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January 19, 2017

Book Notes - Adelia Saunders "Indelible"

Indelible

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

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

Adelia Saunders' haunting Indelible is a stunning and unique debut novel.

Kirkus Reviews wrote of the book:

"Fans of David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas and Téa Obreht's The Tiger's Wife will love Saunders' debut, which takes up the mantle of myth, history, and storytelling with beautiful, sure-footed prose."


In her own words, here is Adelia Saunders's Book Notes music playlist for her debut novel Indelible:



There is a lot of travelling in this book – by bus, by train, by foot – and a trip always needs a soundtrack. So here are some songs I imagine playing in the background as the characters make their various journeys.


"Ne me quitte pas" by Jacques Brel

Part this story concerns events that took place in Paris in 1954, around the time Jacques Brel was singing in cafes. He wrote "Ne me quitte pas" in 1959 sitting a bar in Montmartre, and if my book had music, this song would play during Richard's first morning in Paris. All his life Richard has thought that in Paris he might find traces of his mother, who left him when he was a child. Now he's finally there, wandering through the city with his suitcase. The lyrics go

Ne me quitte pas
Il faut oublier
Tout peut s'oublier
Qui s'enfuit déjà
Oublier le temps
Des malentendus et le temps perdu

Richard imagines his mother walking down the same little streets, and pretty soon he's lost – until he realizes he must be walking in circles, because he's seeing things in Paris that he's seen before.


"I'm in London Still" by the Waifs

This song by an Australian band is about being in London – still – and missing home. It would be playing as Neil, a college student studying abroad, tries not to throw up on a bumpy bus stuck in traffic on his way out of London. Neil has a package of very late Christmas presents to deliver to the daughter of a Lithuanian woman his father knows, and he has a hangover, and he wishes he were anywhere but there.


"Īssavienojums" by Prāta Vētra (BrainStorm)

This song is by a Latvian band called Prāta Vētra, which means "brainstorm." As BrainStorm this band sings in English – they won a Eurovision award in 2000, and I imagine them being part of the soundtrack of high school for a lot of Baltic teenagers. Magdalena and Lina would have rolled their eyes when their songs came on, but secretly sort of loved them. Or that could just be me. This song, "Īssavienojums" translates to "short circuit" and as best as I can tell the song's chorus goes

If only five dreams in a hundred come true
Then the first is for you, the second for us
The third, fourth, fifth are just reruns…

In my mind, this is the song that moves with Magdalena and Lina to London.


"Lithuanian Lullaby" sung by Veronika Povilionienė

This lullaby comes from a 1989 album called "Musics of the Soviet Union," which is not a typo. It is sung by Veronika Povilionienė, one of the leaders of the Lithuanian "singing revolution," when folksongs became a way to express dissent and nationalism in the period leading up to independence from the Soviet Union. This lullaby would play as Magdalena walks along old pilgrim paths through Spain, thinking of the Lithuanian words she always saw as a child written on her mother's skin, and wondering if her father might have seen them too.


"The Luckiest" by Ben Folds Five

This is another song for a bus trip. It begins, "I don't get many things right the first time…" I imagine this playing with autobahns outside the window as Neil takes the bus from France to Lithuania. Neil has realized he's made a big mistake by letting Magdalena go home to Vilnius, and he thinks he's doing something brave and foolhardy by following her.


"Congaudeant Catholici"

This 12th century chant comes from the Codex Calixtinus, the "Book of Saint James." The book includes the original pilgrim's guide to Santiago de Compostela, the medieval pilgrimage Neil is researching during his summer in Paris. The Codex also has an appendix of musical scores, written in Latin, for monks to sing in praise of Saint James and his miracles. This chant, the "Congaudeant Catholici" is the most famous of them; scholars think it may be the first piece of medieval music for three voices, instead of just one or two. The piece of parchment it is written on has two "parts" in black ink, and a third part in red ink. Some scholars point out that this third (red) part adds a discordant note to the other two voices. I like the idea of this two-voiced devotional, with a third voice imposed on it, accompanying the three intertwining stories in this book. I imagine this ancient song playing at the end of the story, as Richard walks to the archives of the Assistance Publique-Hopitaux de Paris, where he will finally learn the truth about his mother.


Adelia Saunders and Indelible links:

the author's website

Kirkus Reviews review

Public Libraries Online interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

List of Online "Best Books of 2016" Lists

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

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


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January 19, 2017

Book Notes - Jim Walsh "Bar Yarns and Manic-Depressive Mixtapes"

Bar Yarns and Manic-Depressive Mixtapes

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

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

Jim Walsh's Bar Yarns and Manic-Depressive Mixtapes collects three decades of his music writing, and can be read as both memoir and a history of the Minneapolis music scene.

Jessica Hopper wrote of the book:

"Jim Walsh's Bar Yarns and Manic-Depressive Mixtapes is as much a chronicle of the past few decades of the Minneapolis scene as it is a pitch-perfect memoir of what it means to live for music. A crucial read for anyone who has spent their days and nights tangled in the tether of a song. "


In his own words, here is Jim Walsh's Book Notes music playlist for his book Bar Yarns and Manic-Depressive Mixtapes:



This extremely large-hearted boy’s new collection of music writings, Bar Yarns and Manic-Depressive Mixtapes (a collection of essays, columns and reviews from the past 30 years) takes the Book Notes model to the extreme, with song titles used as chapter heads and headlines, all in celebration of the song at hand. Inspired by the book’s table of contents and the time-honored music lovers’ ritual of swapping handcrafted mixes, here are a few of the songs whose titles make up the chapter headlines, and a short excerpt of the piece that inspired the song/headline; a mixtape in video:


Semisonic, "Singing In My Sleep"

The cassette tape was first introduced in Europe in 1963, but didn't gain widespread use in North America until the early '70s. Since then, the cassette has been both savior and scourge to a music industry paranoid about home-taping, but it has allowed the rest of us to bypass the usual means of music distribution and send straight-to-the-aorta messages of love to loved ones and/or wanna-be loved ones.

Or, to put it more simply, "This is my rock 'n' roll love letter to you" – as the Bay City Rollers sing to me on a tape a friend recently made me.

Tapeheads make their tapes for friends, lovers, exes, themselves. They are sent as tools for seduction, musical education, seduction, grieving, joy, seduction and fun. And now, someone has finally gotten around to penning a musical tribute to the compilation tape as courting device.

"Singing in My Sleep," Semisonic's new single, is that song. And if it enjoys the same sort of success the Minneapolis-based power trio's current hit, "Closing Time," has, songwriter Dan Wilson's tale of a couple of tapeheads' burgeoning romance will shine a light on a peculiar passion that music lovers have been practicing for years—though the mix tape coming-out party isn't being hosted by Semisonic alone.

On his new album, Aussie songwriter Paul Kelly sings, "You made a special tape for me/ With songs from all your favorite CDs/ I put it on today, then I had to turn it off/ From Junior Brown to Dr. Dre/ And You Am I along the way/The music only made me want to get inside your touch."



The Faces, "Ooh La La"

I'm not sure when I first suspected that the Faces’ "Ooh La La" is the perfect song, but I felt the same way at the 400 Bar the other night, when John Munson and his cover boys in Meltaway did it. The set was a vocal-rich showcase of pretty covers of songs by the likes of Elvis Costello, Trip Shakespeare, Ron Sexsmith and Brian Wilson, but when they broke into "Ooh La La," the room lifted.

Seriously. Everyone stopped what they were doing, even in the back, just as I've seen it happen before: At the Faces’ farewell concert at the Minneapolis Auditorium in 1975, and at several Soul Asylum shows in the early '90s, when those guys would do "Ooh La La" as an encore and send everyone home with, well, souls asylumed.

The Front Porch Swingin' Liquor Pigs do it regularly at their Friday night gig at the Viking Bar, and when they played it on New Year's Eve, a couple of barflies close to this column report that, with 2001 lurking just around the corner, goose bumps broke out as the entire joint sang the chorus of, "I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was younger/I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was stronger."



Prince, "Gold"

From my liner notes to the Artist’s 1995 CD "The Gold Experience" and my new book, Gold Experience: Following Prince in the ‘90s:

):


In February of 1994, Prince emerged from an intense writing and recording seclusion and threw a party ("The Beautiful Experience") at Paisley Park to commemorate the release of "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World" single. That’s when I first heard much of the material you now hold in your hands—including the marvelous cartoon dance work-out "Now" and the Al Green-kissed "Most Beautiful Girl." The 90-minute performance was a gritty, lean, and supremely nasty coming-out baptism that, unlike the Glam Slam gig a mere 12 months prior, revealed Prince to be a past-jettisoning, forward-thinking world citizen capable of howling lines like "Hooker, bitch, ‘ho/I don’t think so," and then, with genuine bad-ass squirreliness, "Light us up and take a hit."

Which, as a matter of fact, is exactly what I did. As often as possible. Last summer, Prince and the NPG set up shop for a week in Erotic City, the small annex in Minneapolis Glam Slam’s upper deck. Typically, they’d start at about 2:00 a.m. and play until 3:00. All my cronies from the old days had long since given in to their skepticism and bailed from the purple magic bus, so my friend Theresa was the only one I could ever talk into going. One night we were joined by 150 people. The next, 400. One night, he laid on his back and plaid feathery blues guitar for 20 minutes; the next, he bounced off the NPG horns like a tireless, tenacious Muscle Shoals band leader; the next, he led 300 people on a scavenger hunt out to Chanhassen for a full-fledged concert at Paisley Park.

It was exhilarating, and exhausting. Theresa and I would drive home from those gigs dazed and bemused, and go to sleep with the birds chirping and the sun coming up. The next day, we’d call each other up: Did you hear this? What was that lyric? What’s up with the spiritual vibe? I was floored by the band—bassist Sonny T., drummer Michael Bland, keyboardists Tommy Barbarella and Mr. Hayes—and the balance they struck between well-drilled professionalism and off the cuff jam-ability. After a July Glam Slam gig, Theresa said she thought "Pussy Control" was just another one of Prince’s sexist throwaways; I thought that was too easy. I defended it as a lighthearted and raunchy take on the power of womanhood.

We bitched, wondered, and danced. Yeah, we were hooked, I suppose in the same what that any Prince fan gets hooked, but because it was all new material and we were hearing it as works in progress unfettered by the usual cheese, it was more exciting than just superstar-gazing in a small club. It was, as we often said those nights in June and July, like discovering an underground band that nobody had ever heard of before.



Stevie Wonder, "Signed, Sealed, Delivered"


As President-elect Barack Obama gave his victory speech on the big screen at Arnellia's, the bar's owner and namesake, Arnellia Allen, sat at her favorite perch--on a stool near the cash register. Flanked by a few friends and family, the normally reserved Allen wore a wide grin and took up the packed bar's chant of "Obama" as the television beamed images of America's new first family to the world.

"I'm in shock," said the 60-something Allen. "I'm very excited, but it's a little hard to believe. I felt like this day would come one day, but I never thought I'd live to see it."

Arnellia's is St. Paul's oldest African-American-owned business, and its clientele is largely black. Tuesday, a crowd of 20-something hip-hop fans gathered at the club to hear live crews throw down as older Arnellia's regulars celebrated the historic election near the flat-screen in the corner with drinks, catfish, and chicken wings.

I" totally did not believe that I would see a black man as president of the United States," said St. Paul resident Michelle Bowie. "It's a miracle, almost. It feels like a miracle. I'm very proud of the whole Democratic Party. It feels like everybody is coming together, and that makes me very happy."



Lucinda Williams, "Side Of The Road"

I’ve listened to Lucinda Williams’ "Side of the Road" hundreds of times, but the one I remember most came in early June 1989. That evening, I was driving my 1980 K Car through rural Georgia as the big red sun was going down. I had just graduated from college, four years after my semi-punk rock band had split up, and I was on my way from my hometown in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Jacksonville, Florida, to do a summer internship at the Florida Times-Union. I had no air conditioning, the windows down, and the Georgia night cooling me off. Spraying out of the tape deck was Lucinda’s 1988 self-titled masterpiece.

It’s a terrific road record, full of flights of fancy and highway imagery, and the sort of crunchy snare drums, moaning violins, bluesy acoustic, electric, and slid guitars, and top-o’-the-lungs sing-alongs that can get you through the worst white-line fever. For most of that late afternoon, Lucinda’s voice and characters kept me company like a therapy group laying bare our deepest unsaid desires. Every one of them, from the obsessed lover in ‘I Just Wanted to See You So Bad," to the restless waitress, Sylvia, in "Night’s Too Long," to the yearning soul who just wants a few "Passionate Kisses" in this cold cold world, hit the ether with the same shared inflection of wanderlust.



Wilco, "How To Fight Loneliness"

There is a ritual that Jeff Tweedy follows every day he is on tour. His band, Wilco, finishes a show in one town or another. After the applause dies down, the band climbs onto the bus. Hundreds of miles down the road, they pull into another town, where they check into a hotel. When Tweedy hits the sack, and when he wakes up the next day, for a few minutes he doesn’t know where he is.

He climbs out of bed and finds the bathroom. He turns on the water, and eases himself into the tub. There, in what may be his lone moment of peace for the day, he thinks of his wife and son back home in Chicago, and the nomadic existence his life has become. And begins to sob.

"I almost make a point of crying or something every day," says Tweedy. "Just trying not to bottle it up as much--not feeling sorry for yourself, but knowing that you're gonna feel better if you just let it out. I know that if I don't let it out, it manifests itself in a weird stage persona. But if I do, it lets me focus a little bit clearer on playing well."



Peter Tosh, "Legalize It"

One of the first times I smoked marijuana was with Peter Tosh.

It was July 10, 1978, and the co-founder of The Wailers and his band was opening for the Rolling Stones at the St. Paul Civic Center. During "Legalize It," the title track off Tosh’s 1976 solo album and the first mainstream-produced record to champion the medicinal and spiritual benefits of weed, the 34–year-old native of Westmoreland, Jamaica pulled out a spliff the size of a baguette and lifted it to the heavens. Cheers.

I was 19 years old, a few months older than my son is now. Mick Jagger had just been on stage, doing his bony-assed chicken dance while guest dueting with Tosh on their hopped-up version of the Temptations’ "(Walk And) Don’t Look Back," so by sheer star power the then mostly unknown reggae legend had the 20,000 rock kids in the palms of his blunt-loving hands.



The National, "Geese Of Beverly Road"

Hang around with my buddy Pete Christensen long enough, and he’s liable to play you one of his favorite songs, "Geese of Beverly Road," by the National. It’s a classic light-from-darkness tune whose chorus dreams, "Hey love, we’ll get away with it/We’ll run like we’re awesome, totally genius."

That childlike spirit of escape and adventure has been at the heart of the 46-year-old welder, artist, musician, husband and father of three for as long as we’ve been friends and neighbors. He’s fond of referring to human beings as "creation machines" who make their own reality through intention, self-awareness and the power of positive thinking, and damned if it doesn’t work.



Son Volt, "Windfall"

"If you’ve played music for a long time," says Son Volt guitarist/violinist Dave Boquist, sitting at a Mexican restaurant that night in Minneapolis, "the songs, the music, the instruments, all become part of your family. Your confidants. Sometimes I think that it’s possible if you’re outside of that environment, it’s sort of like being without something you’re close to. I know I go nuts if I’m away from my music, or my instruments, for a long period of time. I’m somewhat miserable."

Maybe people who play music are drawn to it out of a very basic need. Maybe they just need something to do with their hands.

"Some people don’t, but a lot of people do," he says. "Some people are very cerebral and can dream a little. We do manual labor."



Joe Henry, "Short Man’s Room’"

The office building sessions were originally meant to be demos, but Henry liked the feel of the recordings, and after consulting with manager Dave Ayers, he decided to turn the project over to Mammoth. The result is a classic American folk-rock record, the sparse but by no means slapdash Short Man’s Room: There are only minimal overdubs, but plenty of natural ambience. Put your ear to the ground at the beginning of "King’s Highway" and you can hear somebody drop a pair of keys as Louris and Henry smack their lips in anticipation of telling a tale of nonchalant murder. On another label, another studio, those sounds would have been punched out, cleaned up. For Henry, who does production work with T-Bone Burnett in Los Angeles, the experience was freeing.

"This might sound obvious, but after a while a lot of studio work stops being about music and starts being like math," he says. "I just happen to really believe that if you what you’re trying to get on to tape is a feeling of five guys in a room playing, you know, maybe… the first place to start is to get give guys into a big room and play."

What a concept.

"Yeah, well—keep it under your hat. I’m trying to get a copyright on it."

A timeless travel through myriad characters and moods, Short Man’s Room feels like it was made by a very old soul, a Rip Van Winkle with an acoustic guitar and dobro who’s oblivious to the speed of today’s society and it’s musical trends. While rap, metal, and punk push their respective envelopes, Henry’s sound is a fading, yellowing postcard that could be used as somebody’s favorite bookmark. Something, someone has been reincarnated in this haunting Room, and at times it sounds like the singer is not a singer but a medium.

It’s a celebration of regulars ("Last One Out," "Short Man’s Room") and youth ("Good Fortune," "Stations," "The Diving Bell"). And true to its theme of life, death, and everything in between, Henry dedicates the record to his son and the memory of a late friend. Fittingly, Short Man’s Room’s finale is the exquisite "One Shoe On," a first-person account about a guy dying. A guy dying happy.



Ike Reilly, "Last Time" (Salesmen and Racists)

Let me tell you what I know about Reilly. He drives a Crown Victoria police cruiser, which makes various cameo appearances in his songs. He's had his nose broken a bunch of times, once in Paris. He's got a crooked smile and hot blue eyes that, in the right light, make him look a little deranged. He's big-hearted, loyal and genuinely street smart, and he writes songs the way he talks -- with Technicolor language that has been known to offend the easily offended.

He's got a great memory and a million true stories, like the one about his buddy the priest's first gig, his Irish drinking pals, a wheelchair and a fleet of cop cars.

Then there's the one about him mixing "Salesmen and Racists" in a Los Angeles studio next to Britney Spears and 'NSYNC, who he said were "really nice." Spend five minutes with him, and you'll realize that something of everyone he has ever met -- every fat cat and homeless person he held the door for while working as a hotel doorman in downtown Chicago for 12 years -- has rubbed off on him and stuck.

He has lived his entire life in Libertyville, Ill., whose most famous son is Marlon Brando. Reilly can tell you all the local Brando lore, like when the Wild One drove his motorcycle through the high school. But while Brando went to Hollywood, got fat and made awful movies, Reilly stayed in Libertyville, raised a family, ran marathons, drank, smoked dope, made music, got sick of it and built a studio and a business from the ground up.

Then he got sick of that, and he and his guitarist/keyboardist/co-producer Ed Tinley holed up in that studio and made what I like to call the next -- and maybe last -- great American rock 'n' roll record.



Bruce Springsteen, "Magic"

The old dogs hit the stage with "Radio Nowhere," with Springsteen growling, "is there anybody alive out there?" to a Greek choir, and then, less quotable but perhaps more salient in the media miasma of know-it-all pundits and opinions we find ourselves in: "I just wanna hear some rhythm."

When they lurched into "No Surrender," I wedged myself behind Alexa and Vicki and steadied myself. Martin, Jason, Jen and Kyle had my back. I raised my beer and prayed along, "We made a promise, we swore we’d always remember, no retreat, baby, no surrender." Springsteen looked right at me, the guy with the chalice held aloft, and grinned and nodded.

When it was done I touched my face and hell if it wasn’t wet with tears. I can name the last time I cried, and trust me it was a long time ago, but the pushing-60 little garage rocker with the Telecaster-on-fire who described his job on 60 Minutes as, "I make grown men cry and women dance" got me. Again.



Mason Jennings, "The Ballad of Paul and Sheila"

Paul Wellstone didn't lead any bands, but he led as musical a life as they come. He lived to bring people together, to mend fences: Music. When he died, musicians and artists were some of the most devastated, as Leslie Ball's crest-fallen-but-somehow-still-beaming face on CSPAN from Williams Arena illustrated. Everyone from Mason Jennings to Larry Long wrote Wellstone tribute songs in the aftermath, and everyone had a story, including the one Wendy Lewis told me about the genuine exuberance with which Wellstone once introduced her band, Rhea Valentine, to a crowd at the Lyn-Lake Festival. Imagine that, today.



The Waterboys, "This Is The Sea"

Calling something a "miracle" these days can get you laughed right out of the cynics' club, but there's no other word for what happened at First Avenue around 10:15 Saturday night.

The Waterboys were onstage, having returned to the scene of their most recent inspirational service of March 28. Among other things that night, the Irish-British band's singer/songwriter, Mike Scott, memorably sang, "That was the river, this is the sea," giving voice to anyone who may have been going through a profound winter funk and/or midlife crisis, as the dicey past (the river) slipped into the looming future (the sea).

Six short months later, the funk and crisis and future and sea belonged to everyone. Before the show, a fan told Scott that the Waterboys' performance of "This Is The Sea" had helped him grow up, to which the singer responded, "Glad to be of service."

Now the fan found himself near the front of the stage, listening intently again as Scott sang, over an electric guitar that sounded like banging shutters in a storm, "I'm not through with my changes/I've got a long way still to run/I'm gonna play this show even if nobody comes."



Parliament Funkadelic, "Free Your Mind…"

The first time he said it, George Clinton didn't even remember what he said. It was 1967, and his band, the Parliaments, were performing at a club in Boston called the Sugar Shack. The Parliaments came well before Clinton’s trailblazing Parliament-Funkadelic collectives of the '70s; a doo-wop outfit that eschewed the genre's matching sweaters and three-piece suits of the day and opted instead for helmets, fencing masks and robes that were more in line with the era's burgeoning psychedelic movement.

The first time he said it, George Clinton was tripping on acid. The Parliaments were experimenting with a raw melange of slow, dirty blues and embryonic funk. That night at the Sugar Shack, the band was laying down an especially nasty groove that was bathed in moody minor chords and bumped along by their leader's cosmic comic-book ad-libbing and hallucinogenic-inspired beat poetry.

The first time he said it, George Clinton might well have lost it forever to the moment, were it not for an "artsy-fartsy" college friend "who talked to me about Nietzsche and Ayn Rand and all that stuff." The kid had made a habit of sitting in the audience at Parliaments' gigs and meticulously scribbling down verbatim passages from Clinton’s improvs. After the Parliaments ended their set at the Sugar Shack, he presented Clinton with a scrap of paper. It read:

"Free your mind and your ass will follow."

"To me, it was nonsensical and pseudo-philosophical, and I cracked up every time I heard myself say something like that," Clinton says by phone from his 178-acre Michigan homestead, where he lives with his wife of three years and two of his grandchildren. "Years later, I realized things flow through you that you don't even have to know what you're talking about.

"But I was like everybody else: I learned later that it does mean something. I mean, I write lyrics all the time, and I knew it had a flow to it, but it's deeper than I even thought it was. Because now, everybody thinks that was genius to be able to do a record like that. When he came up to me and said, ‘This is what you said,’ I believed him, because he was knowledgeable. So whatever, if he said it meant something, I thought, ‘I'm gonna keep it.’"



Ray Charles, "Georgia On My Mind"

I love going to hear my brother sing and play music with his band, St. Dominic’s Trio, Tuesday nights at Nye’s Polonaise Room, which a few years back was named

"BEST.BAR.EVER." by Esquire magazine.

Every week, those guys fill the room with love and entertain the troops with a sweet strain of soul music that makes a body never want to leave. They're so good at it. I often sit back in a booth or on a stool these nights, counting blessings, listening to the

music, watching people, eavesdropping, and staring into the crystal balls of neon, mirrors and liquor bottles.

The truth of the matter is that live music and a couple beers calm my scattered nerves as nothing else does, much in the same way that R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts" never has failed to. Last night at Nye's, I watched a middle-aged couple from Houston make out like teenage banshees in the front booth as St. Dom's made Siamese twins out of The Who's "Substitute" and The Flaming Lips' "Do You

Realize?"

After I expressed my great admiration for their public display of affection, the kind that Minnesotans too rarely engage in, my friend Debbie and I ended up dancing to the double-dip depression blues with the Texans, who presented us with their cowboy/girl hats at the end of the night.

It was a night like that a couple of months ago when I found myself sitting alone at the Nye's piano bar with Mike Mills, bassist for R.E.M., who was in town for a show at the Varsity Theater with The Baseball Project the next night. Hovering around the piano were Mills' bandmates Scott McCaughy, Linda Pitmon, and Steve Wynn. They were the only people in the bar, save for Corky tending the front bar and Mike, Nye's omnipresent and ornery piano player and singalong host.

I said hello to the group and sat down next to Mills. He and McCaughy sang a spirited "Mac the Knife." After which I suggested to Mills, who was nursing a gin and tonic and looking as forlorn and far away from home as any traveling salesman ever has, that he sing "Georgia On My Mind."

"That's a good idea," he drawled.



The Ramones, "Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio?"

The Ramones played their first Twin Cities concert in 1976 at the old Kelly's Pub in downtown St. Paul. The Suicide Commandos, the local band that formed around the same time as the New York rockers, opened.

The afternoon of the show, a couple of underage kids from Minneapolis, one of whom wore a Ramones T-shirt, drove across the river and parked in front of the bar. The kids had never been to a bar of any kind before, but they were gonna give it a shot. "We love the Ramones," the kid with the T-shirt told the bouncer at the door. "We just want to see the band. We won't drink or anything. Will you let us in? Please?"

It was 5 p.m. The Ramones wouldn't be on stage until almost midnight. The bouncer gave the lads the once-over, propped the door open, and barked "Get out of here."



Slim Dunlap, "Times Like This"

"Fuckin’ A, Slim!," shouted the man at Palmer’s Bar last Thursday around midnight, and then he shouted it again.

"Fuckin’ A, Slim!" 

Never mind the light of day, the man’s coarse bravo was the perfect exclamation point to the song that Bob "Slim" Dunlap had just played at Palmer’s, that decades-old West Bank survivor whose charms are nicely summed up by "Mary" in an online bar review:

"This is the only bar in Minnesota where immigrants, punks, college kids, old hippies, homeless people, crack heads, and gangstas share the same space without it being a presidential ad campaign."



That much was true this night, as Slim’s son and Palmer’s employee Louie Dunlap manned the door and premises, and the sons and daughters of the hippie-punks gathered around the open fire in the outdoor back patio to warm themselves with smokes and spirits on a chilly spring night. Inside the bar, there were shots of hard liquor and soft sweater girls, tipsy bikers and bombed bombshells, three-dollar cover, a guitar case festooned with a Dylan sticker that read "It’s Not Dark Yet… But It’s Getting There," and local music photographer Jenn Barnett, crawling around the front of the stage to capture the moment that Slim captured with his classic tune "Times Like This."



The Hamm’s Bear, "From The Land Of Sky-Blue Waters"

The man inside the Hamm's Bear costume is one Corey Shovein, a 35-year-old salesman for the local Hohensteins beer distributor. As a self-described "beer geek," Shovein knows his Hamm's history by heart. The Hamm's brewery was started in Milwaukee in 1865 at a time when regional brewers ruled. Campbell-Mithun Advertising of Minneapolis created the campaign that featured the Hamm's Bear and the jingle "from the land of sky-blue waters." The Ojibwe artist Patrick DesJarlait came up with the Hamm's Bear.

In the year 2000, the St. Paul Pioneer Press named the Hamm's Bear as a runner-up on its list of "150 Most Influential Minnesotans of the past 150 Years." But his once-ubiquitous image is nowhere to be found these days: The same forces that assassinated Joe Camel, for marketing to children, hit the Hamm's Bear with a ricochet.

"The song was catchy, the imagery was catchy, and even though you don't see him anymore, it shows how formidable the advertising was," says Shovein. "People still know who the Hamm's Bear is. People ask to have it in parades and all that kind of crap. But it's hotter than the gates of hell in this thing, so the Hamm's Bear prefers winter."

In the past three years that Shovein has been donning the costume, the Hamm's Bear has been asked to engage in every sexual situation imaginable. The Hamm's Bear has been propositioned, punched, and partied with. He has found himself in corporate boardrooms, private parties, and athletic events. And he has brusquely knocked over kids who are too young to appreciate the Hamm's Bear legacy.

"I put it on whenever anyone asks," says Shovein, a married father of two toddlers. "It can be a little addicting. I generally lug around a Polaroid, and we do a dollar a photo and give that money to charity, or give the money to the servers. It turns into a melee. Honestly, people just line up to get a hold of the Hamm's Bear.



Curtiss A/John Lennon, "I Want You (She’s So Heavy)"

On the night of Dec. 8, 1980, Yoko Ono and John Lennon were returning home to the Dakota apartment building near New York's Central Park, when gunman Mark David Chapman murdered the ex-Beatle.

A couple of hours later in Minneapolis, after hearing the news, Curtiss A got up onstage with Safety Last and Slim Dunlap at the 7th St. Entry to sing a few Beatles and Lennon songs.

Since then, Ono and Curt have been keeping the Lennon flame alive in their own ways. Ono has showcased Lennon's artwork, lyrics and recordings, while Curt has staged his Lennon tribute every year around this time.

The two artists had never spoken to each other, but to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Lennon's death on Friday, we thought it would be a good idea to get them on the phone together.

A good idea? On one hand, we have the woman who has been myopically painted as the reason the Beatles broke up. On the other, the local legend notorious for saying exactly what's on his mind ("When I met Chuck Berry, I asked him why he always plays with such shitty bands," Curt said before the interview) and for his status as one of America's great lost soul singers.

Why not? The call happened Sunday morning, Nov. 26. Over the course of 45 minutes, the two discussed Lennon's legacy, Elvis impersonators and the simple fact that all our cells are connected.

Some excerpts:

Walsh: Good morning, Yoko. I have Curtiss A with us here. Curt, can you say, "Hi?"

Curt: Hi, Yoko.

Yoko: Hi, dear.

Curt: She called me "dear"!

Walsh: The reason I wanted to get you two together on the phone this morning is because in your own ways, you've both been responsible for keeping John's flame alive. Yoko, Curt has been doing his tribute to John for 20 years.

The great thing about it is that it attracts some of the best musicians in town, and it really is a celebration of John's music that has retained his spirit, and irreverence and message of peace and love unlike any other live music experience that I know of. You'd be amazed by it--seeing all these people in the same room, lifted up by John's music every year.

Yoko: That's great. That's so great."



The Belfast Cowboys, "Looking For The Northern Lights"

Christmas night 2014, my brother Terry and I sat in the living room of his bachelor pad apartment overlooking Lake Harriet, listening to the final mixes of The Upside to the Downslide and taking in the frozen splendor of the beautiful body of water that’s been a spiritual touchstone to us since we were kids. It’d been a rollercoaster year for the both of us, a couple of fiftysomething Irish-Minneapolitans traversing music, love, life, death and everything in between, and now we were enjoying some post-holiday chill time and feeling lucky to be alive.

We’d listened to most of the record when he went out to the porch to get a breath of the unseasonably warm winter air, leaving me alone for "Looking for the Northern Lights," a personal fave that’s been a staple of the Cowboys’ and St. Dominic’s Trio’s live shows, and which the band had been struggling to capture with a recording that did justice to the song’s wanderlusty magic. When he came back in, I told my bro that people in this part of the world, where the search for the northern lights is a mystical right of passage, would be listening to it a hundred years from now.



Cat Stevens, "If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out"

But before you go, you might find yourself thanking everyone who has read this far and telling them that you don't take for granted this thing you've shared, this thing that goes beyond "coverage" and "content" and "customer" and telling them that it has been a pleasure beyond words, so you'll end this one with a song.

The last time you heard it was the other night at Liquor Lyle's with you and your old friend Craig. You ran into your old friend Kate and her old friend Suzanne. The four of you grabbed a table by the pool tables, and you and Kate went to the jukebox and put on some Bowie and Stones and Jane's Addiction.

Craig got out his credit card and bought Leinies and Cuervo. You talked about Sept. 11, heroes, firemen, marriage, media, music. Then, you started singing.

You'd just discovered your mutual love for Harold and Maude, and Cat Stevens' words started trickling out of all of you, clumsily at first, a barbershop karaoke quartet without the TelePrompTer:

"Well, if you want to sing out, sing out./And if you want to be free, be free./'Cause there's a million things to be./You know that there are."

You stumbled, but then Craig picked you up, as he often has; Kate inspired you, as she often does; Suzanne took a drag off her cigarette and smiled at the three of you, and in your minds you all plucked banjos and did Harold's jig on the cliff and danced Maude's nose-thumbing, hand-clapping shimmy.

You were flush in the moment, eyes locked in on each other's, but you took a second to look up to see that the pool players had stopped their games and were watching, listening.

"If you want to be me, be me," you sang, at the top of your beery lungs, drowning out the jukebox, spreading the gospel. "And if you want to be you, be you/'Cause there's a million things to be/You know that there are./It's easy, ah ah ah."

For a minute or longer, you sang, volume increasing with courage. From the front bar, hard faces turned soft and beamed your way. A couple of pool players rested their chins on their sticks and grinned. An ecstatic woman from the next table joined in.

You will never forget it. Any of it.



Jim Walsh and Bar Yarns and Manic-Depressive Mixtapes links:

PopMatters review


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

List of Online "Best Books of 2016" Lists

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

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


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Shorties (An Excerpt from Han Kang's New Novel, Stream the New Allison Crutchfield Album, and more)

Read It Forward shared an excerpt from Han Kang's novel Human Acts.


NPR Music is streaming Allison Crutchfield's new album Tourist in This Town.

Stereogum and BrooklynVegan interviewed Crutchfield.


Ebooks on sale for $1.99 today:

Hannah Arendt: A Life in Dark Times by Anne C. Heller
A Model World by Michael Chabon


OK Go covered Morrissey's "Interesting Drug.


Blarb shared an excerpt from Viet Thanh Nguyen's new book Nothing Ever Dies.


Stream a new Kelly Lee Owens song.


The 2017 PEN America Literary Awards finalists have been announced.


NPR Music is streaming Tift Merritt's new album Stitch of the World.


Signature recommended books about election fraud in American history.


Stream new Austra songs.


Literary Hub interviewed author Kathleen Rooney.


NPR Music is streaming Japandroids' new album Near To The Wild Heart Of Life.


Ayelet Waldman talked books and reading with the New York Times.


The Creative Independent interviewed singer-songwriter Caroline Polachek.


Bookworm interviewed author Ottessa Moshfegh.


Barack Obama's White House DJ reflected on the last eight years at SPIN.


Acoustic Guitar profiled singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie.


NME listed notable albums released in 1997.


Ottessa Moshfegh on writing through depression at the Atlantic.


Stream a new Dirty Projectors song.


The Guardian listed the best climate change novels.


The Proper Ornaments broke down their album Foxhole track-by-track at Drowned in Sound.


Elle recommended books to read before participating in the Women's March on Washington.


R.I.P., musician William Onyeabor.



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

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

List of Online "Best Books of 2016" Lists
Essential and Interesting Year-End 2016 Music Lists

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


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January 18, 2017

Book Notes - Jordan A. Rothacker "And Wind Will Wash Away"

And Wind Will Wash Away

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

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

Jordan Rothacker's And Wind Will Wash Away is an ambitiously told and rewarding detective novel.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"A penetrating, provocative tale of a detective who psychoanalyzes as often as he investigates."


In his own words, here is Jordan A. Rothacker's Book Notes music playlist for his novel And Wind Will Wash Away:



1) "Wild is the Wind" by Nina Simone, Wild is the Wind
This song, that voice, its vibrato… may they arch over the whole book like the night sky or the belly of ancient Egyptian Goddess Nut, an aural and thematic womb to contain the narrative.

2) "Twin Peaks Score" by Angelo Badalamenti
Special Agent Dale Cooper was in part a model for my Detective Sergeant Jonathan Wind and there might be other corollaries between Twin Peaks and And Wind Will Wash Away. The feelings of nostalgia and mystery Badalamenti captures in this score were at a low frequency in the back of my mind through much writing. My hope was to make a world so real that we can see how strange and mysterious it really is.

3) "Snappin' & Trappin'," "Spaghetti Junction," and "Cruisin' In The ATL," by Outkast, Stankonia
I started writing this book in New York not long after this album came out and it was the perfect vehicle to take me back to Atlanta, the sites, the food, the feel, the traffic. These three songs in particular—the first featuring Killer Mike—get at some of what I've always loved of that town. Atlanta transcends and thwarts any preconceived notion of "southern," and the most vital cultural contributions that city has engendered in the last two decades are in Hip Hop.

4) "The Wind" by Cat Stevens (formerly Steven Demetre Georgiou, presently Yousef Islam), Teaser and the Fire Cat
The epigraph from Chapter Four: The Altar of Osiris is from this song, "I listen to the wind, to the wind of my soul. Where I end up, well I think, only God really knows." It sets the tone for that chapter. The protagonist might not be based on me, but his best friend, Lao Benjoseph, is based on my friend Daniel Chameides who passed away in September 2016. The last time I saw him was at the launch party for this book and I read from this chapter. He liked it.

5) "Both Hands" by Ani DiFranco, Ani DiFranco
This song beautifully captures some of the truest tangled difficulties of intimacy. It is a song I learned from my high school girlfriend at maybe the height of her goddess-worshipping riot grrl-ness and this book is lousy with references to all the wonderful stuff I took away from that time. I saw Ani with her in Atlanta during that Living in Clip tour and as a guitar geek at the time I was really blown away by her playing; her overall performance intensity was amazing too. This song seems to often crop up in my head when I write interpersonal or "relationship" scenes like those in this book.

6) "Will My Feet Still Carry Me Home" by Elf Power, A Dream In Sound
My first show at the 40 Watt in Athens was seeing Elf Power and I listened to this album a lot after that show while writing. At the core of this book is loss, but it results in a quest in lieu of mourning. The ambient, wistful, and moody melody of this song fits the journey of the lyrics. The lyrics line up with my book well too, beginning with, "I wished it all away," and eventually, "You, I cannot save."

7) "Moroccan Rock (Pipes of Pain)," Debbie Harry, Cash Cow
Don't get me wrong, I love Debbie Harry and I really enjoy this song, but it smacks a bit of orientalism. There is definitely a good bit of orientalism in New Age spirituality and I've tried to illustrate the range of sincerity from true devotion all the way down to cultural tourism it draws in Chapter Ten where a group of goddess-worshippers meet in ritual.

8) "Straight Down" by The Glands, The Glands
This is another song by an Athens band (RIP Ross Shapiro), and a song that captures lyrically some of the fun weirdness of what the South can offer. It is also a song that accompanied me on my research trips into Atlanta. Atlanta is a driving city. There are neighborhoods to walk, but really getting around you have to drive, and traffic is the bane of all life. Once you bust out of a stand-still-purgatory of auto-complacency across all six lanes on your side of the highway and can taste the sweet freedom of a temporarily open lane for as far as the eye can see, you start this song and for maybe one ecstatic mile you feel like you're living Bodhi's truth from Point Break.

9) "Nightswimming," by R.E.M., Automatic for the People
My favorite R.E.M. album is Fables of the Reconstruction (that's what I'm supposed to say, right), but this song off of Automatic for the People sure hits a sentimental nerve. It was attached to a couple relationships and groups of friends in college and when I got to Athens and was pushing through on this book it took on a new significance. I lived on Grady Street (there is a chapter of And Wind Will Wash Away set there) in an apartment building with a pool infamous for summer late night swimming when the bars let out. Unsubstantiated rumor had it that the R.E.M. song was about this pool. My protagonist grew up on this street and I felt very connected to this place.

10) "Ghost," by Don Chambers, Back in the Woods
Don Chambers is easily my favorite songwriter out of Athens and a good buddy. He played my wedding and the launch of my first book. I was listening to this whole album while writing the book, but this song was perfect for the book trailer. The South isn't all rural, and the gothic feel can also be expressed in urban areas. It is also a song about how to deal with a ghost.

11) "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea," by Neutral Milk Hotel, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
In this novel I called upon a muse of wind. For a book about passions and pursuits as important—and yet ephemeral—as religion and love, wind was the perfect muse. Lines from this song were used in my wedding; my wife was the main reader on the final edit of this book; and from this song we get a sentiment that runs through the whole narrative as it investigates belief: "how strange it is to be anything at all."

12) "Eyes Without Blood," by Diamanda Galas, Cash Cow
By the end of the penultimate chapter you have hopefully experienced something like this Diamanda Galas song makes me feel. I find a great sacredness in her music, one that touches on horror, terror, and awe. With her I feel a deep primal humanity. Conveying that feeling is an artistic goal of mine.

13) "Idiot Wind," by Bob Dylan (formerly Robert Zimmerman), Blood on the Tracks
The epigraph for Chapter Eighteen: Revelation, the final chapter, is from this song, "You're an idiot wind… it's a wonder that you still know how to breath..." It's not that this third person narrator is at odds with his protagonist, but It certainly isn't trying to be an enabler. The lyrical content of this song—the way Dylan makes a loose narrative out of crisp visual descriptions—is quite inspiring and the wind theme it supports has been there with me from the first in writing this book.


Jordan A. Rothacker and And Wind Will Wash Away links:

the author's website

As Is Tough To Be review
Cleaver review
Kirkus review
Cease Cows interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

List of Online "Best Books of 2016" Lists

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

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


Posted by david | Permalink | Comments (View)

Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week - January 18, 2017

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

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


Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation

Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation
by Octavia E. Butler, John Jennings, Damian Duffy

Octavia Butler’s Kindred, the story of a young black writer who is inexplicably transported back in time to the antebellum South, was perfectly poised for a graphic adaptation. The science fiction classic is rendered in all of its searing intellect by Damian Duffy and John Jennings, with frenzied linework matching the verve of Butler’s writing.


Fever Dream

Fever Dream
by Samanta Schweblin, translated by Megan McDowell

This is a special novel from Argentinian writer Samanta Schweblin. A woman named Amanda lies dying in a hospital bed, having her psyche ransacked by fever. What follows is a deeply unsettling narrative, a portrait of psychological menace which intensifies as the subject deteriorates. Fever Dream is a mesmerizing first novel from a promising young author—we can’t wait to read what she does next!


The Wisdom of The Heart

The Wisdom of The Heart
by Henry Miller

First published in 1966, this selection of Henry Miller’s stories and essays has waltzed down the gauntlet of time unscathed. The Wisdom of the Heart features some of his best-known prose, including stories such as “The Enormous Womb” and studies of Balzac and D.H. Lawrence. New Directions has made a habit of reprinting quality work, and this collection is ideal for Miller devotees and newcomers alike.


Martin Luther King, Jr: The Last Interview and Other Conversations

Martin Luther King, Jr: The Last Interview and Other Conversations
by Martin Luther King Jr

The newest addition to The Last Interview series is Martin Luther King Jr! This collection contains conversations that span his career, including his first television appearance and his final interview, given only 10 days before his assassination. King’s wisdom and insights are ever relevant, as the insistence for equality and peace are as urgent now than ever. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”


Enigma Variations

Enigma Variations
by André Aciman

André Aciman, professor of comparative literature at the City University of New York, has cemented a reputation as a cartographer of passion. His newest book is a map of one man’s desires, told in five vignettes arranged across a lifetime. Aciman’s prose is memorable not only for its nimble lyricism but also for its precision—at times painfully so—as he probes at how we love, want, and ache.


Librairie Drawn & Quarterly links:

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


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

other Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week

Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly new comics and graphic novel highlights)
Book Notes (authors create music playlists for their book)
guest book reviews
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
WORD Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)


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Shorties (Books To Understand the Obama Presidency, CocoRosie's Anti-Trump Song, and more)

Signature recommended books to understand the Obama presidency.


Stream CocoRosie's new anti-Trump song (featuring ANOHNI).


Ebooks on sale for $1.99 today:

Hannah Arendt: A Life in Dark Times by Anne C. Heller
A Model World by Michael Chabon


Stream a new Spoon song.


Paste and Fanzine interviewed author Ottessa Moshfegh.


Aquarium Drunkard interviewed Jonathan Rado of Foxygen.


Stream a new Hurray for the Riff Raff song.


Signature recommended debut story collections with less-than-perfect protagonists.


PopMatters interviewed Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.


Lena Dunham interviewed author Mary Karr at Lenny.


Willow Smith covered Joanna Newsom's "The Book of Right on."


Stream a new Timber Timbre song.


The New York Times recommended books that "speak to our current historical and cultural moment."


Stream a new Aimee Mann song.


The 2016 National Book Critics Circle Awards finalists have been announced.


Drowned in Sound interviewed singer-songwriter Georgia Ruth.


The Barnes and Noble Review interviewed author Marcy Dermansky.


Stream a new Dutch Uncles song.


BuzzFeed featured an excerpt from Patti Yumi Cottrell's debut novel Sorry To Disrupt The Peace.


All Songs Considered shared a playlist of songs for hope and change.



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

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

List of Online "Best Books of 2016" Lists
Essential and Interesting Year-End 2016 Music Lists

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


Posted by david | Permalink | Comments (View)

January 17, 2017

Book Notes - Kathleen Rooney "Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk"

Eternal Sonata

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

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

Kathleen Rooney's captivating novel Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk is both smart and lyrical, and features one of the year's most unforgettable protagonists.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"Rooney's delectably theatrical fictionalization is laced with strands of tart poetry and emulates the dark sparkle of Dorothy Parker, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Truman Capote. Effervescent with verve, wit, and heart, Rooney’s nimble novel celebrates insouciance, creativity, chance, and valor."


In her own words, here is Kathleen Rooney's Book Notes music playlist for her novel Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk:



Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk is about a woman named Lillian Boxfish—formerly the highest paid female advertising copywriter in the world in the 1930s—who takes a 10.4-mile walk around Manhattan on New Year's Eve 1984, when she is either 84 or 85 years old (she lies about her age). One of my own favorite hobbies is flânerie, attentive yet aimless drifting through the urban streets, so it felt right to make Lillian a flâneuse as well. Women, especially old women, are frequently underestimated, so letting Lillian rove the city where she spent her entire adult life—her stratospheric rise and her painful fall—fearlessly meeting her fellow city-dwellers and having adventures let me add a heroic lady walker to the still largely male literature of flânerie. A former poet, Lillian adores New York City and the people in it, so this playlist is an audio ode to the pleasures of experiencing the urban environment on foot.

"Human Nature" by Steve Porcaro and John Bettis, performed by Michael Jackson (1982)

The way that this song starts captures perfectly, in both sound and lyrics, the inducement to walk that any city gives to a flâneuse or flâneur: "Looking out / across the nighttime / the city winks a sleepless eye / Hear her voice / Shake my window / Sweet seducing sighs." Lillian hadn't planned to make a 10-plus-mile drift, but she can't resist, so she puts on her mink coat and out she goes. The song itself and Michael's delivery of it—trembly and longing—describe the elements of restlessness and voyeurism that go with flânerie: "Reaching out / to touch a stranger / Electric eyes are everywhere / See that girl / she knows I'm watching / She likes the way I stare." This song gets the feast for the eyes and the thrill of seeing and being seen that city walking can offer.

"These Days" by Jackson Browne, performed by Nico (1967)

The novel has a split structure between the present-day of the elderly Lillian walking in 1984 and the past that she reflects upon as she walks, going all the way back to her arrival in New York City in 1926. The retrospective attitude of Browne's lyrics and the straightforward melancholy of Nico's performance fit the way the book unfolds.

"Unguided" by The New Pornographers (2007)

A true flâneuse never consults a map or uses GPS; she follows her instincts and intuitions. Hence the lyric "There's something unguided in the sky tonight" being apt for Lillian's evening. Also, the rhythm of this song and the inclusion of the idea about killing time match Lillian's stroll because flânerie can be a means of time travel. Lillian notes that, as a very old woman, she has so much past and so little future, but she observes this fact with acceptance and not sadness. There's something about walking that can help a person deal with time, no matter their age.


"Tinseltown in the Rain" by the Blue Nile

Obviously, Tinseltown is Hollywood and Lillian walks Manhattan, but this song still applies. It's about feeling wistful and thinking of loves past, and ultimately about the ephemerality of both the best and worst feelings in life. Paul Buchanan understands the paradox of feeling alone in an urban crowd: "Oh men and women / Here we are, caught up in this big rhythm." He also understands the sweetly doomed sensation of desiring that a person, place, or feeling will stay the same, even as you know that such permanence is impossible:

One day this love will all blow over

Time for leaving the parade

Is there a place in this city

A place to always feel this way?

"Cavern" by Liquid Liquid (1981)

There's a decent amount of music mentioned in the book, but this is the only song directly referenced—during a party scene—included on this playlist. The structure of the novel, with Lillian shifting from her past to her present, means that she is, in a sense, as the lyric says, "slipping in and out of phenomenon." And that's how a satisfying urban walk can work, too—if you walk long enough, far enough, through a big enough variety of landscapes, whole days and nights can seem to start over again. You fall into and emerge from forgotten pockets of history and architecture. Also, the bass line of this song is seductive and hypnotic, like the rhythm of the best kind of walk.

"Temptation" by New Order (1982)

Aside from the evident connection to flânerie in the lyric, "Tonight I think I'll walk alone / I'll find my soul as I go home," the peppy but introspective touchiness of the song calls to mind a motto of Lillian's: "Solvitur ambulando"—"it is solved by walking." Sometimes you have a problem and the only thing that's going to take care of it—not solve it, necessarily, but just make it bearable or give you some perspective—is to go take a walk. Also, the lyric "Each way I turn, I know I'll always try / To break this circle that's been placed around me" applies to how Lillian keeps connecting to the people she encounters on her walk, breaking through the stereotypes she might have of them—as limo drivers, security guards, bodega clerks, unwed mothers, etc.—and the ones they might have of her as an old lady.

"When I'm Walking" by Jonathan Richman (1983)

Lillian used to be a light verse poet in the vein of Dorothy Parker in addition to being an adwoman, and this goofy, rhyme-y walking song catches that silly/witty vibe. Other characters periodically tell Lillian that it's not safe for her to walk around the city and that she should go home or get a ride, and she unfailingly refuses. Like Jonathan Richman, she knows that if you love the world, then you're going to want to walk in it:


Well I love the world

So why sit still?



Well, in fact I don't want automotive help, thank you

I do fine just walking all by myself

"Tonight the Streets Are Ours" by Richard Hawley (2007)

Lillian comes through a lot of struggles over the course of her eight-plus decades, and she explains to another character that it's not an exaggeration to say that walking saved her life. This triumphant anthem suggests that feeling of pure potential you can achieve on an aimless walk—anything could happen if you just get out there. I love the part where Hawley sings:

Those people, they got nothing in their souls
And they make our TVs blind us
From our vision and our goals
Oh the trigger of time it tricks you
So you have no way to grow

Like don't look at your screens, look at people's faces. There are so many voices telling us to be afraid of the city and not to talk to strangers, but strangers are so interesting. Talk to some of them. Lillian would.


Kathleen Rooney and Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk links:

the author's website

Kirkus review
Minneapolis Star Tribune review
Publishers Weekly review

Chicago Magazine profile of the author
Electric Literature interview with the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Live Nude Girl
Largehearted Boy Book Notes playlist by the author for O, Democracy
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Oneiromance
Largehearted Boy Book Notes playlist by the author for René Magritte: Selected Writings
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Robinson Alone


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

List of Online "Best Books of 2016" Lists

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

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


Posted by david | Permalink | Comments (View)

Book Notes - Jamie Metzl "Eternal Sonata"

Eternal Sonata

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

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

Jamie Metzl's novel Eternal Sonata is a thought-provoking thriller set in the near future.


In his own words, here is Jamie Metzl's Book Notes music playlist for his novel Eternal Sonata:



Eternal Sonata, imagines a future global struggle to control the science of extreme human life extension. In the novel, a brilliant scientist working to honor the memory of his late wife by curing cancer develops a process for cellular reversion that unlocks the key to immortality. While he works tirelessly on his research, he fills his lab with a fictional Bach "eternal sonata," a metaphor for both his enduring love for his scientist/musician wife and for the human quest to live forever. Here is how the scientist describes an "eternal sonata" to the person visiting his lab:

"It's not a pure Bach sonata. It's an eternal sonata, a variation on all of the Sonatas de Chiesa, using Bach's same fractal formulas but extending the mathematical variation ad infinitum. If Bach had written his sonatas to go on forever, each melody embedded with the mathematical formula guiding the whole, this is probably what they would have sounded like, all thanks to the miracle of quantum computing."

In the run-up to the launch of the book, I wanted to see if it might be possible to actually create an eternal sonata and reached out to a Brilliant Bach professor at Julliard who, in turn, connected me with one of his students. The student, both a composer and a coder, volunteered enthusiastically and threw himself into the project.

A couple of months later, I received the following note from him:

I've been working on this a lot, and am starting to think the goal is less practical than expected (shocker, I know…). Not sure if you have leads on other musicians, but I might not be able to do this.

In any case, this is what I have as of now; maybe it's possible to imagine the result:

- It is most practical to write in three voices, rather like Bach's organ sonatas.

- The higher two voices imitate each other, with the lowest developing its own accompanimental motifs, and referencing the "head-motif" of the higher voices (this is tricky to implement).

- The movements alternate fast and slow tempos. The first movement is fast. All fast movements are in the home key. Slow movements are in the relative major/minor, or in major or minor V (the choice can be random).

- Not every movement ends in the home key. Maybe every other slow movement and every third fast movement ends in either V or V of the next movement's tonality.

- Slow movements are all of the same form, with the first and second half repeated. If the ending is not in I, there should be a second ending. Ornamentation follows the model of CPE Bach (this is also tricky to analyze and implement).

- Fast movements are in one of these two forms (chosen randomly): Same as the slow movements, though with less ornamentation; similarly bisectional, but without repeat, and not stopping after the modulation.

- There are some numerological items Bach was fascinated in, and they can be interpolated into the list of requirements (mostly, they concern the number of measures).

- What makes this piece a single sonata then, rather than a bunch of movements? There is a second layer of development, featuring the continuous variation and obscuration of a hymn-tune (perhaps the tune from Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit—God's time is the very best time, in which the tune is In you have I hoped, Lord). This provides seriousness, and links the whole as an outpouring of thoughts on death and time passing (this is very tricky to implement).

- As well, there is a sense of continuous development over the whole piece, which might be motivic.

Beyond these guidelines, I wanted to let the computer do the composing, which would take place bit by bit as sections are needed. The biggest problems as of now are:

- Getting the "composer" to work correctly. It's really a coding problem more than a musical problem, and as such is buggy. Because I don't code professionally, the code is clunky and inefficient, more about that in number 3.

- Getting the large-scale structure to "work". It would be nice if the piece sounded right at the end…

- Producing music quickly enough. This is the real trick; as of now, individual measures come laboriously. Eventually, I would need to produce music quicker than one listens to the music. I think this is impossible; with a long piece, one could simply push back a deadline, but I would need to push it back infinitely.

- Eventually getting the program to run itself, producing music forever, including once we're dead. I have no ideas.

Not sure if you have any ideas about these problems? I'm starting to run out of solutions.

Not to be deterred, I send the student's note to a friend who works in one of the world's most high profile artificial intelligence projects in one of the world's most famous companies and asked for his suggestions. Here is what he replied:

I believe you and your Julliard colleague should think about the endless sonata use case as follows:

Input A: Julliard student's observations of each composition (structured and/or unstructured data sets)

Input B: Listener favorability of each composition (e.g., "who likes what")

Output A: Mathematical pattern/compatibility ranking of all possible combinations of compositions

Output B: Auditory quality ranking of all possible combinations of compositions

Insight #1: An endless sonata mathematically looks like....

Insight #2: An endless sonata sounds like....

Insight #3: A combined sonata ceases to become favorable when....

Insight #4: A combined sonata remains favorable if....

Armed with this additional information, I went back to the student and asked him to take another crack. Two months later, I received the following message:

Hi, I spent the weekend (more like a whole week, actually) with a small team of slave-laboring CS students at Columbia, trying to work out the code. We came to a few conclusions:

- The project is definitely possible, because we managed to get the computer to "play itself", and to write code without intervention (most people get really excited when a computer can write code itself, because artificial intelligence and all, but this is a very idiosyncratic intelligence, if in fact it has any. If you ever want to write a book about a robot takeover, this is probably not the droid you're looking for).

- We'd need maybe five years of nearly full-time work. This is really non-negotiable, because there is a lot of grunt work involved in defining musical parameters (musicians are taught in school "don't write with parallel fifths", "don't double a leading tone", et cetera. If you want to teach a computer those, you first need to find a mathematical way of defining the transformation, then codify all the manifestations, then allow for exceptions—you now need to define a stochastic tool for producing weighted random numbers, and "calibrate" it experimentally—and then pray that the computer doesn't get too smart and make an unpredictable blunder that a human wouldn't… which of course you can't check for until the end. There doesn't seem to be a simple way around this piecemeal work—if someone found one, they'd be making celebrity-professor-money at a big university. If the best classical music sounds "simple" or "logical", it's because human learning and music are so intimately connected; in the arts, the last person you want as a student is a completely logical robot, not because the field is illogical, but because defining it logically will break your head needlessly).

- The amount of code needed for a simple bit (few seconds maybe) of music is distressingly large. The demand on the RAM would be similarly distressing, and the practicalities of bandwidth and linking to the internet would provide a less than pleasant listening experience (the quality of sound would have to be lowered, and there would still be clipping, skipping, whole moments of silence, etc.)

In so many words, the killer really is the practicality, not the possibility, much like the individual steps are deceptively possible when you chase the moon around. So I need to apologize, and say it can't be done, at least for now.

It was very enjoyable to work with you! Very sorry we couldn't make something work,

PS, you might be happy to know that several people have adopted the tool to help them with their own pieces, so this work has served some use (though I have yet to hear those pieces). We have also developed a rather strange, yet practical tool for managing the load on the CPU during the playing phase; it has been named "Sonata", of course, and might be handy in other people's projects. Furthermore, we seem to have produced 10 new fans of your books! Thanks again for offering the opportunity to work with you, it's been a lot of fun, even as I pull my hair out.

So of course my music recommendations are Bach's three sonatas da Chiesa.

If your readers can help create a real-world Eternal Sonata, fame, fortune, and glory will be yours.


Jamie Metzl and Eternal Sonata links:

the author's website

Kirkus review

BBC World News interview with the author
The Leonard Lopate Show interview with the author
Wall Street Journal interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

List of Online "Best Books of 2016" Lists

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

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


Posted by david | Permalink | Comments (View)

Shorties (Barack Obama on Books and Writing, One Hundred Days of Anti-Trump Songs, and more)

Barack Obama discussed books and writing with the New York Times.


Our First Hundred Days will feature an unreleased song every day (by Mitski, the Mountain Goats, and others) for the first 100 days of the Trump administration.


35 "best books of 2016" lists were added to the master aggregation at Largehearted Boy Tuesday (bringing the total number to 1,624), including Forbes' best books on birds and birding and The Oklahoman's best graphic novels.

Largehearted Boy's list of essential and interesting "best of 2016" music lists


Ebooks on sale for $1.99 today:

Hannah Arendt: A Life in Dark Times by Anne C. Heller
A Model World by Michael Chabon


NYCTaper shared a live performance by Jon Langford, Jean Cook and Walter Salas-Humara.


The OTHERPPL podcast interviewed author Vanessa Hua.


Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols talked to Rolling Stone about his memoir Lonely Boy.


Fiction Advocate interviewed author Eula Biss.


Stream a new Sloppy Heads song.


The New Yorker interviewed Elif Batuman about her short story in this week's issue.


Salon shared 2017's big music milestones.


Decibel interviewed Nathan Carson about his novella Starr Creek.


Ryan Adams and Liz Phair are collaborating on an album.


Meredith Alling on writing her story collection Sing the Song at Necessary Fiction.


Stream a new song by Tobin Sprout.


Autostraddle recommended the best feminist and LGBTQ books of early 2017.


Sharon Van Etten discussed her new acting career with All Songs Considered.


The Nonhuman Rights Project interviewed Thalia Field about her book Experimental Animals.


Stream a new Xiu Xiu song.


Author D. Foy discussed his tattoos at Clash.


Pitchfork examined the influence of Alice Coltrane's music.


HTMLGIANT previewed 2017's best indie press books.


The Talkhouse podcast featured Tommy Stinson and Wayne Kramer in conversation.


Ben Lerner examined the legacy of John Berger at the New Yorker.


Pitchfork reconsidered X-Ray Specs' Germfree Adolescents album.


BuzzFeed recommended books to read if you are going to the women's march on Washington.



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

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

List of Online "Best Books of 2016" Lists
Essential and Interesting Year-End 2016 Music Lists

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


Posted by david | Permalink | Comments (View)

January 16, 2017

This Week's Interesting Music Releases - January 16, 2017

Chavez

Chavez released its first new music in twenty years, the Cockfighters EP.

The only other new music I can recommend is Corner Suns' self-titled album.

Archival radio performances by Bob Dylan with Tom Petty, Grateful Dead, Leonard Cohen are also available this week.

Reissues include a remastered and expanded 45 rpm vinyl edition Nirvana's Incesticide and vinyl reissues of four Prince releases (Cream, If I Was Your Girlfriend, Kiss, and U Got the Look / Housequake).

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


This week's interesting music releases:


Band of Heathens: Duende
Beat Farmers: Heading North 53 N° 8° E: Live In Bremen
Bob Dylan with Tom Petty: Across the Borderline
Bonobo: Migration
Brandon Can't Dance: Graveyard Of Good Times
Brian Jonestown Massacre: Groove Is in the Heart [vinyl]
Bruce Springsteen & Bon Jovi: Live on Air
Chavez: Cockfighters EP [vinyl]
Chemical Brothers: Come With Us (reissue) [vinyl]
Chemical Brothers: Dig Your Own Hole (reissue) [vinyl]
Chemical Brothers: Exit Planet Dust (reissue) [vinyl]
Chemical Brothers: Further (reissue) [vinyl]
Chemical Brothers: Push the Button (reissue) [vinyl]
Chemical Brothers: Surrender (reissue) [vinyl]
Chet Baker: The Pacific Jazz Collection (4-CD box set)
Code Orange: Forever
Colony House: Only The Lonely
Corner Suns: Corner Suns
Crowded House: Time on Earth (remastered and expanded) [vinyl]
Danny Gokey: Rise
David Bowie: Legacy [vinyl]
Flaming Lips: Oczy Mlody
Flaming Lips: Space Oddity/Jest (There Is) (7" red vinyl) [vinyl]
Grateful Dead: San Francisco 1976
The Infamous Stringdusters: Laws Of Gravity
Jimi Hendrix: Stone Free/Lover Man (reissue) [vinyl]
The Killers: Hot Fuss (reissue) [vinyl]
Lady Lamb the Beekeeper: Tender Warriors Club [vinyl]
Leonard Cohen: Upon A Smokey Evening
Lilys: In the Presence of Nothing (reissue) [vinyl]
Lou Reed: American Poet (remastered and expanded) [vinyl]
Nirvana: Incesticide (2-LP 20th anniversary 45RPM edition) (remastered and expanded) [vinyl]
Old 97's: Too Far To Care (reissue) [vinyl]
Over the Rhine: Ohio (reissue) [vinyl]
Prince: Cream (reissue) [vinyl]
Prince: If I Was Your Girlfriend (reissue) [vinyl]
Prince: Kiss (reissue) [vinyl]
Prince: U Got the Look / Housequake (reissue) [vinyl]
Run the Jewels: Run The Jewels 3 (CD release)
Sepultura: Machine Messiah
Sly and the Family Stone: Anthology - Greatest Hits (180 gram audiophile translucent gold vinyl) (reissue) [vinyl]
Social Club Misfits: The Misadventures of Fern & Marty
SOHN: Rennen
Sun Ra: El Is A Sound Of Joy/Black Sky and Blue Moon (reissue) [vinyl]
Sxip Shirey: Bottle of Whiskey & A Handful of Bees
Tokyo Police Club: Melon Collie and the Infinite Radness (Parts 1 and 2) [vinyl]
Tom Petty: New York Shuffle
Two Cow Garage: Brand New Flag
Warpaint: Whiteout [vinyl]
The xx: I See You
You Me at Six: Night People


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

Essential and Interesting "Best of 2016" Music Lists

weekly music release 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)

January 14, 2017

Atomic Books Comics Preview - January 14, 2017

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.


Get Out Your Hankies

Get Out Your Hankies
by Gabrielle Bell

Any time there's a new book by Bell is a cause for excitement. This mini diary comic deals with subjects like technology, small towns, pickling, mushrooms, spider webs, and, of course, bears.


Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation

Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation
by Damian Duffy / Octavia E. Butler / John Jennings

Here Butler's sci-fi masterpiece has been adapted into a stunning graphic novel.


Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead: Color the Ace of Spades

Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead: Color the Ace of Spades
by various

It's been over a year ago now that we learned that Motorhead's frontman Lemmy Kilmister was killed by death. This coloring book let's us all celebrate the life of a hard living rock icon.


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:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

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)

January 13, 2017

Book Notes - Joe Halstead "West Virginia"

West Virginia

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

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

Joe Halstead's debut novel West Virginia is a powerful and unsettling coming-of-age story.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"This tale of family ties without a falsely satisfying resolution introduces a powerful and authentic voice."


In his own words, here is Joe Halstead's Book Notes music playlist for his novel West Virginia:



When David asked me to do this playlist, it made sense to keep things close to home, which is two places for me: West Virginia and New York City. The songs collected here span the divide that separates the hallowed folk songs of West Virginia and the secular sounds of New York. Country standards, bubbly electronic tracks, and searching tributes to home. These are songs I listened to on repeat when I wrote West Virginia, if that helps you, or you can think of it as a short sampler for the events of the book.

In West Virginia, they sing "Take Me Home, Country Roads" at the end of every WVU football game, and here you'll hear the best "Country Roads" cover ever: the Yoko Honna version. Sandwiched in there is the comfortable Nineties track, "Hate This Place," which I considered for the opening, but my love for John Rzeznik goes all the way back to third grade in West Virginia, so it appears toward the middle. "The Heart That You Own" is my favorite country song on this mix, its title at least, and not only because my heart has been stuck in one of those hollers for decades. "Skin and Bones" came out in 2013 and, in theory, is what it's all about. Eventually, the mix ends where it should, with the Earth perishing and the Universe giving way. Below, dig into a sixteen track experiment in making a playlist.

"Kill For Love" | Chromatics

When I think of Jamie Paddock in West Virginia, I think of a passing ghost, moving through space and time, in search of a home he was born far away from, living this transient life. "Kill For Love" by Chromatics creates the context for this, like a ghost spaceship broadcasting sparkly transmissions into the void, calling you back through whatever wormhole you were blasted out of. When Ruth Radelet sings, "I took a pill almost every night/In my mind I was waiting for change/While the world just stayed the same," it opens a portal from New York City to West Virginia and you just have to embrace this transience like Dave Bowman in 2001 and get sucked into the current.

"Dream the Dare" | Pure Bathing Culture

Another astral-sounding track about wormhole cartography and finding your way home, something Jamie Paddock is in desperate need of in West Virginia. This song, to me, has always had a lot of yearning--you've got the beautiful-weird melody and the honey/dreamcatcher voice of Sarah Versprille singing, "Come down storm crow, find your way home." There's some kind of weird mysticism at work here, something ritualistic and out-of-time, and I become a crow myself when I listen to it sixteen times in a row.

"Mistakes of My Youth" | Eels

The first third of West Virginia is, in part, about looking back on your youthful follies and feeling like all the mistakes and bad choices you've made have led you to exactly where you belong--and then you start hyperventilating about it all. To say that choosing "Mistakes of My Youth" is a bit on-the-nose is an understatement, but, then again, it's my playlist, and this track makes me cry. When Jamie Paddock is called to rediscover his roots while living in New York City, he has to reflect on all the choices that led him to that moment, and whether or not he deserves where he's at.

"Despair (Acoustic Version)" | Yeah Yeah Yeahs

When I wrote West Virginia, I was in the worst depression of my life, but after one listen of the acoustic version of "Despair" by Yeah Yeah Yeahs, I just said fuck it and stopped wasting my time. With just an acoustic guitar, Karen O delivers a devastating recital of what is, in my opinion, her finest work.

"You Better Run" | Dr. C.J. Johnson

I've heard some say that God is dead. I don't know anything about that, but what I do know is that when you put on a track like this, it will lift you out of the darkness and kick your ass into gear. Johnson in particular is on fire throughout, using his choir's sturdy backbone as a jumping-off point to salvation. I like to imagine this or some other powerful gospel song playing during transitions in life, like when Jamie Paddock begins his journey by hopping on the Amtrak back to West Virginia.

"Skin and Bones" | Avett Brothers

Jamie Paddock is a shapeshifter, but this is what he's missing for the first third of the book. The twangy, country voices. The banjo. The parts of who he really is, his true self without the mask. With "Skin and Bones," the Avett Brothers hit refresh on Appalachian folk and Bluegrass, and end up with a song both timeless and vintage. A flawless and captivating track perfect for those moments when Jamie is still looking for the good in West Virginia.

"Hate This Place" | Goo Goo Dolls

This song is on here because, when I was in third grade, the new girl said, "Have you heard of this new band, the Goo Goo Dolls? Their lead singer is sexy." Ever since, I just wanted to be John Rzeznik.

"The Heart That You Own" | Dwight Yoakam

Confession: I love Dwight Yoakam, and "The Heart That You Own" is a prime slice of Appalachian hillbilly gospel from the Kentucky-born country star. That being said, it's undeniable that Dwight is also a Rhinestone/Hollywood cowboy. He's equal parts jangle and glitter, so comparisons to Jamie Paddock and other similarly fake hipsters are apt.

"We Don't Live Here Anymore" | Jakob Dylan

Ramshackle homeplaces, biblical flood imagery, haunting background singers, and an off-kilter vibe. Jakob Dylan makes music for going places and taking trips, the kind where you're unsure where you're going, or even if it'll be someplace you want to be, but it's also the kind where you discover something. Filtered through a T. Bone Burnett lens, "We Don't Live Here Anymore" is another trip to West Virginia's dark psychogeography.

"Dreary Moon" | Big Black Delta

There's a line in West Virginia: "There are times we all imagine ourselves as someone else, somewhere else, and this perfect world has no logic except, of course, that it's perfect, and then we forget the perfect world we live in isn't the real one, but by then it refuses to let us go." There are ghosts in both Jonathan Bate's voice and synths that seem to know this idea well. The aching melody and rich soundscape of "Dreary Moon," coupled with Bates's lyrics, "A heavy burden/A holy way/I can escape anything/But loving you," make this message forever applicable.

"The Wuthering Heights" | Ryuichi Sakamoto

Ryuichi Sakamoto's unsettling composition is the song I've always imagined myself dying to, so, if you believe that Jamie Paddock froze to death when he fell in the New River, then you can probably bet this was playing in his head as he entered into the Underworld. I hear The Wuthering Heights on the wind every time I drive over the New River Gorge Bridge.

"Can't Find My Way Home" | Blind Faith

You've been rambling into unknown territory, maybe wasted, maybe crazy, and you can't find your way back home. We've all been there. I had no particular tracks in mind when I wrote West Virginia, but "Can't Find My Way Home" by Blind Faith wormed its way into my subconscious at some point during the process. Accompanied by a light guitar, Steve Winwood sings of a yearning for home that Jamie Paddock might appreciate.

"Runaway" | Mr Little Jeans

You know when they find a squirrel or something frozen in ice and it starts running around real quick once it's been thawed? That's how Jamie feels when he finally breaks free of the shackles of home and blood toward the end of West Virginia. "Runaway" by Mr Little Jeans rides a cathartic beat and floats with a free-spirited weightlessness that forces us to ask, Is there sometimes freedom, even redemption, in running away?

"Say Goodbye" | Fleetwood Mac

"Say Goodbye" is a séance that evokes a feeling of saying goodbye to...well, everything that ever mattered to you. It's the song that ushers Jamie Paddock through the gates of West Virginia and back to the city. The old sound of folk married to the personal, delicate vocals of Lindsey Buckingham, illuminate the unknown future Jamie's about to enter.

"Even the Earth Will Perish and the Universe Give Way" | Sufjan Stevens

At the end of West Virginia, Jamie Paddock gets stuck on a train and is forced to briefly withdraw into his faith, whatever that is, before forever letting go of who he once was. The folky drone of Sufjan Stevens's "Even the Earth Will Perish and the Universe Give Way" is an introspective and truth-seeking track that makes for a poignant expression of Jamie's final transformation.

"Take Me Home Country Roads (Violin version)" | Yoko Honna

"Like Her Majesty" by The Beatles, here's a hidden track. While I've come and gone from West Virginia more times than I can count, I now feel forbidden to go back. Today, I live there only through the whines of the violin and the cries of Yoko Honna in this cover of "Take Me Home, Country Roads," as if it exists in some speculative mirror world.


Joe Halstead and West Virginia links:

the author's website

Chicago Review of Books review
Publishers Weekly review
Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

List of Online "Best Books of 2016" Lists

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

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


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