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March 18, 2019

HM Naqvi's Playlist for His Novel "The Selected Works of Abdullah the Cossack"

The Selected Works of Abdullah the Cossack

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.

HM Naqvi's novel The Selected Works of Abdullah the Cossack is inventive, fun, and wholly evocative of its setting, Karachi.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"A love story, a caper, a family dust-up, a farce—prizewinning Pakistani writer Naqvi’s second novel offers all these things, yet they matter less than its lovingly evoked milieu, the uniquely vibrant neighborhoods and characters, culture, history, architecture, and aromas of the city. Infused with the spirit of Tristram Shandy, a sophisticated shaggy dog story for those happy to take the slow road and its many detours."


In his own words, here is HM Naqvi's Book Notes music playlist for his novel The Selected Works of Abdullah the Cossack:



Abdullah the Cossack, my three-hundred-something-pound septuagenarian hero, is the scion of a family that owned and operated the best jazz joint this side of the Suez once upon a time. The Shadow Lounge was frequented by those who “knew their Bird from Beiderbecke.” Jazz was big in Karachi in the old days – the likes of Dizzy Gillespie famously sold out concerts downtown. Consequently, Abdullah digs jazz. And since he came of age in the late Sixties, he’s also into late rock-and-roll. In more recent times, he developed an appreciation for qawwali or “Muslim soul” – a genre popular across the northern swath of the Subcontinent. Since there is some Abdullah in me and some me in Abdullah, however, I will also include some tracks that I played in the background while transcribing his voice on the page late into the night. He’s not the boss of me.

1) Tito Puente’s Take Five

Early on, Abdullah attempts to distill the experience of taking in “Take Five” in the context of Karachi, a city by the sea: “‘Take Five’ is like you are flying, arms extended, inhaling the beach…on a cool December evening, duddud-duddud-da-da-da, duddud-duddud-da-da-da. You see floodlights lighting up loping camels, and miniature families huddled around miniature stalls preparing corn on charcoal. If you are lucky, you see a woman dancing in the surf, her wispy aquamarine dupatta fluttering in the breeze.” There’s a version for everybody, everywhere: Dave Brubeck’s original, Chet Atkins mellow rendition, Herbie Hanock’s muscular one, not to mention Al Jarreau’s delightfully wacky spoken-work composition. I for one am partial to Tito Puente’s.

2) Theolonious Monk’s “In Walked Bud”

I must include Thelonious Monk’s “In Walked Bud” from the album Underground – it’s so much goddamn fun. Who the hell is Bud? And what happens next? (For the record, I could add Dexter Gordan’s “Tanya” or Lee Morgan’s “The Gigolo” – jaunty numbers quicken the pulse and animate the spirit, but both Abdullah and I have other interests than jazz…).

3) Lee Moses’ “Bad Girl”

My “gloriously unaccomplished” hero considers launching himself off his balcony upon realizing he has turned seventy and led a “fallow life,” but is saved by the gaze of a mysterious lady ambling down the street outside his dilapidated mansion. Lee Moses’ “Bad Girl” comes to mind (though I suspect the Cossack might have picked Cliff Richard’s arguably apt “Devil Woman” instead). Such a resonant voice, such a moving track.

4) The Zombies’ Time of the Season

Old Cossack cannot remember the last time he’d attracted the attention of the fairer sex. He is stirred by the cursory consideration, and what better number of the time evokes the sensation than “Time of the Season,” – “a veritable classic,” he’d aver.

5) Frankie Valli’s “The Night”

Like me, Abdullah reads and writes at night. “I have lived,” he declaims, “oft thrived at night…Carpe Diem? No, Carpe Noctis!” Frankie Valli’s “The Night” is perhaps the most appropriate number for the purpose of this exercise (but, for the record, I will note that his epic disco era “Soul and Heaven” is also a personal favorite.)

6) Future Islands’ “Sun in the Morning”

There are days when one has difficulty dragging one’s self out of bed in the morning. Abdullah has known to spend days in bed, marinating in misery. This lovely number can do the trick for me.

7) Leonard Cohen’s “First We Take Manhattan”

Since I came to Cohen relatively late – late Eighties, early Nineties – I usually prefer relatively later Cohen (but not very late Cohen), in particular, “I’m Your Man” and the “Future.” “First We Take Manhattan” is a fast, tense listen, alluding to some forgotten fight, battle, certain grit. You need grit to embark on a novel, grit to complete one.

8) Flaming Lips’ “Flight Test”

Yoshimi’s valor in the face of a material or figurative foe has always been inspiring, though who know what Yoshimi Battles The Robots is really about? It sounds to me like a soundtrack of movie that was never made. The refrain from “Flight Test,” the first number, has great resonance: “I don’t where the sun beams end/ and the star lights begin – it’s all a mystery.” (It recalls another great Flaming track that goes, “You realize the sun doesn’t go down/ It’s just an illusion by the world spinning around.”) It always gets me.

9) Fire Inc.’s Nowhere Fast

At this juncture, I must insert a single from the real soundtrack of a forgotten film, Walter Hill’s Streets of Fire. It’s a rousing number, a classic from the canon of Eighties pop, and might suggest the trajectory of my protagonist. (If you want more, there’s “Tonight is What it Means to Be Young” or Dan Hartman’s evergreen “I Can Dream About You.)

10) The Knife’s “Pass This On”

A melodious number by a moody Swedish all-female band features a fantastic video starring an attractive transvestite attempting to rouse a languid audience in some community space somewhere in Swedish archipelago. It’s not only a must listen but a must watch.

11) Sanam Marvi’s “Ith Nahin”

Known as a folk singer, Sanam Marvvi took the airwaves in Pakistan and India by storm with “Ith Nahin,” a spiritually inflected number included in the Coke Studio sessions a few years ago. The Selected Works can be read literally but I like to think it can also be read as a religious allegory that contends with the proverbial Fall from Grace.

12) Abu Mohammed and Farid Ayaz’s “Kangna”

The origins of qawwali can be traced back a millennium to Delhi. The form continues to exert influence over the northern swath of the Subcontinent. Although not strictly qawwali, “Kangna” is a composition that contends in part with unrequited love.

13) Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s (and Michael Brook’s) Sweet Pain (Remix)

Before he died at 49, the three-hundred-something-pound Khan was the reigning heavyweight of qawwali and Pakistan’s leading cultural export: his voice and work has been featured in soundtracks from The Last Temptation of Christ to Dead Man Walking to Natural Born Killers. He can still be heard on every street in Pakistan, from malls to tea stalls. (I would have liked to include some traditional qawwalis – say, the Sabri Brothers’ “Saray Lankan Mankan,” “Ya Mohammed Noor-e-Majasam” – but the tracks might not up the uninitiated’s alley).

14) Lisa Stanfield’s I’m Leavin' (Hex Hector Mix)

Because we should end on a high note, I must include this final anthem, an assertion of independence. (I could have also included old favorites such as The Supermen Lovers’ “Starlight” and KLF’s “Justified and Ancient,” or newer ones like Hercules and Love Affair’s “Blind (Hex Hector Mix) or the Gnarls Barkley-Paul Oakenfold collaboration, “Fallin’,” but we all have to wake up in the morning.)


HM Naqvi and The Selected Works of Abdullah the Cossack links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

Booklist review
The Hindu review
Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review

India Today 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






March 18, 2019

Shorties (Laurie Halse Anderson on Her New Memoir-in-Verse, An Interview with Jenny Lewis, and more)

Shout

Laurie Halse Anderson discussed her new memoir-in-verse Shout with Weekend Edition.


The Los Angeles Times profiled singer-songwriter Jenny Lewis.

Stream a new song by Lewis.


March's best eBook deals.

eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:


Stream a new Hey Cowboy! song.


The Guardian interviewed Nikesh Shukla about the anthology he edited, The Good Immigrant.


R.I.P., guitarist Dick Dale.


Granta and Literary Hub shared excerpts from Summer Brennan's new book, High Heel.


The Current shared sets by Andrew Bird, Cherry Glazerr, and Justin Townes Earle from their SXSW day party.


Amber Tamblyn discussed her new book Era of Ignition with Read It Forward.


Drowned in Sound and Stereogum reconsidered Blur's 13 album on its 20th anniversary.


The Millions interviewed cartoonist James Sturm.


PopMatters interviewed Cherry Glazer's Clementine Creevy.


The Los Angeles Review of Books interviewed author Steph Post.


Stream a couple of live songs by Mountain Man.


BuzzFeed shared an excerpt from Elizabeth McCracken's novel Bowlaway.


The Lou Reed Archive is now open at the New York Public Library.


Designer Isaac Mizrahi discussed his favorite books at Vulture.


Stream a new song by Fauness.


R.I.P., poet W. S. Merwin.


The Quietus reviewed the coffee table book, The Butthole Surfers: What Does Regret Mean.


The Observer profiled author Marlon James.


Book Riot recommended LGBTQ+ books by Canadian authors.


Etaf Rum discussed her novel A Woman Is No Man with the Los Angeles Review of Books.


Dave Eggers talked to the Guardian about his new novel, The Parade.


The Los Angeles Review of Books interviewed author Frederic Tuten.



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


March 15, 2019

Shorties (Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness at 50, A Profie of Helado Negro's Roberto Carlos Lange, and more)

The Left Hand of Darkness

The Paris Review reconsidered Ursula K. Le Guin's novel The Left Hand of Darkness on the 50th anniversary of its publication.


Billboard profiled Helado Negro's Roberto Carlos Lange.


March's best eBook deals.


NPR Music shared a history of Woody Guthrie's song, "This Land Is Your Land."


Stream a new Baroness song.


The Boston Globe interviewed cartoonist Bill Griffith.


Stream a new song by the Head and the Heart.


The Rumpus interviewed author Josh Denslow.


NYCTaper shared a recording of a recent show by guitarist Ryley Walker.


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


Alicia Keys will publish a memoir in November.


BOMB features a new short story by Laura van den Berg.



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


March 14, 2019

Joseph Scapellato's Playlist for His Novel "The Made-Up Man"

The Made-Up Man

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.

Joseph Scapellato's novel The Made-Up Man is one of the most fun books I have read all year, a smart and absurdist take on noir.

NPR Books wrote of the book:

"Joseph Scapellato's The Made-Up Man reminds me of a bacon-topped doughnut — a mixture of incongruent elements that somehow work well together. And like that sweet treat, Scapellato's blend of existential noir, absurdist humor, literary fiction, and surreal exploration of performance art merges into something special ... The Made-Up Man is a rare novel that is simultaneously smart and entertaining. It looks at the ways we perform ourselves, through the experiences of a man floating in a haze after the academic career and the relationship that grounded him and gave him a sense of self are no longer there ... This is a strange book, but just like with food, trying new things can lead to pleasant surprises."


In his own words, here is Joseph Scapellato's Book Notes music playlist for his novel The Made-Up Man:



In The Made-Up Man, the narrator, a Polish-American Chicagoan named Stanley, agrees to apartment-sit in Prague for his maniacal Uncle Lech, even though he knows that in doing so, he’ll be placed at the center of one of his uncle’s dangerous performance art projects. Stanley accepts this proposal mostly because T, the woman he loves, will be in Prague at the same time. The performance art project—which happens to be film-noir-themed—mines Stanley’s personal life for material in increasingly sinister ways.

One of my initial goals for the novel was to attempt to write an “inverted noir”—to find ways to subvert, challenge, and interrogate the most recognizable genre conventions of film noir/detective narratives. (Thankfully, the novel grew past that, which I’ve talked about here.)

The songs on this playlist reflect some of these elements of the novel.

“St. Mary’s Trumpet Call”/“Hejnal mariacki,” anonymous

This beautifully haunting tune is played on the hour by a trumpeter stationed in the highest tower of St. Mary’s Church in Krakow, Poland. The song is short; it ends abruptly, the last phrase intentionally incomplete. According to legend, at some point in the 13th century a watchman on duty in St. Mary’s Church spotted an invading enemy army and played this song to alert his fellow citizens. He didn’t finish the song—he was shot in the throat with an arrow.

“The Beautiful People,” Antichrist Superstar, Marilyn Manson

I was never into Manson’s music, but I have to admit that I’ve always been impressed with his commitment to theatricality and spectacle, to his impassioned apathy, to the image he worked to project of nihilistic bravery. In junior high and high school, I had friends (and briefly, a girlfriend) who—like the narrator of my novel—really dug Manson, who wore trench coats and red contact lenses and black lipstick and dog collars. Whenever I think of 90s goth culture, I think of the catchy, sludgy, doom-inducing riffs of “The Beautiful People.”

“Metagoth,” All Nerve, The Breeders

The Deal sisters have been kicking ass since the '90s. Last summer, when I was finishing the proofs on my novel, my wife and I saw the Breeders play a show in Chicago. There’s something about the sound of their most recent album, All Nerve, that evokes their beginnings in alternative rock—the guitar distortion, the bass lines?—but at the same time, they’re by no means mucking around in nostalgia-land; they continue to carve out their own contemporary voice.

Live-Evil, Miles Davis

Jazz and film noir go together like whiskey and cigars. It’s not hard to imagine any one of Miles Davis’ early albums serving as a magnificent score for a certain sort of classic film noir, the kind with smartly dressed men and women ruining each other’s lives. But Live-Evil—wow. I don’t possess a musician/music critic’s professional terminology, but what I love about this album is how it seems to gleefully undermine jazz conventions in a hypnotic onslaught of experimental funk. An ingenious, intense, and subversive album.

“Turning Violent,” Embryonic, The Flaming Lips

I’ve seen The Flaming Lips in concert a few times, and although their recent set lists generally include a sampling from most of their (many) albums, they seem to steer clear of anything from Embryonic. I can understand why—it’s a majestically gloomy album, and when The Flaming Lips are playing live, majestic gloom isn’t what they’re going for. I love this album for its thematic and tonal departure.

“FEEL.,” DAMN., Kendrick Lamar

DAMN. is a multimodal masterpiece. Again, I lack the musical terminology to talk with any competence about the nature of Kendrick Lamar’s brilliance, so I’ll just say that “FEEL.” is one of my favorite tracks. I love its supercharged focus on form—the many sharp riffs on feeling—and its escalating confessional energy. For me, this song is a deep plunge into a character, and through that character, into a bigger American moment.

“You Won’t Let Go,” Sister Crystals, Sister Crystals

In 2014, I was living in Chicago, working intensely on my novel, and feeling like I was failing at it. One day, while I was stuck in traffic on my way to see my folks in the suburbs, this song came on a local college radio station. It was one of those moments where what you’re listening to is exactly what you didn’t know you needed. I had to go to the station’s website to find out the name of the band, and when I did, I bought the album right away.

“In Heaven There Is No Beer,” various artists

The finest polka song in existence. When my wife and I (and now our daughter, too) attend an event that features a polka band—which, in Chicago/Chicagoland and Central Pennsylvania, happens more often than you might think!—this is the song that I always hope to have a chance to dance to.


Joseph Scapellato and The Made-Up Man links:

the author's website

Chicago Review review
Los Angeles Review of Books review
NPR Books review


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

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

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 (Ngugi Wa Thiong'o on His New Story Collection, Ryann Donnelly on Her Book About Music Videos and Culture, and more)

Ngugi Wa Thiong'o

Ngugi Wa Thiong'o discussed his story collection, Minutes of Glory, with Morning Edition.


Ryann Donnelly discussed her book, Justify My Love: Sex, Subversion and Music Video, with Noisey.


March's best eBook deals.

eBook on sale for $1.99 today:

A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler

eBook on sale for $2.99 today:

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson


Aquarium Drunkard interviewed guitarist Julian Lage.


Debutiful interviewed author T Kira Madden.


Stream a new Lydia Ainsworth song.


The New Statesman profiled author James Kelman.


Paste profiled singer-songwriter Stella Donnelly.


The New York Times recommended books that expose college admissions mania.


Stream a new song by Mini Dresses.


Oprah Magazine recommended books that provocatively tackle climate change.


NPR Music is streaming American Football's self-titled album.


The Southwest Review interviewed author William Boyle.


PopMatters interviewed Drew Daniel of Matmos.


Catapult features new short fiction by Anne-Marie Kinney.


Stream a new song by Grimes.


Laurie Halse Anderson talked books and reading with the New York Times.


The Los Angeles Review of Books examined the male bias in music criticism.


The OTHERPPL podcast interviewed author Steve Anwyll.


The Quietus interviewed musician Charlotte Adigéry.


Bookworm interviewed author Marlon James.


Literary Hub recommended books you might have missed in February.


The Chicago Review of Books interviewed author Halle Butler.



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


March 13, 2019

Richard Chiem 's Playlist for His Novel "King of Joy"

King of Joy

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.

Richard Chiem's novel King of Joy is absurd, profound, and utterly engaging.

Nylon wrote of the book:

"A disturbingly beautiful portrayal of trauma and grief, loss and redemption, friendship and fucking―and hippos . . . It's beautiful and painful and just psychedelic enough to make you feel like you've gone on a real journey when you turn the very last page."


In his own words, here is Richard Chiem's Book Notes music playlist for his novel King of Joy:



I am the kind of person that can listen to a song I like endlessly on repeat. Catch me alone in my room with no shame listening incandescently to my song. I am the kind of person that can listen to a song on repeat for days on weeks until I can hardly recognize myself. Beats and drums, atmosphere and tone. Putting on headphones is like entering a new room for me and I get to feel a little more free in the world. I like getting absurd as a part of my process. Being a weirdo is a mood for me. I am not sure when I started to do this, but I believe there is a soundtrack for everything I write. All the prose. All of the lights. I like to make a playlist before I do anything.

If I can write it, I can hear it, and there is a cadence to the sentence, which is something Lorrie Moore said, and it’s something I believe in. I want my story to feel like how this song feels, or I want my prose to feel like how you would feel after you listen to this perfect pop song, so I will listen to something a thousand times over to emulate something from the music. Recently I heard in an interview with Brad Listi that Chelsea Hodson does something similar as a part of her process when writing sometimes. She said she listened to the Under the Skin soundtrack over and over again while writing her book, Tonight I’m Someone Else. She said, “I wish I could write something that felt the way this song makes me feel.”

Perhaps like Hodson, I believe listening to a song or a soundtrack over and over again, gets you closer to something invisible, something human and fragile and profound in the music, which you then give back to the reader in such delicate concision. It’s translating song to prose which feels impossible in some of my favorite ways.

These are the song I listened to over and over again writing or editing King of Joy.

“Normal Girl” by SZA

This is the song that plays in my head now when the novel opens into the party scene in the woods with the burning tree. It’s when Corvus recognizes Amber as a person for the first time and they make eye contact for the first time. The song is lush and emotional, sad and dancey and neon-bright. I imagine slow motion, slow tracking, and soft focus when I hear it. I wish I was a normal girl. I listened to SZA almost exclusively during the editing process.

“Novacane” by Frank Ocean

I listened to Beach House, Robyn, and Elliott Smith perhaps the most while writing King of Joy. But if there was a song I streamed over and over again, it was “Novacane” by Frank Ocean. I could write a novel to any Frank Ocean song and King of Joy is my Frank Ocean novel. The song opens almost in the freezing cold, from its own self-contained universe. The sweet pulse of the song, the steady sexy drum beat, is perfect terrible sugar.

“But there's no drug around, quite like what I found in you.”

The song also mentions porn, Stanley Kubrick, and wanting to be numb, which all ties King of Joy directly. I think the narrator of the song as Perry, Tim, and Amber all in one, and they’re all singing to Corvus.

“Go” by Grimes

I think the narrator of this song being more like Corvus than any other song. It’s perhaps the song I think of most when I think about Corvus, especially in how the song progresses and peaks. There is a need to give up and a need to keep going. The song feels how how I feel when I need to run out my anxiety and I can break the speed of sound with urgency and personal traumatic history. Although I think this song follows Corvus for most of the novel, it’s actually the song I imagine Perry is listening to when he’s running on the treadmill in the second part of the novel.

“When I go, can I go with you, you?”

“Kill For Love” by Chromatics

I think of this song as the invisible god that follows Corvus throughout the novel. I think a pop song sometimes as a guardian angel that follows us around. I sing this song to myself sometimes and I can imagine Corvus doing the same, just mouthing lyrics, minding her own business. There is a deadness to this song I love a little too much. Dream pop fog. I also imagine this to be the song playing at the absolute end of the novel.

“Two Dancers (ii)” by Wild Beasts

When I think of Perry in writing mode, in playwright mode, I think of this song. I am not sure who he is singing to or why his heart is so broken, but I think that is part of the evil process of trying to make something perfect, which is something Perry struggles for most of the novel. Trying for perfection. Endless pressure. Whomever in his way, or the whole wide world, is a deserter.

“Heard Somebody Say” by Devendra Banhart

This song scores Corvus’ rough childhood with the troubles she has with both her gambling father and her abusive mother. The piano reminds me of Corvus alone in her room as a teenager, taking deep breaths, looking out the open blinds at the closed window in her room while her father is at the casino and while her mother is cheating on her father somewhere in the city. This song plays while she is trying to feel safe in her brain, gripping her own hands, and I imagine the inanimate objects in her room coming alive and circling her like toy trains while the piano continues.

“Little Life” by Josephine Foster

Present tense. Oblivion in the woods. Right before one of the most violent scenes in the novel, before Tim leads the women to another production in the basement studios, Amber is playing ukulele and singing this Josephine Foster song. I imagine Amber having Josephine Foster’s exact voice as she is serenading the room. There is something all-knowing about Amber and she sings like there is no one else in the room, like she has already lived her whole life.

This song reminds me when I was twenty-one, on a road trip with friends going to Humboldt from San Diego. I heard Josephine Foster for the first time from laptop speakers in a house filled with garbage bags filled with weed, surrounded by stoned friends, and as we’re all lying on the floor there in the dead of night, I felt I was never sadder in my life. The voice is a timestamp and the song is forever.

“No. 1 Against the Rush” by Liars

This song is a horror movie song. I imagine this song to be Tim’s theme song in a way, or what scores most of his violent scenes. The song is tortured and has longing in the singing, and the steady rise of the accordion synth-thing feels almost overwhelming and haunting. The music video to this song is also wild and is a horror movie in its own right.

“With Every Heartbeat” by Robyn

This is also a Robyn novel. I remember so many hours deep into the night listening to Robyn and writing this novel line by line. I imagine this song to be playing on a the radio a few times while Amber and Corvus are driving out on the highway looking for the next motel to hide away for the night, and you hear violin strings. Then synth beats. I love the surrender you can hear in this song.

“Maybe we could make it happen, baby
We could keep trying
But things will never change
So I don't look back”

“One, Two Step” by Ciara

There are a few dance parties in King of Joy, and the people dancing are craving the dancing madly. This song is a few years dated but it fits perfectly with the timeframe of the novel. The song is steady electric, contagious, and sexy smooth. Top five, one of Corvus’ favorite dance songs.

“Bombay” by El Guincho

Top five, one of Corvus’ favorite dance songs. This is the song that plays over the party with the fog and the empty Olympic size swimming pool. I can see one of the only times Corvus can feel at peace is when she’s dancing to this song.

“A Fond Farewell” by Elliott Smith

I listened to so much Elliott Smith on repeat while writing this sad novel, I felt like I was living in a ghost world on more days than I would have liked. It could really be any song by him, but I think this song feels most like Perry’s whole life. Poet Ariana Reines said, “There is a beauty to people who hate themselves,” and I think this relates to Perry’s inner life. He does hate himself, and he hates himself for enough hours for each day, it mimics hard work and dedication. How easy would life be if he could just hate himself a little less, for fewer hours in the day? In the song, like all his songs, Smith sings like an angel that knows your whole life. I picture Perry just sitting, taking deep breaths, and going through worlds of hurt just silently to himself, singing this cruel song.

“He said really I just want to dance
Good and evil matched perfect it's a great romance
I can deal with some psychic pain
If it'll slow down my higher brain”

“Tempted” by Squeeze

I think this is the song that plays in Tim’s car as he tries to drive Corvus home, but he first takes her off on an unsolicited detour to the beach. There is moonlight on the water and Corvus does not want to be there.

“Kill For Love” by Chromatics

This song appears twice, in the playlist since it appears twice in the novel. I think this is what Corvus and Amber listen too as they drive away from the sand and the water. I imagine them turning the dial louder.


Richard Chiem and King of Joy links:

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

Foreword Reviews review
Kirkus review
The Stranger review

RealClear Life 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


Jordan A. Rothacker's Playlist for His Story Collection "Gristle"

Gristle

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.

Jordan A. Rothacker's collection Gristle is filled with stories varied in style but similar in their empathetic characters and Thoracker's strong storytelling voice.


In his own words, here is Jordan A. Rothacker's Book Notes music playlist for his story collection Gristle:



Eighteen Stories/Eighteen Tracks

(In some ways these songs are like addendums to the stories. They give the stories an extra-aesthetic imprint and in some cases actually add to the narrative).

1. Taking the Bone: “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” by Richard Strauss

This tone poem from 1896 is referenced in this story and the perfect opening to soundtrack this collection where the fleshy, colorful fanfare of humanity is on display. For a story about gender, sexuality, and power dynamics—themes that reoccur in several other stories—Strauss’ booming and exalting tones couldn’t be better employed (other than “2001,” of course).

2. Parables Three: “Concerto de Aranjuez” by Miles Davis

I wrote these three when I was 19, a freshman in college, all jacked up on Kafka and Woody Allen’s parodies of Kafka, most likely listening to ‘50s and ‘60s jazz, the postcard from the movie Basquiat next to me on my dorm room desk. I was in a liberal arts college in New York, Westchester County actually, so it even felt New Englandy and still just 30 minutes outside the City, the best of all worlds for 1960’s-esque intellectual pretention. I still love the album Sketches of Spain.

3. Ars Moriendi

There is a great possibility I stole this title from the Mr. Bungle song of the same title on the album, California. Mike Patton and I share several influences.

4. Something That Happened A Long Time Ago: “Fearless” by Pink Floyd

This story is a retelling of a friend’s anecdote with some fictionalizing through name-change and other details. That friend—who is now departed—taught me a lot, particularly about music. He would find it pretty funny to soundtrack this story with the melancholy and ironic sounds of a Pink Floyd song that we once recorded on a four-track in my bathroom.

5. Dr. Mame: “Outta Me Onto You” by Ani DiFranco

This story is about sexual and gender politics on the most basic biological level. Dr. Mame is no Ani, but she is a righteous babe in her own way and I see a sense of triumph in the ending of the story. My favorite line in this song is, “Some people wear their heart up on their sleeve. I wear mine underneath my right pant leg, strapped to my boot.”

6. Break the Skin: “Everlong” by the Foo Fighters

This story is about intimacy.

7. Father, Son, and Holy Ghost: “Joga” by Björk

This is one of my favorite songs ever and it is on one of my favorite albums ever and oddly the lyrics fit this sad story so well. Accidents, coincidence, and the feeling of a “state of emergency” apply to more than just romantic relationships. I’ve always wondered if Björk was thinking of Walter Benjamin when she mentions a “state of emergency,” but as he tells us in his “Theses on the Philosophy of History”: “the tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the state of emergency in which we live is not the exception but the rule.” This is certainly true for Swei Li Quok in this short story.

8. A Night, Like Any Other; or Ooh, Ooh That Smell: “That Smell” by Lynyrd Skynyrd

This song was recorded in Doraville, Georgia in 1977 (the year I was born but seven years before I got to Georgia) and it always takes me back to sticky-hot summer nights in that alien environment, where a wall of pine is always around obscuring your view, even when hanging out in a convenience store parking lot. Whatever scent winds up in the air sticks to you: roadkill, gas station friend chicken, honeysuckle, tractor-trailer exhaust… This song is about different issues than what the story’s main character, Jimmy Red, experiences but I associate it with that sense of place in which he dwells.

9. Gristle, or What Is Left: “C’est lui” by Josephine Baker

As this story is about a young man obsessed with Henry Miller, I bet he was listening to some of the same stuff that either Miller would’ve listened to or would’ve been popular during his time in Paris. For the young man in this story there is only one man in Paris and Henry Miller… it is him!

10. Winter Solstice: “Little Girl Blue” by Nina Simone AND “River” by Joni Mitchell

I might not be a Christian but I sure love Christmas. The mood, the music, the message of kindness and sharing, the syncretism of multiple religious traditions being layered in this spirit all really get to me. So yeah, I’ve written a Christmas story. The voices I need most at this time of year are Nina and Joni (I need them all year round, but these songs at this time specifically).

11. Augustus and Anastasia: “Only You” by Portishead

This story was both written and set in the late '90s and as Augustus and Anastasia were both hip college students trip-hop was a common presence in their musical purview. Augustus sang this song loud and teary in the car as he chain-smoked and drove through inclement weather.

12. Ouroboros: “Serpentine” by Peaches

I think of this story as a sweet story about love, sexuality, and philosophy. It is honest and unabashed about those things. Peaches is a musician who is also honest and unabashed about love, sexuality, and philosophy (politics too). I imagine that I was enjoying dancing to Peaches around the time I wrote this story. “Fuck the past that passed so fast… so sexual and so conceptual,” she sings.

13. Stan of Changes: “Particle Man” by They Might Be Giants

Stan of Changes is a hero. All heroes need a theme song. They Might Be Giants has given us a lot of theme songs for nerds. Stan also likes “In the Garage” by Weezer, but this TMBG song reminds him of his childhood in the '80s.

14. All Things Resound: “Happy Phantom” by Tori Amos

“All Things Resound” is a ghost story. It is haunting and creepy and fleshy and even kinda sexy (like so much of the gristle in this book) but there is something fun and playful about it also. The macabre can be playful, that is one of the ways we cope with death constantly around us. We all devise an art of dying, an ars moriendi… “Oo who, the time is getting closer. Oo who, time to be a ghost. Oo who, every day we’re getting closer. The sun is getting dim. Will we pay for who we’ve been?” All things resound…

15. The Worm: “Hey You” by Pink Floyd

I didn’t choose “Worms” for this story since that would be a bit too on the nose, but “Hey You” was selected for the lines: “No matter how he tried he could not break free and the worms ate into his brains.” Syd Barrett was a tragic hero artist, as is Peter in this story.

16. Three Sisters From Ohio: “I’m Afraid of Americans” by David Bowie

The three sisters in this story are ugly Americans. Ugly is not used to refer to their physical appearances, but the manner by which they engage an alien environment. An attitude of superiority and distrust pervades their interactions with the locals of the foreign land they visit. The world is nothing more than Epcot Center for them and as a trio they have each other to confirm all their worst impressions. As a trio of sisters they can get loud about it too.

17. Blacktop Eden: “Black Sunshine” by White Zombie

I’ve always described this story like living inside a White Zombie song so this might be the most accurate song feeling-wise.

18. Lessons From the Good Book: “At Last” by Etta James

James’ voice here is smooth, sweet, and self-satisfied—you can feel her glow as she draws out the word last—and while the lyrics sound a little codependent in regards to a romantic relationship, it fits perfectly for a short story about loss of innocence and self-discovery. This song isn’t in the story and it is doubtful that Lucia Merkowitz knows the song but it would be a nice compliment to the ending as a soundtrack.


Jordan A. Rothacker and Gristle links:

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

Largehearted Boy playlist by the author for And Wind Will Wash Away
Luna Luna 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


Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week - March 13, 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.


Minutes of Glory

Minutes of Glory by Ngugi wa Thiong'o

Take Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s word for it: Ngugi wa Thiong'o is “one of the greatest writers of our time.” This collection of stories covers the intimate lives of those caught in the grip of colonial Kenya, as he merges folklore, minutiae, fantasy, and the experiential.


A Joy to be Hidden

A Joy to be Hidden by Ariela Freedman

Taking its title from a D. W. Winnicott quote - “It is a joy to be hidden, and a disaster not to be found” - comes this novel on loss, family history, secrets, intimacies, and elusive relationships. Set in the late nineties after the death of the narrator’s grandmother, this elegiac story is full of flush sensations and reflections.


Invisible Women: Data bias in a world designed for men

Invisible Women: Data bias in a world designed for men by Caroline Criado Perez

Perez uses the persuasiveness of data to demonstrate just how sexist the world really is. What she found is that if you find yourself outside the boundaries of the “Reference Male” (40 years-old, 155 pounds, caucasian male), you’ll notice that the constructed world isn’t made for you at all. Rather, it is carefully catered to the Reference Male’s needs, comforts, and habits, leaving everyone else behind.


Castle on the River Vistula

Castle on the River Vistula by Michelle Tea, illustrated by Kelsey Tea

The final book from Michelle Tea’s subversive Chelsea Trilogy, Castle on the River Vistula, starts with our thirteen-year old heroine emerging from freezing waters in Poland. What follows is an electric fantasy-horror that concludes with an epic faceoff between good and evil.


In the Weeds

In the Weeds by Daniel Browne

This novel follows the logical conclusions of what would happen were one to try to do good in an ever bureaucratic world. A former politician still has virtuous dreams of making the world a better place, but a mega metropolis like New York City won’t bend so easily to his utopian desires.


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)


K Chess's Playlist for Her Novel "Famous Men Who Never Lived"

Famous Men Who Never Lived

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.

K Chess's debut novel, Famous Men Who Never Lived, is a mesmerizing work of speculative fiction.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"Chess’ debut novel offers an intriguing and fresh spin on the parallel-worlds theme with its timely emphasis on the challenges facing migrants in hostile, unfamiliar surroundings, marking her as a promising new voice in speculative fiction.”"


In her own words, here is K Chess's Book Notes music playlist for her debut novel Famous Men Who Never Lived:



The main characters in Famous Men Who Never Lived escaped from disaster in a different part of the multiverse, and came as refugees to our New York City. Because the two worlds diverged at the start of the 20th century, Vikram and Hel number popular music among their losses. For this list, I chose songs about grieving in all its moods and permutations. There’s defiance, nostalgia, putting on a brave face, despair -- and maybe a little healing.


1. 1 Samuel 15:23 by The Mountain Goats

The Pyronauts is a book-within-the-book. The last paperback copy is a talisman for Hel; it’s gone missing and she searches for it desperately. This song goes out to the aliens of The Pyronauts, who came to Earth in crystal ships and caused an apocalypse, but intended only to do good.

2. Funnel of Love by SQÜRL featuring Madeline Follin (Wanda Jackson cover)

Wanda Jackson, who originated this wonderful song, visited the small Illinois town where I lived while writing Famous Men Who Never Lived, and I missed her performance. I’ll probably never forgive myself! SQÜRL’s cover, from the 2013 film Only Lovers Left Alive, makes me think of people holed up together in their own world like Vikram and Hel in the early days of their dislocation, daylight leaking in around the edges.

3. REVOFEV by Kid Cudi

I’m drawn to this banger because the tight, triumphant optimism of the sound is really at odds with the ambiguity of the words. I added it to the playlist for Vikram, who is keeping his head down and biding his time.

4. Clandestin by Fatoumata Diawara

This song tells a story of economic migration and mass displacement. I listened to Fatoumata Diawara’s album often while editing Famous Men Who Never Lived and though I don’t understand the Wassoulou lyrics, I find her voice beautifully evocative.

5. New York I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down by LCD Soundsystem

Anyone who has ever moved to New York from somewhere else or who has lived in the city for long enough to see it change can probably identify with this ballad of broken promises. (Even Kermit the Frog is feeling it -- check out the music video some time.)

6. 20 Dollar by M.I.A.

Hel has her “devil on speed-dial,” for sure! Years ago at Coney Island, I saw M.I.A. perform this song (which quotes The Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind?”, another fave.) Every group is made up of individuals and we all want to be seen as individuals. Even when the big, impersonal forces that shape our lives are evident to us, we’d rather -- like M.I.A.’s speaker -- just talk about ourselves.

7. Never Catch Me by Flying Lotus featuring Kendrick Lamar

The UDPs in Famous Men Who Never Lived aren’t the only ones running from something. Dwayne works hard to build a new life for himself and doesn’t often think about the brother who helped raise him.

8. With Light and With Love by Woods

A retro-flavored mellow jam, this song builds in urgency, seeming to wind down before peaking. It’s how I imagine the sound of Baccarat, the vanished ‘60s band that Wes and Vikram love.

9. White Fire by Angel Olsen

While writing Famous Men Who Never Lived, I played this haunting song on repeat.

I walk back in the night alone, got caught up in my song
Forgot where I was sleeping, none of the lights were on
I heard my mother thinking me right back into my birth
I laughed so loud inside myself, it all began to hurt

What if there was an easy way for us to withdraw from pain? What if we could undo the past and vanish entirely? Only love would keep us here.

10. Brand New Game by Elliott Smith

This one is about the sudden loss of illusion and the inevitability of fuckups. It punches you in the gut. The worst moment of Hel’s life was when when she mistook a stranger’s child on a street in Manhattan for her own dead son. She spends most of the book avoiding her feelings about this.

11. Driving This Thing by Luke Bryan

Let’s end on an upbeat note! I heard this song playing at the drug store once while buying ice cream and toothpaste. It portrays a relationship based on mutual trust. The speaker’s arrangement with his partner reminds me of Vikram and Hel’s game of exploring the subway system. Emotionally, this is the place I hope they can reach, after the book ends.


K Chess and Famous Men Who Never Lived links:

the author's website

Booklist review
The A.V. Club review
Foreword review
Kirkus review
Lambda Literary review
The Verge review
Vol. 1 Brooklyn review

Foreword 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 (The 2019 Man Booker International Prize Longlist, New Music from Joan As Police Woman, and more)

Joan As Police Woman

The 2019 Man Booker International Prize longlist has been announced.


Stream a new song by Joan As Police Woman.


March's best eBook deals.


Entries are now open for the 2019 Tiny Desk Contest.


Author William Boyle discussed his favorite "screwball noir" films at CrimeReads.


Cherry Glazerr visited The Current studio for an interview and live performance.


Variety and Rolling Stone recommended the best books to read about wrongful conviction.


The Guardian recommended books about building cities.


PopMatters interviewed former Sex Pistol Glen Matlock.


Bustle recommended March books by women of color.


Turntable Kitchen previewed artists to see at SXSW.


The New York Times shared several audio clips of T. S. Eliot discussing poetry.


Stream a new Toro Y Moi song.


Review 31 interviewed poet Terrence Hayes.


Stream a new song by Marissa Nadler and Stephen Brodsky.


The Rumpus interviewed author Maurice Carlos Ruffin.


The Quietus profiled the band Housewives.


Granta features a conversation between authors Daisy Johnson and Alan Trotter.



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


March 12, 2019

William Boyle's Playlist for His Novel "A Friend Is a Gift You Give Yourself"

A Friend Is a Gift You Give Yourself

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.

William Boyle's novel A Friend Is a Gift You Give Yourself is a madcap literary thriller both funny and dark.

NPR Books wrote of the book:

"Part Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas and part Mario Puzo's La Mamma, A Friend Is a Gift You Give Yourself is a funny, gritty, touching narrative about the strength of three New York women caught in a world of abusive men, broken families, and mob violence. Friend is a rarity; a fresh novel about New York's underbelly. Crime fiction usually stays within the confines of the genre, but Boyle breaks away from those restrictions."


In his own words, here is William Boyle's Book Notes music playlist for his novel A Friend Is a Gift You Give Yourself:



My new novel, A Friend Is a Gift You Give Yourself, is a screwball noir. The songs I’ve included below soundtrack the action and illuminate things about the plot. But many of the choices would also be go-tos for the characters if they were standing in front of a jukebox with a few wrinkled bills or making a mix or bringing a box of cassettes or CDs on a road trip. The book is set in 2006, and fifteen-year-old Lucia loves Mariah Carey and Mary J. Blige, while Wolfie, in her sixties, is a Stevie Nicks nut. Richie, a middle-aged mobster, likes his classic rock. Adrienne, his younger ex-girlfriend, was weaned on hair metal, even seeing Guns N’ Roses when they played L’Amour in Bensonhurst back in October ’87. The other main character, mob widow Rena Ruggiero, isn’t terribly into music, but the songs still glint off of her as in a Scorsese movie. There are four significant covers here, in large part because I’m drawn to a certain type of reinterpretation. There are also some aggressive transitions, which I hope speak to the book’s wild tonal shifts. (Sorry—I didn’t expect to use a phrase like “aggressive transitions,” but it couldn’t be helped.)

1. “Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?,” Jimi Hendrix

A lesser-known Dylan cover by Hendrix from his BBC Sessions. Crunchy, rolling, alive. One of my favorite Barry Hannah lines is: “Hendrix [is] like the blues with a helicopter in it.” Seems like the perfect place to start.

2. “Family Affair,” Mary J. Blige

One Lucia loves. I imagine her pressing play on her boombox over and over.

3. “Mack the Knife,” Mark Lanegan

Dumb old Bobby, who Wolfie has conned out of some cash and left heartbroken, sings this as he gets drunk. He’s probably thinking of the Bobby Darin version, but I’ll choose Lanegan’s for all its grizzled glory and the way it makes the song feel so small and real.

4. “Heart of the Sunrise,” Yes

I’d be lying if I said I was a big Yes fan; I haven’t gone too deep with them. I was introduced to this song through Buffalo ’66, a film I really love, and Vincent Gallo’s use of it haunts me. I need it here during one of the set pieces full of violent, screwball action.

5. “Thunder and Lightning,” Chi Coltrane

A song I didn’t know until I stumbled across a Chi Coltrane LP at the record store where I work. Seemed like something Wolfie and her old pal Mo would know and love. Mo even sings a bit of it after hearing it on the radio.

6. “After the Glitter Fades,” Stevie Nicks

This one’s for Wolfie and Mo, rabid Stevie fans. The lyrics, no doubt, have some real resonance for them both given their former profession. On the cutting room floor: a scene where they sing this at karaoke.

7. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” P.P. Arnold

A great Stones song that I almost never want to hear because it’s so overplayed at supermarkets and gyms and gas stations and just everywhere (didn’t Trump even ruin it further by using it at a rally recently?), but P.P. Arnold’s version makes me listen in a different way. Richie jokes about not wanting to hear the Stones version as he’s dying, but I’d happily give him this one instead. This wouldn’t be bad to die to.

8. “Money Changes Everything,” Cyndi Lauper

I revisited the video while I was revising, and it just felt like it matched the book perfectly. The lyrics, the feel, everything. Magic.

9. “Anything Goes,” Guns N’ Roses

I knew there had to be a song from Appetite for Destruction since Lucia’s running around in one of her mom’s old GNR shirts. True story: a friend dubbed Appetite for me in fifth grade and he left off “Rocket Queen,” so—for many fucking years—I thought “Anything Goes” was the last track. It held special significance to me for that reason. It still does, as one of the more undervalued tracks on the record (though it’s no “Rocket Queen”).

10. “Map of the City,” Royal Trux

Hectic and intimate like the best of Royal Trux. Chase music.

11. “Caught in the Middle,” Dio

Another one for Richie, who’d surely prefer Dio to the Stones as he fades in and out of consciousness. A song to stir up ghosts.

12. “Life’ll Kill You,” Warren Zevon

Tonally, I hope the book feels like a Warren Zevon song. No other writer or singer I know can move between light and dark like Zevon. Here’s one that lays our death sentence out for us.

13. “It’s a Good Day,” Peggy Lee

Mo’s got a Peggy Lee cassette she puts on when the crew is hiding out in a vacant house. This choice feels right. I’d want it used the way Lynne Ramsay uses songs in her films.

14. “It’s Like That,” Mariah Carey

Lucia hums this song as a means of survival.

15. “Time is On My Side,” Irma Thomas

Another killer Stones cover, this one by Irma Thomas. A good song to end with.

16. “It’s OK,” Dead Moon

Closing credits need a Dead Moon song. So it’s said, and so it shall be. Unnerving and hopeful at the same time.


William Boyle and A Friend Is a Gift You Give Yourself links:

the author's website

Booklist review
Kirkus review
New York Times review
NPR Books review
Publishers Weekly review

Daily Mississippian profile of the authors
Largehearted Boy playlist by the author for Death Don't Have No Mercy
Largehearted Boy playlist by the author for Gravesend
Largehearted Boy playlist by the author for The Lonely Witness


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


Joe Wilkins' Playlist for His Novel "Fall Back Down When I Die"

Fall Back Down When I Die

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.

Joe Wilkins' brilliant debut novel, Fall Back Down When I Die, is moving, haunting, and unforgettable.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"In his first novel, short story writer, poet, and memoirist Wilkins writes of hardscrabble life on the northern Great Plains with mesmerizing power, creating characters with rich if troubled interior lives who are desperate for agency and haunted by absent fathers. Wendell and Rowdy's slowly blossoming relationship is as lovely and breathtaking as the book's tragic ending is inevitable and devastating. Suffused with a sense of longing, loss, and the desire for change -- asking deep questions about our place in the landscape and what, if anything, we are owed -- this is a remarkable and unforgettable first novel."


In his own words, here is Joe Wilkins' Book Notes music playlist for his debut novel Fall Back Down When I Die:



I was born and raised north of the Bull Mountains, out in the distances of eastern Montana. The little outpost town we called home, where I attended grades K-12, boasted in the 1990 census 166 souls; as of the 2010 census that count was down to 96. It is a far, frontier country, and for much of my life it was all I knew. I splashed in the shallow, muddy river; I fixed fence and branded cattle; I hunted deer and antelope and drove mile after mile up and down those gravel roads.

Yet at the age of nineteen I did something most young people from rural places don't do: I traveled out of state for college, left Montana, though I didn't know it at the time, for good. And in the twenty years since, living and working in spaces that are mostly cosmopolitan, urban, liberal, and college educated, I have often felt like a foreigner or immigrant, someone attempting to learn a whole new place and language. Make no mistake about it, there are vast differences between us. And we ignore, make light of, or hierarchize those differences at our peril.

Fall Back Down When I Die, which is primarily set in eastern Montana in late 2009, just before the first legal wolf hunt in the state, speaks, I hope, across those differences. The rift between the interior and the coasts grows ever wider, and I hope Fall Back Down When I Die humanizes and builds empathy, I hope it troubles the too-easy notions both places have about the other. With this in mind, I've chosen for the Fall Back Down When I Die Book Notes playlist songs that do just that. Songs that travel and haunt and try to explain. Songs that participate in, question, or upend the usual mythologies. Songs that embody the great distances of the American interior, as well as those of the human interior. A number of these songs and artists make appearances in the novel itself, others informed me in the writing process. I hope you enjoy the playlist and the book.

1. Martha Scanlon – August Is a Gate

Fall Back Down When I Die opens in late August, during wheat harvest, a time of hard work and hope across rural America. I remember as young man putting in ten and twelve hour days, working through the weekends, falling to bed covered in dust and chaff, and waking the next morning before sunrise to do it all again. Ever since, it's never quite set right with me that in the wider world August usually means vacation time. So when I first heard Martha Scanlan's “August Is a Gate,” at a gathering on the banks of the Blackfoot River, my heart seized with recognition. Here was someone who knew the same season I knew as a young man, the same changing season the characters in Fall Back Down When I Die journey into. “August is a gate,” Scanlan sings, “swinging in a dry wind.”

2. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – Last of My Kind

No one captures the economic and cultural fear haunting rural America better than Jason Isbell. In “Last of My Kind,” the speaker, a rural kid thrust into an increasingly urban world, laments what he's lost in the transition and how the stories passed down to him (“Daddy said the river would always lead me home / But the river can't take me back in time / And daddy's dead and gone”) don't help him navigate this new space. What's more, by the final verse, “Last of My Kind” manages to help us feel and know the grievance and anger that too often rise out of the fearful, dislocating experience of this cultural transition:

They laughed at my boots, laughed at my jeans
Laughed when they gave me amphetamines
Left me alone in a bad part of town
Thirty-six hours to come back down
Am I the last of my kind?

The action in Fall Back Down When I Die hinges on this growing sense of fear, grievance, and dissolution, and what, for better and for worse, the various characters do to make sense of, refuse, or lash out at the rapidly changing world around them.

3. Gordon Lightfoot – Sit Down Young Stranger

I've included a Gordon Lightfoot tune on all but one playlist I've made for Book Notes. Part of that is just Gord is so damn good, but, too, it's because Lightfoot songs, even the easy, breezy ones, are always haunted. “Sit Down Young Stranger” is no exception. The young stranger and his parents—meeting again, it seems, after many years—try and fail to explain themselves one another throughout the song, and it all leads to an odd, abrupt closing couplet: “John loves Mary / Does anyone love me?”

It's a question the main characters of Fall Down When I Die might recognize. Wendell Newman, a young ranch hand working in the Bull Mountains, lost his father when he was just a boy. Gillian Houlton, an assistant principal at a nearby rural school, yet grieves the murder of her husband a dozen years before. These two dead men haunt Wendell and Gillian and, really, the entire book. Like the myth and memory of a long ago rural American, their absences become inescapable presences.

4. George Strait – Fool Hearted Memory
5. Garth Brooks – I'm Much too Young (to Feel This Damn Old)

If you turned on the radio in eastern Montana in the late '80s and early '90s, it was pretty good bet you'd catch a song or two by George Strait or Garth Brooks. While both artists are a bit old for Wendell Newman, who comes of age in the late '90s and early '00s, Wendell is, in many ways, someone out of time, or, as Brooks sings, someone “much too young to feel this damn old.” A former high school basketball star, a sad, wondering young man who likes to read and wander in the woods, Wendell is forced to leave community college to come home and look after his sick mother. When she dies, he hangs on to all he's got: a job on a ranch in the Bull Mountains and, later, his young, traumatized cousin, Rowdy, who comes into his care.

Though Strait is singing about another kind of heartbreak, you could just as well apply his sentiments to Wendell and to so many others mired in rural poverty: “Played by the rules but didn't win.”

6. Joni Mitchell – A Case of You

Gillian Houlton didn't have it easy either, but she put herself through college, traveled across the country, and, after the death of her husband, found a way to buy a house in Billings, the only city in eastern Montana, and raise her daughter, Maddy, all while saving for Maddy's college tuition and generally living in the middle class world.

Yet for these trappings of comfort and security, Gillian knows, as each day she drives forty miles down the highway to her job as an assistant principal at a rural school, that there is another world not far outside her door. And, too, she yet grieves hard as iron for her husband, as well as the life she had with him, a life of adventure, wildness, and love: “Oh but you are in my blood you're my holy wine.”

7. Tennessee Ernie Ford – Sixteen Tons

I remember hearing Tennessee Ernie Ford's “Sixteen Tons” crackle out of the round, dusty mouth of the radio we kept atop the fridge, the antenna flagged with tinfoil. Even as a boy I felt the tensions and contradictions in the song. Ford's voice, for one, is too rich and too clean to be a poor man's voice. And the lyrics seesaw back and forth between an honest awareness of working class life (“You load sixteen tons, what do you get? / Another day older and deeper in debt) and a twisted celebration of rural stereotypes and violent masculinity (“A mind that's a-weak and a back that's strong”; “If you see me comin', better step aside / A lotta men didn't, a lotta men died”). Ford's own life—he studied classical music at a conservatory but later adopted the hillbilly persona of “Tennessee Ernie”—attests to these same inconsistencies, and if you peruse the youtube comments on the video, well, you'll find plenty of tensions there, too.

Verl Newman, Wendell's father, whose journal entries make up the third narrative strand of the novel, embodies many of these same contradictions, just as much of rural America does. Yet Verl isn't static. While his journey begins in the cliches and destructive mythologies of the verses of “Sixteen Tons,” he slowly works his way towards the truer sentiments evidenced in the chorus.

8. Lucinda Williams – Car Wheels on a Gravel Road

In high school and college I pretty much turned my back on country music, listening instead to the likes of Nirvana, Dylan, and U2. So when I discovered Lucinda Williams, it felt like a kind of homecoming.

Beyond just being so damned achingly beautiful, Lucinda Williams's “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” serves as an antidote to the cliches and pat narratives of “Sixteen Tons” and so much of what passes for country music these days. And the album Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, full of understated, closely observed songs of rural life and loss, is a whole world. That particularity, that fine-grained fidelity to real lives and landscapes—that was what I was after when I began writing Fall Back Down When I Die.

9. Jeffrey Foucault – Hurricane Lamp
10. Jason Isbell – Hope the High Road

As it too often tends to do, a lot goes wrong in Fall Back Down When I Die. But there's a little bit of hope by the end as well. It's a hope that exists within a number of the characters, as they hew to their truest selves and the sustaining stories they've been told, and it's a hope that exists between characters, as they reach out to help one another.

Jeffrey Foucault's “Hurricane Lamp” and Jason Isbell's “Hope the High Road” are both addressed to someone particular, a “you” the speaker both takes hope from and hopes for. “I see you shine / Anywhere I am,” sings Foucault, “You've got a heart / Like a hurricane lamp.” For his part, Isbell nearly screams his hope: “But wherever you are / I hope the high road leads you home again / To a world you want to live in.”

Jeffrey Foucault and Jason Isbell are two of the saddest, most hopeful singers out there.

11. Martha Scanlan – The Shape of Things Gone Missing, the Shape of Things to Come

It doesn't get much better than Martha Scanlan's “The Shape of Things Gone Missing, the Shape of Things to Come.” I mean, it's all here: horses, blooming hillsides, sunrise. That insistent acoustic guitar, the rivery lift of the fiddle, Scanlan's delicately powerful voice. So much has gone missing, but, still, we might shape what's to come.


Joe Wilkins and Fall Back Down When I Die links:

the author's website

Kirkus review
Oregonian review
Publishers Weekly review

Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Killing the Murnion Dogs
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for The Mountain and the Fathers
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Notes from the Journey Westward
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for When We Were Birds


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