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April 30, 2017

Atomic Books Comics Preview - April 30, 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.


Motor Girl Volume 1: Real Life

Motor Girl Volume 1: Real Life
by Terry Moore

Collecting the first story-arc of Terry Moore's new, ongoing series. Here we have Samantha and her junkyard and her imaginary gorilla friend. Add to that aliens and anti-alien arms development and you have the makings for another charming Moore series.


Street Angel: After School Kung Fu Special

Street Angel: After School Kung Fu Special
by Brian Maruca / Jim Rugg

This oversized, hardcover, and poppy comic boasts the return of Jesse Sanchez who faces big problems like fighting a ninja and the big dance.


Remy Sneakers vs. the Robo-Rats

Remy Sneakers vs. the Robo-Rats
by Kevin Sherry

Kevin Sherry is one of the best kid's book authors going today. He makes books that kids clamor to read and adults enjoy reading (the ever-elusive magical equation). In this new series, Remy the Raccoon is falsely accused of crimes simply because he happens to be into cool stuff. Remy has to find friends to help clear his name and catch the real crook and save the city.


Roughneck

Roughneck
by Jeff Lemire

Jeff Lemire is doing more to keep comics interesting than almost any other writer/artist today. Seriously, his prolific output has me beginning to suspect that Lemire is not a person but a collective. Aside from the number of franchise superhero books he works on, he also manages to keep series like Black Hammer, Descender, and Royal City great (seriously, every one of them is worth reading). He also manages to find time to write and draw projects like Roughneck - a standalone literary graphic novel. Here a hockey has-been, family, addiction, and heritage come together in a beautifully bleak new story about self-destruction and the cycle of violence.


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)






April 28, 2017

Book Notes - Joel Whitney "Finks"

Finks

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.

Joel Whitney's Finks is a timely and compelling exploration of the CIA's infiltration of the literary and arts communities during the Cold War.

Kirkus Reviews wrote of the book:

"Another odd episode steps out from the Cold War's shadows. Riveting."


In his own words, Joel Whitney's Book Notes playlist for his book Finks: How the C.I.A. Tricked the World's Best Writers:



I don't listen to a lot of music when I write but I listen to it while I'm researching/reading, which I do a lot of even when writing so-called creative work. But with Finks: How the C.I.A. Tricked the World's Best Writers, an intertwining narrative of the Cold War weaponization of writers, it's possible to do a chapter or a companion book on the Cold War uses of music. Hearts and minds are won through all sorts of pop and high art media, the Cold Warriors have insisted and still do. To judge by the stuff that was championed and subsidized during the period, everything we might think of as innocent or above politics was targeted and probably subsidized at some point by one side or other, probably both. Here, then, are songs that reminded me of what I was writing, while writing it, songs that could have been in the sequel I won't write ("the State's hand behind the music we listened to during the Cold War") and songs that I just happen to love and can sometimes manage to listen to while writing or reading without too much distraction. I do plan on writing a TV script from the research done for Finks. I hope one or more of these songs end up in the soundtrack.

1. Prokofiev Number 5, Op. 100 (starts at 5:02)

The Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev composed his Fifth Symphony toward the end of World War II. It premiered in January 1945 in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory. In November, the Boston Symphony Orchestra introduced the symphony to America. He was, aftter all, from a nation that was still an Allied power. Boston Symphony Orchestra recorded it a year later, in February 1946, when the status of ally was much more questionable. In post-war Germany, American and Allied officers, former spies and anti-communist intellectuals, noticed something significant that winter of 1946: the Soviet quarter of Berlin was drawing audiences from the rest of the city precisely through culture. As they prepared to pivot from fighting fascism to fighting communism, they worried that culture was a weapon. For a certain class of warrior it was Russian and Soviet high culture, in particular, that might draw the wavering European intellectuals to their flawed ideology. A few years later, Prokofiev would fall afoul of the Soviet Politburo and culture wranglers. The episode would make perfectly clear what the downside of government sponsorship of the arts was: control of the artists. I saw a performance of this symphony in DC at the Kennedy Center during the final stages of writing my first book Finks: How the C.I.A. Tricked the World's Best Writers, with a Russian friend, meditating on the piece and its place in the Cold War. For Finks starts very much in that moment of panic with the Americans pivoting hysterically to take on the great Russian behemoth, who had sacrificed many more lives than the Americans to stop Nazism. The death and winter in the piece are punctuated by spring renewal.

2. Louis Armstrong - Cabaret

​Louis Armstrong's rendition of "Cabaret" is emblematic of American exuberance -- the optimistic twin of its rampant fear of communism. The self-conscious can-do attitude of Cold War America buttressed the belief that art and propaganda could be funded in secret--through the CIA. Americans could do what the Russians were doing, but do it better. The CIA's secret budget would bypass the fruitless conflicts of trying to make the case to reactionaries in the Congress (aka democracy) to fund the arts. And secrecy would also make American propaganda work better, proving a subtler sell.

What emerged then was a type of propaganda where many of the finest propagandists on our team wouldn't even know their role in the propaganda, or might only glimpse this role after agreeing to the tasks, tours or terms. This would only hold up, of course, as long as the secrecy lasted. When the CIA's cultural funding was exposed in 1967, however, it was a true American scandal, and no one was celebrating in the same way they were during performances of this classic rendition of the signature song from Cabaret, the musical. Louis Armstrong and other jazz artists had been among those covertly sponsored by the instruments of state and sent to Germany, France and elsewhere; as was the first abstract expressionist exhibition in Western Europe. This has always been one of my favorite Louis Armstrong songs, even before I knew anything about the cultural Cold War's pursuit of it for American soft power needs.

3. Police - Every Breath You Take

"Every Breath You Take" is one of the reminders that weird obsession and good art can often be married. Even weirder than the lyrics of unrestrained stalking and personal possession that made this song a hit, though, is the fact that the drummer's father, Miles Copeland, also happened to be a spook who joined the team of spies that overthrew the elected leader of Iran, Mohammad Mossadegh, in order to install the more kleptocrat-friendly Shah in his place in 1953. Iranian democracy has remained out of reach ever since. When Copeland Sr. looked back upon the CIA's early efforts at regime change, even before Iran, in which refugees were sent covertly back over the borders of countries like Albania, often to their deaths (as these missions were betrayed by moles), he noted dryly, that “when you look at that whole period . . . the entire Western intelligence effort, which was pretty big, was what you might call minus advantage. We’d have been better off doing nothing.”

4. Philip Glass: Concerto for Saxophone Quartet and Orchestra, Mvmt. 3

I once read that classical music stimulates the creative mind and the memory. Whether or not that's true, I get distracted while writing, especially by songs with lyrics, fast-paced music, or throbbing beats; so whether drafting or editing, I look for music that feels or sounds like thinking. Otherwise I just need silence. This Philip Glass piece is one of my favorites for these moods, and the quintessential music-as-thought piece. The Metamorphosis pieces too.

5. Radiohead - Present Tense

Long before jazz greats like Armstrong were sponsored for tours, the Boston Symphony Orchestra was sent on its first European tour on the CIA's (read: taxpayer's) dime. Music, like literature, was decidedly a Cold War weapon. Meanwhile, as we entered a new, inverted Cold War in the Trump era, I first heard this song just as Finks was going into its about-to-launch phase, and Trump had cheated his way into the White House (conservatives on the Supreme Court having overturns parts of key voting rights provisions the summer before). The trauma of that latter fact alone, along with the riffs on dance as a weapon, merged the book, and this song, with Trumpocalypse in my mind. Art was a weapon we would all need now more than ever.

This dance
This dance
is like a weapon
is like a weapon
of self-defense
of self-defense
against the present
against the present
the present tense.

Thom Yorke crescendos in a way that only he freakily can with the line "as my world/ comes crashing down/ I'll be dancing/ freaking out..."

6. Radiohead - Spectre

What was it that got Radiohead's "Spectre" rejected as the theme for the Bond movie of the same name? Were the opening lines not sufficiently exuberant or chipper about spying to adhere to the franchise? "I'm lost,/ I'm a ghost./ Dispossessed,/ taken host./ My hunger burns/ a bullet hole,/ spectre of/ my mortal soul." In the fifth chapter of Finks I examine occasions when the CIA directly and indirectly censored films and writers through magazines it presided over in secrecy or through movie penetration schemes at companies like Paramount pictures. Lurking behind the chapter is the broader question of what would get your work quietly banned, a ban you might not even know had such a pronounced ideological bent behind it? Eventually the subtlety of the censorship became an aesthetic of sober exuberance that would have been known but invisible to many Cold War era artists and writers. When the scheme was exposed (in 1967), the subtlety of the propaganda could no longer be maintained. So the defense morphed into the assertion, widely believed, that the CIA never censored. Those who participated joined the chorus defending their paymasters whose patronage was stuck to their reputations like a barnacle. Christopher Lasch, Frances Stonor Saunders, John Berger and others who wrote about the censorship or were themselves censored or soft-censored begged convincingly to differ.

7. Andrew Bird - Banking on a Myth

This song is about the ultimate, nearly omnipotent schemer, who

Deals in commodities of the abstract sort
Buys them in bulk but then he sells it short
Talent, genius, love​​
​(​even signs of affection​)​
He floods the market​,​
there's no price protection
And when his master plan is unfurled, there stands
A handsome bid on the weather systems of the world​...​


8. "Jane Woh Kaise Log The," from the Soundtrack to Guru Dutt's Pyaasa​

A friend introduced me to the work of Indian filmmaker Guru Dutt and his film Pyaasa years before work began on Finks. The film is surely one of Dutt's most beloved and most depressing stories. A poet, Vijay, is essentially tricked out of his legacy after his jealous would-be publisher betrays him by capitalizing on his fictitious death. As in Finks, a writer was being used by the capitalist class for his art's marketability and his nonconformist brand. This song, "Jane Woh Kaise Log The," dramatizes a scene in which Vijay's boss invites the poor writer, as yet with no book contract, to serve food and drinks at his party in order to reinforce his low status for the publisher's wife, Meena, who once loved Vijay. A battery of shots between Vijay and Meena traces her misery in having walked away from her true love merely to attach herself to someone with money. The scene climaxes around famous poets reciting their work, and Vijay jumps in with a lament over "the lucky ones who get the love they seek." A haunting melody, a story unlike most commercial film fare: a poet who wishes to leave the material world.

9. Mercedes Sosa - Luna Tucumana

I first heard this song with the Flores family of La Lucha. During my first year living in Costa Rica, don Jaime, doña Marjorie, and their sons Rolando, Johnny and Alex kindly fed me, bantered with me, indulged my bad Spanish and my occasional homesickness and taught me about the great Don Pepe Figueres, Costa Rica's liberator. In the wake of a case of possible election fraud for the elections of 1948, Figueres overthrew the pretender, took power, passed anti-racism laws and then banned the military. Then, o miracle, he stepped down.

Jaime told me about Figueres's heroic persona (though only 5'3", he once stood up to a possible airplane highjacking by facing down the plane on the runway with a machine gun, went the stories). His memoir, The Spirit of 48, graced the Flores family's bookshelves. I tried making my way through its battery of historical references that my 22 year old anglophone mind struggled to contextualize. As I found out later, Figueres was also an anti-communist collaborator who took money from the CIA apparatus (for a political training school and a magazine called Combate). He then fought with CIA brass to launch his magazine without editorial meddling from the agency's propaganda wings. But during my time in Costa Rica, I only knew that he had given women and black Costa Ricans more rights approaching equality than they'd ever known there and that he'd made Costa Rica into a pacifist's paradise (or so I thought then) when he sought to show the world what a country with no military could do.

When the reading slowed to a halt, the Floreses and I bonded more fluently over music. Mercedes Sosa tells the story of the moon in Tucuman Province (in Argentina). But it's also about the long distance some must walk to make their case. "I don't just sing to the moon because she shines, and nothing more. I sing to her because she knows the long road I walk." "Musica de protesta social," my Costa Rican friends called songs by artists like Sosa, and Cuba's Silvio Rodriguez.

10. John Holt - Police in Helicopter

Weekends during my time in Costa Rica, I went with colleagues to the Caribbean Coast, where in a nightclub in the beginning of my stay, I heard this John Holt rebel classic. Holt is virtually unknown in North America despite having written Blondie's hit "The Tide is High." But in terms of reggae moods with the effervescence of subversive dissent--"musica de protesta social"--"The Tide is High" was a bubble gum butterknife compared to this machete with shards for a handle. "Police in Helicopter" deals with the battle between sugar cane planters and those harvesting cannabis. After setting the scene of police in helicopters destroying marijuana fields, Holt sings, "If you continue to burn up the herb, we're gonna burn down your cane fields." The bridge turns the blunt threat into a plaintive bargaining: "We don't trouble your bananas, we don't trouble your corn, we don't trouble your pimiento, we don't trouble you at all. So if you continue to burn up the herb..." and so on. This was social protest music at its most audaciously direct, a threat in every verse.

11. Hombre - Silvio Rodriguez

Another one introduced by the Flores family in Costa Rica, this is a ballad by a singer/songwriter I've heard described as Cuba's Bob Dylan. So fraught and politicized was the US/Cuba relationship that when Silvio Rodriquez tried to accept a date to perform in the US in the early days of Obama's first term--almost 50 years after the Cuban Missile Crisis--he was turned down, the embargo preventing it, his concert in the US cancelled. This is the Cuban bard's elegy to legendary guerrilla Ernesto Che Guevara. Finks winds down with sections about a Ramparts magazine expose that breaks the news that the CIA who had colluded in (and possibly ordered the death of) the revolutionary in late 1967. The Ramparts piece was reported virtually in real time. But then the cultural CIA, in the person of one of the publishing world's erstwhile anticommunist propaganda publishers, also fought Che's widow in collusion with the Bolivian dictatorship to control the publication of Che's battlefield diaries. While Che is often derided and dismissed in the north as an executioner of men, a man in pursuit of a corrupt style of government, in the global south Che was an example of a David struggling against an imperialist Goliath, and the supreme anti-imperialist sacrifice. Though my interest lay in how U.S. coercion and bullying aimed at Cuba, Guatemala, and smaller nations around the globe had shaped the politics of people like Che, I nevertheless realized recently that for years I had listened to this song without knowing it had anything to do with Che.

Hombre, hombre sin templo
desciende a mi ciudad tu ejemplo.

(Man, man without a temple;
descending on my city is your example.)


Joel Whitney and Finks links:

excerpt from the book

Globe and Mail review
Kirkus Reviews review
National Post review
New York Times review

BOMB interview with the author
Electric Literature interview with the author
KCRW interview with the author
Paste profile of the author
VICE interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

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


This Week's Interesting Music Releases - April 28, 2017

Sylvan Esso

Sylvan Esso's What Now is one of my favorite albums of the year so far.

Juliana Hatfield's Pussycat, Old Crow Medicine Show's Bob Dylan tribute 50 Years of Blonde on Blonde, and R. Ring's Ignite the Rest are other releases I can recommend.

Feist's Pleasure is also available today.

Reissues include vinyl editions of six Elton John albums: 17-11-70, Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy, Elton John, Madman Across the Water, Songs From The West Coast, and Too Low for Zero.

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


This week's interesting music releases:

Betty Who: The Valley [vinyl]
BNQT: Volume 1
Bright Light Bright Light: Cinematography 2: Back In the Habit
British Sea Power: Let The Dancers Inherit The Party
Cheap Trick: The Epic Archive Vol. 1 (1975-1979)
Colin Stetson: All This I Do For Glory
Depeche Mode: Where's the Revolution (Remixes) [vinyl]
Dust Brothers: Fight Club (original motion picture soundtrack) [vinyl] [vinyl]
Ella Fitzgerald: 16 Classic Albums (10-CD box set)
Elton John: 17-11-70 (reissue) [vinyl]
Elton John: Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy (reissue) [vinyl]
Elton John: Elton John (reissue) [vinyl]
Elton John: Madman Across the Water (reissue) [vinyl]
Elton John: Songs From The West Coast (reissue) [vinyl]
Elton John: Too Low for Zero (reissue) [vinyl]
Feist: Pleasure
Figure Walking: The Big Other
Garland Jeffreys: 14 Steps to Harlem
Gorillaz: Humanz
Imelda May: Life Love Flesh Blood
J. Cole: 4 Your Eyez Only [vinyl]
Jenny Scheinman: Here on Earth
JMSN: Whatever Makes U Happy
John Mellencamp: Sad Clowns & Hillbillies
Jonathan Coulton: Solid State
Juliana Hatfield: Pussycat
Kinks: One For The Road (180 Gram Audiophile Pink Vinyl/Limited Anniversary Edition/Gatefold Cover & Poster) (reissue) [vinyl]
Les Amazones d'Afrique: Republique Amazone
Life Of Agony: A Place Where There’s No More Pain
Little Cub: Still Life
Lonely Robot: The Big Dream
Lumineers: Seed 1 [vinyl]
Mark Lanegan Band: Gargoyle
Mary J. Blige: Strength Of A Woman
Mew: Visuals
Neil Young: The Story So Far....
New Found Glory: Makes Me Sick
The New Year: Snow
Old Crow Medicine Show: 50 Years of Blonde on Blonde
Pet Shop Boys: Undertow [vinyl]
Pinegrove: Everything So Far [vinyl]
R. Ring: Ignite the Rest
Ryuichi Sakamoto: async
Seals & Crofts: The Singles A's & B's - 1970-1976 (reissue)
The Supremes: Supremes A Go Go (reissue and expanded)
Sylvan Esso: What Now
Thurston Moore: Rock n Roll Consciousness
Trombone Shorty: Parking Lot Symphony
U2: How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb (reissue) [vinyl]
Van Morrison: The Authorized Bang Collection (3-CD box set)
Various Artists: Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2: Awesome Mix Vol. 2
Various Artists: La La Land: Original Motion Picture Score [vinyl]
Willie Nelson: God’s Problem Child


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

weekly music release lists

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)
Shorties (daily book and music news and links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)


Shorties (May's Best New Books, Reconsidering Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Album, and more)

Signature recommended May's best new books.


Drowned in Sound reconsidered Wilco's album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot album.


The Record examined the musical moments in Jonathan Demme films.


Literary Hub shared an excerpt from Josh Emmon's short story collection A Moral Tale.


Sylvan Esso's Amelia Heath broke down the band's new album What Now track-by-track for All Songs Considered.

All Things Considered interviewed the duo.


Guernica interviewed author Mohsin Hamid.


Jay Farrar talked to the Phoenix New Times about the new Son Volt album, Notes of Blue.


The editor of the new F. Scott Fitzgerald collection I’d Die for You and Other Lost Stories discussed her process at the Guardian.


NYCTaper shared a recent Acid Mothers Temple show.


The OTHERPPL podcast interviewed author Annabelle Gurwitch.


The Stranger offered a primer to the music of Tim Kasher.


The Rumpus interviewed author Chanelle Benz.


Stereogum interviewed the band Pet Symmetry.


The Millions listed modern books inspired by Jane Eyre.


PopMatters interviewed singer-songwriter Melina Duterte (Jay Som).


Emma Watson talked to Signature about recommending books through social media.


Stream a new Holyoak song.


Literary Hub interviewed author Anne Elizabeth Moore.


Paste listed the best punk cover albums.


The Rumpus interviewed Michael Seidlinger about his book Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves.


Stream a new Los Colognes song.


Translator Deborah Smith examined the state of literary translation at Financial Times.


NPR Music is streaming Cover Stories (a covers album of Brandi Carlile songs).


The Amherst Bulletin profiled author Tony Tulathimutte.


Stream a new PJ Harvey song.


Jeff Lemire talked to the Oklahoman about his new graphic novel Roughneck.


Stereogum talked to members of the reunited bands Belly, Buffalo Tom, Juliana Hatfield, and Letters To Cleo.


Morning Edition interviewed Paula Hawkins about her new novel Into the Water.


Stream a new Jay Som song.


Rolling Stone examined why S.E. Hinton's novel The Outsiders still resonates after 50 years.


Drowned in Sound interviewed Buffalo Tom's Bill Janovitz.


Weird Fiction Review features new fiction by Jeff VanderMeer.


Stream a new Francine Thirteen song.


Hazlitt interviewed author Doree Shafrir.


The Current listed the top 89 Prince songs.


Vulture interviewed author Neil Gaiman.


Stream a new Jason Isbell song.


Vox interviewed Omar El Akkad about his new novel American War.


eBooks on sale for $1.50 today:

After Disasters by Viet Dinh
The Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks by Donald Harington
We're All Damaged by Matthew Norman

eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

Band of Brothers by Stephen E. Ambrose
The Course of Love by Alain de Botton
Georgia O'Keefe: A Life by Roxana Robinson
Henry and June by Anais Nin
I'm Just a Person by Tig Notaro

eBooks on sale for $2.99 today:

Familiar by J. Robert Lennon
Hitch-22 by Christopher Hitchens
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
On Immunity by Eula Biss
Pieces for the Left Hand by J. Robert Lennon



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

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

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


April 27, 2017

Book Notes - Edie Meidav "Kingdom of the Young"

Kingdom of the Young

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.

Kingdom of the Young is the brilliant new collection from Edie Meidav, one of the most talented prose stylists writing today.

Kirkus Reviews wrote of the book:

"A probing and deeply ruminative cross-genre odyssey. Meidav pulls readers through a series of dreamy, complex, poignant stories with language that is by turns gauzy-poetic and pinpoint-precise but unfailingly inventive.... A penetrating collection that glides among an impressive breadth of storytelling modes with warmth and easy brilliance."


In her own words, Edie Meidav's Book Notes playlist for her collection Kingdom of the Young:


Musical Laughter

Can music beat back death? The best music surprises us in our moment; a succession of moments makes our life’s tempo. Perhaps you’ve heard the idea that music began 40,000 years ago. Or that homo sapiens could be called more endowed, able to beat back the Neanderthals, mainly because our sapient ancestors had cave art and flutes. Art gave them exactly the stronger social identity that made them leap ahead. Cultural production did matter. On the strength of art alone, one branch of our ancestry vanished, the other thrived.

Tell opponents of the NEA this, or even tell yourself the next time you find yourself staring at some randomly produced painting in your dentist’s office or a hotel room. Art mattered and still matters. And then consider how enduringly lovely and preposterous is the idea of music: that we can measure, deflect, and alter sound entering our ears, and that such sequencing and blending means something to us?

As I write this, Radiohead’s KID A plays some jumbled version of speech that has me feeling I just leapt from the Neanderthal divide toward the end of the twentieth century, when, with millennial spirit, scientists reported a strange finding. Those called clinically dead for, say, twenty minutes - before the defibrillator gets the heart pumping again - come back to report that, apart from the infamous tunnel, the beckoning warm figure, the phantasm high-five gauntlet of long-gone friends and family - when the briefly dead look down at their bodies, being fussed over by medics and family, the dead can both see and hear. After a short time, sight leaves.

Which means that for those of us the hearing population, our last gush of emotion rests in hearing.

Did you need any more reason to treasure all your sentimental mixtapes, your playlists, your memory jogs? Sentiment adheres. So if tempering sound is our most primal and civilized attempt to exert agency and control, to recall, who but death anyway gets the last word on meter?

Maybe this primacy of hearing supports the way the best songs carry the paradox and tension of our lives. The song you love lets you surrender yet within safe strictures. You get to find surprise within the expected, ritual without obedience. We have so many wishes and bring them all to the altar of music. We want shamanic transport through the firing of multiple neural tracks, the explosion of new pathways, electric current happily mired or carried in ways we never imagined. To paraphrase Jerry Lee Lewis, we need a whole lot of something beat into us. What we really want, however, is something so close to love it is love.

First consider the trickiness of language.

Who among the chorus reading does not know the writer who wants to be a musician?

Why? Because language always aspires to the condition of music. This is why choosing to write while listening to music – to which literature aspires – is the equivalent of having the person off the street hum loudly into a mike downstage while the truly gifted soloist mutters behind the proscenium arch. And yet for some writers, writing to music is the best if not the only way. Not for some of us is the earplugged white-noise room with the shades drawn. For us, the aleatory nature of stimulants seems to help: music offers us that stimulating illusion of communication.

Wordsworth said we enter the world endlessly rocking. We cry into the abyss of that great post-womb silence, hopeful for touch, release, change. Both music and language share the divine hope of expression: despite seasons of disillusion, the recipient might connect to a creator. The best notes and words tell us it is up to us to muster change or else be mastered by it.

We burn with the wish to connect, we dream the burn, and the dream of both language and music is love. Hear a great song, read a thrilling book, and you feel the same recognition as when in love. You say: no one ever considered these elements together in exactly this way. You are changed.

If music and language call on us to be more present to the way time beats past us without beating us, often the music people listen to during and around the writing of any work has to do with ghosts, with former and aspirational loves and selves. In which realm would you wish to live, with whom, doing what and during what period? What music sparks the creation of a new world, what reminds you of the ballyhooed flow, what will fire you with randomly directive discoveries akin to those of Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies for the creation of art?

To turn both a bit oblique and personal here: in the mail last week my nine-year-old daughter and I received a shoebox filled with supplies meant to create a hydraulic claw, a little feat of joint engineering she and I agreed we would undertake. Putting together anything with instruction manuals is not a strength many possess. Perhaps some of us were forced to nap during some formative moment of manual-dexterity development or born with the instruction-translating part of the brain not quite intact. But my daughter and I meant to try, her interest in art and design overcoming the foolhardiness of any such enterprise involving my direction.

Syringes and cardboard box, clear tubing, brads, zip ties!

Superheroically we hurtled over obstacles, one by one, nearing the end and then emerging with our creation: a strangely phallic hydraulic claw that could not lift a single thing.

Along the way we had known our few moments of frustration, if only one stomp-out. And beyond the phallic claw, what was, at the end, our reward? As we eyed our useless structure, soon to be dismantled, soon to join the graveyard of useless devices meant for later tinkering, I asked one of those adultish, doltish questions: Guess it’s about the process?

To which she laughed. And then laughed some more.

Her capacity to share the joke ended up being our greater gift much larger than what that shoebox could ever have contained.

And perhaps it’s stretching to say her laugh encompassed all the near-misses of her nine years of life and, in a proleptic manner, all the later godforsaken misses that will come when an adultish person struggles toward being in the moment. Enough to say her laughter linked the whole gambit and made it matter. No greater music exists than a series of beats which serve as a reminder to connect. To understand another enough that your own tribe is expanded, really, who could dream it any greater than those non-Neanderthals?

While writing KINGDOM OF THE YOUNG, I was in a series of caves. Living in two distinct locales: upstate New York and western Massachusetts where I live now. Because driving entered my life in force and so many of the radio stations were so distinctly mainstream, and one of my daughters began to love pop, I listened to the radio in a way I had not heard in either northern California or New York City, trying to tease out the unexpected in Justin Timberlake or god knows who else, trying to get clues about where I found myself.

While stationed somewhere writing, I also listened to instrumentals: here is one playlist called Joy in Writing I used.



I felt lucky hearing U Sriniivas; elated listening to Jan Garbarek/Usted Fateh Ali Khan: Ragas and Sagas; moved by Marilyn Crispell and David Rothenberg’s lovely One Dark Night I Left My Silent House. I relied on Yume Bitsu as a standby, and sometimes The Clogs and the Sefardic Jewry explorations by the unbelievable maestro of Catalunya, Jordi Savall.

Sometimes, too, randomly, rarely, I ran outdoors while listening to Seal’s first album, one I found oddly and narratively stimulating.

But here below I wish to discuss only the first songs on a 4-hour playlist.



.

I called this list Packing Music because I was so often, metaphysically or not, unpacking during the period in which I wrote this Kingdom of the Young collection - to which, in a great act of musical high-fiving over the language-music divide, the musician Kevin Salem continued our collaboration by writing a ‘score’ (www.kevinsalem.com). Existentially, I was in a state of moving. I became a mother twice over, I had jobs, I lived through several homes, cities, states, continents.

This collection addresses some primal question of never having fully belonged anywhere and what became my strong consequent interest in reaching across toward others. This the sequence I needed to hear, the one that would bridge the past toward the unknown future, the notes that would offer that always new gift of homo sapiens, the knowing laughter you find in music.

Black Ego by the Digable Planets
Perhaps I remain in a cave but I have not heard much about this group in recent years. What I loved when I first heard them and what I still love is this: the spunky smart female singer and the melding of jazz, hiphop, sparseness. The whole group reminds me of an energy I felt at a certain age, maybe fifteen, feeling the world lay ahead of me, that I already knew everything, a node I again revisited at nineteen. Marguerite Duras in The Lover has her narrator say that at nineteen she has the face she will have the rest of her life. I hear this girl singer and feel she knows the entire lexicon of spunk. And though my father used to say to me that it is amazing how as you get older you realize how much your parents know, part of writing this book meant I am continuing to recall what youth knows and learn how little I have ever known, each year succeeding in stripping away whatever I thought of as certain knowledge.

"Save Me" by Aimee Mann
Somewhere in a novel I wrote during these years about boxing and Cuba, one of the characters is pursued through her bad life choices by this song with its unforgettable line: save me from the ranks of the freaks who believe they can never love anyone.

"Hallelujah" by Rufus Wainwright (Leonard Cohen cover)
This is the one song that, if I play its elemental two chords, will bring my family to the piano to sing. It is an unstoppable song about which many have written, which many have covered. It is a song that in its kabbalistic way loves words enough to have inspired many. Here I love the tenderness of Wainwright’s voice; the crackle he gives that minor chord with its major lift.

"3,6,9" and "Willie" by Cat Power
Both these songs make me feel as if I get to have the tired clear-sighted clarity of the addict at the end of a rope without having to actually live that moment. Which is, in some way, much of what the best writing gives us: addiction to a world if freed of pain.

May we all be so lucky.


Edie Meidav and Kingdom of the Young links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

Kirkus Reviews review
Massachusetts Review interview with the author
Publishers Weekly review

Largehearted Boy Book Notes playlist by the author for Lola, California


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

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 (Granta's Best Young American Novelists, The Best Indie Folk Albums of All Time, and more)

Granta has announced its latest crop of Great Young American Novelists.

The Guardian examined what the list means about America.

Literary Hub added to the list.


Paste listed the best indie folk albums.


Literary Hub and Salon interviewed John Waters about his new book Make Trouble.


Leslie Feist talked to SPIN about her new album Pleasure.


Bookworm interviewed Steven Moore about his book My Back Pages.


Jeff VanderMeer talked to VICE and Electric Literature about his new novel Borne.


Stream a new Hazel English song.


The A.V. Club and Rolling Stone recommended essential Jonathan Demme films.


Stream a new Kane Strang song.


Stream a new David Bazan song (a Protomartyr cover).


LitReactor recommended debut female authors.


NPR Music is streaming The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda album.


BookPage interviewed author Emma Donoghue.


Stream a new Warpaint song.


Literary Hub shared an excerpt from Doree Shafrir's novel Startup.


NPR Music is streaming Joan Shelley's self-titled album.


Electric Literature and BookPage interviewed author Sara Baume.


Aimee Mann visited World Cafe for an interview and live performance.


CBS News interviewed national Book Foundation executive director Lisa Lucas.


Tidal interviewed members of the band Aye Nako.


Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me is being adapted into a multimedia performance.


NPR Music is streaming Juana Molina's new album Halo.


The Rumpus book club interviewed author Julie Buntin.


Stream a new Ride song.


Author David Grann talked books and reading with the New York Times.


Drowned in Sound interviewed Slowdive drummer Scott Simon.


The Guardian listed the best author cameos in film and television.


Paste interviewed singer-songwriter Sondre Lerche.


Aquarium Drunkard interviewed poet Eileen Myles.


Pitchfork shared an excerpt from Erin Osmon's forthcoming book Jason Molina: Riding with the Ghost.


CNN profiled Brooklyn's newest bookstore Books Are Magic.

Literary Hub interviewed owner Emma Straub.


NPR Music is streaming Bonnie 'Prince' Billy's Merle Haggard tribute album, Best Troubadour.


eBooks on sale for $1.50 today:

After Disasters by Viet Dinh
The Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks by Donald Harington
We're All Damaged by Matthew Norman

eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

Band of Brothers by Stephen E. Ambrose
The Course of Love by Alain de Botton
Georgia O'Keefe: A Life by Roxana Robinson
Henry and June by Anais Nin
I'm Just a Person by Tig Notaro

eBooks on sale for $2.99 today:

Familiar by J. Robert Lennon
Hitch-22 by Christopher Hitchens
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
On Immunity by Eula Biss
Pieces for the Left Hand by J. Robert Lennon



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

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

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


April 26, 2017

Book Notes - Rob Sheffield "Dreaming the Beatles"

Dreaming the Beatles

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.

Rob Sheffield's Dreaming the Beatles is an insightful and often personal look at why the band's music has endured over the past 50 years.


In his own words, here is Rob Sheffield's Book Notes music playlist for his book Dreaming the Beatles:



The world's romance with the Beatles has been raging for over fifty years now—yet it's stronger than ever. John, Paul, George and Ringo have never been more famous or popular or influential than they are right now, a half-century after they broke up. That's the story I wanted to follow in Dreaming the Beatles: The Love Story of One Band and the Whole World—I wanted to write a book that's not about the Sixties, but about the Beatles now and why they matter in our moment. How did four nowhere boys from Liverpool come up with the greatest songs ever heard? And after they split, how did they just keep getting bigger? These are a few of my favorite songs from the Beatles' long weird saga—the music that makes us all come together.


The Beatles, "You're Gonna Lose That Girl" (1965)
Never a hit, but one of my first favorites—I was a little kid watching the movie Help! on Channel 56, five years old, transfixed by all these insane sounds the boys were making. Those bongos. That guitar twang. Those vocal harmonies. That moment opened up holes in my heart that are still there.


The Beatles, "I Want To Hold Your Hand" (1963)
The song that conquered America—yet there's nothing the least bit dated or nostalgic about it. It sounds like urgent, primal, girl-crazy rock & roll, a room full of lads holding nothing back, because they're on fire with the need to get their feelings across to this dream girl. I have hundreds of favorite moments in this song, but my favoritest is how John's voice cracks in half when he's howling that second-to-last "haaaaaaaand."


The Beatles, "I Saw Her Standing There" (1963)
They had to cut their whole debut album in one day, in February 1963, and this was the first tune they banged out that morning—you can hear that John and Paul woke up with winter colds. (John's stuffy nose honks even louder in the second song they cut, "There's a Place.") Imagine being Paul McCartney and starting your morning with that "1-2-3-4!" shout, knowing you have one make-or-break chance to conquer the world in one day. Thirteen hours later, John rips out whatever's left of his vocal cords for "Twist a Shout," and their album is officially finished. What the Beatles achieved that day changed everything since.


The Beatles, "Girl" (1965)
Rubber Soul will always be my favorite Beatle album—the most soulful vocals, the realest emotions, the bitchiest sneers, the heartiest laughs. The fact that they had to bash it out at warp speed—they wrote half the songs in a week—just loosened them up. Catch me in the right mood and I'll even defend "Michelle"—I love the bass solo, and how you hear in John's guitar that he's just a couple of days away from writing "Girl," a love song where he admits he can't figure this woman out at all because she's miles ahead of him. I still can't imagine a 24-year-old guy wrote "Girl."


The Left Banke, "Walk Away Renee" (1966)
One of the best Beatles songs that the Beatles never wrote. So many brainy young aesthetes in the 1960s got smitten with the quest to reinvent themselves as Paul McCartney—the Left Banke's Michael Brown got closer than most. "Walk Away Renee" would have been one of the highlights on Revolver—except it isn't on Revolver, because Paul didn't write it. I love so many Left Banke songs ("I've Got Something On My Mind," "Pretty Ballerina") but this is rightly their most famous.


The Beatles, "Dear Prudence" (1968)
Paul is on the drums—because Ringo just quit the band, storming out on the fractious White Album sessions. (He rejoined the band two weeks later.) It's one of their loveliest, most placid and playful songs, an invitation to come out and play in the sunshine—but they recorded it in the middle of a crisis. Listening to how these troubled boys pour their hearts into "Dear Prudence"—not knowing if Ringo will ever come back, not knowing if the band will survive or collapse, not knowing if life as they know it is over forever—that's so inspiring to me. But also a little scary.


Aretha Franklin, "The Long And Winding Road" (1970)
This has to be the most any Beatle cover version has improved on the original. I never got this song until I heard Aretha sing it, on her album Young, Gifted and Black. I always dismissed "The Long and Winding Road" as Paul at his slushiest—but it was Aretha's version that made me hear all the weary pain and stoic rage in the song.


George Harrison, "Give Me Love" (1973)
My wife is madly in love with George—she only has eyes for him. (She calls him "the Goth Beatle.") It's amazing how such a shy boy was able to surf the mad chaos of the Beatle years and make such beautiful music out of it, like this one—a Number One hit and a mystical prayer to Krishna.


Paul McCartney, "With A Little Luck" (1978)
Another Number One hit from the weird Seventies solo wilderness years. Paul didn't just make a yacht-rock hit—he actually recorded this song *on a yacht*. Respect! I've always loved how smooooothed out this is—it makes "We Can Work It Out" sound like "Gimme Shelter."


The Beatles, "Rain" (1966)
Some people think Ringo was just a clod who could barely play the drums. These people are not necessary evil…but they are so, so wrong. I am ardently pro-Ringo and for me this song is proof of how brilliance as a drummer. It's psychedelic, cynical, hilarious, serene, sarcastic—and that's all just in the drums. Hail Ringo!


John Lennon, "I'm Stepping Out" (1984)
One of my favorite John songs is one that came out four years after he was killed—"I'm Stepping Out," where he sings about being a househusband who's been cooped up in the house too long, changing the diapers and watching Sesame Street. He's getting dressed up to go hit the town and blow off some steam for a night. He sounds giddy with delight.


The Beatles, "Getting Better" (1967)
Last week I went to Abbey Road in London to listen to the outtakes from the Sgt Pepper sessions, which will finally get released this summer in the fiftieth-anniversary box. It was so astounding to hear all the alternate takes—they were just buzzing with ideas and energy. I love the first take of "Getting Better"—Paul on Wurlitzer, sounding mean and aggressive. The album version goes for a completely different sound, with jangling power-pop guitar. It's a tribute to how much imagination these guys had—dropping these ideas behind them like crumbs, but always surging ahead to the next one.


Rob Sheffield and Dreaming the Beatles links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

Austin American-Statesman review
USA Today review

KTRS interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

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 (Doree Shafrir on Her Debut Novel, The Best Alternative Rock Songs of 1997, and more)

Doree Shafrir discussed her novel Startup with Nylon and Rolling Stone.


SPIN listed the best alternative rock songs of 1997.


CarolineLeavittville interviewed Bryn Chancellor about her novel Sycamore.


Stream a new Heavens track.


The New York Times profiled author William Gibson.


Stream new music from Holy Data.


CarolineLeavittville interviewed Elizabeth Silver about her memoir The Tincture of Time.

Silver examined writing both memoir and fiction at Signature.


Kate Tempest visited World Cafe for a live performance and interview.


Margaret Atwood talked to the Los Angeles Times about whether or not Handmaid's Tale is a feminist book.

Authors reflected on the novel's influence on them at ELLE.


Stream a new Kevin Morby song.


Literary Hub shared an excerpt from Frederick Backman's novel Beartown.


Stream a new Houses of Heaven song.


CarolineLeavittville interviewed Elizabeth Strout about her new novel Anything Is Possible.


Stream a new song by Big Thief.


Signature asked 21 writers "what hope means to them, to the marriage of literature and hope, to the importance of hope to our society today, and to the books they turn to when feeling hopeless."


Stream a new Mark Lanegan song.


Hannah Tinti talked to Literary Hub about her novel The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley.


Tanlines’ Jesse Cohen recommended podcasts at Stereogum.


Paste listed the best books of 2017 so far.


Stream a new Carry Illinois song.


Comics Beat talked superheroes with cartoonist Mariko Tamaki.


Stream the debut single by The No Ones.


Bustle recommended literary graphic novels.


Paste interviewed the music director of the television drama 13 Reasons Why.


Comic Book Resources interviewed Emil Ferris about her graphic novel My Favorite Thing is Monsters.


Stream a new Shabazz Palaces song.


Lena Dunham is taking her Lenny Letter on the road.


First & the Gimme Gimmes covered Barry Manilow and Madonna for Paste.


Authors recommend books for a time of resistance at Mother Jones.


Stream the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 soundtrack on a Dorito's Bag.


Passport recommended April's best new books for travelers.


Arto Lindsay looked back on his career at Billboard.


Julie Lekstrom discussed her debut novel Mikhail and Margarita with Flavorwire.


The Quietus reconsidered the Cure's Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me album 30 years after its release.


eBooks on sale for $1.50 today:

After Disasters by Viet Dinh
The Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks by Donald Harington
We're All Damaged by Matthew Norman

eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

Band of Brothers by Stephen E. Ambrose
The Course of Love by Alain de Botton
Georgia O'Keefe: A Life by Roxana Robinson
Henry and June by Anais Nin
I'm Just a Person by Tig Notaro

eBooks on sale for $2.99 today:

Familiar by J. Robert Lennon
Hitch-22 by Christopher Hitchens
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
On Immunity by Eula Biss
Pieces for the Left Hand by J. Robert Lennon



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

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

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


April 25, 2017

Book Notes - Taylor Larsen "Stranger, Father, Beloved"

Stranger, Father, Beloved

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.

Sophisticated and intimate, Taylor Larsen's novel Stranger, Father, Beloved is an auspicious debut.

Kirkus Reviews wrote of the book:

"Larsen makes a noteworthy debut with a family drama that explores loyalty, lies, and well-being… Larsen captures every nuance with finesse, every emotion with grace. An emotionally intelligent family drama that examines the breaking point of a marriage."


In her own words, here is Taylor Larsen's Book Notes music playlist for her debut novel Stranger, Father, Beloved:



I wrote my novel, Stranger, Father, Beloved, during a time of emotional turbulence that is reflected in the fictional lives of my novel's two main characters, Michael and his daughter Ryan. The book begins with a party at which Michael sees his wife Nancy talking with a stranger, who Michael is convinced should have been the man to marry his wife. He brings the stranger into their lives as a replacement so that he can leave the family. The marriage begins to split apart as Ryan goes through a period of sexual awakening and rebellion. Buried secrets slowly come to light. The music on my list is a mixture of music that appears in my novel as well as music that I listened to in the writing of it. The songs are filled with sexuality, grief, and longing for a more authentic life.

Alexandre Desplat: "Morning Tears" from the soundtrack for the film The Painted Veil
I listened to this song for years and even now as I listen to it and write this, it brings tears to my eyes and floods my body with a sense of mournful calm. The song is meant to be a ballad of mourning in a literal sense as it relates to the film, in terms of trying to accept death and the fact that love has been lost. For my novel, it brings sound to the deep pain of loss of all kinds, and I am amazed that a song can capture the nuances involved with the vulnerability that comes with real loss. This song captures it perfectly.

Hole: Live Through This
My novel is set in the 1990s and the daughter, Ryan is going through a period of sexual awakening. This is also the time period during which I came of age, so I can relate to Ryan. She is seduced by the angry music of bands like Hole, Nine Inch Nails, and Jane's Addiction. Ryan's father Michael is shocked by the posters he finds on her walls one day. When I wrote the following passage, I imagined the unnamed posters were photos of Courtney Love: "Two posters were of the same woman, a singer with full lips and a low-cut tank top staring at the viewer as if in challenge. The straps of her tank top were close to falling off her shoulders, almost exposing her breasts. He had been disgusted by the belligerent and blatant sexuality it professed and the anger burning in the young woman's eyes. He did not want his daughter to see sexuality as a challenge, as a threat to unleash onto others, as these posters suggested."

Tommy James: "Crimson and Clover"
This song oozes with longing—it is one of the sexiest songs I have ever heard and its echoes can be felt throughout my book. It begins with a single moan. Michael desperately wants to channel his sexuality in an unbridled sense, but he is too repressed and self-conscious. In contrast, his daughter Ryan's sexuality is exploding all over the place as she learns she has power over others due to her attractiveness.

The Police: "Invisible Sun"
Writing a novel about a man having a nervous breakdown involves going into his regrets about the past and his inability to claim what he wants in the present or build a future. Nonetheless, revelations emerge. This song feels like a meditation on pain and regret: "I don't want to spend the rest of my days, keeping out of trouble like the soldiers say…" Michael has spent his life keeping out of trouble and doing what is expected of him, and he just cannot take it anymore.

Patsy Cline: "I Fall to Pieces"
Towards the end of the book, Michael goes to a bar with John and this song is playing in the background. It plays unassumingly to underscore the fact that Michael is indeed unraveling, falling to pieces, though he is trying to ignore this by going out drinking. But, by the end of the night, he cannot escape himself and the truth he is so desperate to both cover up and confront. The song finds Cline singing about how she can't pretend to be just friends as Michael's central dilemma involves discerning who is a friend and who is a potential lover.

Tori Amos: "Cruel"
This strange song is the perfect backdrop for the book's central dilemma —being cruel to someone who loves or wants you. Michael is aware that he is cruel toward his wife Nancy, never giving her sex or affection. Ryan, mimicking her father's behavior, flirts with a friend's parent and then withdraws affection when she ultimately gets bored. Neither is proud of their ability to be cruel, but they are nonetheless.

Lou Reed: "Walk on the Wild Side"
This song would have been playing while Michael was in college at Yale in the 1970s. How Michael would have loved to have walked on the wild side! The closest he ever comes is back in college, where he finds refuge in drinking, causing a series of bizarre incidents that he chooses to suppress in his memory. Michael continually tries to access his "wild side" in his married life by drinking too much, hoping he can discover his younger self, one that seemed wilder and less lost and subdued.

Luther Vandross "A House Is not a Home"
The family house is a character in its own right. Nancy feels she cannot decorate the house to make it homey; it must remain formal and sterile. Ryan can feel the tension in her house, mostly coming from her parents' strained marriage, and so she avoids sleeping at home whenever she can.

Echo and the Bunnymen: "The Killing Moon"
There is a Gothic quality to this book. Part of it is the setting—crashing waves surround the peninsula, while bright stars often encircle the moon. Tall trees sway in the salty air. Amidst this stunning landscape, fraught characters run around full of desire and unexpressed passion. This passionate song mirrors their desperation as they try to grapple with who each of their "fated" lovers is.


Taylor Larsen and Stranger, Father, Beloved links:

the author's website

Kirkus Reviews review
Los Angeles Review of Books review
Publishers Weekly review

The Brooklyn Rail interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

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 (The Best Book Covers of 2017 (So Far), Stream a New Mountain Goats Song, and more)

Paste listed the best book covers of 2017 (so far).


All Songs Considered shared a new Mountain Goats song and discussed the band's forthcoming album Goths with John Darnielle.


Dani Shapiro on writing about marriage.


Stream a new Beach Fossils song.


R.I.P., Robert M. Pirsing, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.


Stream a new Shout Out Louds song.


Guernica interviewed author Michael Eric Dyson.


Stream a new Celebration song.


The Vegan Revolution interviewed author duncan b. barlow.


Rolling Stone shared an excerpt from Rob Sheffield's new book Dreaming the Beatles.


Happy 100th anniversary to the Hogarth Press.


Stream the documentary What Doesn’t Kill Me: The Life and Music of Vic Chesnutt. (via Aquarium Drunkard)


HuffPost recommended recently published dystopian fiction.


Stream a new song by Daddy Issues.


Jeff VanderMeer talked to VICE about his new novel Borne.


Stream a new song by Palm.


The Millions interviewed Claire Cameron about her new novel The Last Neanderthal.


Stream the forthcoming Jesu/Sun Kil Moon album 30 Seconds To The Decline Of Planet Earth.


Signature offered a primer to the works of Elizabeth Strout.


Aquarium Drunkard interviewed electronic music producer Kelly Lee Owens.


The College Heights Herald interviewed author Tobias Carroll.


Paste profiled the band Future Islands.


Listen to a new song by Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly and James McAlister.


Jeff VanderMeer and Cory Doctorow discussed the future of science fiction at Electric Literature.


PopMatters interviewed saxophonist Colin Stetson.


SPIN revisited classic Cure songs.


Rick Ankiel talked about his new book The Phenomenon: Pressure, the Yips, and the Pitch that Changed My Life with Fresh Air.


Listen to a song from Blitzen Trapper's forthcoming musical.


Flavorwire interviewed author Michael Farris Smith.


alt-J played a Tiny Desk Concert.


The Huffington Post interviewed Tom Williams.


Ben Greenman examined Prince's musical legacy at the Literary Hub.


eBooks on sale for $1.50 today:

After Disasters by Viet Dinh
The Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks by Donald Harington
We're All Damaged by Matthew Norman

eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

Band of Brothers by Stephen E. Ambrose
The Course of Love by Alain de Botton
Georgia O'Keefe: A Life by Roxana Robinson
Henry and June by Anais Nin
I'm Just a Person by Tig Notaro

eBooks on sale for $2.99 today:

Familiar by J. Robert Lennon
Hitch-22 by Christopher Hitchens
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
On Immunity by Eula Biss
Pieces for the Left Hand by J. Robert Lennon



also at Largehearted Boy:

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

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


April 24, 2017

Book Notes - Kristen Radtke "Imagine Wanting Only This"

Imagine Wanting Only This

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.

Kristen Radtke's graphic memoir Imagine Wanting Only This is one of the most moving and thoughtful comics I have read in years.

The Chicago Tribune wrote of the book:

"One of the most haunting graphic memoirs I’ve ever read. . . . As we turn the pages on [Radtke’s] journey, we are ravaged and ravished. There is a proud tradition of graphic memoirists—of those dually equipped to wield word and image—to tell the true and deeply considered story of a life. Alison Bechdel, Roz Chast, Riad Sattouf, David Small, Marjane Satrapi, Art Spiegelman and others have done it searingly well. Add now to that list Radtke, who proves herself an equal among equals with this debut book."


In her own words, here is Kristen Radtke's Book Notes music playlist for her graphic memoir Imagine Wanting Only This:



A note: It'd be disingenuous for me not to mention that a common soundtrack to much of the drawing in Imagine Wanting Only This was the television and radio: drawing over 1,200 images means incountable hours alone, and after some of the early choices are made in each drawing, a lot of it can feel simply like labor and execution. Jessica Abel made an entire book about the radio in reaction to this, called Out on the Wire: the Storytelling Secrets of the New Masters of Radio. After a few hours of NPR, the comforting formulas of television often served as easy backdrops for me, too—Law and Order: SVU, 90s sitcoms, poorly-rated sci-fi like Fringe. Still, I often write in silence, particularly when I first start composing.

Leonard Cohen, "Chelsea Hotel #2"

I think this is one of the most beautifully disingenuous songs of all time. Cohen spends the entire song reminiscing about the times he spent with a woman, and then ends with "that's all, I don't even think of you that often."

Stevie Nicks

I can't really pick just one here, but I listened to her so often during the writing and drawing of Imagine.

My Morning Jacket, "I Will Be There When You Die"

I love putting on old college favorites when I'm working through drafts. I was introduced to My Morning Jacket via a mix-CD that a dreamy art student with a tongue ring slipped under my dorm room door. He played guitar and knew how to use Photoshop, so I took his music recs really seriously.

Houndmouth, "Houston Train"

I love drawing to smokey lady voices.

Penguin Cafe Orchestra, "Perpetuum Mobile"

Maybe it's because two of the most brilliant literary people I know got married while this song played, but I stick this song on writing playlists all the time.

Portishead, "Glory Box"

Good for sexy writing.

Miles Davis, "Four"

I like cheerful songs while I'm making work about the end of days.

This Will Destroy You, "Leather Wings"

Just super duper beautiful.

Phoenix, "Love Like a Sunset Part I"

This one's a little frantic in parts and can make you feel a little nuts if you're trying to parse through an idea, but has always kept me energized, too.

Beirut, "The Gulag Orkestar"

This song makes me feel like I want to win a war, and the war is turning in a book on time.


Kristen Radtke and Imagine Wanting Only This links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

Atlantic review
Chicago Tribune review
Full Stop review
Kirkus Reviews review
Publishers Weekly profile of the author

Bustle profile of the author
Comic Book Resources interview with the author
The Daily Iowan profile of the author
Dallas News profile of the author
ELLE profile of the author
Michigan Quarterly Review interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

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Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

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


Shorties (An Interview with Paul Auster, Stephin Merritt on Writing, and more)

Hazlitt interviewed author Paul Auster.


The Los Angeles Review of Books interviewed Stephin Merritt of Magnetic Fields about writing.


The New York Times shared a primer of resistance poetry.


Stream a new How To Dress Well song.


The Los Angeles Review of Books interviewed author Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o.


The Paris Review shared an excerpt from Damon Krukowski's book The New Analog: Listening and Reconnecting in a Digital World.


The New Yorker profiled author Elizabeth Strout.


The Los Angeles Review of Books interviewed Stephin Merritt of Magnetic Fields about writing.


Literary Hub shared an excerpt from Jeff VanderMeer's new novel Borne.


Musician Aidan Moffatt discussed his favorite album art at The Quietus.


The Rumpus interviewed author Lidia Yuknavitch.


Stream a new Pond song.


Literary Hub recommended contemporary novels about teens for adults.


Rolling Stone interviewed Iggy Pop.


The Creative Independent interviewed poet Nikki Giovanni.


Stereogum reconsidered Feist's The Reminder album 10 years after its release.


The Los Angeles Times interviewed author Jonathan Lethem.


Aimee Mann broke down her song "Patient Zero" on the Song Exploder podcast.


Vanguard interviewed author Okey Ndibe.


Stream a new song by Jonathan Rado of Foxygen.


The Los Angeles Times interviewed author Jason Diamond.


Stereogum ranked Prince albums.


Granta shared an excerpt from Amelia Gray's forthcoming novel Isadora.


SPIN listed 10 of Prince's best deep cuts.


The Believer interviewed author Jeff Jackson.


David Cross and members of Yo La Tengo shared an oral history of the band's "Sugarcube" video.


Paste recommended books for aspiring farmers.


The Record looked back on Prince's posthumous year in business.


The Verge recommended books about about climate change's worst case scenarios.


Paste ranked Father John Misty songs.


The Guardian interviewed author Francesca Segal about her debut novel The Awkward Age.


The band Tacocat discussed its Coachella experience with The Record.


Alison MacLeod discussed her new short story collection All the Beloved Ghosts with Weekend Edition.


eBooks on sale for $1.50 today:

After Disasters by Viet Dinh
The Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks by Donald Harington
We're All Damaged by Matthew Norman

eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

Band of Brothers by Stephen E. Ambrose
The Course of Love by Alain de Botton
Georgia O'Keefe: A Life by Roxana Robinson
Henry and June by Anais Nin
I'm Just a Person by Tig Notaro

eBooks on sale for $2.99 today:

Familiar by J. Robert Lennon
Hitch-22 by Christopher Hitchens
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
On Immunity by Eula Biss
Pieces for the Left Hand by J. Robert Lennon



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

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

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


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