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January 28, 2020

Sharma Shields' Playlist for Her Novel "The Cassandra"

The Cassandra

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Jesmyn Ward, Lauren Groff, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Heidi Julavits, Roxane Gay, and many others.

Sharma Shields' novel The Cassandra is powerful, relevant, and masterfully told.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"[A] galvanizing variation on the ancient Greek tale of a seer doomed always to be right, yet never to be believed. Shields . . . offers satirically comedic scenes and satisfyingly venomous takedowns of the patriarchy, welcome flashes of light in this otherwise harrowing dive into the darkest depths of hubris and apocalyptic destruction. A uniquely audacious approach to the nuclear nightmare."


In her own words, here is Sharma Shields' Book Notes music playlist for her novel The Cassandra:



The Cassandra is a historical-fabulist novel set at the Hanford Research Center during World War II, the top-secret site that produced the plutonium for Fat Man, the bomb dropped on Nagasaki.

Hanford’s presence in the Northwest has been a sinister one, both for its role overseas and also for the environmental harm it’s waged locally, polluting water, air, soil, and livestock, and resulting in numerous birth defects, miscarriages, thyroid issues, cancers, autoimmune diseases, paralysis, and more in the Inland Northwest population. Hanford is deemed by the EPA as the most contaminated site in North America, “with 200 miles of polluted sludge, soil, and groundwater.” For years the site operated under a policy of “Never pay, never admit,” keeping the contamination so cloaked in secrecy that those harmed by it were completely unaware of their illness’s origins.

The Cassandra's clairvoyant narrator, Mildred Groves, predicts this menacing legacy, but her warnings go unheeded. The songs I’ve chosen here reflect my narrator’s prophecies, dreams, and nightmares. Mildred, like the Cassandra of Aeschylus’s Agamemnon, is a young woman who is both powerful and powerless, soothsaying and unreliable, gifted with foresight but cursed to never be believed. She is observer, victim, murderess, oracle. The playlist here, similarly, flirts with doom and secrets and power, looming large with female perspective.


“The Toy” by Big Thief

Big Thief has written masterful songs exploring themes of domestic and global violence, both major themes in The Cassandra. Adrianne Lenker’s piquant voice and guitar playing conveys Mildred Groves’s shimmering power and vulnerability. From the beginning of the novel, even when she is star-struck, eager, patriotic to a fault, Mildred vibrates with a sense of doom. She wants Hanford to be her salvation—she believes that her new job will heal the world and bring her, finally, a sense of purpose. As the novel unfolds Mildred’s tenuous grip on this idealism loosens; her visions intensify. When Lenker sings, moaning, pained, “What a tool we’re building here / In the sphere, that’s where we all die…And the croon, distant as paper / children burn, faceless vapor,” it could be Mildred singing of her work at the B Reactor and of the atomic bombs. In Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined, the bombs killed an estimated 220,000 civilians.


“american dream” by LCD Soundsystem

I needed an “American dream” song on this playlist, but it had to be one with a deep sense of irony and darkness. I love the instrumentation on this song, it instantly plunges us into a pensive if maudlin place, and the lyrics belie the uplift of James Murphy’s voice, words that are both funny and awful, about drugs, mortality, loneliness. With The Cassandra, I wanted readers to look more frankly at our nation’s history of violence and secrecy and the ways in which our grievous wrongs against humanity—both interpersonal and global—have harmed others. “Look what happened when you were dreaming / Then punch yourself in the face.” Similarly Mildred engages in an act of violence against herself—it’s what she’s been taught to do (the silencing of women), and also to quiet her own suffering. The American dream, such a beacon of hope for her in the beginning of the book, turns out to be a sham by the book’s end, an ideal applicable to only the very few.


“Dreams” by Solange

Like the speaker in this haunting song, Mildred has dreams from an early age. Her dreams are pictures from the future, usually uninvited, but Mildred delights in their power even as they terrify her. As a girl she ruins friendships by bluntly issuing prophecies, Your mother will die in a car crash; she frequently sleepwalks and awakens to visions while wading, precariously, in the chilly Okanogan River. As Solange says, the dreams “Come undone,” and Mildred, too, feels that she’s “going down, down…dreams and eyes wide (No, no, no).”


“Come into the Water” by Mitski

Much of this novel takes place on the waters of the Columbia, the largest river in the Pacific Northwest. The location was chosen particularly for the Columbia’s muscularity: the project needed a major source of fresh cold water to cool the reaction and forge the plutonium. I spent my childhood in Central Washington, visiting my grandparents in Okanogan, a couple of hours removed from Hanford, and I thought quite a lot of the dramatic basalt walls of the region, the way the light hits the bare hillsides, the pale color of the prodigious sage brush and its sharp, clean scent. When we visited friends in the Tri Cities, I swam in the Columbia, but I was warned not to, because of the pollution there, all due to by Hanford. There was an unpleasant chemical smell to the river, and it hung on me thickly until I showered.

Ironically, the Hanford reach is one of the only undammed portions of the river, even with its poisoned waters. The displaced Wanapum (part of the Yakama Nation) have fought hard since Hanford’s inception for visitation rights to their ancestral fishing grounds, and in 1957 were granted rights to it again by the federal government.

Much like Mitski’s lovely, moody song suggests, the river beckons and speaks to Mildred. It communicates to her in her visions, showing her unimaginable horrors. The novel’s most intense transitions occur along its shore.


“I Want Wind to Blow,” by The Microphones

The winds at Hanford were brutal, deemed “termination winds” because it was a major factor in the high turnover there. Administrators at Hanford tried to keep employees from leaving by bringing top stars—singers, actresses, etc. (blindfolded so as not to disclose the site’s top secret location)—to the site for entertainment. There was beer and food aplenty, despite the rest of the nation being rationed. Only white people were allowed to enjoy the entertainment; the black population was segregated into their own barracks and meeting halls, where no perks were provided. For these reasons and more, Hanford was called by many “The Mississippi of the North.”

Toxic masculinity, like racism, also ran amuck there. A high fence and barbed wire were put up around the women’s barracks for protection after a series of threats and rapes. There were guards with dogs. The impression many people had of Hanford was that it was a wild place, ravaged by wind and rough men.

In Mildred’s visions, the wind has a voice, a woman’s voice, filled with power and consistency. It’s when the wind goes quiet that Mildred is attacked by a man who is predator, a sadist.

This Microphones song starts softly and gathers power steadily, so that you can practically hear wind chimes smacking together by the end of it. Like Mildred, the singer asks for the wind to blow to create passage/change, “My clothes off me / Sweep me off my feet, / Take me up and bring me back.” Mildred speaks to the wind with a similar plea for transformation and dissolution.


“Baby Forgive Me” by Robyn

I even like my dance songs dark, and this is a great one, even if forgiveness is a minor theme in my novel. This is a novel about Knowing Thyself, as the Oracle at Delphi urges. “Baby be brave, be wise,” is, as Robyn sings in her breathy voice, a good place to start as we acknowledge our injurious and even fatal lapses in compassion. In an interview in Pitchfork, Robyn says of this song in particular, “It’s about power dynamics in a relationship. It’s about hurt.”

In one of her final visions in the novel, Mildred witnesses a young Japanese girl undergoing testing at the hands of American doctors, who were sent overseas not to help the injured but to study the effects of the bombs. Mildred’s visions have become so powerful now that she almost melds into the girl, barely able to pull away from the vision and return to her own thrashing body on the banks of the Columbia River. Mildred is able as I am (as writer) to withdraw from a heartbreaking story back into her own world of privilege, however damaged it may be. Forgiveness will only ever be possible if we can rightly atone for our wrongdoings, and it should be secondary to our accepting responsibility and enforcing compassionate change.

At the novel’s end, it could be argued that Mildred and her family accept one another if they haven’t actually forgiven one another, but there’s a sense that a firmer, truer footing has been established.


“No One’s Easy to Love” by Sharon Van Etten

When I speak to book clubs I’m sometimes asked why I make my characters so unlikable, unreliable. In this novel in particular, I wanted to stare our ugly history directly in the eye and write unflinchingly about our greatest grievances against humanity, interpersonally, regionally, globally (all are connected for me). This isn’t just a novel about our country’s wrongdoings, it’s also about our individual wrongdoings, and Mildred is as guilty and complicit in these horrors as I feel I am. I’m hard on myself and I’m hard on my characters. But there is still love here in this book, women coming through for one another, as damaged and battered and hurtful and mistaken as some of those women are. There are good men in these pages, too, but even the well-meaning are hurt in the long run by toxic masculinity and colonial militancy.

As for Mildred’s unreliability, I believe her dishonesty with herself and with the reader runs parallel to the ways in which our country whitewashes its history and wrongdoings, and to the secrecy and duplicity of Hanford, itself. But by the book’s end, Mildred, harmed, wronged and also wrongful, a murderess in more ways than one, sees herself and her country for what they truly are, and there is a grounding power to be found here, a sense of a new starting point where going forward she can uncover truth and not folly. Not everyone will read the ending as happy but I do intend it to be empowering.

“No One’s Easy to Love” as Sharon Van Etten croons in this rock ballad, but I want us to push for that love, anyway, and to stop denying love and care to so many people as we tend to do.


Sharma Shields and The Cassandra links:

the author's website

Booklist review
Kirkus review
New York Times review
Publishers Weekly review
Tor.com review

Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Favorite Monster
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for The Sasquatch Hunter's Almanac
Paste profile of the author
Spokane Public Radio interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

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

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






January 28, 2020

Shorties (Recommended Books by Contemporary Native American Authors, A New Shrimper Records Tribute Compilation, and more)

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

BuzzFeed recommended books by contemporary Native American authors.


Imaginary Donkeys is a new Shrimper Records tribute compilation.


Largehearted Boy's list of "best books of 2019" lists has collected 1,430 year-end lists so far.


Largehearted Boy's list of essential and interesting year-end "best of 2019" music lists.


January's best eBook deals.

eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

The Barrowfields by Phillip Lewis
Tales Before Narnia: The Roots of Modern Fantasy and Science Fiction


NPR Music is streaming Frances Quinlan's (of Hop Along) solo album, Likewise.


Read a new essay by Crissy Van Meter.


George Singleton wrote about the band Moon Pie at the Oxford American.


The New Yorker shared new writing by Samantha Irby.


Jerry Craft's book New Kid is the first graphic novel to win the Newbery Medal.


The Quietus interviewed musician Jah Wobble.


The Guardian examined the environmental impact of the vinyl revival.


PopSugar shared a list of February's best books.


Stream a new song by Margaret Glaspy.


PopMatters interviewed author Wayne Koestenbaum.


This Might Be a Podcast interviewed John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats.


The Millions profiled spring's writers to watch.


Stream a new song by Lily Konigsberg.


The New York Times shared an excerpt from Paul Yoon's novel Run Me to Earth.


Stream a new Half Waif song.


Margaret Atwood will publish her first poetry collection in ten years in November.


Stream a new song by Shopping.


First Draft interviewed author Ethan Rutherford.


Aquarium Drunkard's Transmissions podcast interviewed Tortoise's Jeff Parker.


Rumaan Alam examined the fascination with the Aaron Hernandez case at the New Republic.


Stream a new song by Anna Calvi.


Authors recommended books to read when overwhelmed by current events at the Chicago Tribune.


Stream a new Diet Cig song.



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


January 27, 2020

Shorties (The Guardian's Top Debut Novelists of 2020, Reconsidering Beach House's Teen Dream Album, and more)

Teen Dream by Beach House

The Guardian interviewed 2020's best debut novelists.


Stereogum reconsidered Beach House's Teen Dream album on its 10th anniversary.


Largehearted Boy's list of "best books of 2019" lists has collected 1,430 year-end lists so far.


Largehearted Boy's list of essential and interesting year-end "best of 2019" music lists.


January's best eBook deals.

eBook on sale for $1.99 today:

Loving Day by Mat Johnson


The Haden Triplets discussed their new album with Weekend Edition.


Tochi Onyebuchi talked to NPR Books about his novel Riot Baby.


God Is in the TV interviewed Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers.


The Los Angeles Review of Books interviewed William Gibson.

"I’ve long assumed that historical fiction is fundamentally speculative. We revise factual history as we learn more about the past, and we alter our sense of how the past was in accordance."


yeule covered Melody's Echo Chamber's "Quand Vas Tu Rentrer."


Charles Yu discussed his new novel Interior Chinatown with Weekend Edition.

"We've all seen Law & Order, and every few seasons it seems like they do an episode set in Chinatown. And you have the two leads and they're in the foreground and it's their story, and way in the background, almost out of focus, is a guy unloading a van. And I wanted to tell a story about that guy."


Stream a split single from the Sadies and King Khan.


The Guardian interviewed author and musician Tracey Thorn.


Bustle recommended books you can read in a day.


Stream a new Mount Sharp song.


The Guardian recommended books about land and power.


Stream a new Clem Snide song.


Bookworm interviewed author Daniel Mendelsohn.


The Quietus interviewed Destroyer frontman Dan Bejar.


Book Riot recommended books about beer.


Marlon James is launching a podcast.



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


January 24, 2020

Luke Geddes' Playlist for His Debut Novel "Heart of Junk"

Heart of Junk

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Jesmyn Ward, Lauren Groff, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Heidi Julavits, Roxane Gay, and many others.

Luke Geddes' debut novel Heart of Junk is quirky, moving, and hilarious.

Publishers Weekly wrote f the book:

"[A] rambunctious, oddly touching debut…[Geddes] offers even his most misguided characters the opportunity to bumble towards redemption. This one's a quirky treat for fans of flyover state humor."


In his own words, here is Luke Geddes' Book Notes music playlist for his debut novel Heart of Junk:



Deep cuts from the record collection of Seymour Longwell and Lee Fallon

My novel Heart of Junk follows the vendor-denizens of a Wichita-based antique mall, each obsessed with a particular category of collectible or antique: postcards, art glass, Barbie dolls, etc. Naturally, this required a fair amount of research, except in the case of record collectors Seymour Longwell and Lee Fallon, whose interests, of all the characters, overlap most with my own. A friend who's read the book asked me what I did to so accurately capture the monomaniacal music collectors’ patter about obscure micro-genres and rare-issue vinyl and vintage stereo equipment; I explained that there was no research necessary, only a friendless adolescence and lots of free time.

Below, I present you with a selection of deep cuts from Seymour and Lee’s collection (and, I admit, my own) and/or songs that otherwise influenced the writing of the novel.

"The Village Green Preservation Society" / "People Take Pictures of Each Other" – The Kinks

The first and last songs from the The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society, a favorite of both Seymour and Lee and, as it’s a loose concept album about nostalgia, pastoralism, the inexorable passage of time, etc., one that embodies many of Heart of Junk’s themes. These aren’t the deepest of cuts, but although the album is critically and cultishly beloved, it’s not as widely lauded as similar watershed 1968 pop albums like Electric Ladyland, The Beatles, or Cheap Thrills.

On its own, “Village Green” might come across as a "good old days" celebration of retrograde culture and values but read in the context of the album as a whole, it's not so straightforward. By the final track, "People Take Pictures of Each Other," songwriter Ray Davies' ambivalence toward nostalgia is clear: "Picture of me when I was just three / Sat with my ma by the old oak tree. / Oh how I love things as they used to be / Don't show me no more, please."

“Celebrity Art Party” – The Embarrassment

Probably the best ever band to come out of Wichita and the most terminally underrated in punk/post-punk history. If they'd been based somewhere trendier, they'd be regarded with the same reverence as Mission of Burma or Gang of Four. I like them better than those two, actually, and just as Memphis could only have birthed Big Star, the idiosyncrasies of The Embarrassment’s sound and style probably have a lot to do with their relative isolation. Lee uses them as proof that there could still be an underground coolness to the city; Seymour, although a fan, doesn't buy it. To him, they're the exception that proves the rule. "Sex Drive" is probably their most well-known song, but I'm partial to "Celebrity Art Party," the lead track off their 1981 EP.

“Randy Scouse Git” – The Monkees

Headquarters is one of the first albums I ever bought on vinyl, for a few bucks from the now sadly defunct New Frontier Record Exchange in Appleton, Wisconsin, which somehow remained open even during the nadir of vinyl sales in the early 2000s. It was just the sort of shop Seymour most respects: it only sold used records; its operating hours were erratic at best; it was well organized but overstuffed and covered in dust; there’s no conceivable way it was profitable—its owners seemed to run it as a mere hobby. After he rang me up, the guy at the counter, a true head, mentioned that one rare edition of Headquarters, known as the “beard variant,” replaces a back cover photo of the clean-cut band with a photo of them sporting stubble, a wonderfully useless bit of trivia that years later made it into the novel.

“Sodom and Gomorrah” – The New Creation

This is from Troubled, an exceedingly rare Canadian private-press Christian garage album from 1970. It’d be a holy grail for someone like Seymour. You could spend your whole life looking for an original issue and never find it. But unlike a lot of rare private press records, it’s interesting for more than its scarcity. Kinda sounds like The Shaggs meets The Velvet Underground with gonzo religious lyrics. One of my personal favorites.

“Egyptian Shumba” – The Tammys

Once totally obscure but now fairly well-known owing to its placement on key girl group compilations, “Egyptian Shumba” nevertheless retains its singularity. Dig the orgasmic nonsense-yelps of the chorus and the oddly psychedelic use of the clarinet. Should I brag that I own the original 45?

“Malcontents” – Reversible Cords / “Skeletons” – Inflatable Boy Clams / “Our Secret” – Beat Happening / “No Side to Fall In” – Raincoats

Seymour and Lee are both veterans of the '70s and '80s underground music scenes, but I intentionally tried not to get too specific in describing the various (fictional) bands they spent time in. In a nutshell, I imagine them as punk in my favorite sense—that is to say, in ethos rather than idiom, using limited musical skillsets to innovate rather than imitate, like these four bands.

“Sadie and the Fat Man” – Benjamin Dean Wilson

Though it’s never explicitly stated, the novel is set around 2010, not coincidentally the same time I myself lived in Wichita, so this song, from the 2016 album Small Talk, doesn’t yet exist for Seymour, but it’s exactly the kind of thing that would stop in his tracks even a jaded record collector who thinks he’s heard all there is to hear. At least that’s how I felt when I first heard Wilson, having bought the album on a whim after reading an eBay listing that compared him to Jonathan Richman. His songs are Cheever stories set to music, eccentrically constructed in a way that can combine say, doo wop and prog rock and talking blues in a way that feels seamless. I’ve so fallen in love with his music that I used some of my book advance money to start a boutique record label for the express purpose of releasing his second album, The Smartest Person in the Room, on vinyl.


Luke Geddes and Heart of Junk links:

the author's website

Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review

Westword interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

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

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


Peter Stamm's Playlist for His Novel "The Sweet Indifference of the World"

The Sweet Indifference of the World

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Jesmyn Ward, Lauren Groff, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Heidi Julavits, Roxane Gay, and many others.

Peter Stamm's latest novel The Sweet Indifference of the World is a riveting and surprising exploration of memory and identity.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote of the book:

"An entrancing tale about a writer haunted by his past self…[Stamm’s] stripped-down, pared-back prose still works wonders, exploring complex issues and probing singular minds in a thoroughly compelling way."


In his own words, here is Peter Stamm's Book Notes music playlist for his novel The Sweet Indifference of the World:



Odine Johne
“Je te quitte”

One of the reasons I wrote about a doppelganger in my last novel was because of an encounter with Odine Johne, the actress who played the role of Agnes in a film made after my first novel of the same name. Meeting her was like meeting a doppelganger of my own character: she was and at the same time was not my creature. I met her in Stockholm, and we walked and talked for a long time as Lena and Christoph do in The Sweet Indifference of the World. Odine has, just for the fun of it, recorded a song that she wrote herself, a charming little piece that she published on Youtube and that I want to share with you.

Anna Ternheim
I’ll Follow You Tonight

The music for the film Agnes was composed and sung by the Swedish singer/songwriter Anna Ternheim, whom I had not known before. As far as I know, she has not published the film music yet, but this older song of her sounds pretty much like her movie soundtrack, light and at the same time melancholic.

Johann Sebastian Bach
Fugue in G minor BWV 578

The structure of The Sweet Indifference of the World is quite complicated with its two doppelganger-couples that live the same life sixteen years apart, with lots of flashbacks and repetitions and variations. When I was thinking about what music I should listen to while writing it, I immediately thought of Bach fugues, which are at the same time structurally complicated and a great aesthetic pleasure. I don’t know if the music had an effect on the book, but it certainly was a pleasure to listen to it.

Gavin Bryars
The Sinking of the Titanic

I also listened to a lot of jazz and contemporary music, while writing and revising. One piece I often come back to is this very calm, hypnotic piece by Gavin Bryars, that is more a kind of soundscape but still tells a story. And it much better captures the sinking of the Titanic than the horrible movie and the heart that will go on and on and on.

Paul Giger
Alpstein

When I’m writing, I like atmospheric music and the choice of music can put me into a desired mood. This CD has music that fits well to the Scandinavian landscapes. It contains a mix of jazz and traditional music from Appenzell (the last place in Switzerland that gave women the right to vote in 1990). Don’t be put off by the terrible esoteric cover of the CD, the content is much better than the graphic design suggests.

Dino Saluzzi
Andina

I have a playlist that is named “Working music”. Whenever I can’t think of specific music to listen to, I play it. It contains tons of Keith Jarrett but also some music by the Argentinian bandoneon player Dino Saluzzi. I started dancing tango some years ago (with mixed results), but these tangos are made to listen rather than to dance to.

Bagad Kemper
Breiz

Some years ago, I participated in a festival in the beautiful town of Lausanne in the French speaking part of Switzerland. I was sitting with a few other artists in the artists’ tent when a group of bagpipe players came in. When I realized that they intended to play, my first reaction was to run away, as usually I can’t stand the amazing grace of this instrument. But what this group from Brittany played more or less knocked me out. Often six or eight instruments were playing the same theme, which gave the music a physical strength that one could feel in one’s whole body. It wasn’t just loud, it was all around and inside of you. A recording – unfortunately – can’t reproduce this impressive performance.

Sounds of the Sea

Sometimes I can’t stand any music anymore but still want some background noise to distract my ears. Some years ago I bought a CD with sounds of the sea, waves braking, which has a calming effect and distracts me from other noises especially people talking on a train. I have also sometimes listened to rainfall, also on CD. It might sound a bit strange, but if it helps, it helps.

John Cage
4’ 33”

As much as I like music and as often as I listen to it, it hardly appears in my books. My characters don’t seem to listen to music, many of them also don’t read. In a few of my novels and short stories, people don’t have books or give their books and CDs away – one character even burns his whole library. John Cage’s piece probably catches their infatuation with music best, by simply making us listen to silence or rather the music of the sounds that are around us.

Rage Against the Machine
Killing in the Name

Mayte Martín
Por la Mar Chica del Puerto

My editor and a friend of his eventually work as DJs in their free time. Once or twice a year they invite me to help them. They choose the music (mostly punk and indie) and I do the mixing. During the Frankfurt Book Fair we did it at the Open Book Party at the Literaturhaus, usually from 1 AM to 4 AM in the morning. At the beginning we always play Rage Against the Machine and we finish with a song that I have become completely addicted to. You have to imagine an almost empty room at four in the morning, some last couples dancing, some kissing in a corner, some drunks who missed finding someone to go home with. The bright lights are turned on, empty glasses and bottles stand around, the cleaning people come in and start doing their job. We leave the Literaturhaus, stand on the stairs outside, smoke a cigarette and drink a last beer to the sound of Mayte Martin.


Peter Stamm and v links:

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

Foreword Reviews review
The Literary Review review
Minneapolis Star Tribune review
Publishers Weekly review
Slant review

Largehearted Boy playlist by the author for To the Back of Beyond


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

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

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


Shorties (Winter's Anticipated Books by Black Authors, An Interview with Anais Mitchell, and more)

Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick by Zora Neale Hurston

Essence recommended new books by black authors to read this winter.


Paste interviewed singer-songwriter Anais Mitchell.


Largehearted Boy's list of "best books of 2019" lists has collected 1,430 year-end lists so far.


Largehearted Boy's list of essential and interesting year-end "best of 2019" music lists.


January's best eBook deals.

eBook on sale for $1.99 todat:

Crux: A Cross-Border Memoir by Jean Guerrero


NPR Music interviewed singer-songwriter Torres.


Greta Gerwig discussed her favorite books on the Today show,


Michael Chabon talked Star Trek on All Things Considered.


TIME profiled author Chigozie Obioma.


Guitar.com interviewed singer-songwriter Cate Le Bon.


The OTHERPPL podcast interviewed poet Matthew Zapruder.


Stream a new Four Tet song.


The Maris Review interviewed author Garth Greenwell.


Stream a new song by Sorry.


Just the Right Book interviewed author Ada Calhoun.


Karen O and Danger Mouse covered Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day.”


A Phone Call from Paul interviewed author Lewis Hyde.


The Lineup previewed 2020's most anticipated horror books.



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


January 23, 2020

Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week - January 23, 2020

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.


Homie

Homie by Danez Smith

Homie is a generous, vulnerable, crucial book. It is Danez Smith’s third poetry collection and long awaited follow-up to Don’t call us dead, published in 2017. Danez Smith is a black, queer, gender-neutral, HIV-positive writer and performer. Homie centers around the notion of friendship and care. It’s a heartfelt ode of gratitude to their community. It can be hard to survive in a world where marginalized people are still prone to many kinds of violence and oppression, and Smith’s book wants to explore new possibilities of joy, intimacy and support within these communities.


The Year of the Rabbit

The Year of the Rabbit by Tian Veasna

Tian Veasna’s incredibly moving memoir of Veasna's family's experiences during the horrors of the reign of the Khmer Rouge is officially out now. A desperate struggle sets in for Veasna's family as Cambodia descends into mayhem. We witness the brutality of the Khmer Rouge: with near total surveillance, unimaginable cruelty and murder. A sense of solidarity and care pervade the story of Veasna's family and their friends as they endure starvation and forced labour as they attempt to flee. The book is a profound story for those looking for a deeply personal account of one of the twentieth-century's greatest tragedies.


Agency

Agency by William Gibson

Often referred to as the father of the Cyberpunk subgenre, the American-Canadian writer of cult sci-fi books such as Neuromancer, Mona Lisa Overdrive and Pattern Recognition is back with Agency. It’s the first release he has put out since The Peripheral in 2014, for which Agency is considered a loose ‘prequel and sequel’. With themes such as the app start-up world, AI, augmented reality, time traveling, the thriller also reflects on politics and culture, as it speculates about what would have happened if Hillary Clinton had won the 2016 elections.


The Baudelaire Fractal

The Baudelaire Fractal by Lisa Robertson

The first novel by acclaimed poet Lisa Robertson, The Baudelaire Fractal is a unique blend of memoir, magic realism, history, feminism, poetry and art. A poet wakes up in a hotel room and realizes she wrote Beaudelaire’s entire body of work. Intellectually adventurous, playful, meditative, Anne Boyer says that ‘as far as (she) is concerned, it’s already a classic.’


Virtuoso

Virtuoso by AUTHOR

Yelena Moskovitch seems utterly cool. The Guardian wrote about Virtuoso ‘A hint of Lynch, a touch of Ferrante, the cruel absurdity of Antonin Artaud, the fierce candour of Anais Nin, the stylish languor of a Lana Del Rey song…’ Born in Ukraine, she emigrated to Wisconsin in 1991 and studied theatre. Set between Prague, Paris and the US, Virtuoso is a mesmerizing novel about love, desire, identity and belonging.


Constantly

Constantly by GG

GG’s drawings are beautifully restrained. Similar to her previous book I’m not there, Constantly’s pages are covered with elegantly arranged pastel colours and black lines from which emerge a dream-like narrative that feels both intimate and familiar. Constantly is gorgeous, fragile, incredibly soft to the eye, but the content addresses heavier issues: anxiety, depression, the claustrophobia of inhabiting one’s body and the constant nagging of the mind.


Librairie Drawn & Quarterly links:

Librairie Drawn & Quarterly's website
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 (N.K. Jemisin Profiled, New Music from Waxahatchee, and more)

 by N.K. Jemisin

The New Yorker profiled author N.K. Jemisin.

Jemisin is black, in her mid-forties, and wears her hair in dreadlocks. In her author photo, she gazes sternly at the camera, as if ready for literary combat. In person, she is much warmer, but she likes the picture. Typically, at the center of her fiction, there is a character with coiled strength. Jemisin, who has a degree in psychology, is interested in power and in systems of subjugation. In her books, the oppressed often possess an enormous capacity for agency—a supernatural ability, even, that their oppressors lack—but they exist in a society that has been engineered to hold them down. Eventually, the world is reordered, often with a cataclysm.


Stream a new Waxahatchee song.


Largehearted Boy's list of "best books of 2019" lists has collected 1,430 year-end lists so far.


Largehearted Boy's list of essential and interesting year-end "best of 2019" music lists.


January's best eBook deals.


Max Richter played a Tiny Desk Concert.


The Communist Party USA named its best books of the decade.


Stream a new Stephen Malkmus song.


The New York Times profiled author Charles Yu.

It’s been nearly 15 years since the National Book Foundation anointed Yu as one of the best young writers in America, yet for the first time, he’s starting to believe he’s a writer. Maybe he’s not an impostor after all. “If anything, it’s feeling confident that if I say the thing I’m trying to say in the way that I know how to say it, that will be interesting to at least some people,” Yu said. “It’s nice when you feel like you kind of know what you’re doing, a little bit.”


Stream a new song by Andy Shauf.


Bustle previewed 2020's best books.


Stream a new Mary Lattimore song.


Bitchmedia recommended nonfiction books feminists should read in 2020.


Stream a new M. Ward song.


Stream a new song by Japan, Man.


William Gibson discussed his new novel, Agency, with Marketplace.


Stream a new song by Worriers.


The Guardian profiled author Liz Moore.


Stream a new song by Cindy Lee.


Vulture caught up with Fiona Apple.



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


January 22, 2020

Shorties (A 2020 Literary Calendar, New Music from Mitski, and more)

Mitski

Literary Hub shared a 2020 literary calendar.


Stream new music from Mitski.


Largehearted Boy's list of "best books of 2019" lists has collected 1,430 year-end lists so far.


Largehearted Boy's list of essential and interesting year-end "best of 2019" music lists.


January's best eBook deals.

eBook on sale today for $1.99:

Jaws by Peter Benchley
Torch Song Trilogy by Harvey Fierstein


Michelle Obama shared her exercise playlist.


Electric Literature recommended indie literary magazines.


The Radiohead Public Library features the band's studio output, live sets, and rarities from throughout the band's career.


The Christian Science Monitor listed January's best books.


Bright Eyes is reuniting for a tour and new album.


IGN listed 2020's most anticipated comics.


Stream a new Nap Eyes song.


BuzzFeed shared an excerpt from Kiley Reid's novel Such a Fun Age.


Stream a new song by Lala Lala.


Library Journal previewed 2020's poetry books.


Stream a new Katie Gately song.


Salon interviewed author Dave Eggers.


Stream a new CocoRosie song.


The Washington Blade remembered author and critic Kate Millett.


Stream a new Porches song.


BookPage listed 2020's most anticipated books.


Stream new music from Yumi Zouma.


Electric Literature recommended books that celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.


Stream a new Wye Oak song.


Joanna Kavenna recommended great works of absurdist fiction at BookMarks.


Stream a new song by Midwife.


Entertainment Weekly shared a primer to the writing of Maya Angelou.


Stream a new Poliça song.


Vol. 1 Brooklyn interviewed author Chris Campanioni.


Luke Geddes recommended books about audiophiles at CrimeReads.


The OTHERPPL podcast interviewed author Amanda Yates Garcia.


Read new Ben Loory short fiction.



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


January 21, 2020

Lance Olsen's Playlist for His Novel "My Red Heaven"

My Red Heaven

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Jesmyn Ward, Lauren Groff, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Heidi Julavits, Roxane Gay, and many others.

Lance Olsen's novel My Red Heaven is bold and inventive in its form without sacrificing readability. Another must-read book from a writer never afraid to take chances.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"Each stylistic change brings a wholly new voice, allowing the reader to perceive the same day through many minds ... this meditation on the effects of a specific moment in history and the human condition reaches past cultural barriers and time to create a narrative that pushes boundaries and reflects on what is means to dwell in the here and now."


In his own words, here is Lance Olsen's Book Notes music playlist for his novel My Red Heaven:



My new collage novel is set on a single day in 1927 Berlin — that interwar moment of extraordinary cultural energy and fiery imagination, when all fences in Germany’s capital seemed down, all possibilities open, and the grim future utterly inconceivable.

Structurally inspired by Otto Freundlich’s abstract cubist painting by the same name, My Red Heaven tracks a number of characters (some historical figures, some invented) — among them Vladimir Nabokov, Otto Dix, Werner Heisenberg, Käthe Kollwitz, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Hannah Arendt, a serial killer, and a butterfly ghost ― as they crisscross Berlin on the tenth of June.

In the end, for me, it’s a novel about how pastness is always a problem. That is, it’s about how cultures and individuals are in an ongoing process of writing and rewriting history.

But it’s also an invitation to think about the relationships between the rise of a grisly populism and its consequences in Germany during the Twenties and Thirties and our own contemporary versions of it in the U.S.

Plus, it’s my love letter to Modernism.


“Ich hab’ noch einen Koffer in Berlin,” by Marlene Dietrich

Let’s call this the epigraph to this playlist. The title translates to something like “I still have a suitcase in Berlin,” and listening to Marlene Dietrich’s voice sing that line later in life, long after she was forced to flee her country in the leadup to World War Two because of her anti-Nazi views, well, it just puts a hole in your heart. I spent six months at the American Academy in Berlin in 2013, and another twelve in Berlin on a D.A.A.D. fellowship that bridged 2015 and 2016. During the latter, the idea for My Red Heaven arose, shot through as I increasingly was by an awareness of the …


“Ghosts of Berlin,” by Andrea Schroeder

Because one of the myriad things that fascinates me about that city is how the past is always present there, how Germany — unlike, say, the U.S. with its barbarities (think the murder of indignous peoples; think slavery) — has chosen as its continuous project a questioning of how to come to terms with a history that houses both one of the greatest atrocities of the twentieth century and some of Western culture’s most exquisite art and music and literature. How, Germany asks itself daily, does a country come to terms with the image of the Auschwitz Orchestra with its more than forty members, all Jewish women, who escaped death in the gas chambers by playing Bach beautifully at the death camp as their peers became smoke?


“Die Moritat von Mackie Messer,” music by Kurt Weill, lyrics by Bertolt Brecht, sung by Ute Lemper

It’s impossible putting together a playlist for a novel set in the Weimar Era without including a song from one of the most famous and important pieces for Berlin theater from that period — Die DreigroschenoperThe Threepenny Opera — whose sound is brilliantly suffused with the seedy atmosphere of the capital’s cabarets with their fare of political satire and gallows humor in the face of growing social turmoil. “The Ballad of Mack the Knife” takes the form of what’s called a murder ballad, a medieval genre rife with crimes and gruesome deaths meant to serve as exempla. In this case, it catalogues the arson, robbery, rape, and killings perpetrated by the musical’s amoral protagonist, while implicitly asking: Are these run-of-the-mill criminals any worse than those who are currently governing? Needless to say, when the Nazis came to power they wasted no time in banning Weill and Brecht’s undertaking.


“Six Little Pieces,” by Arnold Schoenberg

The Weimar Era was a celebration of openness, experimentation, and progressive democracy in a swarm of manifestations. Women were emancipated like nowhere else in the world. The Berlin public was obsessed with innovative art, dance, writing, striptease shows, and a cult of transvestitism. So it makes perfect sense Schoenberg’s explorations into the atonal — music not written in a specific key, described by one critic in the Twenties as combining “the best sound effects of a of a hen yard at feeding time and practice hour at a busy music conservatory” — would arise in such a space. Granted, even today Schoenberg is not for the faint of hearing. Nearly a hundred years on, his work still defamiliarizes the very idea of music, teaches and unteaches us how to listen, what listening is, again and again. If tonal music always wants to return to the domestic, find its home chord, atonal music reminds us of Heidegger’s observation: The fundamental human condition is one of not-being-at-home.


“Wozzeck,” by Alban Berg

Alban Berg was Arnold Schoenberg’s student. The latter’s influence on the former’s atonal investigations is obvious in this piece, an excerpt from Berg’s opera, Wozzeck, based on Georg Büchner’s incredible, prescient, hallucinogenic play, Woyzeck, which was left incomplete when he died of typhus in 1837 at the age of 23. Berg’s opera, like the original, is an extended condemnation of militarism, exploitation, and sadism. In My Red Heaven, there’s an extended scene where Schoenberg and Berg stroll through the Berlin neighborhood of Prenzlauer Berg, chatting about their musical theories as the first Brownshirts appear here and there on streetcorners. The chapter is rendered as a silent film in conversation with Walter Ruttmann’s remarkable 1927 visual ode, Berlin:Symphony of a Metropolis, which everybody should see tonight.


“I Love My Baby,” performed by Julian Fuhs and His Concert Orchestra

There’s cabaret music. There’s avant-garde atonality. And then there’s a third sound that epitomizes Twenties Berlin’s sense of artistic license and exuberance: jazz. One of the most popular home-grown jazz musicians then was Julian Fuhs. Let me deploy him as marker of another sort of cultural narrative about the period. Educated as a classical musician at the prominent Stern Conservatory in the German capital, Fuhs emigrated to the U.S. in 1910. He fell in love with American jazz, returned to Germany in 1923, and became one of the major promoters of the genre throughout that decade. With the stockmarket crash in 1929 and the resulting global economic crisis, Fuhs was forced to dissolve his band and eek out a living as owner of a dingy bar, which came under increasingly violent attacks because Fuhs was Jewish. He once again left for the U.S., but, because he was also German, his version of jazz was pretty much ignored here. He died impoverished and forgotten in Florida.


“Berlin,” by Lou Reed

The first track on Reed’s 1973 dark eponymous concept album, a kind of anti-rock opera about a doomed couple dogged by drugs, prostitution, physical abuse, depression, and ultimately suicide, in my mind conjures up those Weimar Era cabarets I talk about above (not to mention the artistic Berlin of the Wall years, inhabited by expat star-staring visionaries and nihilists who thought World War Three would erupt in their streets any day, and so felt they had nothing left to lose existentially or aesthetically: think Iggy Pop; think Nick Cave; think David Bowie), while signifying a will toward the adventurous in all areas of human experience. By my lights, this song is an homage to Berlin as let’s call it a state of mind.


“König von Scheißegalien,” by Udo Lindenberg

The title of this song, a tribute to Lou Reed that samples “Walk on the Wild Side,” translates to something like “The King of The Land of I Don’t Give a Shit.” What I adore about it, besides its timeless, echt sardonic Berlin attitude (called by the locals Berliner Schnauze, Berlin Mouth, characterized by outspokenness, rudeness, and coarse humor), is its mode of generation: a collaboration with the dead. That mode in many ways works as the engine of My Red Heaven, during the writing of which I found myself continually asking: How does one write the contemporary without simply perpetuating or simply forgetting the past? I wouldn’t be the sort of author I am today without the Modernists — perhaps particularly a number of the Germanic ones — having come before me. So My Red Heaven is in part my way of saying thank you to them all; here are some things I have learned.


“Deutschland,” by Rammstein

Instead of going on myself about the fraught iconography of Rammstein, founders of Neue Deutsche Härte (The New German Hardness) in the Nineties, let me quote Slavoj Žižek’s provocative reading from The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology: “The German hard rock band Rammstein are often accused of flirting, playing with the Nazi iconography. But if one observes closely their show, one can see very nicely what they are doing…. The minimal elements of the Nazi ideology enacted by Rammstein are something like pure elements of libidinal investment. Enjoyment has to be, as it were, condensed in some minimal tics: gestures, which do not have any precise ideological meaning. What Rammstein does is it liberates these elements from their Nazi articulations…. The way to fight Nazism is to enjoy these elements, ridiculous as they may appear, by suspending the Nazi horizon of meaning. This way you undermine Nazism from within.” Within My Red Heaven, the Rammstein Function is to draw attention to the new rise of populism in the West by representing the old (Hitler and Göbbels make absurd cameos), thereby connecting the anti-democratic Weimar trends with Trump’s current regime, jamming the authoritarian by italicizing its kitsch, its pure dangeous foolishness.


“Helden,” by David Bowie, performed by Andrea Schroeder

Here is another gorgeous collaboration with the ghosts of Berlin: Andrea Schroeder’s moving pop-noir rendition of Bowie’s “Heroes.” The story goes that the original was animated by the sight of Bowie’s producer-engineer, Tony Visconti, embracing his lover by the Berlin Wall. And some actually point to Bowie’s performance of it on June 6, 1987, at the Reichstag in West Berlin, as one of many of the forces that helped bring the Wall down. Be that as it may, listening to Schroeder’s infinitely sad, enervated, contemporary version — in a voice reminiscent, by the way, of Marlene Dietrich’s in “Ich hab’ noch einen Koffer in Berlin” — brings all my walls down every time I listen to it, and suggests a Berlin always broken and unbroken.


“Where Are We Now?” by David Bowie

Released 8 January, 2013 — Bowie’s 66th birthday, and five days after I arrived at the American Academy in Berlin for my first extended stay — “Where Are We Now?” represented the first new song from Bowie in ten years. At its heart is a Heralictean sense of change. Listen, and you will hear a voice washed through with time — frailer, more spectral, yearning, candid than its earlier iterations as Ziggy Stardust, the Thin White Duke, and so forth. You will hear Bowie hanging out with Iggy Pop and Lou Reed at the club Dschungel in the late Seventies, throngs of East Germans passing across the Bösebrücke, the first border crossing that opened as the Wall fell on 9 November 1989 — 20,000 in the first hour alone, each unsure whether he or she was allowed to do what he or she was doing. But you will also hear Bowie’s heart attack back stage during a 2004 performance in Germany, his rush into emergency surgery for an acutely blocked artery. What moves me most about the piece is how shot through it is with that blue-eyed boy Mr. Death, how it could never have been written by a musician in his forties or thirties, let alone his twenties. After sixty, it says, your face becomes an accomplishment. Or, as Thomas Pynchon writes in his introduction to Slow Learner: “When we speak of ‘seriousness’ in fiction ultimately we are talking about an attitude toward death — how characters may act in its presence, for example, or how they handle it when it isn’t so immediate.” The death of individuals, yes, but also of art forms and cultures.


“Road Movie to Berlin,” by They Might Be Giants

The second line of this song is: “Can’t drive out the way we drove in.” Written in 1988, at a moment when John Flansburgh believed the Berlin Wall would never come down, the song now seems to argue the opposite. As with “Where Are We Now,” it’s all about Heraclitus as a way of being, all about how the two things we’ll never be able to know with any certainty are the past and the future — in other words, the core of My Red Heaven. After all, who can possibly drive out of the state of mind called Berlin the way she or he drove in? And so let’s call this the unfinished finale, the never-ending epilogue.


Lance Olsen and My Red Heaven links:

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

Booklist review
Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review

Largehearted Boy Book Notes playlist by the author for [[ there.. ]]
Largehearted Boy Book Notes playlist by the author for Dreamlives of Debris
Largehearted Boy Book Notes playlist by the author for Theories of Forgetting


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

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

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


January 17, 2020

Jessica Andrews' Playlist for Her Debut Novel "Saltwater"

Saltwater

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Jesmyn Ward, Lauren Groff, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Heidi Julavits, Roxane Gay, and many others.

Jessica Andrews’ novel Saltwater is an audacious debut, an inventively told and intimate coming-of-age story.

The Independent wrote of the book:

"Jessica Andrews’ debut novel shimmers with promise: it’s one of those books where, from the first pages, you’re grabbed by a distinctive new voice."


In her own words, here is Jessica Andrews' Book Notes music playlist for her debut novel Saltwater:



Growing up in Sunderland in the late '90s and early '00s, music was my gateway to art and culture. My parents weren’t big readers and people didn’t talk about literature very often, but music was everywhere. My mother was proud that I knew the lyrics to every song on Definitely Maybe by Oasis when the other kids at school were singing nursery rhymes.

When I was a teenager, music was my escape. Lots of boys (always boys) at school were in bands and we spent our weekends getting drunk at their gigs in working men’s clubs, dancing on the tables and snogging outside in the churchyard. I used to read Kerrang! and the NME, and if the bands inside name-checked artists or musicians, I would look them up.

Saltwater is a non-chronological novel and I used music as markers to locate it in a particular time and place.


Music in Saltwater:


20th Century Boy by T-Rex

Before I started writing Saltwater, I found a box of my mother’s old records in her garage. She had a lot of T-Rex, The Undertones and Depeche Mode. She told me she used to listen to Marc Bolan when she was going out. I loved imagining her getting ready, hairspraying her curly perm and dancing to "20th Century Boy," just like I did to her record, many years later. I used the image of her getting ready to T-Rex in my novel, because it felt like a shared strand of joy running through both of our lives.


The Whole of the Moon by The Waterboys

Saltwater is based on my parents’ relationship, and I asked my mother what songs came out around the time they met, so I could use them in my book. She said "The Whole of the Moon" by The Waterboys was one of their songs, which breaks my heart. My parents had an intense, heady relationship but split up due to my dad’s alcoholism. It is such a tragic love story and I feel like this song encapsulates those feelings. It is about two people with different perspectives on the world; how they move through their lives separately, wanting different things.

I was living in Ireland when I was writing my novel, and this song often came on in the pub. It seemed strange to me that I was spending my days writing about this very '80s world, listening to that song often, and there it was, in my present. My protagonist, Lucy, has a relationship with a man in Ireland, in a mirroring of her mother’s past, and I wrote a scene where it is playing in the pub when she is out with the man, to illustrate the parallels and differences in Lucy and her mother’s lives.


Old Red Eyes is Back by The Beautiful South

Lucy’s dad loves The Beautiful South – as does my own father. When I was a child, he used to drive around Sunderland with his windows down, blasting this song, and we used to scream it out of the window together. Now that I am older, I realise my dad was singing it about himself.


Half the World Away by Oasis

Like my own mother, Lucy’s mam is proud when she sings Oasis songs at nursery, ‘while the other kids sang ditties about sheep and lambs.’ The Gallagher brothers were the first poets I knew and there’s such a sense of nostalgia in their music for me; the hopes and broken dreams of the north of England in the '90s, which became mapped onto my parents’ relationship.

When I was 18, I went to see Oasis play in Aberdeen and it felt like the culmination of lots of broken, precarious things I didn’t fully understand; the de-industrialisation of the city I grew up in and the love that my parents lost. I love the line, ‘You can’t give me the dreams that are mine anyway’. In a way, it captures how I feel about Sunderland in all of its complexities; the beauty and the sadness, how badly I wanted to leave and how much it is still a part of me. It questions to what extent we owe our dreams to our hometowns and our families; everything and nothing simultaneously.


Jilted John by Jilted John

In the novel, Lucy’s mother meets an art teacher, who burns her a CD of punk bands, which Lucy steals and puts in her Walkman. Lucy’s mother is going out with a man called Gordon at the time, and the song goes, ‘Gordon is a moron’ and so the CD is a coded message to her. I took that scene directly from real life – it really happened to my mother and I loved it so much I am still thinking about it 15 years later.


Oh Bondage! Up Yours! by X-Ray Spex

The same CD had X-Ray Spex on it, which was my first experience of them. As a 13-year-old girl, hearing Poly Styrene scream, “Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard but I think, ‘Oh bondage, up yours!’” was revolutionary. My best friend used to come to my house after school when no one else was home and we would put it on and dance wildly around the kitchen– so I made my characters do the same.


Other bands that feature in Saltwater are: Orange Juice, Depeche Mode, Bullet for my Valentine, Funeral For a Friend, The Arctic Monkeys, James, Billy Bragg, CSS, Kate Nash, The Libertines, The Fratellis.


Music that inspired Saltwater:


Girl in Amber from Skeleton Tree by Nick Cave and You Want it Darker from You Want it Darker by Leonard Cohen

When I wrote Saltwater, I was living in a rural fishing town in Donegal, on the west coast of Ireland. I was alone for 8 months with no money, no car, no television and no internet, so music became very important. Both of these albums had just come out and I used to sit in the dark at night with lots of candles, or go for walks along the pier by the disused fish factories, listening to them.

Skeleton Tree is one of the most haunting and beautiful albums I have ever heard. Leonard Cohen died while I was in Ireland. Late that night, they played a French cover of So Long, Marianne on the radio and I cried my eyes out. I love his dark, gravelly voice on You Want it Darker, and the way he knows it will be his last album, and uses it to reflect on his life.


Gloria by Patti Smith

Patti Smith is one of my heroes. I love the way she flits between genres and mediums, her disregard for convention, her raw, angry, dirty voice. Gloria was a hymn to me in my early twenties when I was trying to forge my own way as a writer and I had no money and nowhere really to live. It is a song that makes things feel possible.


Rock and Roll by The Velvet Underground

This is one of my favourite songs of all time. It is the parts of myself that I put into Lucy; the feeling when everything around you is falling apart, and you are so hungry for everything and you don’t know who you are, but there is a bar somewhere you can go and dance and for a few shiny hours none of it matters.


Rebel, Rebel by David Bowie

Like Patti, I love the way Bowie refuses to be categorised. His creation of different personas, his manipulation of gender binaries and his complete otherworldliness made my world bigger. Rebel, Rebel was a teen anthem for me, and inspired the Saltwater party scenes. It is a song about dressing up in whatever you want, going out covered in glitter and dancing without caring what anybody thinks of you.

When Bowie died, I was living in London. There was a street party in Brixton and thousands of people flocked there in leather and suede to pay tribute. The Ritzy Cinema had spelled out, ‘David Bowie, Our Brixton Boy’ on the listings board. A man with a guitar climbed on top of a van and started to play Space Oddity. The whole crowd sang along, waving their lighters in the air. I’ll never forget that moment, the man silhouetted in front of an orange street lamp, the city fog and the stars. There will never be anyone like Bowie.


Jessica Andrews and Saltwater links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

Guardian review
Independent review
Irish Times review
New York Times review

Guardian interview with the author
New Writing North interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

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

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


Shorties (An Interview with Jenny Offill, A Profile of Courtney Barnett, and more)

Weather by Jenny Offill

The Millions interviewed author Jenny Offill.


The Philadelphia Inquirer profiled singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett.


Largehearted Boy's list of "best books of 2019" lists has collected 1,430 year-end lists so far.


Largehearted Boy's list of essential and interesting year-end "best of 2019" music lists.


January's best eBook deals.

eBook on sale today for $1.99:

A Friend of the Family by Lauren Grodstein
World's Fair by E.L. Doctorow


The New York Times examined the effect a Barack Obama mention has on book sales.


Uproxx ranked Bright Eyes albums.


The Strand Magazine recommended books about family secrets.


Stream a new song by Tiña.


The New York Times recommended three new books that help explain modern Russia.


Stream a new Best Coast song.


Jim Tomlinson discussed his memoir The Elephant in the Room with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.


Stream a previously unreleased David Bowie song.


Colm Toibin reviewed Garth Greenwell's new novel Cleanness at the New York Times.

Read an excerpt from the book.

The Paris Review and Electric Literature interviewed Greenwell.


Stream a song from Mitski's Austin City Limits performance.


Bookworm interviewed author Jonathan Blum.


Aquarium Drunkard interviewed London band Shopping.


Shondaland interviewed author Carmen Maria Machado.


Stream a new song by Squirrel Flower.


The New York Times recommended the week's best new books.


Rolling Stone interviewed Destroyer's Dan Bejar.


The Rumpus interviewed poet Paulina Flores.


Pom Pom Squad covered FKA Twigs' "Cellophane."


Words Without Borders shared an excerpt from Peter Stamm’s new novel The Sweet Indifference of the World.



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

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

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


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