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August 27, 2016

Atomic Books Comics Preview - August 27, 2016

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.


Chew This

Chew This
by Carol Sogard

This excellently compiled zine draws attention to food waste. It'll make you rethink your food consumption.


Kitties

Kitties
by Greg Steele

Really, Kitties is such a simple concept, it's kinda genius - adorable cats drawn as your favorite superhero (and sometimes super villain).


Power Profiles

Power Profiles
by Klon J. Waldrip

This is a collection of Klon's portraits and mini-bios of fascinating figures - weirdos, freaks and icons. This issue features Jack T. Chick, Kenneth Anger, Jayne Mansfield, Ronnie Spector, Poison Ivy and many more.


Sad Animals

Sad Animals
by Adam Meuse

There is a space in the Mini-Comic Hall Of Fame for Adam Meuse's brilliant Sad Animals - pages of adorable creatures expressing a variety of self-doubt, existential despair and self-loathing. It was out of print for a while, but it's now back, in case you missed it. I keep a copy in my back pocket and share it with people at punk shows in between bands.


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)


Posted by david | Permalink | Comments (View)





August 26, 2016

Book Notes - Ben Tanzer "Be Cool"

Be Cool

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.

Ben Tanzer's memoir-in-essays Be Cool is a wise, moving, and often funny memoir-in-essays.

Joshua Mohr wrote of the book:

"Ben Tanzer has that ever elusive elixir, that ability to be both funny and poignant simultaneously. These essays have that requisite gallows humor about being a parent, but there's tenderness oozing from the page, too, a kind of trickling empathy."


In his own words, here is Ben Tanzer's Book Notes music playlist for his memoir Be Cool:


I want to open this piece with a shout-out for the song "Wanna Be Cool" by Donnie Trumpet and The Social Experiment, which I have decided is the unofficial theme song for Be Cool.

Donnie Trumpet is part of this wondrous emergence of young rappers in Chicago, including, but not limited to Chance the Rapper and Vic Mensa, who are producing all kinds of kick-ass work.

They are the products of this time and this place, the Chicago of now, a city of violence and beauty, that is trying to make sense of both.

They are also the products of a scene that is vibrant and collaborative, creative, desperate to be heard, and in so many ways similar to what happened here with storefront theater in the later part of the last century and the small press scene at the start of this one - a scene I have been lucky to be have been around for, and am a product of myself.

I am also the product though of the decades that proceeded this one, the '80s (and '70s I'm sure), the early '90s, the linguistically questionable aughts, and I have drawn on my experiences during these decades as a means for structuring Be Cool, which was conceived as a series of personal essays, but may have become a sort of memoir as well.

Given this, It seems to me, that I should also structure my Book Notes playlist in this fashion as well, and so with "Wanna Be Cool" on repeat somewhere off in the background, I will now proceed to do just that.



1980's

"People Who Died"/The Jim Carroll Band

This song may be less important than the person who sang it, but without The Basketball Diaries, and by extension Jim Carroll - and is there truly any distinguishing between them anyway - I might not be writing, or at least trying to write like I am, and in terms of people who died, the way Jim Carroll's life ended, as a recluse and a shut-in, and nothing like the vibrant writer or performer I hold dear, is too sad for me to linger on for very long at all.

"Comfortably Numb"/Pink Floyd

It seems cliche on so many levels to include this song at all, not the least of which is the fact that I spent several months in traction during my freshman year in high school, and late at night when the hospital grew quiet, people stopped visiting me, and I could not sleep, I would listen to The Wall again and again, which I know is sad and tragic, just not sad and tragic in the ways that actually have any import on the universe.

"The World's A Mess; It's In My Kiss"/X

I include this song not because I loved it, or X, back then, but because when I saw the documentary The Decline of Western Civilization while living in Los Angeles in the summer of 1981 I thought, this does nothing for me, I will never be this, punk and angry, and this music will never speak to me, but I was wrong - and not just about this - it just took several decades to realize it.

"U Got The Look"/Prince and Sheena Easton

It feels like no list, much less any party should be allowed to proceed hence forth without some reference to Prince, and I really did, and do, love this song. But while it is so easy to focus on Prince these days, including this song also provides me with the chance to recognize my great love for Sheena Easton, and the fact that on the terrifically drunken night I first kissed my now wife Debbie, we took a break from our bar-hopping to go back to our college dorm and watch the wedding between Sheena Easton's character on Miami Vice and that of Don Johnson's.


1990's

"Estimated Prophet"/Grateful Dead

There was this moment while living in San Francisco in the early 90's when I was getting ready to move to New York City, and I had this moment of panic and thought that I couldn't possibly be making the right choice, that I couldn't believe I was ready to leave the Dead, the burritos and the Raves behind, and one afternoon while driving along the Pacific Coast Highway, "Estimated Prophet" came on and I decided that if the Dead played the song at the Mardi Gras show I was going to the following week, I would not, could not move. It would be a sign. But they didn't, and I did, and that was that.

"Killing In The Name"/Rage Against The Machine

I somehow never heard Rage Against The Machine as they played around San Francisco while I was there, but on my last night in New York City before moving to Chicago, and as I labored to get my final casework notes done for job, my friend Avi slipped me this disc as he and Debbie went to sleep, and as I worked until daybreak I had my mind blown. It's possible I hadn't been fully in touch with how much rage I felt then, that I hadn't processed the assault I suffered one day at work earlier that spring, or even Guiliani's ascent to Mayor of New York City, but I listened to Rage Against The Machine and I thought this is how I feel now, right now, and this is what I need, and listening to them helped me find some peace.

"Never Said"/Liz Phair

To say I had no idea who Liz Phair was when I got to Chicago or had ever even heard of Exile in Guyville is an understatement, but from the moment we arrived, it was stunning just how often she or this disc was referenced. That people sometimes choose to dismiss her, or the album, as some kind of relic now of some lost civilization, is to forget what it meant to people then, or how it felt the first time so many of us listened to it, which I finally did, or even hear her live back then, which I also did, and realize that she ultimately might only be the voice of a particular time and place, but how many singers can even hope to say that?

"Sabotage"/Beastie Boys

There was this night in a North Side Chicago club when this song was still new and I had never heard it and the place exploded and it felt so good to be out there in the sweaty crowd dancing to it and I didn't know who it was, and later when I did I was forced to reconsider my dismissal of the Beasties back when Licensed to Ill came out, which led me to Paul's Boutique, and then back to the Ramones, and X, all of whom I once dismissed, but now spoke to me, the energy and the vigor, and it wasn't just that I was different now, but that I was reminded that we have to remain curious and dynamic, and that we have to keep searching for the things that inspire us.


2000's

"Jesus Walks"/Kanye West

Have you ever heard anything like this? Before Donnie Trumpet and Chance, there was Kanye, the now and forever king, and maybe like Liz Phair, or maybe not like her at all, it's so easy to dismiss him for his ego and his endless needy posturing. And yet, try to remember listening to this song for the first time, and the sheer euphoria you felt? Or maybe that's just me, but for all of my New York love and DNA, so much of what I am now is because of how good Chicago has been to me, and Kanye is Chicago and despite it all, Kanye is Jesus too.

"Downbound Train"/Bruce Springsteen

This could easily be part of the 1980s in the same way "People Who Died" could be now. This is music by people I love as reconsideration. Which is not to compare it to X, or Liz Phair or the Beasties, once dismissed and now discovered. This song, like People Who Died is to know something, or someone, you already love, and always loved, differently, because time, or age, and so it is, that this song speaks to my recent dance with suicidal ideation and sadness and the realization that it isn't something new, just something that has given me words to describe something I could not until now.

"Elevation"/U2

It seems almost retro and old dad to go Bruce and U2 back to back, especially when I'm talking about the new Millennium and what that all means, but to shy away from this song, or this moment, is to ignore going to see U2 with a pregnant Debbie, stopping at the bookstore on the way to look at baby names and then having U2 open with this song, never a favorite, but one that excited us to no end because there was so much promise and energy in the night. That we had no idea that 9/11 was just months away, is so weird and sad now. It's also something that's hard to know how it affects one's writing, just that there was an endless affect on the world we live and work in now.

"Simple Song"/Avail

The idea is not to be repetitive here, to talk about coming late to punk, to celebrate the fast, jarring beats the songs hit, and how they speak to me at my advanced age, even as I am so not punk, worried about health insurance and 401(k)s as I am, but then filled with rage and confusion too, and to see a band such as Avail live, to feel their energy permeating the room, the joy they feel as they sing, to recognize that they have never quite become the Ramones or X, but surely feel like them when they play, is not just inspiring, but transformative, if only for the length of any given song.

And one final Be Cool note.

I am struck even as I write this how cool I don't sound or feel, that I would much prefer to write about a song like "Reagan" by Killer Mike. How doing so may be more aspirational than anything, but still makes me want to understand how we make art that kicks ass and is political as well, that tells stories that we want to tell, and yet speaks to something larger, has an impact, and just may transforms lives? This is something to aim for, and want, and essays are a way to do this, if I can just figure out how to do so with meaning and insight. That person is not the person captured in the pages of Be Cool. That person wants to be cool, and is only now becoming more Zen about it. Or so he, I, hopes anyway.


Ben Tanzer and Be Cool links:

the author's website

Dock Street Press interview with the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for 99 Problems
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Lost in Space: A Father's Journey There and Back Again
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Lucky Man
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Most Likely You Go
Largehearted Boy Book Notes playlist by the author for The New York Stories


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
Word Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)


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This Week's Interesting Music Releases - August 26, 2016

Katy Goodman and Greta Morgan

Cass McCombs' Mangy Love, Glass Animals' How To Be A Human Being, The Veils' Total Depravity, and especially Katy Goodman and Greta Morgan's covers album Take It, It's Yours are new releases I can recommend this week.

Archival releases include a vinyl reissue of The La's self-titled album and Frank Zappa featuring Tom Waits' Son of Orange County: Radio Broadcast 1974.


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


This week's interesting music releases:

The Album Leaf: Between Waves
The Bad Plus: It's Hard
Banks & Steelz: Anything But Words
Barbra Streisand: Encore: Movie Partners Sing Broadway
BOYO: Control
Britney Spears: Glory
Butch Walker: Stay Gold
Cass McCombs: Mangy Love
Cassius: Ibifornia
Céline Dion: Encore un soir
De La Soul: And The Anonymous Nobody
Dinosaur Pile-Up: Eleven Eleven
Ezra Furman: Big Fugitive Life EP [vinyl]
Fabulous Thunderbirds: Strong Like That
Florida Georgia Line: Dig Your Roots
Frank Zappa: Hot Rats (reissue) [vinyl]
Frank Zappa featuring Tom Waits: Son of Orange County: Radio Broadcast 1974
Girls Against Boys: Ghost List [vinyl]
Glass Animals: How To Be A Human Being
Ingrid Michaelson: It Doesn't Have To Make Sense
John Zorn: Commedia Dell'Arte
John Zorn: Naked City reissue)
Katy Goodman and Greta Morgan: Take It, It's Yours
The La's: The La's (reissue) [vinyl]
Lee Moses: Time and Place (remastered)
London Symphony Orchestra: Star Wars: Episode V - Empire Strikes Back [gold vinyl]
London Symphony Orchestra: Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi [gold vinyl]
Midnight Faces: Heavenly Bodies
The Monkees: Forever (reissue)
The Monkees: The Monkees 50
Morgan Delt: Phase Zero
Needtobreathe: Hardlove [vinyl]
Pink Floyd: The Wall (reissue) [vinyl]
Prophets of Rage: The Party's Over
Sex Pistols: Live 76 (5-CD box set)
Soundgarden: Down on the Upside (reissue) [vinyl]
Soundgarden: Louder Than Love (reissue) [vinyl]
Twist: Spectral
The Veils: Total Depravity


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

weekly music release lists

Essential and Interesting 2015 Year-End Music Lists

100 online sources for free and legal music downloads
Book Notes (authors create music playlists for their book)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)


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Shorties (A Profile of Jonathan Safran Foer, Authors on Frank Ocean's Literary Aesthetic, and more)

TIME profiled author Jonathan Safran Foer.


Four authors considered Frank Ocean's literary aesthetic at The Fader.


eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

Lighthousekeeping by Jeanette Winterson
The Year She Left Us by Kathryn Ma

eBooks on sale for $2.99 today:

The River and Enoch O'Reilly by Peter Murphy
The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies


Vulture recommended fall's best new books.


CBC Books recommended poetry books by musicians.


Literary Hub interviewed author Jacqueline Woodson.


Son Little covered Bruce Springsteen's "State Trooper."


Signature interviewed author Laura McHugh.


2016: the summer that music streaming took over.


The Independent recommended newly published or reissued political biographies.


Pitchfork shared a timeline of music technology in the 1970s.


Paste listed the best nonfiction books of the year so far.


R.E.M.'s Out of Time album is getting a 25th anniversary remastered and expanded edition.


A conversation between authors Jorge Luis Borges and Osvaldo Ferrari.


Stream a new Ani DiFranco song.


Benjamin Rybeck discussed being both an author and bookseller at Literary Hub.


Vulture critics previewed fall's exciting new books, music, and other culture.


The New Republic examined Cuban science fiction.



also at 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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August 25, 2016

Book Notes - Gonzalo Torné "Divorce Is in the Air"

Divorce Is in the Air

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.

Gonzalo Torné's dark and funny novel Divorce Is in the Air has earned numerous comparisons to Philip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"In a muscular, nimble, and exuberant stream-of-consciousness flow reminiscent of the iconic master of the genre, David Foster Wallace, Torné offers a maniacally playful yet fiercely revelatory study of a man coming to grips with life’s greatest joys and losses."


In his own words, here is Gonzalo Torné's Book Notes music playlist for his novel Divorce Is in the Air:



"Love Is in the Air," John Paul Young
I only thought of this song once I had written most of the novel, but it turned out to be something like the luminous flip side of the book. Because I see Divorce Is in the Air as a comedy (and a comedy about love), when I listen to this song it’s as if I’m hearing the secret heart of the book.

"Mi vida rosa (My Pink Life)," Los Romeos
This is the only song that appears in the book (I think). The lyrics are about the sexual awakening of a girl who leaves behind the "pink" and "innocent" ideas that her parents instilled in her. To my mind the song is also about the moment when life accelerates and starts to get "interesting."

"Seronda," Nacho Vegas
I really like the rolling melody that begins the song, and that Vegas has used in other songs as a kind of signature. The lyrics, like many by this fine artist, are about the things you inevitably have to give up in order to keep going, just to stay where you are. But what keeps me listening to this song is the spell cast by its melody.

"Benvolgut (Dear One)," Manel
I listen to a lot of songs by this band, but I chose this one for its artistic angle (an unusual one for a song), which I also use in the novel to describe the relationship Joan-Marc has with Helen’s son: how are we seen from another family, via familial bonds that had to be broken in order to sustain our current ones?

"Getting Better," The Beatles
This song puts me in a good mood, it reminds me of the music that played in my parents’ house when I was a kid, and it motivates me to always keep improving. Which is the kind of impossible fantasy that we have to take on as novelists if we want to write (and fail) seriously.

"Una vida tranquil·la (A Quiet Life)," Mishima
This conjectural song deals with a classic theme: the frailty of our joy. How a whole life can change with one nighttime phone call. I’d say it’s a theme of my novel (it’s in almost every novel!), but the best thing about the song is that its slow rhythm is very conducive to the tedious hours of rewriting and editing.

"¿Qué se siente al ser tan joven? (How Does It Feel to Be So Young?)," La Casa Azul
I could have picked anything from this one-man band. Guille Milkyway is an artist capable of nearly anything. I chose this song because it inspired the novel I just finished. La Casa Azul is also an important group for the writer who is probably Spain’s probably most disturbing and sophisticated: Luis Magrinyà.

"Rehab," Amy Winehouse
It’s got groove. And there’s a piece of one of my female characters in here, too.

"L’affaire Sofia," Els amics de les arts
These folks are the last examples of a long-standing genre in my mother tongue, Catalan: the joke song (conyeta in Catalan, or a little joke, a wink). This song is especially relevant here because it portrays the way love is articulated between two people who speak different native languages or, rather, who come from different worlds.

"Palabras de papel (Paper Words)," Camela
The lyrics and music are as awful as you might guess. Many of my friends think I’m kidding when I say that this is a central song for engaging my imagination; let’s see if the prestige of international press can convince them. It has a rhythm that, by some mysterious process, tunes up my mind. My theory (going back to Plato) is that it activates the respiratory rate that works best for me. Sometimes I manage to convince myself of that. Meanwhile, I just keep listening to it.


****


"Love is in the Air," John Paul Young
Recordé la canción cuando ya llevaba muy avanzada la novela, pero resultó ser algo así como el reverso luminoso de la novela. Como en mi imaginación el libro es una comedia (y una comedia sobre el amor) al escucharla me parecía escuchar el corazón secreto del libro.

"Mi vida rosa," Los Romeos
Es la única canción (creo) citada en la novela. La letra habla del despertar sexual de una chica que deja atrás las visiones "rosas" e "inocentes" que le habían transmitido sus padres. En mi imaginación la canción habla también de cuando la vida se acelera y empieza a ponerse "interesante".

"Seronda," Nacho Vegas
Me gusta mucho la melodía ondulante con la que empieza la canción y que Vegas ha utilizado en otras canciones como una especie de firma. La letra, como muchas de este finísimo artista, trata sobre las renuncias imprescindibles para seguir adelante, y a poder ser en el mismo sitio. Pero lo que me lleva a escucharla es el sortilegio de su melodía.

"Benvolgut," Manel
De este grupo escucho muchas canciones pero selecciono esta por su ángulo artístico (insólito para una canción) que también empleo en la novela para describir las relaciones entre Joan-Marc y el hijo de Helen: ¿cómo se nos ve desde otra familia, desde los vínculos fraternales que tuvieron que romperse para sostener los nuestros?

"Getting Better," The Beatles
Esta canción me pone de buen humor, me recuerda a lo que sonaba en mi casa de niño, y además me anima a mejorar siempre. Que es la clase de fantasía inasumible que tenemos que plantearnos los novelistas si queremos escribir (y fracasar) en serio.

"Una vida tranquil.la," Mishima
Esta conjetural canción va de un tema clásico: la fragilidad de nuestra alegría. Como puede cambiar toda una vida con una llamada nocturna. Diría que es un tema que está presente en mi novela (¡pero lo está en casi todas!), aunque lo cierto es que su ritmo lentísimo me va muy bien para acompasar las pesadísimas horas de pasar a limpio correcciones.

"¿Qué se siente al ser tan joven?" La casa azul
Podría poner cualquiera de este grupo de un solo hombre, Guille Milkway, que parece un artista capaz de cualquier cosa. Escojo esta porque es ha sido inspiradora de la novela que acabo de terminar. La casa azul es también un grupo de referencia para el que muy probablemente sea el novelista más inquietante y sofisticado de España: Luis Magrinyà.

"Rehab," Amy Winehouse
Ritmo. Y un poco de alguno de mis personajes femeninos también.

"L’affaire Sofia," Els amics de les arts
Estos sujetos (els amics de les arts) son los últimos representantes de un género muy extendido en catalán (mi lengua materna): la canción graciosa (de conyeta). Esta canción es especialmente valiosa porque escenifica cómo se articula el amor entre una pareja que habla idiomas nativos distintos, o si preferís: que parten de dos mundos distintos.

"Palabras de papel," Camela
La letra y la música de esta canción son tan malas como parecen. Muchos amigos piensan que bromeo cuando les digo que es una pieza clave para desplegar mi imaginación, a ver si el prestigio de la prensa extranjera les convence. Tiene un ritmillo que por un proceso misterioso me afina la mente. Yo tampoco lo entiendo. Mi tesis (que se remonta a Platón) es que activa el ritmo respiratorio que más me conviene. A veces he llegado a convencerme, mientras tanto sigo escuchándola.


Gonzalo Torné and Divorce Is in the Air links:

excerpt from the book

Daily Mail review
Irish Times review
Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review
Wall Street Journal 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

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
Word Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)


Posted by david | Permalink | Comments (View)

Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week - August 25, 2016

In the weekly Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week, the Montreal bookstore recommends several new works of fiction, art books, periodicals, and comics.

Librairie Drawn & Quarterly is one of Montreal's premiere independent bookstores.


Behold the Dreamers

Behold the Dreamers
by Imbolo Imbue

Living in New York when the recession hit hard, Imbolo Mbue seized the opportunity of fresh unemployment to pen her first novel. It chronicles the impact of the financial crisis from the perspective of two Cameroonians, Jende and Neni, a young couple newly immigrated to America. At first dazzled by the sense of freedom in the air, from Obama’s presidency to knock-off designer bags, and Occupy, they soon become disillusioned by the failed promises of the American Dream. An all too real, compelling and tragic tale.


Golden Age

Golden Age
by Joan London

Joan London is one of Australia’s most acclaimed authors, and thanks to Europa Editions (yes, the same publishers who brought Elena Ferrante to North American readers!) her latest novel is available here as well. The story charts the lives of a family of Hungarian refugees who land in Australia during the exodus of WWII. The focal point is Frank, an almost 13 year old boy recovering from polio in a hospital for convalescents, who falls in love with fellow patient Elsa. London also thoroughly fleshes out the surrounding characters in the narrative, weaving a complex, rich portrayal of people struggling with the aftermath of war and displacement.


Lucky Peach #20: Cooks and Chefs III - Fine Dining

Lucky Peach #20: Cooks and Chefs III - Fine Dining

The theme of the third installment of quarterly food magazine Lucky Peach’s Cooks and Chefs issue is fine dining. The editors examine this somewhat slippery, ephemeral concept and look at the future of fine dining through interviews from some of the world’s best chefs, including Grant Achatz, Anita Lo, David Kinch, Rene Redzepi, to name but a few. Those who love it explain why it’s their calling, whereas others discuss their reasons for leaving the fine dining scene to pursue other culinary endeavours. All this, plus heaps of the high calibre recipes, cocktails, illustrations, photos and features you’d expect from the always on point Lucky Peach team.


They All Saw a Cat

They All Saw a Cat
by Brendan Wenzel

A charming picture book that does a fine job of representing subjectivity and perspective in a kid-accessible way. A housecat walks through the world and is seen by various creatures, while the reader gets to see the cat through the eyes of the beholders. For example, a human child perceives the cat as an adorable pet, whereas to a mouse it appears as a terrifying monster! While the cat itself stays the same, the wild variations in perspective transform it dramatically from page to page. They All Saw a Cat is equal parts philosophically and visually satisfying to read, and will surely be a good conversation starter with children.


Zoothérapie

Zoothérapie
by Catherine Lepage

From Éditions Somme Toute comes author-illustrator Catherine Lepage’s latest illustrated book: Zoothérapie is a sweet and poignant blend of sage advice and cute animals - a very complementary pairing indeed! What could be more encouraging than a sloth in a tracksuit reminding you to keep working towards positive change in your life? Guaranteed to lift your spirits, this is a self-help book we can get behind. Currently it is available only in French, but English speakers can also check out her recently translated previous book, Thin Slices of Anxiety, which is in a similar vein.


Librairie Drawn & Quarterly links:

Librairie Drawn & Quarterly's blog
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Facebook page
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Tumblr
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly on Twitter


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

other Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week

Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly new comics and graphic novel highlights)
Book Notes (authors create music playlists for their book)
guest book reviews
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
WORD Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)


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Shorties (Jacqueline Woodson on Books and Reading, The Best Music Videos of the 1970s, and more)

Jacqueline Woodson discussed books and reading with the New York Times.


Pitchfork listed the best music videos of the 1970s.


eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

Lighthousekeeping by Jeanette Winterson
The Year She Left Us by Kathryn Ma

eBooks on sale for $2.99 today:

The River and Enoch O'Reilly by Peter Murphy
The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies


The New York Times interviewed author N.K. Jemisin.


A new Sleigh Bells album will be released in November.


Author Sara Majka interviewed herself at The Nervous Breakdown.


Salon revisited Paul Simon's Graceland album on its 30th anniversary.


The Between the Covers podcast interviewed author Jesse Ball.


Stereogum interviewed members of the band Slow Mass.


Bookforum interviewed author Jesmyn Ward.


Stream a new Handsome Family song.


Tim Murphy talked to Interview magazine about his novel Christadora.


Beth Orton visited World Cafe for a live performance and interview.


The Other Stories shared an excerpt from Michael J. Seidlinger's novel Falter Kingdom.


Stream a new Annie Hardy song.


Brooklyn Magazine interviewed author Lincoln Michel.


NPR Music is streaming Y La Bamba's new album Ojos Del Sol.


Maria Dahvana Headley and Victor LaValle discussed Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein at Tor.com.


Stream a new Wovenhand song.


Hazlitt interviewed author Hannah Black.


NPR Music is streaming James Vincent McMorrow's new album We Move.


Joe McGinniss Jr. discussed his new novel Carousel Court with Bookworm.


Stream a new Angel Olsen song.


Cartoonist Shaun tan discussed his new book The Singing Bones (which features sculptures inspired by Grimm fairy tales) with the Guardian.


Stream a new Raveonettes song.


Rumaan Alam talked to Minnesota Public Radio about his novel Rich and Pretty.



also at 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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August 24, 2016

Book Notes - Nina Stibbe "Paradise Lodge"

Paradise Lodge

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.

Nina Stibbe's novel Paradise Lodge is a smart and charming coming of age novel.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"Stibbe's deadpan first-person delivery once again balances quirky charm with beady insight...Another deft helping of absurd social comedy and unconventional wisdom from a writer of singular, decidedly English gifts."


In her own words, here is Nina Stibbe's Book Notes music playlist for her novel Paradise Lodge:


My novel Paradise Lodge is set in 1977. The protagonist, Lizzie is 15, a high-school drop out – like I was – and, like me, working at an old peoples’ home. Popular music features more than I had realised when writing it - a quick count finds 18 songs mentioned and even more artists and composers. This is less because Lizzie is pop obsessed, I think, and more because 1977 was a huge year in rock and pop history. And though the music mentioned is mostly easy-listening radio-soul, we also see the impact of punk rock as it barges into the folk of rural Leicestershire. We see how appealing a free lunchtime classical concert could be back then and towards the end there are renditions of - and dances to - various songs of the day - because that’s what we used to do in 1977.

The playlist below isn’t a list of songs you’ll find in the book - I thought that might be a bit dull - but it’s the same sort of kid on the same journey in the same year.

Back then kids like me recorded our music off the radio onto cassette tapes and therefore lived on a diet of ‘easy listening’ rock, pop and soul dished out by BBC Radio. It was fine but a bit sad that we were essentially listening to the same music as our parents - which certainly hadn’t been the case for them.



"Knowing Me, Knowing You" - Abba

This was the best selling record in the UK in 1977. It was on the radio all the time and though there was nothing wrong with it, it was just another tuneful breakup song – albeit Swedish. It appealed to me because the video - directed by Lasse Hallström – was moody and sophisticated and was easy to reproduce in the mirror and the brilliance of Abba was that the sad songs made you feel sad – in a good (-looking) way.

So, I was listening to the same music as everyone’s mum and dad and it felt fine. The posher kids were listening to Rumours by Fleetwood Mac and the clever kids Year of the Cat by Al Stewart and the rest of us weren’t even buying albums, having neither the cash nor the inclination. We just recorded the radio in our bedrooms, illegally, and danced on a Saturday night to songs like:

"Young Hearts Run Free" – Candi Staten

This song would come on at the Working Men’s Club disco and we’d dance and sing along, ignored but word-perfect, in little gaggles. The main thing, for me, about this song was the gorgeous, affecting croakiness of Staten’s voice. She’d obviously been crying - probably because her man has been ‘busy lovin’ every woman that he can.’

'Don't be no fool when love really don't love you' she warned. Actually, glancing at the young men slurping pints of beer at the bar, with their dads and uncles, the warning that; 'you will get the baby but you won't get your man' didn’t sound so bad to me.

"I Wish" – Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder was on the radio a lot in the 1970s and I’m ashamed to say we took him for granted. In "I Wish" Stevie reminisces about his school days. I liked the idea of him being ‘sent to the principal’s office down the hall.’ If I’d bought albums back then, I’m not sure I’d have bought Songs in the Key of Life. I did buy it a few years later though and it remains my favourite album. Ever.

"Play that Funky Music" – Wild Cherry

Of course we loved this song and loved to imitate the lead singer. I used to sing it as I swept the grand hall and staircase at the care home and the residents used to love it -particularly my USA-style vocals. The incongruity of it pleased me no end, especially the word ‘funky’ in the context of a bunch of elderly English ladies from the Victorian age.

"Way Down" – Elvis Presley

I didn’t like this song. I didn’t particularly like Elvis - as an artist. But then Elvis died. It was high summer and, in the English Midlands, a hot one again and the people around me united in shock and grief. Some said they didn’t want to live in a world without Elvis and I realised the importance of the man. He was 42.

"20th Century Boy" – T. Rex

By 1977 Marc Bolan, lead singer of T. Rex, was presenting a music show on TV. My older sister had been a fanatic and for a couple of years I’d lived with a poster of him - in a glittery top hat - staring at me in my pyjamas, night after night. The glam rock/hippy thing struck me as a bit fake and unaccomplished, plus, I disliked that he rhymed ‘womb’ with ‘soon’ (and that he even had to use womb at all actually..) But then, just a month after Elvis, Marc Bolan died in a car crash and I suddenly appreciated his importance. It was Elvis all over again. Almost. He was 29.

"Heroes" – David Bowie

(“I, I wish you could swim, Like the dolphins, like dolphins can swim”)

For all his extraordinary and challenging themes David Bowie was fully mainstream by 1977 and actually quite old hat. I’d known and loved him since I was tiny, since before even Space Oddity, because our mother was a real music lover. I include this Bowie song from 1977 here - in tribute to Elvis and Marc Bolan and all their devastated fans back then - because now I know how it feels. I’m not over him yet.

So, we were too self-conscious, too poor, too young, and possibly too rural to have discovered anything edgy for ourselves at that point but it didn’t matter because the punk rock - that had been emerging on the fringes, for cool people in the cities and people older than us – properly arrived and teenagers began to encounter music as complex and bored as they were - and it was heaven. Not that we stopped liking the soft rock, pop and soul that was all around us, we just mixed it up a bit. Some of us started wearing black lipstick and some of us didn’t.

"Something Better Change" - The Stranglers (July 1977)
(A double A-side with "Straighten Out")

Imagine this song after months, years of middle of the road rock, Abba and soft disco. I personally owe it to my brother Tom who brought the album No More Heroes into our house. The Stranglers were a revelation; sophisticated, melodic and angry. The guitar intro and the huge ‘Ugh!’ that starts the sarcastic vocals (including the lyrics “stick my fingers right up your nose” and the petulant shouty ending were so satisfying. This song began my love affair with this band.

"Pretty Vacant" – Sex Pistols (July 1977)

The Sex Pistols were a joy and this in particular - their third single – was on Top of the Pops. We were scandalized and delighted that Johnny Rotten’s phrasing of the word "vacant" - emphasising the last syllable to sound like "c*nt” and we reveled in the stories of them being disrespectful to uptight frumpy presenters at the BBC.

"Psycho Killer" – Talking Heads

In real life Lizzie wouldn’t have heard this song during the time span of Paradise Lodge, as it wasn’t released until December. I’m including here because this band and David Byrne - more than any other - felt like mine.

"Mr. Blue Sky" – Electric Light Orchestra

This was also released too late to legitimately be included (January 1978) but I don’t care, I have to add it because it’s a total joy and you should always end with joy.


Nina Stibbe and Paradise Lodge links:

the author's website

Daily Express review
Financial Times review
Guardian review
Irish Times review
Kirkus review
New York Times review
Observer review
Spectator review

The Rumpus 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
Word Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)


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Book Notes - Louisa Ermelino "Malafemmena"

Malafemmena

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.

Louisa Ermelino's impressive short story collection Malafemmena is filled with fascinating stories of women facing dilemmas.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"A collection of arresting short stories that call to mind the work of Lucia Berlin in their sparse realism and humor, as well as their fine attention to the often-harsh details of women’s lives.... Birth and death, love and friendship, drugs and violence, home and abroad: the stories' themes are elemental and affecting, lingering in the mind like parables or myths sketching something vital, sad, and true."


In her own words, here is Louisa Ermelino's Book Notes music playlist for her short story collection Malafemmena:


Growing up in Greenwich Village in New York City, on the streets where the Italians had created their own piece of the old country, there was always music. For me, the memories start with the songs from Naples, move on to the crooners and the pop songs of awkward church dances in St. Anthony's memorial hall gym on Thompson street. I moved, the music moved: Dylan in the sixties, the Beatles' Abbey Road on the overland trek to India, pooling coins for batteries for the tape deck someone had lugged in their backpack. I'm pretty much musically stuck in time but then I get turned on to something current and the excitement starts all over again. My story collection, Malafemmena, moves through time and place. Here's some of the songs that reflect the spirit of the stories… each and every one of them breaks my heart every time.



"Malafemmena" - Toto - 1951

This song is the touchstone of my childhood, the title of the story that names the collection. My earliest memory is my mother singing it; it's in dialect, her "Nnapulitano" dialect, the Italian I heard most often growing up. When I was 17, we went to Naples and sitting in a restaurant by the water, my father asked the strolling musicians to sing this song and my mother cried her eyes out. What's is about? A bad woman, sultry, tough, trashy, which translates into a desirable woman who a man can't help loving despite how she treats him. In my story, she's wildly beautiful and unsentimental. She murders a man without a moment's hesitation. She knows how to take care of herself. My novels were written in another time when I thought of women as powerful, but in the shadows, behind the throne, but not any more… the women in this collection are out in front. They're in charge. They will cut out your heart, you can beg all you want.

"The Summer Wind" - Frank Sinatra - 1966

Every neighborhood Italian-American family that had a son who could sing thought they had a Frank Sinatra. We were boxers (Marciano, Jake La Motta, Graziano), baseball players, (Joe DiMaggio), but in our southern souls, we were crooners, and Frankie was the top of the heap. This song makes me think of my big brother leaving after Sunday dinner to take a walk with his girlfriend who wore tight straight skirts and cashmere sweaters and smoked Benson & Hedges cigarettes that came in a slide out cardboard box. It's the song playing in the opening scene of the movie The Pope of Greenwich Village. Mickey Rouke is getting dressed to go out and the last thing he does is put on his jewelry… gold of course. This song makes me think of Santino, the character in the story "Six and Five". He doesn't want much, for him a good life means a woman who loves him, a sharkskin suit, some money in his pocket, but of course, it's elusive and easily lost.

"That's Life" – Frank Sinatra - 1966

Frankie again, and the sentiment of Italian American life: an acceptance of what comes, not expecting much but going after it anyway, like the mother in the opening story, "Where it Belongs" or "Louise Ciarelli" who make the best of things but never stop dreaming. There's no sense of entitlement and no guarantee of anything, just the will to keep going. As Frankie puts it: "I just pick myself up and get back in the race."

"Subterranean Homesick Blues" - Bob Dylan -1965

My first week in college, the girls in the back room played the Bringing It All Back Home album non-stop for six months. This song in particular embodies those times for me: the confusion, the revolution, the draft, the disillusionment with the status quo. "Walk on your tip toes," "Don't follow leaders," "Twenty years of schooling and they put you on the day shift." The girls in the story "The Baby" are not going to follow the rules. They are going to figure it out. When you got pregnant in the 50s and early 60s, you got married if you were lucky, you were sent away to have your baby in secret if you weren't. Not this girl.

"Those Were the Days" – Mary Hopkin - 1968

This is a silly pop song but I remember dancing to it in a Tel Aviv disco, my Italian boyfriend wearing a dishdasha that a Kuwati boy had given me on the ship from Beruit to Cairo. "We're older but no wiser." That's for sure.

"Come Together" - the Beatles - 1969

This is the music I hear when I think of the road east. We waited for each new Beatles album like the Second Coming and Abbey Road had come out right when I was leaving Europe. Who knows what this song is about or what it means except that we were coming together, in an exodus, looking for who knows what.

"I Want You" – the Beatles - 1969

The repetition of the lyrics of this song, the weight of the sentiment, evoke the desperation of wanting someone… it's not about love but about desire…that singular unbearable feeling that makes you lose your senses, that's almost a physical pain. The women in my stories are self possessed but they still suffer. There's no rhyme or reason to desire. The heart wants what the heart wants.

"Bad Girls" – M.I.A. –2012

From heartbreakers to women on top. Hip hop has never been my thing but I love this one. M.I.A. is the ultimate badass malafemmena. "Live Fast Die Young Bad Girls Do It Well." She's not passive, but challenging: "Pull me Closer if You Think you Can Hang." Yes. And there's the fast cars…


Louisa Ermelino and Malafemmena links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review
Shelf Awareness review

Publishers Weekly 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
Word Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)


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Shorties (Curtis Sittenfeld on Book Reviews, New Music from Sharon Van Etten, and more)

The New York Times interviewed author Curtis Sittenfeld about book reviews.


Stream a new Sharon Van Etten song.


eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

Lighthousekeeping by Jeanette Winterson
The Year She Left Us by Kathryn Ma

eBooks on sale for $2.99 today:

The River and Enoch O'Reilly by Peter Murphy
The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies


Stream a new track by The Glazzies.


The Rumpus interviewed Deep Vellum publisher Will Evans.


Stream a new song by Amber Mark.


Ilan Stavans on translating his own writing at the Los Angeles Review of Books.


Stream a new song by Flock of Dimes (solo project of Wye Oak's Jenn Wasner).


The New Yorker shared an excerpt from the postscript to Patti Smith's memoir M Train.


Stream a new No Age song.


The Rumpus Poetry Book Club interviewed poet David Rivard.


SPIN profiled the band Chastity Belt.


The Literary Hub podcast interviewed poet Tracy K. Smith.


Stream a new Sad13 (the solo project of Speedy Ortiz's Sadie DuPuis) song.


The Guardian listed the top seaside novels.


Paste profiled the Spanish band The Parrots.

And while this group’s roots are indeed firmly planted in the artistry of such classic acts as The Monks, The Seeds and early T. Rex, fans of California surf rock can also very much hear a reverence for the genre’s heyday in the driving rhythms that imbue Los Niños Sin Miedo’s 25 minutes.


The Hollywood Reporter announced that Jami Attenberg's novel The Middlesteins is being adapted for television.


Stream a new song by the band Fiance.


Woody Guthrie and the Dust Bowl Ballads is a new graphic novel about the iconic singer-songwriter.


Paste listed great forgotten Bob Dylan songs.


Author Ann Hood discussed book Clubs with CapeCod.com.


Stream a new Jo Bartlett song.


Flavorwire interviewed Sarah Jaffe about her book Necessary Trouble: America In Revolt.



also at 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


Posted by david | Permalink | Comments (View)

August 23, 2016

Book Notes - Imbolo Mbue "Behold the Dreamers"

Behold the Dreamers

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.

Imbolo Mbue's compelling and empathetic novel Behold the Dreamers is one of the year's finest debuts.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"Realistic, tragic, and still remarkably kind to all its characters, this is a special book."


In her own words, here is Imbolo Mbue's Book Notes music playlist for her debut novel Behold the Dreamers:


Most of the music I listened to while growing up in Cameroon was in languages I didn't understand—over 200 languages are spoken in my homeland and though English and French are widely spoken, our pop music, makossa, is sung in Duala, a language spoken by only a fraction of the population. That, however, didn't stop me and my fellow Cameroonians from standing up and dancing every time a makossa song came over the radio. Because what we heard was the love, joy, and pain expressed in the voices of the musicians. We heard the rhythms, which compelled us to dance. We heard a celebration of life and its perplexities. Whatever the singer was saying was irrelevant: it was all about us, the listeners and dancers—we heard what we wanted to hear and danced till we sweated.

I remember listening to a song by a Zimbabwean musician a few years after I arrived in America. I was completely feeling the song, eyes closed, shaking my head and nodding, when an American friend asked me what the song meant. When I told him I had no idea (the lyrics were in Shona), he asked how I could feel the song so deeply if I didn't understand the lyrics. I thought it a strange question, until I realized that for my friend, music was very much about the lyrics. Born in a country where virtually everyone spoke the same language, and song lyrics were in this language, he'd come to appreciate music mostly through their lyrics, unless of course there were no lyrics, in which case the song was then open to interpretation. But that is not the case for me, and it probably explains my ability to love any heartfelt song from anywhere in the world—the lyrics are secondary.

The songs in this playlist are a combination of songs featured in my novel, songs by musicians mentioned in the novel, as well as songs which inspired me during the writing. One of the beauties of a Cameroonian childhood in the '80s and '90s was how much we were exposed to music from all over Africa. There was a great sense of Pan-Africanism in my childhood, a belief that we were not just Cameroonians but Africans, too. We took pride in the successes and achievements of our fellow Africans, which is why some of the songs below are by musicians beloved across much of the continent. And being that my novel is about two New York City families—one Cameroonian and working class, the other American and upper class—this playlist also represents a celebration of my two very different homelands.



Charlotte Mbango & Tom Yoms: "Sengat To"

This makossa song is in Duala, a language I don't understand, but judging from the music video, it appears to be about lost love. To me, though, it is a celebration of Cameroon through the voices of two legendary Cameroonian musicians. The first time I listened to this song in America, years after leaving Cameroon, I hit replay about a dozen times. It took me back to a beautiful, warm day in my hometown.

Ray Charles: "America the Beautiful"

This song has been rendered by so many greats, in every which way, but Ray Charles's version just fills with so much love for my adopted country. America. What a country. What a beautiful country. What an exceedingly complex country.

Eboa Lotin: "Ngon'a Mulato"

Another legendary Cameroonian musician. Another song which I have no clue what the musician is saying, but the song just crushes me because I remember listening to it on the drive to the airport the last time I was in Cameroon, returning to America after a couple of weeks in my hometown. It represents to me that moment when you're torn between your past and your future; the moment when you consider what you're leaving behind and what you're moving towards.

Miriam Makeba: "Malaika"

What hasn't South Africa given the world? It has given us heroes whose last names include Mandela, Tutu, Tambo and Biko. It has given us stories of a nation's resilience, and great literature (Cry, the Beloved Country remains one of my favorite novels). And let's not forget the music that wonderful country has given us. Miriam Makeba, anyone? This love song, Malaika, with lyrics in Swahili, is beloved across Africa, and listening to Miriam Makeba, a giant of African music, singing it, is simply sublime.

Brenda Fassie: "Ngohlala Nginje"

And while we're talking about South Africa, we must talk about Brenda Fassie, whose "Vulindlela" was played at virtually every African party I attended in the early to mid-2000s. Great as that song was, though, "Ngohlala Nginje" remains my favorite of all her songs.

Léo Delibes: "The Flower Duet" from the opera Lakmé

Listening to this duet in college made me fall in love with opera music. A friend who was an opera buff put his headphones over my ears and I remember this sensation of weightlessness, floating in the clouds. Perhaps that is why British Airways used it their commercials—don't we all sometimes wish we could float in the clouds?

Koffi Olomide: "Effrakata"

Koffi Olomide. Papa Wemba. Awilo Longomba. Diblo Dibala. Name any soukous star from the 90s and there's a chance their music was big in Cameroon, and probably in much of Africa. Sung in Lingala (a lingua franca of the Democratic Republic of Congo), it is the kind of music that gets everyone at African parties on their feet.

P-Square: "Chop my Money"

And speaking of African parties, this song, by the Nigerian duo P-Square, was played at virtually every African party I attended while I was writing this novel—watching party-goers dancing to it was a thrill and an inspiration every time.

Tata Kinge: "Yaya"

The Cameroonian family depicted in my novel is from the Bakweri tribe, of which I am also a member. "Yaya," by the Bakweri musician Tata Kinge, is to me a celebration of our tribe, and our elegant tribal dance which involves rotating our shoulders.

Frank Sinatra: "New York, New York"

New York. New York. Need I say more? If there is a more wonderful city on earth, well…

Bob Dylan: "Blowin' in the Wind"

One of my favorite New York experiences, in my first days in the city, was listening to renditions of American classics by subway musicians. This song, a rendition of which is featured in my novel, moves me every time, no matter how it is rendered, no matter who does the rendition.

Nguea La Route: "Ebonga Londo"

Another song that showcases a magnificent voice from my country. It reminds me of a lovely day in my hometown of Limbe, the same town the Cameroonian characters in my novel left to seek a better life in America.

Johann Strauss: "Voices of Spring"

Like me, one of my characters loves classical music and in a moment of hopefulness, I imagine her listening to this gorgeous waltz. The title says it all: Voices of spring. Winter is over. Flowers are blooming, temperatures rising. Happier days will soon be here.

Meiway: "200% Zoblazo"

One of the biggest hits during my teenage years in Cameroon was this song by the Ivorian musician Meiway; it is also featured in my novel. The chorus of the song includes the phrase "On a gagné! On a gagné!" which means "We have won! We have won!" in French. Whenever this song comes up at parties, I imagine that the dancers, no matter their circumstances, fervently believe that they, too, are winners.

Henri Njoh: "Idiba"

Whenever I reflect on the final scene in my novel, this song is always playing in the background of my mind. I can't think of a more fitting song for that final scene.


Imbolo Mbue and Behold the Dreamers links:

the author's website

Boston Globe review
Kirkus review
Minneapolis Star Tribune review
Newsday review
Publishers Weekly review
St. Louis Post-Dispatch review
Toronto Star review
Washington Post review

Elle Australia essay by the author
Weekend Edition 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)
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Book Notes - Ryan Berg "No House to Call My Home"

No House to Call My Home

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.

Ryan Berg's No House to Call My Home, one of the year's most important books, sheds light on the issues facing homeless LGBTQ youth.

The New York Journal of Books wrote of the book:

"The plight of homeless LGBT youth seldom gets the attention it deserves. Ryan Berg's book No House To Call My Home is one man's attempt to remedy that situation…. A sobering look at the lives of a variety of LGBT kids in a version of foster care… Impossible to ignore."


In his own words, here is Ryan Berg's Book Notes music playlist for his book No House to Call My Home:


No House to Call My Home explores lives often unnoticed: LGBTQ youth left to fend for themselves when systems and adults have failed them. There are many voices in the book and I didn't think mine should be the only one choosing songs that relate to the narrative or the feel of the book. In addition to my own selections I've invited a few friends who know the book, and the realities of marginalization the book documents, to provide songs and commentary to this soundtrack.



1. "Love On Its Way" Corrine Bailey Rae

I think in Corrine's song, she reminds the listener that we as people have to do more than pray, more than march, to make a difference--we have to be active in more ways than one to create the world we want.

chosen by Jawanza James Williams, organizer.

2. "Don't Cry" Seal

The reason the song reminds me that all the tears I've shed I didn't deserve but I'm stronger for them.

chosen by Pyriel Atlas Infinity

3. "Sorrow" The National

That first verse seems to relate to No House to Call My Home in the sense that a lot of the at-risk LGBT youth described in the book have gone through a lot in their own right. Some of them wallowed in their angst and were overcome, others needed medication of various kinds but most of us felt impacted by our personal sorrows so much that it seemed like we constantly confronted it.

chosen by Gabriel L. Matthews

4. "Dream Baby Dream" Suicide

This hazy, insistent and meandering song feels like hope to me. It's ethereal yet pointed and optimistic at the same time. Many of the young people in the book had nothing but dreams to latch onto. Sometimes a dream is enough to keep you going.

5. "My Lady Story" Antony and the Johnsons

This song came out when I was working with the youth I write about in the book. I saw similarities between the song's narrator and some of the young people at the group home. I would listen to it, stuck in gridlock traffic on Grand Central Parkway, sitting in the agency van on my way to pick up youth for a recreation event. There is something so graceful and courageous about this song. I found it really profound; full of joy and sorrow. It carries many of the complexities of someone grappling with identity.

6. "I Shall Be Released" Nina Simone

Nina Simone owns this song. I don't care if Dylan wrote it. Nina Simone owns its ache, its strength, its wisdom.

7. "If It Be Your Will" by Antony

Another cover, this time written by Leonard Cohen. Antony is otherworldly and brings me to tears almost every time I hear this song's crescendo and swell of emotion. Antony's wavering, trembling voice sounds like a worshiper who has come to an understanding not easily found.

8. "Berry Farms" Meschell Ndegeocello

Raw, sensual. Articulates the differences between identity (how we think of ourselves), behavior (what we do), and perception (how others think of us).

9. "Coney Island Baby" Lou Reed

The glory of love, might see you all through
Man, I swear I'd give the whole thing up for you

Sounds casual at first but carries all kinds of tension. In his voice there's the trauma of living in the city and the resiliency that comes from finding something worth living for.

10. "Take Me Home" Perfume Genius

Maybe a little too on point for a book about the search for community and home. The whole thing is very sparse and perfect for a late night when you find yourself alone and yearning for connection.

11. "Steve Biko (Stir It Up)" A Tribe Called Quest

Linden Boulevard, represent, represent

The first group home I worked at was in Queens and I often found myself on Linden Boulevard. A Tribe Called Quest captured a time and a place. Party music with a conscience. The song’s references to Bob Marley and the anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko are in the title, though less overt in the lyrics. The song excels at balancing thoughtfulness with streetwise irreverence. This is the Queens I was introduced to: vibrant, pulsing, wise, and aware.


Ryan Berg and No House to Call My Home links:

the book's website
excerpt from the book
excerpt from the book
excerpt from the book
excerpt from the book

Kirkus review
New York Journal of Books review
Towleroad review

Brooklyn Rail interview with the author
Kirkus profile of the author
Minneapolis Star Tribune interview with the author
TakePart interview with the author
Think Piece 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)
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guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
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Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists
Word Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)


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