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January 26, 2015

Book Notes - Michael Crummey "Sweetland"

Sweetland

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, Kevin Brockmeier, George Pelecanos, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Michael Crummey's Sweetland is a quietly powerful novel where the past and present collide to create an exceptional character-driven book.

Kirkus Reviews wrote of the book:

"The elimination of an entire community, and what it represents, is deeply felt. Through its crusty protagonist, Crummey's shrewd, absorbing novel tells us how rich a life can be, even when experienced in the narrowest of physical confines."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


In his own words, here is Michael Crummey's Book Notes music playlist for his novel Sweetland:


There are still pockets of my home province of Newfoundland that exist somewhere on the margins of the 21st century. Tiny island communities accessible only by sea, improbable outports that have clung to rock for a couple of centuries, beyond the reach of most of what "modern life" has to offer. With the total collapse of the cod fishery twenty years ago, though, these places are starting to fade from the world. Some residents are taking a government package to resettle en masse to more central locations, a package that is offered with the condition that everyone has to sign on and leave.

Sweetland is set on the south coast of Newfoundland, in a community of geriatrics and misfits that is slowly fading from the world. Everyone is ready to take the government package, but for one pig-headed holdout. Moses Sweetland won't be moved, whatever his friends and neighbours throw at him. And in the second half of the novel, Sweetland finds himself on his island with only the dead for company. No one knows he's there. And things don't go particularly well for him. The line between the real world and the otherworldly, between life and death, starts to blur and eventually disappears altogether.

Sound like fun?

Well, I had a good time, for what it's worth.

I fell in love with Moses as I wrote the book. I admired him. He was my avatar on a quest to make peace with the apocalyptic loneliness everyone of us can expect to face at some point in our lives. Resettlement is the setup for the novel. But beneath the surface it's a book about mortality, about what how we face our mortality says about us. I hope when my time comes I find some scrap of Sweetland's will, of his dogged insistence on the importance of a life, however marginal and unseen it might be.


Paul Buchanan - "I Remember You"

Former lead singer of indie-darling Scottish band The Blue Nile, Buchanan released his first solo album, Mid Air, in 2012. I went through a serious Blue Nile phase about a decade ago, and Mid Air brought it all back to me. Unlike the synth-soaked near-pop songs of the band though, Buchanan's solo work is a late-night whisper. "Spare" doesn't come close to describing the arrangements. A lonely piano and Buchanan's haunted vocals carry almost the entire record. It's like a soundtrack for a man living alone on an island in the north Atlantic. Melancholy. Exhilarating.


Rush - "La Villa Strangiato"

Thanks to the wonders of Youtube, I went on a long Rush jag while I was writing Sweetland.

I don't know, man. It just kinda happened.

I was a Rush fan in my teens, starting with Moving Pictures and the double-live album Exit, Stage Left. But it had been decades since I'd listened to anything from them when I began streaming records I hadn't bothered with as a kid, Hemispheres and Caress of Steel and 2112. I spent countless unjustifiable hours among the bombast and weird time signatures and faux-profound lyrics.

Jesus, they suck. Jesus, they're fantastic.

Much like life.


Stan Rogers - "Barrett's Privateers"

In 1995 my father and I took the coastal boat down the Labrador as far as Nain, to revisit the places where he had grown up fishing with my grandfather in the 1940s. He brought the crappy little radio/cassette player he carried everywhere. There were no radio signals to be found on the coast of Labrador, but there was a tape in the machine with Leonard Cohen's Greatest Hits on one side and Stan Roger's classic folk album Fogerty's Cove on the other. It was a fifteen day journey. We listened to those two albums a lot. And those songs still bring the trip—and my father—back to me.

After finishing this novel, it struck me that what Sweetland endures in the second half of the book has a lot of parallels to what someone suffering through a terminal illness goes through. And it occurred to me then, as well, that I had pillaged my father's life for details and incidents to insert into Sweetland's history.

Sweetland is a completely different man than my father, of course. But, without being conscious of it, I was obviously writing through the experience of watching Dad die of cancer twelve years ago. And that may explain, to some extent, why I admire Moses as much as I do.


Amelia Curran - "Years"

Listen, there aren't a lot of easy "feel good" moments in this book. I get that. It's funny at times; hell, I think it's hilarious in spots. But pretty fecking dark overall. For Sweetland himself, it's post-apocalypse. He loses just about everything but his will to endure. And still I never for a moment considered I was writing a "depressing" book. Most readers I've encountered come away from it feeling, not uplifted exactly, but subtly encouraged. Braced somehow.

I went to a shit-hole, smoky St. John's bar one Christmas about fifteen years ago to see...well, I can't remember who the headliner was now. But between sets, she invited a friend who was home for the holidays to sing a few songs on a borrowed guitar. That friend was Amelia Curran. She's five albums in now and every record is a gem. I spent a lot of time listening to her 2011 release, Spectators, while I was writing this book. "Years" is my favourite track. The unexpectedly uplifting chorus kills me every time. "We're nowhere near sunset, and baby we've got years yet. Baby, we've got years."


The Weakerthans - "Psalm for the Elks Lodge Last Call"

Does anyone write better idiosyncratic, nostalgia-soaked, incisive, heartbreaking lyrics than John K Samson? Well, probably. It's a big world out there. But for my money, the Weakerthan's front man is the best at what he does. Which is offering up catchy, off-the-wall but sincere odes to the small and everyday, to the marginal and underrepresented. Prairie curlers, depression-era tuberculosis patients, aging Elks Lodge members. Fleeting, insignificant, beautiful lives.

"Let the toast to absent members push through the ceiling/ before we say goodnight."

Amen, John K. Amen.


Michael Crummey and Sweetland links:

the author's website
the author's Wikipedia entry

Globe and Mail review
Kirkus review
Macleans.ca review
Minneapolis Star Tribune review
National Post review
Publishers Weekly review

Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Galore
Quill and Quire profile of the author
Toronto Star profile of the author
Winnipeg Free Press interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

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

List of Online "Best of 2014" Book Lists
Essential and Interesting 2014 Year-End Music Lists

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)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
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
Word Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)


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January 26, 2015

Book Notes - Allison Adelle Hedge Coke "Streaming"

Streaming

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, Kevin Brockmeier, George Pelecanos, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Allison Adelle Hedge Coke's new collection Streaming is a veritable symphony, her poems embracing musicality and dissonance like the best of modern composers.

Summerset Review wrote of the book:

"Her poems beg to be read aloud, a jumble of hard sounds that wind their way into an effortless melody. . . Streaming is truly an accomplishment."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


In her own words, here is Allison Adelle Hedge Coke's Book Notes music playlist for her poetry collection Streaming:


Prelude

The first poem, a prelude elegy, should be read a cappella.


I – Navigation

"Someday We’ll Be Together," Laura Ortman (2011)

Loss melts into an echo bearing collisions of bends in temporal planes bringing what is long ago and faraway nearby, instantaneously. Ortman is genius. Killer, killer violinist, and plays all of the tracks and instruments on most of her solo recordings. This piece is mesmerizing. Kicks into the feel of Streaming and carries me right through it.

"Touch Me," Kelvyn Bell

This song turns on a sensual sound to humanness. It blends enigmatic with ease, releases and surrenders supple grace. There is a forgiving generosity in this sound. The world needs us to be gentle as much as it needs us to be strong self-supporting of ourselves, taking only what we need and feeding the spirit with level selflessness.


II – Breaking Cover

"Kawdan’s Song," Laura Ortman (2007)
Not quite ready to leave Laura yet. In fact we need her to wake us up again. Make us see the tangle we surround ourselves in. Strange beauty on either side, we narrow our focus and lift ourselves into planes we need reach to dignify the human race. To be humane in the often inhumane world. Kawdan’s Song is a quick compelling open to this section.

"3 Days and 3 Nights," Otis Taylor (2001)

Taylor takes us into struggling infancy in a mournful and frenzy filled passing of time with nothing (nothing) on hand to feed a little girl, slipping away, and nothing breaking the chance of dying. Chilling. Dostoyevsky might have written this. Too many people live this, die with this. The world is ripe with trouble, truly. This section lifts the drape.

"Too Cold Outside for Angels to Fly," Ed Sheeran (2013)

Takes the everyday experience passerbys mostly don’t choose to see, then seduces those strangers into the life slipping away, here, next to you, right next to you. So many people cold, hungry, lost, using, used, out of everything a regular Joe might never get close enough to know. This one tears and yet speaks love in the subtle attention. Go out and hand someone a sandwich. Take your blanket with you and give it away. Do it.


May Suite

"Everybody’s Got to Change Sometime," Taj Mahal with Jessee Ed Davis (1968)

Getting ready for twisters makes me hunker down into memory of Jesse Ed, an Oklahoman, back in the day, when Taj stood up for the knack of change and readied us for it. When you climb into the bathtub, pull the mattress over; most of the stations blow down except for oldies anyway. If you are lucky, it will be one that gets your mind moving.

"The Beautiful Creatures," Bruce Cockburn, Live audio at Quasimodo Germany (2007)

What’s happening in the Anthropogenic. Truly. This song delivers the absolute despair in losing thousands and thousands of living species mostly due to resourcing and greed, but also, historically and contemporarily, to what some people call sport. There’s no bringing them back and we lost half, literally half of the world’s wildlife species in the past forty years alone. Cockburn is about as real as you can go.

"Fracking," Tanya Tagaq (2014)

Below Guthrie we have earthquakes all the time. Yes, they are from fracking. No, they didn’t exist until recently. Pulling up brine from dinosaur days, water that hasn’t seen light of day or oxygen in eons. Polluting it, beyond evaporation reclaim. Then pumping it back into the earth in a different place. Shaking all of us up, for what, for black gold, worth nothing but money. Tagaq turns tempo into matching force, increases our at-stake interest, churns inside the belly of our mother, implicating the frackers and hollows core. Want more? There are four albums already. Grab some.

"Twisting\' the Night Away," Sam Cooke (1962)

Near Ellison’s Deep Deuce neighborhood, the sky opens up, drops thunder, the earth rises to meet it and tornadoes run the path in the crosshairs of the Gulf and the Rockies, making madness and misery, taking lives and giving grief. Those who survive, down in the Red Dirt flyway, Oklahoma, path of the windway – everyone dances sometime.


III – Where We Have Been

"Down in the Gowanus Canal," Juan & the Pines - Julian Talamantez Brolaski
 (2011)

Mournful patch of lonesome in the Gowanus. The history of this dirge is maddening.

"Barstow," Harry Partch (1941) (1968)


Partch lifts the poetry from graffiti and tosses it into a spoken word ramble through Barstow trestles and underpasses tagging the face of The Great Depression. This is some of the first spoken word recorded in the US and brings the sultry into survivance while hoboing it alongside the line between living and dying, this is life, unhitched.


"Down the Dirt Road Blues," Charley Patton (1929)


Pushing it back a bit, Patton intensifies the sounds of my father singing to me when I was a kid. Dad picked other people’s cotton for a penny a pound. His dad’s back was shot, so Dad, his mother, and siblings headed down those rows, nestled between dirt roads, working sun up to sun down. He always appreciated Patton. Still does today at nearly 93. 
In the film we are making together about Native resiliency in climate change, in the Dust Bowl, Dad gives into the memories of knowing that edge of life I’ve seen as well. Patton rings.


"Levee Camp Blues," Mississippi Fred McDowell (1968)

When I was a kid, I was hooked on Papa John Creach in Hot Tuna, Brownie McGhee, Leo Kottke, Traffic, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Rufus/Chaka Khan, Led Zepplin, Santana, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Johnny and Edgar Winter, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Son House, Sun Ra Arkestra, Tina Turner, the Band, Mississippi John Hurt, Dobie Gray, Redbone, Jimmy Hendrix, so many great great players, singers. This singer/player deeply resonated with me, brought me to write some of my earliest attempts at poetry, lyric. Coming of age picking tobacco and digging sweet potatoes, sleeping near the fields in the car, cracking windows at dawn – Mississippi Fred McDowell singing Levee Camp Blues rung absolutely true.

"Music is the Healing Force of the Universe," Albert Ayler w/ Mary Maria, from Nuits de La Fondation Maeght (1971)


Killer track. This is one of several Ayler dropped into the field and hundreds followed. Same with Mary Maria, here setting the pace for every era. This is still experimental work, standing beyond any sense of time. Deliberately commanding the audience to heal through the sound presented. Testimony, hard fact truth-telling, inviting renewal, healing.

"
A Oh Love of Life!," Albert Ayler - Tenor Saxophone, Soprano, Musette, Vocals, Allen Blairman – Drums, Steve Tintweiss - Double Bass, Mary Maria - Vocal, Soprano Saxophone(1969)


This track takes a schism and renders it whole again. Each departure is fresh, surprising, rich and wicked with love. Reminds me of tumbling things back into order after they’ve been flipped around countless times. Rekindling something measured from disparate threads unraveled until the music makes them whole. Something to spin the world back into place. Mary Maria’s vocals are haunting!



IV – Where it Ends


"It’s Such a Splendid Day and I Have to Go," Charlie Rauh (2014)


Dedicated to Hans and Sophie Scholl, a brother and sister in Munich during WW2 that founded an intellectual resistance group known as The White Rose. Both were arrested after being caught distributing anti nazi flyers at the university they attended and executed days later. Title taken from Sophie Scholl's final words at the age of 22. Lines up with the literal holocaust in New York, Sullivan Clinton Campaign in “Reduction.”


"Mix," Arthur Blythe, Abdul Wadud, Bobby Battle, Bob Stewart Kelvyn Bell. (July 18, 1981 at the Casino De Montreux in Montreux, Switzerland)


In the Marfa fires, life split its dry husk clean open and all the world seemed to float out. The simmer rose in heat waves making everything reflect back on itself. Memory kicked in and some thousand times fire singed all came sliding up the porch licking at your toes until all you could do was give into it and be with it, float back through all the fires you know and hope you live. Listening to this set, where improvisational sound edges back into itself, brought me some impulse; something I call ampliset. When you feel it, move with it, cull sound with it, life, well, you know what happens; a long range poem, epic–
Coda


"Reception," Charlie Rauh (written, 2013, to be released in 2015)


Written about a best friend’s murder, these two masterpiece seem to reawaken the listener, like a soft rain on old growth, on memory, in recanting the life, love, loss. Returning with ease of peace. Beautiful. 


Buddy Miles comes to mind, now that I’ve written this. Pete DePoe, Billy Preston, Frank Waln, Young Jibwe, but I think you should wrap up this listening with a bit of “Amayi” from Paula Nelson (https://soundcloud.com/tsvdatsila), Cherokee, NC. After that, download the album that actually comes with Streaming, by Rd Klā, that’s Kelvyn Bell, Laura Ortman, and me. Available free (as download) with purchase of the book, or you can sample here: rdkla.com. Half of these people (in playlist above) are noted in the acknowledgments page of this book already, or in books that preceded it. Amazing players – genius. They give me reason.


Allison Adelle Hedge Coke and Streaming links:

the author's website
the author's Wikipedia entry
the author's blog
excerpt from the book ("Heroes")
excerpt from the book

Eckleburg interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

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

List of Online "Best of 2014" Book Lists
Essential and Interesting 2014 Year-End Music Lists

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)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
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
Word Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)


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Shorties (A List of Essential Literary Biographies, Stream the New Mount Eerie Album, and more)

Flavorwire listed essential literary biographies.


NPR Music is streaming the new Mount Eerie album, Sauna.


38 online "best books of 2014" lists were added to the master aggregation at Largehearted Boy last week.


The Largehearted Boy list of essential and interesting "best of 2014" music lists.


Stream the Austin City Limits episode featuring Ryan Adams and Jenny Lewis.


Electric Literature recommended literary podcasts.


PopMatters interviewed Robert Forster of the musical duo the Go-Betweens.


Joseph Riipi interviewed author Laird Hunt at Hobart.


NPR Music is streaming Title Fights new album Hyperview.


Nina Bunjevac talked to Weekend Edition about her new graphic novel Fatherland: A Family History.


FACT previewed Australian musical artists to watch in 2015.


Seth Grahame-Smith discussed his favorite books about literal and metaphorical monsters with The Week.


NPR Music is streaming filmmaker John Carpenter's new album Lost Themes.


Booksellers previewed 2015 comics at Paste.


Weekend Edition profiled the band Dengue Fever.


Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, Google+, and Stumbleupon for links (updated throughout the day) that don't make the daily "Shorties" posts.


also at Largehearted Boy:

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

Essential and Interesting 2014 Year-End Music Lists
List of Online "Best of 2014" Book Lists

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Atomic Books Comics Preview (the week's best new comics and graphic novels)
Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
daily mp3 downloads
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)


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Daily Downloads (Darren Hayman, Ryan Pryor, and more)

Every day, Daily Downloads offers 10 free and legal mp3 downloads.


Today's free and legal mp3 downloads:

Air Review: "Winter Song" [mp3]

Brittney Joell: Tick Tock EP [mp3]

The Collection: Ars Moriendi album [mp3]

Darren Hayman: Chants for Socialists album [mp3]

The Duke of Norfolk: "Ae Fond Kiss" [mp3]

Ryan Pryor: "January Snow" [mp3]

Slowski: "Curiosity" [mp3]

The Speedbumps: Cabin EP [mp3]

Various Artists: 25 (Atomnation compilation album) [mp3]


Free and legal live performances at other websites:

Rhyton: 2014-12-10, Brooklyn [mp3]


search for more free and legal music downloads at Largehearted Boy


also at Largehearted Boy:

other daily free and legal mp3 downloads

Essential and Interesting 2014 Year-End Music Lists

covers collections
100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads

Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, books, and pop culture news and links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtrack)
weekly new album lists


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January 25, 2015

Largehearted Boy Weekly Wrap-Up - January 25, 2015

A list of the past week's Largehearted Boy features:


Book Notes: (authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates to their book)

Deepti Kapoor for her novel A Bad Character
Emma Hooper for her novel Etta and Otto and Russell and James
Mark Wisniewski for his novel Watch Me Go
Michael Christie for his novel If I Fall, If I Die
Robert Repino for his novel Mort(e)


Lists

Online "Best Books of 2014" Lists
2014 Online Year-end Music Lists
Largehearted Boy Favorite Comics of 2014
Largehearted Boy Favorite Food and Drink Books of 2014
Largehearted Boy Favorite Nonfiction of 2014
Largehearted Boy Favorite Novels of 2014
Largehearted Boy Favorite Short Story Collections of 2014


Weekly New Book Recommendations:

Atomic Books Comics Preview (recommended new comics and graphic novels)
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
WORD Bookstores Books of the Week (recommended new books)


New Music Recommendations:

The Week's Interesting Music Releases


And of course, the daily music and news posts:

Daily Downloads (10 free and legal mp3 downloads every day, plus links to free live recordings online)
Shorties (news & links from the worlds of music, books, and pop culture)


also at Largehearted Boy:

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Antiheroines
Atomic Books Comics Preview
Book Notes
Contests / Giveaways
Cover Song Collections
Daily Downloads
Lists
weekly music release lists
musician/author Interviews
Note Books
Soundtracked
WORD Bookstores Books of the Week


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January 24, 2015

Daily Downloads (The Week's Best Free and Legal Music Including Jessica Pratt, Alasdair Roberts, Dr. Dog, and more)

Every day, Daily Downloads offers 10 free and legal mp3 downloads.


Today's free and legal mp3 downloads:

Alasdair Roberts: "Artless One" [mp3] from Alasdair Roberts (out January 27th)

Cobra and Vulture: Grasslands album [mp3]

Dr. Dog: NoiseTrade Eastside Manor Sessions EP [mp3]

Jessica Pratt: "Back, Baby" [mp3] from On Your Own Love Again

Justin Townes Earle: NoiseTrade Eastside Manor Session EP [mp3]

Various Artists: Folkroom Presents: Anthology Three album [mp3]

Various Artists: Hangout Music Fest Mixtape 2015 album [mp3]

Various Artists: New Weird Australia: Passages, Volume One album [mp3]
Various Artists: New Weird Australia: Passages, Volume Two album [mp3]
Various Artists: New Weird Australia: Passages, Volume Three album [mp3]


Free and legal live performances at other websites:

Oneida: 2015-01-10, Brooklyn [mp3]


search for more free and legal music downloads at Largehearted Boy


also at Largehearted Boy:

other daily free and legal mp3 downloads

Essential and Interesting 2014 Year-End Music Lists

covers collections
100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads

Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, books, and pop culture news and links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtrack)
weekly new album lists


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January 23, 2015

Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week - January 23, 2015

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.


First Year Healthy

First Year Healthy
by Michael DeForge

The literary year is off to a fine start with First Year Healthy, the first D+Q title of 2015, hitting shelves everywhere this week. The story chronicles the experiences of a woman recently discharged from a stint of hospitalization following a mental health crisis which has made her notorious in her small town. DeForge’s characteristically surreal drawing style complements the weirdness and ambiguity of the story, while the vibrant palate contrasts with the darkness of the narrative. Much like Ant Colony, DeForge's debut D+Q graphic novel, First Year Healthy is a visually striking work which touches on profound human issues, and lends itself well to multiple readings and interpretations.


š! #19 Mathematics

kuš! #19 Mathematics

The Latvian-based Baltic Comics Magazine kuš! is always such a joy to read! Each edition is a collection of comics centred on an overarching theme, featuring work by contributors from all over the world. The miniature format makes for a perfectly portable way to discover new artists, particularly from the Baltic region. The theme of the latest edition is Mathematics, but don't let that scare you. Even the most arithmetic-averse readers will find that math can be fun, thanks to these new comics from kuš!


I Think I Can See Where You're Going Wrong and Other Wise and Witty Comments from Guardian Readers

I Think I Can See Where You're Going Wrong and Other Wise and Witty Comments from Guardian Readers
edited by Marc Burrows

Reading the comments section on an online article is generally an activity to be avoided if you aim to keep misanthropy at bay. However, this collection of the "best and most baffling" comments gleaned from the archives of The Guardian's Comment is Free section is an exception to the "never read the comments" rule! Boasting illustrations by the always on-point D+Q alumni Tom Gauld (You're All Just Jealous of my Jetpack, Goliath) the gems within the pages of this book will have you chortling away in no time.


The Country Road

The Country Road
by Regina Ullmann

Swiss protomodernist poet and author Regina Ullmann's most noteworthy collection of short stories is now available in English for the first time in this New Directions edition. The author was lauded as a genius by her peers and contemporaries, including Rainer Maria Rilke, but like so many female writers of her time, her work has languished untranslated and largely forgotten. Thanks to this new translation from the German by Kurt Beals, her 1921 collection of otherworldly tales of the Swiss countryside are at last available to a wider audience.


Spawn of Mars and Other Stories

Spawn of Mars and Other Stories
by Wallace Wood

Spawn of Mars is the latest in Fantagraphics’ series of re-issues of classic EC comics. This volume features the work of Wallace Wood, undoubtedly one of the foremost pioneers of the sci-fi comics genre. Wood’s drawing style is gorgeously detailed, and his renderings of outer-space scenes are so iconic that they’ve become archetypal. Feast your eyes upon the ghastly aliens, ruggedly handsome astronauts, and intergalactic starscapes that populate this genre-defining collection! Like all of Fantagraphics’ EC library re-issues, there are also supplementary essays and biographical details included.


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:

other Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week

List of Online "Best of 2014" Book Lists

52 Books, 52 Weeks
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly new comics and graphic novel highlights)
Largehearted Word (weekly new book 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)


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Book Notes - Mark Wisniewski "Watch Me Go"

Watch Me Go

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, Kevin Brockmeier, George Pelecanos, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Mark Wisniewski's new novel Watch Me Go is a compelling and gritty work of literary noir.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote of the book:

"Wisniewski is a sure and smart writer, and his philosophy never gets in the way of his story, which is suspenseful and original and wholly unpredictable."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


In his own words, here is Mark Wisniewski's Book Notes music playlist for his novel Watch Me Go:


My third novel, Watch Me Go, owes its existence to music. This was the toughest book for me to write and get into print, maybe because it challenges readers to piece together storytelling about love and hatred and racism and horrible luck, so on most every day of the roughly twenty-five years of writing and revising and submitting it to agents, I needed inspiration from something outside of me that was energetic and beautifully complex yet sometimes simply good. Thus: music. Regardless of where I lived during those twenty-five years--Northern California, San Antonio TX, rural Pennsylvania, Midtown Manhattan, Astoria, Queens, Lake Peekskill in upstate New York, Bed-Sty in Brooklyn, and again in Manhattan on the upper west side—music was always blaring. To be less hyperbolic, there were times when I'd wake after midnight with an idea and hop out of bed and close the bedroom door and the door to my office and work with the volume down. But as my wife told me just weeks ago, she was always—even when she appeared to be asleep—hearing whichever CD I'd play repeatedly (sometimes for days) over the clacking of my keyboard's keys.

Let me straight off admit that some of the songs on the playlist below might strike you as pop. My reasoning: Jan and Deesh, Watch Me Go's two narrators, proved, again and again throughout all those years, to be seeking love in places where bad luck thrived, so I needed a drafting-soundtrack that leaned toward sappy—in order to keep their voices from becoming too tough and jaded.

Likely excuse, right?

Another admission: Many of these songs were recorded decades ago, proving I'm not Mr. Young Hipster. But then again, please remember I began drafting this book before some people who'll read this list were born. Old-schoolers like Michael Stipe were cutting-edge back then.

"Nightswimming" by R.E.M.
For years Jan narrated a sexy passage about swimming in the dark with Tug. Now, instead, they run in the dark. But the late-August-crickets-still-chirping-mood of this song has always been welcome.

"After the Dance" by Marvin Gaye
You don't grow up in a segregated Polish-American neighborhood and then write a novel about an urban black guy without having heard some Motown. I happened upon this song a few years ago, after having forgotten about it for decades—and then of course couldn't stop playing it, the louder the better.

"Layla," Derrick and the Dominos
At some point agents began insisting that I develop backstories about the organized crime in Jan's narrative thread. This was a good suggestion because, after all, Jan lives among gamblers who deal with bookies and loan sharks and the kinds people you see in films like Goodfellas. So for a few months there, I aspired to have Jan's narrative blossom with passages similar to those great dubbed-in lines of Goodfellas fame: "We were goodfellas. Wiseguys. But Jimmy and I could never be made because we had Irish blood. To become a member of a crew you've got to be one hundred per cent Italian so they can trace all your relatives back to the old country." And to help me write in that vein, I'd play "Layla" [which graces the soundtrack for the climax of Goodfellas] constantly. And hearing this song again and again did help me develop Watch Me Go's backstories about The Nickster and The Show-Stopper and The Form Monger of the renowned severed arm. But what comes to mind when I hear "Layla" now is not so much the violence in Watch Me Go but the fact that in both Goodfellas and Watch Me Go, the violence occurred because people hated other people's bloodlines. My God, I always think. Why is this country so wacked about ethnicity?

"Your Eyes (Sitar Solo)" by Anoushka Shankar
Sometimes writing Watch Me Go required simply getting in a zone and producing quickly, maybe even kind of magically. At times like this I'd play the first disk of Concert for George, the recorded-live tribute to George Harrison that featured not only Shankar but also Clapton, Petty, Ringo Starr, Billy Preston, Paul McCartney and others. And Shankar's music, if you ask me, will put you in a zone like no other.

"Fortunate Son" by Bruce Hornsby
My older brother, who by the way taught me how to play the piano, was a doctor who fought AIDS and then succumbed to AIDS himself back when I began writing Watch Me Go. And for a while, when I'd just begun to draft chapters that would become the start of Jan's narrative thread, I had one of those odd, among-siblings intuitions that my brother was going to die. Yet I knew nothing for sure, since, back then—pre-Obamacare—AIDS and the business of health insurance danced a dance I still don't understand. Suffice to say many AIDS victims back then kept secrets, and my brother kept his very worst secret from his wannabe novelist little brother for as long as he could. And of course secrets like that can spark emotions of every stripe between siblings, some of those emotions not upbeat in the least. But every time I'd hear Hornsby's piano in this song, I'd tell myself that, even though Watch Me Go was being rejected, I was damned fortunate.

"Carnival Town" by Norah Jones
When you want to explore a woman's voice, as I did after making Jan a first-person narrator, why not listen to one of the most heavenly female voices recorded?

"Romeo and Juliet (any live version)" by Mark Knopfler
The streetsmart hope in the lyrics "You and me, babe--how bout it," along with the magic you hear when Knopfler lets his fingers loose in front of a large audience, kept me tweaking those crucial dialogue passages between Deesh and Madalynn—and that last, long, heart-to-heart conversation between Jan and Tug—well into many otherwise quiet nights.

"The Water Is Wide" by Karla Bonoff and James Taylor
I'm a big lover of harmony, in music and among people and within nature and just about anywhere, and in this song love how James Taylor lets Karla Bonoff prove she's plenty strong without him, then often sings very quietly, but, still, you recognize him, yet primarily you just want to join the peace of their results. And of course the lyrics in this song were apropos when I was writing Watch Me Go, which is often set on water—Deesh comes to terms on his river, and the shimmering Jan faces every night as she looks out the Corcorans' lakeside summer porch windows will, in all likelihood, never leave her mind.

"You're a Friend of Mine" by Clarence Clemons (with Jackson Browne)
Call this song hokey, but there's a celebratory aspect to it I have never gotten over, and just after Watch Me Go was slated for publication, I found myself lying awake in bed, humming phrases from it spontaneously.

"Beautiful Side of Somewhere" by Jakob Dylan
I didn't adore this song or use it to write by until I heard Jakob Dylan's down-tempo, hyper-sober rendition of it for Nissan Live Sets. I got the impression that, after having performed it otherwise with The Wallflowers zillions of times, he'd matured into realizing that, hell, some messages we send to each other are better when slowed down and pondered over more than usual. Who knows how many drafts of Watch Me Go I had written by then. In any case this version of this song clicked with me, and I found it on You Tube and would rush my cursor to that curled replay arrow as soon as the last notes would play out. The seemingly simple (yet loaded!) guitar work toward the very end lets the melody pull at you more. Pure earnestness there. Risky as hell. To my ear an earnestness that went beyond sentimentality into a soulfulness that wasn't so much Dylan as it was Jakob. I tried to write passages of Watch Me Go that way. Probably this was impossible, but sometimes you wind up ahead by failing just slightly less often than you try.


Mark Wisniewski and Watch Me Go links:

the author's website
the author's Wikipedia entry

Minneapolis Star Tribune review
Publishers Weekly review

Biographile interview with the author
Huffington Post interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

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

List of Online "Best of 2014" Book Lists
Essential and Interesting 2014 Year-End Music Lists

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)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
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
Word Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)


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Book Notes - Michael Christie "If I Fall, If I Die"

If I Fall, If I Die

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, Kevin Brockmeier, George Pelecanos, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Michael Christie's If I Fall, If I Die is a poignant debut novel featuring an unforgettable eleven year old protagonist.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"Dark, threatening, dislocating and altogether brilliant."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


In his own words, here is Michael Christie's Book Notes music playlist for his debut novel If I Fall, If I Die:


If I Fall, If I Die was entirely written under the influence of music. I usually choose something fierce and overwhelming when I'm churning out new proselike Black Sabbath or Wu Tang or Beethoven. There's nothing like a good old-fashioned cacophony to open the word-gates wide. But when editing, I turn to instrumental works like William Basinski's Disintegration Loops or Stars of the Lid's and the Refinement of Their Decline, long, moody pieces that sustain my energy, With no lyrics to infect my ear and lead the work to a place it shouldn't go. This novel was half-drawn from memory and half-imagined, so much of the music I've selected here was as important a part of my own coming of age as it was to my ten year-old character, Will. I've also chosen a few songs for Will's mother Diane, an agoraphobic, housebound experimental filmmaker, who spirals into panic at the thought of touching the doorknob and uses old folk music to soothe herself. This novel is about freedom, self-discovery and art, and the beautiful, terrible linkage between love and fear. In my life, music has been the both the instigator and the balm for all the most important transformations.

"500 Miles"
Peter Paul and Mary, s/t

There are many versions of this traditional, but I know this one best. There's something deeply unsettling about how the saccharine, matching-Christmas-sweater performance that PP&M deliver interacts with the gut-level sorrow of the song. On his first day at school, Will recalls his mother playing this on her guitar, and it happens again near the climax of the book. "Lord I'm one, Lord I'm two, Lord I'm three…"there is something about how the growing distance from home is explicitly measured that communicates a great sadness and longing for a lost world. And when you hear "I can't go home this a-way…" you realize that nobody can. Ever. Not after what the world has done to us. Will learns that becoming an adolescent means finding out that home evaporates the instant you leave it.

"The Rite of Spring"
Igor Stravinski

Will claims that this piece sounds like "a heinous multi-car accident, except the cars are actually made out of orchestral instruments." And I stand by that one. It's exactly what Diane's panic sounds like. Feral. Throbbing. Menacing. At times soothing. Accidentally beautiful.

"Raining Blood"
Slayer, Hell Awaits

Jonah and Will listen to music that seems to articulate the cruelties of their situation growing up in a small, industrial town, and this song is the perfect sonic expression of that cruelty. The double bass drum thudding like a herd of demonic horses is what really gets me going. This is the kind of music that's designed to scare parents, which is, perhaps, what a child is designed to do as well. So there you go.

"Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos"
Public Enemy, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back

A brilliantly executed narrative poem about a black man breaking out of prison with a rocket launcher after being jailed for refusing to join the military? Yes please! Also, Chuck D's majesterial line: "They wanted me for the army or whatever" is the greatest use of a qualifier in lyrical history. Also, the prison break has a special resonance for our heroes, Diane and Will.

"Brave Captain"
Firehose, Ragin' Full On

All you skateboard nerds out there will be familiar with this one, otherwise you'll just have to trust me. This obscure gem soundtracked one of the most influential skateboard parts of all time: Natas Kaupas' mind-melting section in Streets on Fire (yup, the one where Natas ollies up onto a fire hydrant and spins around impossibly like a top before somehow freeing himself of the spin and actually rolling away?) But it's a tremendous song regardless.

"Electric Pow Wow"
A Tribe Called Red, s/t

There is an Indigenous creative renaissance already underway in North America, and these guys are planted right on the forefront of the forefront of it. Don't be surprised when Kanyelike a headdress-sporting Coachella attendees tapping into the infectious authenticity of this sound. But don't settle for imitators. Get it from the source. This one goes out to Will's best friend in the book, Jonah.

"Agoraphobia"
Deerhunter, Microcastle

May be a little of a no-brainer, but it's a great song. And the "cover me / comfort me" ambiguity of the lyrics really get at the puzzling duality of this terrible illness. The way that anxiety and fear can be weirdly comforting, and how we must stash our true selves away if we ever hope to grow.

"Dead Flag Blues"
Godspeed You Black Emperor, f#a#infinity

When I first heard the first tape-hiss drone of these classically trained anarcho-punks from Montreal, my mind melted. This kind of thing makes me want to wear my Canadian passport on my lapel. (Included prominently on this list: John Candy, Arcade Fire, Salt & Vinegar Chips, Alice Munro). "It went like this: the buildings toppled in on themselves / mothers clutching babies, picked through the rubble" is a lyric that predates our current fictional obsession with post-apocalyptic narratives by about 10 years or so. Here's the sound of a world ending. The only good news, is it's gorgeous.


Michael Christie and If I Fall, If I Die links:

the author's website
the author's Wikipedia entry

Georgia Straight review
Kirkus review
Publisher's Weekly review

CBC News interview with the author
Everyday eBook essay by the author
Sunday Drive Digest interview with the author
The Ubyssey profile of the author
Vancouver Sun profile of the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

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

List of Online "Best of 2014" Book Lists
Essential and Interesting 2014 Year-End Music Lists

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)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
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
Word Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)


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Shorties (A Literary Guide to Sundance, Pitchfork's Radio Station, and more)

Word and Film shared a literary guide to this year's Sundance Film Festival.


Pitchfork has launched an online radio station.


38 online "best books of 2014" lists were added to the master aggregation at Largehearted Boy last week.


The Largehearted Boy list of essential and interesting "best of 2014" music lists.


CBC Books previewed 2015 poetry collections.


The Quietus interviewed Polish musician Natalia Zamilska.


Publishers Weekly interviewed author Tiphanie Yanique.


Stereogum ranked Ramones albums from worst to best.


Biographile interviewed author Mark Wisniewski.


SPIN profiled the band Purity Ring.


The Los Angeles Review of Books interviewed author Sarah Gerard.


Jhumpa Lahiri was awarded the DSC prize for south Asian literature for her novel The Lowland.


Bob Dylan talked to AARP Magazine about his forthcoming standards album.


The Rumpus interviewed book designer and author Peter Mendelsund.


Drowned in Sound interviewed members of the band Viet Cong.


Jamie Quatro interviewed fellow author Megan Mayhew Bergman at the Oxford American.


Rookie interviewed singer-songwriter Emmy the Great, and streamed her new EP S.


Authors offer writing tips at Biographile's Write Start series.


The Guardian listed 10 of the best Smiths songs.


Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, Google+, and Stumbleupon for links (updated throughout the day) that don't make the daily "Shorties" posts.


also at Largehearted Boy:

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

Essential and Interesting 2014 Year-End Music Lists
List of Online "Best of 2014" Book Lists

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Atomic Books Comics Preview (the week's best new comics and graphic novels)
Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
daily mp3 downloads
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)


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Daily Downloads (Toby Lightman, Wussy, and more)

Every day, Daily Downloads offers 10 free and legal mp3 downloads.


Today's free and legal mp3 downloads:

Cobra and Vulture: Grasslands album [mp3]

Hidden in the Sun: "San Francisco Blues" [mp3] from Seven Seasons
Hidden in the Sun: "Salt and the Spring" [mp3] from Seven Seasons

Mmoner: Misty Skin EP [mp3]

Raindeer: You Look Smashing EP [mp3]

Sing, Bird of Prey: Sacred Bones EP [mp3]

Toby Lightman: Time Traveler EP [mp3]

The Vicious Kisses: Infatuation EP [mp3]
The Vicious Kisses: First Kisses album [mp3]


Free and legal live performances at other websites:

Wussy: 2015-01-17, Brooklyn [mp3]


search for more free and legal music downloads at Largehearted Boy


also at Largehearted Boy:

other daily free and legal mp3 downloads

Essential and Interesting 2014 Year-End Music Lists

covers collections
100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads

Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, books, and pop culture news and links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtrack)
weekly new album lists


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January 22, 2015

Book Notes - Robert Repino "Mort(e)"

Mort(e)

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, Kevin Brockmeier, George Pelecanos, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Robert Repino's debut novel Mort(e) is an impressive work of speculative fiction, daring and enormously entertaining.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"With sly references to Orwell’s Animal Farm, debut novelist Repino puts a nicely modern post-apocalyptic overlay on the fable of animals taking over the world . . . an engrossing morality tale with unexpected depths."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


In his own words, here is Robert Repino's Book Notes music playlist for his debut novel Mort(e):


My science fiction novel tells the story of a war between humans and animals. The instigator of the war is the queen of a colony of intelligent ants, who is determined to wipe out the humans and remake the world in her image. The centerpiece of her plan is a specially designed hormone that transforms the surface animals into intelligent, bipedal killing machines who turn on their masters. In the midst of this insanity, a housecat named Sebastian adopts the name Mort(e) and joins the war effort. But foremost on his mind is the fate of a friend from before the conflict began, a dog named Sheba whom he assumes has been killed. Years after the war is won, Mort(e) receives a mysterious message from the dwindling human resistance claiming that Sheba is alive. Thus he begins a search that will lead him to the heart of the ant colony, where he will discover the true purpose of the war and the fate of all of the earth's creatures.

What follows are the songs I would consider the soundtrack for the book. Some inspired me while I wrote. Some articulate the themes better than my prose could. And some just fit with a particular scene or character.


Edwyn Collins: "A Girl Like You"
While still a pet confined to his master's house, Sebastian first spots Sheba through a window, a moment every bit as jarring as the drastic transformation that awaits him later in the story. To him, Sheba is "mysterious and exotic…a creature from another world." Later, they draw closer, though still separated by the glass. Sheba tries to lick him, but they have to settle for simply staring at one another for now. Any time I read or watch some kind of unorthodox love story, I think of the one-hit wonder by Collins. I can imagine the song playing while Sebastian stupidly gapes at the incomprehensible site of this creature before him. And that line that everyone remembers—"You made me acknowledge the devil in me"—hints at the way Sebastian will become so single-minded in his pursuit of Sheba that he will abandon all other loyalties, and even, at one point, any sense of morality.

Beres Hammond: "They Gonna Talk"
When Sebastian and Sheba finally have the opportunity to meet without interference, they begin a strange affair in which the two animals cuddle in the cold basement while their masters are off doing their human things. For Sebastian, who never had a friend until now, finding Sheba is part of his realization that he is more of a prisoner of this house than a member of the master's family. I've imagined myself dancing to Hammond's song if I ever married a woman whom my family did not approve, so I thought it was appropriate here for this interspecies relationship. I love the smiling way Hammond asks, "Why not let it be/and stop worrying about it?"

Sam Cooke: "A Change Is Gonna Come"
The animals refer to their transformation simply as the "Change," so I admit that this selection is a bit on the nose. In earlier drafts of the book, I imagined the animals co-opting some of the twentieth century songs of freedom and struggle, reinterpreting the lyrics to suit their present condition. A common sentiment expressed in Mort(e) is that the animals now have the opportunity to finally avenge the countless generations that came before them, who would never be able to speak for themselves. Thus, I think it's perfect when Cooke drags out that line, "It's been a long, a long time coming." I think that line, even more than the title, serves as a reminder and a warning to those who have stood in the way.

Everything But the Girl: "Missing"
This is the second of three songs from around 1995—the year I turned 17, not surprisingly. "Missing" conveys a lot of self-inflicted angst, a message that resonated with me even after the millionth time I heard it on the radio that year.

Back to the novel: after Sheba is lost in the chaos of the war, Sebastian (now Mort(e)) is haunted by what he could have done to save her. And like the "Missing" song in 1995, the memory is rattling around in his head every day.

Stevie Wonder: "Superstition"
Although this track falls under the category of songs that I listened to while writing, the lyrics make it a soundtrack for the character of Culdesac, the bobcat who has sworn his life to the Queen's cause. Shortly after recruiting Sebastian to join the elite Red Sphinx, Culdesac gives him a speech about what he considers to be the ultimate the folly of humans: their tendency to believe that they are the center of the universe, that they have dominion over other species, that a creator made them him in his image. As Stevie sings, "When you believe in things that you don't understand/Then you suffer/Superstition ain't the way." Regardless of the lyrics, the beat makes this a song that would play while Culdesac swaggers into a room or drives a Humvee with his elbow propped on the open window.

Tupac: "Untouchable"
Mort(e) channels his anger into becoming a better soldier in the struggle against humanity, and the energy of Tupac's "Untouchable" fits with the montage sequence in chapter four, in which Mort(e), among other things, charges into a pitched battle, hunts humans in the forest, and tosses a sniper from a rooftop. "Each murder was revenge for his loss," the narrator of the novel states. "Every human who pleaded for mercy, every man or woman who whispered a prayer to the old man in the sky, had to pay for Sheba." For the purposes of this playlist, Tupac's line "Ya'll remember me" is probably the most relevant, given that the animals consider it an honor to find and kill humans whom they knew before the war.

Claude DeBussy: "Clair de lune"
One of my favorites scenes in the book involves members of the Red Sphinx gathering secretly to drink a "greenish-brown" liquor made from the "active ingredient in catnip." They reminisce, share regrets, exchange jokes, reveal gossip. In the background, "light piano music" plays, making a "tinkling sound" that "was pleasing to the feline ear." I always thought of the music in that scene as DeBussy's classic work. Later, when I read the poem that inspired the movement, which explores sadness and beauty and hope, I became more convinced that this song had to be the one playing on the Red Sphinx's stereo.

Peter Gabriel: "Digging in the Dirt"
It has taken a few years, but I have now fashioned my Peter Gabriel Pandora station into a work of art, and it's always a thrill when this song comes up. I mean, he screams "Shut your mouth/I know what you are!" at one point! I included this song because it explores the way that the past can have a stranglehold on the present, a theme that comes up with all of the characters in my book. Several of the chapters are simply titled "The Story of Culdescac," "The Story of Sebastian and Sheba," etc. In doing so, I intended to show how the trauma of the Change made these characters who they are, even when they tell themselves that they remain the masters of their fate.

Hozier: "Take Me to Church"
This is a new song, so I can't say that it inspired the writing process. However, it took only one listen to declare it the unofficial anthem of Mort(e). Late in the book, our hero discovers that he is the prophesied messiah who will destroy the Queen—at least, that's what the humans' sacred scriptures claim. As a rational being trained to reject human superstition, Mort(e) dismisses the prophecy for the primitive nonsense it is. Hozier's song reflects Mort(e)'s sheer disgust at the idea of being a chosen one: "Take me to church/I'll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies/ I'll tell you my sins and you can sharpen your knife/Offer me that deathless death/Good God, let me give you my life." For Hozier, like Mort(e), only the people we love are worthy of worship, not the silent gods who speak through high priests and magic books.

mewithoutYou: "Torches Together"
Mort(e) takes place in the ruins of Philadelphia, so I needed to get one of my favorite local bands on this playlist. "Torches" makes me think of the battle sequence near the end of the book, not just because of its fast pace (and screaming), but because of the vulnerability and self-doubt it conveys: "Strum the guitar if you're afraid/And I'm afraid and everyone's afraid and everyone knows it/But we don't have to be afraid anymore." The warriors are not superheroes. Instead, they have been forced into this conflict, and have to tell themselves that they are brave enough to see it through.

Sinead O'Connor: "Thank You for Hearing Me"
I don't want to give away too much about why this song works for the end of the novel. I'll just say that in the closing pages, the characters sit on a beach and contemplate what they've been through, and what they owe each other. The simplicity of O'Connor's song captures the moment, showing equal gratitude for the good times and the bad.

Belle and Sebastian: "My Wandering Days Are Over"
The third mid-nineties song on the list. And I'm not entirely sure what it's about. I just think of it as the song that would play during the closing credits. I interpret the lyrics to mean that the wandering days are actually just beginning—that the real wandering starts when the familiar world of one's youth is unmercifully stripped away, and we are left with only our wits and our determination to keep moving forward in the dark. Maybe I'm reading too much into it.


Robert Repino and Mort(e) links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

Boston Globe review
Kirkus review
LitReactor review

Fiction Advocate interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

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

List of Online "Best of 2014" Book Lists
Essential and Interesting 2014 Year-End Music Lists

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)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
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
Word Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)


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