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October 22, 2019

Shorties (Carmen Maria Machado's Introduction to The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2019, A New Janis Joplin Biography, and more)

The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2019

Tor.com shared Carmen Maria Machado's introduction to The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2019.


Holly George-Warren discussed her Janis Joplin biography Janis with Fresh Air.


October's best eBook deals.

eBook on sale for $1.99 today:

Zodiac by Neal Stephenson


Kim Gordon discussed her new solo album with The Current.


The Oxford American shared a new comic from Van Jensen & Nate Powell.


Stream a new song by the Orielles.


The Hollywood Reporter interviewed Eleanor Davis about her new graphic novel.


Jason Isbell covered Dire Straits' "Helplessly Hoping."


Bookforum interviewed poet Natalie Diaz.


The Hold Steady visited KEXP for an interview and live performance.


A short story Advent calendar.


Stream Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash's demo for "Wanted Man."


Brock Clarke reviewed Jami Attenberg's new novel All This Could Be Yours at the New York Times.

That’s the novel’s through line — Victor lies in a hospital bed in New Orleans while everyone else waits for him to die — and in lesser hands this might be static. But Attenberg gets so deep into the psyches of her characters that the story ends up seeming electric with ruin, and with possible resurrection.


Stream a new song by Sorry.


Deutsche Welle examined the #bookstagram phenomenon.


Liz Phair discussed her memoir Horror Stories with Vogue.


Tessa Hadley talked to the New Yorker about her story in this week's issue.


Vol. 1 Brooklyn interviewed author Paul Crenshaw.


The Millions reconsidered metafiction.



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






October 21, 2019

Shorties (Essential L. A. Crime Books, Patti Smith on Books and Reading, and more)

L. A. Confidential by James Ellroy

The Los Angeles Times listed essential L.A. crime books.


Patti Smith talked books and reading with the Guardian.


October's best eBook deals.

eBook on sale for $1.99 today:

Wild Seed by Octavia Butler


Stream Prince's acoustic demo for "I Feel for You."


John Le Carre discussed is new novel Agent Running in the Field with Weekend Edition.


Paste listed the week's best new albums.


WRKF interviewed cartoonist Jules Feiffer and author Michael Pollan.


Jay Som visited The Current studio for a performance and interview.


Book Riot listed graphic novel adaptations of Neil Gaiman's books.


The Arts Desk interviewed Craig Finn of the Hold Steady.

With The Hold Steady, I write so many songs about people making bad decisions and pursuing them belligerently to their logical conclusion. With the solo work, I think a lot more times I’m writing about people who are trying to do the right thing but still having a hard time keeping their head above water, and I see a lot of people around in that boat, so to speak.


The Dallas Morning News interviewed Wilco's Jeff Tweedy.


Daniel Mendelsohn discussed his favorite books at The Week.


Stream a new Weyes Blood song.


USA Today listed the week's best new books.


Stream a new song by Frank Ocean.


BuzzFeed recommended books written by Australian women.


Bowie: Stardust, Rayguns & Moonage Daydreams is a graphic novel biography coming in January.


Stream a new song by Kilo Kish.


Electric Literature recommended novels about mythical creatures.


NYCTaper shared a recording of Diane Cluck's recent NYC show.


Composer Anna Meredith discussed her new album with Bandcamp.



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


October 19, 2019

David Dann's Playlist for His Book "Guitar King: Michael Bloomfield's Life in the Blues"

Guitar King: Michael Bloomfield's Life in the Blues

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, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

David Dann's book Guitar Kingis an exhaustive and engaging biography of Michael Bloomfield, a guitarist whose blues influence changed rock and roll.

Library Journal wrote of the book:

"This monumental book illuminates the legacy of a musician who has been overshadowed by other Sixties luminaries but who helped bring the vernacular of the blues to rock and whose playing influenced the course of rock and roll. "


In his own words, here is David Dann's Book Notes music playlist for his book Guitar King: Michael Bloomfield's Life in the Blues:



Michael Bloomfield was America’s first great guitar player of the modern rock era, a talented and troubled artist who developed a style that fused aspects of folk, blues, rock, and jazz into an entirely new and exciting sound. His explorations set the standard for American guitar players throughout the 1960s, but his reluctance to live in the spotlight coupled with personal struggles with drugs and emotional demons eventually consigned his formidable contributions to obscurity. Few today are aware of Bloomfield’s influence on American popular culture, and fewer still know the epic adventure that was his life. Guitar King: Michael Bloomfield's Life in the Blues is an attempt to remedy those oversights with a detailed recounting of that epic life and a thorough examination of the guitarist’s extensive discography.

But perhaps the best way to assess Mike Bloomfield’s impact is simply to listen to his recordings. While he recorded only a handful of albums under his own name, he participated in many more, in almost every case as a featured soloist. The following playlist identifies several of his most important recordings, some that were controversial and a few that are personal favorites, all presented in chronological order with a bit of explanatory commentary.

1. “One More Mile” (What’s Shakin’), Paul Butterfield Blues Band and others, Elektra)

Probably recorded in April 1965, James Cotton’s “One More Mile” was a departure for the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. The quartet’s previous recordings for Elektra had usually featured Butterfield as soloist, and for the initial sessions, in March, Bloomfield had played organ on several tunes. But the producer, Paul Rothchild, invited him and his guitar back to New York for additional sessions with the band. Though he was not officially a member of the quartet, Michael quickly became the band’s lead guitarist in the studio. Butterfield acknowledged as much by featuring him on “One More Mile,” and the result is an early display of Bloomfield’s formidable powers. His guitar here, a 1963 Fender Telecaster, is louder than loud and drenched in reverb, and his single-chorus solo is so intense that it elicits a shout from Paul. Elektra’s engineers, still learning how to record amplified music, were doubtless riding the gain knobs in the control room.

2. “Like a Rolling Stone” (Highway 61 Revisited, Bob Dylan, Columbia Legacy)

The song that Rolling Stone magazine considers the greatest pop tune of all time, “Like a Rolling Stone,” was worked out by Bob Dylan and Michael Bloomfield in Bearsville and recorded in Columbia’s New York studios in June 1965. Bloomfield’s contribution, playing “none of that B. B. King shit,” as he recalled Bob instructing him, resulted in Dylan’s first “folk-rock” release and led to the poet-musician “going electric” at the Newport Folk Festival in July. It’s arguable that without Michael’s participation in that historic moment, Dylan might not have been able to break away from the limitations of traditional folk music as thoroughly as he did. Bob said of Michael, “He was just the best guitarist I had ever heard.”

3. “Shake Your Money Maker” (Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Elektra)
4. “Our Love Is Drifting” (Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Elektra)

These two selections, from the first Butterfield album, released in October 1965, are early examples of Michael Bloomfield’s mastery of blues techniques. “Shake Your Money Maker,” the Elmore James song, features Michael’s wailing slide, while his single-string lead provides the focus on “Our Love Is Drifting.” The latter tune shows the guitarist’s skill as an accompanist as Bloomfield inserts stinging fills between Butterfield’s vocal phrases, after which he takes a fiery solo chorus for himself. Michael had played organ on the original version of this tune, a Butterfield composition, but the remake, rerecorded in September with the addition of Mark Naftalin’s keyboards, makes it into vivid showcase for the guitarist. “Money Maker,” driven by Bloomfield’s slide, shows his skill at a technique that few white guitarists at the time could execute—or were even aware of. Note that the series of licks Michael uses in his second chorus comes from a Cliff Gallup solo on a Gene Vincent record that Michael had heard as a teenager. One of the guitarist’s great contributions to American popular music was his ability to fuse elements of disparate styles into exciting hybrids. In this case, a Gene Vincent rock ’n’ roll interlude became part of an Elmore James blues classic

5. “I Got a Mind to Give Up Living” (East-West, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Elektra)
6. “Work Song” (East-West, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Elektra)
7. “East-West” (East-West, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Elektra)

When the Butterfield band’s second album, East-West, was released in August 1967, it was immediately evident that the sextet’s music had evolved greatly from the Chicago blues repertoire of its early days, and Mike Bloomfield was largely responsible for expanding the group’s musical horizons. The album’s title tune is a case in point. His composition “East-West” was unusual in 1966 for its length, clocking in at more than thirteen minutes. But it also was distinctive in the way it fuses elements of blues, rock, jazz, and Indian classical music into an exciting collective improvisation. Though Butterfield and Elvin Bishop both solo, the piece is essentially a demonstration of Bloomfield’s unparalleled virtuosity. Moving through three sections—one modal, a second blues-rock based, and a third quietly melodic—Michael plays with an intensity that set a new standard for serious rock guitarists everywhere. Of note is a forty-bar exploration of a simple phrase in “East-West’s” third section that is Bach-like in its theme-and-variation development and stunning in its musical cohesion. A whole category of late-1960s music was derived from “East-West,” which became the progenitor of a style known as “psychedelic rock.” Conversely, the band’s rendition of “Work Song,” a tune by cornetist Nat Adderley, is a jazz performance filtered through blues-rock sensibilities. The soloists—Bloomfield, Butterfield, Naftalin, and Bishop—each exhibit their distinctive styles, but Michael again dominates. He takes seven thrilling choruses, more than any of his bandmates, while shaking out screaming high notes and then switching to Wes Montgomery–style octaves. In the concluding choruses, the soloists “trade twos,” rotating the lead every two bars, and Bloomfield’s lines become exotic, musically sophisticated beyond anything previously heard in rock. Finally, B. B. King’s “I Got a Mind to Give Up Living” is a Bloomfield tour de force. Butterfield sings the verses and then gets out of the way as Michael cranks up his Les Paul Goldtop. In the ten months the band had been together, Bloomfield’s blues playing had become more nuanced. He could shade notes with subtle bends, vary the dynamic of his attack and imply phrases without fully stating them. In a word, Bloomfield's playing has become more “vocal.”

8. “A Little Head” (The Trip, Electric Flag, CURB)
9. “Green and Gold” (The Trip, Electric Flag, CURB)
10. “Fine Jung Thing” (The Trip, Electric Flag, CURB)

After leaving Butterfield’s band in February 1967, Mike Bloomfield formed the first brass-rock band (Au.: accurate? Technically, Chicago (then called the Big Thing) formed on Feb. 15, 1967.}, the Electric Flag, with his Chicago friend, keyboardist Barry Goldberg. The group’s first assignment was to create a soundtrack for a Roger Corman film titled The Trip. Because the low-budget flick was about LSD and its effects on the movie’s protagonist, played by Peter Fonda, Bloomfield was able to incorporate a variety of musical styles and sounds into the film’s accompaniment. “A Little Head,” one of several mood-setting group improvisations that the band created, is noteworthy for its use of the Moog synthesizer. Bloomfield may have been the very first pop musician to use the electronic instrument on record. Featuring Marcus Doubleday’s bright trumpet, “Green and Gold” is a set piece that effectively evokes Mexican mariachi music and displays the breadth of Bloomfield’s musical range as a composer and arranger. In a different mode entirely, “Fine Jung Thing” is an up-tempo blues with an inverted turnaround that is much rockier than anything Michael had ever played with Paul Butterfield. It harks back to his early days with the Group at Big John’s in Chicago’s Old Town. Though Bloomfield had acquired his Les Paul Standard Sunburst by the time of this recording, it sounds as if he’s using a different guitar here, perhaps a studio instrument, and playing it with little or no reverb, a real departure from his usual sound.

11. “Groovin’ Is Easy” (A Long Time Comin’, Electric Flag, Columbia Legacy)
12. “Texas” (A Long Time Comin’, Electric Flag, Columbia Legacy)
13. “Another Country” (A Long Time Comin’, Electric Flag, Columbia Legacy)

Nick Gravenites’s “Groovin’ Is Easy” was one of the first tunes the Electric Flag recorded after they completed the soundtrack for The Trip. Released as a single in October 1967, the song is a solid pop tune from start to finish. Adroitly arranged, it features the Flag at its brass-rock best, and though there are no solos, Michael Bloomfield does get in a brief bagpipe-like cadenza midway through the tune. It’s clear from this selection that the Flag, including its leader, were eager to create a Top 40 hit. But by the time the band’s first album, A Long Time Comin’, was released in March 1968, “Groovin’” was already sounding a bit dated. Nevertheless, it is a masterful conception from the writing to the arrangement to the execution. “Texas,” on the other hand, is stone blues, a timeless classic written by Bloomfield and Buddy Miles and featuring them in a hot duet with superlative horn accompaniment. In live performance, Michael would solo on multiple choruses to start “Texas” and then play stunning accompaniment behind Miles’s plaintive vocal, often duplicating the drummer’s phrases note for note. Here, he limits himself to a single chorus, but it’s a superb twelve bars—just what his blues fans were eager to hear. From an entirely different place is “Another Country,” an epic aural landscape that is at once a rock anthem, a psychedelic sound excursion, a jazz-rock instrumental, and a potent bit of political agitprop, all fused together in one nine-minute mini-suite. Bloomfield’s jazzy extended solo sounds very much like the inspiration for Carlos Santana.

14. “Albert’s Shuffle” (Super Session, Bloomfield/Kooper/Stills, Columbia Legacy)
15. “His Holy Modal Majesty” (Super Session, Bloomfield/Kooper/Stills, Columbia Legacy)

As he was in the process of quitting the Electric Flag in May 1968, Bloomfield received an invitation from keyboardist Al Kooper to record an unusual album—a studio “jam session.” Though he was reluctant to participate, Michael agreed and, over the course of a single day, captured some of the best playing he ever recorded in a studio. He famously left before all the tracks were was recorded, but the resulting album, Super Session, became an unexpected hit. Though its sales were largely driven by Kooper’s arrangement of Donovan’s “Season of the Witch,” with Stephen Stills filling in for the AWOL Bloomfield, Michael’s contribution was, for many budding guitarists, a clarion call. The guitarist’s masterful choruses on tunes such as “Albert’s Shuffle” (named for Bloomfield’s ambling manager, Albert Grossman) made blues converts of young players from Boston to Santa Monica. In his three choruses, Bloomfield creates a primer on blues phrasing and dynamics, his soloing honed by years on the road playing multiple sets five and six days a week. The way he plays behind and around the beat, a technique employed by the great players of modern jazz, is wholly Bloomfield. Few rock guitarists of the time had that skill; even today, few do. His ability to bend notes with precision, giving them a vocal-like fluidity while still remaining in tune, is breathtaking. Moving into jazzier territory, “His Holy Modal Majesty” was built on a simple three-chord progression in G with an interlude and a tempo change, as well as a modulation to the relative minor. Created in the studio and the session’s only original, “Majesty” was partially inspired by the music of John Coltrane. Accordingly, Al Kooper opens the piece on ondioline, an early synthesizer-like instrument, which he uses to evoke the sound of a soprano saxophone. Bloomfield’s improvisation, using both E-minor and G-major scales, creates a fantastic tonal landscape, erecting spires of auditory ornamentation, populating space with ambulatory sound, moving from one improvised edifice to another. It stands in sharp contrast to the earthy poetry of his Super Session blues performances and provides another example of Bloomfield’s mastery of multiple styles and his great skill as an improviser.

16. “Mary Ann” (The Live Adventures of . . . , Kooper/Bloomfield, Columbia Legacy)
17. “Don’t Throw Your Love on Me So Strong” (The Live Adventures of . . . , Kooper/Bloomfield, Columbia Legacy)

These two selections, from the first of the live shows for a follow-up album to Super Session, in September 1968, gave many of his fans a first opportunity to hear Bloomfield in a live setting. Though the guitarist claimed he was suffering from insomnia-induced “stage fright” at the time, his playing here is excellent and assertive, redolent with the distinctive tone only Michael could get from a Les Paul. Live Adventures also introduced fans to Bloomfield as a vocalist, and he sings both these blues convincingly, despite not being a natural singer. “Mary Ann,” a Ray Charles tune, is driven by Michael’s lead lines, and though he largely improvises its lyrics, his solo choruses give the tune an intensity that underscores the passion expressed in the words. “Don’t Throw Your Love on Me So Strong,” the Albert King blues, is taken at an achingly slow tempo, but bass and drums handle it without faltering. Al Kooper's organ provided the perfect foil for Michael's guitar commentary, bridging the gap between his phrases with uncanny intuition. Following his vocal, Bloomfield digs in for a solo and then, on the downbeat of the fifth bar, stops the music completely. A trick that Albert King frequently used to set up a flurry of notes and amp up excitement, Michael’s stop is all silence aside from his exclamation, “Whoa! Have mercy, have mercy!” The band comes in on the seventh bar, releasing the tension as the guitarist solos out the chorus. It’s a remarkable moment, clearly demonstrating Bloomfield's awareness of phrasing and tempo, a hallmark of every authentic blues performance and one of the genre's most difficult techniques to master.

18. “Killing My Love” (My Labors, Nick Gravenites, Columbia Legacy)
19. “Carmelita Skiffle” (Live at Bill Graham’s Fillmore West, Michael Bloomfield, Columbia Legacy)

Following his appearances with Al Kooper, Michael Bloomfield decided he, too, would record a live jam album and thus fulfill one of his contractual obligations to Columbia. He organized several weeks of performances at the Fillmore West with a group of friends and recorded dozens of blues and original tunes, several of which were issued on Live at Bill Graham’s Fillmore West and on Nick Gravenites’s My Labors. These two selections, one an original by Gravenites and the other a Bloomfield instrumental, feature more of Michael’s stunning guitar work, both as a rock improviser behind Nick’s vocal on “Killing My Love” and as a blues soloist on “Carmelita Skiffle.” The intensity of his solo on the former tune is almost frightening, providing a potent example of just how overwhelming Bloomfield could be in live performance.

20. “The Ones I Loved Are Gone” (It’s Not Killing Me, Michael Bloomfield, Columbia Legacy)
21. “Next Time You See Me” (It’s Not Killing Me, Michael Bloomfield, Columbia Legacy)

Bloomfield’s only solo release for a major label came in the fall of 1969 and was largely a disappointment to fans and critics alike. The record, It’s Not Killing Me, consists primarily of original compositions, songs of a highly personal nature that addressed Michael’s mental state at the time. The guitarist was going through a protracted period of depression complicated by drug use, and many of the tunes—all of which he chose to sing himself—speak of pain, sorrow, and loss. Perhaps the most disturbing of those is “The Ones I Loved Are Gone,” with its obvious reference to Michael’s failed marriage. A soulful ballad with swelling horns and an angelic chorus, the song showcases Bloomfield’s singing at its rawest as he shouts, moans, and even howls his way through the lyrics. It’s obvious the singer is in distress. For fans expecting more blues pyrotechnics, It’s Not Killing Me was a confusing jog in the heretofore exhilarating road of Bloomfield’s career. The album’s one exception was Junior Parker’s “Next Time You See Me,” an up-tempo blues shuffle with smart lyrics, tricky stops, and some inspired soloing. But that tune alone was not enough to carry the record, and It’s Not Killing Me failed to sell. Bloomfield himself later discounted it, saying simply that it was “pretty bad.”

22. “Long Hard Journey (One More Mile)” (Barry Goldberg and Friends, Barry Goldberg, Record Man)

This selection comes from a Barry Goldberg appearance at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, probably from 1969. Michael sat in with Barry on several selections, and “Long Hard Journey” is one that featured both his singing and his guitar playing. A James Cotton blues originally known as “One More Mile,” the tune was first recorded by Bloomfield during his early sessions with Paul Butterfield. But the version here is by the mature Michael Bloomfield, now an acknowledged blues master, brilliant soloist, and superb accompanist. His single solo chorus is hair-raising in its intensity; his shared chorus with Goldberg then takes things even higher. Though this selection is not well known, even by hardcore Bloomfield fans, it equals his best live Super Session and Fillmore West performances. It also shows how casual the guitarist was on stage. If you listen closely to “Long Hard Journey,” you’ll hear him call out the key well into the first chorus after Goldberg and the bass player can’t find it, most likely because Michael neglected to tell them before starting the tune.

23. “Since I Fell For You” (Brand New, Woody Herman Orchestra, Fantasy)

Here is Michael Bloomfield as a jazz soloist. Reportedly, Miles Davis had told the big band leader Woody Herman that Herman could revitalize his career by recording with a young rock guitarist, and Bloomfield’s name quickly came up. Not long afterward, in March 1971, Fantasy Records brought Michael into the studio with the Herman orchestra to record a quartet of tunes. Of the four, band leader Buddy Johnson’s “Since I Fell for You” is exceptional. The guitarist’s restraint, coupled with a quiet intensity, produces phrases that approach B. B. King’s best work. Though the arrangement suggests a lounge act in places, it is tastefully played by Herman’s men and provides an effective backdrop for Bloomfield’s exertions. The performance offers a fleeting glimpse of what Michael might have sounded like with the support of a schooled and professional ensemble.

24. “When It All Comes Down” (Try It Before You Buy It, Michael Bloomfield, CBS Records)

This selection comes from Bloomfield’s second solo album for Columbia, the long-unreleased Try It Before You Buy, completed in 1974. A tune with a catchy melody, smart lyrics, and a great beat, “When It All Comes Down,” sung by Nick Gravenites, had real hit potential, something Bloomfield had sought when writing it. He had decided, after the failure of It’s Not Killing Me, to record an album of original material that people would actually like, and he labored long and hard to produce music that had integrity but also was broadly appealing. Though he solos only briefly (on what sounds like a nylon-string classical guitar), the wholly satisfying tune is a prime example of Bloomfield’s skill as a composer and arranger.

25. “WDIA” (If You Love These Blues, Michael Bloomfield, Kicking Mule)
26. “Thrift Shop Rag” (If You Love These Blues, Michael Bloomfield, Kicking Mule)

After his disastrous involvement with the supergroup KGB, Mike Bloomfield felt the need to produce an album of uncompromised quality. His quasi-instructional record for Guitar Player Records, If You Love These Blues, was the result; the guitarist felt that it featured his “hottest playing on record.” That observation is confirmed by “WDIA,” a blues named for the Memphis AM broadcaster of blues and R&B that Michael listened to in his teens. The instrumental shuffle is played in B. B. King’s style from the early 1960s, as Bloomfield indicates in his introduction, and is one long solo whose opening chorus evokes King but whose remaining choruses are pure Bloomfield. Along with the other acoustic selections on the album, “Thrift Shop Rag” was a revelation to most Bloomfield fans. Few knew that the electric guitarist of the Butterfield Band, the Electric Flag, and Super Session was also an accomplished fingerpicker. This tune, a Bloomfield original, was intended to evoke the early recordings of Blind Blake and is played “piano-style,” with Michael executing tricky contrapuntal rhythms and a mid-piece modulation. Though he had been playing acoustic blues and ragtime tunes since his teen years, very few listeners had ever heard him play traditional music prior to the release of If You Love These Blues in December 1976.

27. “Greatest Gifts from Heaven” (Great Dreams of Heaven, Michael Bloomfield, Rockbeat Records)

In January 1977, Bloomfield gave a performance at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica, opening the show with an acoustic set. He played classic blues and vaudeville tunes as well as a few originals, much to the delight of the audience. But one song he did during that set was exceptional not only for the playing but also for the soulful feeling Michael imbued it with. Composed by Bahamian singer and guitar player {Au.: okay? He is known more for his highly idiosyncratic guitar playing, yes?}Joseph Spence, it was a spiritual Bloomfield had recently heard on an album by guitarist Ry Cooder, and Michael had been inspired to create an interpretation of his own. His rendition here perfectly captures the beauty of the melody while bringing it to life through rubato and subtle embellishments—an extraordinary performance, if only for its lyricism and restraint.


David Dann and Guitar King: Michael Bloomfield's Life in the Blues links:

Kirkus review
Library Journal review
Wall Street Journal review

Chicago Reader interview with the author
Literary Hub essay by the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

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

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


October 18, 2019

Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week - October 18, 2019

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.


Daybreak

Daybreak by Brian Ralph

Now adapted into a Netflix original series, Brian Ralph’s 2011 zombie thriller graphic novel has been reissued in a beautiful hardcover edition by Drawn & Quarterly. The zombie apocalypse field is pretty crowded at this point, but Daybreak was and remains a truly original take on survival horror. Ralph’s grim story is laced with a surprising sense of humour and vulnerability, and his scratchy pen work is almost cutesy, at times. Most uniquely, the story is told in the second person: the protagonist addresses himself directly to the reader, who acts as a character in the story--a startling device that makes for a one-of-a-kind reading experience. Whether or not you watch the show, check out the original!


The Man Who Saw Everything

The Man Who Saw Everything by Deborah Levy

Deborah Levy’s hotly-anticipated, Booker Prize-longlisted new novel is out! Levy is much beloved of our staff, who were enamoured with her smart, sexy novel Hot Milk (also a Booker nominee) and her unparalleled “living autobiography,” which so far has two volumes (we can’t wait for the third!). The Man Who Saw Everything is an ambitious, elliptical novel that loops back and forth in time, circling around the moment when Saul Adler, a self-absorbed young historian doing research in Communist East Germany, is struck by a car--not in the GDR, but while crossing London’s Abbey Road. This artful, electrifying story explores old and new love, the past and present of Europe, and the cyclical nature of history while blurring sexual and political binaries.


Exquisite Mariposa

Exquisite Mariposa by Fiona Alison Duncan

We were thrilled to host the launch for Exquisite Mariposa last week, the autofictional debut novel by Fiona Alison Duncan aka Fifidunks aka F.A.D., an LA-based writer, sexpert, astrologer, former D&Q employee, and host of the Hard to Read and Pillow Talk reading series. Following its protagonist on a search for the Real amid the unreal worlds of art, literature, and celebrity, Exquisite Mariposa introduces an intimate cast of friends and lovers trying to navigate art-making, obsession, and the internet in this economy. Chris Kraus calls it one of “the great Young Girl books of becoming”!


The Body: A Guide for Occupants

The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson

Beloved travel and science writer Bill Bryson is the kind of big-picture nonfiction author who delights in making the world more understandable. Holding no fewer than eleven honorary doctorates, Bryson has unparalleled ability to bring the macro down to size (A Short History of Nearly Everything). With this book, he explodes the micro, looking at the minutiae of the human body in light of millions of years of evolutionary history. Entertaining, enlightening, and accessible!


Persephone’s Garden

Persephone’s Garden by Glynnis Fawkes

Vermont-based comic artist Glynnis Fawkes came to drawing from a unique path: as an archaeological illustrator. Having worked on sites in Greece, Crete, Turkey, Cyprus, Israel, and Lebanon, she began drawing comics that reflected her experiences an archaeologist and a mother, which have won her several awards. Her latest book, Persephone’s Garden, is a collection of short comics that look at girlhood, womanhood, and motherhood through memory, history, and mythology.


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 (Benjamin Moser on His Susan Sontag Biography, The Best Horror Movie Soundtracks, and more)

Sontag by Benjamin Moser

Benjamin Moser discussed his Susan Sontag biography with Bookworm.


Rolling Stone listed the best horror movie soundtracks.


October's best eBook deals.

eBook on sale for $1.99 today:

Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes

eBook on sale for $2.99 today:

Ghostly Tales: Spine-Chilling Stories of the Victorian Age


Stream a new song by Phoebe Bridgers and the National's Matt Berninger.


The Christian Science Monitor recommended October's best books.


Pitchfork examined how chillwave influenced the music of the 2010s.


Stream two new Beck songs.


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


Mitch Easter talked about producing R.E.M.'s first EP and first two albums with The Current.


Vol. 1 Brooklyn and The Rumpus interviewed author Cathy Ulrich.


Stream a new Cartalk song.


Dina Nayeri discussed her memoir with the Los Angeles Review of Books.


Spoon frontman Britt Daniel discussed sings that changed his life with Rolling Stone.


Literary Hub shared an excerpt from Tim O'Brien's book Dad's Maybe Book.


Stream a new Porches song.


Longreads and Electric Literature talked to Steph Cha about her novel Your House Will Pay.


Aquarium Drunkard interviewed singer-songwriter Devendra Banhart.


Publishers Weekly interviewed cartoonist Eleanor Davis.


Stream a new song by Caroline Says.


Guernica interviewed author Victor LaValle.


The Creative Independent interviewed Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker of the band Low.


Vogue recommended fall cookbooks.


All Songs Considered recommended the week's best new albums.


The Chicago Review of Books interviewed author Leland Cheuk.


All Songs Considered recommended the week's best new albums.


Elton John talked books and reading with the New York Times.


Stream a new PJ Harvey 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


October 17, 2019

Cathy Ulrich's Playlist for Her Short Story Collection "Ghosts of You"

Ghosts of You

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, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Cathy Ulrich's collection Ghosts of You is filled with inventively written and engaging stories.

BuzzFeed wrote of the book:

"In her debut flash fiction collection, Ulrich focuses on the bodies of murdered women, rendering each story with a crystalline focus on how women often bear the brunt of violence and calling into question the common narratives around this fact. Each story starts with the same line, which by the end has the effect of an incantation. The reality of misogyny can make for rough reading, even in fiction, but the short form and Ulrich’s skill at avoiding the sensational make it worth it."


In her own words, here is Cathy Ulrich's Book Notes music playlist for her short story collection Ghosts of You:



This is a book about murdered women. This is what I tell people when they say, oh, you have a book? What’s it about?

Murdered women.

I might talk about fridging, about plot points, about erasure. I might talk about how women’s deaths are so often used to set the plot in motion.

But really, when someone asks what’s your book about? I say: murdered women.

I am always listening to music. Especially when I write. I’ll sit in the break room at work with its gaudy tablecloth and creaking ancient chairs and put my headphones on and pretend I can’t hear the ringing phone that my coworkers aren’t answering.

Each of the stories in this book has a piece of music in them. Here’s a list of some:

Girl – Timecop1983 (feat. Seawaves) (Story: Being the Murdered Moll)

I can always get lost in this song and its crescendoing retro keyboard chords, its love story of a couple on the run from the law. When I wrote this story, I was in love with someone. I’d say to them, let’s rob a bank instead of I love you. I think the girl in this song said it too. Like the girl in the story.

Laura Palmer’s Prom – You Say Party! We Say Die! (Story: Being the Murdered Girl)

This was the first story that I wrote in this series, when it wasn’t even a series at all. I think the girl in it looks like Laura Palmer, or maybe she even is Laura Palmer. I wonder if she would have gone to her prom.

Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend – Marilyn Monroe (Story: Being the Murdered Actress)

I like Marilyn’s voice in this, the wispiness of it. I like how it feels like it’s okay to call her Marilyn, like we’re friends, like I know her. It wasn’t really her name, of course. I think the actress in this story has a made-up name too. I think, if she sang this song, she would have struggled to hit the high notes, to wear that smile.

Gunshot – Lykke Li (Story: Being the Murdered Lover)

The lover in this story is thought of by most of the characters as a greedy thing, only sleeping with the rich man for his gifts, but I think she really loved him. I imagine her waiting for his calls, his texts, alone in her room, dancing barefoot to this song, feeling the passion in this song, thinking of the touch of her lover’s mouth on hers.

Hold Yr Terror Close – The Go! Team (Story: Being the Murdered Classmate)

I remember a couple of years ago, my daughter and her classmates were sure there was a pack of murderous clowns roaming the country. It was a children’s rumor that spread all over. It’s easier for them to do that now than when I was a child, but we had them too, these monsters that were coming for us. This story is about one of those children’s rumors. The song is about walking home in the dark, and it brings up that feeling for me, that bottom-of-the-stomach terror that these monsters evoke.

Why Don’t You Do Right – Peggy Lee (Story: Being the Murdered Chanteuse)

When I worked at the local newspaper, I once input an obituary for a man who had dated Peggy Lee in high school. No one believed him until she saw him at, I think it was, a football game she performed at halftime for, shouted his name and ran over and hugged him. Since then, she’s been one of my favorite songstresses, has felt like she is connected to me somehow. I can see the chanteuse in this story singing this song, can’t you? And maybe following it up with some Aretha Franklin.

The Moon Hangs in the Sky Like Nothing Hangs in the Sky – Yohuna (Story: Being the Murdered Indian)

There’s a moment in this story, where the victim’s family attends her father’s funeral and her uncle stops in the parking lot and breaks down, not because his brother is dead, but because his niece still can’t be found. The moon is in the blue sky then, the moon is a witness. This song is like that moment.

Origins – Tennis (Story: Being the Murdered Wife)

I was thinking of Joan Vollmer when I wrote this. I was thinking how she was a talent in her own right, a person in her own right, until she was killed by her husband. How he became famous and admired. How she became an appendix in his story. I like the line in this song, have you confused your power with mine?

Polaroid smmr – Detective Deckard (Story: Being the Murdered Blonde)

For this story, I was thinking of how it’s easy for murders to be ignored until it is a beautiful woman, a perfect victim, a perfect woman. This song, for me, feels like being in love with someone perfect like that. And I love the sound of rainfall at the end, and those soaring, sad vocals.


Cathy Ulrich and Ghosts of You links:

The Bookends Review review
Heavy Feather Review review
Independent Book Review review

Entropy interview with the author
Rhythm Bone interview with the author
The Rumpus interview with the author
Vol. 1 Brooklyn interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

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

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


Shorties (A Conversation Between Ann Patchett and Elizabeth Strout, The Best New Bands of 2019, and more)

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

Entertainment Weekly shared a conversation between authors Ann Patchett and Elizabeth Strout.


Stereogum listed the best new bands of 2019.


October's best eBook deals.

eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi


The Current shared video of a recent Sleater-Kinney live show.


The Oxford American shared a new story by Kevin Brockmeier.


Paste profiled San Fermin's Ellis Ludwig-Leone.

Ludwig-Leone achieves the eerie atmosphere of a dream world not with sound effects but with traditional instruments combined in unusual ways. A baritone sax may roar against piano triplets; a violin may dance above a rock rhythm guitar; stacked vocals may hold a chord while the synthesizer shifts the harmony below. The lyrics evoke a strange world not with lazy vagueness but with specific images that provide enough of the picture for us to fill in the rest.


The Philadelphia Inquirer previewed October's best cookbooks.


Singer-songwriter Amy Rigby discussed her memoir Girl To City with the Pittsburgh City Paper.


Ronan Farrow discussed is new book Catch and Kill with Fresh Air.


Stream a new song by Bonny Light Horseman, a new band featuring Anaïs Mitchell, Eric D. Johnson (Fruit Bats) and Josh Kaufman (Craig Finn, Josh Ritter, The National).


Literary Hub and Longreads interviewed author Deborah Levy.


Baby raves for toddlers are the next big thing in the Bay Area.


The London Review of Books shared an excerpt from Anne Carson's Norma Jeane Baker of Troy (a translation of Euripides’ Helen).


Rolling Stone listed the best songs that feature whistling.


Granta recommended online essays by Rebecca Solnit.


American Songwriter wrapped up its countdown of the top 20 Beatles songs.


Author Reginald Dwayne Betts talked food with Entropy.


Talib Qweli recommended books to overcome adversity.


Paul Tremblay recommended horror books at the Observer.


Stream a new sing by Brian Eno and Lee “Scratch” Perry.


Literary Hub shared a story from Benjamin Percy's new collection Suicide Woods.


Stream a new Pendant song.


The San Francisco Chronicle interviewed author Ali


Stream a new song by the Mountain Goats.


The Chicago Review of Books interviewed author Lisa Lutz.


Stream a new Wolf Parade song.


Literary Hub shared an excerpt from David Heatley's graphic memoir Qualification.


Stream a new song by Otha.


Electric Literature interviewed author Rion Amilcar Scott.


Stream a new song by Sudan Archives.



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


October 16, 2019

Leland Cheuk's Playlist for His Novel "No Good Very Bad Asian"

No Good Very Bad Asian

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, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Leland Cheuk's novel No Good Very Bad Asian is moving, unsettling, and one of the funniest books I have read in a long time.

The Brooklyn Rail wrote of the book:

"The balance between comic and serious is crucial in literary comedy. Stray too far in either direction and you fail, becoming simplistic on one hand, boring on the other. While a perfect balance is admittedly impossible, never mind a matter of taste, Leland Cheuk does an admirable job in his latest, No Good Very Bad Asian, achieving a true synthesis of heart and humor highlighted by the fluidity of his first-person voice and a steady diet of sharp turns of prose."


In his own words, here is Leland Cheuk's Book Notes music playlist for his novel No Good Very Bad Asian:



My novel No Good Very Bad Asian stars a fictive famed standup comedian named Sirius Lee, who tells the story of his life to his estranged seven-year-old daughter. Despite his successes, Sirius’s life is one weighed down by racism as well as his own mistakes. It’s a book that I felt like I quite literally bled for. For research, I did standup for two and a half years. Then I was diagnosed with cancer, very luckily receiving a life-saving bone marrow transplant, and during the long recovery, finally figured out what the book was about, and finished it numerous times and somehow found a publisher to take it after a full year of rejections.

Like Sirius, despite the many ups and downs in my life and my writing, I never stopped laughing, in large part because of the comedians on this playlist.

“Energy Policy / Fat Kids” Greg Giraldo from Midlife Vices

The late, great Greg Giraldo is one of my favorite standups. Best known for being a roast comic, his albums Good Day to Cross A River and Midlife Vices are underappreciated classics. This bit about America needing big cars like SUVs to “haul their fat f--king kids up hills” is ten years old and feels every bit as relevant today.

“Crazy People and The Guy in the Garbage Can” Dov Davidoff from The Point Is

Like Giraldo, Davidoff is a comic’s comic. In recent years, he’s been most visible as a character actor in TV shows like HBO’s Crashing and NBC’s Shades of Blue. But he’s still performing on the road and authored a very funny memoir entitled Road Dog: Life and Reflections from the Road as a Stand-up Comic. The punchline from his first and only album (“How the f—k am I supposed to eat soup without an envelope?”) always gets me.

“Looking Inward” Sarah Silverman from We Are Miracles

We know her best for her irreverence, but Sarah Silverman is simply a genius-level joke writer. Vanity Fair broke down one of her bits from her recent Netflix special A Speck of Dust here—it’s one of the best bits I’ve ever seen. This bit from 2013’s We Are Miracles is made up of one brilliant joke after another (“To women of a certain age: your heartbreaking and drastic attempts to look younger are the reason your daughter doesn’t dream about her future.”)

“Crazy White Kids” Chris Rock from Bigger and Blacker

No Good Very Bad Asian is, on some level, a political book. Sirius Lee, the protagonist, talks very frankly throughout the novel about race and class. I included this bit from Chris Rock’s Bigger and Blacker because of what’s not in it—the best and most famous joke. In the original special, this bit is in it: “You don’t need no gun control. You know what you need? We need some bullet control. Man, we need to control the bullets, that’s right. l think all bullets should cost $5,000.” For some reason (the NRA? Corporate censorship?), Spotify has excised the entire “Gun Control” bit from its version of Bigger and Blacker. It can’t even be found in Rock’s greatest bits album Cheese & Crackers.

“No Frills” Ronny Chieng from Just For Laughs 2015

Audiences probably best know the Malaysian-Australian comic Ronny Chieng from Crazy Rich Asians or his time as a correspondent on The Daily Show, but he’s also one hell of a standup. This bit from Just For Laughs, the biggest international comedy festival in the world, held annually in Montreal, showcases Chieng’s observational gifts related to class (“When did the taxi ride to the airport start to cost more than the flight?”).

“Private School Asians” Ali Wong from Baby Cobra

Back when I was doing standup, I’d treat myself by going to Comedy Cellar to see Ali Wong, then far less famous than she is now. This bit touches on a number of truths you have to be Asian to understand (“Fancy Asians…host Olympics. Jungle Asians host diseases.”) and yet Wong makes them funny for a wider audience.

“Everyone is Stupid” Jen Kirkman from I’m Gonna Die Alone (And I Feel Fine)

How do you make climate change and the possible end of the world funny? Jen Kirkman does it here in her terrific recent Netflix special. I’m Gonna Die Alone (And I Feel Fine) is her third album and it seems like she’s been funny for two decades and only in recent years, is she getting the acclaim she deserves. Her memoir I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales from a Happy Life Without Kids was a New York Times bestseller in 2013.

“Being Black Saved My Life” Dave Chappelle from Just For Laughs 2000

How can you have a standup playlist without a bit from Dave Chappelle. He excels at everything as a comic: he can act, he does great impressions and act-outs, and he’s a superior joke writer. This bit is from almost two decades ago, but it’s just as funny and relevant today. The subtext that makes the bit work (“Terrorists do not take black hostages.”) is the low value the American government places on black lives.

“Hello, I Have Cancer” Tig Notaro from Live

“Tragedy plus time equals comedy,” Tig Notaro says in this famed bit revealing her breast cancer diagnosis on stage at Largo in Los Angeles in 2012. (It’s convenient to forget now that this set went viral thanks to an effusive praise tweet from current persona non grata Louie C.K.) Notaro’s set, which was raw, had few punchlines, and was meant to be a private workout, reminds us that comedy has the power to address the ultimate universality—the thing that we all have in common: eventual death.


Leland Cheuk and No Good Very Bad Asian links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

Brooklyn Rail review

Deborah Kalb interview with the author
Literary Hub essay by the author
San Francisco Chronicle profile of the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

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

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


Shorties (Hillary and Chelsea Clinton's Recommended Books By and About Inspiring Women, The Best Simpsons Rock Star Cameos, and more)

My Past Is a Foreign Country by Zeba Talkhani

Hillary and Chelsea Clinton recommended books by and about inspiring women at Stylist.


SPIN listed the best rock star cameos in The Simpsons.


October's best eBook deals.

eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

A Collapse of Horses by BrianEvenson
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

eBooks on sale for $2.99 today:

Lilith's Brood: The Complete Xenogenesis Trilogy by Octavia Butler


Stream a new song by Fran.


Book Riot recommended books by emerging authors.


Elton John talked to Fresh Air about his new autobiography, Me.


Brittany Howard played a Tiny Desk Concert.


Eleanor Davis talked to Publishers Weekly about her new graphic novel The Hard Tomorrow</em>.


Vagabon's Laetitia Tamko discussed her new album with All Songs Considered.


Literary Hub listed the best poetry collections of the past decade.


The Ringer reconsidered Fleetwood Mac's Tusk album after 40 years.


Literary Hub shared a conversation between authors Ocean Vuong and Ben Lerner.


Stream a new Common Holly song.


Literary Hub recommended the week's best new books.


NYCTaper shared a recent Wilco show.


BookMarks interviewed author Steph Cha.


Rolling Stone shared a playlist of terrifying songs.


Stream a short Lower Dens documentary.


Stream a new song by Jennifer Vanilla.


Stream a new X song.


Stream a new Holy Ghost! 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


October 15, 2019

Marco Rafalà's Playlist for His Novel "How Fires End"

How Fires End

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, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Marco Rafala's novel How Fires End is an unforgettable and epic debut.

The New York Journal of Books wrote of the book:

"Rafalà seems to love language as much as his characters love their farms and their patron saint. That’s a powerful combination, and it fuels a compelling novel."


In his own words, here is Marco Rafalà's Book Notes music playlist for his debut novel How Fires End:



1. Sicilia Bedda

Roberto Alagna — The Sicilian

I heard this song a lot growing up. My father always listened to the local Italian program on the radio, and when this song came on he would sing along. On the weekends, when he wasn't working, our house was always full of Italian music but this song in particular always left my father exposed, raw—I could hear the emotion in his voice. It's an immigrant song, seeping with nostalgia. In the song, a Sicilian laborer comes to America for work but longs to one day see home again. That yearning drips from every note as the singer declares that even when he closes his eyes, he can still see his homeland. And he vows that one day he will return to Sicily and never leave. The power this song held over my father is what drew me to music at a young age. I wanted to be the song that captured his heart, his emotional attention. If one song captures the feel of the novel, it's this one.

2. This is the Sea

The Waterboys — This is the Sea (Deluxe Version)

This is one of the songs I imagine David listening to late into the night on headphones, looking up at the wide expanse of a starry night, getting lost in his thoughts. I imagine the song sounds familiar to David. It conjures up a yearning and sadness inside him inherited from his father. But, hope also. A promise of a way out.

3. Maps and Legends

R.E.M. — Fables of the Reconstruction (Deluxe Edition)

Fables of the Reconstruction/Reconstruction of the Fables is an eerie, saturnine album, full of haunting music. Gravity is everywhere on this record. You'll find it not just in some of the lyrics but in the tones explored in the music itself. These are songs set to the temperament of gravity. "Maps and Legends" is one of the album's more upbeat songs but the tone is foreboding, bleak and romantic—not hopeful or cheery. I love this song for its moodiness, for pulling me back to my former teen self with all the ache and angst of that age—how we orbit ourselves and each other in sometimes cataclysmic ways.

4. Vitti' Na Crozza

Quartetto Franco Li Causi — Folklore Siciliano

This is a traditional Sicilian folk song. The lyrics form a dialogue between an old man and the skull of someone who died violently and without a funeral. The song is a fatalistic and existential reflection on life and the finality of death, full of bitter stoicism and sorrow. This is another one of those songs that filled my childhood home and the way my father sang it left a lasting impression on me—a feeling I tried to capture in my debut novel.

5. Close to Me

The Cure — The Head on the Door

The Cure's "Close to Me" is one of those pop songs that just exudes a time and place so perfectly. It speaks to that time in the life of a teenager where they oscillate between hope and anxiety, between the possibilities of the horizon and the claustrophobia of uncertainty. For many teenagers in the 1980s this song spoke their language.

6. Blue Monday

New Order — Singles

In the movie of the novel that plays in my head, I imagine this song in the scene where we first see Tony bullying David, pushing his face into a dirty snowbank. As both of their fathers converge on the conflict, there's a sense of a deep-seated history between these two men—an animosity that spills over into the way their children interact with each other.

7. Black Celebration

Depeche Mode — Black Celebration

What else is there to say about Depeche Mode's "Black Celebration" than what David says about it?

If you could make ash and embers sing for you, these were the songs they would sing. Throwing sparks from a dying fire. And if you could be those songs, you would know what it was like to feel those red-hot embers trailing off you, floating around your body.

8. Mesmerism

Dead Can Dance — Spleen and Ideal

This is the song playing in the record store when Sam and David are browsing the stacks. It's a hopeful song, and a personal favorite. It's a song that speaks to that smallest, unreachable part of you—the vulnerable you, the you you protect at all costs. It makes you feel as if you really could belong to this world after all.

9. Ocean Rain

Echo And The Bunnymen — Ocean Rain

Sam loves Echo and the Bunnymen. At one time, there was a long scene early in the book, pages and pages long, where Sam introduces David to bands he'd never heard of before. This was one of those bands. That scene eventually got pared down and pared down in the long, painful revision process. Including this song is my way of including an outtake from the novel.

10. All'armi...all'armi... la campana sona

Otello Profazio — Storie e leggende del sud

As the Allies invade Sicily during World War II, this is the folk song a young Sicilian man plays over and over again much to the annoyance of another older gentleman. It's a comedic scene that plays in the background of a much more dire moment to lighten the mood a little, but the song tells the story of an invasion so it's also a reminder for the characters to remain vigilant against the dangers of this life.

11. Sigh's Smell of Farewell

Cocteau Twins — Love's Easy Tears EP

A soothing song, a balm for having to say goodbye to characters I've lived with for longer than the ten years it took me to write about their lives in this novel. I've always loved this song from the Cocteau Twins and now, I can't help but love it even more.

12. Spirit

The Waterboys — This is the Sea (Deluxe Version)

A song about survival, full of hope and redemption and an earnest yearning for something better—the perfect song to end this playlist on.


Marco Rafalà and How Fires End links:

the author's website

Kirkus review
New York Journal of Books review

Kirkus profile of the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

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

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


Shorties (Tommy Orange's Recommended Books by Indigenous Authors, Duster's First Album in 19 Years, and more)

The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee

Tommy Orange recommended books by indigenous authors at the New York Times.


Duster's first album in 19 years will be released in December.


October's best eBook deals.

eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna
Small Country by Gael Faye


SPIN recommended Sonic Youth songs that put Kim Gordon at the front of the band.

Rolling Stone interviewed Gordon.


R.I.P., literary critic Harold Bloom.


Stream video of a recent Wilco performance.


Paste listed the 40 best novels of the 2010s.


Aquarium Drunkard recommended musician Halloween costumes.


Nina Freudenberger, author of Bibliostyle, discussed decorating with books at Architectural Digest.


Stream a new Vagabon song.


Lev Grossman discussed the comics adaptation of his Magicians books with Hypable.


The Quietus reconsidered Kate Bush's album The Sensual World on its 30 year anniversary.


Bill Bryson talked to Morning Edition about his new book, The Body.


Stream a new Beach Slang song.


Book Riot recommended works of literary horror.


Stream a new song by Little Scream.


Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo were awarded the 2019 Booker Prize.


Rolling Stone listed the best debut albums.


Jane Smiley shared an essay about St. Louis at the New York Times.


Stream a new song by Caroline Polachek.


Vol. 1 Brooklyn interviewed author Brian Birnbaum.



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


October 14, 2019

Shorties (Elizabeth Strout on Her New Novel, Elton John on His Autobiography, and more)

Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout

Elizabeth Strout talked to Weekend Edition about her new novel, Olive, Again.


Elton John talked to Weekend Edition about his new autobiography, Me.


October's best eBook deals.


Pitchfork gathered pop music's memorable moments as it turned to activism in the past decade.


The Oxford American shared an excerpt from M. Randal O’Wain’s new essay collection Meander Belt.


Paste recommended the week's best new albums.


Read James Blake's essay on mental health from the anthology It’s Not OK to Feel Blue (And other lies).


Edna O'Brien discussed her new novel, Girl, with All Things Considered.


Salon interviewed musician Kim Gordon.


Brittle Paper shared a history of African authors and the Booker Prize.


Stream new Animal Collective songs.


Book Riot recommended classics of cyberpunk noir.


Stream a new Liz Phair song.


The Rumpus recommended books about female anger.


Stream a new track from St. Vincent's forthcoming remix album.


Latinx authors described how Sandra Cisneros's The House on Mango Street influenced them at Bustle.


Modern Nature shared two cover songs


Words Without Borders recommended October's best books in translation.


Stream a new song by CUP (Nels Cline and Cibo Matta's Yuka C. Honda).


Stream a new song by Air’s Nicolas Godin.



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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