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March 20, 2017

Book Notes - Phillip Lewis "The Barrowfields"

The Barrowfields

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.

Phillip Lewis's novel The Barrowfields is an outstanding and richly told debut novel.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"In his evocative debut about disenchantment and identity, Lewis captures the longing of a southerner separated from his home, his family, and his ambition… Like fellow North Carolinian Thomas Wolfe, Lewis tackles the conflicting choice between accepting one’s roots and rejecting the past, and he does so with grace, wit, and an observant eye."


In his own words, here is Phillip Lewis's Book Notes music playlist for his debut novel The Barrowfields:



The Barrowfields is set in a small mountain town in northwestern North Carolina called Old Buckram. A young man named Henry Aster is the book's narrator. Much of the story is set in a hillside mansion described as a "monstrous gothic skeleton" made of iron and glass where the Aster family lives, and where untold mysteries reside. Henry refers to it as "the vulture house," and deep inside this labyrinthine structure is an enormous library of ten thousand books, along with a magnificent square grand piano at which Henry's father sits once he's finished his writing for the night and plays nocturnes that resonate with the dark soul of the house. This is in maximal contrast to what's happening in town, where locals play old-time gospel and bluegrass with acoustic guitars, fiddles, banjoes, and mandolins. Like his father, Henry learns to play the piano, and much of the music they play consists of beautiful yet brooding melodies that barely disturb the dark.

Doc Watson, "Omie Wise"
Doc Watson grew up in an area called Deep Gap, which is up in the mountains of North Carolina about 13 miles due east of Boone, and about 14 miles south of West Jefferson, which is my hometown. Born in 1923, Doc became blind from an eye infection early in his life. He picked up the guitar when he was a boy and never put it back down. Doc was the godfather of old-time bluegrass, gospel, and blues. He was respected and revered as perhaps the preeminent musician of mountain music. My favorite Doc Watson songs are the old ballads that tell some gothic tale of woe or murder. "Omie Wise" is one example, and "Banks of the Ohio" and "Tom Dooley" are two more. The story told by Doc in "Omie Wise" is, from most accounts, based on a true story, according to which a fellow named John Lewis (probably not related to me, but short of a DNA test, I wouldn't swear to it either way) who murdered a young girl named Naomi Wise in Randolph County, North Carolina in 1807. According to the story, she became pregnant and he drowned her in a river. Existing court documents from the time corroborate some of the details of the story. If I were to take you to Old Buckram (or to West Jefferson), we'd listen to Doc Watson on our way into town.

Frederic Chopin, Mazurka in A-minor, Op. 17, No. 4
This is a nocturne-like piece that Henry's father plays at the square grand piano in the great room of the vulture house. It begins with three simple notes within an A-minor chord, and then a sorrowful melody begins in the right hand, while in the left there is a descending chord structure that's almost hidden beneath the melody. The middle of the piece features a dance-like segment that is common for traditional mazurkas (a Polish folk dance), but which is out of character for the rest of the otherwise dolorous piece if played brightly in the usual mazurka style. I've found, however, that if you play it a bit more slowly with an aspect of melancholy, it gives the entire piece a sad, nostalgic quality. Thus, in the book I have Henry's father play the piece with "more sadness than the music required."

Led Zeppelin, "Tea for One"
"Tea for One" has to be the darkest song in the Led Zeppelin catalog. Written in 1976 for the band's Presence album, it's a grinding, searing, minor blues piece that laments the slow passage of time and not living up to one's self-perception. Robert Plant was injured in a car accident prior to recording, and accounts say that he did the vocal tracks for the album from a wheelchair. This song is a perfect accompaniment to the bleakness Henry finds in Old Buckram, where, at five thousand feet of elevation, the landscape is perpetually rain-sodden and hidden in the mist. One Saturday in late autumn, to escape his loneliness, he drives out to the Blue Ridge Parkway where he is alone in the world, and while on the road he drinks from his father's flask and listens to the whole Presence album at dangerous auditory levels, which is how this album may best be enjoyed.

Led Zeppelin, "Bron-yr-aur"
This is an acoustic instrumental in an open C tuning written and performed by Jimmy Page. When I was first learning the guitar and before I had discovered alternate tunings, this song became my nemesis as I tried to play it in a standard tuning, a feat which I now know is probably impossible unless your name is Leo Kottke or Satan. One night I became so frustrated that I contacted an overseas operator in Scotland in an attempt to get Jimmy Page on the telephone so I could ask him how to play it, but obviously the person with whom I spoke correctly identified me as a lunatic and disconnected the line. Later I came across the sheet music for the piece and finally learned of the open tuning. "Bron-yr-aur," named after a Welsh country cottage where Zep wrote some of their music, has a doleful, patient quality to it that reminds me of summer in the mountains of North Carolina. "Tangerine" and "Ten Years Gone" are two more favorites.

Frederic Chopin, "Fantasie-Impromptu" in C-sharp minor, Op. 66
The so-called Fantasie-Impromptu is an extraordinary piece that Chopin withheld from publication during his lifetime, possibly because he believed it too similar to Moscheles's "Impromptu in E-flat," Op. 89. The beginning and the end of the piece are tumultuous and dramatic, while the middle section slows to a sweet, simple melody with variations over arpeggiated chords. At the end of the piece, Chopin reintroduces the simple melody a single time in the left hand as the music fades to silence. Henry often plays this song in his house at law school while he imagines that his love, Story, might appear at the door and hear him pouring his heart out for her. Finally, he gets his wish and gets to play it for her with all the passion that he's imagined. The Vladimir Horowitz version of this song from his last recording session is the preferred recording.

Robert Schumann, "Kind im Einschlummern" (Child Falling Asleep), Kinderszenen, Op. 15, No. 12
I have always loved Schumann's Scenes from Childhood (1838), which comprises 13 short, connected pieces for solo piano with titles like "Blind Man's Bluff," "Knight of the Hobbyhorse," and "Traumerei" (dreaming or reverie), the latter piece being perhaps the most well-known in this collection. While in law school in Chapel Hill, Henry would sneak into a church after dark and play its grand piano while drowning himself in red wine. Kind im Einschlummern, a haunting piece reminiscent of a handbell choir, was a piece Henry would play in the church before finally being ejected one night by the caretaker.

Frederic Chopin, Nocturne, Op. 37, No. 1
I grew up with a piano in our family home, but it was, I came to discover, tuned a half-step down from standard pitch due to what the county's one piano tuner described as deficiencies with the sound board. Imagine playing the sheet music to "Moonlight Sonata" a half-step down along with a recording of the same piece (the sonorities are milk-curdling). Eventually I got my own piano, an 1888 W. W. Kimball ornamental upright that weighed in at about 850 pounds. Once, when I lived in a second story apartment, I had to move it in with a forklift. This piano followed me from place to place for a few years, including to law school, where it sat on the inside wall of the tiny house where I lived at the time. While at law school, I learned this particular nocturne because I fell in love with the slow and stately funeral march hidden inside the otherwise traditional nocturne form. It begins around the 2:35 mark in the 1965 Arthur Rubinstein recording.

Frederic Chopin, Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor (Mvmt III; lento) (the Marche Funèbre)
This piece is an honest-to-god funeral march. It's almost the reverse of the prior piece (Op. 37, No. 1), in that Op. 37 begins and ends with forlorn arpeggios that are more commonly found in Chopin's nocturnes while featuring a funeral march in the middle, whereas this piece begins and ends with a plodding dirge, but hides an exquisite nocturne-type section in the middle. In The Barrowfields, Henry learns this piece as a young man. Following the death of a family member, he absently but instinctively begins to play it one night in the vulture house, but brings himself up short when he hears the notes of its first dark chord.

Amadeus Mozart, Piano Concerto No. 27 (K. 595) (Mvmt II; larghetto)
Henry plays this beautiful piece as Story, his girlfriend, explores the Great Room of the vulture house. As the delicate music plays, she "tour[s] the room as if it were a museum, moving with balletic delicacy from antiquity to antiquity." I first heard this piece after learning about it from William Styron, who mentions it in Sophie's Choice. Including it here in The Barrowfields was a kind nod to the late Mr. Styron.

Ludwig Beethoven, Piano Sonata No. 29, Op. 106 (the Hammerklavier) (Mvmt III; adagio sostenuto)
As a young man (age 8 or 9), Henry begins to learn the piano in the fashion of his father, sitting alone in the Great Room at the center of the vulture house, playing mournful pieces by candlelight as his father sits at his writing desk in the corner of the library above. One piece Henry tries to learn after hearing it is the slow movement of the Hammerklavier, described by Wilhelm von Lenz as "a mausoleum of the collective sorrow of the world." This 18-minute piece set in F-sharp minor is remarkable for its length and its meandering nature.

Ludwig Beethoven, String Quartet in A-minor, No. 15, Op. 132 (Mvmt III; molto adagio)
If there is a more sublime piece of music in the catalog of classic music, I'm not aware of it. Henry and his father listen to this together at his father's desk while sharing a glass of wine (Henry is only 16) and Henry's father expresses a wish, now abandoned, that his own writing could have achieved the "perfect sorrow" of the A-minor quartet.

Frederic Chopin, Nocturne, Op. 62, No. 1
This is another beautiful Chopin piece. I often listened to this one (again, the Horowitz recording from 1989) to set my frame of mind for writing about the vulture house and the narrator and his father playing the piano into the night as others slept. It's one of Chopin's last compositions.

Dan Bern, "Estelle"
Dan Bern is a singer and songwriter from the west coast. His songs, often wry, frequently have literary allusions and content. His song "Marilyn," for example, discusses why Marilyn Monroe should have married Henry Miller instead of Arthur Miller, and he makes a compelling case for it (he'd have "tied her to the bed and eaten dinner off of her," is just one of the lines). "Estelle," in the same vein, is a sprawling, rollicking, almost-stream-of-consciousness love song that begins with the persona depicted in the song (hopefully, Dan) painting a still life of a throat lozenge sitting on a copy of Tropic of Cancer (Dan is also a painter), and later, after mesne topics, Dan is hanging out at a coffee shop "and this girl walks in and the universe kinda stops." He tries to paint her portrait but just can't get it right. Henry and Story listen to this song and sing it a few times after an adventure in the mountains under starry skies, as they drive down out of the mountains back to civilization.


Phillip Lewis and The Barrowfields links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

BookPage review
Kirkus Reviews review
Publishers Weekly review

Signature essay by 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






March 18, 2017

Atomic Books Comics Preview - March 18, 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.


American Gods Shadows #1

American Gods Shadows #1
by Neil Gaiman / P. Craig Russell

In advance of the much anticipated TV show based on the same source material, P. Craig Russell adapts Gaiman's hit novel American Gods into comic book format. Shadow Moon gets out of jail to find the life he thought he had waiting for has been obliterated and a questionable employment opportunity from the mysterious Mr. Wednesday.


Eartha

Eartha
by Cathy Malkasian

The wonderfully lush art of Malkasian tells the story of a woman leaving her island in search of dreams. Dreams used to come from the city and populate her land, but they're no longer showing up and she aims to find out why.


Gauguin: The Other World (Art Masters Series Volume 5)

Gauguin: The Other World (Art Masters Series Volume 5)
by Fabrizio Dori

The newest installment in Selfmade Hero's Art Masters Series focuses on Paul Gauguin. He discovers paradise and artistic vision in Tahiti, but back home in Copenhagen he has a wife who would rather not have to deal with him, tasked with selling his expensive work in a city that really has little appreciation of it and little fondness for him.


Haunted Love Volume 1

Haunted Love Volume 1
by various

Bringing together the vintage horror comics of Haunted Horror and the strange romance comics of Weird Love - the result is this collected volume of Haunted Love. Includes homages to H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe.


Madballs

Madballs
by Brad McGinty / Brian Smith

This oversized, hardcover, full color book collects the often grosso comics focusing on the disgusting toys that annoyed parents everywhere - Madballs. It's a fun, modern update on a nostalgic classic.


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:

Atomic Books website
Atomic Books on Twitter
Atomic Books on Facebook
Benn Ray's blog (The Mobtown Shank)
Benn Ray's comic, Mutant Funnies


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)


March 17, 2017

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

Spoon

Spoon's new album Hot Thoughts is definite;y worth your time.

Vinyl reissues of five Peter Gabriel albums are in stores this week (1, 2, 3, So, US).


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


This week's interesting music releases:

Adult.: Detroit House Guests
ANOHNI: Paradise EP [vinyl]
Califone: Quicksand / Cradlesnakes (reissue) [vinyl]
Chilly Gonzales & JarvisCocker: Room 29
CJ Ramone: American Beauty
Conor Oberst: Salutations
Counting Crows: Recovering the Satellites (reissue) [vinyl]
The Cousins: Rattlesnake Love
The Cranberries: No Need To Argue (reissue) [vinyl]
Dead Can Dance: Aion (reissue) [vinyl]
Dead Can Dance: The Serpent's Egg (reissue) [vinyl]
Depeche Mode: Spirit
Devin the Dude: Acoustic Levitation
Devotchka: Supermelodrama (reissue)
Devotchka: Una Volta (reissue)
Dr. Dog: Abandoned Mansion [vinyl]
Joe Strummer: Live at Acton Town Hall
Julien Baker: Funeral Pyre / Distant Solar System [vinyl]
Obituary: Obituary
Paul Shaffer And The World's Most Dangerous Band: Paul Shaffer And The World's Most Dangerous Band
Peter Gabriel: 1 (remastered) [vinyl]
Peter Gabriel: 2 (remastered) [vinyl]
Peter Gabriel: 3 (remastered) [vinyl]
Peter Gabriel: So (remastered) [vinyl]
Peter Gabriel: US (remastered) [vinyl]
Pinback: Some Offcell Voices
Pitbull: Climate Change
Pulled Apart by Horses: The Haze
Real Estate: In Mind
Rick Ross: Rather You Than Me
Sorority Noise: You’re Not As _____ As You Think
Spoon: Hot Thoughts
Tedeschi Trucks Band: Live From The Fox Oakland
The Zombies: Odessey And Oracle: 50th Anniversary Edition


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)


Book Notes - Harold Abramowitz "Blind Spot"

Blind Spot

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.

Harold Abramowitz's novel Blind Spot is innovatively told and rewarding.

Berfrois wrote of the book:

"Abramowitz's novelistic vagueness probes how complexities can be drawn from chaos, ones that do not clarify the truth but ramify its possibilities."


In his own words, here is Harold Abramowitz's Book Notes music playlist for his novel Blind Spot:



With Blind Spot, I attempted to construct a narrative that was missing or that evaporated various narrative elements, especially time and character, with the hope that these elements would appear anyway, albeit via alternative routes.

I love music. I listen to music almost all of the time, though not very often while I’m actually writing. Blind Spot, like almost everything I write, is very musical. Compositional. So, as a writer, and even more so while I’m editing, I try to listen for the music of the text, the way it needs to be put together, like a composer or arranger might put together a musical score.

Therefore, a lot of what’s listed here is music I listened to around the writing of Blind Spot, or other music that I am listening to or have listened to around other writing that I am doing or have been doing. Inspirational music, or musical texts that then enter into conversation with my own texts.

Talulah Gosh by Talulah Gosh:

“Just A Dream” by Talulah Gosh

I listened to the great Talulah Gosh anthology album Backwash incessantly around the time I was writing and editing Blind Spot. Listening to these songs now immediately suspends time in the way I think the book sometimes does.

Intertube Tomorrow by The Frumpies

“Whatshisname Hearts The Frumpies” by The Frumpies

I also listened to the great Frumpies anthology, Frumpie One-piece, to the same time-suspending effect.

Salt Fare, North Sea by Chumbawamba:

I also listened to the Chumbawamba’s Readymades album, which is a beautiful album, to the same time-suspending effect. I actually feel myself turning dusty—stardusty?—when I listen to this music now, like if I don’t stop listening soon enough, I’ll turn to dust and float out the nearest open window.

Bird by The Knife:

“A Lung” by The Knife

My dear friend, the wonderful writer Amanda Ackerman, made me an amazing mix CD that was also in constant rotation around the time I was writing Blind Spot. There was a Knife song on the mix CD, not one of these but because of that one these became really important.

She's Amazing by Team Dresch:

“Hate the Christian Right!” by Team Dresch

“She’s Amazing” was also on Amanda’s mix CD, and is an important Blind Spot production song.

“Don’t Let Go (Love)” by En Vogue:

When books finally, miraculously, I think, come out in the world, they require a lot of energy. A different sort of energy is required to do readings, to talk about the book, etc. This work requires different musical accompaniment. This song has been helping me energetically since the book came out.

“Be My Lover” by La Bouche and “One Night in Heaven” by M People:

Both of these songs are also super helpful energy songs.

“Just an Echo in the Valley” by Rudy Vallée & His Connecticut Yankees; “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” by Victor Young and His Orchestra; and “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” by Dinah Washington:

The refrain “popular song” is one that recurs throughout the three sections of Blind Spot, titled “Hotel,” “Funeral,” and “Night,” respectively. During the course of the book, “Popular songs” are playing on radios, can be heard through open windows, and are often things that need to be remembered for important, though mysterious, reasons. These are what a “popular song” from the “Hotel” section of Blind Spot might sound like.

“It Might As Well Be Spring” by Stan Getz, João Gilberto, and Astrud Gilberto; “Till the End of Time” by Timi Yuro; and “I’ll Buy That Dream” by Dick Haymes and Helen Forrest:

These are what “popular songs” from the “Funeral” section of Blind Spot might sound like.

“Let’s Get Together” by Hayley Mills; and “Theme from Exodus” by Ferrante and Teicher:

These are what “popular songs” from the Night section of Blind Spot might sound like.

“Les Quatre Cents Coups (The 400 Blows)” by Jean Constantin; “Antoine and Colette” by Georges Delerue; and “Stolen Kisses” by Antoine Duhamel:

One thing I tried to do while writing Blind Spot was translate the text into an imaginary French, since I can’t actually speak French, as if the text were actually the voiceover to a French New Wave film.

“Upside Down (Unreleased Chic Mix)” by Diana Ross; “Goody Goody” by Lisette Melendez; and “Loba” by Shakira:

Constant inspiration.


Harold Abramowitz and Blind Spot links:

excerpt from the book

Berfrois review
The Bookends Review review

CCM 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 (Ann Goldstein on Translating Ferrante, Kyle MacLachlan's Twin Peaks Playlist, and more)

Hazlitt interviewed Ann Goldstein about translating the work of Elena Ferrante.


Kyle MacLachlan shared a music playlist for the Twin Peaks revival.


The winners of this year's National Book Critics Circle Awards have been announced.


Pitchfork interviewed Father John Misty's J Tillman.


Granta interviewed Sana Krasikov about her new novel The Patriots.


Baeble listed the best Spoon songs.


The Rumpus interviewed author Bonnie Jo Campbell.


Aquarium Drunkard shared a 2003 Jason Molina in-studio performance.


Literary Hub recommended Irish writers you probably haven't read.


Stream a new song by Alison Moyet.


Signature recommended books about the Israel-Palestine conflict.


NYCTaper shared a recent performance by A Place To Bury Strangers.


The Creative Independent interviewed author Hilton Als.


Stream a new Nothing song.


amNewYork interviewed Jami Attenberg about her new novel All Grown Up.


Stream a new Feist song.


The Irish Times recommended books to read to understand Ireland.


Time Out New York interviewed the Hold Steady's Craig Finn.


Fresh Air interviewed Elif Batuman about her debut novel The Idiot.


Stream a new Weezer song.


BuzzFeed previewed spring's must-read books.


Angel Olsen covered the classic song "Who's Sorry Now."


PEN interviewed author Lidia Yuknavitch.


eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
Ball Four by Jim Bouton
Claudius the God by Robert Graves
Hocus Pocus by Kurt Vonnegut
I, Claudius by Robert Graves
L.A. Son by Roy Choi
The Man Who Fell to Earth by Walter Tevis
Maurice by E.M. Forster
A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
Shoeless Joe by W. P. Kinsella

eBooks on sale for $2.99 today:

The Breaks of the Game by David Halberstam
Bruce by Peter Ames Carlin
Sacred Hoops by Phil Jackson
White Line Fever by Lemmy
Woke Up Lonely by Fiona Maazel



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


March 16, 2017

Book Notes - Felicia C. Sullivan "Follow Me into the Dark"

Follow Me into the Dark

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.

Felicia C. Sullivan's Follow Me into the Dark is a dark, dense, and rewarding debut novel.

Kirkus Reviews wrote of the book:

"A searing portrayal of a woman's complicated grief. . . . An original, spellbinding, and horrifying read."


In her own words, here is Felicia C. Sullivan's Book Notes music playlist for her debut novel Follow Me into the Dark:



On the surface of things, Follow Me into the Dark could be a novel about a serial killer. It could be a story about the effects of unchecked intergenerational abuse and mental illness—hint: it's not good. It could also be a book about women who were never meant to be mothers in a society where a woman's worth is measured by her ability to breed. And while we're at it, one could say my novel is about usurping traditional gender roles and how a psychopathic woman uses society's ingrained sexism as a disguise and source of power. It could be all of these things or none of these things, but for me Follow Me into the Dark is about loss and grief. Pretty much everything I write is a vulture that circles these two themes and picks at the carcass so that wounds never heal and my characters spend their life changing the dressing of their hurt. In this incarnation, my main character, Kate, comes undone—in every sense of the word—once her mother, Ellie, a malignant narcissist, dies from advanced lung cancer. Kate is determined to turn her grief out to the world and we witness the devastation that ensues in its wake.

The book spans thirty years and three generations. Here is the soundtrack of that world.

"Pyramid Song" by Radiohead

To be honest, I wrote the first third of my novel only listening to Thom Yorke's haunting lyrics about a man being ferried across the river of death, and the cyclical nature of time. I'd wake to "Pyramid Song" playing in my room in the form of an alarm clock, and it would remain as background music for entire days I spent writing. I read somewhere once that the sign of someone drowning is not a person flailing their arms in the air, rather it's someone who has gone quiet, whose body makes little or no movement. Both people are in peril, but they differ only in the degree of their danger. "Pyramid Song" focuses on the consequences of that surrendering, and I meditated on these polar states—a body fighting for life and one that surrenders to stillness, calmly acquiescing to the unknown—through the lens of the different characters inhabiting my book.

"Everything in Its Right Place" by Radiohead

Notice a trend? When I heard the opening track of Radiohead's Kid A, it put me to thinking about my main character, Kate. An OCD, Type A baker, Kate is a woman obsessed with cleanliness and order; she counts her sweaters, times her movements, and scrubs down the apartment of her father's mistress after she kidnaps her. Yorke wrote "Everything in Its Right Place" after a taxing OK Computer tour; he sings of depression, change, confusion, and trying to find his place in this world, which is Kate's emotional state in the opening chapters of my novel. She's coping with her mother's untimely death, a philandering stepfather who's sleeping with Kate's doppelgänger, and a boss who's trying to modernize the bakery in which Kate has worked her whole life. Change doesn't bode well for Kate, and everyone within a 10-mile radius, as the story unfolds.

"Faeries" by Lichens

Much of my book takes place at pre-dawn or at nightfall, and often near water. When I first heard this song it felt like the calmest undertow, a space that resides between recognizing one's own death is all-to imminent and the moment they loose their life. There's a scene at the beginning of FMITD where Kate's grief over losing her mother suffocates her. She gets up in the middle of the night and runs down to the beach where she spends the night staring at barnacles. I imagine if a song were playing as she fled, it would be "Faeries."

"That's the Way" Led Zeppelin

The women in my book have it rough. A young Ellie is locked up in a mental institution after trying to bathe her daughter in bleach. While Ellie's fed meds and denied utensils, her childhood friend and wild child, Cassidy, breaks her out of the bin and they flee to a small town in Nevada. I could see Ellie rolling down the window and falling asleep to "That's the Way" while Cassidy drives.

"Anenome" by The Brian Jonestown Massacre

A very early version of my novel went into detail about the two-decades long unhealthy attachment between Cassidy and Ellie. I composed scenes surrounding Cassidy's involvement with a Manson-type cult, and I played "Anenome" on repeat as I envisioned a world in the late 1960s where wayward children were desperate for familial love. It's hard to ignore the band's title as a riff off the mass suicide in Guyana, but the song is potent and harkens back to a time when kids rebelled with drugs and sex in an attempt to find themselves and something real to believe in.

"Check the Technique" by Gang Starr

I spent most of my teenage years hanging out with "city kids," taking the train from Brooklyn and Long Island to roam Manhattan with friends who lived uptown or below Avenue A. Gang Starr, Brand Nubian, The Notorious B.I.G., A Tribe Called Quest, Eric B. & Rakim, and Mobb Deep figured prominently during those years, and when I wrote New York party scenes in the 90s I imagined this is what would be blasting in crowded apartments packed with teens buzzing up dealers, smoking "loosies," and getting wasted on cheap booze.

"Like Spinning Plates" by Radiohead

Okay, I've got a thing for Radiohead. There's a scene toward the end of my novel where two adults, Kate and Jonah, curl up under her kitchen table and fall asleep holding onto one another another tightly. They look like lost children. Their loneliness and despair are palpable, their pain can fill an entire country, and this song feels like the title track of that place.

"Natural One" by Folk Implosion

"At home, she'd press the measuring tape measure in Jonah's palm and beg him to strangle her with it while they fucked, because her neck was the one area of her body that did not multiply. String me up like tinsel, she'd plead, and after a time she saw in Jonah something ferocious, as if this were the one thing he desired all along."

Wouldn't you blast a song like "Natural One" during this pre-game leading up to the main event? I sure did while writing this scene between Jonah and his only girlfriend and true love.

"He's a Deep, Deep Lake" by Film School

All that she had to say/Calling you out, wake up alone/We trusted you/To make up our minds, colden our eyes/Quicken the time/Again. I heard this song years ago, and I loved the idea of likening a man to a body of water—calm, beautiful, and deceptively dangerous. The other prominent character in my novel, Jonah, is both a mirror and a foil for Kate, and I imagined him oscillating between two states: being a barnacle and being unattached, nomadic, and free. I re-read my book last week and I lost count of how many times I likened Jonah to water, in contrast to Kate, who represents fire.

If you get anything from this post, download Film School's album, immediately. Like right now.

"God Moving Over the Face of Waters" by Moby

This song feels like an ending, a last call, curtain call, etc., and while I revised the ending of my book I kept thinking about the words "clear" and "clean." I can't explain it, even now as I type this, but read the ending of my book and listen to this song and possibly you might make sense of it better than I can.


Felicia C. Sullivan and Follow Me into the Dark links:

the author's blog

Kirkus Reviews review


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


Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week - March 16, 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.


Sticks Angelica

Sticks Angelica
by Michael DeForge

New D+Q! The latest from Michael DeForge is a collection of comics recounting the adventures of Sticks Angelica, a 49 year old former Olympian, poet, scholar, headmistress, cellist, etc., and life in the Monterey National Park. In typical Deforgeian fashion, the world in which we find ourselves is both intimately familiar and deeply bizarre; a rabbit wallows in its unrequited love for a human and a moose (named Lisa Hanawalt!) struggles with feelings of body imprisonment.


Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions

Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Several years ago, acclaimed author and MacArthur Fellow Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie received a letter from a childhood friend, asking her how to raise her newborn girl to be a feminist. The fifteen invaluable morsels of wisdom in Dear Ijeawele are Adichie’s response. Adichie goes directly to the core of sexual politics in the 21st century, at once setting the stage and ripping back the curtain on what it is to be a woman today.


South and West

South and West
by Joan Didion

Luckily for us, Joan Didion has always kept extensive notebooks where she kept her observations, ideas, overheard conversations, fragments and drafts of essays, much of which have been unpublished until now. South and West is one such draft of a travelogue she kept during a road trip in the 70’s with her Husband John Gregory Dunne. Driving through Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, the essay chronicles the landscape and the people therein brought to life by Didion’s cool, skewed, precise and inimitable eye.


The Idiot

The Idiot
by Elif Batuman

A much anticipated fiction debut by the author who gave us the excellent The Possessed: Adventures in Russian Literature and the People Who Read Them. A hefty book of fiction is quite the brave move following the success of her first book (especially brave to share a title with a Dostoyevsky novel!) but it is anticipated all the more because of this and because of the name Elif Batuman has made for herself as a public writer at large. The Idiot is part bildungsroman and part historical fiction that follows Selin - a daughter of Turkish immigrants - as she makes her way through her first years at Harvard and navigates the tenuous formation of her own identity whilst obsessively creating her life around an unrequited love. Interspersed with the central narrative are essays about the authors Selin is reading and thoughtful, metaphysical emails she extends to her great unrequited love.


Triangle

Triangle
by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen

Dynamic duo Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen have produced three books together—the previous two, Sam and Dave Dig a Hole and Extra Yarn, being multiple award-winners—the newest of which is Triangle, the story Triangle and Square, and the sneaky tricks they play on one another. Barnett’s sly humour is perfectly complimented by Klassen’s gorgeous illustrations and wry characterisations, which have become his trademark.


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)


Shorties (An Excerpt from Mohsin Hamid's New Novel, David Byrne's Joan of Arc Musical Reviewed, and more)

Electric Literature shared an excerpt from Mohsin Hamid's novel Exit West.


Time Out New York reviewed David Byrne's new Joan of Arc musical.


Stream a new Cherry Glazerr song.


P. Craig Russell talked to Inverse about adapting Nail Gaiman's novel American Gods into a comic.


Lushlife covered Grizzly Bear's "Foreground."


Laird Hunt talked to The Millions about his new novel The Evening Road.


Rolling Stone and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune profiled singer-songwriter Jason Isbell.


Book Riot recommended poets to follow on Twitter.


Craig Finn talked to The Quietus and Stereoboard about his solo album We All Want The Same Things.


SheKnows interviewed author Roxane Gay.


NPR Music is streaming Sera Cahoone's new album From Where I Started.


Bookworm interviewed Emil Ferris about her graphic novel My Favorite Thing Is Monsters.


Paste recommended songs about coping with mental illness.


The Guardian listed the top novels about rural America.


NPR Music is streaming Mount Eerie's new album A Crow Looked at Me.


The Vancouver Sun interviewed Elan Mastai about his novel All Our Wrong Todays.


Paste profiled Father John Misty's J Tillman.


Saskia Vogel discussed the process of translating Karolina Ramqvist’s novel The White City at the Paris Review.


Paste listed the best Smiths songs.


The Millions interviewed Jami Attenberg about her new novel All Grown Up.


Nikki Lane visited The Current studio for an interview and live performance.


Guernica interviewed Elif Batuman about her debut novel The Idiot.


Stream a new song by Mary Lattimore.


eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
Ball Four by Jim Bouton
Claudius the God by Robert Graves
Hocus Pocus by Kurt Vonnegut
I, Claudius by Robert Graves
L.A. Son by Roy Choi
The Man Who Fell to Earth by Walter Tevis
Maurice by E.M. Forster
A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
Shoeless Joe by W. P. Kinsella

eBooks on sale for $2.99 today:

The Breaks of the Game by David Halberstam
Bruce by Peter Ames Carlin
Sacred Hoops by Phil Jackson
White Line Fever by Lemmy
Woke Up Lonely by Fiona Maazel



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


March 15, 2017

Book Notes - Meg Howrey "The Wanderers"

The Wanderers

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.

Meg Howrey's The Wanderers is a compelling and empathetic novel about astronauts and their families.

Kirkus Reviews wrote of the book:

"Although the contours of a space drama may seem familiar to a 21st-century readership, Howrey, through the poetry of her writing and the richness of her characters, makes it all seem new. A lyrical and subtle space opera."


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



If anyone would have told me, a couple of years ago, that I'd write a book that had to do with astronauts and space exploration I would have thought that person was bananas. But if anyone said that I'd write a book that had to with people who don't seem to feel things in the same ways as everyone else does, or wants them to, and who sometimes wish they could, but largely recognize that to do so might cost them their excellence and therefore their dreams, I would have thought: yeah, that makes sense. The Wanderers is about those who go and those who are left behind. I tried to write about identity, and isolation, and distance, and honesty and the many ways we devise and manipulate reality. Also: space. I think it's a little bit funny in places. There's a dog toward the end!

Music happened before or after writing, and because I worried about the people of my book, and hoped they would be okay, and that I would be okay, and that we'd all make it through, it was always a relief to find friends.

Death Cab for Cutie - "You Are A Tourist"
In 2011 I came across a newspaper article about a space simulation experiment called Mars500. I always feel a bit nervous when I know I have to write about something, but this project seemed especially ambitious and daunting. You Are A Tourist was playing a lot on the radio at the time, and I took the lyrics very personally. Why yes, I did have a burning in my heart and it was terribly nice of Death Cab to be so encouraging about the whole thing. It's a pretty song.

Eno/Cale - "Spinning Away"
Brian Eno and John Cale collaborated on the album Wrong Way Up in 1990 and I hadn't listened to it in maybe a decade when it popped up during a Shuffle-listen on my iPod and I thought, "Oh my astronauts!" The lyrics reference Van Gogh's Starry Night and it's a good tune for large format dreamers.

Aimee Mann - "It's Not"
I love that moment in the movie Magnolia when all the characters start singing to Aimee Mann's "Wise Up." In the same vein, "It's Not" works perfectly for the seven major people of my book: the three astronauts, their family members, and Luke, the observer. If anything, it's maybe too on the nose, since the word "astronaut" is tucked into the lyrics, but I still want to see them all singing this. Side note: on days where I dislike almost everything I still really like Aimee Mann.

Aaron Copland - Billy the Kid – Ballet Suite, IV: Prairie Night
This piece is mentioned in the book: it's something the astronaut Helen Kane thinks about playing for her crew members, on the harmonica she's bringing. This is music for a ballet about a murderous outlaw, but it's still a ballet, so we have a nice section that's unabashedly romantic. I found it possible to transfer its evocations of the American prairie over to the polar desert of Mars. No fields of grasslands, a lot more rocks and dust, but still this sense of quiet grandeur, of things waiting to be known.

Franz Schubert - String Quintet in C, II: Adagio
My number one vote for music to play when humans approach another planet. You'd definitely want a cello for such an occasion, this quintet has two, and C major is a good key for combining awe with humility.

Antonín Dvorák – Symphony No. 9 in E minor, II: Largo
Neil Armstrong took a recording of this symphony to the Moon on Apollo 11 and I thought my astronauts would honor that crew by bringing it to Mars. (I wrote a nice paragraph in The Wanderers about this, and then cut it because it wasn't really that nice.) I'm fond of this second movement though, and always liked the idea of scanning Martian landscape while it was playing. So let it live here in Book Notes!

T Bone Burnett - "Humans From Earth"
It's maybe a good idea to think about what kind of aliens we want to be, when we show up on another planet.

Julius Eastman - "Gay Guerilla"
I was listening to a lot of minimalist and post-minimalist composers and I love the tense propulsion of this piece by Julius Eastman. Also that it's played by several pianos at once. I don't think the composer had space in mind at all, but it does seem to have something to do with bravery.

Dinah Washington/Max Richter – "This Bitter Earth"/ "On The Nature of Daylight"
This is on the incredible Shutter Island soundtrack, assembled by Robbie Robertson. I listened to this pairing of Dinah Washington and Max Richter around the time I got to the last part of the novel, when the astronauts are preparing to do something even harder than going, which is returning.

Neutral Milk Hotel - "In The Aeroplane Over the Sea"
You get to the end of the book and you want to stay inside all your people, physically inside them, and they were such a surprise, really, and you can't believe how much you love them and how strange it is to be anything at all and it's a very happy time, the least lonely you've ever felt.

Innocence Mission - "Somewhere a Star Shines for Everyone"
Because this would be nice.


Meg Howrey and The Wanderers links:

the author's website

Fort Worth Star-Telegram review
Kirkus Reviews review
LitReactor review
Publishers Weekly review
Washington Post review

Publishers Weekly 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 (Man Booker International Prize Longlist, The Best Books About Music and New York City, and more)

The longlist for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize has been announced.


Signature recommended books about music and New York City.


Magnetic Fields' Stephin Merrit discussed albums he enjoys at The Quietus.


Broadly interviewed Camille Paglia about her new book Free Women, Free Men.


Hazlitt features new nonfiction by Sarah Gerard.


Literary Hub recommended books about "female madness."


Stream two new songs by Sampha and Richard Russell.


The 2017 Lambda Literary Awards finalists have been announced.


Stream a new EMA song.


Jami Attenberg talked to KPBS about her new novel All Grown Up.

Attenberg also shared her experience as a bookseller at Literary Hub.


Sleigh Bells broke down their song "I Can Only Stare" at The Song Exploder podcast.


Publishers Weekly interviewed author Emma Donoghue.


The New York Times profiled Father John Misty.


Stream a new Lillie Mae song.


Authors recommended books that define modern Ireland at the Irish Times.


Jay Farrar talked to Riverfront Times about the new Son Volt album Notes of Blue.


Author Elan Mastai recommended science fiction books to live by.


PopMatters profiled Pavement's Spiral Stairs.

Stream his new song.


Electric Literature recommended novels you can read in a day.


Filmmaker Beth B is crowdfunding a Lydia Lunch documentary.


Words Without Borders interviewed author Can Xue.


Drowned in Sound reconsidered Stereolab's 1994 Mars Audiac Quintet album.


The Quarterly Conversation recommended Hungarian writers you should read.


Pitchfork profiled Phil Elverum of Mount Eerie.

The Creative Independent also interviewed Elverum.


eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
Ball Four by Jim Bouton
Claudius the God by Robert Graves
Hocus Pocus by Kurt Vonnegut
I, Claudius by Robert Graves
L.A. Son by Roy Choi
The Man Who Fell to Earth by Walter Tevis
Maurice by E.M. Forster
A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
Shoeless Joe by W. P. Kinsella

eBooks on sale for $2.99 today:

The Breaks of the Game by David Halberstam
Bruce by Peter Ames Carlin
Sacred Hoops by Phil Jackson
White Line Fever by Lemmy
Woke Up Lonely by Fiona Maazel



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


March 14, 2017

Book Notes - Can Xue "Frontier"

Frontier

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.

Can Xue's novel Frontier is an avant-garde literary masterpiece.

Kirkus reviews wrote of the book:

"Odd, atmospheric, and enchanting: a story in which, disbelief duly suspended, one savors improbabilities along with haunting images and is left wanting more."


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



A real modern artist or writer should be a cosmos, or as we Chinese say, a small Nature when she or he is creating his or her works. This cosmos is a contradiction that pushes forward through two forces that interact with each other within it. After I had listened to The Quiet by the remarkable composer Chaya Czernowin at least five times, I became quiet too. “What is it?” I asked myself time and again. But I didn’t know. At the same time, I longed to listen to it once more. And I did. After a dozen listens, more and more things were surging in the dark bottom of my heart. I was ignited by this extremely strong piece of music. In an excited and perplexed state, time and again, I tried to pay careful attention and catch some trend in the background of the piece, until a pattern gradually formed in my brain —a pattern of strength.

It’s a dynamic pattern—a dark, giant, body-like thing tries to take on the shape, it’s also obscure and heavy, and you can feel its threatening power coming steadily toward you, getting nearer and nearer even when you want to forget it. Opposite to Mother Earth is the Light, he is firm and bright, and he restricts her forever, but is never able to change her (in my view, his real will is not to change her, but is just to strengthen her and make her wilder). These two forces are at daggers drawn. And there is always a fierce fighting between them. In a kind of fierce movement of the contradiction, the Dark Earth is endlessly undergoing collapse and destruction, But neither of the two ever disappears completely. They change their modes of motion through metamorphosis. Often after a long time of gathering and strengthening, they fight against each other more fiercely again. I think the images of the cosmos evoked in The Quiet are also the images of the body and soul of the artistic self. So the music is a poetic and wild song of the body’s revenge. The body is the most poetic thing in the universe.

For me, quiet means listening, waiting and concentrating your attention on your dark body (or Mother Earth), and discerning carefully the free will of the body (or Mother Earth). Quiet also means that a body can’t speak or sing alone. It’s artists who make their bodies sing, speak. But this sort of singing is from a profound silence that has lasted for thousands of years in the history of human beings.

The experience of listening to The Quiet is just like what I had gone through when I was building up Frontier, my novel, ten years ago. It is I—Can Xue—who had appeared as the image of a border town, a small cosmos. Here, everybody in this grotesque place only does one sort of thing—struggles hard to break free; or explains freedom with his (her) body; or demonstrates a life of freedom with his (her) actions. And every one of them takes a long and tough journey. By the end each person reaches the kingdom of freedom through her (or his) own fight against self-enforcement. Like The Quiet, I think that this sort of creation can be called “ performance art.” Your body’s performance depends on an intense passion and a firm resolution. You move your body, struggling and breaking through toward a state of Beauty. Then step-by-step, gradually, the pattern will appear in your work. You’re the one who builds it up. In this kind of writing, it’s impossible to make a mistake. Because what you have built up is always the image of your artistic self, and you yourself have become the cosmos. Your state is the one of freedom. And your footprints describe your image of your artistic self. Whatever you actions, your performance is always “right.” But “thinking” before you act will always destroy what you want to build up. A successful artwork needs both your body and your brain to work simultaneously and together, you have to always give an improvisational performance, in every second.

So the most important thing for an artist or writer is to concentrate on his or her body, to force it to make unimaginable movements. For this aim you need both a very strong rational spirit in your brain and the wildest imaginative power in your body. When I ponder The Quiet and Frontier, one thing becomes more and more clear: that both of the women authors have the two types of abilities. That’s why their bodies can carry on this special kind of creation—a creation that takes the strength of a contradiction to build up their selves or their universe.


Can Xue and Frontier links:

the author's Wikipedia entry
excerpt from the book

Kirkus Reviews review
Words Without Borders review


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 - Susan Perabo "The Fall of Lisa Bellow"

Ill Will

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.

Susan Perabo's novel The Fall of Lisa Bellow is a suspenseful exploration of a family's resilience in the aftermath of a tragedy.

Kirkus Reviews wrote of the book:

"A daring narrative strategy...You will hate to leave the inside of this woman's head when you finish the book. The texture of family life as it unravels, then begins to regenerate, is conveyed with unflinching clarity and redemptive good humor."


In her own words, here is Susan Perabo's Book Notes music playlist for her debut novel The Fall of Lisa Bellow:



I listen almost exclusively to soundtracks when I write, because I don’t like hearing words when I’m writing words. Usually I have a friendly competition, a soundtrack-off, as I begin a story or novel, rotating through a number of favorites to see which ones seem to best fit the mood of the current project. Most of the time I wind up with a few winners, which then alternate over the duration of the piece of writing. But by the time I was on Chapter 3 of The Fall of Lisa Bellow, I knew without a doubt that there one only one soundtrack for this novel, and it was James Horner’s A Beautiful Mind. I have never relied more on a single musical work than I did on this one. Every time I hit play, it was like being dropped into a dark, gaping hole which led directly, and I do mean directly, into the world of my novel.

I wrote the first draft of Lisa Bellow all over England. Until that time in my writing life, I had been unable to write anywhere but at my own desk in my own home. But my role as a study abroad program director, not to mention a busy parent, necessitated that I become someone who could write in places besides my cocoon-y comfort zone. It was A Beautiful Mind that allowed me to do this. As long as I had my headphones, I could transport myself into the novel almost instantly. It got to the point where literally 30 seconds into the first track, I was all in, banging away on my laptop. It didn’t matter where I was. For the first time in my life, I wrote in coffee shops, lobbies, waiting rooms, hotels. I wrote inside and outside, on buses, trains, boats, and planes. I wrote with that music drowning out everything, surrounding me, wrapping me up in the dream of the novel. I was often so deeply immersed in the book that if one of my children or one of my students tapped me on the shoulder I would, for a moment, have absolutely no idea where I was.

It’s fitting that A Beautiful Mind is the soundtrack for this book. Although I did not consciously choose something that was a thematic fit, the similarities between my novel and the Ron Howard film are substantial. In what ways do we rely on imagination to give ourselves solace? What is the danger of that solace? When it comes to escaping into our imagined worlds, how deep is too deep? There is a single vocal track in the work, the haunting “All Love Can Be,” and it quickly came to represent the relationship between the girls, Meredith and Lisa. “I will watch you in the darkness,” and, more significantly, “I will guard you with my bright wings.” I knew that this was Meredith’s message to Lisa… and, paradoxically, Lisa’s message to Meredith. And maybe, really late in the game, it was my message to both of them. Some days when I heard it, it made me cry. Right there in the middle of London.

In writing this piece today, I turned on the soundtrack for the first time since completing the final revision of the novel, about six months ago. I listened for 30 seconds, and then I had to turn it off. I can’t quite explain why, but I felt extremely uncomfortable, like I had returned to a room where I wasn’t entirely sure I was welcome anymore. My time with those characters has passed; I am no longer part of their lives. It was a sad an unexpected moment, the realization that I do not truly belong with them, nor they with me. How deep is too deep? My characters eventually found out. Perhaps, now, they are trying to explain it to me.


Susan Perabo and The Fall of Lisa Bellow links:

excerpt from the audiobook

Brooklyn Rail review
Fort Worth Star-Telegram review
Kirkus Reviews review
Publishers Weekly review
St. Louis Post Dispatch review


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


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