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June 14, 2019

Lauren Acampora's Playlist for Her Novel "The Paper Wasp"

The Paper Wasp

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

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

Lauren Acampora's debut novel The Paper Wasp is a a haunting literary thriller.

The New York Times wrote of the book:

"Take The Talented Mr. Ripley, cross it with Suspiria, add a dash of La La Land and mix it all at midnight and this arty psychological stalker novel is what might result."


In her own words, here is Lauren Acampora's Book Notes music playlist for her debut novel The Paper Wasp:



The Paper Wasp is set partly in Western Michigan, where the narrator Abby has been living a dull existence in her parents' house and working as a superstore cashier. She secretly creates detailed drawings based on her fantastical and possibly premonitory dreams, including one in which she reconnects with Elise, her former best friend who's now a Hollywood actress. When their ten-year high school reunion comes around, Abby works up the nerve to attend—and just as in her dream, she and Elise embrace as long-lost friends. Elise drunkenly extends a casual invitation for Abby to give her a call if she's ever in Los Angeles, and Abby subsequently takes this as license to fly to California, call Elise from the airport, and appear at the gate of her sumptuous home in Malibu.

The rest of the novel takes place in and around L.A.—Malibu, Hollywood, Santa Monica, Venice Beach, Topanga Canyon, Joshua Tree—and the music I associate with the book is the music I associate with Southern California. I traveled there to do field research, combining it with a family road trip to the Grand Canyon. On our travels, we passed through the Mojave Desert and stayed overnight in a tiny rusty camper in Joshua Tree. We brought along a "desert mix" of music for the drive, and the songs on that mix are inextricable with the experience of writing the book and strongly linked to Abby's character. Many of the songs are from the 1960s and '70s, and I think the book has a bit of a retro vibe. Abby is herself partial to music from that time because it calms and comforts her. As she reflects, while anxiously driving her parents' car around her Michigan hometown: "I played soothing music—Fleetwood Mac; Cat Stevens; Crosby, Stills and Nash—suggestive of an easier era, corded phones, and handwritten letters."

Many of the songs on this playlist (and many of my own favorite songs), tend to shift back and forth between minor and major keys. To me, these changes make a song interesting and emotionally affecting. The music seems to express darkness, despair, and longing at one moment, then shifts to light and hope with an ecstatic rise. I think of this musical change as reflective of the change in Abby's life circumstance: her journey from a grim existence in Michigan to the comforts and sunny promise of California. Also, just as Abby's moods are mutable, the mood of this book is ever-changing, from despair to hope, from melancholy to joy, back and forth. I think of The Paper Wasp as toggling between keys—darks and lights—and ending on a triumphantly bright orchestral swell.

"Crimson and Clover" - Tommy James and the Shondelles

This is the song that comes to mind for the scene in which Abby first sees Elise after ten years at their high school reunion. The swell of emotion in the music seems to convey the obsessive love Abby feels for Elise at that point. The slow tempo fits that moment of suspended time, when her senses become so finely attuned to every detail, when she experiences a swoon of sensory overload—"crimson and clover, over and over"—like a wave continually pulling her down. Abby is flooded with the vision of Elise in her starry black beaded dress, the scent of honeysuckle in her hair, all the sensuous parts of her and of their surroundings that come together and latch into place just right.

"California Dreamin'" and "Twelve-Thirty"- The Mamas and the Papas

The Mamas and the Papas capture the perennial excitement of being young, throwing off convention, and going west. These two songs form a pair in my mind, as they both utilize the minor-major key shift in order to reflect the change of atmosphere that comes with leaving behind a cold, drab place and going to California. As in the lyrics to "California Dreamin'": "All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray...I'd be safe and warm if I was in L.A." There's a sense of helplessness in the song, of being trapped by the cold and by the expectations of others, and dreaming of escape. "If I didn't tell her, I could leave today." This is Abby's state of mind at the beginning of the book.

Once the dream has become a reality, once Abby has actually gone to California, there's a shift in tone to celebration and joyous disbelief. As in "Twelve-Thirty," Abby is taken by the warmth and light around her. "Young girls are coming to the canyon / And in the morning I can see them walking / I can no longer keep my blinds drawn..." Abby is ecstatic to have escaped the "dark and dirty" place she came from, and gone through the looking glass to the California fantasy world of her imagination.

"Ocean Size" - Jane's Addiction

Jane's Addiction brings me back to my visits to L.A. in the 1990s, with my then-boyfriend who grew up there and who loved to surf and skateboard. We listened to Jane's Addiction ad nauseum, and Perry Farrell was a kind of symbol of the bohemian art life. Venice Beach was the band's spiritual home: gritty, passionate, and weird. This song in particular reminds me of Venice and of that particular phase of life, both for me and for Abby. It's full of youthful energy, the desire to embrace the infinite possibilities of the future, the wide expanse of the Pacific Ocean. As the song goes: "Wish I was ocean size...I want to be as deep as the ocean." As Abby sits on the beach in Venice at the lip of the water, she feels its power and her own.

"Message" - Harry Perry

Harry Perry is the legendary turbaned rollerblader who's been a fixture of Venice Beach for longer than I've been alive. He makes his way up and down the boardwalk, playing his guitar and singing his own psychedelic compositions. A similar character makes a cameo appearance in The Paper Wasp, and in my mind he's singing Harry Perry's song "Message," with the lyrics: "I've got a message, got a message, from another world, dreaming and receiving, I've got a message from another world." As Abby sees it, he's a kindred visionary, "deep within his own waking Spring."

"A Violent Yet Flammable World" - Au Revoir Simone

During the time I wrote this book, I watched the new season of Twin Peaks on television. As any David Lynch fan will tell you, watching Twin Peaks or any of his work is a uniquely immersive experience, with an atmosphere that lingers in the mind well after it's over. Lynch used the new season of the show to spotlight some of his favorite new musical artists, ending many episodes with a performance at the fictitious Bang Bang Bar. I'd never heard Au Revoir Simone before seeing them play "A Violent and Flammable World" on that televised stage, and I fell in love with the song immediately. It's complex and ethereal, and it's bound up with Abby's character for me. "Tonight I sleep to dream of a place that's calling me / It's a whisper / It's always just a dream / It's a funny thing / Still I cannot forget what I have seen / We fold like icicles on paper shelves."

"Inn of the Seventh Ray" - Eleanor Friedberger

The Inn of the Seventh Ray is where I imagine Elise taking Abby for brunch toward the end of the book, when she wants to be away from it all, and where their dynamic shifts in a lasting way. It's a restaurant high up on the hill in Topanga, with outdoor seating beside a creek. The wooded setting is beautiful, and it's furnished with rustic wooden tables and chairs, and decked with fairy lights and wildflowers. It's tucked away on a twisting mountain road that can be dangerous to navigate, but it's also a popular wedding venue and a celebrity favorite. And despite its laid-back, natural ambience, it's not cheap. Even when Elise says she needs to get away, she still chooses a chic place where she might be noticed. The lyrics of this song don't make a whole lot of sense to me, except for the refrain, "You promised to take me to the Inn of the Seventh Ray," with its spacey echoing reverb. Abby's opinion of Elise has already begun to sour by this point, and there's a sardonic, jaded quality to this song that fits the mood just right.

"Hey Hey, My My (Out of the Blue)" - Neil Young / "Into the Black" - The Chromatics

I associate Neil Young with Topanga Canyon and vice versa, and this song makes me think of Paul, the character in The Paper Wasp who lives alone in his cabin there. He's a documentary filmmaker, idealistic, concerned with social justice, and truth, and he purposefully lives in this simple cabin in the woods without modern technology, as if it were the 1960s. The Chromatics also do a gorgeously haunting cover of this song with a female vocalist, which changes the feeling completely, and gives Abby a claim on it. To me, the two versions are like a conversation between these two characters who share a mutual affection but have vastly different natures and purposes.

"Some Velvet Morning" - Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra

This is such a darkly psychedelic, spooky, bewitching song, and I love everything about it. It begins with Hazlewood's driving, baritone voice, and then is abruptly cut off by an innocently tinkling music box and Nancy Sinatra's dreamy, slow-waltz chanting. It's like two completely different songs mashed together by interfering radio stations. The effect is destabilizing, and suggests Abby's vacillating mental states in the novel, her alternating moods, and the strange coexistence of her waking and dreaming lives.

"Paint It Black" - The Rolling Stones

I get a lot of grief for not being a huge Rolling Stones fan, but I've always loved this song. The lyrics are about depression, grief, and nihilism—but somehow the song also evokes to me the decadence and nihilism of the L.A. party scene. It has that minor-major key thing going on, along with a propulsive bassline and drums that make me think of reckless, self-destructive momentum. I associate it with the debauched summer solstice event at the Rhizome, with Elise's slide into alcoholism, and also with Abby's dark outlook and the spellbound purpose with which she carries out her carefully strategized final acts.


Lauren Acampora and The Paper Wasp links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

Booklist review
Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review

Deborah Kalb interview with the author
Largehearted Boy playlist by the author for The Wonder Garden


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

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

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






June 14, 2019

David Carlin and Nicole Walker's Playlist for Their Book "The After-Normal: Brief, Alphabetical Essays on a Changing Planet"

The After-Normal: Brief, Alphabetical Essays on a Changing Planet

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

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

David Carlin and Nicole Walker's book The After-Normal: Brief, Alphabetical Essays on a Changing Planet is an inventive and profound dialogue in essays.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"In this winning collection of essays cued to letters in the alphabet, writers Carlin and Walker exchange personal reflections on the state of the planet today. [...] Carlin and Walker's enjoyable literary exchange will charm readers and leave them wondering which topic will pop up next."


In their own words, here is David Carlin and Nicole Walker's Book Notes music playlist for their book The After-Normal: Brief, Alphabetical Essays on a Changing Planet:


Our book is an A to Z of diverse topics and subjects—from Flying to Hesitation, from Bitumen to Vulture, Grief to Resist—that one or other of the two of us felt it was important to dwell with and consider, in these times of planetary change and challenge. If we had a song for every essay that would be 60 tracks—what’s that, a quadruple album? So we’ve chosen a ‘Greatest Hits’ approach, plucking out a few essays where soundtracks particularly strike us. Cue the stylus.

Atmosphere "Space Oddity-2015 Remastered Version" – David Bowie

DC: The original ‘man floating in space’ song from the year Neil Armstrong bounced on the moon. I was watching the event on the black and white TV in first grade at our primary school in Perth, Western Australia. Planet earth is blue and there’s nothing I can do… captures that feeling of disembodied detachment, as if we are watching the catastrophes unfolding on our planet from some distant space-station, tethered in a space suit on the end of an oxygen cable, with Hal the computer from 2001 slowly going crazy in our earpiece…

Albatross "Save It for Later" - The (English) Beat

NW: Ska bands don’t usually decry Global Warming but The English Beat, which, I learned at David’s beach house, is known as The Beat everywhere but in the U.S., is prescient. Who knew a song we played before we even knew we would write the book would give us the lyrics to the book:

Black air and seven seas are rotten through
But what can you do?
I don't know how I'm meant to act with all of you lot

Embroidery "Anthem, Live in London" – Leonard Cohen

DC: I say Leonard Cohen perform live once, in the days when he was old and would get down on one knee. This is the scene I fantasise in this essay as wanting to live in forever. He was so full of grace, having such a great time with the band and the glorious backing singers. There’s a crack in the world…that’s where the light gets in…is this the most beautiful lyric ever written?

Flying "At the Bottom of Everything" – Bright Eyes

NW: It is wrong to sing while the planet is dying, as it is wrong, to hold up traffic looking at a car crash. But you can’t help but look. You can’t help but sing. I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I’m watering my plants.

Kindness "Treaty" – Yothu Yindi

DC: This is such a great dance-floor track, at the same time as it feels like it should be the national anthem of Australia, since the number one thing in our country that non/Indigenous people are coming to terms with, as being so very far from what should be ‘normal,’ is the way we have behaved, over the past two hundred years, towards the Indigenous people whose land we inhabit. Negotiating genuine treaty arrangements has never, ever happened in Australia—there was always the sly myth of ‘terra nullius,’ which lingers even today—and this song is providing the call to arms and the soundtrack to celebrate when it happens.

Jerms "The Only Living Boy in New York" - Simon and Garfunkel

The news is on the TV. It’s on the radio. The news is on my Facebook. On my Twitter. The news is also on my phone. But also on my phone is the weather. I check Flagstaff, Salt Lake City, Portland, Seattle, Sedona, Tucson, Minneapolis, New York City, Reykjavik, Melbourne. It is expensive, both money-wise and fuel-wise, to fly but it is free to see the weather everywhere you ever wanted to be.

Voice "Wiyathul" - Dr G Yunupingu

DC: Dr G Yunupingu was an artist I wish I had seen in concert, before his untimely early passing. He sings in the languages of his Yolgnu people. He comes from Galliwinku, on Elcho Island, in Arnhem Land in the far north of Australia. Up there is strong Aboriginal country where outsiders need a permit to enter. I was lucky enough to visit Galliwinku in the 1990s on tour with Circus Oz. We flew in on an old DC3 and the circus played an outdoor gig on the footy field, before the whole community joined in and had a party late into the night. I don’t know Yolgnu languages, of which there are many, as rich and varied as those of Europe. Apparently Dr G sings here of the scrub fowl, calls like women crying, looking for Murrurnawu. I hope I’m not being disrespectful by quoting the song lyrics. When we went to Arnhem Land it felt like going to another country, but in fact it was our country as it had been and always will be. The ‘Normal’ that we are ‘after’ was such a brief moment in time compared to this fifty thousand years of culture.

Whistle "Son Volt" – Drown

I didn’t want it to turn out this way but that’s what you get when you drive fast down the highway in the summertime with the windows down. You wanted to stop driving but how else can you feel the wind on your face?

You "Utopia" – Bjork

DC: From Bjork’s 2017 album, and with the lushness of an ensemble of female flautists. It reminds me of Iceland, from whence this essay came, its big skies and volcanic plains, but also the song is like being immersed in the middle of a fragrant jungle, enlivened with countless creatures. It is like a grounded, all-tangled-up-in-the world response from a woman, calling out to the floating spaceman to return to earth.

You, too "Us Fish Must Swim Together" – The SubHumAnz

It’s lonely recycling plastic you know will still end up in the Pacific garbage patch. It’s lonely when you watch the bagger at Fry’s place a pound of butter into a plastic bag and then move on to the next bag. It’s lonely when you walk through the parking lot while someone idles his car while you pop into the store and he still idles his car as you pop out. But you can’t yell at the people all the time. You can’t even yell at yourself all the time. When sink or swim is the choice you get, you cannot swim forever. You need support to keep you alive. Us fish must swim together.


David Carlin and Nicole Walker and The After-Normal: Brief, Alphabetical Essays on a Changing Planet links:

David Carlin's website
Nicole Walker's website
excerpt from the book

Publishers Weekly review

Arizona Daily Sun profile of the authors


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

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

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


Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week - June 14, 2019

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

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


The 2019 Griffin Poetry Prize Anthology

The 2019 Griffin Poetry Prize Anthology by Kim Maltman

As this is being written, Kim Hyesoon (trans. Don Mee Choi) and Eve Joseph have been announced as International and Canadian Griffin Poetry Prize winners for their books Autobiography of Death and Quarrels, respectively. Excerpts from these award-winning books, along with those from the sparkling shortlist (including Dionne Brand and Sarah Tolmie), are featured in this anthology.


Red Ultramarine

Red Ultramarine by Manuele Fior

Manuele Fior, author of the beguiling sci-fi-noir graphic novel The Interview is back with a daring new take on an old tale. In a striking red-and-black palette and an instinctive line, Fior reimagines the life of Icarus and adds his own hijinks to the mythology.


Under the Gamma Camera

Under the Gamma Camera by Madeline Bassnett

“Must I learn / to love this weakness?” Published in a (typically) beautiful Gaspereau Press edition, Under the Gamma Camera is a collection of poems that contend frankly with disease. Bassnett draws from personal history to explore how disease is experienced in the immediacy of the body and at the clinical remove of diagnosis, treatment, etc.


Mrs. Everything

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner

Mrs. Everything is the latest novel from Jennifer Weiner, an outspoken feminist, NY Times Opinion writer, and bestselling author of 16 books. Weiner has been forthright in criticizing the “chick lit” label that dogs women who write accessibly about female experience, and Mrs. Everything is a page-turning generational epic about two different women who grow up in 1950s Detroit and eventually pass through the tumultuous Sixties and after on divergent life paths. It’s an undeniable “summer read” kind of book that asks fundamental questions about how a woman should be in the world.


Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory: Stories

Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory: Stories by Raphael Bob-Waksberg

The debut short story collection from Bojack Horseman creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg offers some of the same dark humour, absurdist whimsy, and poignant melancholy that the beloved show is known for. These offbeat love stories include: a young couple engaged to be married, forced to deal with interfering relatives dictating the appropriate number of ritual goat sacrifices for their wedding; the tragicomic tale of a pair of lonely commuters eternally failing to make that longed-for contact; and a struggling employee at a theme park of dead presidents who finds that love can’t be genetically modified. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll probably snort.


Librairie Drawn & Quarterly links:

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


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

other Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week

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


Shorties (An Interview with Amitav Ghosh, Essential Albums You May Have Missed This Year, and more)

Gun Island by Amitav Ghosh

The Hindu interviewed author Amitav Ghosh.


Noisey recommended 2019's essential albums you may have missed.


June's best eBook deals.

eBook on sale for $1.99 today:

The Trouble with Physics by Lee Smolin


Aquarium Drunkard shared a guide to Drag City Records.


Salmon Rushdie on Kurt Vonnegut's novel, Slaughterhouse-Five.


Stream a new Vagabon song.


Yale News profiled author Chaya Bhuvaneswar.


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


Cosmopolitan recommended dystopian novels.


Stream a new Sleater-Kinney song.


Electric Literature recommended books to read after finishing watching Fleabag.


Karen O and Danger Mouse covered Lou Reed's "Perfect Day."


Remezcla recommended books by Latino authors coming out in the second half of 2019.


Jay Farrar talked to the Oklahoman and Houston Press about his band, Son Volt.


The Aspen Times profiled author Tayari Jones.


Stream two new songs by The Family Daptone.


Ryan Chapman discussed his debut novel, Riots I Have Known, with Hudson Valley One.


BrooklynVegan recommended great metal and hardcore albums you may have missed this year.


Big Other shared an excerpt from David Leo Rice's novel Big House.



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

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

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


June 13, 2019

Shorties (Emily Ruskovich Awarded the 2019 International Dublin Literary Award, An Interview with Palehound's Ellen Kempner, and more)

Idaho by Emily Ruskovich

Emily Ruskovich has been awarded the 2019 International Dublin Literary Award for her novel Idaho.


Paste interviewed Palehound's Ellen Kempner.


June's best eBook deals.

eBook on sale for $1.99 today:

Slipping by Lauren Beukes


Foxing played a Tiny Desk Concert.


Jessica Francis Kane listed the top houseguests in fiction at the Guardian.


KEXP listed musical artists redefining Seattle's sound.


Oprah Magazine shared an excerpt from Casey Cep's book Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee.


Stream a new song by Mundy's Bay.


Cartoonist Noelle Stevenson talked to AdWeek about her adaptation of She-Ra.


Oprah Magazine shared an excerpt from Ani DiFranco's memoir No Walls and the Recurring Dream.


The OTHERPPL podcast interviewed author Kathryn Scanlan.


Westword examined Dressy Bessy's continuing influence on the Denver music scene.


Literary Hub recommended books with complex and credible child narrators.


Stream a new song by Rose Dorn.


Entropy interviewed author Hala Alyan.


Stereogum reconsidered Sigur Ros's Ágætis byrjun album on its 20th anniversary.


The Paris Review interviewed author Mona Awad.

Literary Hub shared an excerpt from Awad's new novel Bunny.


Stream a new Surf Curse song.



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

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

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


June 12, 2019

Caroline Louise Walker's Playlist for Her Novel "Man of the Year"

Man of the Year

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

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

Caroline Louise Walker's novel Man of the Year is an engaging and suspenseful debut.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"Searing . . . There are more than a few surprising twists in store in this smart, subtly menacing novel of suspense. Walker is a writer to watch."


In her own words, here is Caroline Louise Walker's Book Notes music playlist for her debut novel Man of the Year:



Man of the Year is about an ego-driven man (Dr. Robert Hart) who suspects his wife (Elizabeth) of having an affair with a much younger man (Nick, friend of Robert’s son, Jonah) — but it’s also the story of how hard that man will work to avoid feeling uncomfortable. It’s about seeing and being seen, and the ways we unwittingly keep ugliness afloat, simply by virtue of hiding ourselves or letting a hard truth stay hidden.

Image vs. Intimacy.

A sides = songs that appear on the page
B sides = music not in the novel but very much aligned with it, in my heart and head


“Pull Out the Pin” – Kate Bush
(B side)

Comparing a fancy man’s marital woes to the horrors of war is absurd, but it may well be Dr. Hart’s anthem. He defends his ego like a soldier holding ground: his house, his family, his wife, his legacy. His zero-sum mentality.

Kate Bush says she wrote this song after seeing a documentary about Vietnamese soldiers tracking Americans in Vietnam. The song’s narrator holds a grenade, finger on the pin, staring at another young man with another life back home in another world, whittling it all down to this: “Just one thing in it: me or him. / And I love life! / So I pull out the pin.” The way Bush roars, “I love life,” rubbing an otherwise earnest phrase raw, sounds the way burning celluloid looks: a lovely image bubbling, curdling, melting away. Which suits the novel well.


“I Met Up with the King” – First Aid Kit
(B side)

A lot of characters in the book grapple with time, getting older, getting old. I remember seeing First Aid Kit as an opening act in 2011, being struck by their winter-spring sound and by this song, in which the king begs for his spirit to be seen, even as his flesh rots on the bone: “Don’t think less of me / I’m still the same man I used to be.” The pretty girl whose soul is stripped bare, but who would believe her? She looks so good. To my ear, this song captures the confusion and isolation of man experiencing mortality as the plot hole in his own mythology. Bodies as burdens. But also: How can we be believed (or believed in) if we aren’t truly seen?

As with the Kate Bush song above, Klara and Johanna give feral delivery to a civilized line, growling, “Well, thank God,” as though purging the lyric—relief via active nihilism: “Well, I don’t know anything at all / and we mean nothing to history. / Well, thank God.”


“Three Little Birds” – Bob Marley and the Wailers
(A side)

I needed a song that would be familiar to readers and characters, spanning generations, something bright to clash with the drip of darkness, and I liked the reference to three: a trio, triangle (love triangle, or not?). I also needed a song that would work for a particular scene with Jonah and Nick.

LA Weekly ran a story a while back called "Legend in the Making: How Bob Marley Was Sold to the Suburbs," outlining the calculated marketing strategy designed to sell Legend to white, suburban, American consumers following Marley’s death. Apparently, the researcher’s focus groups preferred not to hear about injustice and politics: topics they found uncomfortable and off-putting. In a separate piece, journalist Jeremy Helligar writes: “You’re more likely to hear his 1984 compilation Legend playing in a Delta Chi frat house (as I have) … than at an all-black party in New York City (dream on).” These perspectives crossed my mind when choosing this song and album for this scene.


“I’m Gonna Sleep with One Eye Open” – Dolly Parton
(B side)

I love Dolly too much to leave her off of any playlist. Despite the cognitive consequences of sleep deprivation, Robert would surely nod his head to: “You’ve been stepping, so they say, / between midnight and day, / so I’m gonna sleep with one eye open from now on.”


Symphony No. 9 in E minor, "From the New World", Op. 95, B. 178 – Antonín Dvořák
(A side)

There’s a niche joke here, alluding to John Williams alluding to Dvořák in the Jaws and Star Wars scores—a hint of highbrow-lowbrow tension between Robert and Nick. Mostly, though, this work aligns with the novel’s themes of identity and observation. Dvořák was a homesick visitor in a foreign land when he came to the U.S, tasked with writing the definitive American symphony (weird). The resulting work had a funhouse mirror effect for many American aristocrats, reflecting things that made them uncomfortable. Perspectives they didn’t want to see. Ways they didn’t want to be seen. Not unlike Robert’s experience with Nick. But Dvořák was uncomfortable, too, despite everyone telling him how lucky he was to be in such an impressive place—not unlike Nick’s experience in Robert’s home.

It’s worth noting that of American “enthusiasm,” Dvořák wrote (in Harper’s Magazine: February 1895, pp. 429-434): “It is the essence of what is called ‘push’—American push. Every day I meet with this quality in my pupils. They are unwilling to stop at anything. … they want to go to the bottom of all things at once. It is as if a boy wished to dive before he could swim.”


“All the Girls Hate Her” (and “Over It”) – Tori Amos
(B side)

Like countless humans and woodland creatures, Tori’s songs-as-psychopomps ushered me through my formative years and beyond. Her lyrics were/are portals to other worlds—the mythological, the historical, the ephemeral (and now, temporal)—and her liner notes worked like treasure hunt clues, but this piano suite tells a story so well without words. It had been ages since I’d heard them, but they lived in my head while writing this book.


“The Lady in Red” – Chris de Burgh
(A side)

This song appears early in the novel, when the narrator’s world is still rose-tinted. He is the star of his own melodrama, laying claim to the crown jewel, which happens to be a woman who is also his wife—as was also the case for Chris de Burgh, who wrote “The Lady in Red.” De Burgh’s wife, Diane, has said she was mortified by [the song].” Also mortifying, I’d imagine, was the time she broke her neck and de Burgh sought comfort (for the trauma of his wife’s broken neck) in the arms of their 19-year-old nanny.

So there are cheating and red dress parallels, but there’s also the fact that de Burgh, like Robert, doesn’t take kindly to criticism and ego-threats. In 2009, the Irish singer responded to an unsatisfactory review in The Irish Times, writing:

“How it must have galled you to hear the rapturous welcome I received at the start of the show; how you must have writhed at every standing ovation; how you must have cringed at every call of ‘Chris, we love you’; how you must have felt isolated as the audience rose to their feet as one, singing, dancing and shouting out for more …”

among other things. I’ll assume the parallels between de Burgh and Robert end here, and I know these connections are well-sunk, but details like these pull me under while writing.


"Norwegian Wood" – The Beatles
(A side)

This was the clear choice for a contemporary song in ¾ time, what with its opening lyric suggesting people as possessions (“I once had a girl, / or should I say, she once had me.”) and its drastic take on unmet expectations. The girl invites the narrator to her home. The narrator assumes it’s an invitation into her bed. When he doesn’t get what he wants, he sets her room on fire.


"Scarlet Begonias" – The Grateful Dead
(A side)

Another narrator observing another enchanting woman! This time, the narrator doesn’t try claim to her (or burn her). This time, he moves through the fantasy and emerges on the other side, with bittersweet acknowledgement that the woman isn’t his to claim or even know—that she is, in fact, her own being, separate from him—and to “let her pass by” is to accesses a sort of transcendent understanding that actually, no, we are all one unified body, man, and “everybody is playing in the heart of gold band.”

To me, it says: we’re alone, but we’re all alone, so we’re all our own, and we’re in it together. It appears in a critical scene in the book, so I’ll hold the details, but it fits on a number of levels in this scene.


“It Ain’t Me Babe” – (written by Bob Dylan) as sung by Johnny Cash and June Carter
(A Side)

At one point, a character notes, “Johnny Cash and June Carter are singing Bob Dylan’s song,” on the radio. The only such recording I am aware of, “It Ain’t Me Babe,” is almost campy in this scene, in my mind. There’s a hint of “not it!” There’s also this weird layer of self-awareness, by way of the lyrics, floating over a zero-self-awareness situation. More burnt celluloid.


Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47: 1. Allegro Moderato – Jean Sibelius
(B side)

Nothing textual or contextual here, but I listened to the concerto (in full) so much while writing the novel, it feels wrong to neglect it. When I got antsy at my desk, a YouTube video of Vilde Frang playing the hell out of the end of the first movement, Allegro Moderato, worked like a shot of fire to my brain.


“Take My Hand, Precious Lord” — Rev. Thomas A. Dorsey (lyrics and melody adaptation)
(A side)

This song is so beautiful, but the beauty caves in on a particular character in the scene in which it appears. There’s no escaping this character’s associations with the song, no escaping the space. There’s new gravity in hearing, “I am tired. / I am weak. / I am worn.”


"Hyperballad" – Björk
(B side)

Good lord, the places we’ll go in our heads to make reality more palatable. This song is so perfect in so many ways. I’ll never not love it, and I’m fairly certain at least one character would say the same.


Caroline Louise Walker and Man of the Year links:

the author's website

Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

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

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


Shorties (Summer's Best Books, 2019's Best Albums So Far, and more)

Inland by Tea Obreht

Literary Hub previewed summer's best books.


Stereogum and Paste listed the best albums of the year so far.


June's best eBook deals.

eBook on sale for $2.99 today:

The Life of Pi by Yann Martell


Noisey ranked Democratic candidates for the 2020 U.S. presidential nomination by their walk-out music.


Texas Monthly recommended the year's best barbecue books (so far).


Radiohead has officially released (with all proceeds going to charity) the 18 hours of OK Computer outtakes that were leaked recently.


Bustle recommended books about female assassins.


Stream a new Tennis System song.


Stream a new song by David Berman's new band, Purple Mountains.


Andrea Lawlor recommended books about bookselling at Literary Hub.


The Current interviewed singer-songwriter Craig Finn.


The Paris Review features a new essay by Ocean Vuong.


Stream a new Efterklang song.


The Root interviewed Kinitra Brooks, co-editor of anthology The Lemonade Reader.

"Lemonade has been described as a cultural moment, but it is necessary to recognize that its impact has lasted beyond that moment. Lemonade shifted the landscape for us personally as we were casual fans before. Beyoncé also affected the cultural landscape because Lemonade was the manifestation of years of her building up industry power and money to create such a complex project. The Lemonade Reader opens a broader discussion. We don’t put Beyoncé on a pedestal, but we deeply ground her in conversations of black womanhood."


Musical duo Plaid discussed their favorite tracks at PopMatters.


Stream a new Joan Shelley song.


Bob Mould covered the Buzzcocks' "I Don't Mind."


Stream a new Hiss Golden Messenger song.


The Quiet Temple shared three cover songs at Aquarium Drunkard.



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

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

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


June 11, 2019

Shorties (Basquiat: A Graphic Novel, Bob Dylan's Best Friend's Memoir, and more)

Basquiat: A Graphic Novel

Paolo Parisi discussed his book, Basquiat: A Graphic Novel, with Artsy.


Bob Dylan's best friend Louie Kemp discussed his forthcoming memoir, Dylan & Me: 50 Years Of Adventures, with Rolling Stone.


June's best eBook deals.


Joan Baez talked about her favorite protest songs at Rolling Stone.


BuzzFeed recommended several of May's best books.


Paste listed the best albums of 2019 (so far).


The Christian Science Monitor recommended June's best books.


Stream a new UV-TV song.


Vol. 1 Brooklyn shared an excerpt from Gregory Spatz’s fiction collection What Could Be Saved.


BOMB interviewed author Binnie Kirshenbaum.



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

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

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


June 10, 2019

Shorties (Kristen Arnett on Her Debut Novel, An Interview with Holly Herndon, and more)

Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett

Kristen Arnett discussed her debut novel, Mostly Dead Things, with The Rumpus.


The Creative Independent interviewed musician Holly Herndon about the use of AI in her compositions.


June's best eBook deals.


All Songs Considered shared a summer playlist.


Eliot Ackerman talked to All Things Considered about his book, Places and Names.


Paste recommended the week's best new albums.


Elizabeth Gilbert discussed her new novel, City of Girls, with BuzzFeed.


NPR Music is streaming Baroness' new album, Gold Grey.


The Guardian listed the best books of 2019 so far.


Stream a new Bat for Lashes song.


The Guardian profiled author Ocean Vuong.


Stream a new Jason Isbell song.


Bookworm interviewed author Ann Beattie.


Maria Kuznetsova discussed her novel Oksana, Behave! with Bookforum.


The Guardian interviewed French author Edouard Louis.


The Guardian profiled author Tayari Jones.


The Los Angeles Review of Books interviewed author Lynne Tillman.


More2Read interviewed author Brian Evenson.


Literary Hub recommended five books you might have missed in May.


Shortlists for the 2019 Orwell Prize for political writing have been announced.



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

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

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


June 7, 2019

Shorties (Eve L. Ewing on Her New Book, An Interview with Lucy Dacus, and more)

1919

Eve L. Ewing discussed her new book, 1919, with VICE.


The Creative Independent interviewed singer-songwriter Lucy Dacus.


June's best eBook deals.


Pitchfork profiled the band Crumb.

The quartet’s ambitions for Crumb were always humble, and on the surface, at least, their music is equally subtle—the type of soulful psychedelia that’s ideal for introspection


Refinery29 recommended 2019's best LGBTQ+ books (so far).


R.I.P., Dr. John.


The A.V. Club recommended queer comics.


NPR Music is streaming Bill Callahan's new album, Shepherd In A Sheepskin Vest.


The Denver Westword recommended Colorado authors.


The Brazilian band Boogarins shared three cover songs at Aquarium Drunkard.


Book Riot recommended graphic novel adaptations of classic literature.


NPR Music is streaming the new Calexico & Iron & Wine album, Years To Burn.


BuzzFeed recommended audiobooks for beach listening.


Stream a new Tei Shi song.


The New York Times profiled the literary magazine Tin House.


NPR Music is streaming John Luther Adams' new composition, Become Desert.


Do you treat reading like homework?


James Ellroy talked books and reading with the New York Times.


Cody Goodfellow discussed his novel Unamerica with Vol. 1 Brooklyn.


Kristen Arnett discussed her new debut novel, Mostly Dead Things, with Longreads.


The Maris Review interviewed author Nicole Dennis-Benn.


The Millions interviewed author Leni Zumas.



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

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

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


June 6, 2019

Shorties (An Interview with Helen DeWitt, 1999's Best Songs, and more)

The Last Samurai

Full Stop interviewed author Helen DeWitt.


Rolling Stone listed the best songs of 1999.


June's best eBook deals.

eBooks on sale for $2.99 today:

Creative Quest by Questlove
How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee


18 hours of Radiohead's OK Computer sessions have leaked.


Stream a new Stef Chura song.


Entropy shared an excerpt from John Domini's novel The Color Inside a Melon.


Japanese Breakfast covered Tears for Fears' "Head Over Heels."


The OTHERPPL podcast interviewed author Jennifer Pastiloff.


PopMatters interviewed the duo Shovels & Rope about the band's new album.


Tayari Jones has been awarded The Women's Prize for her novel An American Marriage.


Billboard shared a Pride playlist.


Literary Hub previewed summer's most anticipated books.


Stream a new song by Daphni (Dan Snaith of Caribou).


Kristen Arnett opened her refrigerator for the Paris Review.


Stream a new song by Melvins & Flipper.


The Nervous Breakdown shared an excerpt from Noah Cicero's novel Give It To The Grand Canyon.


Electric Literature interviewed author Ocean Vuong.


Stream a new Bleached song.


Stream a new Blanck Mass song.



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

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

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


June 5, 2019

Bram Presser's Playlist for His Novel "The Book of Dirt"

The Book of Dirt

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

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

Winner of the 2018 Voss Literary Prize, Bram Presser's The Book of Dirt is an ambitious and marvelously complex novel.

The Australian wrote of the book:

"A heartfelt and original attempt to bridge the ever-growing gaps between history, memory and silence…Its heart beats so earnestly, and so loud…A meditation on the ethics of storytelling, of the duties we owe to the people whose stories we tell, and to the people whose stories we don’t."


In his own words, here is Bram Presser's Book Notes music playlist for his debut novel The Book of Dirt:



When I started writing The Book of Dirt, I was still schlepping around the world, screaming into a rubber chicken and smearing hummus over my half-naked body, all in the name of punk rock. A tour stop in Israel afforded me the opportunity to look into a family story that had troubled me for a while. Some years earlier, shortly after my grandparents died, an article was published in a local Australian newspaper, claiming that my grandfather had been chosen by the Nazis to curate the literary exhibition in Hitler’s Museum of the Extinct Race. Other than that two page spread, there was no other evidence. Where better to look, then, than in Israel? The other guys flew home and I stayed on, committing a few weeks to trawling through the records of Yad Vashem, then flying to Prague to pick up my grandparents’ trails from the start. So began eight years of research and writing (and a nervous breakdown) that would culminate in a novel I never intended on writing.

It seems strange to consider a playlist for a book that mines such catastrophic events; even more so as the Holocaust lends itself to the same silence that plagued my grandparents throughout their lives. To paraphrase Adorno, there can be no music after Auschwitz. And yet music is what sustained me, what inspired lyricism and flow, and awakened me to the beauty that might still be salvaged from horror. So here’s an unlikely, mostly punk playlist for an experimental novel about memory, identity, family and the Holocaust.


1. Who By Fire – Leonard Cohen

It began with a single scene. A village in the Czech countryside, in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains. A village of Jews, going about their daily routines in the late 1920s, untroubled by modernity. A village that my grandfather first called home. As I wrote of those people, I was repeatedly struck by images of how they died, each more horrific than the last. I couldn’t escape the association with the passage in the Yom Kippur service, and the song that prayer inspired: Leonard Cohen’s classic "Who By Fire." And so now I cannot escape my own association. This song reminds me of all those my grandfather loved and lost.

2. Der Golem – Fantômas

The mythical Jewish creature of clay features heavily in The Book of Dirt, so it’s unsurprising that this dark, experimental treatment of the classic movie theme song should have found its way to my writing studio playlist. The whole album is staggeringly good (and absolutely bonkers), perfect for setting the brooding mood I needed on the odd day when life seemed, well, quite alright.

3. The Intense Humming of Evil – Manic Street Preachers

Ah great. Three songs in and I’m already here. The single most depressing pop song of all time. Not many jangly 90s Britpop guitar bands were willing to stare into the abyss, let alone take a running jump straight down. Pain, suffering, starvation, depravity, the Holocaust; with The Holy Bible, Manic Street Preachers brought any vestiges of hope from their previous two records and rubbed them in the stench of decaying filth. This is the bleakest song on it, engaging explicitly with the Nazi atrocities. As most Preachers fans know, guitarist and main lyricist Richie James disappeared soon after the album was released.

4. Unity – Operation Ivy

Time for something a little more optimistic. And a bit more punk. Of all the songs that talk of overcoming differences and banding together against bigotry, this ska punk anthem is my favourite. It’s messy as hell, but brims with positivity. And it perfectly reflects how I feel about the possible decency that might still exist despite all the awful things we’ve seen. I’ve always dreamed of getting a bunch of my favourite local punk bands from different cultural backgrounds together to make a big “We Are The World” style cover of this. As the song says, “Ain’t nothing wrong with another unity song.”

5. We’re All In This Together – Ben Lee

For some reason this song reminds me of my great grandmother, Františka. Though I set out to write about my grandfather, it was Františka who was ultimately the book’s hero. A convert to Judaism, she was not taken by the Nazis, and from Prague cobbled together a band of smugglers and rebels to get supplies into the concentration camps to keep her daughters alive. Her story taught me above all else that survival often depends on the kindness of strangers, and their willingness to assume risks that aren’t really theirs. Even the melody reminds me of Františka: sweet on the surface, but with a determined, hypnotic drive. Check out the video clip, too. It will make you love life, if only for five minutes.

6. Ted Just Admit It – Jane’s Addiction

The song is about Ted Bundy, but for me it is the quintessential encapsulation of our ever-increasing penchant for atrocity porn. As we drift further away from the years of the Holocaust, those of us who write about it become more aware of the ethical dimensions of using concentration camps as setting for fiction. “Showed me everybody/naked and disfigured/Nothing’s shocking.” Could there be a starker warning against the slide towards desensitisation?

7. Walls Fall Down – Bedouin Soundclash

There is a sublime beauty to Jay Malinowski’s song-writing. It’s so buoyant, and contemplative and just downright lovely. Plus, there’s his voice. Unique, odd, mesmerising. "Walls Fall Down" is my pick me up song for whenever I feel I can go no further with my writing. I play it and it makes me smile. It tells me to walk away for a few minutes, an hour, a day. Whatever it takes. Because when I come back and the obstacles clear, that feeling of relief, of satisfaction, of achievement will be worth it. It’s my "Eye Of The Tiger", if you will.

8. Cease – Bad Religion

Writing The Book of Dirt had me thinking often about the ways we choose to remember; the narratives we perpetuate, the monuments we build, the names and places we privilege. In Cease, one of my favourite (and most wordy) punk bands traverse similar ground, laying waste to the idea that memorials in and of themselves service the promise of peace. The catch-cry of Never Again resounded loudly after the Holocaust, countless memorials were built, and yet we had Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur and more. What pretension everlasting peace, indeed.

9. To The World – Strike Anywhere

“I pledge allegiance to the world, nothing more, nothing less than my humanity.” This song fires me up every time. I discovered Strike Anywhere on a free compilation album I picked up at a record store on our first tour of America. The combination of passion, melody and political ferocity seemed almost custom built for me. This song is the great rallying cry, and inspires me now more than ever in the wake of what I learned from The Book of Dirt and the deeply concerning rise in intolerance across the world since it was published.

10. Hero of War – Rise Against

Although they have faded into the amorphous realm of middling stadium rock, Rise Against were once one of the most exciting punk bands on the scene. This melancholy ballad joins songs like "Brothers In Arms," "Goodnight Saigon" and "I Was Only Nineteen" in the pantheon of heartbreaking musical insights into the emotional cost of a soldier’s service and survival.

11. Letters Home – Good Riddance

Twenty-five years after their debut, I’d half expect Good Riddance to have literally been consumed by the heat of their incredible passion. Nope. They’re still around making incredible music. This song from their mid-career Operation Phoenix album, speaks directly to my family’s story. Years after Františka died, my cousin found letters my grandmother had sent her from concentration camps. It’s how I found out about the smuggling, and the incredible heroism of the women in my family. I was immediately reminded of this song, and the terrible longing of those forcibly separated and dreaming of seeing their loved ones again.

12. We Rise Again – Gogol Bordello

There is little I enjoy more than hearing the chaotic sounds of cultural renaissance, and nobody does that better than gypsy punks Gogol Bordello. "We Rise Again" is a defiant anthem for all people who have been displaced and decimated but who can never be defeated.

13. They Tried to Kill Us. They Failed. Let’s Eat! – Yidcore

Lucky thirteen! I couldn’t make a list without embarrassing myself (this coming from a guy who spent an awful amount of time drunk on Manischewitz, mostly-naked and smeared in the blood of smashed chickpeas). Ten years before The Book of Dirt was published, I wrote a song that inhabited the same space. Survival, cultural rebirth, triumph in the wake of catastrophe. Sure, it’s far sillier, but to me it’s a shot of adrenalin straight from where this all began: that same little village at the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains.


Bram Presser and The Book of Dirt links:

the author's website

The Saturday Paper review
Sydney Morning Herald review

Jewish News profile of the author
Sydney Morning Herald profile of the author
The Times of Israel profile of the author
The Virtual Memories Show interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

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

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


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