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February 5, 2016

Book Notes - Kathleen Spivack "Unspeakable Things"

Unspeakable Things

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

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Kathleen Spivack's novel Unspeakable Things is an ambitious and surreal debut that is imbued with music.

Shelf Awareness wrote of the book:

"In her first novel, poet Kathleen Spivack (With Robert Lowell and His Circle) strongly seasons a realistic story of World War II refugees, longing to escape their past and establish themselves in America, with surrealistic elements to create a convincing portrait of the pain of displacement and dislocation."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


In her own words, here is Kathleen Spivack's Book Notes music playlist for her debut novel Unspeakable Things:


Music has been at the core of many of my books, each differently. As a young girl, I studied the cello, and went on to play chamber music much of my adult life. I played the cello at Oberlin College and the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. The composition courses, both in writing and in music began with the setting of poems--usually those of Emily Dickinson--to music. The rhythm of words and the formal tonality of music blended and fascinated me. Later I performed some of my written work with jazz musicians & toured; I learned about music and text. Some of my work has also been set to original music, and performed as song cycles , opera and theatre pieces in the U.S. and in France .

In my recent novel, Unspeakable Things, (Alfred Knopf, 2016,) European classical music drives the book. Unspeakable Things is about German and Austrian intellectuals, refugees, struggling to stay alive in New York City during the last years of World War II. European classical music is what they listen to. It carries memories of their lives, both of their "before," chiefly in Vienna, and their penurious "after" in New York City.

I loved doing the research for this book. The book is factual in its recounting of the importance of music and how it was controlled during this era. But fiction and magic come into it. More importantly, as I wrote, each character chose his or her music. While writing, I heard the music of each character, and put on the appropriate tape. The first drafts were written while CD's had not yet superseded tape recordings and I was still mourning the silence imposed upon classical record collections.

Alone in the room in an absent friend's apartment, I turned up the volume until my ears were so filled with music that I could, via the ladder of music, enter my characters' souls.

Perhaps you have done the same. And perhaps you have not yet read Unspeakable Things. If so, here is a shorthand guide to the music that shaped and haunted my characters and by transmission, me.

Sound flooded the room where I sat writing. I let my 'self' dissolve: I couldn't tell the demarcation between my characters and the swirl of music that was their signature. "The Rat," a central character, was Schubert's "Death and the Maiden," Quartet No. 14. "Rasputin," the Demon Lover, was written to Mussogorsky’s* "The Great Gate of Kiev," from "Pictures at an Exhibition. " "Herbert" was Brahms, of course, both tough and tender; his was the Brahms "Requiem": the music of a heart cracking. And the "Tolstoi Quartet" was written to the music of Mozart. At first look, in the early stages, and in the early life of my naive Quartet, their Mozart - music seems to have a playful mischievous child-like nature,. But later, as I came to know the "Tolstoi Quartet" better, I heard a more imperative Mozart: hints of pleasure, of secrets, of schemes and hidden messages.

The triumphant self-confident can-do New World chapters were accompanied, as I wrote them, by Louis Armstrong, by a 'brace of trumpets,' the big swing bands, and the swooping American confidence, each passage as if created spontaneously, of George Gershwin.

The "Doktor Felix" chapters were written to "The Rakes Progress," by Stravinsky, and parts of "Carmina Burana." Felix is also the wicked puppet master of so many ballets. He takes possession of your body and your will. Like Herr Drosselmeyer, he makes you dance until you drop - as in Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker," "Coppelia" and in the ballet/movie "The Red Shoes."

While writing Unspeakable Things, in that meditative trance, or "flow," where one is concentrated, deeply within and yet at the same time without; shaping the piece, I seemed to hear Bruch's "Kol Nidrei." It was the underground river running through the whole endeavor. It was and is the lamentation of the Earth herself. I sensed again the caramel caress of my beloved cello. To weep, and expiate: to heal, soothe; perhaps to accept, and even laugh & maybe find happiness somewhere....

In Unspeakable Things, with its contrapuntal "New World Symphony" clashing with "Kol Nidrei" and everything else, I sat alone and let the book almost write itself. Words were streaming from my fingers faster than I could catch them. It was like liquid silver, writing that first draft. And suddenly, despite myself, sweet Hope sprang up, demanding to be heard.


Kathleen Spivack and Unspeakable Things links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

Booklist review
Boston Globe review
Paste review
Shelf Awareness review


also at Largehearted Boy:

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

Online "Best of 2015" Book Lists

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


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February 5, 2016

Atomic Books Comics Preview - February 5, 2016

In the weekly Atomic Books Comics Preview, Benn Ray highlights notable new comics, graphic novels, and books.

Benn Ray is the owner of Atomic Books, an independent bookstore in Baltimore. He also runs the Mutant Funnies Tumblr.

Atomic Books has been named one of BuzzFeed's Great American Bookstores, as well as one of Flavorwire's 10 greatest comic and graphic novel stores in America.


Crickets #5

Crickets #5
by Sammy Harkham

Harkham's "Blood of the Virgin" serial continues. This issue also features an appearance by The Blobby Boys. Crickets is one of the best ongoing currently going.


Devil Tales

Devil Tales
by Steve Banes / Mr. Karswell

Satan stars in over two dozen demonic, horror-classic tales by the likes of Don Heck, Gene Colan, Dick Ayers, Lou Cameron, Bob Powell, Howard Nostrand and more!


Eek The First #1

Eek The First #1
by Jason Yungbluth

The horrific Bill Cosby caricature on the inside front cover sets the right tone for what to expect with this collection of Yungbluth's excellently illustrated comics satires.


Inside the 2015 Milky Milky Milk Tour: Miley Cyrus and Dan Deacon

Inside the 2015 Milky Milky Milk Tour: Miley Cyrus and Dan Deacon
by Kevin Sherry

Okay, so the only way to get this comic in a physical copy is to pick the City Paper, Baltimore's free alt-weekly. But you can read the story of what happened when Dan Deacon went on tour with Miley Cyrus and the Flaming Lips for free, online, as told by merch guy and artist Kevin Sherry. Tell me that ending doesn't make you almost tear up ,and I'll call you a liar.


Haunted Horror Pre-Code Cover Coloring Book

Haunted Horror Pre-Code Cover Coloring Book
by various

This collection of Pre-Code horror comic covers in coloring book format is enough to convince any of the "I'm over adult coloring books" naysayers to reach for a marker.


Prez Volume 1: Corndog In Chief

Prez Volume 1: Corndog In Chief
by Mark Russell / Ben Caldwell

Corporations can run for president. The poor are used as human billboards. Tacos are delivered by drones. And Beth Ross is the first teen-aged President of the United States.


Spider-Man #1

Spider-Man #1
by Brian Michael Bendis / Sara Pichelli

It's finally official! Miles Morales is a member of the Marvel Universe. This is the first issue of the new ongoing Spider-Man series - and it's gonna go fast.


Questions, concerns, comments or gripes – e-mail benn@atomicbooks.com. If there’s a comic I should know about, send it my way at Atomic, c/o Atomic Books 3620 Falls Rd., Baltimore, MD 21211.


Atomic Books & Benn Ray links:

Atomic Books website
Atomic Books on Twitter
Atomic Books on Facebook
Benn Ray's blog (The Mobtown Shank)
Benn Ray's comic, Mutant Funnies


also at Largehearted Boy:

other Atomic Books Comics Preview lists (weekly new comics & graphic novel highlights)

Online "Best of 2015" Book Lists

Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Book Notes (authors create music playlists for their book)
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
WORD Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)


Posted by david | Permalink | Comments (View)

This Week's Interesting Music Releases - February 5, 2016

Elliott Smith

The soundtrack to the Elliott Smith documentary Heaven Adores You is in stores this week, and features several rarities from the singer-songwriter.

Dr. Dog's The Psychedelic Swamp, Freakwater's Scheherazade, Lucinda Williams' The Ghosts Of Highway 20, and The Prettiots' Funs Cool are all albums I can recommend.

Reissues include a vinyl edition of Grimes' Geidi Primes album.

What new releases can you recommend this week?


This week's interesting music releases:

Bonnie "Prince" Billy: Pond Scum [vinyl]
Breakbot: Still Waters
Burnt Palms: Back On My Wall
DIIV: Is The Is Are
Dr. Dog: The Psychedelic Swamp
Dressy Bessy: Kingsized
Drowning Pool: Hellelujah
Elliott Smith: Heaven Adores You (soundtrack)
Elton John: Wonderful Crazy Night
Field Music: Commontime
Fleshgod Apocalypse: King
Francis: Marathon
Freakwater: Scheherazade
The Giraffes: Usury [vinyl]
Grateful Dead: Dick's Picks Vol. 2 Columbus, Ohio 10/31/71
Grimes: Geidi Primes (reissue) [vinyl]
Hey Marseilles: Hey Marseilles
High Highs: Cascades
Infamous Stringdusters: Ladies and Gentlemen
Jagged Leaves: Nightmare Afternoon
John Cale: Music For A New Society / M:FANS
Johnny Cash: Koncert V. Praze
Junior Boys: Big Black Coat
King: We Are King
The London Suede: Night Thoughts
Lucinda Williams: The Ghosts Of Highway 20
Luther Dickinson: Blues & Ballads (A Folksingers Songbook) Volumes I and II
Majid Jordan: Majid Jordan
Mass Gothic: Mass Gothic
nonkeen: the gamble
Nothing But Thieves: Nothing But Thieves
Porches: Pool
Prettiots: Funs Cool
Rihanna: Anti
Sunflower Bean: Human Ceremony
Various Artists: Still in a Dream: Story of Shoegaze 1988-1995 (5-CD box set)
Various Artists: Swamp Pop By The Bayou - Troubles, Tears and Trains
Various Artists: Why The Mountains Are Black - Primeval Greek Village Music: 1907-1960
Wild Man Fischer: An Evening With Wild Man Fischer (reissue)
Wiz Khalifa: Khalifa


also at Largehearted Boy:

weekly music release lists

Essential and Interesting 2015 Year-End Music Lists

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


Posted by david | Permalink | Comments (View)

Shorties (The Tournament of Books Brackets, The Prettiots on Their New Album, and more)

The bracket for the 2016 Morning News Tournament of Books has been released.


The Prettiots broke down their album Funs Cool track-by-track with Paste.

The Guardian reviewed the album.


0s and 1s Reads interviewed author Sheila Heti.


Pitchfork reviewed the Still in a Dream: A Story of Shoegaze 1988-1995 box set.


Vol. 1 Brooklyn interviewed author Garth Greenwell.


Rolling Stone interviewed singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams.


Author Dato Turashvili listed the top works of Georgian literature.


Stream a new song by Sarah Neufeld.


Minneapolis City Pages profiled author Marlon James.


Rolling Stone listed things you didn't know about the Ramones' first album.


Electric Literature previewed 2016's book-to-television adaptations.


Stereogum reconsidered J Dilla's Donuts album on its 10th anniversary.


Refinery29 recommend February's best new books.


PopMatters interviewed Dave Stewart about his memoir Sweet Dreams Are Made of This.


Entertainment Weekly previewed 2016's most anticipated book-to-movie adaptations.


Read a conversation between John Cale and Brian Weitz and David Portner (aka Geologist and Avey Tare) of Animal Collective.


Maximilian Uriarte discussed his graphic novel about the Iraq war, Terminal Lance: White Donkey, with the Wall Street Journal.


Stream Amanda Palmer's David Bowie tribute EP.



also at Largehearted Boy:

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

Online "Best of 2015" Book Lists
Essential and Interesting 2015 Year-End Music Lists

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


Posted by david | Permalink | Comments (View)

February 4, 2016

Book Notes - B.J. Hollars "This Is Only a Test"

This Is Only a Test

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

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

B.J. Hollars' collection This Is Only a Test is filled with moving essays of disasters from a distinctly human perspective.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"The thread that binds these essays on death and mayhem is the author's love for his children and wife, which offers readers a respite from the inherent grief and devastation he poetically describes."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


In his own words, here is B.J. Hollars' Book Notes music playlist for his essay collection This Is Only a Test:


It's difficult to select a soundtrack for disasters, mostly because disasters are experiences we'd just as soon forget. Yet to some extent, my essay collection, This Is Only a Test, serves as proof that disasters can never be fully forgotten; they remain with us, rattling back into our lives at unexpected moments. My collection attempts to capture the aftershocks of disasters, to help readers understand that for victims, the trauma never ends—it merely changes forms.

After a tornado struck my town of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, I immediately took to my computer. I began with a single line—I am trying to write my way out of disaster—and soon found myself repeating that line again and again, cluttering pages with my mindless repetition.

Eventually, this line became the collection's refrain, though no matter how many times I tried to "write my way out" of tornadoes, drownings, bombings, and the perils of parenthood, the more I realized just how powerless my words really were. Indeed, I could control the letters on the page, but very little beyond that.

Simply put, writing these essays was a lesson in humility; a reminder that essays are only temporary shelters. At some point the words run out and we're forced to face the day.

"Goodbye, Tuscaloosa"—"Two Daughters and a Beautiful Wife" by Drive-By Truckers

In the book's opening essay, my wife and I are huddled in a bathtub, waiting for a tornado to pass. We'd just learned that we were pregnant, and as we crouched in that tub, dark thoughts began to emerge. What if we die here? we wondered. And if so, what about the unborn person who will die with us?

Drive-By Truckers' "Two Daughters and a Beautiful Wife" captures our contemplation by recounting the story of a man at the gates of Heaven. "Memories replay before him," Jason Isbell sings, "All the tiny moments of his life / Laying round in bed on a Saturday morning / Two daughters and a beautiful wife…"

Later, when I first heard this song, I thought of all the Saturday morning we might've lost had the tornado's trajectory moved a little to the left.

"A Test of the Emergency Alert System"—"Everything In Its Right Place" by Radiohead

After the tornado struck, all our students went home. I was an instructor at the University of Alabama then, and rather than keep tens of thousands of students on campus for final exams, we just told everyone to go home. Given that the tornado struck late in the term, I'd already created my multiple-choice final exam; the problem, though, was that I no longer had any students to give it to. And so, I re-appropriated the multiple-choice format for this essay, thereby forcing myself to take the test. (I only pass it on occasion.)

The high synths of Radiohead's "Everything In its Right Place" immediately reminds me of the piercing squalls of the Emergency Alert System warnings we've all heard broadcast from our TVs and radios. Even today—five years removed from that tornado—every time I hear that squall (or this song) I can't help but think of Tuscaloosa.

"Epistle to an Embryo"—"The Wind" by Cat Stevens

A few weeks following the tornado, a grocery clerk in Tuscaloosa wished my wife a happy mother's day. "Are you a mother?" the clerk inquired. She wasn't—not yet—though the baby was growing inside of her. We hadn't told anyone, and yet this store clerk—so perceptive, or so bold—seemed to know our secret.

I witnessed their encounter from the opposite end of the cereal aisle, and since I was in earshot, I heard my wife's reply: "No," she said, "I'm not a mother. But maybe one day."

As we pushed our cart into the parking lot 15 minutes later, Cat Steven's "The Wind" infiltrated my ears. Steven's simple plucks of the guitar, coupled with his edging-toward-optimistic lyrics—"I listen to the wind, to the wind of my soul…"—helped us begin to see our lives through a future lens rather than the destruction of the recent past.

"The Longest Wait"— "Steady" by The Staves

A month after the tornado struck we left Tuscaloosa for good. We moved to Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where a job awaited me. Months passed, my wife's body expanded, and our son's due date came and went. My wife's frustration grew along with the extended time line, and with each passing day, she concocted new way to will herself into labor. Those final days were interminable, and since I had no physical trials ahead, I tried to remain calm for us both.

"Steady, steady, steady…" The Staves remind, the trio of female voices serving as a near-perfect soundtrack for that moment.

"Dispatches from the Drownings"—"American Beauty" by Thomas Newman

When confronting a fear, I empower myself by learning all I can of it. It's as if I think that if I read enough about it, I might diminish its power. This diluted thinking is what led me to this essay—a fragmented listing of drowning facts told in 45 brief sections. The sections eventually circle back, but in the time between, readers are left wondering how the pieces fit together. It can make for a complex reading experience, and admittedly, one that likely prompts half of my readers to hurl the book across the room.

But if one sticks with it, I like to think the essay's logic begins to emerge; at first I try to showcase the beauty of complexity, though by essay's end, I aim for the beauty of simplicity, too.

I know of no song that better captures the raw, emotional power of simplicity better than Thomas Newman's hauntingly composed "American Beauty."

"Buckethead" & "The Changing"—"Linger" by every person who's ever been to summer camp

In these linked essays—both of which describe encounters experienced at summer camp—it's only fitting that they share a song. "Linger" has no single artist, but instead, is a song that's been sung around campfires for decades (and probably much longer than that). Like any good campfire tale, I'm uncertain of the song's origin, but as someone who has sang it around hundreds of campfires (first as a camper, later as a counselor), I know all too well of the song's remarkable power.

As any former camper knows, the beauty of summer camp resides in its evanescent nature. You get there, you make friends, and then, within a week or so, you go home kicking and screaming. There's no better way to say goodbye to the experience than to acknowledge what's being lost. On the last night of summer camp, tradition dictates that campers sit around the campfire, sling arms around their friends, and sing: "Oooo, I want to linger / Oooo, a little longer / Oooo, a little longer here with you…"

These essays attempt to capture that magic, to offer a few more stanzas to that song.

"The Year of the Great Forgetting"— "Fourth of July" by Sufjan Stevens

A friend once referred to the first year of parenthood as "the year of the great forgetting." He told me that I'd love every second of it, but that I wouldn't remember a thing. Indeed, sleep deprivation would leave a hazy cloud over my son's first year of life, but I was surprised to find that this haziness continued into his second year, too; that is, until a never-ending low-grade fever suddenly put me on high alert.

It's only natural to feel helpless in the face of natural disasters, but there's nothing natural about feeling helpless about disasters that effect the people you love. Let me try again. What I mean to say is: of course you feel helpless when your son has a continual low-grade fever you just can't shake, yet despite all you can't do, there's always a lingering feeling that there must be something you can do. You beg the universe for answers. You plead for a chance to do something.

Last summer I heard Sufjan Stevens' sing "Fourth of July" at an outdoor concert a few miles from my home. There, on a warm July night, the speakers trembled as Stevens' repeated his own line again and again: "We're all gonna die." It was a dark message, sure, but there was also some light in it. We all are going to die, after all, but our helplessness—at least related to mortality—can sometimes be our comfort.

"Punchline"—"Tracks of My Tears" by Smokey Robinson and The Miracles

Sleep deprivation can effect a person in a number of ways, including one's sense of humor. When I wrote "Punchline", I tried desperately to explain a joke that only really makes sense if you're a sleep-deprived couple with a young child. Trying to expand the joke to a wider audience was all but impossible, but I think—I hope!—that by sharing a joke that could never successfully be shared, I highlighted something about the nature of our relationship.

"Tracks of My Tears" gets at that same idea of the intimacy of laughter. "Although I might be laughing loud and hearty," Smokey Robinson wails. "Deep inside I'm blue…"

"Bedtime Story— "Crown the Pines" by S. Carey

In the closing essay, I'm faced with another "crisis" of parenthood: an ultrasound that only ever shows half the picture. My wife endured one ultrasound after another, but each time, the tech could only see a portion of our daughter. What part can't we see? we wondered. What part of our daughter is missing?

Throughout the coldest nights of winter, I'd walk home after my evening classes with S. Carey blaring in my ears. S. Carey and I share a town, and I took comfort in knowing that he was singing of a landscape we both knew well. As I trekked up the snow-capped hill, crossed the empty street, and wandered back to the house with the light on, the lyrics to "Crown the Pines" always resonated: "I am in love with this place / But I fear for its grace…"

Directly following the final ultrasound (which revealed our daughter in good health), my wife and I drove to the local record store to pick up an autographed copy of S. Carey's "Range on Light". Every time I spin it now, I think of one word: gratitude.


B.J. Hollars and This Is Only a Test links:

the author's website
the author's Wikipedia entry

Kirkus review
Library Journal review


Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Sightings


also at Largehearted Boy:

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

Online "Best of 2015" Book Lists

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


Posted by david | Permalink | Comments (View)

Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week - February 4, 2016

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

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


Walt & Skeezix: 1931-1932

Walt & Skeezix: 1931-1932
by Frank O. King

This seventh volume of the classic comic masterpiece Walt and Skeezix continues Frank King’s chronological, real-time storytelling. We find Skeezix entering the 1930s on the cusp of adolescence in the middle of the depression. Featuring an introduction by Jeet Heer, boasting Chris Ware's impeccable design work, and including a lot of never before published Walt & Skeezix ephemera, this book is a generous treat for readers.


Influential Women In Early Electronic Music

Influential Women In Early Electronic Music
by Night Pong (Minh Nguyen and Aashish Gadani)

Offering a graphic cultural history of early electronic music, Seattle-based collective Night Pong aims to spotlight the killer work of those who have been all too easily relegated. Admittedly too short to provide a complete history, this zine slices a perfect visual and written introduction to a huge wide world. Appropriately, the zine is also an audio introduction as it includes a CD with referenced music.


The Collected Novellas of Stefan Zweig

The Collected Novellas of Stefan Zweig
by AUTHOR

A gift for those who already love the writing of Stephan Zweig and a treasure for those who are about to fall in love. This collection by Pushkin Press compiles five tense tales by the Austrian author - about desire, misunderstood motives, and living amidst war.


The Queen of the Night

The Queen of the Night
by Alexander Chee

What Vogue calls an “epic novel for the fashion obsessed,” this second-novel by Alexander Chee is a sweeping historical narrative set in mid-to-late 19th century Europe. Celebrated soprano opera singer Lilliet Berne has been offered to play a starring role in a grand production - what she only later discovers is a staging based on her own hidden past. Immerse yourself in a whirlwind Belle Epoque mystery.


My Father, The Pornographer: A Memoir

My Father, The Pornographer: A Memoir
by Chris Offutt

Chris Offutt’s father Andrew Offutt was the king of twentieth century smut. He wrote more than 400 novels of erotic fiction ranging from zombie porn to spy porn. How to reckon with a parent’s shielded self and hidden career? This is a memoir about the heavy psychic burdens one parent passes on to his offspring.


Librairie Drawn & Quarterly links:

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


also at Largehearted Boy:

other Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week

Online "Best Books of 2015" Year-end Lists

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)


Posted by david | Permalink | Comments (View)

Shorties (A Literary Guide to Football, Grimes' Claire Boucher on Albums That Changed Her Life, and more)

Signature shared a 5-book literary guide to football.


Grimes' Claire Boucher discussed the albums that changed her life at Tidal.


eBook on sale today: Kurt Vonnegut's novel Cat's Cradle.


NPR Music is streaming Nokia Traore's new album Ne So.


Alexander Chee on writing (and reading) historical fiction at the New Republic.


Stream Tift Merritt's Mountain Stage live performance.


Five things Ann Beattie is "reading, watching and thinking about right now."


Jenny Lewis talked to Rolling Stone about the 10th anniversary of her album Rabbit Fur Coat.


Literary Hub interviewed Jarrett Kobek about his book I Hate the Internet.


Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn discussed his solo work with Baeble Music.


Author Amber Sparks interviewed herself at The Nervous Breakdown.

Read an excerpt from her new short fiction collection The Unfinished World.


Basia Bulat played acoustic sets at World Cafe and Paste.


The Week previewed 2016's most anticipated books.


NPR Music is streaming The Suffers' self-titled debut album.


Paste recommended epistolary novels.


The Guardian examined how cities shape music scenes.


BuzzFeed recommended November's best books.


The Guardian paired books to music (to listen to while reading).


The Oxford American interviewed author Chris Offutt.



also at Largehearted Boy:

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

Online "Best of 2015" Book Lists
Essential and Interesting 2015 Year-End Music Lists

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


Posted by david | Permalink | Comments (View)

February 3, 2016

Book Notes - Paula Bohince "Swallows and Waves"

Swallows and Waves

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

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Paula Bohince's Swallows and Waves is a collection of 60 poems inspired by Japanese Edo-era woodcuts and scroll paintings.

Library Journal wrote of the book:

"This collection of evocative poems brings to life a world long gone but resonant with our own. Each finely wrought poem reveals hidden depths upon rereading."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


In her own words, here is Paula Bohince's Book Notes music playlist for her poetry collection Swallows and Waves:


Swallows and Waves is comprised of sixty poems, each inspired by a different artwork from Japan's Edo period (1603-1868). The poems depict scenes from nature (birds, animals, flowers) and also human relationships (between friends, lovers, parents and children). Part of the enjoyment in writing the poems came from trying to render these scenes, while allowing room for interpretations and metaphysical questions.

In the poems, everything in nature has a consciousness, a will, conflicts, and desires. It was wonderful to imagine, for instance, a crane as an empress, with dominion over a snowy landscape, or the moon and grass providing parental love to a pair of rabbits, or the thoughts of a young samurai on his horse, ready to depart for war.

When I write poems, I often listen to one song on repeat for hours, to create a mood and white noise. The song, then, can't be too dynamic or it will break the reverie. With this playlist, I paired songs with specific poems in the book, to shade and compliment the reading. The titles of the poems are the same as their inspirational artworks.

"Every Time We Say Goodbye" by Chet Baker: accompanies "Lover Taking Leave of a Courtesan"
How poignant and true are the lyrics "how strange the change from major to minor" to capture that transition of being with to being without? It's poetry. The Baker version is wordless, only a soft, sad trumpet with piano. This parallels the actions of the lovers in the poem, wordlessly rising at dawn, preparing to separate. He dresses slowly, to show reluctance. She grasps his clothing lightly, to indicate her pleasure and loyalty. Even though, from the title, one might think the relationship is merely transactional, both the artist and I hold onto the idea of more. "When you're near, there's such an air of Spring about it. I can hear the lark somewhere begin to sing about it." I love these lyrics, particularly imagining a goodbye in the morning.

"So Lonesome I Could Cry" by Hank Williams: accompanies "Hibiscus and Korean Nightingale"
The song begins "Hear that lonesome whip-poor-will. He sounds too blue to fly." The pun with blue is so simple and pure in the context of imagining a bird. My poem envisions a long night in which the nightingale has sung for a mate, unsuccessfully, and now is exhausted and alone with himself at dawn. The song also asks, "Did you ever see a robin weep…" I love that there are two bereft birds to accompany the one in the poem. What we often think of the romance of the night (stars, blackness, privacy, sex) is undercut with the glare of day and its loneliness.

"I've Been Loving You Too Long" by Otis Redding: accompanies "Peacock"
Oh, the world-weary, genius, pleading voice of Otis Redding. The tension of this song, to convince a cooled lover not to leave, to try to revive that love, to express such vulnerability with the line "With you, my life has been so wonderful, I don't want to stop now." As the horns come in and climb, the urgency in the voice matches the intensity. In my poem, the peacock is perched on a rock, tail down behind him like a king's robe, gazing in the direction of what I imagine is the absent peahen, who has either left or died. His grief is royal, just like his cascade of feathers without cause to flourish anymore.

"Where Is My Love" by Cat Power: accompanies "The Love Letter"
I love Marshall's raspy, haunted voice and the languidness of the lyrics "Horses galloping, bring him to me." It's the kind of dreamlike utterance one would feel in reading a letter, half in the room, half in a fantasy. How moving the repetition of "Where is my love" with the emphasis on different words as the question is repeated, as if to produce a different result. In my poem, a mother and daughter are leaning against each other, holding a love letter (for whom it's not clear), sharing a faraway look of poignant longing. I liked imagining the sensual confusion of having the lover's words, the ink, but not his body. And in Edo-period Japan, the lover would indeed return by a galloping horse.

"Sailing" by Rod Stewart: accompanies "Descending Geese at Katada"
Imagining sailors or fisherman coming into harbor at the end of day has always been so affecting to me. Stewart's almost salt-roughed voice seems exhausted and ready for home. How beautiful the simple lyrics "Like a bird, across the sky. Passing high clouds…" My poem begins with geese flying as from a sunset, over mountain-shaded sea, and then turns its gaze to the fisherman coming through the shallow reeds to their homes. One of the most breathtaking moments in the song is that long pause after dying in "I am dying, forever crying, to be with you," imbued with yearning and grief. The choir that comes in feels like all of the boats in my poem, the men with their own separate loves and griefs, coming together.

"Sacrifice" by Sinead O'Connor: accompanies "Woman Tearing a Love Letter"
This version is one of my favorite songs of all time, for O'Connor's clear and powerful yet vulnerable voice, the protestation of the lyrics, the whispered "I gave my heart" at the end. And the artwork on which this poem is based is one of my favorites from this era. In it, a woman is standing outside of her house, with bits of the letter already fallen at her feet, and it seems to me such a determined, almost self-punishing act, with the letter (its recollections and promises) destroyed, so there can be no more fantasies. I imagine, in the poem, even the outside world of neglected flowers suddenly appears to this woman anew.

"Walking to You" by Everything But the Girl: accompanies "Lovers in the Snow"
I love that this song has both a male and female voice, going over their shared past, singing alone and in duet, and how the moments described don't take place in bed but rather walking around together. The intimacy of these day-lit moments, and how the song is filled with unanswered questions, feels true. The softness and repetition of the song felt somehow "snowy" to me. In my poem, a couple in close up (him in black, her in white) is simply walking in the snow, and it felt completely erotic: their closeness against the white, bed-like snow, the canopy of snow-heavy pines. I write that they couldn't be closer, even if the underfoot snow was a mattress, a sentiment which seems reinforced by this song.

"Sign Your Name" by Terence Trent D'Arby: accompanies "Peach Blossom Spring"
The groove of this song feels like quickening heartbeats, and I love the lyrics "We started out as friends, but the thought of you just caves me in." The poem depicts Spring bringing everything to life, and I couldn't help but imagine a long Winter preceding it, the snow-bound friends huddled inside, men and women, talking and talking endlessly, until there are no more words, and then stepping, finally, like blossoms, out of their snowy clothes, being seen with new eyes. One season tips into another, and friendship ignites into passion.

"Feeling Good" by Nina Simone: accompanies "Bullfinch on a Branch of Weeping Cherry"
"Birds flying high you know how I feel. Sun in the sky you know how I feel…It's a new dawn, it's a new day…" What an absolutely triumphant song. My poem takes place at dawn, with a bullfinch on a branch, and I imagined that bird as a young man, returned from the comfort of a courtesan, having made love all night, feeling confident, satisfied, changed, looking out at the blue dawn, with no need for song. I adore this version for Simone's astonishing, joyful runs at the end that seem to mimic birdsong. The lyrics look at nature (a dragonfly, the scent of the pines) to then say to it "You know how I feel." This song, more than any other, comes closest to encapsulating all that I tried to do with the poems in Swallows and Waves.


Paula Bohince and Swallows and Waves links:

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

Publishers Weekly review

Bucknell University interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

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

Online "Best of 2015" Book Lists

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


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Shorties (The Popularity of Frank O'Hara's Poetry in the Modern World, New Jennifer O'Connor Music, and more)

Dazed Digital examined the popularity of Frank O'Hara's poetry in the modern world.


Stream a new Jennifer O'Connor song.


Alexander Chee talked to Vol. 1 Brooklyn and The Rumpus about his new novel The Queen of the Night.


Laibach's Ivan Novak discussed 13 albums that inspired the band's music at The Quietus.


Men's Journal interviewed Matt Gallagher about his debut novel Youngblood.


Rolling Stone interviewed John Cale about his new album M:FANS.


Vanity Fair examined the literary legend of Joan Didion.


The Guardian listed 10 of Belle and Sebastian's best songs.


Signature interviewed Juan F. Thompson about his book Stories I Tell Myself: Growing Up with Hunter S. Thompson.


Jenny Lewis talked to Noisey and amNewYork about the 10th anniversary of her solo debut album Rabbit Fur Coat.


The Literary Hub podcast continued its interview with Cheryl Strayed.


Newsweek examined how Bernie Sanders has effectively used music in his U.S. presidential campaign.


Signature shared a literary primer on the modern Middle East.


Paste profiled the band St. Lucia.


Han Kang discussed her new novel the Vegetarian with the New York Times.


The Smart Set reconsidered Malcolm McLaren's opera album Fans.


Salon interviewed Alexander Chee, John Wray, Ed Tarkington, Sara Majka, and Belinda McKeon about their new books.


The Guardian remembered the Ramones 40 years after the band recorded its debut album.


The New York Observer interviewed Lev Grossman about the television series adapted from his Magicians trilogy.


Flavorwire previewed February's music releases.


Yann Martel talked to All Things Considered about his new novel The High Mountains of Portugal.



also at Largehearted Boy:

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

Online "Best of 2015" Book Lists
Essential and Interesting 2015 Year-End Music Lists

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


Posted by david | Permalink | Comments (View)

February 2, 2016

Book Notes - Paul Lisicky "The Narrow Door"

The Narrow Door

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

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Paul Lisicky's The Narrow Door is a beautifully told, honest, and poignant memoir of friendship, love, and loss.

The Los Angeles Times wrote of the book:

"The story of any great friendship is a bit like the story of being in love, just as the story of a long life might eventually lead to its end. It's Lisicky's radical honesty about all this—life and death, friendship and lost love, ambition and failure—that makes this book so special and at times so unsettling."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


In his own words, here is Paul Lisicky's Book Notes music playlist for his memoir The Narrow Door:


1. "Don Juan's Reckless Daughter," Joni Mitchell
I heard my first Joni Mitchell song when I was ten. Those songs—their weird chords against those unexpected, sometimes diffuse melodies—sounded like nothing else I'd ever heard. By the time I reached my twenties, it was the sound of my inner life, though I never would have used such a term back then. I didn't know anyone else who loved—or even listened to those songs. They were the songs of the generation ahead of me, and when I first met my friend Denise, I was actually shocked to meet another human who loved that music as much as I did.

I could have picked any song from the great albums of the middle to late seventies: The Hissing of Summer Lawns, Hejira, Don Juan's Reckless Daughter, Mingus. I settled on the title song of the third of the four, largely because the speaker's dilemma was very much Denise's dilemma: art and sex vs. the home life. Which do you choose?

These days I can't listen to this song without thinking about Jaco Pastorius, the bassist. Those slides in the deep notes? He finished the recording so bloodied, his left hand had to be bandaged.

2. "Golden Lady," Stevie Wonder
Who else writes songs with such charisma, vitality, sexiness? The opening of this song is an homage to Joni's piano playing on "For the Roses," but once we get beyond those few bars, the song is effervescent Stevie. Denise was a great fan of Stevie Wonder's music, and I'm remembering one late winter night, after a falling out, when we sat cross-legged on her living room rug, listening to his songs: Denise singing, eyes closed, head moving with the music. Her big grin.

I love the way this song climbs and climbs as if it's going up stairs.

3. "History of Touches," Bjork
One of the things that's always confounded me about writing is that it's primarily a single melodic line, whereas a musician has access to harmonic structures. The Narrow Door is my attempt to make harmonic structures in writing, through suggestions of simultaneity: one point in time filtering through another through the use of patterns in phrasing, image, content. I know that that sounds a little grand. This was all an act of intuition.

"The History of Touches" is a great song of simultaneity, and I love the curtain of chords behind this song, which sound like they've been lifted right out of a dream. The sonic version of an aurora borealis. And who could not love a song with lyrics like this? "Every single fuck we had together / is in our wondrous time lapse / with us here at this moment." Sung the last night a couple makes love.

4. "A Case of You," Joni Mitchell
The Narrow Door is in many ways a book of lists, and so I'm surprised that I didn't put the playlist (or CD) I gave to M into the book. Maybe it felt too personal for display at the time. It felt like life and death to me. I don't know where that list went; I suspect it was on the laptop of mine stolen from our Chelsea apartment, on the night when the two of us slept, unawares that someone was actually prowling through our living room before he slipped out the kitchen window, down the fire escape. I gave this CD to M when it was clear we were in crisis. Language wasn't big enough for what I wanted to say, which was that I loved him deeper than pure water. I remember this song was on it. He was a Joni fan too. I remember him telling me it broke his heart.

5. "The Sound of Failure," The Flaming Lips
Another playlist does make it into the book: it's from a CD I gave to Denise several months into her final illness. She loved getting new music when she had to spend so much time in doctor's offices or waiting rooms, a line of chemical tapped into her arm. The songs on this CD are anchored into a particular era, an era that's not so long ago in calendar time, but already feels like the past in pop music time. I don't even listen to these bands any more, a vaguely troubling admission, as I think many of them were up to something timeless. Here's one from that list. Denise thought a lot about failure; she was obsessed with the idea of failure as an artist, as is the speaker in this song, with its references to "Britney" and "Gwen."

6. "Death with Dignity," Sufjan Stevens
My taste in pop music usually runs to pieces written in opening tunings or with crazy time signatures, but the simplicity of this song always gets under my skin every time I hear it—actually, I could say it about any of the songs on Carrie & Lowell. Sufjan Stevens sounds like he's singing into his limits and beyond. He's singing the song of anyone who's every lost anyone, even though he isn't: he is singing about his mother. That is the trick of art.

7. "Kingfisher," Joanna Newsom
Denise tended to be attached to songs that had some roots in R&B and soul, and I don't know what she would have done with Joanna Newsom. She might have thought her as too twee. I love not only the instrumental arrangement here but the structure of the song itself, which keeps refreshing itself through unexpected changes in key and tempo. It's brilliance all the way, animated at every turn, no dead parts of the forest.

Speaking of appropriate lyrics:

Stand here and name the one you loved
Beneath the drifting ashes
And in naming, rise above time
As it, flashing, passes

8. "Dollar Days," David Bowie
I don't know when David Bowie wrote this song, but I imagine it, along with every other song on Blackstar, as being performed by someone who knew his time on earth was finite. Denise was working on a new book about illness during her last months, and I often wonder whatever happened to it. By that point we'd stopped showing each other our early drafts, but I'd like to think of the fragments of that book as light-filled, shining darkly on some hard drive in a storage unit.

Is there a more beautiful line?

"If I never see the English evergreens I'm running to /
it's nothing to me, it's nothing to me"

9. "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," Diana Ross and The Supremes.
I write about the original Marvin Gaye-Tammi Terrell version of this song is in The Narrow Door, just before one of its darkest moments in the book. For this playlist, I decided to go with the version that might take itself more seriously. It isn't afraid of grandeur, or shy about a little kitsch.

The Iowa Writers' Workshop plays a part in my book. One night I remember and sitting on the floor next to my classmate Charles D'Ambrosio at a party. The song came on the stereo. No one in our group noticed that the chemistry had changed in the room—what had come on before that, The Cranberries? The song was building, growing. Then strings came on, symphonic. And I remember saying something along the lines of, God, I fucking love this thing. I was probably twisting around a little. Possibly I might have been mouthing the words. While I was caught up in my little world, I felt a wave of fondness from Charlie, for the song, for me—it didn't involve speech. It was only a smile, sweet. But it meant a lot at a stressed-out, self-conscious time. It was hard to be one of the few gay people in the Workshop, but that's another story.

10. "American Dove (Live)," Laura Nyro
I never understood why Denise had never listened to Laura Nyro's music. They seemed to me twins of spirit, in their respect for high drama, highs and lows, intense expression. They were both Italian—well, Laura was half-Italian. Plus, if I loved Laura Nyro, shouldn't Denise have loved her equally?

One night I decided she'd lived been a non-fan long enough, and I was going to introduce the music to her in the proper way. I turned the lights low. We were going to sit there and listen—and not simply have it playing in the background. I put on "Upstairs by a Chinese Lamp." I watched her face for a shimmer of reaction. After the song finished, I felt her trying to like it, trying to please me. She'd said it was wonderful, but I knew she didn't think it was wonderful. I put on "Gibsom Street" then I put on "Lu." She wasn't making the usual Denise sounds of delight. When she truly loved something she loved it with her whole body; she'd squeeze her fists. It was hard not to take her politeness personally. Somehow I doubt she ever listened to the CD I gave her again; perhaps it ended up in a drawer; but maybe this song, this live performance, would have drawn her in?

Another song that climbs and climbs and climbs.

11. "So Long," Rickie Lee Jones
Simultaneously a lullaby and a sendoff: one of the most beautiful songs ever. Every time I conjure it up, my eyes fill. It seems remarkable to me that the speaker is neither angry nor hurt that the Loved One is leaving. Her love is too pure for that, too ancient, too grave, too sweet. And she isn't grandstanding about that love either. You'll find the sun and laughter, so long.


Paul Lisicky and The Narrow Door links:

the author's website
the author's Wikipedia entry

Boston Globe review
Chicago Tribune review
Kirkus review
Los Angeles Times review
Minneapolis Star Tribune review
New York Times review
Publishers Weekly review
San Francisco Chronicle review
Slate review

Chicago Pride interview with the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for The Burning House
Michigan Daily interview with the author
Philly Magazine interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

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

Online "Best of 2015" Book Lists

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


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Book Notes - Richard Fifield "The Flood Girls"

The Flood Girls

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

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Richard Fifield's debut novel The Flood Girls is a remarkably poignant and funny observance of small town life.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"Fifield's debut is an exaggerated, no-holds-barred portrait of a small town that doesn't easily forget or forgive, and it turns alternately laugh-out-loud funny and sadly all-too-true."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


In his own words, here is Richard Fifield's Book Notes music playlist for his debut novel The Flood Girls:


Every single thing that I write is informed by music. I cannot write in silence—I'm not that kind of novelist. Universe building is my favorite part of the process; I'm allowed to be indulgent (and super gay) as I curate the fashion, pop culture influences, and most importantly, the music for each character. (Yes, I was Pinteresting before Pinterest was a thing.) Creating playlists for Jake, Rachel and Laverna gave depth to the writing of The Flood Girls, and assisted in building a distinct point of view for each of my main characters.

The novel takes place in 1991, and hangs on a bar in Montana called The Dirty Shame—the jukebox is mentioned throughout, and I stocked it with a playlist for Laverna, the proprietor. She is a very difficult woman, and I imagined her imperiously micromanaging the contents of the Wurlitzer Zodiac. Laverna is a character that has been burned one too many times, and her jukebox reflects this: Dottie West—"A Lesson In Leavin'"/Tina Turner—"Better Be Good To Me"/Glen Campbell—"Gentle On My Mind"/Waylon Jennings—"Storms Never Last"/Tammy Wynette-"'Til I Get It Right"/Don Williams—"Some Broken Hearts Never Mend"/The Judds—"Why Not Me"/Juice Newton—"Love's Been A Little Bit Hard On Me"/Dolly Parton—"Here You Come Again"/Merle Haggard—"Mama Tried"/Townes Van Zandt—"Loretta"/Charly McClain—"Paradise Tonight"/Sylvia—"Nobody." Two entire albums made the cut: Ray Charles' Modern Sounds In Country & Western Music and Lyle Lovett's Pontiac were in constant rotation.

Jake is twelve years old, and a misfit. His boombox is the classic Emerson Ghettoblaster Double Cassette—it was a delicious task to google the stereos of my youth! While writing Jake, I clung to the albums that informed my own adolescence. It has been suggested that Jake is my autobiographical character, but trust me, I was never that fabulous. Jake is in a tumultuous relationship with the Columbia House Record Club, and here are the twelve cassettes he got for a dollar: Madonna—Like A Prayer/Depeche Mode—Violator/Concrete Blonde—Bloodletting/World Party—Goodbye Jumbo/The Smiths—Louder Than Bombs/Pretty In Pink—Original Motion Picture Soundtrack/Janet Jackson—Rhythm Nation 1814/George Michael—Faith/The Cure—Disintegration/The Sundays—Reading, Writing And Arithmetic/Sinead O'Connor—I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got/INXS—Kick. All of these albums were “outsider” music for a small town in Montana, circa 1991. I can tell you from personal experience that the soundtrack at the time was hair metal and Garth Brooks.

Rachel was the hardest character to write. Musically, I imagined her listening to cassettes in her beloved red truck, the stereo a stolen Pioneer, installed by an ex-boyfriend. The sound quality is tinny, the equalizer turned low because the speakers have blown. Because Rachel's journey is so insular, I had to seek inspiration from an artist that was not recording in 1991. Patty Griffin's music is timeless, her songwriting a perfect distillation of devastating longing and reckless faith. Rachel is always, always searching. During one hot summer, I locked down the character of Rachel by listening to these Griffin albums on repeat: American Kid, Living With Ghosts, Flaming Red, Children Running Through, Impossible Dream, 1000 Kisses. Some songs were especially helpful in going deep: "Mad Mission," "When It Don't Come Easy", "Chief," "Go Wherever You Wanna Go," "Long Ride Home," "One Big Love," "No Bad News," "Tony," "Sweet Lorraine," "Rain," and "You Never Get What You Want."

I thank David for the chance to play DJ for a few minutes. If you ever invite me to a cocktail party, I will be the bad gay in the corner who hijacks your stereo, demanding that everybody be quiet to listen to a particular song. Yep, I'm that guy. Thank you!


Richard Fifield and The Flood Girls links:

the author's website

Globe and Mail review
Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review


also at Largehearted Boy:

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

Online "Best of 2015" Book Lists

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


Posted by david | Permalink | Comments (View)

Shorties (The Introduction to the 20th Anniversary Edition of Infinite Jest, Presidential Candidates' Musical Favorites, and more)

Read Tom Bissell's introduction to the 20th anniversary edition of David Foster Wallace's novel Infinite Jest.


Rolling Stone broke down U.S. presidential candidates' musical favorites.


Alexander Chee talked to The Millions about his new novel The Queen of the Night.


Guernica interviewed artist, journalist, and author Molly Crabapple.


Pitchfork interviewed Jhenny Beth of Savages.


Stephen Elliott's film adaptation of his novel Happy Baby is now available for streaming.


Stream a new Animal Collective song.


The New Yorker features a new George Saunders short story.


The Guardian is streaming the new Field Music album Commontime.


Literary Hub recommended new books by African writers.


A new music video from PJ Harvey.


The Rumpus interviewed Danielle Dutton about her new novel Margaret the First.


amNewYork interviewed Craig Finn of the Hold Steady.


Read an excerpt from Rachel Cantor's novel Good on Paper at The Nervous Breakdown.

Cantor also interviewed herself at the site.


LA Music Blog shared a playlist of songs about Los Angeles.


The PEN American Center has announced the finalists for its 2016 PEN Literary Awards.


SPIN profiled the band Twin Peaks.


Help fund a documentary about author Ursula K. L Guin.


Flavorwire interviewed actress and singer Jane Birkin.


The producer of the five-hour theatrical adaptation of Roberto Bolano's novel 2666 discussed the challenges of the project at the Guardian.


The Memphis Flyer interviewed singer-songwriter David Bazan.


Flavorwire shared an excerpt from Leanne Shapton's graphic novel Was She Pretty?.


Some bands are creating their own adult coloring books.


Publishers Weekly listed spring 2016's most anticipated books.


NPR Music is streaming a recent Palehound concert.


Signature, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Bustle and Flavorwire previewed February's must-read books.


Paste recapped January's best new music.


The Smart Set examined the legacy of author Gore Vidal.



also at Largehearted Boy:

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

Online "Best of 2015" Book Lists
Essential and Interesting 2015 Year-End Music Lists

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


Posted by david | Permalink | Comments (View)

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