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May 22, 2018

Daniel Gumbiner's Playlist for His Novel "The Boatbuilder"

The Boatbuilder

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 Jesmyn Ward, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, Lauren Groff, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Daniel Gumbiner's novel The Boatbuilder is a brilliant debut of addiction and coastal California life.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"[Gumbiner] allows his characters and small-town setting to shine in this beautiful novel about finding one’s place, no matter how small, in the world."


In his own words, here is Daniel Gumbiner's Book Notes music playlist for his novel The Boatbuilder:


I wrote this book over a period of two years, when I was living in Berkeley and then Oakland, CA. Around that time my friend Wiley bought an old school bus from a river rafting company in Sonora, ripped the seats out, and turned it into a tiny, roving music venue. A group of our friends began playing shows regularly on the bus and over time, a collective formed. They called themselves Splendor All Around and they toured together all over the west, from Los Angeles to Orcas Island, playing shows in backyards and living rooms and bars, but for the most part, playing shows on the bus, which had surprisingly good acoustics and could fit about twenty people comfortably, though it often fit much more than that, uncomfortably.

In April of 2015 I tagged along with a tour for several days, in my own car. I drove through the night with my friend Zack to meet up with the bus, which had left days ago, and was already in Joshua Tree. We listened to a late-night radio host as he rambled about “the alien conspiracy” and we drank multiple Five-Hour Energys to stay awake.

“Juiced it,” we would say, whenever we finished a Five-Hour Energy. I can’t remember why we started saying that. It was funny to us. It was 4 am and we were wide-awake and flying across the state.

When we got to the desert the sun was already rising. The bus was parked outside Pappy and Harriet’s bar, where the musicians on the bus had played the night before. We slept in the parking lot at Pappy and Harriet’s for a couple hours that morning, and then, along with the bus, we headed to the National Park, where we planned to camp and celebrate our friend Derek’s birthday, though Derek didn’t want to be the center of attention and kept insisting that it was, in fact, everyone’s birthday that day. Derek is wonderful guy, a real-life cowboy farmer from the Shenandoah Valley who once taught me how to clip a goat’s toenail. You’ll hear a song of his on the playlist below.

Anyway, there’s much more to this story that will probably be told at a different time. There’s a story about me realizing I was in love again and a story about wandering around the desert on acid that is, really, more like a million stories, but for the purposes of this Largehearted Boy intro, the relevant part of this story is that we all ended up hanging around the fire pit that night to celebrate Derek (everyone), drinking whiskey and beer, all the musicians passing around their instruments and playing each other’s songs. This is definitely the best way to listen to music, I remember thinking: drunk and maybe still on acid a little bit and out under the stars in the desert with friends.

If you read the book after reading this intro, you will likely notice the appearance of the fictional Splendor All Arounders. Their role in the story is a minor one, but when I was asked to construct a playlist that related to the book, that night in Joshua Tree came to mind. These songs remind me of the time when this book was first coming to life, and so, for this playlist, I’ve drawn exclusively from recordings made by members of the collective. Their work inspired me then and continues to inspire me now. OK, enough talking, time for the good stuff.


1) James Wallace and the Naked Light, “The Wire (Reprise) / Kicked Down the Road”

James Wallace (now known as Skywayman) is a musician based out of Nashville, Tennessee. This song of his is the only song from the playlist that actually appears in the book. To me, its themes of resilience and reinvention resonate with the primary questions the novel explores. What do you do when something keeps coming at you and you can’t stop it? Berg, the main character of the story, struggles with chronic pain and addiction. He moves to a remote town in Northern California in order to recover, but his pain and suffering continue to dog him. “If you chase me I’ll run,” James sings in this song, “I’ll run into the darkness or the fire I won’t run forever.” There’s so much wisdom and steely self-knowledge in that line. It’s brave to admit that you will run from something, that you’re not invincible or fearless, and it’s powerful, at the same time, to say you won’t run forever, that you know you have the strength to survive, if you are pushed far enough. I think of those lines at the end of Alejandro Zambra’s story “National Institute” where the speaker is facing down his tyrannical teacher, but does not feel afraid. “Because I spoke softly, but I was strong,” Zambra writes. “Because I speak softly, but I’m strong. Because I never shout, but I’m strong.

2) Salt Suns, “Everything I Want Takes Long”

I’ve been listening to Dylan Flynn’s music since I was a teenager (and he was a teenager), when my girlfriend gave me a mix with two of his songs that he likely recorded in the basement of his mother’s house. Dylan’s a blacksmith and a sawyer now and lives out in West Marin, where he performs with his band, Salt Suns. Like the speaker in this song, most things Berg wants in the book take a long time. He begins apprenticing with a boatbuilder named Alejandro, captivated by his work and the world he has created. Berg wants to be like Alejandro, but pretty quickly realizes that this will take a long time—and perhaps never happen. What does it take to make peace with that? To recognize that everything may take long, and there’s no way around it?

3) Mikayla McVey, “BREAK EVERYTHING IN SIGHT”

I think this is the only song in which I’ve ever been quoted. You’ll have to guess what my line is.

4) Oil Derek, “If I Was a Crow”

This is a very old track from Derek (who performs as Oil Derek), but one that I always come back to. I doubt Derek remembers this, but one day, at my old house in Berkeley, I came downstairs and found Derek hanging out with a couple of my roommates. He asked me what I’d been doing up there and I told him I was working on my novel. “God damn,” he said. “I can’t wait to read that book.” At a time when I was just starting out, when I had no idea if I’d ever finish, it meant a lot to hear that. The early days of this project were fragile and unpredictable. At one point I scrapped the entire first half of the book and rewrote it from the beginning. I’m grateful to those who stood by me in those days and supported my work, with gestures large and small. A book is, in many ways, treated as the product of an individual’s mind, and to a certain extent it is, but if there’s one thing I know, it’s that you do nothing all on your own. So thank you, Derek.

5) Pancho Morris, “I Am Me”

Pancho is the Draymond Green of Splendor All Around. He galvanizes the group with his with energy, edge, and confidence. He’s the team’s beating heart but he also pushes things too far, on occasion, and falls afoul of the refs. One of the things I love about Pancho, though, is that he’s always onto himself, as you can see in this song. I see it as an interrogation of what it means to love him and what it means for him to be loved and god damn, it’s moving.

6) Rebecca Marcyes, “Make Love, Not Excuses”

Rebecca Marcyes is a poet, singer, and reluctant Californian. Her songs are always honest and very smart and this one is no different. “Stay here tonight you big baby,” she sings. “Do just what’s frightening you.” I love that line—the way it calls out her lover’s fragility but also calls them in. Writing about Berg’s lover, Nell, was one of the most challenging parts of writing the book. When you’re writing about a relationship it’s tremendously easy to start saying generic shit—or, even worse, to become self-conscious of the fact that you are saying generic shit and start writing excruciatingly specific stuff that is boring and has no feeling. Somehow how Rebecca always gets it right, that balance of crisp, real detail, mixed with genuine emotional insight.

7) Big Kitty, “May”

Big Kitty, a.k.a. Clark Williams, is a singer-songwriter and sometimes karaoke DJ from Chattanooga Tennessee. Everyone deserves a Big Kitty in their life.

8) Dave Deporis, “I’m an Adult”

Dave Deporis was a friend and bus musician who performed at some of Splendor’s earliest shows and played a major part in Splendor’s most recent tour in 2017. Three days after the conclusion of that tour, he died suddenly and unexpectedly during a botched robbery. His death was extraordinarily tragic and shook the whole community. I’ve always loved this song of his, which speaks, I think, to the strangeness of waking up and finding out that you’re an adult, even though it’s not what you thought it would feel like. When Tayari Jones read the book she told me she thought it was “a coming of age story for a new generation.” Berg isn’t eighteen and coming into adulthood, he’s squarely in adulthood. He has held down jobs and had relationships but he has never had to answer certain core questions about how he makes sense of the world. And, as Tayari smartly noted, I think that’s been a common experience for many in my generation, who have been ruthlessly trained to achieve—and who are very skilled at achieving—but who have not been taught how to reckon with challenges that do not respond to straightforward effort. Why am I doing what I am doing? How does one deal with issues that cannot be triumphed over? How does one make sense of that? These are some of the questions the book grapples with and something we all grappled with, too, I should say, in the wake of Dave’s death. A number of people are working to produce and release Dave’s unpublished material in a way that honors his work and spirit. You can learn more and donate to the cause at davedeporis.com.


Daniel Gumbiner and The Boatbuilder links:

the author's website

Ploughshares review


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

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






May 22, 2018

Jo Scott-Coe's Playlist for Her Book "MASS"

MASS

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 Jesmyn Ward, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, Lauren Groff, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Jo Scott-Coe's MASS analyzes the 1966 University of Texas sniper case through the lens of the shooter's relationships with his father and priest.

A. W. Richard Swipe wrote of the book:

"Is there any connection between religion and mass murder? Scott-Coe analyzes the example of the then-most deadly televised American rampage—the Whitman case in 1966. She extrapolates the essential elements that help us understand current tragic events with the insight of an investigative reporter and the skill of a novelist."


In her own words, here is Jo Scott-Coe's Book Notes music playlist for her debut book MASS:



MASS took me six years to complete. At first, I thought the story was going to be a chapter in another book. I thought that it would be a straightforward narrative about how a public massacre privately impacted a religious figure. What I discovered was more fraught and much more layered. I had a lot of learning to do. The world already knew that a suicidal Charles Whitman took his guns atop the UT Austin tower on August 1, 1966, killing 15 and wounding 31. We already knew how hours before that, he fatally stabbed his mother, Margaret, and his wife, Kathy, in their beds with a brand new knife.

But I learned that one week before the killings, Rev. Joseph Leduc, the whiskey priest who had been Whitman’s scoutmaster and who presided at his Texas wedding, had just accepted a military chaplaincy assignment in Alaska. Following a tip describing Leduc as the most significant confidante in Whitman’s twenty-five years of life, the FBI located the priest and interviewed him two weeks after the shootings.

My quest to understand this man, who had died at a relatively young age in 1981, required a broad scope of research across Leduc’s pathway—from Connecticut to Canada, from Florida to Maryland and back to Florida, to Texas and Alaska and back to Texas again, then back to Florida. Each fragment revealed what had been too easily lost in the shuffle. There was much to find in plain sight, among systems of men who easily exploited the rules—in the military, in the church, and in white southern society—to protect their own interests. I put myself smack in the middle of it all, as a stray Catholic writer and as a woman who did not belong.

My playlist follows.


Sanctus (from Missa Luba, recorded 1958)
This liturgical hymn comes from the Latin (Tridentine) mass rite, performed and recorded on an album by Les Troubadours de Roi Baudouin, a choir of children and adults in the Congolese town of Kaminga. This variation of the hymn captures the influence of vernacular and local tradition seven years before the conclusion of Vatican II, when the Latin liturgy would be translated into local languages across the world. This specific track also haunts the cruel white colonial order of the prep school depicted in Lindsay Anderson’s film, If… (1968), a film that ends with a gun massacre staged from the top of a campus building.

The Right Profile, The Clash
This paen to Montgomery Clift starts with the question, “Hey, where’d I see this guy?”—a puzzlement that echoed my problem seeking Whitman’s priest, and worked as a kind of thread throughout conversations with others who had known/thought they’d known Rev. Leduc and all my doubling-back through archives and articles. Until I located Leduc’s picture, my fantasy understudy was Clift’s handsome and noble Father Logan in Hitchcock’s suspense film, I Confess, an image that turned out to be completely incongruous with Leduc’s actual face and character. What is the “right” profile for a priest? For anyone? Clift struggled with sexual identity, with drinking and with pills—all details that made him a troubled, elusive figure despite his often-serene image onscreen. There was the famous car accident that disfigured him so horribly. I later learned that he died in 1966, one week before the UT Austin shooting. Some refer to Clift’s death as a slow suicide, itself an echo of Leduc’s decade-long deterioration.

In Bloom, Nirvana
This tune—its insistent, slow grinding of a musical jaw juxtaposed with Cobain’s horn-rimmed, clean cut pale face in the video—for me works as an anthem to our ominously ordinary love affair with guns, the palimpsest of blood over a blurry self-image, an American death trap. Like the character in Cobain’s lyrics, we “don’t know what it means.” It’s easy enough to protest the lone gunman and his military grade small arms turned against us. But we ask less often about the war machines and remote controlled bombing devices we all already own, about the horrors performed in our name.

Sinnerman, Nina Simone
I discovered so much running around and scurrying and squirreling in MASS: Away from family problems. Away from accountability and obligations. Inside institutions and away from them. Away from properties and debts and jobs, from promises to wives. Whitman’s crimes are the most awful opposite of scurrying, an in-your-face violent performance on a mass stage. “Run to the rock,” as the song says—or run to the tower. There’s no hiding from the man who’s hiding from himself. Nina’s voice knows the sinnerman needs water for conversion, for a true connection with the Lord. Whitman chose fire and fury instead. And Rev. Leduc, the priest who loved to fish: the sea didn’t save him, either.

Stabat Mater Dolorosa (various)
This Catholic hymn to honor the suffering of Mary, and by extension, the suffering of all women, has its origins in the 13th century. The simple melody is a forlorn, Gregorian-like chant. It has been arranged and recorded by many artists, but I remember it most vividly as an a capella melody sung over and over during Lent by untrained voices, most of them kids, during the Stations of the Cross after school or after a short evening mass. In the little pamphlets we used, the verse at each stage of Christ’s pathway to crucifixion was to be sung “to the tune of Stabat Mater.” My writer’s ear has come to hear this direction as, “brutality and torture, set to the tune of women forced to watch.” This is a song for women (and children) who are witnesses, whose testimony is discounted, who are left with the mess that damages them.

The Harry Lime Theme from The Third Man, Anton Karas
American writer goes looking for man-crush college friend in the rubble of Vienna after WWII. American discovers friend is dead, then that friend isn’t dead, rather quite alive and callously criminal. Everyone ends up in the sewers, all secrets finally exposed, and a gun goes off. At the very end, the lady love-interest walks out of the frame, leaving the all the men in their bombed out graveyard. Graham Greene, whose whiskey priest is the center of his novel The Power and the Glory, authored the screenplay. Greene reportedly had a happier ending in mind, but later decided that the director, Carol Reed, got it right.

Sweetheart Like You, Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan’s song asks a question I faced again and again as I wrote. It wasn’t interrogation, just dismay. The central women in this story, and in too many stories like these, deserved better men—better partners, fathers, priests, ministers. Better workplaces and better contracts. Better law enforcement and better medical care. They deserved more than men who simply would not murder them. They deserved men who saw and heard them, took them seriously, and believed what they said.

Take Me to Church, Hozier
Hozier turns the title refrain inside out, with the lyrics calling us to a different kind of ritual, between intimate partners who have too long been shamed by institutions and brutalized by men who act in their name: “Every Sunday’s more bleak/A fresh poison each week./’We were born sick’/You heard them say it.” The song is a powerful indictment of wounds—both emotional and physical—inflicted in the name of religious rules, especially about marriage and sexuality.

Kiss Off, The Violent Femmes
Here we start with a frantic plea for counseling or connection: “I need someone a person to talk to/someone who’d care to love/could it be you.” It turns sour fast. The UT massacre took place in 1966, the same year Jacqueline Susann’s chemically infused novel, Valley of the Dolls, was published. Investigators discovered Charles Whitman to be a serious self-medicator, not through alcohol (Leduc’s apparently preferred substance) as much as pills, whether prescribed through doctors or not. Given the ethos of the time, however, none of this is especially shocking. In this song, Gordon Gano’s voice builds to a litany of ten angry doses—the ninth pill for “the lost God,” and the last one, climactically, “for everything everything everything everything.” With the “kiss off into the air,” we know that the pharmaceutical solution will not hold, that all these little bullets only lead to the brink of a punishing, dangerous rant.

Hurt, Johnny Cash
The last track for MASS goes to the Man in Black, aka Johnny Cash, with his cover of the NIN song. There were a lot of “men in black” I consulted for this project—aging priests and former priests, friends and family members who had endured decades of unimaginable grief. Here is the voice of the onetime outlaw-addict, the man who knows that ash awaits us all, his song pulling us back from an edge he has seen so clearly. “What have I become/my sweetest friend?” is not a question Whitman wanted to answer. Brutality against his wife and mother, against total strangers—horrific acts demanding that ultimate harm would come to himself—all took the place of transformation and redemption. Cash’s voice calls out to us across generations of graves remembered and forgotten, suggesting a different lesson: “If I could start again/a million miles away/I would keep myself/I would find a way.” Here is another elusive rite we might reach towards, a better “if,” far away from empires that demand blood as a daily offering.


Jo Scott-Coe and MASS links:

the author's website

Superstition Review 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

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 (Bill Gates' Recommended Summer Reading, Stream the New Sudan Archives Album, and more)

Sudan Archives

Bill Gates recommended summer reading.


NPR Music is streaming Sudan Archives' new album Sink.


May's best eBook deals.


Stephen Malkmus played guest DJ at All Songs Considered.

Drowned in Sound interviewed Malkmus.


The 2017 Nebula Awards winners have been announced.


Thunderpussy covered Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain."


Daniel Lanois discussed his recent Venetian Snares collaboration with Aquarium Drunkard.


Singer-songwriter Tift Merritt shared an essay on Eudora Welty at the Oxford American.


Michael Chabon discussed his new essay collection Pop with Fresh Air.


Stereogum shared unlikely covers of "Moon River."


Kathimerini interviewed Emily Wilson about her translation of The Odyssey.


Agnes Obel broke down her new album, Late Night Tales, at All Songs Considered.


The Creative Independent interviewed author Sheila Heti.


Stream a song from Dear Nora's first new album i 12 years.


The Rumpus interviewed author Mary H.K. Choi.


The Rumpus shared excerptd from the anthology Tiny Crimes: Very Short Tales of Mystery and Murder.


Stream a new Oh Sees song.


The Quietus interviewed author Hanif Kureishi.,


Aquarium Drunkard interviewed Stuart McLamb of the Love Language.


BookPage interviewed author Mark Kurlansky.



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


May 21, 2018

Leah Umansky's Playlist for Her Poetry Collection "The Barbarous Century"

The Barbarous Century

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 Jesmyn Ward, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, Lauren Groff, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

The poems in Leah Umansky's collection The Barbarous Century wield vulnerability as a weapon as they speak to dystopias and hope both global and personal.

Doireann Ní Ghríofa wrote of the book:

"Leah Umansky is a poet of rare gifts. The Barbarous Century carries the reader into poetic realms that are both brutal and joyous, both light and dark. In luminous lines, these poems succeed in simultaneously unsettling and soothing us. A book for our times."


In her own words, here is Leah Umansky's Book Notes music playlist for her poetry collection The Barbarous Century:



The Barbarous Century is a journey through the stories that inform us and the stories we tell ourselves. Confessional without being confessional, and with compelling wordplay and lyricism. This is a book about the many challenges we all face in being human: how to be good in a world gone wrong. It uses varied dystopias embedded in myth, story, technology and popular culture to highlight the struggle of being a woman in the 21st century. With longing, resentment, humor and desire, these poems highlight the want for an easier and gentler way to navigate this world we call ours.

The following songs are songs of love, of despair and of solace.

Diamond Heart – Lady Gaga

I’m so in love with the new Lady Gaga album, Joanne. Gaga also has a cameo in a poem in The Barbarous Century because this album sort of got me obsessed. I love this song because it’s about the heart, and well, so much of this collection is, too.

John Wayne – Lady Gaga

This is a great song on Joanne. It’s sort of part heartbreak, part fantasy and part pop-culture. I love that. John is John Wayne, but as Gaga says, “Every John is just the same…” I feel that, and I think it’s evident in the book, too.

Jar of Hearts – christina perri

This is a song my sister got me obsessed with. I really love the piano in it, and sometimes I just listen to it on repeat. The crests and lows of it are really sort of soothing. Of course, what I’m drawn to in it, is the heart.

Everything Zen – Bush

Sixteen Stone will always be one of my favorite albums from my teenage years. I always feel like this song has a sort of dystopian quality to it. It’s so full of angst and rage and darkness.

The Rat – The Walkmen

This is probably my favorite Walkmen song. I love the anger in it. Something just resonates, probably the rage I feel in these barbarous days, or the frustration I feel under this presidency. The Barbarous Century is equal parts longing, politics and pop culture. In each way, there is a push and pull of emotions.

Wild Wood – Paul Weller (from Days of Speed live album)

I love Weller and listen to his live album, Days of Speed, all the time. The whole notion of having trust in yourself is beautiful. Weller always speaks from the heart, and I love that.

Sign of the Times – Harry Styles

This is one of favorite songs of 2017. I’ve listened to this song many times on repeat, singing along as I write. It’s hypnotic and heartbreaking. I don’t know a single One Direction song, but I’m obsessed with this album. The piano sort of takes your breath away. Sometimes we all feel like “we have to get away..” Again, a song of hope and lifting one’s spirit up and away, despite sadness, despite struggle and despite despair.

We don't talk enough
We should open up

Before it's all too much

Will we ever learn?

We've been here before

It's just what we know
Stop your crying, baby

It's a sign of the times

Stand By Me – Oasis (from the live album The Dreams We Have as Children)

I’m always listening to Oasis. This, again, is a song about hope and asking for love, for friendship and for help.

Sad Song – Oasis

Sad Song is such an underappreciated Oasis song but one of my favorites. I listen to a lot of sad songs, but Noel’s voice, here in the live version is so earnest and heartfelt. I always find it sort of comforting.

There is a Light That Never Goes Out – The Smiths

Again, a song about hope and holding on…. Very much like the last poem in the book “Survival.”


Leah Umansky and The Barbarous Century links:

the author's website

Agape Editions review
Horn! Reviews review
The Millions review
The Stirring review

Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Domestic Uncertanties
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Don Dreams and I Dream
Largehearted Boy Book Notes playlist by the author for Straight Away the Empty World


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

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 (Best New European Fiction, Bettye LaVette on Covering Bob Dylan, and more)

Bettye LaVette

The Guardian previewed forthcoming European fiction (and its authors).


Bettye LaVette discussed her Bob Dylan covers album, Things Have Changed, with All Things Considered.


May's best eBook deals.


Vol. 1 Brooklyn interviewed musician Mary Lattimore.


BOMB interviewed author Rita Bullwinkel.


Stream a new Amanda Shires song.


The film adaptation of Susan Scarf Merrell's novel Shirley will feature Elizabeth Moss as Shirley Jackson.


SSENSE profiled the band Beach House.


Alicia Kopf discussed her debut novel Brother in Ice with the Guardian.


Stream a new Aesop Rock song.


Helen DeWitt recommended books that illuminate the workings of singular minds at The Week.


Literary Hub shared an excerpt from Chibundu Onuzo's novel Welcome to Lagos.


Aja Gabel talked to Weekend Edition about her novel The Ensemble.


eBook on sale for $1.99 today:

Let Me Tell You: New Stories, Essays, and Other Writings by Shirley Jackson


Maxim Loskutoff discussed his debut story collection Come West And See with All Things Considered.


A. Savage and Austin Brown broke down the new Parquet Courts album Wide Awake! at All Songs Considered.


Art Spiegelman on the inspiration he found in the works of Lynd Ward.


The Times Literary Supplement interviewed author Bret Easton Ellis.


The Guardian interviewed author Andrew Sean Greer.


Tao Lin discussed his new book, , with the OTHERPPL podcast.


Ben Marcus talked to the New Yorker about his story in this week's issue.



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


May 18, 2018

Laura Davis-Chanin's Playlist for Her Memoir "The Girl in the Back: A Female Drummer's Life with Bowie, Blondie, and the '70s Rock Scene"

The Girl in the Back

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 Jesmyn Ward, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, Lauren Groff, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Laura Davis-Chanin's The Girl in the Back is an engrossing first-person chronicle of New York City's '70s punk scene.


In her own words, here is Laura Davis-Chanin's Book Notes music playlist for her memoir The Girl in the Back:



In my book, I write about my life in rock n roll during the punk era of the late ‘70s, my relationship with Jimmy Destri of Blondie and my friendship with David Bowie, who, after I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, gave me a wonderful push to pursue my real love, which happened to be very far from rock n roll.

The music I discuss in the book had vital, life altering effects on me and my friends, if only because we knew a lot of the musicians making that unique music at the time: Blondie, The Talking Heads, The Ramones, The Mumps, The Cramps, Patti Smith, Iggy Pop—and I am so thrilled to share some of the songs that played pivotal roles in my life at that time, and now, as I look back.

Mumps - Photogenia

I was just back from living in Berlin with my dad and my sister, MB. Bill Arning, my best friend, called and invited me to meet him at the Mumps' show at Max's Kansas City.  This began my re-involvement with the exploding music scene that was rampant throughout New York City.  I helped Bill with the Mumps fan club and started filming their shows.  We got to know the band members, personally, along with other bands that they played shows with. These experiences inspired and readied us to form our own band, the Student Teachers.  The Mumps, in addition, were one of the “M” bands (Mumps, Marbles, Miamis, Milk n Cookies) that showed us that the New York club style was not strictly “1-2-3-4” bands and that pop music with melody and hooks were permitted in that scene, as well.

New York Dolls – Personality Crisis

The entire New York music renaissance would never have happened except for the New York Dolls.  Much like the Ramones, who would later inspire hundreds of local bands to do it themselves, the Dolls’ street persona and unique style proved that you did not necessarily have to be a virtuoso, musically, to form a band and make a record. By the mid '70s the original New York Dolls had split into two main factions, the NY Dolls with David Johansen and Sylvain Sylvain, and the Heartbreakers, with Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan. Both groups regularly played the clubs, Max’s and CB’s.

The Cramps – Green Fuzz

The Cramps were playing the New York clubs regularly. They, along with The Dead Boys, had moved to NY from the Cleveland area, seeking fame and fortune. Led by Lux and Ivy, they invented their own unique style, Psychobilly, that has been copied, ad infinitum, ever since. Kid Congo Powers joined for the Psychedelic Jungle album, their best, in my opinion. Kid was the most social of the group and ended up as one of the denizens of my ill fated crash pad, along with members of the Blessed, and many a visiting Los Angeleno like the Plungers, (Trudie Trudie, Helen Killer, Mary Rat), Pleasant Gehman and a cast of dozens, until that all came to an untimely end.

Ramones – Beat On The Brat

The most famous group to come out of Queens became one of the most influential bands for countless musicians for over 40 years all over the world.  They inspired me and so many other young punk wanna be rockers that anyone can do this!  They defined the punk sound, style and attitude reporting that we don’t care but want to have something to do tonight.  Numerous short songs telling stories of juvenile delinquency with absurd choruses like "now I wanna sniff some glue", "D-U-M-B everyone’s accusing me" and "beat on a brat with a baseball bat".  The band was a breath of fresh air performing at CBGB over 70 times over 5 years.  They defined our scene and generation and, as they toured the United States and the rest of the world, spawned countless DIY bands, in their wake.

Roxy Music – Remake Remodel

The Student Teachers had many music heroes inspiring us teenagers to form a band.  Our band wasn’t like so many others coming out of CBs and Maxs.  We couldn’t play well like many bands that started out at the NYC clubs but that didn’t stop us from trying as we were influenced by bands like the Ramones and Blondie but took some cues from avant garde art rockers The Modern Lovers, The Velvet Underground and Roxy Music.  These bands took smart songs, turning them into epic pieces of musical art.  We wanted to have that sound and style too, sometimes dressing up with jackets and ties, like Bryan Ferry did, when they performed.  This is the first song on the first Roxy album and it’s a rave up rocker.  The track opens with the sounds of a cocktail party before launching into some manic piano and oscillator squalls, care of the great Brian Eno.  The song has very few lyrics but has the hook, “she’s the sweetest queen I’ve ever seen” into the chant of "CPL593H".  That was the license plate of a man that looked like a women in the song.  And that was, at one time, the number of Bryan Ferry’s car license plates.  So clever and silly enough that The Student Teachers would open many of their shows with this song.  It became the one cover song the band would most often perform.  It also had the benefit of helping the sound man balance our instruments, since there were brief "solos" for all of us.

Iggy Pop – Nightclubbing

Iggy had made his return to the music scene under the auspices of David Bowie, at this time. The song, Nightclubbing, was a huge part of the scene that developed where the punk/new wave bands discovered that you could be more successful if you could be danceable, as well. The clubs like the Peppermint Lounge, the Ritz and Hurrah’s were routinely packed as the hip alternative to disco. We were dancing to this very tune when we heard that we had been signed to Ork Records. That seemed like a very big deal to us, at the time.

Bowie – Fame

He sang this when I saw him on the Isolar at Madison Square Garden in 1976, a scene from which I open the book. I also quote from "Fame" toward the end of the book. It is one of his most famous, obviously, but means so much to me not only because he played it at the first major concert I ever went to but because it was co-written with Carlos Alomar and John Lennon. I talk about meeting Lennon as I talk about the unique force Bowie had in my life then. Additionally, the lyrics in "Fame" are not to be discounted:

“Fame makes a man take things over

Fame lets him loose, hard to swallow

Fame puts you there where things are hollow (fame)

Fame, it's not your brain, it's just the flame

That burns your change to keep you insane (fame)."

It’s empty, it’s a fallacy, its not a dream and can really lead to a nightmare. I think Bowie knew that, and Lennon too.

Bang-A-Gong (Get it On) - T-Rex

In an early chapter, I talk about the first time I met Lori, who became the bass player in my band, The Student Teachers. Lori and I became really good friends which, as I wrote about, is helpful because the bass and drums make up the backbone and it’s important for those musicians to be in sync, I believe. Being close with Lori opened up a lot of the rock n roll world to me and one of the key reasons was T-Rex. I didn’t know about T-Rex at the time I met Lori and when she played his album Electric Warrior for me—which included the hit "Bang-a-Gong" he grabbed me. I loved those lyrics: “You're an untamed youth that's the truth with your cloak full of eagles. You're dirty sweet and you're my girl.”—it fed right into the passion and energy of my 15-year old self.
 
Shark in Jet’s Clothing - Blondie

In an early chapter, Jimmy Destri appears. I write about how my band had been playing a gig at Max’s Kansas City opening for The Know, a group headed by Gary Valentine, who had been the guitar player for Blondie until 1977. I talk about how we were upstairs at Max’s after our show and suddenly Jimmy walked in and I remember thinking when I first saw him—it’s the shark! At that time, it was one of my favorite songs of Blondie’s and the lyrics “We're meeting in a neutral zone: the last car on the train/The love you brought shaking up my bones and crawling through our veins—in hindsight, made sense, as Jimmy and I ended up together although it isn’t a love song. And ironically, the lyrics toward the end of the song, “We always met at the edge of a blade and we left at the end of the fight” definitely reflect the long dance to how our relationship ended. Though I believe the song is actually about the gangs in the movie West Side Story.

The Quake - The Student Teachers

I write about "The Quake" and quote it because it was one of the first songs my band did and it was written by Bill Arning, the keyboard player. It’s essentially about Friends Seminary High school where both Bill and I attended and met and which I write about in the beginning of the book. Friends is a Quaker school and Bill pinpoints the religious angle in the lyrics:

Some people twitch to Christianity
In Michigan, it’s polygamy
Then there’s folks who do it Mormon
Finding Baptist close to boredom
A shiver up my spine
My stomach starts to shake
My ears begin to melt
And my hips begin to ache
Hey baby! I’m doin’ the Quake!

It was one of our first songs and it was a real blast because our first show was in the gym at Friends and we thought it so rebellious of us to sing about the Quakes!

School’s Out - Alice Cooper

Although I don’t cite “School’s Out” specifically, it was one of my favorites at the time and was one he played at the Savoy in August 1981, a show I talk about toward the end of the book. The reason I, and so many of us young high-school chained kids, loved it was that as far as we were concerned, school was “always out”. As flamboyant and gaudy and dazzling Cooper was, he captured a serious high-school reality—that the last place we wanted to be was in school: “Out for summer/Out till fall/We might not go back at all” I talk about Cooper’s show at the Savoy because it played an unexpected role in my final decisions about life in rock n roll.


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

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 - May 18, 2018

​​Courtney Barnett

​​Courtney Barnett's Tell Me How You Really Feel, Frog Eyes' Violet Psalms, Quiet Slang's Everything Matters But No One Is Listening, TT's LoveLaws are the albums I can recommend this week.

Reissues include vinyl editions of four Breeders albums (Last Splash, Mountain Battles, Pod, Title TK) and three by Paul McCartney (Chaos and Creation In The Backyard, New, Thrillington, Wings' Greatest).


This week's interesting music releases:


Ash: Islands
The Bird and the Bee: Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 1: A Tribute to Daryl Hall & John Oates [vinyl]
Blue Oyster Cult: Spectres (reissue) [vinyl]
Bombino: Deran
Brad Mehldau Trio: Seymour Reads The Constitution!
Breeders: Last Splash (reissue) [vinyl]
Breeders: Mountain Battles (reissue) [vinyl]
Breeders: Pod (reissue) [vinyl]
Breeders: Title TK (reissue) [vinyl]
Brian Jonestown Massacre: Hold That Thought [vinyl]
Bruce Springsteen: The Album Collection Vol 2, 1987-1996 (box set) [vinyl]
BTS: Love Yourself: Tear
Burn The Priest: Legion: XX
Charles Watson: Now That I’m A River
​​Courtney Barnett: Tell Me How You Really Feel
Five Finger Death Punch: And Justice For None
Frog Eyes: Violet Psalms
GAS: Rausch
Gomez: Bring It On (20th Anniversary Edition) (remastered and expanded)
James Bay: Electric Light
Joan Armatrading: Not Too Far Away
John Maus: Addendum
John Wesley Harding: Greatest Other People's Hits
Kelly Willis: Back Being Blue
La Luz: Floating Features [vinyl]
Low Cut Connie: Dirty Pictures (Part 2)
Matthew Sweet: Tomorrow's Daughter
Michael Rault: It's A New Day Tonight
Nellie McKay: Sister Orchid
Otis Redding: Dock of the Bay Sessions
Parquet Courts: Wide Awake!
Paul McCartney: Chaos and Creation In The Backyard (reissue) [vinyl]
Paul McCartney: New (reissue) [vinyl]
Paul McCartney: Thrillington (reissue) [vinyl]
Pink Floyd: Pulse (remastered and expanded) [vinyl]
Pink Floyd: Relics (reissue) [vinyl]
Postdata: Let's Be Wilderness
Quiet Slang: Everything Matters But No One Is Listening
Ray LaMontagne: Part Of The Light
Ryley Walker: Deafman Glance
The Sidekicks: Happiness Hours
Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks: Sparkle Hard
TT: LoveLaws
Various Artists: I, Tonya [vinyl]
Wings: Greatest (reissue) [vinyl]
Wussy: What Heaven Is Like
Ziggy Marley: Rebellion Rises


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 (Elena Ferrante Interviewed, Chelsea Manning on Music, and more)

Elena Ferrante

The Los Angeles Times interviewed author Elena Ferrante.


Chelsea Manning talked to Pitchfork about the music she's been listening to.


May's best eBook deals.


The Current interviewed David Byrne.


Terese Marie Mailhot talked books and reading with The Millions.


Phantogram released two new songs, one a cover of Sparklehorse's "Saturday."


BuzzFeed shared an excerpt from Bethany C. Morrow's debut novel MEM.


Paste interviewed Stephen Malkmus.


Michael Ondaatje discussed his novel Warlight with All Things Considered.


Stream a new Nine Inch Nails song.


Designer Maria Cornejo discussed her favorite books at Vulture.


WFMU interviewed Stephin Merritt of Magnetic Fields and Future Bible Heroes.


Salon interviewed author Sarah Gerard.


Noisey interviewed Stephen Malkmus.


The New York Times recommended writers to watch this summer.


Noisey profiled singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett.


The Rumpus interviewed poet Shy Watson.


Pitchfork recommended the week's best new albums.


The New York Times recommended books by Ian McEwan.


Noisey recommended entry points into Roxy Music's discography.


Guernica interviewed author Dorothy Allison.


Rolling Stone profiled the band Parquet Courts.


Literary Hub shared an excerpt from Marwan Hisham and Molly Crabapple's book Brothers of the Gun: A Memoir of the Syrian War.


Stream Quiet Slang's new album Everything Matters But No One Is Listening at BrooklynVegan.


Nick Offerman on the writing of Wendell Berry.


The Believer Logger interviewed author Meg Wolitzer.


Literary Hub shared an excerpt from Sam Pink's novella White Ibis.


The Longform podcast interviewed author Sheila Heti.


Tobias Carroll interviewed Sergio De La Pava at Longreads.


The Oregonian and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recommended books for summer reading.


The 2017 Shirley Jackson Award nominees have been announced.


Taiye Selasi talked books and reading with the Guardian.



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


May 17, 2018

Elizabeth H. Winthrop's Playlist for Her Novel "The Mercy Seat"

The Mercy Seat

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 Jesmyn Ward, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, Lauren Groff, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Elizabeth H. Winthrop's The Mercy Seat is an unsettling and important novel that covers an execution in 1943 Louisiana.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"The lives of these characters mesh in the events surrounding the execution, and their points of view cycle through short chapters that build tension as midnight draws near. Winthrop’s carefully structured novel is a nuanced, absorbing, atmospheric examination of how racism tears at the whole of society."


In her own words, here is Elizabeth H. Winthrop's Book Notes music playlist for her novel The Mercy Seat:



The Mercy Seat is a fairly grim novel set in 1943 Louisiana and takes place during the hours leading up to the execution of Willie Jones, a young black man wrongfully convicted of raping a white woman, Grace Sutcliffe, with whom he was actually in mutual love. The novel is told from the points of view of nine different characters, all of whom have their own complicated histories, relationships, and roles in the evening's main event. The songs on this playlist speak sometimes to the themes in the novel, sometimes to the feelings of the characters involved, and sometimes they simply reflect the novel's overall mood.


The Mercy Seat—Johnny Cash

I wrote this book without any title in mind; it was Amy Hundley at Grove Atlantic who came up with the idea of calling the book "The Mercy Seat," a song originally written by Nick Cave. The song is "narrated" by a man, wrongfully convicted, waiting on death row for his execution via the electric chair—a plot line that echoes that of The Mercy Seat. According to the Hebrew Bible, the mercy seat was also the lid placed on the Ark of the Covenant, and the space that God was meant to appear.

Hymn #35— Joe Pug

This song reminds me of the struggles of both Father Hannigan, Willie's mentor, and Gabe, the prosecuting attorney's son. Hannigan has a hard time reconciling how the evil and bigotry and hatred that exist in society squares with the idea of a benevolent God. During the execution scene, Hannigan wonders how there can be a God "in a world where such as this exists." Gabe has a similarly difficult time reconciling how his father—the man who sits on the edge of his bed at night, or takes him fishing, or pitches him baseballs— could possibly be the man responsible for sending Willie Jones to the electric chair. For Hannigan, God contains contradictions; for Gabe, his father Polly does.

Wildfire—Mandolin Orange

I fell in love with Mandolin Orange while I was writing The Mercy Seat, and so I associate the music with the mind-space I inhabited as I wrote. The song "Wildfire" resonated particularly, as song addresses the lasting divides that exist in our country—divides rooted in our country's history of hatred and mistreatment of others. One part in particular speaks to racism and the lasting legacy of slavery, which is at the heart of the novel.

It should have been different

It could have been easy

But too much money rolled in to ever end slavery

The cry for war spread like wildfire


Civil War came, Civil War went

Brother fought brother, the South was spent

But its true demise was hatred passed down through the years

It should have been different

It could have been easy

But pride has a way of holding too firm to history

And it burns like wildfire

My Burden With Me—Mipso

This beautiful song is sung from the point of view of a girl who has died in a train wreck while escaping to meet her forbidden lover, "a low-born boy" whom after she met him she found herself "lost in the light of a flame burning wild." This story forbidden love and its deadly consequences, though different from what transpired between Grace and Willie, still resonates; when I hear this song, I think of Grace singing from beyond the grave, especially the lines, "Can you hear my love as he cries to sleep."

The Night We Met—Lord Huron

The Mercy Seat is populated by characters in relationships that have transformed over time, and not necessarily for the better. The relationship between Ora and Dale (the owners of the gas station outside of town), initially strained by the birth of their son, is, eighteen years later, doubly strained by his departure for WWII. Each of them longs for the relationship they used to have, but the gap between them now is unbridgeable. Nell and Polly's marriage (the prosecuting DA and his wife) is also shaky. Polly has been spending the bulk of his time since DA at the office, and Nell, a northerner who gave up her career as an artist to follow Polly south, can hardly recognize her husband in a man who would seek capital punishment for rape. Willie, like the other couples, would long to go back to the "night [he] met" Grace, perhaps so that things would turn out differently, and she'd still be alive. Probably all of these characters would like to go back to the night they met and take a course different from the one they took to wind up where they are.

Broken Chair—Chris and Thomas

This song is about recognizing circumstances you can't control. It's a nod to the human impulse to try (unsuccessfully) to fix the unfixable, to "mend what's bound to fall apart," which is what both Polly and Hannigan try to do—Polly as a hopeful new DA, Hannigan as a missionary priest. While the song in the end is about resigning oneself to accepting that which can't be changed and thereby gaining inner peace—which neither Hannigan nor Polly achieve—it evokes the same feeling of hopelessness and helplessness that both characters feel in the face of what is "broken," whether an individual, a system, or society.

Jump Mountain Blues—Mandolin Orange

This song was inspired by folklore. According to the tale, a young Native American woman fell in love with a young man and wanted to marry him, but her father wanted her to marry another, richer man. A contest ensued in which the young woman was to run up Jump Mountain, and whichever of the two men was able to catch would have her as his bride. Rather than risk being caught by the man she didn't love, the young woman, hurled herself off the top of the mountain and died. The song is sung by her father, who now lives eternally with her ghost and his regret for not allowing her to follow her heart. I would hope that Grace's father, who also denied Grace her love before her death, lives with the same regret.

Sitting Room—Beta Radio

This song is hauntingly dominated by minor chords and high pitched backing harmonies, and between the unearthly sonic construction and the abstract, undefined imagery ("I will wait for you in the hollow I have hewn," "What did the spirit do beneath the waning crescent moon?") it has an almost spiritual quality that, to my ears, evokes the mood of The Mercy Seat. It is unsettling and absorbing at the same time. The final, repeated lyrics, which reference "offering all for you," can apply to perhaps each of the characters in the novel; in some way or another, each has made or does make some kind of a sacrifice for someone else.

A Thousand Miles Away—Michael Mascioli

This piece made me cry the first time I heard it—not because it is sad, necessarily, but because it stirred up some emotion deep inside that was a curious combination of loss and longing and wistfulness and resignation. When I think about the book cinematically, which I sometimes do, this piece is what I hear playing over the end of the novel: Gabe lying broken in the field under the stars; Nell and Polly at the kitchen table in the dark; Hannigan sitting in the dark with his whiskey; Frank (Willie's father) in the graveyard with a sledgehammer; Dale with the dog on the floor of the hallway, waiting for Ora; Lane (the prison trusty who chauffeured the chair to the execution) in shackles heading back to Angola; Willie in his cell at dawn.


Elizabeth H. Winthrop and The Mercy Seat links:

the author's website

Minneapolis Star Tribune review
Publishers Weekly review


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

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


Shorties (An Excerpt from a Forthcoming Stephen Hawking Graphic Novel Biography, A Jagged Little Pill Musical, and more)

Alanis Morrissette

io9 shared an excerpt from Jim Ottoviani's forthcoming Steven Hawking graphic novel biography.


The New York Times went behind the scenes of the musical based on Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill album.


May's best eBook deals.


NoiseTrade shared a free 2018 Bonnaroo compilation to stream and/or download.


The 2018 Best Translated Book Awards finalists have been announced.


Director Jason Reitman discussed the use of music in his films with Pitchfork.


Nicola Griffith discussed her new novel So Lucky with Hazlitt.


Stream a new Phil Cook song.


All Songs Considered remembered composer and guitarist Glenn Branca.


Ms. Magazine examined the legacy of the 1973 book No More Masks.


Stream a new song by An Horse.


Bookworm interviewed author Joyce Carol Oates.


Janelle Monae's favorite books.


MIchael Ondaatje shared a list of books he loves to reread at Literary Hub.


Forbes interviewed singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett.


Kevin Powers listed second novels that he loves at Literary Hub.


Rolling Stone examined how Tom Wolfe changed music journalism.


Literary Hub shared an excerpt from Gary Krist's book The Mirage Factory: Illusion, Imagination, and the Invention of Los Angeles.


Drowned in Sound reconsidered Slowdive's Souvlaki album.



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


May 16, 2018

Julia Dixon Evans's Playlist for Her Novel "How to Set Yourself on Fire"

How to Set Yourself on Fire

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 Jesmyn Ward, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, Lauren Groff, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Julia Dixon Evans' moving and unpredictable novel How to Set Yourself on Fire is a startling debut.

Vol. 1 Brooklyn wrote of the book:

"The atmosphere taut with tension, secrets and lies, How to Set Yourself on Fire exudes the quiet menace of an explosion waiting to happen...the start of a literary career that will be nothing short of incendiary."


In her own words, here is Julia Dixon Evans' Book Notes music playlist for her novel How to Set Yourself on Fire:



"She's So Hard" – The Jezabels
Setting out to write this book, I didn't know I'd be writing a problematic female character. But when I first wrote my first line about Sheila, I knew she had to be a bit of trouble, and not entirely likeable. She's obsessive, difficult to talk to, and seems to sabotage everything. This song, in a way, is just the permission slip I needed but Sheila isn't entirely hard. Sheila is soft. She's soft in her own self-doubt and needs and the ways she seems to crumble when she wants to be hard.

"The Gardener" – The Tallest Man on Earth
This one's about obsession and I love it. Sheila is owned by her obsessive nature in so many ways. And yeah so what if she follows people and breaks into their backyards, at least she doesn't bury bodies by the lilies ha ha ha!

"Two Small Deaths" – Wye Oak
This song, I think originally soundtracked the writing process for me because of the way it emboldened the quiet sadness of everyday, specific shit. Sheila struggles with this all the time: is it something real and bigger than that quiet sadness of everyday shit? Is it something large or something clinical? And also the key relationship in this story, the friendship between Sheila and Torrey, was spun into being on account of two separate, actual deaths.

"Home" – Daughter
I wrote much of the first draft of this story while listening to Daughter's atmospheric early stuff. Sheila has no real sense of home, and I think that's something she's constantly seeking. Take me home / cause I don't stand a chance in these four walls.

"I'll Still Destroy You" – The National
Not really a writing song because it came out long after this book was finished, but there's the fatherhood in this song is striking: Put your heels against the wall / I swear you got a little bit taller since I saw you / I'll still destroy you. Sheila has to come to terms with her own absent father while watching Vinnie, her neighbor, parent his 12 year old daughter, Torrey. It's so easy to destroy the people we make.

"Something" – Julien Baker
Sheila's insomnia is almost like a backdrop to this story, and the way the lack of sleep nudges her closer and closer to insanity and incapability. I'm still up walking around / The walls of my skull bend backwards and in like a labyrinth. Julien Baker songs are also sad af. Enjoy.

"Love More" – Sharon Van Etten
I was listening to a lot of SVE when I was inspired to write this book, in 2013, and I saw her play live that August that I started writing it, and it was the first show I ever went to alone; I'll never forget how that felt. I heard this song for the first time there and promptly started writing this story. I love the way this song is a little bit about healing and redemption, and ends with a mysterious "she" making her love, after cycling through a verse of "you" and a verse of "it," and that structure kinda makes me think of Joni Mitchell's "Case of You." I love the implications for that in a story so hinged upon female friendship and motherhood.

"Dendron" – The Hotelier
A friend told me this song is about a father. I think it's about loss. Wish I was there to say goodbye when you went away / Wish I was home but no place was there. It's also a bit of a rager so here's a nice reprieve from all the slow songs.

"The Underside of Power" – Algiers
Rager rockblock! This song is dark as hell, but, like, a banger. I think there's a bit of that in Sheila. This internal rage and darkness, masked by her own misunderstanding of herself and what it means to be down and out.

"Husbands" – Savages
Men really don't fare well in this book. Except Vinnie. Vinnie is a good man. This is another banger. This song's not for Vinnie.

"Yesterday's Fire" – Moonface and Sinai
When I first heard this song, I'd already written most of the book. This is something that Vinnie pretty much says to Sheila one night, that simultaneous insignificance-magnitude combo of the universe. All the stars are dying and most of them are already through / We're just getting off on yesterday's fire. Bonus point for fire mention.

"Fuel to Fire" – Agnes Obel
I listened to a lot of Agnes Obel while writing this book. She has a lot of haunting tunes with sparse vocals, including entire albums of instrumentals if lyrics stifle your writing process, which is sometimes the case for me. This song makes me think of Sheila and her mother. Torn by the hours / All that I say to you / Is like fuel to fire.

"Don't Save Us From The Flames" – M83
I think I have a minimum M83 song requirement on playlists so here's a good one for a fiery book. This also has the greatest snippet of lyric: …a piece of brain in your hair.

"Sapsorrow" – Lanterns on the Lake
This is such a tragic song of external insecurity. You say that I'm cold and I'm hard to know. And I've been told this before and it feels like I'll never recover from it. Sheila doesn't need to be told it. She tells herself, and in her past we see those little seeds of being told it, and how they bloom into her own solid sorrow later.

"I Wish I Was The Moon" – Neko Case
If I put this song on my playlist, and then mention @nekocase on twitter when I tweet about it, maybe she'll see it and then maybe she'll read my book. Also there's a few sweet moments in the book about Children's Moon and mothers. I feel like this song is about longing and not belonging, and a little bit about the loss of youth, which is just so perfect for Sheila.  Also: I'm paralyzed and collared-tight / No pills for what I fear.

"Benediction" – Touche Amore
A religious upbringing never leaves you, really, regardless of what you believe. The churchiness of it, the prayer of it. And when all the old church ladies from my past send me emails saying they can't wait to read my book, I at first thing oh god the fucked up sex scenes, but then I think, oh god the post-church feeling. But I think there's something really seeking and repair-thirsty about Sheila's relationship with churches. She spends a lot of time breaking into them. And in particular, I imagine this song playing when Sheila is just standing at her car, detached and a bit angry, at a burial site.  I love how this song, which is completely outside my musical wheelhouse, has a fuckin' prayer in it, screamed. [screaming] MAY THE LORD BLESS YOU AND KEEP YOU FOREVER. This post-hardcore one's for u, church ladies.

"My Body is Made of Crushed Little Stars" – Mitski
There's a scene where Sheila, in some sort of olive branch moment, calls her mom to ask her what a particular star is, fully knowing how her mother will cherish being needed, being motherly, and it might not be anyone at their best, but it's Sheila and her mother at their most… understanding of each other. I also love the combination of sadness and rage in a good Mitski tune.

"Gunshots" – The Twilight Singers
Another desolate, rock bottom sort of song that ramps up whatever mood I'm in. That's a good space for writing. And everything Greg Dulli does is weirdly hot.


We now enter the Harold C. Carr portion of the liner notes. This novel is written mostly from Sheila's POV, but there's a solid epistolary element throughout, in the form of letters sent by someone in the ‘50s called Harold. He's hopeless, and he's sappy, and he's just so incredibly polite. He's a bit of an emotional mess, too, and maybe that's why Sheila latched onto him so much, but it meant I had to change gears, often, while writing, to get into Harold's voice. I had a little arsenal of Harold music that I'd cue up when I needed to find him, and here's a taste.

First up is:

"Never Gonna Love Again" – Lykke Li
A big part of Harold's voice was the sheer tunnel vision of his despair and desolation, putting all of his hope into love from Rosamond, Sheila's grandmother. This song is just, like, the line never gonna love again x 30. V. Harold.

"'50s" – House of Wolves
Kiss me like it's the ‘50s. I also verily relate to the line It's the bitter side of life, that I like.

"Please Mr. Postman" – The Marvellettes
This one's for the LOLs, and for all the letter carriers out there. Sheila's fixation on a UPS driver, a letter that belongs to him, and her grandmother's stash of letters from Harold makes this whole book a bit of a love letter to snail mail. (I literally never listened to this song while writing it, though, or…. I think I might've quit writing).

"Your Ex-Lover Is Dead" — Stars
I can't say that this song bred the novel's title, but I also can't really say that it didn't. I don't think I'm allowed to make a playlist without this song, is that this boils down to. I think Sheila builds her life in fragments, stealing work, sleep, and also connections and friendships only when she can both find them and stomach them. And I love the way this song sort of captures the idea of a passing connection: I'm not sorry I met you. Or in Sheila's case, a passing obsession. And (no spoilers) I think of that scene in the church at the end: Live through this and you won't look back.


Julia Dixon Evans and How to Set Yourself on Fire links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

Foreword review
San Diego Union-Tribune review
Vol. 1 Brooklyn review

KPBS interview with the author
Voice of San Diego profile of 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

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 2018 O. Henry Prize Stories, New Music from Snail Mail, and more

O. Henry Prize Stories 2018

The 2018 O. Henry Prize stories have been announced.


Stream a new Snail Mail song.


May's best eBook deals.


Bandcamp interviewed Corin Tucker and Tracy Sawyer of Heavens to Betsy.


The Emerging Writers Network interviewed author Edie Meidav.


Stream a new Melody's Echo Chamber song.


Omnivoracious interviewed author Sheila Heti.


Rolling Stone profiled Brian Eno, who just turned 70.


Esquire recommended essential Tom Wolfe books.


Stream a new Neko Case song.


Sarah Winman discussed her novel Tin Man with Entertainment Weekly.


Stephen Malkmus reminisced about his discography with Rolling Stone.

Stereogum interviewed Malkmus.


Fresh Air and Rolling Stone interviewed Michael Pollan about his new book How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence.


The New York Review of Books remembered pianist Cecil Taylor.


The Washington Post recommended summer's best books.


PopMatters interviewed the musical duo oOoOO and Islamiq Grrrls.


Pascale Petit has been awarded the Ondaatje prize for her poetry collection, Mama Amazonica.


Book Riot listed the best books in the 33 1/3 series on seminal albums.


The Guardian recommended books to understand happiness.



The Barnes and Noble Review interviewed author Lynne Tillman.



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


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