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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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August 24, 2016

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


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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)
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)

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:

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)

Shorties (Fall's Best New Books, Dinosaur Jr Albums Ranked by J. Mascis, and more)

BuzzFeed and The Slanted previewed fall's best new books.


J. Mascis ranked Dinosaur Jr's albums at Noisey.


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


Longform reprinted Vladimir Nabokov's 1964 Playboy interview.


Stream and/or download the new Lees of Memory covers album.


The Believer interviewed author Leopoldine Core.


Stream a new Teenage Fanclub song.


Margo Jefferson talked books and reading with Literary Hub.


PopMatters interviewed electronic musician Jon Hopkins.


Vol. 1 Brooklyn interviewed author Monica Drake.


Noisey profiled Michelle Zaunerof the band Japanese Breakfast.


The Spinoff profiled author Cathleen Schine.


Singer-songwriter Margaret Glaspy played a Tiny Desk Concert and visited World Cafe for an interview and studio session.


Teju Cole talked books and reading with Men's Journal.


Stream a new Against Me! song.


Signature recommended nonfiction books for fall reading.


Paste profiled the band Glass Animals.



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 22, 2016

Book Notes - Jennifer Keishin Armstrong "Seinfeldia"

Seinfeldia

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.

Jennifer Keishin Armstrong's book Seinfeldia is an engaging and entertaining history of the sitcom that changed television forever.

The New York Times wrote of the book:

"Her book, as if she were a marine biologist, is a deep dive...Perhaps the highest praise I can give Seinfeldia is that it made me want to buy a loaf of marbled rye and start watching again, from the beginning."


In her own words, here is Jennifer Keishin Armstrong's Book Notes music playlist for her book Seinfeldia:


I write books about TV shows, but music plays a huge part in my process. When I'm writing the cultural history of a show, I want to evoke the time in which it was made, and pop music is a powerful way to do that.

But when I was writing my most recent book, Seinfeldia, the playlist wasn't entirely self-evident Seinfeld wasn't a music-driven show like its contemporary Friends. For the definitive playlist of middling '90s radio rock, please unearth the Friends soundtrack CD—incidentally, one of the first CDs I ever purchased. (Bonus: You get audio clips of Friends scenes in between songs!) But Seinfeld included its share of musical references: George's answering machine referencing cheesy '80s classic "Believe It or Not" from The Greatest American Hero, Elaine fighting a boyfriend for "ownership" of the Eagles' "Desperado." Here, some of the show's signature tunes and other '90s songs that inspired me while writing.



"Morning Train (9 to 5)" by Sheena Easton from Take My Time
George Costanza gives us some surprisingly—or more like ironically—mood-lifting music. In this case, Easton makes going to work sound just delightful, perhaps because she gets to be the one "waiting for him" while he takes that morning train in this regressive setup. Nonetheless, work is momentarily lovely for George in a snappy montage—after he's discovered that pretending to be disabled makes him the most popular guy at his new office. If this doesn't make you want to sit down and write a book about Seinfeld while totally ignoring throwback lyrics, nothing will.

"Two Princes" by Spin Doctors from Pocket Full of Kryptonite
One of the Seinfeld writers told me that the show was written by people in Los Angeles in the '90s about their time living in New York in the '80s. Hence all the '80s music on the show—they were too busy making TV in the '90s to notice any of the pop music happening then. So to evoke the actual time when the show was on, I give you the bubbly 1993 radio hit "Two Princes," from an otherwise forgettable album by an otherwise forgettable band. Just go ahead now!

"Believe It or Not" by Joey Scarbury, theme from The Greatest American Hero
Oh, you weren't inspired enough by "Morning Train"? Okay, how about this ridiculously catchy, ridiculously '80s anthem from a ridiculous 1981 show? It also served as inspiration for George's delusionally grand answering machine message on Seinfeld.

"Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana from Nevermind
Nirvana defined rock in the '90s the way that Seinfeld defined comedy. Because I was in college in the '90s, I loved Nirvana. (I still do.) I spent a lot of time while writing this book—more time than the subject warranted—trying to figure out how these two relics of the '90s fit together. They have some similarities, best exemplified by Nirvana's breakthrough hit—namely, heavy use of irony and self-awareness. But Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain was primarily a romantic, all about feelings, something Seinfeld eschewed. And the grunge aesthetic represented in the classic video for "Teen Spirit" is as opposite from Seinfeld as you can get. Still, if you're explaining the '90s to aliens via only two cultural artifacts, you can't do better than Seinfeld and Nirvana.

"Desperado"/"Witchy Woman" by the Eagles
These appeared on two different '70s albums by the Eagles, but in the Seinfeld world they're A and B sides that belong together. In the episode "The Checks," Elaine dates a guy obsessed with "Desperado" and uninterested in sharing "Witchy Woman" with her as "their" song. It's Seinfeld's weird, wonderful tribute to the power of music.

"Even Better Than the Real Thing" by U2 from Achtung Baby
U2 was everywhere in the '90s, just like Seinfeld. This hit's title encapsulates Seinfeld's magic formula: Take real, everyday irritations and blow them up into epic storylines.

"Tom's Diner" by Suzanne Vega from Solitude Standing
No Seinfeld soundtrack is complete without this number paying tribute to the Manhattan restaurant that served as the exterior for Monk's. It's actually called Tom's Restaurant, and Vega wrote this ditty, which she originally recorded a cappella, about the time she spent hanging out there. There have been approximately a zillion versions and samplings of this song since then, all of which I wrote about here. My recent favorite cover came from Britney Spears and dance music legend Giorgio Moroder.

"Why" by Annie Lennox from Diva
It's a 1992 soft radio hit. It could be George's battle cry.

"Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" by Green Day from Nimrod
This is super-complicated irony, '90s-style that takes some explaining. So: The title of the Green Day song tells us it's ironic, right? But the song itself, if you don't know the title, plays like pretty straightforward sap, with a seriously earnest acoustic guitar line and lyrics that might just signify a mature response to a breakup. The interpretation is up to you, folks! Then: The editors putting together the Seinfeld retrospective clip show that ran just before the very, very hyped finale used this maybe-complicated song for the most traditional montage full of cast members hugging and laughing together … for a show built on the premise of "no hugging, no learning." Then they played this tearjerker right before the cynical, damning finale that sends its beloved four main characters to prison for being terrible people. Ergo: This song is one of the main reasons people hate the finale as much as they do. But that might just be perfect.


Jennifer Keishin Armstrong and Seinfeldia links:

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

Kirkus review
New York Times review
Wall Street Journal review
Washington Post review

Guardian profile of the author
Here & Now interview with the author
Slate interview with the author
WGN Radio 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)


Posted by david | Permalink | Comments (View)

Book Notes - Joe Milazzo "Crepuscule W/Nellie"

Crepuscule W/Nellie

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.

Joe Milazzo's novel Crepuscule W/Nellie is an inventive, challenging, and rewarding book centering on the life of jazz legend Thelonious Monk.

Steve Erickson wrote of the book:

"The challenge in writing on behalf of Joe Milazzo's fiction is finding the language to convey how special it is, but let us begin with audacious and fearless, lyrical and brilliant, superbly imaginative and assuredly accomplished--one of tomorrow's great novelists on the cusp of his moment."


In his own words, here is Joe Milazzo's Book Notes music playlist for his novel Crepuscule W/Nellie:


If any reader wants to call Crepuscule W/Nellie "Thelonious Monk fan fiction," I'm not going to argue with them, and who would I be to do so anyway? The novel's plot may be recondite, its language elaborate, but its premise is actually quite simple and even familiar. What if Thelonious Monk's music were his autobiography? That is, what if the music were a perfectly accurate representation of the artist's life? No sublimation, no distinction between background and foreground, no need for interpretation or translation. Anyone who has ever considered themselves a fan knows the deliciousness and terror of obsession's exclusivity. The expectation (hope?) we might reach through the art and touch its creator both inflames and humiliates us. In some ways, the fulcrum of our fandom is just this impossible intimacy, so palpable and yet so incapable of ever being consummated. Of course, consummation isn't what we want. Unless the prolongation of our desires be some form of resolution. (And perhaps this is why Crepuscule W/ Nellie is as long a book as it is, and this helps to explain why my laboring over it lasted the years that it did.)

Nevertheless, and contrary to the amount of Monk's music that appears in this playlist, Crepuscule W/Nellie is not really a novel about Thelonious Monk. It's not even a novel about Monk's largely, historically silent wife, Nellie. Crepuscule W/ Nellie is a novel about listening. And the novel's listening is not just trained on jazz, even though it is partly a consequence of a deliberate decision I made in college to make myself over as a jazz listener. As an artistic work, Crepuscule W/ Nellie could not exist without the listening I learned by attending to the voices and stories I heard growing up. Crepuscule W/ Nellie's own characters struggle against the positions that listening imposes upon them. Nellie, The Baroness, John, Monk himself: each of them has to come to terms with the truth that, just as they think they are pulling off a performance, they realize that they are in fact the audience to a greater performance, one whose ongoing existence they had never before suspected.

That experience ultimately mirrors my own authorial experience with respect to Crepuscule W/ Nellie. I am as much the book's witness as I am its composer; the book came to be only once I accepted that it was a phenomenon happening to me, to which I would have to improvise my own response. This playlist is another expression of that response. This playlist is part index—"here's what I was listening to while I wrote this novel")—part encyclopedia—"if I could reconstruct knowledge of who I was when I was writing this book, here's a soundtrack I'd hear playing over that footage"—and part critical essay—"here's the music I'd most want readers to have heard in order to appreciate the novel and its references." More importantly, this playlist is intended to be entirely a gift. I invite you to activate this listening on your own terms, and to follow your listening's associations wherever (and to whomever) they lead.



1) "Crepuscule with Nellie," Thelonious Monk. From Monk's Music (Riverside, 1957). Thelonious Monk (piano), with Ray Copeland (trumpet), Gigi Gryce (alto sax), Coleman Hawkins (tenor sax), John Coltrane (tenor sax), Wilbur Ware (bass), Art Blakey (drums)

Some readers have asked me: "Why Crepuscule W/ Nellie and not Crepuscule with Nellie?" The short answer is that I don't really know, except that I think I must have first seen the title to this Thelonious Monk composition spelled that way. I.e., that I've always known Nellie Monk, Thelonious's wife and the subject of this composition (one which was always performed by Monk as a composition, without any improvisation) in this guise. The longer and more true answer is that, while the novel contains a scene which proposes to explain how "Crepuscule with Nellie"'s unconventional reconciliation of the discordant and the lyrical (or: the devil's blues and the angels' hymning) came to be, the composition the novel's prose describes is not really "Crepuscule with Nellie." (The true story of this song is far more dramatic anyway.) Maybe that song is a proto-"Crepuscule with Nellie," or a "Crepuscule with Nellie" that, while it sounds very reminiscent of the one we can listen to in our own world, exists only in the novel's parallel universe. "Crepuscule with Nellie" is Nellie as Monk knew and loved her. "Crepuscule W/ Nellie" is the Nellie Monk my imagination introduced to me. I wouldn't know that Nellie without "Crepuscule with Nellie," but the distinction is crucial—even though I am still puzzling out exactly what that distinction means.

2) "Pannonica," Thelonious Monk. From Thelonious Alone in San Francisco (Riverside, 1959). Thelonious Monk (solo piano)

"Crepuscule with Nellie" is a bit like a monochrome kaleidoscope: its shapes play and short and refuse to settle, but they share a common palette, and there's comfort in that. "Pannonica," which Monk wrote for his patron and friend (and eventual housemate) the Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter is like a rainbow fashioned out of iron. So many moods, form the rapturous to the melancholy (check that turnaround), are packed into a few bars, but their rise and fall is more… predictable? First hearing this particular performance, I thought how much more Monk sounded like a stride piano player here (he also loved to make Art Tatum-esque runs when playing this song, not something you are going to hear him do much of elsewhere in his discography); that I still couldn't picture the woman who was the ostensible subject here; and wondering why this composition was suffused with so much more romantic tenderness than "Crepuscule With Nellie." Of course, I hear the aching in both songs much differently now that I've been married for nearly a decade myself. As I continued to work on Crepuscule W/ Nellie, this song, perhaps even more so than Nellie's, came to represent for me a question that drove both the book's plot and the meta-narrative of my own imaginative diligence: is it possible for any masculine attempt to honor the feminine not to fail? And so this composition is also apparently auditioned for its subject in my novel, but, as with Crepuscule W/ Nellie, whether or not it is actually heard is open to question.

3) "Cement Mixer (Put-Ti-Put-Ti)," Slim Gaillard. First recorded in 1946 for Cadet Records. Slim Gaillard (piano and vocal), Tiny Brown (bass and vocal), Zutty Singleton (drums)

Either I am or "Nellie Monk" (the character) is guilty of a terrible anachronism with respect to this song. Nellie remembers it as being popular in the 30's, predating even her acquaintance with a pre-famous Thelonious Monk. She also associates it with a vanished Harlem, when, in fact, Slim Gaillard was very much a Hollywood personality. Now, it is entirely possible that Nellie is completely fluent in "vout" (Gaillard's invented nonsense language), and that the choruses she takes on both this song and "The Flat-Foot Floogie (with a Floy Floy)" constitute something of an admission (if not a confession) as to how much her own story is being fabricated on the fly. I somehow can't imagine Nellie's long monologue midway through the novel without Gaillard's original hipster example. Certainly, I believe Gaillard as an exemplar of stream of consciousness narration deserves as much approbation as Joyce, Faulkner, or Woolf. I should also point out that "cement mixer" is also a slang term that, in the 1930s, carried a double meaning: it referred to a sexually explicit pelvic dance-move (we call it grinding) and was also basically synonymous with "hoofer"—a hopelessly bad but helplessly enthusiastic dancer.

4) "Skippy," Thelonious Monk. Genius of Modern Music Volume 2 (Blue Note). Originally recorded in 1952. Thelonious Monk (piano), Kenny Dorham (trumpet), Lou Donaldson (alto sax), Lucky Thompson (tenor sax), Nelson Boyd (bass), Max Roach (drums)

Was Thelonious Monk mentally ill? Did he suffer from bipolar disorder, was he schizophrenic, or were some of his more odd behaviors the result of chemical abuse? The state of Monk's mind is a problematic area of inquiry for any number of reasons. There's simple prurience for one. Most pertinently, I think the question elides issues of race and what it must have been like to be an African-American artist and public figure in mid-20th Century American life. Monk's actual biography is full of incidents, many of them relating to the color of his skin, that would leave anyone with symptoms of PTSD. From the loss of his cabaret card to police beatings to the reception his music received in certain quarters, Monk had plenty of reasons to be "mad." My solution, if I can call it that, to the problem of how to portray Monk in this novel was never to portray him except from the perspective of others. In effect, to turn the gaze of his own music back on him through the women at whom he gazed in writing "Crepuscule With Nellie" and "Pannonica." Monk is something of a blank in the novel, constantly being filled in, or he is the hole at the center of the record. But there are certainly moments in the book when he demonstrates that his eccentricity may be both more and less than that. As one reader has observed, "the book is full of clever people working on some con, and Monk presides above it all as the King of the Tricksters." This particular composition feels like an expression of that side of the man's character. "Brilliant Corners" has the reputation of being Monk's most difficult to play composition (and the number of takes it took to record it nearly cost alto saxophone payer Ernie Henry his sanity), but the earlier "Skippy" is true earworm sadism. An Escher-esque, double-backing theme that doesn't exactly announce itself as a theme, "Skippy" announces itself with a piano introduction that "only Monk could play." The ensemble enters only to play a brief fanfare that, if we respect the head-solos-head vocabulary of most bebop performances, must be the actual composition. But the recapitulation reveals that Monk's opening improvisation was in fact the composition itself, and the horn players somehow have to reproduce Monk's line. It's like a musical game of Horse. And the Monk of Crepuscule W/ Nellie is rather proud of his abilities on the basketball court.

5) "Tenor Madness," Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane. From Tenor Madness (Prestige, 1956). Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane (tenor sax), Red Garland (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), Philly Joe Jones (drums)

The saxophone-playing John in Crepuscule W/ Nellie may or may not be John Coltrane. "John" is a very common name after all. And I chose that name as much for the specific figures it may evoke as for the colloquial meanings that have attached themselves to it and whose play I wanted to preserve. But if this John is a nascent Coltrane, then this track, which features a head-to-head by the two young saxophonists who woodshedded most productively with Monk in the 1950s, is one to which the montage of John's surreal "cutting contest" in the novel might be click-tracked.

6) "Stickball (I Mean You)," Johnny Griffin & Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis. From Lookin' at Monk (Jazzland, 1961). Johnny Griffin, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis (tenor sax), Junior Mance (piano), Larry Gales (bass), Ben Riley (drums)

But if John isn't Coltrane, maybe he is Johnny Griffin, the tenor player who replaced Coltrane in Monk's working quartet that held down a regular gig at New York's Five Spot in the late 1950s. Aficionado opinion on Griffin as an interpreter of Monk's music seems a bit divided. Some find his occasional forays into R&B-inspired Tarzan yelps and chest-thumps too theatrical. Others claim that Griffin is the only musician to have played with Monk who "never learned anything from him." And there's the critical notion: that one did not just play with Monk; one "discipled" with him. Crepuscule W/ Nellie is a novel about two women, but, when it does turn its attention to men, it's very much concerned with the ways in which men frequently attempt to take care of each other by erecting certain power structures in which that care, being bound up as it with a certain dynamic of respect, cannot be mutual. Myself, I like Griffin's energy and find him to be a sneakily cerebral player. The poetically nicknamed Lockjaw, however, was the truly sui generis player in this band, and his exploits merit a novel of their own.

7) "Short Life of Barbara Monk," Ran Blake. From Short Life of Barbara Monk (Soul Note, 1986). Ran Blake (piano), Ricky Ford (tenor sax), Ed Felson (bass), Jon Hazilla (drums)

No question about it: Crepuscule W/ Nellie is a melodrama. I myself have no direct experience of the 1950s, and so could only fictionalize them through other fictions. While I relied upon literary representations of that decade (Ellison, Gaddis, Clellon Holmes, to name but a few), I also borrowed extensively from movies. Alexander MacKendrick's Sweet Smell of Success was one, and so were the "women's pictures" made by Douglas Sirk. This lovely, vaguely unsettling "Crepuscule with Nellie"-like (note the discrete sections spliced together) composition was penned by Ran Blake, one of the few living musicians to have actually known and worked with Thelonious Monk. It's dedicated to Monk's daughter Barbara (herself named after Monk's own mother), who died at the age of 31. Barbara, whose nickname was Boo-Boo, appears only briefly in Crepuscule W/ Nellie. Or is it that Boo-Boo materializes, a ghost who somehow and somewhere else exists in the flesh? I was definitely inspired by Blake's incorporation of Bernard Herrmann-like melodies and cadences here. Again, Crepuscule W/ Nellie is a melodrama, which is to say that Crepuscule W/ Nellie's characters are tormented equally by the clichés of the tear-jerker and the thriller. Especially as the novel exposes her relationship with her daughter, Nellie knows this too.

8) "Yesterdays," Dizzy Reece. From Soundin' Off (Blue Note, 1960). Dizzy Reece (trumpet), Walter Bishop Jr. (piano), Doug Watkins (bass), Art Taylor (drums)

An appropriately brooding version of this standard that captures as well as any example of hard bop the confusions and frustrations smoldering beneath the implacable surfaces of "the cool." Trumpeter Reece, to my knowledge, never actually played with Monk, though he is the author of a fine Monk tribute ("A Variation on Monk," from the Blue Note LP Star Bright). But I want to spotlight this performance as much for its accompanying visuals as for the music itself. The character of Nica/the Baroness in the novel is rather fixated on her record collection, and, on several occasions, we witness her musing over the syntax and semiotics of what have become, in the intervening years, era-defining and much imitated designs (thanks, Reid Miles and Frank Woolf). Obscure as this record is, something about the cover just feels quintessentially jazz as whiteness knows it. Jazz as "jazz," or "jazz" as the Coen Brothers might mock it and as it still infect my white imagination: a style naive in its calculatedness. The lone horn player blowing pensive, sweater-vested, poised with his horn against the black of idealized night. In reality, the encompassing bleak is only a warm, dimmed studio, and the mood is all in the cropping.

9) "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," Thelonious Monk. From Monk (Prestige, 1954). Thelonious Monk (piano), Frank Foster (tenor sax), Ray Copeland (trumpet), Curly Russell (bass), Art Blakey (drums)

One of Monk's most famous/infamous treatments of a popular song. Some have described this arrangement as tantamount to punk rock, hearing in Monk's reharmonization of the Harbach/Kern chestnut a defacement of lazy, lowest common denominator Tin Pan Alley sentiment. This version has its comic moments, sure, but I can hear the Buster Keaton in it, too. (How he hammers his way through the bridge, or stone-faces his way through the burning hearts and tears-I'll-pretend-aren't-tears of the verses.) The real cruelty here, of course, is all in the emotional reductiveness of the original. If this version feels distorted, it's because the actual emotions Monk has to express are incommensurate with the medium he's chosen. So why choose that medium at all? We might as well ask why art requires the material at all. The relationship between art, medium, and material is one of those obvious mysteries: we accept that they must interact this way, we carry on, but the longer we live with the assumptions that ensure art's working order, the more they begin to dissolve and transmogrify and force themselves upon our considerations. Nellie quotes the lyrics of "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" to herself on more than one occasion in the novel. Even subjected to Monk's interventions, I believe it's a tune she recognizes more easily than she'd like.

10) "Pomp," Chet Baker. From Chet in Paris, Volume 1 (Barclay/Emarcy, 1954). Chet Baker (trumpet), Richard Twardzik (piano), Jimmy Bond (bass), Peter Littman (drums). Composed by Bob Zieff

If any character in Crepuscule W/ Nellie requires a leitmotif, that character is Frank, The Baroness's erstwhile valet. But any leitmotif risks giving too much away. Other options I entertained: Grachan Moncur III's "Frankenstein" (too sinister); Andrew Hill's "Subterfuge" (too telegraph-y); June Christy's 1954, Pete Rugolo-arranged rendition of the Kurt Weill-Langston Hughes collaboration "Lonely House" (too sympathetic); Babs Gonzales's "Weird Lullaby" (too Nellie). Nevertheless, whenever Frank isn't imminent in the novel, he is pervasive. As I look back on the process by which Frank emerged from the props I collected for the purposes of staging Crepuscule W/ Nellie and declared himself to be among the story's actors, I realized that he was the book's most Pynchonian character. Frank is a primary vector of paranoia in the book, but the paranoia that drives him and whips him up is far pettier than the justifiable paranoia that paralyzes many of the novel's other characters. Something about the way Chet Baker's trumpet has to reach to execute Bob Zieff's theme; something about the way Richard Twardzik's piano solo (lightly Brubeckian, vaguely Tristano-like) can't entirely suppress its sarcasm; something about the way the band hits those descending chords that follow the composition's initial phrase; something about the way the whole tune moves sideways rather than progresses; something about the way the solos really bring out the work song (if not field holler) in the tune's changes… all of these aspects of this performance speak to the horrible and ridiculous things of which Frank proves himself capable.

11) "Love, Gloom, Cash, Love," Herbie Nichols. From Love, Gloom, Cash, Love (Bethlehem, 1957). Herbie Nichols (piano), George Duvivier (bass), Dannie Richmond (drums)

Before there was Crepuscule W/ Nellie, there was another book, a collection of short stories and novellas about various figures in jazz history. In addition to a "Monk story," this manuscript included fictions about Ornette Coleman, Art Pepper, Charles Mingus, Sonny Rollins, the aforementioned Andrew Hill, the soon-to-be-mentioned Freddie Redd, and a few others. The working title for this manuscript was, at one time, Come Sunday. Until I learned that Bradford Morrow of Conjunctions had already quoted Duke Ellington in titling his own debut novel. I ultimately settled on Love, Gloom, Cash, Love, a brilliant summation of the jazz life as observed by Herbie Nichols, one of the music's most poetic figures. (I also liked that "Love, Gloom, Cash, Love" wasn't a ballad, or an up-tempo blowing vehicle, but an original in waltz time.) Nichols was one of the very first musicians to analyze Thelonious Monk's music, and his talents should have earned him greater rewards during his brief lifetime. Instead, Nichols has had to settle for being a cult figure within what's already a shrinking subculture, and for being not even the mayor but the patron saint of jazz's Palookaville. Love, Gloom, Cash, Love ended being an unsalvageable project save for a few pages of that original "Monk story." I do miss that title, though, and the wonky grace of its tautologies.

12) "Picasso," Coleman Hawkins. From The Jazz Scene (Clef/Mercury, 1949). Coleman Hawkins (tenor saxophone)

Coleman Hawkins, aka "The Bean" (though I forget the origins of that nickname and refuse to Google them right now), was another of Monk's first musical supporters. In fact, Monk's very first commercial recording was made under Hawkins's leadership. In the novel, Bean offers a different take on Monk's musical origins. But my favorite Bean scenes to write come near the novel's conclusion: when he trades his tenor saxophone for John's (stolen) cowboy hat, and as he's making his way to Europe. Unaccompanied saxophone improvisations such as this one were practically unheard-of in 1948. Maybe, on first listen, it sounds as if Hawkins is "just rehearsing" here. But, in jazz, what seems casual hardly ever is. Bean is one of the older characters in Crepuscule W/ Nellie, but the novel ends with the suggestion that his future is less murky than the futures facing Monk, John, Nellie, the Baroness, et al. Likewise, in many ways, this performance is looking ahead to post-Monk developments in jazz.

13) "Low Tide (Bird's View) (Alternate Take)," Elmo Hope. From The Final Sessions, Volume 1. (Inner City / Specialty Records / Original Jazz Classics, 1966). Elmo Hope (piano), John Ore (bass), Philly Joe Jones (drums)

John Litweiler, one of the best writers to ever take up the subject of jazz, has this to say about the modern jazz of the 1940s:

The purest manifestation of bop—the music of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Fats Navarro, Bud Powell—was a music of extremes. There were the extremes of bop's harmony, its mixtures of consonance and dissonance, its substituted harmonic structures. More extreme were bop's rhythms: the slippery accents among even tiny note values; the broken lines of eighth notes; the shock of sudden double-time runs. The fast tempos, the speed of the lines, the electrocuted leaping in the high, middle, and low ranges of the musical instruments required a coordination of nerve, muscle, and intellect that pressed human agility and creativity towards their outer limits. Bop was an exhilarated adventure; in Gillespie's dizzying trumpet heights, in Powell's hallucinated piano excitement, a deadly fall to earth is ever possible." (The Freedom Principle: Jazz After 1958, 14.)

Did Monk himself actually play bop as Parker and his "worthy constituents" did? This remains an open question. Regardless, Monk, whose personal life was more grounded than that of many jazz musicians, and whose abstractions never lacked for earthiness, will forever be identified with bop as its putative "High Priest." So we may have to listen elsewhere for what made bop bop. For me, few performances capture Litweiler's risks of bop as well as this one by pianist and composer Elmo Hope, made more than 20 years after the bop revolution. Somewhat dismissed during his career as a Bud Powell imitator, his sensibilities were more than a little Monkian. Dedicate just one listen to concentrating on Hope's left hand here, paying as little mind as you can to the fireworks spectacle that is his right hand. Finally, I also wanted to include an alternate take here, as Crepuscule W/ Nellie is not arranged in chapters but instead follows the conventions of the jazz discography, which prioritizes chronological order over any kind of narrative logic.

14) "Nica Steps Out," Freddie Redd. From San Francisco Suite (Riverside, 1957). Freddie Redd (piano), George Tucker (bass), Al Dreares (drums)

There is no shortage of Nica songs. Such was the power of the Baroness's genuine affection for New York's jazz community. But Nica was was also glamorous, notorious, wealthy, and white. Nica was, by all accounts, a personality too big for any novel. Of course she inspired: "Nica's Tempo" by Gigi Gryce; "Nica's Dream" by Horace Silver; "Blues for Nica" by Kenny Drew; even Sonny Rollins's famous version of "Poor Butterfly" can be heard as being in homage to a woman named by an amateur lepidopterist. Pianist and composer Redd gives the showgirls plenty of opportunities to kick up their heels during these four-and-a-half minutes. Whether Crepuscule W/ Nellie's Nica belongs in this chorus line or whether "her place" aligns with serving as hostess for the after-show party I leave to the listener's (and reader's) imagination.

Hidden bonus track: Jim Sangrey & Summusic's "Hey Joe (Where You Goin' with That Book in Your Hand)"


Joe Milazzo and Crepuscule W/Nellie links:

excerpt from the book

The Collagist review
Kirkus review
Necessary Fiction review

2paragraphs interview with the author
Don't Do It interview with the author
Entropy 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 (The Best Books of the Year So Far, The Best Songs of the 1970s, and more)

Slate and Esquire listed the best books of the year so far.


Pitchfork listed the best songs 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 Times Literary Supplement shared an excerpt from Eimear McBride’s new novel The Lesser Bohemians.


The Guardian listed the best songs by The Band.


ZYZZYVA interviewed author Max Porter.


Classical music inspired by Shakespeare.


The Indianola Review interviewed author Jenni Fagan.


Stream a new Car Seat Headrest song.


The Rumpus interviewed author Ramona Ausubel.


Lushlife covered My Bloody Valentine's "When You Sleep."


Author Garth Greenwell discussed his favorite books in the New York Times.


Clash interviewed The Tallest Man on Earth, AKA singer-songwriter Kristian Mattson.


Literary Hub shared an excerpt from Svetlana Alexievich's book Secondhand Time.


Iowa Public Radio previewed September and October's music releases.


Curtis Sittenfeld talked to the New Yorker about her short story in this week's issue.


NPR Music is streaming the new Bad Plus covers album, It's Hard.


W Magazine interviewed author Leopoldine Core.


Noisey profiled singer-songwriter Lydia Loveless.


Sixth Tone interviewed author Amitav Ghosh.


NPR Music is streaming the new Joseph album I'm Alone, You're Not.


Bookworm interviewed author Tom McCarthy.


PopMatters interviewed Jessica Numsuwankijkul about her musical project Heliotropes.


Weekend Edition interviewed Imbolo Mbue about her debut novel Behold the Dreamers.


NPR Music is streaming the new Album Leaf album, Between Waves.


Conjunctions is serializing a novella by Samuel R. Delany.


Paste interviewed singer-songwriter Dolly Parton.


WFPL interviewed author Kyle Coma-Thompson.


NPR Music is streaming the new Cass McCombs album Mangy Love.


The Weeklings interviewed author D. Foy.


Paste listed Neil Young's best political songs.


The Wall Street Journal interviewed author John Langan.


All Songs Considered and Drowned in Sound interviewed singer-songwriter Lisa Hannigan.


Lenny interviewed author Natashia Deon.


Pitchfork shared an oral history of the band P.S. Eliot.


Studio 360 interviewed author Nadja Spiegelman.



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 21, 2016

Largehearted Boy Weekly Wrap-Up - August 21, 2016

A list of the past week's Largehearted Boy features:


Book Notes: (authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates to their book)

Angela Palm for her memoir Riverine
Anne Korkeakivi for her novel Shining Sea
Forrest Leo for his novel The Gentleman
Jen Michalski for her novel The Summer She Was Under Water
Patrick Ryan for his short story collection The Dream Life of Astronauts
Rion Amilcar Scott for his short story collection Insurrections
Teju Cole for his essay collection Known and Strange Things


Weekly New Book Recommendations:

Atomic Books Comics Preview (recommended new comics and graphic novels)
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
WORD Bookstores Books of the Week (recommended new books)


New Music Recommendations:

The Week's Interesting Music Releases


And of course, the daily literature and music news and link posts:

Shorties (news & links from the worlds of music, books, and pop culture)


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

Antiheroines
Atomic Books Comics Preview
Book Notes
Cover Song Collections
Lists
weekly music release lists
musician/author Interviews
Note Books
Soundtracked
WORD Bookstores Books of the Week


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August 20, 2016

This Week's Interesting Music Releases - August 20, 2016

Lydia Loveless

Lydia Loveless's Real is one of my favorite albums of the year so far.

Courtney Marie Andrews' Honest Life, Ryley Walker's covers album Golden Sings That Have Been Sung, Scott Walker's soundtrack to The Childhood of a Leader, and Slow Club's One Day All Of This Won't Matter Anymore are all new releases I can strongly recommend.

Reissues include a purple vinyl edition of Big Star's #1 Record.

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


This week's interesting music releases:

AJJ: The Bible 2
Amos Lee: Spirit
Ani DiFranco: Ani DiFranco (reissue) [vinyl]
Bayside: Vacancy
Benjamin Francis Leftwich: After The Rain
Big Star: #1 Record (Purple Vinyl) (reissue) [vinyl]
Carina Round: Deranged to Divine
Carl Broemel: 4th Of July
Chris Staples: Golden Age
Courtney Marie Andrews: Honest Life
Cowtown: Paranormal Romance
Crystal Castles: AMNESTY (I)
DJ Earl: Open Your Eyes
Dolly Parton: Pure & Simple
Ed Harcourt - Furnaces
Factory Floor: 25 25
Faith No More: We Care a Lot (expanded)
Gonjasufi: Callus
John Paul White: Beulah
Kiefer Sutherland: Down In A Hole
Lindsey Stirling: Brave Enough
Lisa Hannigan: At Swim
Lydia Loveless: Real
Mike Patton: Mondo Cane (reissue) [vinyl]
The Minus Five: Of Monkees and Men
New Order: People On The High Line [vinyl]
Nick Cave and Warren Ellis: Hell Or High Water (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Prince: Parade (Music From The Motion Picture Under The Cherry Moon) (reissue) [vinyl]
Roosevelt: Roosevelt
Ryley Walker: Golden Sings That Have Been Sung
Sabaton: The Last Stand
Sam Coomes: Bugger Me
Scott Walker: The Childhood of a Leader
Slow Club: One Day All Of This Won't Matter Anymore
Soilwork: Death Resonance
Tobacco: Sweatbox Dynasty
Tom Waits: Paradise Theater Boston Ma WBCN FM
Thom Sonny Green: High Anxiety
Turtles: The Complete Original Album Collection (6-CD box set)
William S. Burroughs: Curse Go Back [vinyl]
Xiu Xiu: Xiu Xiu Plays the Music of Twin Peaks [vinyl]


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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August 19, 2016

Book Notes - Anne Korkeakivi "Shining Sea"

Shining Sea

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.

Anne Korkeakivi's second novel Shining Sea is an engaging and moving multi-generational epic.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"With a far-reaching plot that includes the military, the counterculture, marriage, parenthood, loss, and AIDS, and storytelling that couples pointed restraint with sweeping vision, Korkeakivi covers the not-so-shining moments of the late twentieth century. The result is a family saga that explores the lingering effects of war and the elusive emotions of peace."


In her own words, here is Anne Korkeakivi's Book Notes music playlist for her novel Shining Sea:


My parents both started out as musicians, and as a girl growing up in New York City I dreamt of becoming a singer-songwriter although I knew from the time I was five or six--not particularly willingly, because it felt like fate and not a choice—that I would grow up to write books. As a young journalist, I found some compromise by writing music criticism. I never listen to music when I’m writing fiction, though. Its mood, context, and rhythm influence my work too much. Plus I end up listening or singing along rather than writing.

Shining Sea was the exception that proved the rule. The novel opens in 1962 and ends in 2015, leaping through time and geographically over 288 pages. Listening to the right music was very useful: it lifted me instantly into a new location or era. For a change, I wanted to be influenced by music.



"Mr. Tambourine Man," The Byrds

Shining Sea has two point-of-view characters—well, three but the first POV character dies in the opening chapter and we don’t hear from him again directly—and one of them is a beautiful, adrift boy and later man named Francis Gannon. As he struggles to make his way through life, Francis will repeatedly find its course influenced by music—sometimes in tiny and sometimes vast ways—starting with an adolescent fascination with the unique, rambling, jingle-jangling sound that Roger McGuinn and the Byrds brought to this Bob Dylan song in 1965.

The lyrics provide a good preview of what’s in store for him too:

And my hands can't feel to grip

And my toes too numb to step

Wait only for my boot heels to be wanderin'

"Angel of the Morning," Merilee Rush

Merilee Rush’s 1968 mega-hit recording of Chip Taylor’s "Angel of the Morning" is all about sex outside of marriage, something towards the start of the book very much on the mind of Shining Sea's other POV character. Widowed at only 37, with four children and one on the way, Francis’s mother, Barbara Gannon, has to navigate the sexual revolution of the 1960s on her own at the same time as guiding—or trying to guide—her headstrong oldest daughter, Patty Ann. Suffice to say that things don’t always go smoothly.

As a little girl, I heard "Angel of the Morning" playing over and over on my eldest sister’s transistor radio, without understanding its meaning. Or why my mother got irritated hearing mini-me warbling the words:

Well, it was what I wanted now

And if we're victims of the night

I won't be blinded by the light.

"Everyday People," by Sly & the Family Stone

By the end of the 1960s--against the backdrop of an America at war overseas and also, ideologically, at home--Francis and his brothers and sisters have begun to take radically different directions, with Barbara trying to keep them if not together at least civil to one another. It was during this era that Sly & the Family Stone, one of the first integrated and multi-gender bands (and the female musicians in the band were not simply back-up singers), burst onto the scene in San Francisco.

Sly, in his effervescent Afro and crop tops, playing his unique blend of soul, funk, and psychedelic music, was all about individuality and mutual acceptance. In fact, the term "different strokes for different folks" is said to have originated in his song, "Everyday People":

You love me, you hate me, you know me and then

You can't figure out the bag I'm in

I am everyday people, yeah yeah.

"Freedom," Richie Havens

With the Vietnam War raging in the background, Francis experiences a moment of grace—just like thousands of other youths uneasily approaching adulthood (and conscription age) in 1969--at the Woodstock rock festival. He also discovers something unexpected about himself that will redirect his life for years to come.

Richie Havens--whom I once, memorably, heard play a tiny club in downtown NYC—also had an unexpected experience at Woodstock. He wasn’t supposed to open the festival. Nor was he supposed to play for three hours straight. But when the surge of incoming festivalgoers created traffic jams that kept his fellow artists away, the organizers asked him to step up and he did. When he ran out of songs, he began riffing on the old spiritual "Motherless Child,"producing what would become one of the festival’s most iconic performances. Havens later explained, "I think the word 'freedom' came out of my mouth because I saw it in front of me. I saw the freedom that we were looking for."

Sometimes I feel like I’m almost gone
A long, long, way, way from home

"I-Feel-Like-I’m Fixin’-To-Die Rag," Country Joe & the Fish

The Woodstock song that actually appears in Shining Sea, though, is Country Joe McDonald and the Fish’s "I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag." Best known as the Fish Cheer, it became an anthem for a generation of draft-aged Americans—such as Francis, his older brothers, and his best friend, Eugene. The following are also the only lyrics of a published contemporary song to appear in Shining Sea because, in a beautiful piece of synergy, Joe McDonald and his producer generously gifted me permission:

And it's one, two, three, what are we fighting for?
Don't ask me I don't give a damn

Next stop is Vietnam.

"Roxanne," The Police

By the 1980s, members of the Gannon family are increasingly untethered, from each other and from their own selves. Francis, ever the most wayward, finds himself wandering Europe. At a club on a Spanish island one night, he meets a woman who sweeps him up to London, a passage that will again change the course of his life.

The Police’s tango-inspired, British-invasion dance hit, "Roxanne," is playing when they meet on that wild night. Fittingly--although you’ll have to read the book to understand why, and it’s probably not what you’d guess.

Told you once, I won't tell you again

It's a bad way

"The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry," The Corries

After a few debauched months in London, Francis flees still further northward to the tiny Hebridean island of Iona, off the west coast of Scotland and home to gliding guillemots, Christian pilgrims, and old Scottish songs. Two of these ballads find a way into Shining Sea: "The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry" and "Molly Bawn."

As with many old songs, various versions of both exist. The most famous recordings of the former--about a mythical Scottish half-man, half-sea creature who foretells his son’s death at the hand of the future husband of his son’s entirely earthly mother--probably are the ones by the Corrs (my own favorite) and Joan Baez. But the version that appears in Shining Sea is the older, traditional one collected by Francis James Child in the late nineteenth century:

An thu sall marry a proud gunner,
An a proud gunner I’m sure he’ll be,
An the very first schot that ere he schoots,
He’ll schoot baith my young son and me.

Which means in modern English:

And you will marry a proud soldier,
and a proud soldier I’m sure he’ll be.
And the very first shot that ever he shoots,
he’ll shoot my young son and me.

"Electric Avenue," Eddie Grant

The early ‘80s were gritty days in UK history: the Troubles, the first diagnosed case of AIDS, the iron hand of Margaret Thatcher, and lots and lots of drugs. In 1981, a few months before Francis arrives in London, race riots exploded in a depressed southern borough of the city called Brixton with many inhabitants of Caribbean descent. Eddy Grant’s hit song "Electric Avenue" is all about the suffering of Brixton, but when Francis ends up at sea literally--because this is a guy who really is adrift--he and his crewmates use its quasi-reggae beat to bring the strokes of their oars together:

Now in the street there is violence
And a lot of work to be done…

"Wynton Marsalis: The London Concert—Haydn, Hummel, L. Mozart," Wynton Marsalis

Many people associate Wynton Marsalis with jazz, but he also is an extremely accomplished classical trumpeter. In fact, in the early 1980s, he became the first musician ever to have won Grammy Awards both for jazz and classical music.

His elegant classical trumpet concertos come to have an important meaning for Barbara who, by the 1990s, is still nimble and brave but whose life has taken turns she could never have conceived of as a starry-eyed war bride. This particular recording has a bit of meaning for me too, because the copy I listened to as I worked on this latter part of the book was given to me by Marsalis himself, back when I was still regularly writing about music. Like Barbara, it is courageous and beautiful.

"Untitled," Unknown

The very last chapters of the novel are dominated by a song of considerable importance to the story but with few words and no published melody. In fact, each time I worked on the pages where it is mentioned, both changed. That’s because, coming full circle from my childhood aspirations, I made the song up myself. And then made it up anew each time it came up in the book; its melody and words, which other than two lines are never spelled out, changing in my mind to fit the moment. I hope readers will also write and re-write it for themselves as they read the chapters where it’s mentioned, however they want to hear it.


Anne Korkeakivi and Shining Sea links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

Harper's Bazaar review
Kirkus review
Shelf Awareness review

CarolineLeavittville interview with the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes playlist by the author for An Unexpected Guest
Literary Hub essay by the author
Laurel Zuckerman interview with the author
TIME essay by 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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