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May 26, 2017

Book Notes - Michael Seidlinger "Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves"

Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves

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.

In Michael J. Seidlinger's contribution to Ig Publishing's Bookmarked series, he offer impressive insight into Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves as well as his own writing process.

Shelf Awareness wrote of the book:

"In this addition to Ig Publishing's Bookmarked series, in which authors reflect on books that have shaped their lives and careers, Seidlinger hurls himself through a personal maze of self-reflection, literary influences and a writing process as winding and wondrous as Danielewski's house. As Seidlinger processes the novel chapter by chapter, each new element sends him on long, frequently footnoted discourses about his journey as a writer that are as heartfelt as they are illuminating. Fans of House of Leaves and those interested in behind-the-scenes glimpses of the creative process will enjoy this volume of Bookmarked."


In his own words, here is Michael J. Seidlinger's Book Notes music playlist for his book Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves:


My contribution to Ig Publishing's Bookmarked series, a volume on House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, turned into (or should I say derailed into?) an exploration about both my own writing process and writer's block, particularly the latter. When Robert Lasner approached me about writing a book for the series, I was suffering from one of my longest bouts of writer's block I've ever experienced; I was drinking a lot, depressed, and quite delusional about my personal life (whereas professionally, CCM, work, and the many many moving parts that I maintain continued unabated; few recognized truly how depressed I was).

The exploration resulted in a lot of whining and rambling about what it means to write, writing rituals, and more. One ritual I didn't explore as much as I should have in the book itself is the importance of music. I can't write without noise-cancelling headphones and a nice playlist. So, for this foray into Book Notes, I figure I'd offer up a playlist that has worked tremendously well for clearing out the rust, warming up those creative juices, and getting the words flowing out onto the page. These are songs I've written to, am writing to, and/or will one day be the soundtrack to what I write.


Notice anything? Yeah, I can't write to anything with vocals. If I hear and understand the words, it takes me right out of the rhythms of writing. Lots of esoteric instrumentals, post-rock/post-metal, chillout, etc.


Michael Seidlinger and Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

Shelf Awareness review

Largehearted Boy Book Notes playlist by the author for Falter Kingdom
Largehearted Boy Book Notes playlist by the author for The Fun We've Had
Largehearted Boy Book Notes playlist by the author for The Strangest
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






May 26, 2017

This Week's Interesting Music Releases - May 26, 2017

Hazel English

Hazel English's Just Give In / Never Going Home and Justin Townes Earle's Kids In The Street are two new albums I can recommend this week.

Also in stores and streaming is the soundtrack to Martin Scorsese's Grateful Dead documentary Long Strange Trip.

Reissues include remastered editions of The Art of Noise's In Visible Silence and a 50th anniversary edition of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.


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


This week's interesting music releases:

The Art of Noise: In Visible Silence (remastered and expanded)
Bad Company: Burnin' Sky (remastered and expanded)
Bad Company: Run with the Pack (remastered and expanded)
Beatles: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (50th anniversary edition) (remastered)
Big Star: Complete Third: Vol. 3: Final Masters [vinyl]
Bill Frisell & Thomas Morgan: Small Town
Bishop Briggs: Bishop Briggs
Blaze Foley: Lost Muscle Shoals Recordings [vinyl]
Burial: Subtemple / Beachfires [vinyl]
Chainsmokers: Memories...Do Not Open [vinyl]
The Charlatans: Different Days
Danzig: Black Laden Crown
Durutti Colum: Domo Arigato Deluxe
Emerson Lake and Palmer: Love Beach (remastered and expanded)
Emerson Lake and Palmer: Works Volume 2 (remastered and expanded)
Fleetwood Mac: Mirage (reissue)
Fleetwood Mac: Tango in the Night (remastered)
Foreigner: 40
Hazel English: Just Give In / Never Going Home
Grateful Dead: Long Strange Trip (soundtrack)
Jamie Saft, Steve Swallow, Bobby Previte: Loneliness Road
Jed Kurzel: Alien: Covenant (soundtrack)
John Mayer: The Search for Everything [vinyl]
Judy Collins: Sings Lennon & McCartney
Justin Townes Earle: Kids In The Street
Kraftwerk: 3-D: The Catalogue (8-CD box set)
Lil Yachty: Teenage Emotions
Mark Slaughter: Halfway There
Martin Rev: Demolition 9
Midnight Oil: The Overflow Tank (12-disc box set)
Olafur Arnalds: Broadchurch - The Final Chapter
Pet Symmetry: Vision
Rolling Stones: Olé Olé Olé! A Trip Across Latin America [dvd]
Sam Amidon: The Following Mountain
Shakira: El Dorado
Skye Steele: All That Light
Suzanne Vega: Solitude Standing (reissue) [vinyl]
Thunder Dreamer: Capture
Todd Rundgren: White Knight [vinyl]
Tricot: 3 [vinyl]
Umphrey's McGee: Zonkey [vinyl]
Various Artists: Ambience: 63 Nuggets From the Cramps' Record Vault
Various Artists: Gentle Giants: The Songs of Don Williams
Various Artists: The Music of Nashville (Season 5, Vol 2)
Various Artists: Putumayo Kids Presents: Cuban Playground
Various Artists: Putumayo Presents: Cuba! Cuba!
Various Artists: Rough Guide To Jug Band Blues Import (reissue)


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

weekly music release lists

Book Notes (authors create music playlists for their book)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily book and music news and links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)


Shorties (Mohsin Hamid on Books and Reading, Shonen Knife on The Band's Ramen Tour, and more)

Mohsin Hamid talked books and reading with the Boston Globe.


The members of Shonen Knife talked to All Things Considered about their current ramen tour.


Literary Hub recommended books of political intrigue.


Pinegrove visited World Cafe for an interview and live performance.


Electric Literature listed the creepiest companies in literature.


The WTF podcast interviewed J. Mascis.


The Awl features a new poem by Tracy K. Smith.


Deerhoof released four albums yesterday (with a fifth to come) this year on a pay-what-you-want model, with proceeds going to Brand New Congress, a progressive political action committee.


The Riveter interviewed author Sarah Manguso.


Stream a new Night Things song.


Literary Hub interviewed author Madeleine Thien .


Stream a new Sia song.


The Guardian profiled Elif Batuman.


John Cale will perform two Velvet Underground & Nico 50th anniversary shows in Brooklyn this summer.


Fonograph Editions is a vinyl-only poetry press.


Stream two new Eerie Gaits songs.


PopMatters reconsidered Roxy Music's Avalon album.


Bookworm interviewed poet Morgan Parker.


Stream a new Bleachers song.


James Sturm talked to The Millions about his graphic novel The Golem's Mighty Swing.


Dinosaur Jr. emojis!


Slate examined the recent forays of literary authors into science fiction.


Bonnie 'Prince' Billy covered Merle Haggard & Iris Dement's "No Time To Cry."


Esquire interviewed Scaachi Koul about her new essay collection One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter.


Stream an unreleased Nick Lowe song.


Victor LaValle discussed his new comic Destroyer with Paste.


Stream a new song by Washed Out.


Tony Tulathimutte shared advice on creating a writing career at Catapult.


Paste ranked 2017's music festival lineups.


Literary Hub shared an excerpt from Barbara Browning's novel The Gift.


eBooks on sale for $1.50 today:

My Mother Was Nuts by Penny Marshall

eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi Durrow
Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
Life at the Dakota: New York's Most Unusual Address by Stephen Birmingham
Orient by Christopher Bollen
The Private Life of Mrs Sharma by Ratika Kapur
Robert Plant: A Life by Paul Rees
The Son by Philipp Meyer
The Universal Baseball Association Inc. by Robert Coover
The Virginity of Famous Men by Christine Sneed
Wicked by Gregory Maguire

eBooks on sale for $2.99 today:

Cutting Teeth by Julia Fierro
Erasure by Percival Everett
The Gueniveres by Sarah Domet
Notes from No Man's Land by Eula Biss



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

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

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


May 25, 2017

Book Notes - Brian Jabas Smith "Spent Saints"

Spent Saints

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.

Spent Saints is a remarkable debut collection by Brian Jabas Smith, filled with indelible, dark linked stories.


In his own words, here is Brian Jabas Smith's Book Notes music playlist for his short story collection Spent Saints:



Music connected me to worlds beyond my grasp, places that bloomed in daydreams, and later became real. If you listen hard enough, things happen. Music also nearly ruined my life a few times. But at a tender age it mostly changed me; taught me what to read, and how to think, and dream. Before books, and before sadnesses of living set in, there was the music.

This playlist loosely fits the short stories in this collection mainly because these were songs I listened to while writing them. Some fit the narratives and others the tone—from the punk rock to the wrenching soul ballads. In fact, each story has its own playlist in the book, some of which include 25 songs, so it was actually kind of difficult whittling those down for this. Still the songs aren't meant to enhance Spent Saints, but maybe to use as a kind of soundtrack, away from the book, like emotional bookmarks. Maybe that's bad. But that's how the songs work for me.

Some I listened to crazily, over and over and over, especially those that helped me to withdraw to that place where no one else exists, in that same melancholy corner I lived in as a kid. These are mostly older songs, which I use for contextual nostalgia that's usually not even my own, if that makes any sense. The songs often provide a weird longing where the writing lives.

Buzzcocks — "Why Can't I Touch It"
To me this is the most tender song from the punk-rock era, and not just because of the hypnotic bassline, but also because it's all yearning, sexual or otherwise. The main character, Rowdy, who awakens hungover on someone's front lawn in the story "Lost in the Supermarket" sees suburbia as a place where wounds heal not fester, and he regards it as a kind of pedestal of emotional and financial security. It's deception, of course, because suburbia, by its very design, is persuasive as hell if you've never enjoyed emotional or financial security. This song nailed me as a boy, defined the insecurities, and all the song's pretty major-key repetitiveness translated to a real, unending longing for me out in suburban Tucson where I grew up—a kind of doom against which art and music and books was no defense—where no one listened to The Buzzcocks. (If they found out you did, you'd get your head pounded for it.) Punk rock was truly subversive. It didn't fit there, and neither did Rowdy.

Gin Blossoms — "Lost Horizons"
Doug Hopkins, the Gin Blossoms founder, was one of my best friends when he committed suicide. His life (and death) had a huge impact on me, how I see things. Not a day goes by when I don't think about him. He was a hyper-literate, and funny-as-shit songwriter brilliant at creating singsong refrains and mountainous power-pop hooks from inexorable personal sadnesses and tragedies. This song, which, incidentally, Hopkins had pieced together from two of his older ones, rises on lovely lines like, "Turn summer trees to bones and ice/Turn insect songs against the night." Whole song is lyrical wonder, and it's difficult to believe such lines populate a '90s college-rage album that sold millions of copies. Think of this: "She had nothing left to say/So she said she loved me/And I stood there grateful for the lie/I'll drink enough of anything to make this world look new again." That's what we did, and we were "Drunk, drunk, drunk in the gardens and the graves." His lust for life matched a fascination with its cryptic flipside, the drinking enabled and crippled him. Hopkins influence on these stories is undeniable, and this song fits any in this collection, but is best suited to the suburbia of "Lost in the Supermarket," and the ending of "Eye for Sin" where an Arizona sunrise on citrus groves sparks a rare flash of hope that dovetails a malt-liquor buzz and a crystal-meth high. This song has haunted me since the day Hopkins pieced it together, back in Tempe, Arizona, all those years ago.

Tim Hardin — "Black Sheep Boy"
The hard-living Tim Hardin penned this in the early to mid-'60s, which placed him ahead of Dylan and the era's folkies in terms of detailing personal alienation. The theme's in the title, and Hardin shows us, lullaby-like, deep personal turmoil in deceptively simple singsong turns. It is mind-boggling simplicity filled with ache, and the lyrics helped me to connect to Spent Saints' main character Julian —a kid wholly disconnected from family, and anyone his age.

Big Star – "Thirteen"
Shows the innocence in young Julian, the bike-racing champ who bailed on high school and summer swimming pools and the promise of girls, and any semblance of normalcy, to suffer on the bike. In a weird out-of-time nostalgic way, this song sweetly offers up the innocence Julian missed out on.

The Clash — "Stay Free"
In "The Grand Prix" Julian triumphantly defies athletic odds and a crippling loop of parental abuse, literally and metaphorically. The biggest riffs are for the finale. To me, this is the greatest Clash song; a vulnerable Mick Jones loss-of-innocence yarn that doubles neatly as a regret-tinged and tender-aged backward gaze. White boy in suburban palais, indeed.

Graham Nash — "Wounded Bird"
My big sister wore the grooves off this when I was a little boy. There's inescapable sadness in Nash's unsullied voice here, which also somehow triggers nostalgia that couldn't be my own. The best music and fiction rattles like that. This one's for Southern California, especially canyons Benedict, Topanga and Laurel, to uphold the heartbreak and downed dreams in Spent Saints' title story.

Sparklehorse — "Someday I Will Treat You Good"
Julian's heroin-addict wife in the title story, which is set in 1999 or so, can only offer promises. Julian's interior voice has yet to throttle him—he's still a budding alchy at this point—so he fancies himself her savior. The song is a stomping yet brooding (and ironic) powerhouse that suits the story's obvious allegory: Like glints of old Hollywood celebrity, and the mechanics of the music industry in 1999, and a failing young marriage, the future is abject misery.

Dennis Wilson — "Love Remember Me"
After Pet Sounds, Dennis Wilson came into his own as a songwriter and producer, and he was also pals with Charlie Manson, pre-Tate murders, which went down around the corner from where most of the title story is set. Dennis's voice could convey real melancholy, which he spent most of his songwriting life trying to articulate. That audible struggle made him an incredible singer and songwriter because it was honest, real, unironic. We can hear that struggle in pretty much everything he recorded after Pet Sounds, as a Beach Boy and solo. When you sense that tension, as a reader or writer or listener, you know you're onto something. All my favorite writers had that. Dennis's struggle is powerful to me; led to the inspiration of this story. This song upholds my unyielding fascination with haunted L.A.—from the Manson girls to old Buk to The Weirdos to Rodney on the Roc. It's a drive along Mulholland at twilight, the scent of blossoms in the air. It's the ghosts of troubled drunks in the L.A. canyons—the John Barrymores, the Veronica Lakes, the Alice Coopers, the John Gilberts, and Beach Boy Dennis Wilson.

Beach Boys — "Never Learn Not to Love"
The Dennis Wilson co-write with Charlie Manson could be the most eerie pop song ever recorded, with lyrics upholding Manson's philosophies of submission: "Cease to exist …. Give up your world/C'mon and be with me." The Beach Boys drone-y soundscapes, harmonies and echoes, and barely audible hair-raising yelps rise to a sonic release that's as creepy as the Hollywood Hills are haunted. The title story is place-based allegory.

Curtis Mayfield — "Wild and Free"
My fave Curtis Mayfield song, buried deep on the 1970 Curtis album. It's a beautiful civil rights rally cry, but it's also a romantic and spiritual quest. So, in the title story, the tune represents the flipside to celebrity and stardom-chasing. It soundtracks a bunch of rock 'n' roll kids slipping nervously into a sleazy universe ruled by a shyster Hollywood dream merchant oblivious to Tinseltown's tragic, sad and broken past. More, the vocal-answering trumpet in the verses makes my stomach surge. I've listened insanely over and over to get that surge when I write.

Dan Stuart — "Gap Toothed Girl"
The story "Eye for Sin" features a woman who snorted larvae-rich meth and worms had eaten away half of her mouth and nasal passage. Her neglected teeth were forever visible. I knew of a person to whom this actually happened. This purposely droll inclusion was penned by former Green on Red frontman Dan Stuart, a helluva songsmith, and also a gifted writer.

Alice Cooper — "You Drive Me Nervous"
The story "Eye for Sin" centers on a hyper-tense meth score gone haywire and features a Nazi called Jesus and his pregnant tweaker girlfriend. It shows how crystal obliterates all beauty in the world. This song's noose-like wind-up of squalling guitars, Stones-y swagger and Cooper's Budweiser-drenched howls sonically defines the bone-ache anxiety of jonesing for speed, and explodes into a thrilling glam slam, which was punk rock way back in 1972.

Aimee Mann — "Phoenix"
This gentle string-stoked epistle to escape transcends the DUIs and barrio nights in Phoenix where the story "No Wheels" takes place. Where everybody feels ready to be traded in.

David Garza — "Lost"
A song that's muted and exuberant. There's a warm, brooding glow in the whispered vocals and hushed choruses, and it makes a sentimental yet slightly weather-beaten entry for the story "The Delivery Man."

Dope Lemon — "How Many Times"
A wonderfully repetitive and floating druggy jam for "The Delivery Man," where the story's only hope is the brown-uniformed UPS man. He's a kind of fucked-up totemic angel offering redemption where hell had already descended.

The Bee Gees — "Edge of the Universe"
This peculiarly beautiful song links early psych Bee Gees to their later R&B and disco world takeover. There's whimsy, loneliness and joy. I always somehow likened it to new sobriety, yet in an ironic way it works for Spent Saints' darkest passage, where Julian and Serena are strung out on porn and meth in "The Delivery Man."

The Ramones — "Ramona"
Serena, the female protagonist in several Spent Saints stories, lived and breathed The Ramones—her stripper stage name is Ramona. Julian fell in love with her dancing to early Ramones in the story "Grams."

T. Rex — "Jupiter Liar"
Shows there was real soul in Bolan's gold velvet trou, despite purposely juvenile and cockeyed wordplay—it really is a funny little love song inside its sauntering sexual groove. Heard this overlooked T. Rex gem with all the nude dancers in "Grams."

Esther Phillips — "(Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher and Higher"
Esther Phillips' rare mid-'70s R&B/dancefloor stab wasn't a hit for her, but it did hit huge for Detroiter Jackie Wilson years before. Imbued with a crazy-hypnotic bass groove and a glimmering sentiment rooted in southern gospel and soul … this version is pure euphoria. It always reminds me of the soul of Detroit, an invisible player in "Old Ladies in Church Hats."

The Osmonds — "Crazy Horses"
If ever there was an Osmonds statement song, it's this one. (Hell, it's one of the greatest rock 'n' roll songs ever, partly because it is The Osmonds.) But in my mind, it's all about the frightening, meth-blooded crazies dealing in west Phoenix hoods, in the stories "Grams" and "Eye for Sin."

Mott the Hoople — "Angel of Eighth Avenue"
There's no escaping Mott The Hoople's cross of Dylan, The Band and glitter rock, and this is the first in a string of brilliant Ian Hunter ballads where imagery and melody define longing. We hear Hunter's beating heart beneath each line, each chord change, each tinkling piano run. Takes me to Serena, especially in "Grams," and that motherhood sadness and fading grace.

Barbara Lynn — "This is the Thanks I Get"
She's a left-handed African-American female guitarist and soul singer from Texas who wrote her own songs. And she released this in 1968. You don't think the odds were stacked against her? For starters, nobody should underestimate quite how difficult it was touring the Jim Crow south as a black musician. Had Lynn been white she would've ruled the world, and there isn't a white singer on earth who could touch her. This sweet soul side sports toughness beneath the sugar, a bra-burning fuck-you to her neglectful man. It reminds me of elderly ladies in Detroit, especially Gurvene, the character in "Old Ladies in Church Hats." These descendants of southern slavery lived through poverty and racism and riots and murder, and were tough and gentle and true. This song takes me right to Detroit, and was a solid accompaniment to the writing of the story.

Doris Duke — "I Don't Care Anymore"
The withering personal worldview in this stunner is absolutely unequalled by any soul or pop song. It's a bizarrely bouncy tune of utter hopelessness, where only two emotional dots are connected—bleakness and doom. It's about a woman arriving in a city like Detroit from "the deep south when the mills shut down." Her winding journey ultimately sees her emotionally cracked on a bumpy prostitute mattress thinking she's better off dead. Hard to believe it was ever green-lit for recording. The tone suits the mid-story desperation and withdrawals in "Old Ladies in Church Hats."

The Temptations "I Wish It Would Rain"
Spent Saints story "Ghosts and Fireflies" unwinds in Detroit, a city whose life-long inhabitants show tremendous will and strength. Wish for rain to hide the tears sounds like self-pity but in Detroit it's a sentiment rooted in something deeper, and only David Ruffin, probably my favorite singer ever, can handle it. (The song's lyricist committed suicide not long after writing this, and before he could see the tune become a huge hit in the '60s.)

Todd Snider — "All of My Life"
One of the weightiest love confessionals I've ever heard. There's zero irony, yet it never dips into the maudlin; just a voice, organ and acoustic, and heart-stinging lyric. It works as Julian ties off "Ghosts and Fireflies" with, finally, a gracious, life-affirming realization. The realization holds through the Lord Huron song below.

Lord Huron — "Ends of the Earth"
The heart-swelling sentiment here lifts, turns euphoric. It's as pure a love song as ever been written.

Ronnie Lane — "Roll on Babe"
No one in rock 'n' roll could capture bittersweetness better than this man, who happened to be the heart and soul in the mighty Faces. This is one of those melancholy songs that can make you cry and laugh at the same time. I like to dream it was written for my character Serena.

Velvet Crush — "Time Wraps Around You"
And few managed melancholy powerpop better than this hugely ignored band. Its guitars sway gently but it's hardly light-hearted, which is why it works for young Cassidy, the girl who survives crushing loss in "Sirens."

Karen Dalton — "Something on Your Mind"
This droning, violin-stoked gem is better than the Velvet Underground and it weirdly (and beautifully) channels a more-tattered Nina Simone and, somehow, forgotten Oklahoma writer Tillie Olsen, one of my all-time faves. The song is tough, working class, and sweetly pristine, sort of like Serena in "Sirens."

Billy Sedlmyar — "Tucson Kills"
This scarily lovely glimpse into youth and the rattling hedonistic side of Tucson, Arizona brims with ache and regret. Fits the story "Sirens" beautifully—there's an end-of-the-world futility so apparent in the Virgin of Guadalupe grottos and chain-link yards in Tucson hoods, in the searing Sonoran Desert. It's dusted with Tucson references to the point of mythology—from the fading 6th Avenue whores and scoring dope in barrios to "going crazy" in prison yards and a legendary hotel fire that killed nearly 30 people. The production is sweetly spare and the mournful Mexican horns kick up goosebumps handily.

Emmylou Harris — "May This Be Love"
Daniel Lanois producing country-rock goddess Emmylou covering Hendrix. It's a droning sonic wonder. A late-night window-down roll through southwestern desert highways, where life feels unending, no drugs or alcohol needed. It's also a bond of a mother whose inner wounds still rarely keep her daughters at arm's length, until the "Sirens" come.


Brian Jabas Smith and Spent Saints links:

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

Phoenix New Times profile of the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

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

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


Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week - May 25, 2017

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.


The Golem’s Mighty Swing

The Golem’s Mighty Swing
by James Sturm

New D&Q reprint! Combining a tale of America’s favourite pastime and its hidden history, James Strum’s The Golem’s Mighty Swing shows us “what America wishes it had been, and what America actually was.”


So Pretty, Very Rotten

So Pretty, Very Rotten
by Jane Mai & An Nguyen

Our friends at Koyama Press have come through with a brilliant collection of comics and essays on Lolita fashion and cute culture by two cartoonists who go beyond the clothes.


Colette’s Lost Pet

Colette’s Lost Pet
by Isabelle Arsenault

This heartfelt story by local author and illustrator Isabelle Arsenault is set in the Mile-End, and explores the turbulence felt when Colette tells increasingly drastic fibs to impress new friends.


The Milk of Dreams

The Milk of Dreams
by Leonora Carrington

Leonora Carrington’s centennial has been marked by a flurry of publications of her work, including this surreal and whimsical book of children’s poems.


Fugue States

Fugue States
by Pasha Malla

Fugue States, the latest effort from Canadian novelist Pasha Malla, is a story about grappling with masculinity, loss, and the untraceable tug one feels to one’s ancestral land.


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)


Shorties (Previously Unseen Sylvia Plath Poems Discovered, Stream the New Chastity Belt Album, and more)

Two previously unseen Sylvia Plath poems have been found.


NPR Music is streaming the new Chastity Belt album I Used To Spend So Much Time Alone.


Dorthe Nors recommended contemporary Scandinavian fiction at Five Books.


The Quietus recommended albums from the end of artists' careers.


PEN America interviewed author Kristen Radtke.


NPR Music is streaming Dan Auerbach's new album Waiting for a Song.


Zachary Mason discussed his novel Void Star with Electric Literature.


Stream a new Alt-J song.


Ms. magazine interviewed author Roxane Gay.


The Record interviewed Lizzy Goodman about her book Meet Me in the Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York City 2001-2011.


Ivan Brunetti talked to Comic Book Resources about his first graphic novel for children, Wordplay.


Stream a new song by Clairo and Jakob Ogawa.


Sally Rooney talked to the Guardian about her debut novel Conversations with Friends.


NPR Music is streaming Amber Coffman's new album City of No Reply.


The Los Angeles Review of Books shared a new essay by Sara Majka.


Stream a new song by Dasher.


Hazlitt interviewed Kyo Maclear about her book Birds Art Life.


BrooklynVegan interviewed Saint Etienne’s Bob Stanley.


Full Stop interviewed author Jen George.


Stream a new Pet Symmetry song.


VICE profiled author Richard Ford.


The Kills covered Rihanna's "Desperado."


Asymptote interviewed poet and translator Kaveh Akbar.


The Georgia Straight profiled the band Girlpool.


Gabrielle Bell discusses her graphic novel Everything Is Flammable with Paste and The Rumpus book club.


Stream a new Lion Babe song.


Hisham Matar's memoir The Return has been awarded the Folio Prize.


NPR Music is streaming Cody Chesnutt's new album My Love Divine Degree.


Fresh Air recommended summer reading.


BADBADNOTGOOD covered Andy Shauf's "To You."


Guernica features new short fiction by Hari Kunzru.


Paste profiled singer-songwriter Bedouine.


eBooks on sale for $1.50 today:

My Mother Was Nuts by Penny Marshall

eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi Durrow
Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
Life at the Dakota: New York's Most Unusual Address by Stephen Birmingham
Orient by Christopher Bollen
The Private Life of Mrs Sharma by Ratika Kapur
Robert Plant: A Life by Paul Rees
The Son by Philipp Meyer
The Universal Baseball Association Inc. by Robert Coover
The Virginity of Famous Men by Christine Sneed
Wicked by Gregory Maguire

eBooks on sale for $2.99 today:

Cutting Teeth by Julia Fierro
Erasure by Percival Everett
The Gueniveres by Sarah Domet
Notes from No Man's Land by Eula Biss



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

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

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


May 24, 2017

Book Notes - Emma Smith-Stevens "The Australian"

The Australian

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.

Emma Smith-Stevens' brilliant novel The Australian is one of the funniest (and smartest) debuts I have read in years.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"In her mesmerizing debut, Smith-Stevens reveals the inner life of a man who describes himself as 'the patron saint of trying.'"


In her own words, here is Emma Smith-Stevens' Book Notes music playlist for her debut novel The Australian:



The protagonist of my novel The Australian, who is only ever referred to as "the Australian," was inspired by a man I knew for one day—mid-30s, savagely handsome, verbose, and Australian, of course—when I was nineteen. I met him in a coffee shop in the West Village and wound up hanging out at his place on Mercer Street.

His loft was sleek and sparsely furnished: all stainless steel and black leather. We snorted some very pure Colombian cocaine, I removed a tape from my Walkman and popped it into his massive sound system, and we talked. Well, mostly he talked, delivering a hyper-monologue—the details of his life like projectiles that, to this day, remain lodged in my mind. He'd put himself through university in Melbourne by dressing as Superman and posing for tourist photos. He was a voracious reader of self-help books, which filled two large bookshelves. At twenty-three he'd moved to New York to work on Wall Street as a day trader and was now a venture capitalist. (My parents were artists, I grew up in TriBeCa, my education had been "progressive," and the business-world was foreign and abstract. In combination with his accent and my ignorance of what the phrase "venture capitalist" meant, his occupation made him very exotic.) And his refrigerator—I noticed—contained nothing but six bottles of champagne.

At some point he abruptly stopped talking and kissed me. We were sitting on the edge of his low-to-the-floor palate bed with a glossy black headboard. I enjoyed the feeling of his lips, the scent of his aftershave. "Tell me about you," he said, lacing his fingers through mine. "Oh, I wish I could!" I said, dropping his hand. "I'm super late! My best friend's birthday party is starting in two minutes!" Some more making out would've been great. However, I wasn't interested in exposing that I ‘d just dropped out of college due to mental illness and drug addiction, that my life was all dysfunction and terror, and I could think of nothing else that defined me. So I left. But before I did, the man gave me a small, square book entitled Conversations With God. "Keep an open mind," he said, as the elevator doors closed.

Back in my bedroom at my parent's home, I did a fat line off a CD jewel case and read the book cover to cover. A lifelong atheist, by the book's end I was a believer in an all-knowing, all-powerful, and unconditionally loving creator—one who had a grand scheme for me and had instilled in me infinite potential. All I had to do was ask and He would lift me out of the mire, into the light of grace. Yes, I had a drug habit that might've killed me any day, and unchecked bipolar disorder had me aflame: reckless, sleepless, swinging wildly between euphoria and paranoia and suicidal depression. My teeth were filled with painful cavities, my hair was knotted and greasy, and bones jutted sharply. The endless torrent of my crises had alienated all my friends. I could no longer manage the basic functions of living. But God can save me, I thought. God wants me to change. All I have to do is ask.

And so I did—ask for help, that is. From God and then—because I believed I was divinely inspired to do so—my mother. Twenty-four hours later I was in detox, after which I was shipped down to a long-term rehab in South Florida. Although Conversations With God no longer defines my spiritual beliefs, I remain free of drug addiction. Finding stability with mental illness took much longer, and is a far less clear-cut a milestone than washing a bottle of Xanax down a drain; but that burden did, eventually and largely because I remained drug-free, lighten. And so, in retrospect and from a certain angle, that man—the real Australian, as I think of him now—saved my life.

Since my novel, The Australian, has a manic energy, just like the real Australian—and like me, back when I'd met him—so did most of the music I listened to while writing it. I made a playlist of about 150 tracks that helped my prose match the timbre of my protagonist's personality and book's mood. The songs had to be familiar. Music that was new to me, strayed far from the conventions of its genre, or rendered an attention-grabbing narrative, was too distracting. While writing, my brain needed to keep company with each song without consciously engaging them.

During our teenage years, most of us seek and find ourselves in music. The bands that obsess us then will resonate with us forever. Above all my novel-writing playlist (from which the following eighteen songs were plucked) included songs that comprised the soundtrack of Australian's youth, and which continue reverberate in his adulthood—and in mine, as well.

Duran Duran :: "Electric Barbarella"

This song was composed as a tribute to the cult classic film Barbarella (1968), which takes place some thousands of years in the future. An evil scientist named Durand Durand is threatening to end life on Earth with some kind of death-ray technology (analogous to a nuclear holocaust), and to stop him the U.S. government deploys its ultimate weapon: Barbarella, an astronaut (my mind wants to call her an "astronautrix") whose sexual prowess is so powerful that she can use it to conquer any man. The two guys who would soon become Duran Duran frequented a nightclub named Barbarella after the film character, so I guess also in homage—to the movie, the nightclub, or both—the band adopted the name of Barbarella's villain. I don't know why they dropped the "d" at the end of each "Durand." I guess it does sound cooler.

I'm pretty sure "Electric Barbarella" (1997) was Duran Duran's last hit. What's weird is that instead of the futuristic and emotionally flat, yes, but definitely human "Barbarella" that Jane Fonda played so memorably, the "Barbarella" in the song is a straight-up, commercially produced, electric sex doll: "I knew when I first saw you on the showroom floor, you were made for me." And later: "I plug you in, dim the lights, electric Barbarella." If you want to be super generous, you could read it as a song from the point of view of a male Dom singing to a submissive woman with whom he is in a BDSM relationship (listen, think about it), but I suspect that would be overthinking things. The lyrics seem quite literal—if the robotic woman stuff a metaphor, it's never broken—and it leaves me less than confident that the Duran Duran blokes have ever actually seen the film.

I find all of this pretty interesting, but "Electric Barbarella" relates to my novel purely by happenstance: when I brazenly (or rudely—that would be fair enough) popped a tape without asking into the real Australian's stereo, swirled up the volume dial, and started dancing, this song is what played.


Men At Work :: "Down Under"

For me to include this song on this pubic list is an act of bravery for which I ought to receive an outpouring of commendation. Yes, indeed: I listened to this song, sometimes on repeat, during the first few months of writing the novel. There is an American conception of "the Australian," I think, which is essentially a stereotype: the happy-go-lucky, extroverted, good-looking, charming white guy from "Down Under." This notion of "the Australian" is depicted and celebrated in Men at Work's goofy song, and it also serves as the starting point from which my novel's protagonist develops. When we first meet him, "the Australian" (his proper name is never given), he is described thusly: "He smiles widely, his teeth luminous, his canines threatening. All his life, he has been indiscriminate with his enthusiasm, invincible within the hedonistic splendor of the present moment, like some kind of inverted Buddha."

However, everything after the first paragraph works to transcend and deepen readers' understanding of "the Australian" to this Australian, this man, this particular, wonderful, fucked up, loving, infuriating human being—someone with whom gradually (as in any relationship) readers come to feel a close connection and know intimately. I made the choice never to name the Australian understanding that it would raise two questions. First: what does it mean, in the mind of the reader, to be an Australian man? And second: why isn't the protagonist granted a name? I wrote the novel with those questions always in mind—and with the intention that the answers woven into the narrative would enrich the novel (and the experience of reading it) sufficiently to justify that choice.


Culture Club :: "Karma Chameleon"

The beat, the lyrics, the gold-silver rays of Boy George's heavenly voice—everything about this song comes together so perfectly, and it somehow encapsulates everything that my novel aspires to be. The playfulness is in sync with the Australian before his life becomes complicated—yet just as the lyrics add layers of complexity to "Karma Chameleon," there is disturbance lurking in the background of the novel's page one.


The Cure :: "The Walk"

This song captures how the Australian feels on coke, which he falls in love with for a time. It's also one of my favorite songs, and I've heard it enough times that I hardly notice when Robert Smith inexplicably exclaims, "I saw you look like a Japanese baby!" (a lyric that raises many questions, if you think about it), which is to say—I have listened to this song a lot.


Pet Shop Boys :: "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)"

At the very beginning of The Australian, the Australian is paying his way through his final year of university by dressing up as Superman and posing for tourist photos. It is noted that, at this time in Australia, "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)" is a massive hit. The beginning of the chorus, which is included in the book, goes: "I've got the brains, you've got the looks, let's make lots of money." The narration continues: "In his mind, the Australian is both of the people in the song. He is smart—smart enough to know when effort is absolutely required and when he can fake it—and he is handsome, with chiseled abdominal muscles underneath the chiseled abdominal muscles of his costume. He smiles widely, his teeth luminous, his canines threatening." Hearing "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)," over and over, ignites the Australian's first major ambition: to become rich working on Wall Street. His pursuit of this goal is what propels his adult life—and the novel's plot—into motion.


The Vaselines :: "You Think You're a Man"

This is a really fun, upbeat song, with verses sung alternately by The Vaselines' front woman, Frances McKee, and front man, Eugene Kelly, who take turns gleefully berating a man for his sexual ineptitude—a characterization seemingly based on first-hand experience. "Man-boy!" they taunt. "You think you're a man but you're only a boy! You think you're a man but you're only a toy! Man-boy! Man-boy!" There's an interlude during which McKee and Kelly groan and moan, presumably granting each other the erotic ecstasy that the "man-boy" never could.

The humiliation this song's muse presumably endures evokes the Australian's shame vis-à-vis Elijah, his coke dealer: "Sometimes the Australian asks Elijah to fuck him. Elijah always laughs like it's a joke, and the Australian laughs along with him, although he wants to cry really badly." More generally, the injuriousness of the song's happy malice is predicated on the overwhelming pressure that most men, including the Australian, feel to be a "real man" (an impossible and illusory goal)—and the self-loathing and panic that result from their perpetual, inevitable failure to do so.


INXS :: "Don't Change"

Here, there is indignation and pride and beauty and savage resolve in the melody—that voice of Michael Hutchence! It's a song of the self-made man ("Don't change the Earth, don't change a thing, for me!") whom the Australian imagines he will become when he first moves to New York City to work as a day-trader—a man who needs nothing and no one, whose life-force is enough to hold up the sky.


Blondie :: "Atomic"

Fiona is a compulsive liar (of small, hopeful lies—"pretty fandangle"), an accessory stylist for a major pop star, and eventually the Australian's wife—and she is awesome. I really hope readers get that. Debbie Harry is the definition of awesome. So yeah, this one is all about Fiona for me—her power, resilience, optimism, and the understated but unstoppable drive she has to find happiness, meaning, and goodness in life.


Berlin :: "The Metro"

This song captures something of the Australian's relationship to New York City, which can be a cold place, unforgiving and alienating: "The Australian has always thought of New York City as an achingly lonely place, the length of Manhattan like an arm extending toward something forever out of reach, the boroughs a collection of nets catching stray souls drifting out to sea."

The lyrics, beat, and melody of "The Metro" are repetitive and monotonous, which gives me the sensation that the room is closing in on me, which is how the Australian feels a lot. When faced with responsibility—becoming a husband and then a father, grappling with unemployment, and so on—everything seems unfair, like the world is conspiring against him: a very claustrophobic perspective, the claustrophobia of narcissism (and we are all narcissistic to some degree).


Morrissey :: "I Have Forgiven Jesus"

To be clear: I am a mega fan of The Smiths and Morrissey's solo career. That said, this song is absolutely hilarious. Peak Morrissey melodrama, self-pity, anger. The lyrics recount all the ways Jesus has screwed Morrissey (a specific abuse for each day of the week!), and he yet the singer generously condescends to grant Jesus forgiveness. The song's title, "I Have Forgiven Jesus," is presumably intended as a provocative inversion of the most basic prayer: "Jesus, please forgive my sins." The whole song is very earnest in its grievances (this description can be applied to Morrissey's entire oeuvre, really) and just beyond with the angst. Still, it's about very real and sad things whose significance and power I do not mean to belittle, like being filled of love without have anyone to share it with, the risks of being vulnerable and open in an oft uncaring and brutal world… It's just that Morrissey's presentation of this stuff, and especially his certainty that he in particular has been singled out, takes the song deliciously too far.

Similarly, when the Australian is first faced real adversity—discord fractures his marriage and a serious illness befalls his mother—he's a lot like the Morrissey we see in "I Have Forgiven Jesus." And, hey—I am not above self-pity! I, too, have felt like I was being tortured by an all-powerful, consciously malicious force in the universe, or that life itself was configured to thwart my happiness. Morrissey, the Australian, and (occasionally) I agree: we are unfortunates to whom an endless parade of awful shit just happens, none of it foreseeable or preventable or at all related to our own doings. We three peons are damned—damned!—to a life (Freudian slip: I just wrote "a laugh") of pain.

Cyndi Lauper :: "When You Were Mine"

I love Cyndi Lauper, in part because there's a fabulous whininess to her voice—like this super cool bratty sound and attitude. The Australian, at some points in the novel, is pining, when really he has no right. He fucked up. So that's the loose connection: romantic loss, grieving that loss, wanting the person back. But above all this song was just fun and energizing to have playing in the background.


Rockwell :: "Somebody's Watching Me"

Hopefully it's not too much of a spoiler to say that, through a curious series of events, the Australian becomes—well, "famous" isn't quite the right word: "There seems to be no appropriate descriptor for his current status in society," the narration notes. "He cannot be a celebrity because he has done nothing to earn the public's celebration. Nor has he done anything sufficiently terrible to warrant notoriety—and anyway, in his present condition, whether people love or hate him is a superfluous detail. The word "star" occurs to him as perhaps a cheaper designation than "celebrity," and one that could be pinned to an unworthy individual such as himself—but because he is not stalked by paparazzi and does not deliberately cultivate a fanbase, the label doesn't quite fit. Is he even a public figure? He thinks not. He doesn't live publicly, he lives privately—it is just that he happens to get filmed while doing so. The Australian accepts that there is no word, though perhaps time will invent one, for his social predicament—one akin to having some unseemly, attention-grabbing thing tacked onto his presence, like an unusually located facial piercing or a curious odor."

In any case, when the Australian becomes broadly know by the public (whatever you want to call that), he senses constantly that he is under scrutiny and surveillance and—like Rockwell (watch the music video!)—it freaks him out.


Depeche Mode :: "Never Let Me Down Again"

Expansive, joyful, and melancholic, this song captures the feeling of connection between two men (I imagine) who have bonded and are driving in a car (on a road trip—again, I imagine). But there's also a sad history, undefined but conveyed by the plea in the chorus: "Never let me down again." I imagine that, if the Australian had ever met his father—a larger-than-life, rock climbing, B.A.S.E. jumping, shark-taunting extreme sports enthusiast, sun-leathered and rugged, emblematic of a model of masculinity that the Australian aspires to but can never achieve—he would feel all that this song portrays: euphoria, sharing with his father the exhilaration of speeding in a car, but afraid that it won't last, that his father will go away, back to his life of solo adventuring—and that the Australian will, again, be let down.


Kate Bush :: "Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)"

Here's another one that I included mostly because it's a personal favorite. It's got enough oddness and movement to inspire the same in my writing, but also enough familiarity leave my focus intact.

In retrospect, it reminds me of the Australian at one of his lowest points, in which he is facing homelessness: "His hands and feet have lost all sensation. Unequipped for the elements, he has neither the street smarts nor the will to survive in the outdoors. He imagines himself dead on the sidewalk, curled with his head resting at a queer angle upon his knapsack, face coated in ice crystals that sparkle in the morning light. What could people say about him, other than that he died for nothing?" But in the novel, it is not God he calls on for help. It is a goddess of sorts.


Talking Heads :: "The Book I Read"

I listened to this while editing The Australian. It's one of my favorite Talking Heads songs. Not best known for love songs, I'd consider this not only the band's best love song, but also one of the greats of that genre in American music. The idea of reading a book and seeing it in someone's eyes is queer and wonderful. The book is the primary object of affection in the lyrics, and then the falling-in-love-with-a-human takes place when that book (maybe it's essence, or maybe they've both read the book) is somehow contained in the gaze of the person: "The book I read was in your eyes."

The song also gave a voice to my own thrill at almost being done with writing a book: "Oh… I'm living in the future! I feel wonderful! I'm flipping over backwards! I'm so ambitious! I'm looking back! I'm running a race and you're the book I read so…" I mean, yeah—I was pretty high on the feeling of The Australian nearing completion. It was awesome.


Emma Smith-Stevens and The Australian links:

the author's website

Publishers Weekly review

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


Shorties (A Guide to Literary References in Twin Peaks, A Mix of New West African Music, and more)

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Paste listed the best comics artists of the year (so far).


Stream a new song by the Darcys.


The New York Times previewed Amazon's first New York City bookstore.


PopMatters interviewed Lizzy Goodman about her book Meet Me in the Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York City 2001-2011.


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Stream a new song by the Holy Circle.


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eBooks on sale for $1.50 today:

My Mother Was Nuts by Penny Marshall

eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi Durrow
Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
Life at the Dakota: New York's Most Unusual Address by Stephen Birmingham
Orient by Christopher Bollen
The Private Life of Mrs Sharma by Ratika Kapur
Robert Plant: A Life by Paul Rees
The Son by Philipp Meyer
The Universal Baseball Association Inc. by Robert Coover
The Virginity of Famous Men by Christine Sneed
Wicked by Gregory Maguire

eBooks on sale for $2.99 today:

Cutting Teeth by Julia Fierro
Erasure by Percival Everett
The Gueniveres by Sarah Domet
Notes from No Man's Land by Eula Biss



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

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

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


May 23, 2017

Book Notes - Lizzy Goodman "Meet Me in the Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York City 2001-2011"

Meet Me in the Bathroom

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.

Lizzy Goodman's Meet Me in the Bathroom is a fascinating oral history of the New York rock scene's first decade in the 21st century.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"In this gossip-fueled, engaging oral history, fashion and music journalist Goodman traces New York’s tempestuous rock revival at the turn of the 21st century."


In her own words, here is Lizzy Goodman's Book Notes music playlist for her novel Meet Me in the Bathroom:



1. "Intro" by Dr. Octagon (Kool Keith)
One of the funniest elements of reporting/writing this book was when seemingly unconnected story lines converged. The DFA guys were all obsessed with Dr. Octagonologyst, one of the most mischievous, profane records of all time. And it turns out so was Jaleel Bunton and others from TV On the Radio. I played the album's intro a lot, usually as I sat down to write for the day or when things were feeling too serious and I needed a reminder that this whole thing is supposed to be fun and dirty.
 
2. "Sabotage" by Beastie Boys
I always said that the city itself was the main character in this book. As such, I needed to regularly tap into the signature swagger and witty defiance of New York. The Beastie Boys—and this track in particular—capture that sense of justified arrogance, naughty humor, and joy.
 
3. "53rd and 3rd" by The Ramones
I listened to the bands I was actually writing about only sparingly, like I was saving them for when I really needed them. Instead, I played a lot of music that influenced the characters in my story. I wanted to steep in the songs they would have been obsessing over and using as creative benchmarks. This track is the sound of '70s New York, and would have been among the ones to beat for so many of these bands.
 
4. "Glad Girls" by Guided By Voices
I often craved the careening joy of the Strokes' favorite band. It reminded me of the era in which we all came up, when indie rockers were gods and leather jacket rock and roll seemed obsolete. If you don't think anyone is ever going to hear—much less care—about what you're making, it's easy to get really free. This song sounds like how it felt to be a 21-year-old kid sleeping on the New Jersey Transit commuter train back to Philly after a wild night on the Lower East Side. (AKA: me).
 
5. "Fight The Power" by Public Enemy 
Perfectly expressed anger is very invigorating. I felt like I was at war a lot when working on this book. This was my battle anthem.
 
6. "Hard Knock Life" by Jay-Z
A reminder of what rock was up against when the Strokes and Interpol and the DFA guys first started working on music. Hip-hop reigned, and rightly so.
 
7. "New York Groove" by Ace Frehley
My dear friend Marc Spitz (who suddenly passed away this winter, but who was instrumental in so many ways to making this book happen) made for me, when I first started writing it, a playlist titled simply, "NYC." I was feeling overwhelmed by the scope of what I'd undertaken—hundreds of interviews that would need to be conducted, then culled into something resembling a cohesive story. I was also intimidated by the legacy of New York, the pressure of telling one part of my generation's piece of this great city's story. Marc wanted to remind me to stay close to the music. I played this mix over and over again for five years while working on Meet Me in the Bathroom. Surprisingly, this was the track I'd go to most often. Cheesy as all get out, in the best way.
  
8. "Cheree" by Suicide
As the esteemed journalist Jenny Eliscu points out in the book, so many of the greatest, weirdest, most inventive artists never find big commercial success. This haunting classic by one of the cities greatest, weirdest, most inventive bands is just beyond the beyond—so mysterious and beautiful and scary. I always seek a sense of tingling, rollercoaster-ish fear in my music. This song is my most reliable mainline to that sweet terror. I used it like a sonic palate cleanser when writing.
 
9. "Angie" by The Realistics
If you'd asked me in, say 2000, who my favorite band was, I'd have said the Realistics. My friend Niki and I would go down to the Khyber Pass in downtown Philly when we were in college to see them and other now unknown rock stars of the era. You could say it's sad that they never really broke through, but rock and roll is supposed to be ephemeral. I just feel so crazy lucky to have gotten to witness them in all their glory.
 
10. "Tomorrow Never Knows" by the Beatles
Having not actually been there in person the night James Murphy took ecstasy for the first time and—so the story goes—discovered his true self and his signature sound after hearing this song, his favorite from childhood, on the stereo, I had to play it a lot in order to conjure the vicarious thrill.
 
11. "City Drops Into the Night" by The Jim Carroll Band
I grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico where the very idea of urban life is exotic. My musical taste didn't get properly weird until college, but I saw the movie adaptation of Jim Carroll's first memoir Basketball Diaries (starring baby Leo DiCaprio!) when I was still in high school and it fucked me up real good. Threesomes! Rooftop masturbation! Pedophilic priests! Heroin! It was the first work of art that showed me the stealth sweetness of forbidden, racy worlds. City boys, after all, are still just boys. Carroll's follow-up, Forced Entries, remains my favorite memoir of all time, and his band's album, Catholic Boy, already a regular go-to on my general playlist, felt especially nourishing during the writing of this book.
 
12. "Our Time" by Yeah Yeah Yeahs
In those rare moments when I needed to play the music I was writing about, this was always my entry point. I remember getting the debut YYY EP and just playing it over and over and over and over again. I was into the Strokes first, as you can read about in the intro to the book, but I felt emotionally closest to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Their blend of sensitivity and wildness matched my own, which I didn't yet understand and probably still don't. I just knew that when Karen screamed, "it's our time to be hated," I felt like I'd come home.


Lizzy Goodman and Meet Me in the Bathroom links:

excerpt from the book
excerpt from the book

Detroit Free Press review
Exclaim! review
Publishers Weekly review


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

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

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


Shorties (Recommended Summer Reading, Recounting MP3 Blogging's Golden Age, and more)

Newsday recommended books for summer reading.


The FADER hosted a roundtable discussion about mp3 blogging's golden age.


Vol. 1 Brooklyn shared an excerpt from Michael Seidlinger's book Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves.


Katie and Allison Crutchfield covered Sleater-Kinney's "Modern Girl."


Emerging Writers Network interviewed author Jensen Beach.


Stream a new song by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis.


The New York Times features a new essay by Samantha Irby.


Rolling Stone recommended true crime books for music lovers.


Stream a new Wieuca song.


Culture Trip examined the writings of Brazilian author João Gilberto Noll.


Paste listed the best Stax Records songs.


Bill Gates talked Books and reading with TIME.

Gates also recommended summer reading.


Stream a new song by Spinee.


Book Riot recommended Finnish speculative fiction.


Jonathan Coulton talked songwriting with PopMatters.


Literary Hub shared an excerpt from Barbara Gowdy's novel Little Sister.


Stereogum shared covers of Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill."


Publishers Weekly recommended essential African novels.


Drowned in Sound reconsidered Soundgarden's Superunknown album.


Bookworm interviewed biographer Brad Gooch.


The Quietus listed May's best cassette releases.


Literary Hub features new nonfiction by Edwidge Danticat.


NYCTaper shared a recording of a recent show by Sir Richard Bishop.


Chelsea Clinton talked to Publishers Weekly about her new children's book, She Persisted.


Stream a new composition by Bryce Dessner.


The Millions examined the use of Polish poets' works in protests.


Billboard interviewed the man who started the concert t-shirt craze.


Literary Hub shared Karen Russell's essay from the anthology Tales of Two Americas: Stories of Inequality in a Divided Nation.


NME shared a playlist of goth classics for World Goth Day.


The New York Review of Books shared Kwame Anthony Appiah's introduction to the new collection Chinua Achebe: The African Trilogy.


Stereogum reconsidered the National's Boxer album 10 years after its release.


Smithsonian made the case for Langston Hughes as the poet for the unchampioned.


John Darnielle talked to Paste and Gambit about the new Mountain Goats album, Goths.


eBooks on sale for $1.50 today:

My Mother Was Nuts by Penny Marshall

eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi Durrow
Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
Life at the Dakota: New York's Most Unusual Address by Stephen Birmingham
Orient by Christopher Bollen
The Private Life of Mrs Sharma by Ratika Kapur
Robert Plant: A Life by Paul Rees
The Son by Philipp Meyer
The Universal Baseball Association Inc. by Robert Coover
The Virginity of Famous Men by Christine Sneed
Wicked by Gregory Maguire

eBooks on sale for $2.99 today:

Cutting Teeth by Julia Fierro
Erasure by Percival Everett
The Gueniveres by Sarah Domet
Notes from No Man's Land by Eula Biss



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

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

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


May 22, 2017

Book Notes - Susan Rieger "The Heirs"

The Heirs

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.

Susan Rieger's novel The Heirs is a smart and compulsively readable family drama.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"Told both in flashbacks and at the turn of the millennium, there’s something timeless about this family drama; take it back one hundred years, and it would easily fit in among the novels of the Gilded Age. It is a charming, slightly haunting look at a family dealing with the inheritance of legacy rather than money and wondering if what happens after a relationship matters as much as how it was experienced at the time."


In her own words, here is Susan Rieger's Book Notes music playlist for her novel The Heirs:



The family in The Heirs, the five Falkes sons and their parents, are a musical family, except for the mother, Eleanor, who, in the hands of a less fond author, might be called a musical zero. As I wrote in the novel, “Eleanor never listened to music. It made her anxious.” I am like Eleanor that way. Spoken words are music to my ears: plays, public readings, radio stories. After that, I like words with melodies: Sondheim, The American Songbook, South Pacific, Gilbert & Sullivan, requiems, Richard Strauss’ songs, Evensong, 60’s music. For the music I wrote about in The Heirs, I did research, as another novelist might do research on German Expressionist painting. Some of it I learned from my resident expert. My husband, like Rupert, the father in the book, is very musical, and his classical tastes have kept me from sounding like a complete idiot when the subject of Mahler comes up at dinner parties.

For two of the Falkeses, Rupert and his middle son, Jack, music is life-giving. For the middle son Sam, it is sustenance. For the youngest, Tom, it invokes a nostalgia for an era he missed out on. For the two oldest, Harry and Will, it is their youth.

As the novel opens, Rupert is dying; Eleanor is seeing to his care; his five sons, all in their 30’s, are standing by. After his death, a woman comes forward, claiming she had two sons with him. Cue the kettle drums.

As unmusical or amusical as I am, thumbing through The Heirs for this exercise, I discovered music humming its way all through it.

1. Evensong
I think of Evensong, the Anglican sung service of evening prayer, as Rupert’s song cycle. A Dickensian orphan, growing up during the Great Depression in a Church of England orphanage, Rupert sang his way out of poverty and loss. He had “a lovely boy’s soprano voice that made him standout from the unruly, runny-nosed, scabrous little boys he lived with.” When he was eight, he won a scholarship to a choir school. This lead to a scholarship at an English Public School which lead in turn to a scholarship at Cambridge. A churchgoer all his life, Rupert never sent his sons to Sunday School, only to proper Church services. He didn’t believe in Sunday School. “Religion was music, mystery and ritual. Bible stories were no different from Greek myths. He left both to the D’Aulaires.” The Evensong Service includes canticles in a variety of settings, anthems and psalm chants, all in Latin. There are readings from the Old and New Testament and, at the end, the priest delivers a very short prayer, distilled as: God save the Queen, God help the poor. The choir at Kings College, Cambridge, Rupert’s college, has made several recordings of the Evensong service.

2. "Jerusalem"
At Rupert’s funeral at St Thomas in New York City, the choir sings the great English anthem, Jerusalem, as a kind of Christian Kaddish for an Englishman dying abroad. Exuding a muscular Christianity, Jerusalem is the most English of anthems, less a hymn to God than to the British bulldog spirit. “Of course,” Eleanor said, the service would include "Jerusalem." At his death, Rupert had been living in America for forty years. He insisted he’d become thoroughly American, “no sense of history anymore,” but his Englishness shone through, undiminished to the end. The English composer Hubert Parry set the music to William Blake’s poem. Chariots of Fire, the 1981 Academy Award winning film about the English track and field team at the 1924 Paris Olympics, takes its title from the Blake poem. It opens with "Jerusalem" being sung in full throat at an aged athlete’s funeral. For a misty-eyed performance, there is a YouTube recording of the Last Night of the Proms, September 10, 2012.

3. Bird & Diz Album 1950
When he was five, Jack heard the album Bird and Diz at a friend’s. He came home and announced to his mother that she needed to buy him all of Dizzy’s record, all of Bird’s, a record player and a horn. He started trumpet lessons when he was six. He loved Coltrane and Parker too much to play the sax. “I cry when I hear a great sax. It’s like a human voice,” he said. “Chet, Dizzy, Miles, Louis, they make me glad to be alive.’” Jack becomes a professional trumpet player. I think, though never say, that Bloomdido, the first song on the Bird and Diz album, set him on his way.

4. "Taps"
"Taps," the bugle call at dusk, is also the military funeral tattoo. Jack plays it twice in the novel. He plays it, fittingly, at his grandfather’s funeral, “surprising the priests by reducing most of the mourners to tears. Danny Boy, with bagpipes, was usually the reliable weeper.” Jack was not surprised. He had played it years ago, the night before his oldest brother Harry went off to college. It had been a rousing evening. When Will said it was Harry’s last meal, everyone laughed – except Sam. He protested. “This is serious. This is the end of normal life.” Every one fell silent. Jack, age 12, stood up. “I should play ‘Taps’ ” he said. He left the room to fetch his trumpet. In the lull, Harry poured himself a glass of wine. “To Mom and Dad.” he said. The others replied. “Hear, hear.” The first melancholy notes of the call rang through the apartment. Eleanor and Rupert “looked at each other, then looked away, too happy to speak.” Taps typically takes 59 seconds to play, long enough to lift your heart or break it.

5. Schubert’s Songs: "Winterreise"
Sam, the middle son, is the only one of the five who loved classical music. Songs and chamber music were his favorites. It started early. “He would toddle unevenly into the library where his father was reading and point to the stereo. Rupert would put on a record. As the music filled the room, Sam would sit on the floor leaning against his father’s legs. He never fell asleep.” Even as a small child, Sam couldn’t listen to music and do anything else. He hated background music. All music was foreground. “Music invades my brain,” he would say. When he hummed, as he often did while working on some project, he didn’t notice he was doing it. “My brain does it by itself,” he told his mother. Both Rupert and Sam liked the haunted melodies of Schubert’s songs. I think their favorite is "Winterreise." I picture them in the study, sitting companionably in comfortable chairs, listening to the 1954 Hans Hotter recording, with Gerald Moore on the piano.

6. Brahm’s German Requiem (Ein Deutsches Requirm)
At 38, sad, single, lonely, and childless, Sam’s best friend, Susanna, had a miscarriage. Feeling time was running out, she’d gotten herself pregnant. Hearing the news, Sam rushed to comfort her. He found her weeping and distraught. He settled her on the sofa, gave her a glass of Arneis, and put on Brahm’s German Requiem. For months after 9/11, I played the Otto Klemperer recording, with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and the Philharmonia Orchestra, 1961. I wept every time. Weeping is the only way through grief.

6. "I Heard It Through The Grapevine"
Tom, the baby of the family, was a federal prosecutor. He was the do-gooder in the family, the most sensitive to suffering, his own as well as others. In high school and college, he devoted all his free time to the forgotten and abused: single mothers with three jobs, children with fetal alcohol syndrome, cons, ex-cons, gang members, prostitutes, drug addicts, SRO tenants. “His heroes were the Berrigans. He cursed his ill luck for having grown up post-Selma, post-Vietnam, post-Nixon, post-Attica, with no reason to sit in at lunch counters, burn the American flag, chain himself to a prison fence, steal FBI files, go underground.” His music, like his polititics was rooted in the 60th, The Doors the Stones, the Beatles, and, most of all, Motown. When I think of Tom, I hear "Dancing in the Street," by Martha and the Vandellas, (not David Bowie, not Mick Jagger) and "I Heard it Through the Grapevine," by Gladys Knight & the Pips (not Marvin Gaye, no matter how heart tugging).

7. "The Sultans of Swing"
Harry the oldest and most conventional of the brothers liked the music his friends liked. His favorite album was Synchronicity by The Police, and although it’s never said in the novel, his favorite song was Dire Straits’ "The Sultans of Swing," mostly because everyone at school dances pointed at him when they heard the line “And Harry doesn’t mind if he doesn’t make the scene.” Will liked what Harry liked. “Will had worshipped Harry when he was little, following him everywhere, doing whatever he did. Well into his teenage years, he was under Harry’s thrall, safe and surly in his thralldom.” Harry and Will were not amusical like their mother – they hadn’t had to spend Saturday afternoons at Philharmonic concerts as Eleanor had – but music didn’t mean much to them, not what books and movies meant.


Susan Rieger and The Heirs links:

Kirkus Reviews review
Publishers Weekly review


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

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

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


Book Notes - Selena Chambers "Calls for Submission"

Calls for Submission

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.

Selena Chambers' Calls for Submission is filled with an impressive variety of weird fiction and fully realized characters.

Paul Tremblay wrote of the book:

"Selena Chambers' collection Calls for Submission is a wonderful, irresistible mix of the historical and modern, the literary and fantastic. These stories burst with humor, genuine emotion, and the dread of those who see the end coming."


In her own words, here is Selena Chambers' Book Notes music playlist for her short story collection Calls for Submission:



Calls for Submission is my first short story collection. The oldest story and first to be published was written in 2005, and the most recent was in 2015. That is quite a period of one's life to unpack, and during the book's arrangement, I would flashback to when (and how) a story was written. I'd remember the housing I was in with its smells of brewed coffee and the neighbors fried cooking. I'd remember the needed deadline sustenances (Americanos, figs and nuts, all the cheese, all the wine!). Most of all, I'd remember what track or album was playing through my headphones.

I don't prescribe much to writer rituals, but music is the one requisite I can't create without. Not only does it tune out distractions, but it also helps me find the story's mood and rhythm. If the setting is in a foreign country, music helps me find the cultural and historical essence that immerses me well enough to get the job done, if I can't experience the scene firsthand. And, sometimes, music can be used within the stories themselves as thematic devices. Either way, because of the way I loop albums and tracks during my drafting process, the songs become imprinted in the writing experience.

And it doesn't stop. I had a fixed list when I first started this mixtape to the world. But as I tuned in and out to new music, I came across some fresh cuts that expressed certain characters or feelings in a story way better than the music used during their actual composition. So, whether it is tangentially or quite literally, the below is the soundtrack to Calls for Submission, twelve years in the making (and then some).


Dedication / "Lashes" by Babes in Toyland

I dedicated this book to the members of Babes in Toyland. From the Cindy Shermanesque cover to the double-edged femininity that permeates throughout this collection, it is perhaps more in-debt to their aesthetic than any horror writer or work. This has nothing to do with one story, necessarily, as the overall mood of the collection.

I was influenced to write horror by a notion to explore womanhood fears. Outside of Mina Loy and Virginia Woolf, I didn't have many female references at the time, so I secretly labeled this kind of horror Foxcore.* "Lashes" personifies the fierce tempo, soft surrealism, and feminine contradictions I tried to invoke into each story, even the ones dialed back without distortion.

*Foxcore was actually a loving joke Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore made to the media about bands like Babes, Hole, and L7. Media, being the suits and squares they are, thought it was just a synonym for Riot Grrrl, leading to a lot of resentment between the various bands when they were all lumped together.


Of Parallel and Parcel / "All is Full of Love" by Björk

When we think of Virginia Poe, the child-bride of Edgar Allan, we don't think of a willful young woman who knew whether or not she'd been given true love. However, this story imagines her as a person conscious of her own fate. I think the message in Björk's "All is Full of Love", as well as the cosmic heart-beats of its tempo, very well set the tone to a young woman weighing her options in an option-less time, and following her heart and her true love all the way to whatever awaits her at the end.


The Şehrazatın Diyoraması Tour / "Caravan" by Raquy and the Cavemen

This is an anti-Orientalist Steampunk story set in Constantinople at the end of the nineteenth century. It involves a diorama tour designed to give Western sojourners their "ideal Orient," as guided by the mysterious eponymous automaton. "Caravan" is an excellent companion to this story as it encompasses several Middle Eastern techniques and instruments into a fusion of Persian and Turkish influences. It also parallels the story's pacing of the story. A mysterious riff from Raquy and the Cavemen's trademark 11-string guitar slowly rises into a lush auditorial trek. It recalls Gertrude Bell and Lawrence of Arabia clichés, but once you have settled into that fantasy, the song becomes furious and the travels are no longer what they seem.


Dr. Lambshead's Dark Room / "Miss Annabelle Lee" by Django Reinhardt

This story was written for a great high-concept anthology, Dr. Lambshead's Cabinet of Curiosities, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer. Dr. Lambshead was a famed eccentric and archeologist of the Weird who left the world a house full of curios after his death. Each story, then, was an account of the author's interaction or knowledge of what objects laid within. In my case, I wrote more about an experience with the good Doctor as he cured my Poepathy (a word I've coined to describe the disease of the imagination that stems from reading too much Poe). Therefore, what better way to go visit a crazy octogenarian about Poe than with Django swinging you in with "Miss Annabelle Lee?"


Descartar / "La Llorona" by Lila Downs, Luis Mars, and Mariachi Juvenil Tecalitlan

"Descartar" is a modern re-telling of the Hispanic La Llorona legend. La Llorona means "Weeping Woman," and concerns a lady ghost who haunts the coast searching for her lost children. There are a lot of variations on the theme of La Llorona. Sometimes she is victim and her children were drowned by someone else, or she is the murderer. My version both flirts and subverts both notions.

As a folk song, "La Llorona" also has assorted arrangements and verses. This version from the Frida soundtrack was what I had on loop most of the time while writing. Arranged by Eliot Goldsmith and performed by Lila Downs, Luis Mars, and the Mariachi Juvenil Tecalitlan, it is a more upbeat and festive version that best captures my characters foil personalities. For Arylola, the village bruja, it expresses a deep melancholy masked by an insouciance demeanor. For the young Remedios, Arylola's reluctant patient, it evokes her heartbreak from being abandoned, dishonored, and impregnated by her lover.


Dive in Me (with Jesse Bullington) / "Dive" by Nirvana & "1994" by Slutever

If you are a Nirvana fan, you probably already know from the title that "Dive" figures prominently in this Southern Gothic story. Set in the 90s, it's about three teenage girls who set out to find and dive the legendary "Suicide Sinks." I co-wrote this with one of my own fellow childhood conspirators, Jesse Bullington (some of you may know him as Alex Marshall). We wanted to write a story about some of the kids we knew, and the lush, dripping Gothic of North Florida springs and sinkholes we both grew up around.

Our girls—Spring, Moira, and Gina—trespass, chain-smoke, bicker, and swear up a storm to hide their growing fears about their adventure. Music becomes the one thing that settles their nerves. To scrounge up courage and renew their pact to dive the mythical sink together, they sing an altered version of Nirvana's "Dive."

Gah, I love this story so much that I have to cheat. While "Dive" appears directly in the story, and repeated while I worked, I have to include Slutever's "1994" here. This song sounds like something the girls would perform, and captures their gritty, ironic sense of the world. I also like the time-continuity/nostalgia of it. Of course a song about 1994 written in 2015 would be symbiotic to a story set around 1994 written in 2013.


Vintage Scenes, #1: Bandol, Château La Rouvière, 2002 / "Rude Boy" by Rihanna

This story concerns a philosophical exchange about wine and experience in the oldest cave in Nice, France. It's almost taken verbatim from a scene my husband and I experienced during our Honeymoon. Since it is about manipulating the senses to take you back to a time and place, Rihanna's "Rude Boy" is pretty appropriate as it inadvertently became the trip's theme song back in 2010. Whether it was in the Atlanta airport, the Côte d'Azur train, the streets of Geneva or Ansbach, this song was blasting from airport speakers and phones non-stop. (For some reason, no one believed in headphones and persisted in rocking their phones like mini-boom boxes). So, while the association of Rihanna and Bandol is pretty much non-existent, this song helped me trick my mind back into returning to Nice and 2010 while reconstructing my experiences there in 2014.


Collaborative Disambiguation (with Virginia M. Mohlere) / "Don Quixote" by Gordon Lightfoot

This isn't a story so much as a spontaneous record of two writers' budding friendship while trying to navigate their changing lives with their writing lives. Virginia and I were paired together by Mungbeing editor (and Pelekinesis founder/editor) Mark Givens to write a story for a collaboration issue. We were strangers, but through Don Quixote and crappy day jobs, we became fast buds.

Sometimes pursuing a writing career feels like tilting at windmills, so it was apt that our big idea behind our collaboration dealt with the Man from La Mancha. Gordon Lightfoot's bright and clean guitar reminds me of the idealism Virginia and I radiated almost ten years ago. His refrain of "seeing" conjures up the writing scales that slowly but very necessarily fell from both of our eyes, making us stronger dreamers in the end.


The United States of Kubla Khan / "Futurism vs. Passéism, Pt. 2" by Blonde Redhead

This is the oldest story in this collection. It was written in 2005 after spending the week with a cold, doped up on NyQuil, and watching the horrible aftermath of Katrina on CNN. It's about helplessness, idealism, and the ease of manifestoing but not manifesting action—all soliloquized through a somnambulant young girl only known as the Last American Dreamer. We all want good in the world, but how do we bring it about? A tough question I find myself struggling to answer more than ever this year….

To keep myself in the needed trance to write "Kubla Khan," I listened to two Blonde Redhead albums, the lush and atmospheric Misery is a Butterfly, and the more raw but still hypnotic, In An Expression of the Inexpressible. "Futurism vs. Passéism, Pt. 2," appears on the latter, and asks basically the same question as the Last American Dreamer: Is history actually held accountable?


Vintage Scenes #2: 2010 Bernkasteler Lay Riesling Spätlese / "Ohm Sweet Ohm" by Kraftwerk

Just like "Vintage Scenes, #1," this piece is also about the sensorial experience of travel, but rather than having memory work for you, it works against you. Rather than being mindful of where you are right now, you waste that time wishing you were somewhere you are not. In the case of this story, it is about missing Springtime in Florida while spending it on The Romantic Road in Bavaria, and vice versa. The ironic title of this song, the meandering ambiance of the synthesizers, and the fact that these are the only other German artists I listen to besides Marlene Dietrich make this a pretty good navel-gazing companion to this vignette.


The Last Session / "Girl O'Clock" by Dismemberment Plan

This song is directly referenced in the Emo-period novelette, "The Last Session," when the protagonist, Clarissa Collyer, and her best friend, Laney exchange barbs while driving home from school. It's cranked up after Clarissa burns her friend hard about being a nympho. To be fair, it was in retaliation for Laney suggesting Clarissa be a groupie. Clarissa doesn't want to be a groupie, she wants to be in a band, and this is where the song comes in.

While the hooks and chaos in this song are still fresh and dynamic, the lyrics are really rapey and come off more as Gamergate fan-fic than anything fun and rebellious. This was pretty typical of Emo during the 2000s, which was a retro-active boy's club disguised as the next level of punk rock progression. Riot Grrrl and Foxcore were swept under the rugs, and if there were any girls up front at an Emo show, it was as adulating fans. While the notion that a girl in the early 2000s wants to be in a band doesn't seem abnormal, it was a straight up aberration at the time. In "The Last Session," I try to depict that dynamic in the background, and bring back to the front the girls who had music to make.


The Good Shepherdess / "Joan of Arc" by Melvins

What if Joan of Arc wasn't touched in the head by Jesus, but turned Zombie by Cthulhu? These are the kind of pertinent existential questions posed by Lovecraftiana. Much like the conceit of this story, the Melvin's "Joan of Arc" is some noisy nonsense that pulls you under with deep riffs. Despite the brain's inability to comprehend the auditorial abuse it is being subjected to, it finds itself lulled into head-nodding conversion and selfless devotion to the calls of sludge.

That all sounded kind of grumpy, but Buzzo and Joan of Arc both live side-by-side as Saints in my Temple of Bad Asses.


Remnants of Lost Empires / "Sappho Song" by Chagall

Sometimes it takes years to find the soundtrack for something you wrote, and Chagall's "Sappho Song" is definitely the companion to this story. The story revolves around a forgotten Romantic poet/scholar named Sarah Pickman, who is sent on a weird, occult goose-chase involving Sappho. As she descends into madness, her stanzas, just like Chagall's song, are both inspired by the Sapphic form.

Recent scholarship has theorized that Sappho's poetry would have been performed musically, and in my mind with what bits it knows of Greek choruses and the strangeness of the Aeolian harp, I always imagine a Sapphic concert as disembodied sopranos wafting through stalagmite riddled caverns. Chagall comes mighty close to that auditory fantasy thanks to her vocal chords and the mi.mu gloves.


The Venus of Great Neck / "This Island Earth" by The Bryan Ferry Orchestra

"The Venus of Great Neck" is a Decopunk story about a grand reunion turned séance, obsessions with controlling the past, spiritualism, alchemy, and ultimately my taking a Symbolist piss at F. Scott Fitzgerald. While the time of the story is after the Crash, and all of the Bright Young Things are now sober and old, I kept the vibe jazzy and fresh with the three Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby soundtracks, plus The Bryan Ferry orchestra's The Jazz Age. Out of all of that swing, "This Island Earth" best captures the mournful tarnish that has dulled the once-glamorous lives of my main characters, Eva and Hollis Ellis.

It, and The Jazz Age as a whole, also echoes my philosophy on historical fiction. Bryan Ferry breathed new life into his Roxy Music songs by riffing off of Swing tempos and using 1920s era instruments. It isn't nostalgic from either a 1920s or 1970s stand point, but is a unique vehicle demonstrating that new ideas can be excavated from the past.


Vintage Scenes, #3: Morellino di Scansano, 2011 Vendemmia / "What The Water Gave Me" by Florence and the Machine

This final story in the Vintage Scenes series deals with familial empathy, memory, and mourning. It uses an ekphrastic device inspired by Frida Kahlo's What The Water Gave Me. My favorite Kahlo painting, it provides other aesthetic alternatives to memoir. Instead of an another iconic self-portrait, all you see is what Kahlo sees—her feet at the end of the tub with all of the memories of which she is trying to wash herself. The narrator in "Vintage Scenes #3" experiences her wine-induced visions in a similar vein and comes out cleansed of sadness.

Florence Welch didn't necessarily write this song about Kahlo or the painting directly. She wrote the song first, and named it afterwards, when she came across the painting. Even so, it's themes of water and helplessness is pretty appropriate (not to mention trance-inducing) for a story about drowning one's sorrows in both bottles and sudsy baths.


The Neurastheniac / "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out" by Bessie Smith

Helen Heck is a forgotten junky-mystic poet from the 1960s who, having nothing to lose, decides to explore the abandoned Winthrop Lethal Chambers in Washington Square. Also known as the Suicide Chambers, she finds the building something like a Last Days resort, with each room designed to lead their guests to death in comfort and style. Among the amenities are Victrolas with abandoned records from the 1920-1940s. They were presumably the last sounds guests heard before their euthanasia. Heck listens to them all while surveying the rest of the digs, and as a result I was able to create a suicide jazz playlist featuring Rube Bloom, Billie Holiday, and Bessie Smith. This device underlines the disparity of the ruins and the ignored melancholy during an age often depicted as carefree. These records also lead her to the discovery of a great mystery that propels the story into its final adventure and conclusion.

Out of that playlist, Bessie Smith's "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out" gets extra special air time as Helen Heck remixes it with Emily Dickinson's "I'm Nobody Who Are You." It also summarizes how Heck felt in the world—an alone, destitute failure who was disposable and forgotten by all the literary communities in her day.


Selena Chambers and Calls for Submission links:

the author's website

This Is Horror review

Literary Hub essay by the author
Mary Robinette Kowal essay by the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

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