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October 19, 2018

Brian Laidlaw's Playlist for His Poetry Collection "The Mirrormaker"

The Mirrormaker

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.

Brian Laidlaw's impressive poetry collection The Mirrormaker is both moving and lyrical, and comes with a companion song suite written and performed by the author.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"Poet, songwriter, and musician Laidlaw follows The Stuntman with more work that superimposes the myth of Echo and Narcissus on the Minnesota landscape through the story of Bob Dylan and Echo Helstrom."


In his own words, here is Brian Laidlaw's Book Notes music playlist for his poetry collection The Mirrormaker:



“The Girl From the North Country” by Bob Dylan

In a way, this tune is the origin point for The Mirrormaker. The collection is based, in part, on the now-mythic relationship between Bob Dylan and his high-school girlfriend Echo Helstrom – a.k.a. the girl from the north country – and on the even-more-mythic relationship between a different Echo and a different Narcissus.

I was staying in Bob and Echo’s hometown of Hibbing, Minnesota, a few years ago, sleeping in the basement at a musical collaborator’s house, and I had a kind of poem-vision where Echo climbed through the garden-level window; I hadn’t intended to start writing about that particular figure, it wasn’t a premeditated project, but the whole book and song suite spiraled out from that one moment.

“In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” by Neutral Milk Hotel

I had been writing poems for a while already when Neutral Milk Hotel’s album In the Aeroplane Over the Sea came out, and I had been playing guitar in bands before that, too, but somehow I had never really considered the possibility of being a songwriter until I heard this record. Jeff Mangum’s fragmentary, image-driven, half-dream-half-narrative sensibility as a lyricist exerts a profound influence on my writing (both of poems and of songs), and was particularly present in the construction of this book.

When Mangum sings in this tune about “how the notes all bend and reach above the trees,” it feels presciently post-pastoral; it gestures toward the way that songs, histories and landscapes haunt one another.

“Sleeping Dogs Lie” by Brian Laidlaw

This is a slightly unusual (but perhaps appropriately Narcissistic?) Book Notes in that I’m including a couple of my own songs on the playlist! “Sleeping Dogs Lie” is part of the suite of original songs that accompanies The Mirrormaker, and it’s the tune that most explicitly interfaces with the book’s text – the poem “Anechoic” and the lyrics of this track are in direct conversation with one another. This is also an especially Dylanish song in its form: eight or nine verses, high syllable counts, and a braided rhyme scheme similar to the one that Dylan uses in many of his near-novella-length songs.

“Ballad in Plain D” by Bob Dylan

One of my favorite (long) songs of Dylan’s is “Ballad in Plain D;” while much of his work seems to operate on a kind of larger-than-life, persona-reliant scale, this song stands out as a remarkably vulnerable and intimate portrayal of a relationship gone wrong. Maybe the most powerful part of this tune (for me, at least) is that the verses seem perfectly structured set up to deliver a crashing, resounding rhyme at the end of each stanza, but many of them end instead with an absolutely heartbreaking non-rhyme – as though the singer were too crestfallen and distraught to deal with such trivialities as rhyme.

“Scarlet Town” by Gillian Welch

The other through-line for The Mirrormaker has to do with resource extraction, both in terms of iron mining on Northern Minnesota’s Iron Range from whence Dylan hails, and in terms of the way that songwriters may “mine” their relationships and experiences for “material.” This song, written by one of my favorite contemporary songwriters, isn’t about Hibbing, but as soon as I heard it, I thought of this area. When Welch writes “Look at that deep well / look at that dark grave / ringing that iron bell / in Scarlet Town today” it makes me think of the Hull-Rust Mahoning mine, the largest open-pit iron mine on the continent, which sprawls off like a man-made Grand Canyon just a few blocks away from Hibbing’s downtown.

“Bad Luck” by Neko Case

In the poem “The Golden Rule of Copyright” in The Mirrormaker, I wrote the quatrain

the first time I saw the moon
I thought it was my own idea
damn plagiarists
I said—or I thought

and when I heard Neko Case’s new album Hell-On, I was struck by the faint echo of a similar sentiment in the lines:

Love, the most contrary asset of them all
Dragging in on nature’s coattails
Acting like it wrote the moon
Trying to pass riddles as poetry
Embargo is love’s waiting room.

Especially since both Case and I are talking about lunar plagiarism, I think it’s awesome how these images seem to draw on one another. I wish she had stolen that idea from me – it would be the honor of a lifetime! – but I’m quite confident that she didn’t.

“Cherry Bomb” by Spoon

Cherries are sweet and innocent; bombs are not. Their cohabitation in the phrase “cherry bomb” is a poem in itself; it gave the title for one of the poems in The Mirrormaker, and also provides the hook for one of my favorite tracks by Spoon. This song was playing (anachronistically) on the radio in the mental poem-version of my dad’s story in which he’s driving in his dad’s – my grandfather’s – convertible. He lights a cherry bomb and tosses it back behind his head, only to realize that the top of the convertible is up – so the bomb lands in the backseat and blows it to pieces. All of that is true, except the part about Spoon playing on the radio; that one detail is true only in my mind, but not possible in reality, because this story took place in the 1960s.

“Dark Sides” by Brian Laidlaw

I inhabited the landscape of The Mirrormaker for several years, and amassed a giant stockpile of interrelated material, both poetic and musical, during that stretch of time. In addition to the companion book The Stuntman (Milkweed, 2015), I also released a little EP called “Echolalia” as a kind of “B-sides” from Echo-and-Narcissus-world. This song “Dark Sides” is a musical echo of a poem – also called “Dark Sides” but containing different text – in The Mirrormaker. We recorded the tune at John Vanderslice’s Tiny Telephone Studio, an all-analog-tape facility in San Francisco. The tape-delays and tape-loops here are, to my ear, the perfect soundscape for the Echo myth.

“Sawdust & Diamonds” by Joanna Newsom

Joanna Newsom is a master of navigating the balance between text and melody. Her song “Sawdust and Diamonds” from the album Ys is one of many shining examples from her body of work. This song is on my playlist because of the way it blurs the realms of the “natural” and the “mechanical;” the birds in her song seem simultaneously to be both living creatures and automata. That image and sentiment resonates with a poem of mine called “The Sparrows” in this collection; it also relates, more broadly, to the fact that a landscape like a pit mine is a kind of collaboration between natural and human forces; the red iron cliffs and the red iron soil are surely “natural”, but the hole that exposes them is a human creation.

“From a Buick 6” by Bob Dylan

There are almost no direct references to Dylan lyrics in The Mirrormaker – the bigger stylistic inspiration was his crazy prose-poetry book Tarantula – but the one exception is in the very last poem of the collection, called “If Earth.” It includes the parenthetical line “(I need a dumptruck, baby)”, which comes out of the song “From a Buick 6” off >Highway 61 Revisited. Dylan’s couplet sings:

Well, you know I need a steam shovel mama to keep away the dead
I need a dump truck mama to unload my head


That line came into my mind at one point when I stood on the viewing platform that overlooks the Hull-Rust Mahoning mine. I was watching dump-trucks the size of small buildings carrying loads of material across the crazy Martian landscape of the enormous pit… It made me think of Dylan’s own mind as a mine, a location of endlessly rich material, of constant digging, and – as the lyric suggests – a certain amount of weary raggedness as well.


Brian Laidlaw and The Mirrormaker links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

Midwestern Gothic 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






October 19, 2018

This Week's Interesting Music Releases - October 19, 2018

R.E.M.

R.E.M.: Best Of R.E.M. At The BBC is a 9-disc ( (8-CD & 1-DVD) box set.

Farao's prog-pop masterpiece Pure-O, How to Dress Well's The Anteroom, and Will Oldham's Songs Of Love And Horror are the new albums I have heard and can recommend.

Vinyl reissues include Low's The Great Destroyer and The Soundtrack of Our Lives' Behind the Music.


This week's interesting music releases:

Ace Frehley: Spaceman
Alkaline Trio: Is This Thing Cursed? [vinyl]
Arkells: Rally Cry
Beta Band: The Three EPs (reissue) [vinyl]
Big Black: Songs About Fucking (reissue) [vinyl]
Broncho: Bad Behavior [vinyl]
Cloud Nothings: Last Building Burning
Cocteau Twins: Treasure Hiding: The Fontana Years (4-CD box set)
Cranberries: Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We (reissue) [vinyl]
Cranberries: Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We? (4-CD box set) (remastered and expanded)
Disturbed: Evolution
Elle King: em>Shake
Empress Of: Us
Farao: Pure-O
Glasvegas: Glasvegas (reissue) [vinyl]
Grateful Dead: Mountain View 1994
Grateful Dead: Road Trips Vol. 4 No. 1--Big Rock Pow-Wow '69 (3-CD box set) (reissue)
Greta Van Fleet: Anthem Of The Peaceful Army
Hamell on Trial: The Night Guy at The Apocalypse Profiles of a Rushing Midnight [vinyl]
How to Dress Well: The Anteroom
Jason Isbell: Live from the Ryman
Jimmy Urine: EURINGER
Johan Johansson: Mandy (soundtrack)
John Carpenter: Halloween (original soundtrack)
Los Straightjackets: Complete Christmas Songbook
Low: The Great Destroyer (reissue) [vinyl]
Minus the Bear: Fair Enough [vinyl]
MØ: Forever Neverland
Neil Young: Toronto 1973 [vinyl]
Neneh Cherry: Broken Politics
Papercuts: Parallel Universe Blues
Peter Bjorn and John: Darker Days
Queen: Bohemian Rhapsody
R.E.M.: Best Of R.E.M. At The BBC (8-CD, 1-DVD box set)
The residents: Intruders
Richard Ashcroft: Natural Rebel
Soulfly: Ritual
The Soundtrack of Our Lives: Behind the Music (reissue) [vinyl]
Staple Singers: For What It's Worth: Complete Epic Recordings 1964-1968 (3-CD box set)
Tangerine Dream: The Pink Years Albums 1970-1973
Various Artists: Stax '68: A Memphis Story (5-CD box set)
Voivoid: The Wake [vinyl]
White Stripes: The Complete Peel Sessions
Will Oldham: Songs Of Love And Horror
Yoko Ono: Warzone


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

weekly music release lists

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)
Shorties (daily book and music news and links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)


Shorties (An Interview with Irvine Welsh, Julia Holter Profiled, and more)

TITLE

The South China Morning Post profiled author Irvine Welsh.

The Florida sun clearly agrees with him as, rather than slowing down and taking stock, the author is a hive of creativity: his next novel – “an intergenerational meditation on post-traumatic stress disorder in America triggered by gun violence” – is almost complete, while he also has a handful of film and television projects in the pipeline, and is working on tracks for an album of acid-house techno.


Rolling Stone profiled singer-songwriter Julia Holter.

There’s a lot of text in her work, but it doesn’t demand to be understood semantically and responded to on the spot. The music asks little of its listeners save for the patience to ride it out, and a willingness to linger between modes. Pop songs form in the nebulous space of her albums, but they’re not the rule and neither is die-hard abstraction. A Julia Holter record is familiar but not too familiar, comforting and unsettling in turn, frustrating at points and then, when the surprising, joyful melodies crest, profoundly satisfying.


October's best eBook deals.

eBook on sale for $1.99 today:

Italian Folktales by Italo Calvino
More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon

eBook on sale for $2.99 today:

Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck


John Carpenter talked to Morning Edition about his soundtrack to the new Halloween film.


Hazlitt interviewed author Nicole Chung.


Paste profiled singer-songwriter Miya Folick.


Vulture shared an excerpt from Hanif Abdurraqib's forthcoming book, Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest.


Stream a new song by Rose Droll.


Vol. 1 Brooklyn interviewed author German Sierra.


Patterson Hood discussed his former band Adam's House Cat with The Boot.


The Oxford American features a new essay by Leesa Cross-Smith.


Stream a new song by My Brightest Diamond.


The New York Times visited best-selling authors' websites.


NPR Music shared a recent Natalie Prass live performance.


The Rumpus interviewed author Catherine Lacey.


Stereogum interviewed Empress Of's Lorely Rodriguez.


Bookworm interviewed author Tommy Orange.


Stream a new Tiny Ruins song.


The Guardian interviewed author Mohammed Hanif.


Book Riot recommended 2018's best post-apocalyptic books.


Signature recommended books with magical realism.



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

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

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


October 18, 2018

Jeff Jackson's Playlist for His Novel "Destroy All Monsters"

Destroy All Monsters

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.

Jeff Jackson's Destroy All Monsters is not only one of my favorite books of the year, it is my favorite rock novel ever. Jackson vividly captures the connection to music for both performer and listener in this engaging and smart read.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"[Jeff] Jackson builds an anxious, deeply felt narrative probing a nationwide epidemic of murders of musicians . . . Infected with this eerie conceit, and expressed through gritty, sharp prose, [Destroy All Monsters] provides both deep character exploration and a nuanced commentary on music, creativity, and violence."


In his own words, here is Jeff Jackson's Book Notes music playlist for his novel Destroy All Monsters:



Destroy All Monsters is a dark valentine to rock and roll. It’s my attempt to harness the blissful hours spent losing my hearing in clubs, obsessively listening to albums like they were life rafts, and talking about bands with friends as if they were codes to unlock our personalities. I tried to put that energy into a novel that would capture my feelings about music so I could repay my debts and move on. Spoiler alert: It didn’t work.

It’s a novel about an epidemic of violence that sweeps through small town music scenes, bands struggling to make a mark in a culture where it’s hard to tell the signal from the noise, and fans who worry music doesn’t mean what it used to.

Like a cassette or classic single, Destroy All Monsters has a Side A and Side B—you read one side and flip the book over and upside-down to read the other. As much as the novel is about rock, it’s also trying to embody it.

Here are some songs and moods embedded in the book, which serve as skeleton keys to some of its secrets.


The book’s title:
Destroy All Monsters as a phrase feels increasingly resonant for our current moment. It started as a 1968 Godzilla flick, a creature feature battle royal. A few years later in Detroit, an art-damaged punk band featuring visual artists Mike Kelley, Jim Shaw, Carey Loren, and Niagra bestowed the name upon themselves. They recorded a host of incredible songs and sound experiments as part of concocting their own high art trash universe. This song is especially close to the novel’s heart:
Destroy All Monsters “You Can’t Kill Kill”


The A Side:
This early single by Pere Ubu, one of their most plaintive love songs, provides the title for Side A. David Thomas warbles “I don’t get around, I don’t fall in love much,” and that’s the tip of the iceberg. In the novel, whose dark ages exactly?
Pere Ubu “My Dark Ages”



The B Side:
Another Detroit connection, but Iggy Pop finds himself far from home in a sun-stunned city that’s plotting his demise. He’s checked himself into a mental health facility and leaves on day passes to record with Stooges guitarist James Williamson. Each night he returns to a narrow white room and tries to imagine his way back to some form of defiance. The lead track of this lost years record supplies the title for Side B. In the novel, it becomes a password, a rumor, cryptic graffiti.
Iggy Pop “Kill City”


The Ghost:
Some songs are haunted. Bad things happen to people who cover Johnny Ace’s ghostly ballad, just as bad things happened to Ace himself when he sat down to play Russian Roulette shortly after he recorded it. But it soon went to number one - as the saying goes - with a bullet. In the novel, the characters take the song as a dare, not knowing whether it’s fully loaded.
Johnny Ace “Pledging My Love”


The Fire:
In the novel, this isn’t a haunted song so much as a haunting. There are many versions, but let’s stick with the original for its mix of apocalyptic imagery and mariachi horns, a version so familiar that it’s easy to forget it’s so strange. Sometimes I also forget that it’s a love song.
Johnny Cash “Ring of Fire”


That Humming in Your Ears:
It’s a sound, not a song. A thickening of the environment that subtly shades the air. If you squint your eyes, you’ll spot it throughout the novel in key moments. Eliane Radigue is the queen of drone, an electronic composer whose shimmering music is meant to prepare us for death—gently, gently.
Eliane Radigue “Kyema (Intermediate States)”


The Monsters:
In one of the greatest rock songs ever, Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney sings it both ways: “I’m your monster / I’m not like you.” And then: “I’m no monster / I’m just like you.” And back again.
Sleater-Kinney “Call the Doctor”


The Music:
Chan Marshall sits at the piano to play the same repetitive riff and report on the local scene. “It must just be the colors and the kids,” she sighs, “because the music is boring me to death.” But her insistent repetitions slowly open a portal to an imagined realm where singing to yourself at a piano at 3 a.m. still means something.
Cat Power “The Colors and the Kids”


The Last Rock Novel:
Ever feel like you’ve been cheated? “No more rock and roll for you!” Vic Goddard sneers at the euphoric height of punk’s Year Zero. You can almost feel the slate being wiped clean, but he’ll soon take it all back. They always do.
Subway Sect “We Oppose All Rock and Roll/Sister Ray (live)”


Jeff Jackson and Destroy All Monsters links:

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

Booklist review
The Millions review
PANK review
Publishers Weekly review

Charlotte Magazine profile of the author
Charlotte Observer profile of the author
Creative Loafing profile of the author
Largehearted Boy playlist by the author for Mira Corpora
Los Angeles Review of Books interview with the author
Tin House 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


Donald Quist's Playlist for His Short Story Collection "For Other Ghosts"

For Other Ghosts

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.

Donald Quist's impressive story collection For Other Ghosts features a diverse and three-dimensional cast of characters.

Jamel Brinkley wrote of the book:

"The words gathered into a book of fiction are often said to conjure up a world. Usually this is an exaggeration, but what Donald Quist has accomplished in For Other Ghosts is to truly give us what feels like an entire world's breadth and depth. The range, sensitivity, and brilliance of these stories are astounding. His readers are in for a mind-expanding experience."


In his own words, here is Donald Quist's Book Notes music playlist for his short story collection For Other Ghosts:



I write to music. Often when working on a piece, I’ll inevitably choose a song that inspires me and listen to that track on repeat throughout the process. My linked short story collection, For Other Ghosts, was composed the same way. Below is a list of tracks, one for every story in the book, that ultimately helped me better shape and define the direction of these narratives. In addition to the playlist on Spotify, there are links to each song on YouTube. Enjoy!

“Cast No Shadow” by Oasis for “They Would Be Waiting”
When his grandmother’s funeral procession is halted by a band of desperate soldiers, a young American boy reflects on ancestry, his immigrant father, and a changing West Africa. Oasis mirrors the narrator’s meditations on inherited oppression and how the lingering effects of colonialism can make a person feel less visible: “Bound with all the weight of all the words he tried to say / Chained to all the places that he never wished to stay / Bound with all the weight of all the words he tried to say / As he faced the sun he cast no shadow.”

“Far Away“ by Sleater-Kinney for “Memorials”
When a local tragedy becomes national news, two vastly different strangers are bound together by fear and devotion. Wailing against slow pounding drums and atonal guitar, Corin Tucker encapsulates the theme of this narrative: “And the heart is hit / in a city far away / but it feels so close.”

“1901” by Birdy for “Lalita Rattapong’s New Microwave”
Lalita Rattapong discovers her new microwave is capable of creating space-time anomalies, and now the author of her life is unsure what comes next. Originally recorded by the band Phoenix, this cover by Birdy best reflects the mood of Lalita’s adventure through Thai history, “Counting all different ideas drifting away / Past and present they don’t matter / Now the future’s sorted out / Watch her moving in elliptical patterns.”

“Giants” by Now, Now for “Preface to Tales of River”
“Like an animal burying its bones / but leaving fingerprints on the walls inside my home.”
Maybe it’s a song about teen angst, or a breakup, or the 2008 market crash and subsequent housing crisis, but its lyrics can be used to articulate the voice of indigenous populations suffering in the shadow of capitalist transnational border policies. As Cacie Dalager sings, “You take our homes but your framework doesn’t hold / against the feet of us giants,” her tone is somber, confident, and a bit ominous. It’s not a threat; it’s a promise not to be disappeared, to continue a culture, a legacy, a mythology. It’s a tone that could come from the story’s central figure, Coventina, who haunts an ESL teacher from a neighboring wealthy nation.

“A Long Walk” by Jill Scott for “She Is a Cosmos”
Alma awakens after a one-night stand, but there’s more to it than that, and so many possibilities.
“...After dark / Find a spot for us to spark / Conversation, verbal elation, stimulation / Share our situations, temptations, education, relaxations…”

“Holy Roller” by Thao & The Get Down Stay Down for “Takeaway”
Nahm is finally attending the annual Chinese New Year dinner with her partner’s upper-class family. It’s an event tense with subtext, made all the more anxiety-inducing by the mobs of protesters roaming the streets outside. As Thao suggests, everyone in this narrative has “minds to ease and thoughts to think through.” They’ve all “got words to keep and lies to make true.”

“Modern Girl” by Sleater-Kinney for “(No Subject)”
There is a sense of irony as Carrie Brownstein croons, “my whole life / was like a picture of a sunny day” against rising distortion; an uneasiness when she suggests that “TV brings me / closer to world.” There is a similar dissonance in this narrative email written by an unnamed protagonist processing how sick they are “of this brave new world.”

“Binary Sea” by Death Cab for Cutie for “#COOKIEMONSTER”
Xiaoting “Rosa” Chen faces manslaughter charges after sixteen-year-old James Hurtado chokes to death on a cookie. But can she receive a fair trial when real life events are so often filtered, edited, or reshaped by the Internet? Is there space for complexity or nuance, for justice, for anyone, in a sea of binary?

“Joyful Girl” by Ani DiFranco for “Twin Pilgrims”
“Everything I do is judged / And they mostly get it wrong / But oh well / 'Cause / the bathroom mirror has not budged / And the woman who lives there can tell / The truth from the stuff that they say / And she looks me in the eye / And says, ‘would you prefer the easy way? / No? Well, okay, then …’” Geri isn’t joyful, but she wants to be so desperately. And she wants to watch the historic landing of the first manned mission to Mars, but her sister, Livy, won’t stop making noise.

“Recover” by CHVRCHES for “Testaments”
What better track for a reluctant mother/daughter road trip at the end of the world? If they recover, could they be each other’s comfort?

“Hand In My Pocket” by Alanis Morissette for “A Selfish Invention”
It is a late, cold night at a fine arts college in New England, and DaYana is outside her dorm thinking about a short story she’s working on involving a Chinese factory worker. Famed novelist and visiting faculty member Phillip Dawkins is awake too, roaming the campus in search of his missing muse. Maybe DaYana and Dawkins can help one another, since “no one's really got it figured out just yet.”

“Andromeda” by Hopesfall for “The Ghosts of Takahiro Okyo”
Daisuke is a forest worker in Aokigahara, the Sea of Trees bordering Mt. Fuji. It is a popular destination for people to commit suicide, and Daisuke has displayed a gift for discovering the corpses tormented souls leave behind. But on his first patrol with a new coworker, Daisuke learns that his ability to locate the dead might have greater implications.


Donald Quist and For Other Ghosts links:

the author's website

AGNI interview with the author
Fiction Writers Review interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

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

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


Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week - October 18th, 2018

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.


Bad Friends

Bad Friends by Ancco

Bad Friends is set in the 1990s in South Korea in the bleak world of cycles of abuse. But at it’s centre is a story about friendship, and what it means to endure despite the hardship. The illustration style is beautiful, all in black and white, and the expressions on everyone’s faces are humorous and so descriptive. It’s a hard read that’s definitely worth it!


Brat

Brat by Michael Deforge

Deforge’s style is unlike any other artist. Colourful and bizarre, his work is absurdly smart and funny. Brat follows the struggles of an aged-out delinquent, looking back at her career and wondering: “My actions were originally politically motivated, but I guess the whole thing got away from me.” Brat is relevant for any artist or activist wondering where their life went, and how they’ve moved from the radical to the mainstream, wondering what it means to be an artist and political.


Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice

Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

Following Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha’s memoir Dirty River, which talks about their experience as a queer mixed race + disabled person, comes Care Work, a book about a movement that centers the lives and leadership of sick and disabled queer, trans, Black, and brown people, although the book packs care information for all. Piepzna-Samarasinha’s work centers radical love and community, and this book is a how-to (start) for anyone trying to build intentional community and what it means to create access for all, a radical idea that is not so radical at it’s foundation.


Heavy

Heavy by Kiese Laymon

“Wow, just wow” is Roxane Gay’s reaction, so we’re already sold. An exciting and timely memoir, Kiese Laymon talks about weight, race, and being a black in America. In his essay, Green, Laymon’s grandmother is in the hospital with an infection in her scalp, the doctor ignoring her cries of pain as he operates, and Laymon contemplates the ways in which “folk always assumed black women would recover but never really cared if black women recovered”. Looking outside of just his own experiences, Heavy is contemplative and compassionate.


Passing by Nella Larsen

A reissue from the Harlem Renaissance, and yet still so relevant. Passing tells the story of two white-passing black women that choose different experiences, one woman deciding to marry a bigoted white man, and live in the word as a white woman, while her friend only chooses to pass when it suits her needs, shocked by her friend’s choices. Meditating on race, anti-blackness, and the ways we choose and don’t choose to be seen, Passing is a classic that everyone should read!


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)


Shorties (October's Best Books in Translation, An Excerpt from the Forthcoming Beastie Boys Book, and more)

Heavy

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


Vulture shared an excerpt from the forthcoming Beastie Boys Book.


October's best eBook deals.

eBook on sale for $1.99 today:

Dawn by Octavia E. Butler


Stream a new Thom Yorke song.


Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore discussed her novel Sketchtasy with the Los Angeles Times.

One thing in setting the book in the ’90s and being really meticulous about all the specifics, both in terms of the music, in terms of the landscape of Boston, in terms of the experiences, in terms of the language, one thing I really wanted to work against was nostalgia. Because I think right now there is this really intense nostalgia for the ’90s but it's only kind of surface, like, Nirvana T-shirts and nothing much beyond that. For me, that kind of nostalgia creates its own violence, because it camouflages the actual lived experiences and the depth of feeling and emotion and intensity.


Paste profiled singer-songwriter Anna St. Louis.

After hearing St. Louis’ polished voice, which seems to blend the crispy, country croons of Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton with the warm, husky folk of Joni Mitchell, you might assume she’s had formal vocal training. However, she’s never had a lesson, unless you count mirroring her country and pop idols. She cites Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger and several Mazzy Star albums as being on heavy rotation during her recording process.


The Christian Science Monitor listed October's best books.


Rolling Stone interviewed Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires.


Paste recommended underrated books by famous authors.


Stream a new song by Empress Of.


Literary Hub listed the books that defined the 1920s.


John Carpenter talked to Rolling Stone about composing the score for the film, Halloween.

In some ways, it’s the more sophisticated score Carpenter wished he had the time and resources to make for the original. “It’s better sonically in every way I could think of,” he says. “I wish I had this kind of technology back in the old days but when you’re a low-budget filmmaker, you have to go in there and get it done.”


The Chicago Tribune profiled biographer Ron Chernow.

Clearly, the historian has embraced the sweetness of his uncommon celebrity. He has numerous stories about the famous people who came backstage in his presence at “Hamilton.” He clearly got a kick out of meeting Jack Lew, the former secretary of the U.S. Treasury who first said he would kick the face of Alexander Hamilton off the ten-spot, only to reverse course after “Hamilton” revealed to Americans the historical weight and import of its subject. Chernow likes to talk of being approached by young people, fascinated that he wrote the book upon which their favorite musical was based.


NPR Music is streaming Laura Gibson's new album, Goners.


Jeff Lemire shared the influences behind his comics series Gideon Falls with Paste.


SPIN profiled How To Dress Well's Tom Krell.


The Millions shared a conversation between authors Kathleen Kent and Laird Hunt.


Stream a new song by Hideout.


Full Stop interviewed author Dan Callahan.

I think a novel is the very best creative form for showing what the passage of time can be like. You can’t really do that in film.


NPR Music is streaming Oh Pep!'s new album, I Wasn't Only Thinking About You.


Literary Hub listed books that defined the 1930s.


Tina Turner talked books and reading with the New York Times.


Electric Literature interviewed author Nico Walker.


Stream a new Bad Religion song.


Authors Idra Novey and Esmé Wang discussed mental health and writing at Literary Hub.



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

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

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


October 17, 2018

B. A. Shapiro's Playlist for Her Novel "The Collector’s Apprentice"

The Collector’s Apprentice

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.

B. A. Shapiro's novel The Collector’s Apprentice is a compelling and rewarding look at the American and Eurpean art worlds of the Jazz Age.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"Shapiro delivers a clever and complex tale of art fraud, theft, scandal, murder, and revenge. [Her] portrayal of the 1920s art scene in Paris and Philadelphia is vibrant, and is populated by figures like Alice B. Toklas and Thornton Wilder; readers will be swept away by this thoroughly rewarding novel."


In her own words, here is B. A. Shapiro's Book Notes music playlist for her novel The Collector’s Apprentice:



The Collector’s Apprentice takes place in Paris and Philadelphia between 1918 and 1930, and thus covers “The Roaring '20s”, also known as “The Jazz Age.” Jazz originated in the US, but also really took hold in Paris in the '20s. The music spread through clubs, speakeasies and dance halls – as well as through the burgeoning recording industry. Broadway show tunes, blues and classical music were also popular during this period, and these too were often influenced by jazz.


Rhapsody in Blue (written by George Gershwin)
Written in 1924, this Gershwin song combined elements of the two most predominant musical genres of the era, jazz and classical, making it one of the most iconic songs of its time. I could certainly imagine Vivienne and other characters in the book—both in Paris and Philadelphia—listening to the tune on one of the new Victrolas (made by the Victor Talking Machine Co., which was founded in the Philadelphia area).

Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out (written by Jimmy Cox, performed by Bessie Smith and many others)
Blues and jazz singer Bessie Smith was born in Tennessee, but began living in Philadelphia in the early '20s. This blues song wasn’t released until 1929, but could certainly have described the status of young Paulien Mertens at the beginning of the book, when she fled to Paris after the revelation of George’s misdeeds.

Black and Tan Fantasy (written by Duke Ellington and Bubber Miley, performed by Duke Ellington and his Washingtonians)
Duke Ellington was one of the jazz performers who regularly played at the famous Fay’s Theater in Philadelphia in the '20s. Perhaps Vivienne Gregsby or other Philadelphia-based characters heard this 1927 tune at the club or on record.

Bolero (written by Maurice Ravel)
In the '20s and '30s, Ravel was widely regarded as the France’s greatest living classical composer. Bolero, released in 1927 and his best-known work, revealed a jazz influence. I could certainly imagine a recording being played at Gertrude Stein’s salon and enjoyed by her guests such as Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Matisse and Picasso.

La Creation du Monde (written by Darius Milhaud)
Like his classical compatriot Ravel, Milhaud was also influenced by the new jazz music. This influence can be heard in the 1923 composition La Creation du Monde (The Creation of the World). Again, Gertrude Stein and her band of famous American and European friends probably listened to Milhaud recordings such as this.

Dinah (written by Harry Akst, Sam Lewis and Joe Young, performed by Ethel Waters and many others)
Ethel Waters was another 1920’s-era blues and jazz singer with Philadelphia roots. Born and raised in Philadelphia, she became a star via her recordings on the New York City-based Columbia label. Vivienne and others may well have listened to songs such as the 1925 recording Dinah.

Ain’t Misbehavin’ (written by Fats Waller, Harry Brooks and Andy Razaf, performed by Louis Armstrong and many others)
This 1929 jazz standard could well have been a favorite of the Parisians in the '20s. But it could also represent Vivienne’s attitude toward her affair with Henri Matisse. “. . . Ain’t misbehaving, I’m savin’ my love for you. . .” Moreover, Waller claims that the song was written while he was in prison (for alimony violations), so it also resonates with the fact that Vivienne was in jail around this time.

The Man I Love (written by George and Ira Gershwin, performed by Marion Harris and others)
This 1928 Gershwin composition, recorded by Marion Harris and others, is another song that speaks to Vivienne’s feelings toward the great artist Matisse. The lyrics include: “Some day he’ll come along, the man I love. . . And when he comes my way, I’ll do my best to make him stay.”


B. A. Shapiro and The Collector’s Apprentice links:

the author's website

Publishers Weekly review

Largehearted Boy Book Notes playlist by the author for The Art Forger


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 (Kiese Laymon on His New Book, Nico Muhly on Composing Music, and more)

Heavy

Kiese Laymon discussed his new book Heavy with BuzzFeed.


Composer Nico Muhly described his music writing process at the London Review of Books.


October's best eBook deals.

eBook on sale for $2.99 today:

White Oleander by Janet Fitch


Florence + the Machine played a Tiny Desk Concert.


Vol. 1 Brooklyn interviewed author Kris Saknussem.


Turning the Tables profiled soul legend Sharon Jones.


Kathleen Hanna has launched a t-shirt line, Tees4Togo, which will benefit girls going to school in Togo.


Stream a new song by SOAK.


Fiction Writers Review interviewed author Donald Quist.


Ms. Magazine interviewed Pussy Riot's Nadya Tolokonnikova.


The Chicago Review of Books interviewed author Nicole Chung.


Stream a new Oh Pep! song.


John Wray talked about his new novel Godsend with The Spine.


Paste listed the best album title tracks of all time.


Esi Edugyan talked to Morning Edition about his novel Washington Black.


Stream a new Thom Yorke song.


Anna Burns' novel Milkman has been awarded the 2018 Man Booker prize.


Stream a new J Mascis song.


New England Public Radio interviewed author Kelly Link.


Stream a new song by How To Dress Well.


Signature recommended poetry collections that celebrate the voices of black poets.


Stream a new Julia Holter song.


Book Riot recommended Clarice Lispector books.


CHVRCHES covered the Blue Nile's "The Downtown Lights."


Literary Hub features an excerpt from one pf my favorite novels of the year. Jeff Jackson's Destroy All Monsters.

Entropy interviewed Jackson about the book.


Ty Segall covered the Dils' "Class War."


Literary Hub listed books that defined the 1920s.


Stream a new Esperanza Spalding song.



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

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

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


October 16, 2018

Laird Hunt's Playlist for His Novel "In the House in the Dark of the Woods"

In the House in the Dark of the Woods

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.

Laird Hunt's new novel In the House in the Dark of the Woods is a truly haunting work of literary horror.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"Hunt's accomplished prose creates the atmosphere of possibility and danger that lurks in the best fairy tales, where anything can happen but everything has a cost. Highly recommended for fans of that amorphous border between fantasy, horror, and literary fiction as found in the work of Kelly Link, in Joy Williams' The Changeling (1978), or in Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber (1979)."


In his own words, here is Laird Hunt's Book Notes music playlist for his novel In the House in the Dark of the Woods:



“Chant avec cithare”
Burundi: Musiques traditionelles
François Muduga

There is a scene in the novel where an old woman shoves a young woman into a well she can’t climb back up out of. This is the music I hear when I think of that moment. One moment the zither is soft and caressing, the next it’s ready to slap and cut…

“And Still They Move”
Never Were the Way She Was
Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld

I listened to this and thought somehow I had been caught inside a tree, something ancient — a bristlecone pine, or a redwood, or an alpine larch — and was moving around and around its rings but could never reach the center. And this was fine.

Track 4
Ghost Opera, for String Quartet and Pipa, with Stone, Water, Paper and Metal
Tan Dun
Kronos Quartet

The great Spanish artist Francisco Goya made drawings of witches. They float, they fly, they dance, they fight, they steal children, they exude dark delight. Tan Dun’s Ghost Opera is music for those fierce, frightening, feather-footed women.

“Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)”
The Woodstock Experience
Janis Joplin

The 30 seconds between 2:20 and 2:50 of this track are as close to an embodiment of Federico Garcia Lorca’s concept of the Duende (that enervating demon of inspiration that bites and wounds and beats down rather than lifting up in the balm of encouraging embrace). There is a room under the floorboards of the house in the dark of the woods. Those 30 seconds by Janis Joplin live there.

“Aini Ya Aini”
The Best of Oum Kalsoum
Oum Kalsoum

This song lasts a little over 5 minutes but it feels epic, like all the world’s time were packed into it. Over the course of her 50-year career, Kalsoum (often transliterated as Kulthum) repeatedly managed the great trick of making every moment in her songs count without turning her lines into lead. She is simultaneously weighty and effervescent. This kind of balance is what I have strived for in all my novels set in the past, but in this one in particular.

“With the Dark Hug of Time”
Never Were the Way She Was
Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld

Once upon a time there was and there wasn’t a world there was only one way to get out of. This cut, for me, is about that.

“Torrek”
Saman
Hildur Gudnadottir

I bought this album when I was in Marfa, Texas, mainly working on edits of a novel set in and around the Civil War, but also starting to dig a little into what was then just the start of a story about spooky stuff going on in an East Coast woods 300 or so years ago. I’m not ashamed to admit that I willfully misinterpreted the title of the album, which in Icelandic apparently means “together”, as Samhain, scary night, night when you better stay inside, night when the dark half starts. I keep waiting for the spooky movie that puts Gudnadottir’s music to work. Maybe Lenny Abrahamson (of Room and The Little Stranger fame) needs to make it. Whenever I started to slip off track with Goody’s story, all I needed to do was play “Torrek” and I was right back.


“Neon Angels on the Road to Ruin” (Live in Japan)
The Mercury Albums
The Runaways

Fierce vocals, fierce guitar, fierce drums, fierce women. You wouldn’t want to stand in the way of this storm if it was blowing toward you. If you want more storm, try the first 20 seconds of “Queens of Noise”…


“Organs Lost at Sea”
Kiri No Oto
Lawrence English

What scares you? Here’s what scares me: a trail through a woods that grows smaller and smaller until there is no trail at all. Could be in Colonial New England or in a David Lynch movie or in a fairy tale, one of the darker ones, set down by the Brothers Grimm… Playing in the background of my nightmare is “Organs Lost at Sea.”


Laird Hunt and In the House in the Dark of the Woods links:

the author's website

Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review

Largehearted Boy playlist by the author for The Evening Road
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for The Exquisite
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Kind One
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Neverhome
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Ray of the Star


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


Octavio Solis's Playlist for His Memoir "Retablos"

Retablos

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.

Octavio Solis's Retablos is a poignant and lyrical memoir-in-essays about growing up on the U.S./Mexico border.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"In this coming-of-age memoir, a playwright illuminates the culture of the El Paso border as he perceived it when he was young. . . . An intriguing work that transcends category, drawing from facts but reading like fiction."


In his own words, here is Octavio Solis's Book Notes music playlist for his memoir Retablos:



A retablo is an altarpiece, a thin plate of metal onto which a holy moment is painted depicting a dire event in a person’s life, a prayer to the Divine and the humble thanks for the intervention. It’s this kind of flash fiction form that I employed to recount and reimagine 50 separate moments that shaped my identity as an American born and raised along the border. Each occasion carries its special music, most of it conjured by the era that I wrote about, and I include twelve tracks here. Some of them are specifically cited within the retablo stories, some of them are simply evoked by them. All of them are central to understanding some part of who I was and have become.

1.“Red”
“Dose” by The Latin Playboys

I once tried on my little brother’s glasses and looked at the world through the red lens that he wore to strengthen his “lazy eye.” Everything was painted in the color of blood, and its ominous unreality called to mind the end of the world, fiery and inevitable. I listened to the quirky Chicano eclectronica of the Latin Playboys as I wrote this piece, but “Dose” particularly suited the feeling of this crimson recollection. This title track from their second album is an apt introduction to the dreamy landscapes that haunt my memories.

2. “Nothing Happens”
“Viva Tirado” by El Chicano

1970 was a momentous year for me. Tumult everywhere, in Vietnam, in Paris, in Washington, on campuses, and on the streets of LA, where a young journalist from El Paso, my hometown, was killed by police in the cause of the Chicano movement, which was new to my consciousness at the time. But on the radio and in peoples’ cars, you could hear the music changing with the times, music that seemed to reflect who we were then. Santana, Malo, El Chicano. Music with a real vibe that felt brown like us, but came with the socio-political conscience of the civil rights movement. Their music offered solace and unity, but also thrilled and scared us a little, because listening to it felt like an act of defiance.


3. “The Mexican I Needed”
“The Green Leaves of Summer” by Herb Alpert

In this retablo, I recall my silly infatuation with Herb Alpert, the first in a long line of musical icons that gave me the soundtrack of my youth. My mom had all his records and I played them over and over again. In my ignorance, I misidentified the Tijuana Brass sound as genuinely Mexican music, and I played air-trumpet to so many of his songs. “The Green Leaves of Summer,” though, is a stand-out, not just because it’s a popular American theme song from the film “The Alamo,” but because even today, it evokes a more idyllic time. A fantasy of Mexico that never was. As a boy, I luxuriated in it.


4. “Saturday”
“Un Mojado sin Licencia” by Flaco Jiménez

For us growing up, Saturdays were for going to Ciudad Juárez for our shopping sprees and haircuts. And always upon driving over the puente, we heard the tinny radios blasting the rancheras and cumbias of Mexico all around us. Chief among the instruments was the perennial accordion. I offer here the master himself, Flaco Jiménez singing and playing “Un Mojado Sin Licencia,”a classic ballad recounting how this one young man eager to see his “Chencha” in San Antonio is arrested by the Border Patrol and thrown into jail, only to see his beloved riding off with the “gabacho” who was going to fix him up with a driver’s license.


5. “El Mero Mero”
“Mi Consentida” by Pedro Infante

My father is in his eighties now, but when I was growing up, he was manhood itself. He carried himself with the grace and nobility that daily work and family endowed upon him. In this retablo, I recount how I sought to imitate him, as if being more like him would make me more myself. More Mexican. No one captures that ineffable quality more than Pedro Infante. He was Mexico’s crown prince, the embodiment of everything my Dad strived for and believed in his entire life. Romantic, sturdy and wistful.


6. “First Day”
“Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five” by Paul McCartney and Wings

About the time I started my first real job working with my dad at this popular taco/burger joint in El Paso, Paul McCartney’s Wings released their now classic album “Band on the Run.” The title single got a lot of play on our jukebox there, but the B side got even more. I don’t know how everyone happened to glom on to that song, but we heard “1985” at least 9 or 10 times during my shift. It’s become such an indelible part of that experience, probably more so because we could never figure out what the lyrics were. Now I see the words amount to absolute gibberish, but back then when I was starting to be more than the skinny brown kid at home and school, this track reeled with the hustle and spark of my teen years. See also John Lennon’s “Whatever Gets You Through The Night.”


7. “The Quince”
“Adoro” by Vikky Carr

There isn’t a moment in my teenage wasteland that doesn’t include one of those slow numbers where we hold each other tightly with the lights all low and the grinding sway of our bodies training us for the horizontal dance we’ll take up later. It happened at every wedding and quinceañera, after dancing like nuts to polkas and cumbias and even some soul hits straight off the AM dial. The lights would dim and right after first notes, we’d go racing for the girl we wanted to hold. The signature song in those days was “Adoro” and it’s a key element in this retablo, a supremely sentimental tear-jerker penned by Armando Manzanero. It’s the bolero to which I learned a different kind of dance, one that showed me how to shed my prejudices in order to truly “adore.”


8. “La Mariscal”
“Hope You’re Feelin’ Better” by Santana

This song summons all our darkest nights, and one of them was on my high-school graduation. Some buddies and I had decided to celebrate by going to Juárez’s own red-light district called La Mariscal, legendary among all El Pasoans as the strip on which to suck up la vida loca. But it turned out to be mas loca than we were prepared for. Santana’s screaming guitar recalls the horror show that we encountered on that cruel rite of passage we all think we’re ready for. See also “Young Americans” for the crass naiveté we displayed that night.


9. “Ben”
“I’d Trade All Of My Tomorrows” by Merle Haggard

I didn’t realize when I wrote this retablo that I was really recounting a love story, until I listened to this old 60’s era chestnut. I was just a boy intrigued by Ben, a kind of old-world gentleman cowboy in his 70s who’d taken a shine to me himself. He was a man out of time and I was just finding mine. Longing, loss, and lamentation converge in this story, like in this song, but it’s the easy loping tempo that recalls the slow tortoise walk of Ben as he passes my house on the way to his luncheonette.


10. “El Kitty”
“The First Time Ever I saw Your Face” by Roberta Flack

This song is so firmly attached to a recollection of my sister. Its timbre and sonorous bass-line keep time to the pulse of her heart visible in the vein of her neck. The song is about the first sparks of love, but there’s a decided dolorous quality, as if to suggest that the discovery of love means the loss of everything before. And in this retablo, the moment marks the end of our childhood in one swift mysterious blow, all while Roberta Flack mournfully croons on about some unnamed face. I wonder if my sister still has that 45 single she bought in 1971; I credit it with my growing up.


11. “The Sister”
“Mean Mistreater” by Grand Funk Railroad

The streets of El Paso were mean streets, too. They looked placid and suburban but that was just so you’d lower your guard. You had to be tough if you were going to walk through our neighborhood. This retablo recounts a time I saw a kid bloodied up by a drive-by blade, but it’s my encounter with his sister that raised the level of danger. The car radio was blaring Grand Funk, the Detroit rockers popular on AOR radio at the time, the kind of woozy bluesy number that starts slow, builds to a screeching mad dog crescendo, then drops down again to its deep state of sedation. Many head-phones were blown by the bass-line of this band alone.

12. “El Segundo”
“Suavecito” by Malo

This retablo refers to el Segundo Barrio, or the Second Ward, the oldest remaining neighborhood in El Paso where my mother and father moved to when they came across from Mexico. My mom and I are cruising in her car taking in the sights of these ancient buildings and houses, stopping to visit the old church and buying paletas de coco from the paletero, and I can’t help but hear Malo’s smooth early-70’s classic with its chiming guitars and sweet la-la-las guiding us through our own dilapidated memories. “Suavecito” was our soundtrack, our attitude, it was our pride and apparel, our swaying summertime brown lover. It was how we smoothed over the hardship and bleakness that found us every time in this American city. We beat them at last, but that meant leaving El Segundo behind. Now it needs us back. The old ward may soon disappear if new development plans have their way, but not without a fight, not without a little “Suevecito” to bolster the gente of my town.


Octavio Solis and Retablos links:

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

BookPage review
Foreword Reviews review
Kirkus 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


October 15, 2018

Tom Bennitt's Playlist for His Novel "Burning Under"

Burning Under

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.

Tom Bennitt's debut novel Burning Under is a smart and fast-paced literary thriller.

John Brandon wrote of the book:

"Burning Under eloquently evokes the landscape and customs of the mining territory along the West Virginia / Pennsylvania border. Like with most great reads, though, it’s the distinct, idiosyncratic, believable characters that carry the load. These are the foot soldiers of a derided Army, with nothing left to fight for but themselves and those they love, and Tom Bennitt knows them inside and out."


In his own words, here is Tom Bennitt's Book Notes music playlist for his debut novel Burning Under:



Most writers I know love music and will passionately defend their favorite bands and songs. I’m no exception. I listen to music – from instrumental to metal, whether for mood or inspiration – while writing, and I believe that my music choices somehow bleed onto the page and influence my work. I love many genres, but this list skews toward classic rock, alt-rock, grunge, and metal, along with a few New Wave, Country, and Rap cuts. The main reason is my novel’s setting, western Pennsylvania: growing up there in the late 80s/early 90s, this music dominated the airwaves. Even today, I find that western Pennsylvanians have an uncanny knowledge and appreciation of classic rock. So, here is the soundtrack to Burning Under.


1. AC/DC – “For Those About to Rock”: AC/DC was huge with my older brother’s crowd, and I love this song’s riff. I’d imagine it playing early in the book, as a prelude to the boxing match or at the Pour House, where Larry and his mining buddies drink.

2. The Clarks – “Cigarette”: An essential nineties tune by Pittsburgh’s best alt-rock band of that decade. And the lyrics capture my novel like nothing else can: In a black and far off corner of my mind there’s a box of something I can’t quite define, and it houses circus freaks, temptation, and the Fayette County Fair.

3. Grateful Dead – “Fire on the Mountain”: Blends two big elements of the novel: the setting and the coal mine fire.

4. Metallica – “Creeping Death”: Such a great tune that would fit many scenes. For example, Larry driving to the Sarver Mine, on the day of the explosion.

5. Devo – “Uncontrollable Urge”: The perfect song for Simon’s nervous tics, playing during his first dinner date with Anita.

6. Explosions in Sky – anything from How Strange, Innocence: I listened to that album so much writing the first draft, I can hear it playing during quiet, cerebral moments.

7. Steve Earle – “Copperhead Road”: Brings to mind Appalachian moonshiners and outlaws. This would play during one of Larry’s flashbacks.

8. Gary Numan – “Cars”: Since the novel has a few extended car/road scenes, I threw this in, one of my favorite '80s/New Wave tunes.

9. The Pixies – “Gigantic”: Reflecting Simon’s “big, big love” for Anita.

10. STP – “Sex Type Thing”: At the bowling alley with Larry, a slightly drunk Denise dances to this tune on the jukebox.

11. David Bowie & Freddie Mercury – “Under Pressure”: Another song that would fit into many scenes.

12. Missing Persons – “Words”: Captures Simon’s frustration when being attacked and mocked, in court, by the coal company’s litigators.

13. Rush – “The Trees”: Thematically, it captures the slow violence of mining (and capitalism) against the environment. And Simon would make this connection.

14. Styx – “Crystal Ball”: Pittsburgh LOVES Styx! WDVE, the classic rock station, has them on heavy rotation. The Steelers play “Renegade” at every home game. And in the novel, Simon sings “Lady” in his car. But “Crystal Ball” is a more underrated Styx tune that captures Simon’s growing paranoia.

15. Wilco – “Handshake Drugs”: Another great tune I could plug into various chapters.

16. U2 – “Red Hill Mining Town”: From U2’s best album, The Joshua Tree, “Red Hill” is so evocative, almost like Bono singing about a coal-mining ancestor: We scorch the earth, set fire to the sky, we stoop so low to reach so high.

17. Wiz Khalifa – “Black & Yellow”: Would play during the Steelers’ game.

18. Maurice Ravel – “Bolero”: playing right after Simon gets abducted by George. My grandfather loved classical music, and I wrote a paper on “Bolero” for a music theory class in college. (I listened to it for hours.) But the repeated melody still has a hypnotic pull on me.

19. Yes – “Heart of the Sunrise”: The greatest (and creepiest) song intro of all time! Would play during the one of the chaotic final scenes, in the woods.


Tom Bennitt and Burning Under links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book


also at Largehearted Boy:

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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

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