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July 6, 2015

Book Notes - Quintan Ana Wikswo "The Hope of Floating Has Carried Us This Far"

The Hope of Floating Has Carried Us This Far

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, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Quintan Ana Wikswo's short story collection The Hope of Floating Has Carried Us This Far boldly combines prose and photography to create a unique, mesmerizing, and unforgettable reading experience.

The Chicago Tribune wrote of the book:

"Each of the 10 stories in the collection feels crafted into a distinctive object and thoughtfully presented, practically hung on a wall for the audience's contemplation. This makes for an unconventional reading experience that is as visual as it is verbal. . . in Wikswo's book, the text and paratext are equally deliberate and interesting, and are, as befits a cross-genre artist, difficult to separate."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


In her own words, here is Quintan Ana Wikswo's Book Notes music playlist for her novel The Hope of Floating Has Carried Us This Far:


I wrote and photographed The Hope Of Floating Has Carried Me This Far while listening obsessively to music I stumbled upon during several years of fieldwork through the Baltic and Scandinavia – Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Russia, Finland, Norway, Germany, and Iceland. On many occasions I wandered into old stone churches late in the bright nights of summer solstice while the organists and musicians were all alone, playing strange pagan-rooted music during their free time. Often I was lucky enough to walk away with one of their homemade CDs.

Most of these songs have lyrics, but are in languages I don’t speak – many of them are in ancient medieval or pagan dialects which are gorgeous in rhythm and polyphony and unexpected structural patterns that really responded with how I was navigating my own book . I found myself able to write in English with perfect independence, existing in its almost complete absence during my travels.

Years later, as I researched the various songs, I was perplexed and delighted to discover that they each seemed to have a connection to each of the stories I wrote while listening to them. Surely this means there is a liminal space between the ears and the tongue in which the underlying intention of music and word – even incomprehensible ones - lodge themselves in the brain and begin to work their enigmatic alchemy.


STORY: THE CARTOGRAPHER’S KHOROVOD
SONG: Brostsjór
ARTIST: Ólafur Arnalds
ALBUM: Dyad 1909
YEAR: 2009

The Cartographer’s Khorovod is about a passionate but tormented love affair between a cartographer and a spy working for the underground resistance during a war – they are malevolently separated by an enemy at a bar. After the war, they relocate one another and begin to exchange letters from across opposite polar regions, each on different enigmatic missions with dubious odds of survival.

I was drawn to this song, written by Ólafur Arnolds - an Icelandic composer who originally played hardcore death metal drums – after she created the score for Wayne McGregor’s ballet Dyad 1909 about Ernest Shackleton’s successful 1909 Nimrod expedition to the magnetic South Pole.

Amundsen later said about the expedition aboard the Nimrod, "Sir Ernest Shackleton's name will always be written in the annals of Antarctic exploration in letters of fire." Shackleton brought along a printing press as he planned to publish a book in the Antarctic, and throughout the winter darkness printed thirty copies of the book - Aurora Australis. The team survived by following an ice blink – an opalescence horizon light that reflects off ice fields and is used by Inuit navigators. Shackleton wrote, "We are so thin that our bones ache as we lie on the hard snow." A cache of whiskey and brandy cases - abandoned in 1909 – were recovered intact in 2010.

Arnolds’ score for piano, strings and electronics recognizes the centenary of the visionary Sergey Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, which fled to Paris in 1909 during the Russian revolution. In the song, a khorovod is a women’s incantatory, ritual story, song, and dance that unfolds in a round or spiral form that references ancient pagan rituals of courtship, attraction, and romantic negotiation. The dancers stand in a circle that represents the solar disk, and move from east to west following the sun’s path across the sky. As Vadim Prokhorov wrote, “Structurally, the melodies of khorovod songs most often consist of two dissimilar, contrasting, question-and-answer-type phrases, creating different types of binary form.”

The photographs for this story were created at two sites: the coastal forests of the Baltic region and Germany, where Nazi tank fortifications and mass graves still remain, and traces from the Russian Revolution. Parts were written in the Adirondack forest battlegrounds of the Revolutionary War, where a group of Hessian mercenaries suddenly switched sides to fight for the Revolutionaries, a choice that Diaghilev did not make, either.


STORY: AURORA AND THE STORM
SONG: A French Galleasse
ARTIST: Rachel’s
ALBUM: Selenography
YEAR : 1999

Aurora and the Storm is about two scientist who fall in love but become enigmatically separated during a storm that submerges their conference hotel - I began that story during a dark matter physics conference at an isolated former Nazi resort hotel above the arctic circle in northern Norway, where a glacier avalanche once destroyed the entire village, submerging it under hundreds of feet of fjord. The photographs were created while stranded at a remote hilltop Hudson Valley inn during Hurricane Irene—a luxurious, ruined pleasure palace that was built during the early 1900s and later burned nearly to the ground, but destroyed by the water that was used to fight the fire.

A galleass is a highly powerful, devastastingly deadly militarized sailing ship equipped with oars – just the kind of vessel for survivors who are stranded in high waters of a hurricane to take looking for a lost lover. The Rachel’s were a small but breathtaking post-rock ensemble from Kentucky who worked primarily with viola, cello, piano, and an orchestral bass drum – the musical equipment of existential hurricanes. The word “Selenography” means the study of the moon’s topography, which is what the land looked like after a major aquatic disaster erases all natural features from the earth.


STORY: THE ANGUILLADAE EATER
SONG: Yfirlit – Fundurinn
ARTISTS: Steindór Andersen & Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson
ALBUM: Stafnbúi
YEAR: 2012

I wrote and photographed The Anguilladae Eater at the Curonian Spit of Lithuania—a tiny spit of land in the Baltic Sea where Vikings used to raid the small fishing villages. The Spit is well recognized for its pantheon ancient and ferocious female deities that are still known to roam the coast. I spent hallucinatory time on the spit, feeling the very alive presence of these deities - my story invokes a half-eel, half-woman who repeatedly receives erotic visits from a Viking, who is half-lover, half-stalker – half-nemesis, half-beloved, who brings her to orgasm only to steal her egg and carry it away with him.

Over the centuries, these mystical, cryptic seaside towns have been invaded and/or occupied by Vikings, Russians, Catholics, and Nazis—I remain curious about how centuries of women responded to each attempt to explore, plunder, subdue, and control this disconcertingly female-ensorcelled slice of earth. I became very intrigued by the line between erotic exploitation and erotic satisfaction: what pleasures and pains emerge within the complex power negotiations between woman and man, human and animal, hunting and harvest, giving and taking.

Experimental composer Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson is a chief priest of Ásatrúarfélagið, a nondogmatic pantheistic Norse pagan religion, and says, “I believe in a higher power which appears to us in the multiplicity of nature and of human life. We have manifestations of certain primal forces which we regard as gods…these are powers that are visible, half-visible and sometimes invisible.” He revived the form of Rímur chanting - a 14th century Icelandic epic alliterative rhymed poem form with two to four lines per stanza. Most Rímor chants begin with a mansöngr for a woman whom the singer loves. Steindór Andersen is acclaimed for his mastery of the Rimor.


STORY: HOLDFAST CROWBITER
SONG: Vahtralt Valgō Pilve Pääle (From A Maple Onto A White Cloud)
ARTIST: Ester Mägi & Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
ALBUM: Magi: Tree of Song
YEAR: 2000

I first encountered the music of legendary composer Ester Mägi at a small choral concert of her works in an ancient, melancholy church in Tallinn, Estonia, on the moody late night of summer solstice. Born in 1922, her highly influential and haunting polyphonic body of work draws inspiration from ancient Estonian runic songs and pagan folk music - which is traditionally sung by women – which some Estonians believe was driven underground during the 20th century Soviet occupation under Stalin, and most Russians believe was enthusiastically supported after Stalin’s death.

I wrote and photographed Holdfast Crowbiter in Nerida, Lithuania, on the on the Curonian Spit of Lithuania. There is an ancient local tradition there where men would walk into the Baltic Sea, trap crows with nets, and kill them with a single bite to the neck. These men were called “crowbiters.” For thousands of years, this land itself was under constant occupation and invasion by aggressive neighboring nations, and this took many of these men far from home, or killed them. For the remaining women, life involved navigating power relationships with enemy men, and surviving famine and hunger. Any source of food was precious.

Soon, there were female crowbiters, for whom this story is written. For the women who had to step and make a sacrifice of the sacred crows, the taste of salt in the mouth is not unlike that of their own blood, and the blood of other loved ones.

During this time, many of these small pagan seaside villages were consumed by the constantly shifting sand dunes. Entire villages would sometimes vanish under the dunes, where they would be lost forever, with remnants of those structures still occasionally surfacing today…much like the pagan musical motifs that Mä’gi invokes in her compositions.


STORY: MY NEBULAE, MY ANTILLES
SONG: Hymnodia
ARTIST: Skúli Sverrisson
ALBUM: Seremonie
YEAR : 1997

I wrote My Nebulae, My Antilles in the Antilles, and made the photographs at a decommissioned Soviet-era paper factory in Latvia on the coastal road outside Riga. The entire piece was constructed as I migrated between these two disparate places nearly on opposite hemispheres of the world. I found myself leading two separate lives in each place, but connected within my deep psyche. The work became a study in time travel, and how the self and the people we encounter along our migrations are affected by time-space.

The Anguilladae Eels are born in the Baltic and take years to follow a deep-water trench to the Sargasso Sea. It took thousands of years for humans to realize that the tiny eels of the Baltic and the huge eels of the Caribbean were the same creatures a lifetime apart. Much of the story – like Sverrisso’s album – surrounds this hypnotic structure that to me is a kind of long, lonely call and response between instruments (even though the album was created only with an electric bass).His music unfolds with a romantic deliberateness. It’s seductive, and determined.

I encountered this very rare album from bassist-composer Sverrisso while in Latvia. His incantatory debut solo album – recorded entirely with electric bass - later came to stand beside his extensive collaborations with the world’s most legendary avant-garde musician and performance artists. I’ve loved his soundscapes that leave space for other media, for shimmers in the psyche, and an oddly aquatic feel.

In the story, airmail letters between Latvia and the Antilles experience long migratory delays – in part due to an apocryphal story I was told about mail being dumped in the rivers and oceans of Latvia during Soviet times. I heard stories from the inhabitants of Latvia – subjected to ideologically based travel constrictions of the Communist Era – who waited years for letters from people who had fled the occupation, and those who remained often nurtured vivid dream lives lived in half-imagined southern island paradises.


STORY: THE KHOLODNAYA VOINA CLUB “The Cold War Club”
SONG: Otsekui Hirv Kisendab (Like A Deer Cries Out)
ARTIST: Rudolf Tobias
ALBUM: Vivit!
YEAR: 1893

In junior high, I fell in love with a senior named Kent Koontz who was determined to become a test pilot for the U.S. military. I was outspokenly devastated when he achieved his dream. Shortly thereafter he was killed during a test flight crash, only a year prior to the end of the Cold War. As I discovered all the other women bereaved by the deaths of their beloved pilots, I wrote Voina imagining all the pilots waiting for us in the afterlife, thinking about the relationship between true love and total war. I created the photographs and story at Floyd Bennett Airfield in Brooklyn, where salvaged military warplanes are rehabilitated by a team of volunteer flight mechanic and pilot veterans. As they’d work in melancholy silence, I’d imagine this their own kind of living afterlife.

A choral and organ work, Otsekui Hirv Kisendab is based off Psalm 42: “My tears have been my food
    day and night…all your waves and breakers
 have swept over me… These things I remember as I pour out my soul: 
how I used to go to the house of God
 under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise
 among the festive throng…Why must I go about mourning,
 oppressed by the enemy? As with a sword in my bones, mine enemies reproach me.”

Intense and polyphonic composer Rudolf Tobias was born on a tiny Baltic island in 1873 while it was part of the Russian Empire, and later left to work extensively in what a century later became the cold war nations of East Germany and Czechoslovkia, where he was deeply influenced by the architecture of Dresden, later destroyed in fire bombing. He too created and imagined beautiful things, and after his death, perhaps watched the places in which he loved and created be destroyed by total war.


STORY: ON THE SOFA
SONG: 3 Gnossiennes: Gnossienne No. 1
ARTIST: Erik Satie
YEAR : 1890

I wrote and photographed On the Sofa after spending time wandering in the Jewish ghetto of Vilnius, Lithuania. Later, in Paris, I spoke with an elderly bohemian Jewish Lithuanian woman Holocaust survivor who spoke of her life in Lithuania before the Shoah, and her later adventures in Paris. As a young woman of twenty, she trained as a seamstress and opened her own shop, selling what she described as “menswear for women.” Her discreet shop held informal, private gatherings of women who loved her clothing, and women - as a result, she became socially unacceptable and was encouraged to move to avant garde 1930s Paris — the arrival of war merely hastened her departure. In Paris, after the war, she opened her own atelier, where she continued her line of clothing for women who wished to dress as men. But, she said, there was a woman, beloved, closer to her than a sister, who at the last moment did not join her. She had been a cleaning lady at a synagogue, and she did not survive.
I imagined her listening to Satie’s Gnossiennes, possibly the most soulfully erotic music ever composed by an adventurously visionary creator determined to break down established rules of his vocation. An esoteric and avant-garde figure, the British, Scottish and French composer Satie created the word gnossienne to indicate a revolutionary style of composition created in “free time” - without restriction of time signatures or bar lines, irregular formats, alterations to old scales, and inventions of new ones.

Divided into three parts like my suite itself, his Gnossiennes became the catalyst for consternation and dismay of the establishment (accustomed to the accepted music from Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, as well as women wearing dresses and having sex with men. He is believed to have had only one sexual relationship with a woman he adored who left him, "nothing but an icy loneliness that fills the head with emptiness the heart with sadness."

Like my friend, he fled the conventions of his time, and immersed himself in dada and theatre of the absurd, surrealists, Cocteau, cubists and Tristan Tzara. Montmartre and Le Chat Noir. And like the hostility my friend encountered in Vilnius, Satie’s Paris music school "insignificant and laborious" and "worthless and untalented.” Throughout his life, he created a secret collection of imaginary buildings drawn on little cards – not unlike On The Sofa, or my friend’s recollections of the long-destroyed atelier and sofa in Vilnius where she loved, lost, and escaped.


STORY: THE DELICATE ARCHITECTURE OF OUR GALAXY
SONG: Siren Song
ARTIST: Jóhann Jóhannsonn and the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus
ALBUM: And In The Endless Pause There Came The Sound Of Bees
YEAR: 2009

The Delicate Architecture is about a child whose mother – a thwarted scientist - now lives inside a mason jar, and must be submerged in a lake at each solstice and equinox – a kind of siren. The photographs for this project were created at the lakes of the artist residency of Yaddo, which the original owner and founder Katrina Trask named after her four children who died tragically. The lakes are beautiful and haunting, and have long been used by her and others as sites for ritual, pilgrimage, and meditation on love and loss.

I was drawn throughout the writing of this piece to Siren Song, a pipe organ and choir piece by composer and sound art installation artist Johannsonn – his minimalist, neo-classical, drone, and electronic music invokes loneliness but also the determination of a siren, of being lured to water in hopes of some sort of union, or in hopes of drawing the living to join the dead, the contained, or the restricted. Like the solstice and equinox, the piece contains a lot repeating motifs, and an undulating, mesmerizing structure.


STORY: CAP ARCONA
STONE: Sinfonietta: Allegretto Allegro Maestoso (Fanfare)
ARTIST: Leoš Janáček
YEAR: 1926

I wrote the love-and-war story Cap Arcona as part of a collaboration with Baltic/German visual artist Paetrick Schmidt, who told me his childhood experience with the Cap Arcona, a German luxury cruise liner that sailed the Baltic Sea in the 1930s. In my story, the love affair unfolds between a British fighter pilot and a German Jewish ornithologist – two lovers obsessed by birds, the diversity of human language, and war - who become caught up in the final fate of the Cap Arcona.

In the final days of WWII, the Germans requisitioned the ship and filled it with escaping Nazi war criminals and prisoners from evacuated concentration camps. It set sail for Helsinki, where the Nazis planned to disembark and then dynamite the vessel, killing all the prisoners. On May 3rd, it was bombed and sunk by the British Royal Air Force, and all aboard drowned. The RAF officer who gave the bombing orders later disappeared while flying an alleged Nazi ratline over the Bermuda Triangle.

Paetrick told me about the bones from the concentration camp prisoners that he and others would find washed up on the Baltic shore well into the 1970s and 1980s. I created the photographs at the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument in Fort Greene, Brooklyn—the internment site for the dismembered bones of Revolutionary War patriots killed on British prison ships on the East River whose bones were found along the Brooklyn shores for decades by neighbors including Walt Whitman. Other photographs were created at Floyd Bennett Airfield in Brooklyn, where warplanes embarked on bombing missions across the Atlantic throughout WWII.

Defiant and anti-authoritarian Czech opera composer Leoš Janáček believed music should be instructed by the language of human speech and birds. Janáček said his Sinfonietta for brass was intended to express “contemporary free man, his spiritual beauty and joy, his strength, courage and determination to fight for victory.” The impoverished Janáček often made do with a keyboard drawn on his tabletop – a determination that I found echoed in my pilot George’s pretending he was a bird and not a bomber, and my ornithologist Carolina’s attempt to feed Jewish religious food to birds before she was imprisoned behind the walls of Neuengamme.

In 1927 – the year of the Sinfonietta's first performances in New York, Berlin and Brno – he began to compose his final operatic work, From the House of the Dead, the third Act of which was found on his desk after his death.


STORY: THE DOUBLE NAUTILUS
SONG: Toccata in B Flat Minor
ARTIST: Louis Vierne
YEAR: 1926

For the first five years of my life, I played above, alongside, and within the tunnels of the Stanford Linear Particle Collider; in later years, I spent time at CERN during the construction of the Large Hadron Collider, where dark-matter physicists introduced me to the coiling corridors and tunnels beneath the Alps. This became the inspiration for The Double Nautilus, in which the construction at CERN unearths an enormous, primordial, fossilized double nautilus, into whose darkness my lover-scientists descend – they lose one another in the darkness of the two interconnected nautili, and painfully try to locate one another only by the sense of sound within the peculiar acoustics of the structure. When Matthew Contos and I were taking photographs of the Nautilus, we tied it to a string from a fishing line, and as it twisted in the air, an eerie song emerged from within its nacreous whorls.

Principal organist at the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris from 1900 until 1937, composer Louis Vierne was born legally blind, and as his vision diminished he began to compose in Braille. "I came into the world almost completely blind on account of which my parents felt a very keen chagrin. I was surrounded by a warm and continual tenderness which very early predisposed me to an almost unhealthy sensitivity. This was to follow me all my life, and was to become the cause of intense joys and inexpressible sufferings.” He later shattered his legs necessary to play the organ, and was rehabilitated in Bern in a chamber of total darkness – a few meter from today’s entrance to the Hadron Collider.

The English physicist Lord Rayleigh observed in 1877 a peculiar phenomenon in which two identical organ pipes are adjacent to one another, the two pipes are barely audible. Once a barrier is placed between, they play loud and clear. Contemporary Potsdam University physicist Markus Abel discovered that “the two pipes influence each other as they are played, via the air between them. Even if initially tuned to slightly different frequencies, the two pipes change subtly until they sing exactly the same note, but vibrate the air exactly the opposite of each other. The two out-of-synch sound waves cancel almost perfectly, resulting in near silence.” Abel writes, "They adjust to each other in a way that the energy consumption is minimized. If the pipes are built to sound notes that are too far apart from each other, they'll sound independently. If the difference is too strong, it would take too much energy. You have a certain reservoir of energy that must be enough to synchronize these two pipes."

In the underwater darkness, without visual information, a Chamber Nautilus can detect mechanical and acoustical stimuli and respond to aquatic vibrations, displacements and velocities. For the Nautilus, there is a perfect distance from the source, at which is is most accurately detected. That distance has not yet been discovered by scientists.

Inside the accelerator, two high-energy particle beams travel at close to the speed of light before they are made to collide.

Inside the double nautilus, two lovers travel adjacent to each other, separated by a barrier of shell that, perversely, allows them to hear and eventually locate one another in a whole new kind of collision.

The structure of a chamber nautilus is gnomonic – the old structure is contained intact within the new. On the evening of June 2nd, 1937, Vierne was playing his 1,750th organ recital at Notre-Dame de Paris via his braille score when he abruptly pitched forward and died, his foot pressing the low "E" pedal of the organ. His lifelong dream has been to die at the pipes of the great organ of Notre-Dame.


Quintan Ana Wikswo and The Hope of Floating Has Carried Us This Far links:

the author's website

Electric Literature review
Lambda Literary review
Minneapolis Star Tribune review

0s&1s interview with the author
Lit Hub 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

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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July 6, 2015

Book Notes - Maria Dahvana Headley "Magonia"

Magonia

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, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Maria Dahvana Headley's Magonia is one of the finest young adult novels I have read, deliciously quirky, smart, and moving.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"...Headley, who co-edited Unnatural Creatures with Neil Gaiman, riffs like an improv comic through the factoids of a Google age, giving her characters retentive memories and lightning search skills. Like the best improv, the first-person narration is funny, furious, and vulnerable..."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


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


My new book, Magonia, is a combination of lots of things, maybe of everything I could think of. I was trying to write the kind of fantasy you read when you're a first reading, the kind that makes you wonder how the world really works, combined with talk of death and disaster, because hey, the world, any world, has pain in it. So, Magonia is about a teenage girl who mysteriously sick, with a disease so rare it's named after her. Very close to the beginning of the novel, she sees a ship in the sky calling her name. Soon after that, she's dying, and then she's dead. She wakes up on a sky ship full of female pirates, bird people, songbirds that live in her lungs, and a brewing war between the sky and earth. It's a crazy fantasy, but also full of real world things, that feeling that you're the only one like you, that you'll never find your place. We've all had it at some point. This is a book about being an alien, but also about love, death, pirates, kraken…all over the map basically. As is this playlist! I put in some shanties, some folk songs, some virtuoso uncategorizables…there was a period of my life during which I was way deep into traditional folk music, and so I dredged some of those songs up, but I'm also into people inventing new stories and sounds, sometimes riffing off of ancient ones, so those are in here too.


Feloche - "Silbo"

A whistled version of Spanish from the Canary Islands, Silbo Gomera is talked about in Magonia, and I listened to this a lot throughout the writing of the book. The canwr - or lung birds - in the book harmonize with their Magonian hosts, from inside their chests.This song is mostly in French, and contains only a little bit of Silbo, but I listened to it tons while I was writing, because it's a song about a very precise culture, and a song of appreciation for that. Silbo Gomera was used during the 40's and 50's as a secret language to help locals avoid Franco's police, so it's a political expression as well. I love that this beautiful thing has also been rebellion. Feloche is a good friend of my friend Sxip Shirey's, and Sxip introduced me to his gorgeous music. I'm lucky to be so surrounded by song.


Shakey Graves featuring Esme Patterson - "Dearly Departed"

A song about a relationship between a ghost and her beloved. This isn't precisely Magonia, given that we've got a not-ghost in the book, more of something else, but a big part of the book involves the loss of someone you love, and your memories of how particularly THEM they are. So, this is a fun, twisty love song with sad underneath.

You and I both know that this house is haunted
You and I both know that the ghost is me.


Moondog - "Bird's Lament"

When I was a little kid, I used to pick through my mom's 60's and 70's vinyl collection every few days, checking to see if anything new and magnificent had appeared. That's where I first heard Nina Simone, Joni Mitchell, Lambert Hendricks & Ross and more. Moondog's 1969 self-titled album was in there the whole time, but I didn't get it. I was, however, the kind of OCD child who, filled with nebulous fury, would listen to something she didn't understand until it colonized her soul. So now, Bird's Lament is part of my inbrain radio. It plays in the early mornings. Moondog himself could easily have been a Magonian dropped to earth. He was blinded by Kansas dynamite at the age of 16, and stood on the streets of NYC for nearly 30 years, playing invented instruments, in cape and helmet, making these exquisite songs. I see that Rikki DuCornet wrote about this song in her Deep Zoo playlist as well - she's one of my favorite writers, and inspires me all the time, so this is full circle.


Sxip Shirey & Michaela Davies - "Conjoined Breathing Duet with Beat Frequencies"

This one, you have to watch, because it's experimental music made by two musicians singing into each other's mouths with mics and beats. 1) This actually happens in Magonia, aboard the sky ships, a combination of voices equaling a completely different sound 2) It's pretty damn cool. It creates a sound that at first sounds completely human, and then buzzes into something like a swarm of song. My friend Sxip does cool stuff all the time, and I told him when I was writing Magonia that he'd love it, because it's all about experimental music. He did. Now he needs to make me a Magonia song.


David Coffin - "Roll The Old Chariot"

This is a bonafide sea shanty. David Coffin can sing like…I don't even. It's fucking amazing, this performance, him belting it out at a folk festival with a bunch of people. Also this song makes you want to sing, which of course is the point. Sing while you pull the hell out of ropes.

We'll be alright if the wind is in our sails
And we'll roll the old chariot along
and we'll all hang on behind

There's more to the song than this. Though it was sung by sailors for centuries, it was an African-American spiritual to begin with. (I hunted just now to see if I could find a non-solo version of a recording sung NOT by white people, and I couldn't, but I'd love to find one. Argh.) Many sea shanties originated this way for obvious reasons, slaving ships, another thing Magonia riffs on, though there it's slavery in a sky kingdom rather than one earth. Songs can travel in ways that history forgets. Here is an early version of Roll The Old Chariot, from the 1920's to give a better idea of the kind of song it was when it began, and in this case probably sung by an African-American singer, though anonymous. Multi-purpose worksong and raising of voices over the wind song.


Lady Lamb - "Atlas"

Lots of female singer songwriters, because of course. Aza narrates more than half this book, and she is a scripter of song after my own heart. This song speaks of the relationship between Aza and her best friend and soulmate Jason, two worlds, one massive connection between them. Even if one of you is an alien you can still promise everything to one another. Or at least you can in my version of love. I think my version of love is pretty much applicable to human love too, at least in my experience. Love is strange, shining, bloody magic.

"...And I do, I want to swim the length of this with you. I wanna swim the length of this life with you. And I undress, I undress, I undress like eyes upon an atlas."

Also Lady Lamb is a weirdo from my tribe. She has a very nice song about taxidermists.


Nic Jones - "Canadee-I-O"

This is a 1980 riff of a traditional ballad form the early 1800's, sometimes known as Caledonia or The Wearing of the Blue, in which a girl disguises herself as a boy to follow her lover, a sailor, out to sea. That's not what happens in Magonia, but this is a song about adventure, and how this girl's voyage almost ends in disaster, and instead ends in victory. There's a gorgeous reversal here: the ship's crew decides to kill her because she's bad luck, and the captain says fuck you all, she's staying onboard, dressed in her sailor's clothes. So she does, and eventually marries him.

I'll dress you up in sailor's clothes
your jacket shall be blue
you'll see that seaport town, called Canadee-I-O


Tanya Taqaq - "Uja" & "Umingmak"

Tagaq is an Inuit throat-singer from Canada. If you've never listened to throat singing, I suggest you sit down and listen. Also, watch. She is amazing. The songs in Magonia were actually based a little bit on throat singing, the way that multiple tones can be sung at once. There are birds called canwr that live in the chests of Magonians, singing with them, as they sing weather magic, and here, on some level, is an earthly version of the sounds I think of when I think of Magonia. This is Tagaq's performance at the 2014 Polaris Awards, singing with an amazing female chorus. Also, this form of throat singing was invented by women, and the original versions are basically dirty joke song battles. Dude, I love it so much.


Baby Dee - "As Morning Holds A Star"

Baby Dee should be a much bigger star than she is. She plays these completely virtuosic songs that draw on everything from madrigals to utterly ferocious modernity, by way of blues, experimental jazz, I mean, really, folks, holy shit!!! Watching her play live is a staggering experience, and one I hope to repeat over and over. This is another love song, but in this case, it's a song of redemption, of past sadness acknowledged and transformed into present. Also themed appropriately for Magonian skies.

And I'll hold you
As morning holds a star
If morning never held a star before
And I'll hold you
In grateful arms that sing
No more sad songs
No more
No more night skies
I've got a sunrise


Sarah Alden - "Come Take A Trip on My Airship"

This is my dear friend Sarah singing a song she found in an old songbook and turned into her own. It's very literal, and very sweet. A boy drops out of the clouds and asks a girl to come kiss him on his airship. So she does. Clear Magonian themes here. And Sarah is fantastic, a Brooklyn-based fiddler and composer who, can make you sob when you see her play live. I heard this song for the first time played in my living room at a raucous party. It's a kind of a sweet shanty waltz.


Maria Dahvana Headley and Magonia links:

the author's website
the author's Wikipedia entry
video trailer for the book

Buffalo News review
Globe and Mail review
Paste review
Publishers Weekly review
Sydney Morning Herald review
Tor.com review

Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Queen of Kings
MTV interview with the author
My Bookish Ways 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

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 (July's Must-Read Books, Stream the New Nina Simone Tribute Album, and more)

Flavorwire and Bustle recommended July's must-read books.


NPR Music is streaming the Nina Revisited... A Tribute to Nina Simone album.


Entropy interviewed author Juliet Escoria.


The A.V. Club shared a playlist of essential Neil Young music.


Hazlitt interviewed author Ottessa Moshfegh.


Weekend Edition examined the Grateful Dead's progressive business plan.


The Rumpus interviewed author Patrick O'Neil.


Pitchfork interviewed Michaelangelo Matos about his book The Underground Is Massive: How Electronic Dance Music Conquered America.


Taiye Selasi on the pigeonholing of African writers.


Stereogum reconsidered Sufjan Stevens' Illinois album 10 years after its release.


The Guardian profiled poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti.


The Millions previewed books released in the second half of 2015.


CMJ, AdHoc, Dummy, and On the Record listed their favorite albums of 2015 so far.


Weekend Edition interviewed Carolina De Robertis about her novel The Gods of Tango.


Flavorwire listed essential punk rock movies.


Louisa Hall talked to All Things Considered about her new novel Speak.


Nick Cave dolls.


At the New Republic, Gideon Lewis-Kraus interviewed author Joshua Cohen.


Drowned in Sound listed the best songs of 2015 so far.


Lucas Mann discusses writing his memoir Lord Fear at Paste.


Follow Largehearted Boy on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, 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)

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)


Posted by david | Permalink | Comments (View)

Daily Downloads (Wilco, Gabriel Kahane, and more)

Every day, Daily Downloads offers free and legal music and/or stream.


Today's free and legal mp3 downloads:

Art Thief: Accidents EP [mp3]

Dan Snyder: Buffalo Souls EP [mp3]

Gabriel Kahane: Where Are the Arms album [mp3]

Gold Flake Tapes: Family Video - Maybe This Summer album [mp3]

The Last Spectacular: The Last Spectacular album [mp3]

Sarah Kang: Fair Weather EP [mp3]

Submarine Lights: The Dangerous Pleasures of Uncommon Curiosity album [mp3]

Two Bars from the Gun: Thief and Love album [mp3]

Various Artists: WayMix album (WayHome Festival compilation) [mp3]


Free and legal live performances at other websites:

Wilco: 2015-06-26, North Adams [mp3]


search for more free and legal music downloads at Largehearted Boy


also at Largehearted Boy:

other Daily Downloads

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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July 5, 2015

Largehearted Boy Weekly Wrap-Up - July 5, 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)

Bill Hillman for his memoir Mozos
Jonathan Papernick for his novel The Book of Stone
Joshua Mehigan for his poetry collection Accepting the Disaster
Rebecca Makkai for her short story collection Music for Wartime
Sarah McCoy for her novel The Mapmaker's Children
Wendy C. Ortiz for her memoir Hollywood Notebook


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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July 4, 2015

Atomic Books Comics Preview - July 4, 2015

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

Benn Ray is the owner of Atomic Books, an independent bookstore in Baltimore. The Mobtown Shank is his blog, and his comic Said What? is syndicated weekly in the Baltimore Sun's B-Paper.

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.


King in Yellow

King in Yellow
by Robert W Chambers / I. N. J. Culbard

Once a cult favorite, notable for influencing H.P. Lovecraft, Chambers and his King In Yellow gained popularity after it was teased in season 1 of HBO's True Detective. Here I.N.J. Culbard does another solid graphic novel translation of a horror classic.


Supreme Blue Rose

Supreme Blue Rose
by Warren Ellis / Tula Lotay

Warren Ellis' curious reboot of the Supreme Image series is collected here. Instead of musclebound superheroes, we get a hallucinatory mystery.


Tim and Eric's Zone Theory: 7 Easy Steps to Achieve a Perfect Life

Tim and Eric's Zone Theory: 7 Easy Steps to Achieve a Perfect Life
by Tim Heidecker / Eric Wareheim

Is your life lacking fulfillment? Do you miss the happiness? Are you seeking a life-system that will turn everything around for you? Time to try Tim and Eric's Zone Theory! Even if it doesn't help you get your life straight, it'll still make you laugh.


We Stand On Guard #1

We Stand On Guard #1
by Brian K. Vaughan / Steve Skroce

So... turns out the US had to bomb Canada. This story, by Saga's Vaughan and and Matrix storyboard artist Skroce, finds a band of Canadian freedom fighters battling (mostly) unmanned American robots cuz, well, the US needs Canada's water. Prophetic? Let's hope not.


Zisk #26

Zisk #26
by Mike Faloon

If you find yourself saying things like, "As long as my team is playing .500 ball going into the All-Star Break..." then this "Baseball Magazine for People Who Hate Baseball Magazines" may just be the baseball magazine for you. In this issue, Johnny Bench, and Orioles fan vs. Derek Jeeter, and more!


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:

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

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)


Posted by david | Permalink | Comments (View)

July 3, 2015

Book Notes - Sarah McCoy "The Mapmaker's Children"

The Mapmaker's Children

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, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Sarah McCoy thoughtfully links the past with the present in her compelling novel The Mapmaker's Children.

The Washington Post wrote of the book:

"McCoy deftly intertwines a historical tale with a modern one… lovingly constructed… passionately told… The Mapmaker's Children not only honors the accomplishments of a little-known woman but artfully demonstrates how fate carries us in unexpected directions, no matter how we might try to map out our lives."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


In her own words, here is Sarah McCoy's Book Notes music playlist for her novel The Mapmaker's Children:


"Swing Low, Sweet Chariot"— Wallis Willis

During the writing of The Mapmaker's Children, I had a habit of unconsciously breaking into this at random: while skillet-frying chicken for dinner, pumping gas into my car, walking my dog to the postbox, vacuuming the living room. It started to freak my husband out. "You're doing it again," he'd say, and I'd not even notice that I was— so lost in my own thoughts. When I finally Googled the song's history, I learned it was written by a Choctaw freedman in Oklahoma before 1862. I am 1/16th Choctaw. My father's kin are from Inola, Oklahoma. As my husband put it, "That's creepy."

"Follow the Drinking Gourd"

I learned this song in elementary school music class. It stuck with me over whatever else we might've sung because I was assigned the wooden block to play. The vibrations of the rhythmic plunking made me imagine the slaves' footsteps as they raced through darkness, eyes to the Big Dipper constellation. It scared me, to be truthful, and I remember being relieved when the song was over. I'm not sure if that's something to be ashamed of now or to be glad that I recognized the significance. I was singing something that had been chanted to the heavens by our country's ancestors. A sacred hymn of the Underground Railroad.

"John Brown's Body"
This song is prominently featured in The Mapmaker's Children. The daughters of John Brown are introduced to it on a visit to Virginia. I spent a good amount of time listening to it and thinking about what it would be like for that song to be about your father. Give it a try: substitute your own father's name for John Brown.

_____ body lies a-moldering in the grave.
_____ body lies a-moldering in the grave.
_____ body lies a-moldering in the grave.
His soul's marching on!

It's a wallop to the gut, right? I imagine it was similar for Sarah Brown. No matter how she might've supported it. Every time it was sung for all of her life, wallop-wallop-wallop.

"The Battle Hymn of the Republic" —Julia Ward Howe

Interesting trivia: Howe used the sheet music of "John Brown's Body" and changed the lyrics. It was published in The Atlantic Monthly in 1862 and became a signature tune for the Civil War.

"Yellow Rose of Texas"—Edwin Pearce Christy

I live in West Texas and the only flowers I've been able to cultivate are roses—yellow, in fact. So this song is consistently hummed whenever I'm out pruning or bringing in a vase of them. It was written as part of Christy's Plantation Melodies, a songbook for Christy's blackface minstrel show. During the Civil War, it was a popular marching song for Confederate soldiers in the Texas Brigade.

"Pain Killer"—Little Big Town

This album and group embody much of what I love about my homeland Virginia. Some songs are so playful that they make you want to run around chasing summer lightning bugs. Then, in a track change, a song so mournful, hot tears ebb. Their music is empowering, soulful, and story full. I listened to this CD (yes, I'm old-school like that) in my car whenever I run errands. I haven't changed the disc in six months. That's how much I love their music and miss my southern roots.

**Confession: I enlisted my husband (Doc B) for the following two songs. He's a music devotee. So here are his picks and reasons why. He played these for me, and I have to say, he's spot on.

"Barton Hollow"—Civil Wars

Doc B: This is a good ballad for John Brown at the opening of The Mapmaker's Children—jailed and waiting to be hung on the gallows. The guy knew he was going to die the next day, but that was the least of his fears—his children and what would become of his abolitionist cause were what he cared about most.

I'm a dead man walking here
But that's the least of all my fears

"Skinny Love"—Birdy, originally by Bon Iver

Doc B: This would be Freddy and Jack's theme as sung, theoretically, by Sarah Brown or Eden. Bon Iver's indie folk song in Birdy's haunting voice makes your chest cinch up in a way a man won't admit. But yeah, I'm saying it.


Sarah McCoy and The Mapmaker's Children links:

the author's website

BookPage review
Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review
Washington Post review

CarolineLeavittville 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

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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July 2, 2015

Book Notes - Rebecca Makkai "Music for Wartime"

Hollywood Notebook

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, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Rebecca Makkai's short story collection Music for Wartime covers a broad range of eras and topics, but always impresses.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the collection:

"Though these stories alternate in time between WWII and the present day, they all are set, as described in the story "Exposition," within "the borders of the human heart"—a terrain that their author maps uncommonly well."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


In her own words, here is Rebecca Makkai's Book Notes music playlist for her short story collection Music for Wartime:


I've always thought of Music for Wartime as an album—an old-fashioned one, with liner notes and a B side and everything. In part because it's very much about music, but also because albums were some of the best models I had for assembling a collection. (I like it when story collections do what an album like Abbey Road or Blood on the Tracks does, controlling your experience and adding up to more than the sum of the parts.)

That said, when I try to make the album literal here, I end up with a bizarre and wildly uncool playlist. (Bartók meets New Wave!) Some of these are actually part of the stories, and others are thematically related. I'm going one song per story here.

Istváan Márta's "Doom. A sigh": For "The Singing Women"—the recording that inspired the story. Márta traveled into Ceauşescu's Romania to record these women and their lamentations. I heard a story (apocryphal, as far as I can tell) that as a result of the recording, Ceauşescu learned that the women's village was still in existence, and wiped it out. My story follows that one. (This is not easy listening.)

The Fourth Movement of Schubert's Trout Quintet: For "The Worst You Ever Feel." Again, I have to go literal. The story is about a young boy, his mother, and an old master trying to cover all five parts of The Trout. The Amadeus Quartet's recording with Clifford Curzon is rich and warm.

Radiohead, "Fake Plastic Trees": For "The November Story," about a producer on a reality TV show. By the end, she's literally spray-painting leaves on the trees so it will look like November when it's really summer. I loved this song in college, long before you could Google lyrics. I only learned the words quite recently.

REM, "Losing My Religion": for "The Miracle Years of Little Fork," about a small-town pastor questioning his faith after the elephant of a visiting traveling circus dies in the town and must be buried there. I listened to this song a lot in high school when I was, literally, losing my religion. I couldn't believe someone had written a song about it.

Steven Sondheim's "I'm Still Here": For "Other Brands of Poison," the first of three "legends" about my father's family in the book. Like the singer, my grandmother was an actress (though she later became a novelist), and like the singer she survived more shit than most of us ever will. Who rhymes better than Sondheim? "Then you career from career to career / I'm almost through my memoirs / and I'm here."

The Decemberists, "Calamity Song": For "The Briefcase." A strange, apocalyptic song for a strange, apocalyptic story.

Brett Dennen, "Sydney": For "Peter Torrelli, Falling Apart." The story's about a man in his thirties trying like hell to save his best friend from high school. "Sydney" seems to be about standing by a friend through some kind of sex crimes trial, which sketches me out a bit, but hey, maybe the guy was really innocent. And it's a great song.

Fats Waller's "What Did I Do… To Be So Black and Blue," as sung by Louis Armstrong: For "Couple of Lovers on a Red Background," which is a story about a woman who coughs up J. S. Bach in her apartment, and then lives with him and has an affair with him and introduces him to Jazz, and J. S. goes around singing the Satchmo version of the song, but with a German accent. So, you know, domestic realism.

Springsteen's "Brilliant Disguise": For "Acolyte," the second family legend. This one, like many others in the collection, is about disguise and transformation – more literally than some.

Andrew Bird, "Tenuousness": for "Everything We Know About the Bomber," which is about someone not unlike Tamerlan Tsarniev. The song isn't violent, but it's complicated and mixed up, the ramblings of someone trapped in his own brain. (I think?)

The Fixx, "One Thing Leads to Another": for "Painted Ocean, Painted Ship." Please forgive the New Wave. Everything in this story follows from a professor accidentally shooting an albatross; from this, her career and engagement and sanity fall apart. I loved stringing together that cause and effect.

Freddie Mercury's charming butchering of the Hungarian folk song "Tavaszi Szél Vizet Áraszt" ("The Spring Wind Blows the Waters"): For "A Bird in the House," the third legend about my Hungarian family. You have to watch the YouTube clip for the full effect. He's reading the lyrics off his hand, mangling the pronunciation, and then he just gives up and makes the crowd sing it, but they love it. I grew up with this song, and mangle it every night for my own children. And in these stories, I'm quite openly grappling with my cultural divide, my inability to understand my own family's background and culture.

Ravel's Gaspard de la Nuit, Scarbo movement: for "Exposition." This is the kind of music I had in mind for the secret and doomed concert in which a pianist gives her last performance, and of a nearly impossible work. The Valentina Lisitsa recording is excellent.

The 4th movement of Bartok's 4th Quartet: for "Cross," in which a string quartet is playing just this. The entire movement is Pizzicato, weird and sublime.

Billie Holiday, "They Can't Take That Away from Me": for "Good St. Anthony Come Around." This is a story about AIDS, and thus it's a story about loss. And love. And the things that can't really be lost.

Alphaville's "Forever Young": For "Suspension: April 20, 1984." A companion to the legend pieces, this is about me as a young child, and it's also about bombs, of both the Cold War and WWII varieties. And the emotional variety, for that matter. I've always felt this song, which (hey!) came out in 1984 encapsulates the strangeness of a Cold War childhood – "hoping for the best but expecting the worst / are you gonna drop the bomb or not?"

"Sally Gardens": for "The Museum of the Dearly Departed." And back to the literal. The collection ends with an old Hungarian couple singing this song. The John McCormack recording from 1941 feels appropriate.


Rebecca Makkai and Music for Wartime links:

the author's website
the author's Wikipedia entry

Boston Globe review
Guardian review
Publishers Weekly review

Chicago Tribune profile of the author
Deborah Kalb interview with the author
KMUW interview with the author
Michigan Quarterly Review interview with the author
San Diego Union-Tribune 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

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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Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week - July 2, 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.


Grip

Grip
by Gilbert Hernandez

Love and Rockets artist Gilbert Hernandez has just come out with this genre bending mashup that mixes 1950s crime, horror, and sci-fi into one. A man finds himself on the streets with a lipstick smudge, someone else's suit and ID, and no memory of who he is. But this is not like the movie Momento or any other amnesia rooted story. The world created by Hernandez is strange and unsettling in all the best ways.


BFF

BFF
by Sarah Gerard

Behold, a short text on friendship - specifically on best friendship. Gerard writes to her past BFF, wrenchingly honest about the conflicting love and resentment felt towards her. This is a book on the emotional relationships that we carry with those who we were once, but no longer, so close to.


Fool 6 magazine

Fool 6 magazine

The latest issue of this Swedish food magazine is in. In it you will find a profile on Michelin starred chef Inaki Aizpitarte of French restaurant Le Chateaubriand, an article on how a new generation of Japanese chefs are finding their inspiration, and a look into the fascinating food culture of Anatolia, Turkey.


Soft

Soft
by Jane Mai

What a beautiful treasure this book is. What begins as a story of a sweet building friendship turns to one of vampires and murder. Artist Jane Mai creates a piercing world where acts of desire, rebellion, dependency, and, ultimately, refusal unfold in unexpected ways.


Black Glass

Black Glass
by Karen Joy Fowler

First published to great acclaim in 1998, this reissued hardcover edition of short stories includes a new introductory essay. Included are fifteen tales of satire, wit, and imagination that are sure to win you over in these humid days of summer.


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

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)


Posted by david | Permalink | Comments (View)

Shorties (An Interview with Vendela Vida, Stream the New Veruca Salt Album, and more)

Bookworm interviewed Vendela Vida about her new novel The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty.


NPR Music is streaming the new Veruca Salt album Ghost Notes.


Salon interviewed Jonathan Galassi about his debut novel and the state of publishing.


Mary Bonney discussed her experiences being a female music journalist at LA Music Blog.


Claire Fuller has been awarded the Desmond Elliott Prize for her novel Our Endless Numbered Days.


Noisey listed its favorite albums of 2015 so far.


The Independent reviewed AL Kennedy's new Dr. Who novel.


Flavorwire previewed July's music releases.


The New York Times interviewed author Anthony Doerr about reading.


World Cafe interviewed David Browne about his new book So Many Roads: The Life And Times Of The Grateful Dead.


The Independent interviewed author Emma Healey.


NPR Music recommended June's best new world music.


Stream a new song by Alela Diane and Ryan Francesconi.


Bustle recommended speedy reads for quick flights.


Stream a new Beach House song.


Paste interviewed Etgar Keret about his new memoir The Seven Good Years.


Follow Largehearted Boy on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, 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)

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)


Posted by david | Permalink | Comments (View)

Daily Downloads (Ty Segall, Frugal Father, and more)

Every day, Daily Downloads offers free and legal music and/or stream.


Today's free and legal mp3 downloads:

Anda Volley: Are You Armed? album [mp3]

Birdstriking: Live on WFMU [mp3]

Cave Needles: Cave Needles album [mp3]

Eartheater: Live on WFMU [mp3]

Frugal Father: "Silver" [mp3] from Held (out August 4th)

Mexico City Is Sinking: The Queen of Monster Island EP [mp3]

Noah Smith: Live at The Southgate House Revival album [mp3]

The Sparrow and the Fall: "All Undone" [mp3]

Various Artists: Mason Jar Music: Decoration Day, Volume 4 album [mp3]


Free and legal live performances at other websites:

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July 1, 2015

Book Notes - Joshua Mehigan "Accepting the Disaster"

Accepting the Disaster

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, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Joshua Mehigan's Accepting the Disaster is a finely wrought and dark poetry collection, a modern classic that has earned the author numerous comparisons to Philip Larkin.

The National Post wrote of the book:

"Accepting the Disaster is the closest thing to a masterpiece a reader of contemporary poetry is likely to encounter."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


In his own words, here is Joshua Mehigan's Book Notes music playlist for his poetry collection Accepting the Disaster:


"Into the Void," by Black Sabbath
I got the idea for my poem "The Forecast" while visiting Iowa in 1998. It's likely that the poem will conjure Black Sabbath for no one but me, but I can't help thinking of them in connection with it. Arriving in Iowa from New York City, I was excited by the novelty of a rented car and, in the airport, bought a cassette tape of Master of Reality for personal soundtrack. I blasted it in the white Honda Civic I'd rented, feeling transformed, as I had in high school, from whatever I actually am into (what else?) a Master of Reality—virile, ugly, and awesome—till I began to understand that I'd somehow passed from highway to road, to dirt road, and then to the conclusion of the dirt road, which stopped dead in a dense cornfield. "Into the Void" was playing, until I turned it off.

"Birmingham Jail" (also called "Down in the Valley"), traditional
Lead Belly's version is my favorite. But the first one I got in my head was sung by Erland van Lidth de Jeude. Van Lidth de Juede was a massively large opera singer who played an ax murderer in the comedy Stir Crazy, which I watched 75 times on HBO when I was 11. I enjoyed the irony of a killer who could sing tenderly and sorrowfully. This is also the irony of the song itself, which is addressed by a condemned prisoner to his love outside. I have a poem called "Down in the Valley," about a terrible crime that takes place in a valley. My poem follows the victim and omits the killer and his beloved, but the song still seemed apt.

"Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)," performed by Janis Joplin and the Kozmic Blues Band, written by Chip Taylor and Jerry Ragovoy
My wife and I were near the end of a long night drive, once, when one of Janis Joplin's versions of "Summertime" came on. I hardly noticed the introductory guitar noodling. Before I could place the song, her voice was filling our eerily-lit car with the one word, "Summertime," and all the hair went up on my arms and I felt like a child waked up by an airhorn. My first attempt to write about this was really about my aesthetic experience and was therefore bad. So I started thinking about Janis Joplin. Two-thirds of the finished poem describes "Ball and Chain" at Monterey and could've been called that. But "Try" is a great song, and so I called my poem "Try." It is also an important sentiment.

"Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough," by Michael Jackson
This song's title serves as an epigraph for my poem "Sad Stories." My wife suggested it to me after I showed her the poem, which directly addresses Michael Jackson at times and references his roll as the scarecrow in the movie The Wiz. The poem is about distorted self-image, especially the kind that leads people into eccentricity, plastic surgery addiction, careers as dictators, and so on.

"Subterranean Homesick Blues," by Bob Dylan
In 2010, I participated in an event organized by Roddy Lumsden, who asked numerous poets to write poems based on lines from the above-named song. Then, of course, we got together and read them in a bar. I was assigned "Don't follow leaders, watch the parking meters." I ended up producing a bad, short blank-verse poem about a schizophrenic man with paranoid delusions involving parking meters. After the event I put the poem away for a year but later reworked it and put it in my current book as "The Orange Bottle," a heavily-rhymed, 17-page poem with no parking meters in it. Roddy's Dylan assignment also helped generate George Green's fantastic poem "Bangladesh," from his collection Lord Byron's Foot.

"These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You)," performed by Ella Fitzgerald with Oscar Peterson, written by Eric Maschwitz and Jack Strachey
This song provided me with the title for a poem, "How Strange, How Sweet," which has to do with gentrification and nostalgia. The poem also incorporates the song's title. I didn't have a particular singer in my head when I wrote it, and I surely don't want my poor poem to compete with Ella Fitzgerald, but she recorded a live version with Oscar Peterson in 1957 that's perfect.

"Real Cool Time," by The Stooges
My poem "Cold Turkey" got started with some lines from The Bacchae that worriedly ponder the advisability of dancing after some crazed devotees of Bacchus get carried away and behead someone. I quit drinking in 1999 and, apparently, with drinking, quit dancing, too. My poem won't make anyone think of The Stooges, but I can't remember dancing without thinking of intentionally-sleazy clubs like Coney Island High that, unlike most clubs, sometimes played music I listened to at home—"Real Cool Time" or "1970," by The Stooges, or "People Who Died," by the Jim Carroll Band. "Real Cool Time," especially the sordid guitar at the end, still fills me with the same happy sense of self-destructive oblivion.

"O Death," performed by Berzilla Wallin, traditional
The current lack of interest in ballads means that when I publish short-lined poems in rhymed quatrains someone always mentions Auden. I love Auden, but I also love other ballads, from "Edward" in the fourteenth century to James Fenton's in the twenty-first. Musical ballads, especially in Appalachian folk music, have also had a lot of influence on me. Like a lot of them, "O Death" shares its conceit with a verse ballad or two—in this case, for example, "A Dialogue between Death and Youth" (pub. 1564) or "Death's Uncontrollable Summons" (pub. 1685). And there's another fantastic musical version, "Conversation with Death," by Dock Boggs. The Wallin version is a 1964 field recording made by Peter Gott and John Cohen in North Carolina. Berzilla Wallin was a mother of twelve and seventy years old when she recorded the song. Her performance wrings out whatever sugar might be let into the song by a more refined style. It's a little bit punishing. I often aspire to this state of affairs in my poems.


Joshua Mehigan and Accepting the Disaster links:

the author's website
the author's Wikipedia entry
annotated excerpt from the book

Commonweal review
National Post review
New Republic review
Quarterly Conversation review


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

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