Theme" – Paul Cardall
Once I heard Paul Cardall's music, I bought every CD he'd made and soaked up every song. I found them to carry, like my characters, a real yearning at their base. This song in particular, "Gracie's Theme," reminded me of goodness in this world, reminded me of grace. Sarah faces many hardships over the course of the novel, but I like to think I leavened that with moments of goodness, kindness. I think of her friendship with Mildred and with Ike.

"A Broken Heart" - Paul Cardall
With it rich orchestra of strings, this song evokes a real mourning in me. It made me think of all that was broken in my characters – Sarah in not believing she would be a good mother, Luther in not believing he was good enough in general, Ike that he was not masculine enough, Little LC that his daddy didn't love him. I cried many times when listening to this. I ached just thinking about their heartache. It made me want to do everything I could to save them.

"Water Shows the Hidden Heart" - Enya
I had tried to listen to the CD, Amarantine several times when I bought it in 2005. It contains both songs with lyrics and instrumentals. But I did not connect with one song on it and never played it again, until one day, nearing the end of my writing One Good Mama Bone, I picked up the CD and put it in my Walkman. For some reason, the last song played first and contained lyrics but not in English. It was in a language I had never heard. It sounded like an invocation, a prayer, and drew me in. I would learn that this was the "loxiam" language, which Enya herself created when she could not find any words in English to express her feelings. I felt my soul rise up. And I knew then why I had turned away from lyrics in English. They were "on the nose."


Bren McClain and One Good Mama Bone links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

Historical Novel Society review
Kirkus Reviews review

Deborah Kalb interview with the author
Deep South Magazine interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

List of Online "Best Books of 2016" Lists

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)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists


This Week's Interesting Music Releases - February 17, 2017

Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams' Prisoner is his strongest album in years.

Other releases I can recommend include Jens Lekman's Life Will See You Now, Mind Over Mirrors' Undying Color, Nikki Lane's Highway Queen, and Strand of Oaks' Hard Love.

Vinyl reissues include Spiritualized's Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space and a 6-disc 7" box set of the Wu-Tang Clan's Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).

What new music are you looking forward to or enjoying this week?


This week's interesting music releases:

Alison Kraus: Windy City
The Courtneys: The Courtneys II
Danny Worsnop: The Long Road Home
Dutch Uncles: Big Balloon
Eisley: I'm Only Dreaming
Electric Guest: Plural
Frontier Ruckus: Enter The Kingdom
Grails: Chalice Hymnal
Hanni El Khatib: Savage Times
Jens Lekman: Life Will See You Now
Lorna Shore: Flesh Coffin
Maggie Rogers: Now That The Light Is Fading
Mind Over Mirrors: Undying Color
Molly Burch: Please Be Mine
Mozart's Sister: Field Of Love
Mystery Weekend: Surprise!
Nikki Lane: Highway Queen
Novella: Change of State
Orwells: Terrible Human Beings [vinyl]
Parallels: Metropolis
Parquet Courts: Captive of the Sun [vinyl]
Pegi Young & The Survivors: Raw
Ryan Adams: Prisoner
Sam Patch: Yeah You, And I
Son Volt: Notes Of Blue
Spiritualized: Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space (reissue) [vinyl]
The Steeldrivers: The Steeldrivers (reissue) [vinyl]
Strand of Oaks: Hard Love
Super Furry Animals: Radiator (reissue)
Tall Tall Trees: Freedays
Tim Darcy: Saturday Night
Twin Peaks: Down in Heaven [vinyl]
Various Artists: The Man Who Fell To Earth (soundtrack) (reissue) [vinyl]
Various Artists: New Order Presents Be Music
The Verve Pipe: Live & Acoustic
The Verve Pipe: Parachute
Wu-Tang Clan: Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) 7" Box Set (6-disc box set) [vinyl]


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

Essential and Interesting "Best of 2016" Music Lists

weekly music release lists

100 online sources for free and legal music downloads
Book Notes (authors create music playlists for their book)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)


Shorties (Record Shopping with Michael Chabon, Weezer's Blue Album Reconsidered, and more)

Michael Chabon went record shopping with Financial Times.


Drowned in Sound reconsidered Weezer's Blue Album.


Prospect reconsidered the fiction of Anthony Burgess on his 100th birthday.


The Chills covered David Bowie's "Conversation Piece."


The Rumpus interviewed author Kris D'Agostino.


Stream a new Sondre Lerche song.


Tin House interviewed author Claire Fuller.


Stream a new Superchunk song.


The Literary Hub podcast interviewed author and illustrator Maira Kalman.


Stream a new Shins song.


Beaks & Geeks interviewed author Garrard Conley.


Nikki Lane visited World Cafe for a live performance and interview.


The Guardian recommended alternative history novels.


Stream two new Animal Collective songs.


The Rumpus interviewed author Ben Tanzer.


God Is in the TV interviewed Craig Finn of the Hold Steady.


The Guardian examined the cultural legacy of author Angela Carter.


Stream a new Sera Cahoone song.


Literary Hub shared an excerpt from Gregor Hens' book Nicotine.


The Shaggs will reunite for Wilco's Solid Sound festival.


Catapult launched a new advice column by authors Alissa Nutting and Dean Bakopoulos.


Hamilton Leithauser visited The Current studio for an interview and live performance.


eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen by Sylvie Simmons
In Gratitude by Jenny Diski
Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton
Nashville Chrome by Rick Bass
Our Noise: The Story of Merge Records, the Indie Label That Got Big and Stayed Small
A Replacement Life by Boris Fishman

eBooks on sale for $2.99 today:

The Master by Colm Toibin
Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

previous Shorties posts (daily news and links from the worlds of music, books, and pop culture)

List of Online "Best Books of 2016" Lists
Essential and Interesting Year-End 2016 Music Lists

Atomic Books Comics Preview (the week's best new comics and graphic novels)
Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
weekly music release lists
WORD Bookstores Books of the Week (recommended new books)
weekly music release lists


February 16, 2017

Book Notes - Rachel Aspden "Generation Revolution: On the Front Line Between Tradition and Change in the Middle East"

Generation Revolution: On the Front Line Between Tradition and Change in the Middle East

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.

Rachel Aspden's book Generation Revolution collects fascinating first-person accounts of regular people who participated in the 2011 Egyptian revolution.

The New York Times wrote of the book:

"Generation Revolution is an excellent social history of Egypt's persistent pathologies, as well as a universal story about the difficulties of changing deeply ingrained societal attitudes"


In her own words, here is Rachel Aspden's Book Notes music playlist for her book Generation Revolution: On the Front Line Between Tradition and Change in the Middle East:



In Generation Revolution, I follow a group of young Egyptians through the stormy years before and after the 2011 uprising that overthrew President Hosni Mubarak. Music is interwoven with their individual dreams and disappointments and with the fate of the country itself.

Egyptians love melody and rhythm, dancing and singing. Everywhere you go in Cairo, day or night, music follows you: from the Quranic recitation shopkeepers and taxi drivers play in the early morning to the distorted blare of shaabi music at a working-class street wedding, raucous mahraganat spilling from a teenage driver’s swerving tuk-tuk, and the nostalgic sounds of mid-20th-century stars such as Oum Kalthoum and Abdel Halim Hafez that conjure up a lost age of elegance and sophistication.

Over the period I write about, music is used as a political tool (protesters recycle old resistance songs and devise new ones; the state employs ageing stars to record its own propaganda theme tunes) and a religious football (moderate Muslims try to “clean up” secular pop music by giving it an Islamic twist; hardliners shun it altogether in favour of austere male-voice chants).

It was also central to my own experience of getting to know Egypt from the moment I arrived, confused and disoriented, aged 23. I lived in Cairo on and off for the next 12 years and very few of those moments were silent. Arabic music, with its quarter-tones and intricate rhythms, sounded discordant and alien to me at first, but I grew to love it as I did the country and the people. Here's a brief introduction to the sounds of the heart of the Arab world.

Boshrat Kheir - Hussein al-Jasmi

This infuriatingly, irresistibly catchy track, whose title means Good Omen, was Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s unofficial campaign song in the presidential election of 2014. Compared to previous clunky, unfashionable pro-regime songs, it’s slick and glossily produced: the expensive video, showing cheerful dancing Egyptians from all corners of the country, is based on Pharrell Williams's Happy. It swept a nation that after more than two years of bloody upheaval was desperate for optimism -- I describe in Generation Revolution how you could hear it being played from cellphones everywhere you went. The bright future it promised, however, has yet to materialise.

Ana Aslan Gamed - Oka & Ortega

This is a swaggering, bad-mannered anthem of the mahraganat scene, which emerged from the underground around the time of the revolution. It’s the sound of Cairo’s working-class youth -- slangy, crass, witty and guaranteed to provoke horror in politer enclaves. You could translate the title as “I’m hardcore”, and the song narrates the misadventures of a young man on the mean streets of a rough area -- navigating dope smokers, suspicious neighbours and knife-wielding enemies in his quest for money and good times. Of course mahraganat soon became fashionable on the upper-class bohemian scene, and its biggest stars ended up doing TV adverts for soft drinks and dairy companies.

Irhal - Ramy Essam

Before the 2011 revolution, Essam was just another guitar-slinging student from Mansoura in the Nile delta. But during the protests against Hosni Mubarak, he took to a makeshift stage and came up with a song that encapsulated the spirit of Tahrir Square - Irhal (Leave!). Its protest chant-like lyrics (“We’re all united/ And we have one demand:/ Leave! Leave!”) with acoustic backing became an anthem of the “18 days” - the period in which young protesters occupied Tahrir, defending it against repeated attacks by the police, security services and hired thugs -- including, during the “Battle of the Camel”, armed men on horses and camels from the tourist stables at the Giza pyramids. Essam’s visibility did not endear him to the police – at a protest later in 2011, he was arrested, dragged to the Egyptian Museum nearby and tortured for four hours.

Take me back to Cairo - Karim Shukry

This kitschy 60s confection of western and eastern music, English and Arabic lyrics presses every Orientalist button going -- and manages to be totally charming while doing it. It evokes what for most Egyptians was always an illusion: the multicultural, cosmopolitan city of the mid 20th century where wealthy couples sipped cocktails on Nile-side terraces and watched bellydancers at elegant cabarets. Karim Shukry (real name Jean Zaloum) was among the Francophone elite who emigrated as Egypt became ever more monocultural -- in his case to Montreal. His love song to the city he left behind has become a theme tune for generations of nostalgic Egyptian expats.

Oum Kalthoum - Alf Leila w leila

The ultimate diva of the age when Egypt led the Arab world. Though she died in 1975 (when four million people attended her funeral procession), she is still revered by all Egyptians and her image, complete with trademark beehive hairdo and cat’s-eye sunglasses, can be seen everywhere. Her stately music, which blends classical Arabic elements with more modern orchestral and guitar parts, became the soundtrack for an era from the 1940s to the 1970s -- the building of the modern nation. To hear it now pouring from a streetside teahouse where the last few customers are lingering or from the radio in a battered taxi late at night is, for Egyptians, instant nostalgia.

Rango - Ahlan Be el Talat Asyad

These musicians come from Egypt’s Sudanese community, established by slaves brought to work the cotton fields and serve in the army in the 1820s. They play songs from the zar -- a healing trance ceremony with African roots that in Egypt has taken on Islamic overtones. In this song, they greet the “three spirits”: Yawra Bey, a westernised dandy in a frock coat, the Red Djinn, lord of the spirits, and Lady Racosha, a mischievous child spirit. These days zar is dying out, attacked by Islamic fundamentalists and edged out by commercial pop, but in a male-dominated society it provides a rare space for women to come together, dance, sing and share their problems.

Metallica - One

In the depressing, stagnant years of the late 1990s, western metal music became a way for Egypt’s urban teenagers to express their rage and frustration in a language their parents couldn’t understand. I describe Amr, one of the characters, sitting in his bedroom in Alexandria blasting out Metallica to the bemusement of his bureaucrat father. Unfortunately, the metal fans fell foul of one of the regime’s periodic witch-hunts, in which some unpopular minority or other would be scapegoated to distract the public from economic stagnation at home and dubious policies abroad (in particular, the Mubarak regime’s close ties and corrupt oil and gas deals with Israel). In 1997 80 middle-class teenagers were seized from their beds in dawn raids as tabloids screamed that they were devil worshippers in league with Zionists. The public prosecutor later released them, commenting that though they may not be actually in league with Satan, they were trying to “follow him by having sex, drugs and other evil things”.

Nancy Ajram - Ah w nos

Pure bubblegum pop: artificial, saccharine and totally irresistible. This was a massive hit in Egypt (and across the rest of the Arab world) in the mid-2000s, the era of the president’s neoliberalising son Gamal Mubarak, the spread of the internet, and the lures of globalisation. Though Nancy Ajram is actually Lebanese, in this video she is dressed as an Egyptian country girl temptress, teasingly hanging up washing, scrubbing pots and wrangling chickens in a robe that’s always on the verge of falling off. It was on heavy rotation on the huge TV screens in the coffeeshops where Egyptians meet after work for years.

Meen el ma2soud - Asfalt & Zap Tharwat

After the revolution by a new breed of “clean” production houses that avoided the scantily clad excesses of female stars like Nancy Ajram. Some were funded by Gulf investors with religious motives, and some had an overtly religious message; others were simply rooted in “Egyptian values”. This is a moody, slick anti-western protest song by a rapper who became a hero for young girls (and their male peers). “Who is the target - me, my religion, or my country?” he asks, describing the plight of Gaza, Iraq, Kashmir and Afghanistan and the need for the Muslim world to rise up against American hegemony. These sentiments are far from welcome in Sisi’s Egypt -- especially as he attempts to ingratiate himself with President Trump -- but they’re a window on the true feelings of young Egyptians.


Rachel Aspden and Generation Revolution: On the Front Line Between Tradition and Change in the Middle East links:

excerpt from the book

Guardian review
Kirkus Reviews review
London Evening Standard review
New York Times review

World Policy interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

List of Online "Best Books of 2016" Lists

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)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists


Shorties (An Excerpt from George Saunders' Debut Novel, A Profile of Ryan Adams, and more)

BuzzFeed shared an excerpt from George Saunders' debut novel Lincoln in the Bardo.


VICE profiled Ryan Adams.


Stream a new song from Her's.


My Poetic Side shared an infographic of U.S. Poet Laureates.


Stream a new song by A Place To Bury Strangers.


Stream Japandroids' cover of Talking Heads' "Love Goes To Building on Fire."


Bad Citizen Corporation interviewed author Steph Post.


Aquarium Drunkard interviewed Jaime Fennelly of Mind Over Mirrors.

The Quietus reviewed the band's new album Undying Color.


Noisey examined the musical legacy of Fela Kuti.


Katie Kitamura talked to Jezebel about her new novel A Separation.


Stream Wolf Eyes' new EP Undertow.


Literary Hub recommended books about Watergate.


Stream a new Colin Stetson song.


Granta shared an excerpt from Victor Lodato's forthcoming novel Edgar and Lucy.


NPR Music is streaming Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's new album The Tourist.


Signature recommended books featuring investigative journalism.


Animal Collective covered Martha and the Vandellas' "Jimmie Mack."


George Saunders discussed books and reading with the New York Times.


Alternative Press listed the best songs that feature banjos.


Bookworm interviewed author Steve Erickson.


Stream a new Minus the Bear song.


George Saunders on Anton Chekhov at the Atlantic.


Alt.Latino shared a mix of Afro-Brazilian music.


Literary Hub recommended novels on freedom of expression that aren't 1984.


Paste and Stereogum interviewed David Longstreth of Dirty Projectors.


Philip Pullman talked to Morning Edition about his forthcoming follow-up trilogy to His Dark Materials.


Craig Finn visited The Current studio for an interview and live performance.


CBC Radio interviewed author and editor Isaac Fitzgerald.


Drowned in Sound interviewed singer-songwriter Jens Lekman.


eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen by Sylvie Simmons
In Gratitude by Jenny Diski
Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton
Nashville Chrome by Rick Bass
Our Noise: The Story of Merge Records, the Indie Label That Got Big and Stayed Small
A Replacement Life by Boris Fishman

eBooks on sale for $2.99 today:

The Master by Colm Toibin
Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

previous Shorties posts (daily news and links from the worlds of music, books, and pop culture)

List of Online "Best Books of 2016" Lists
Essential and Interesting Year-End 2016 Music Lists

Atomic Books Comics Preview (the week's best new comics and graphic novels)
Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
weekly music release lists
WORD Bookstores Books of the Week (recommended new books)
weekly music release lists


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