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May 26, 2016

The Largehearted Boy 2016 Fundraiser

Several large projects are scheduled for Largehearted Boy this year, including a long-awaited redesign, much-needed back end programming, a podcast series and two video series.

With advertising revenues having dropped precipitously and my innate disdain for adding advertorial to the site, I am reaching out to readers to help make these things happen. If you enjoy Largehearted Boy and would like to make a donation, it would be much appreciated and used toward adding interesting content and creating a better user experience.

I never envisioned that this site would become such an integral part of my life. Every morning I wake up eager to post the daily book and music news and links as well as the day's music and literary features. Posting weekly book recommendations from three of the world's finest independent bookstores (Atomic Books, Librairie Drawn and Quarterly, and WORD) has been an honor, and the Book Notes author playlist series continues to inform, surprise, and fascinate me. Thank you for continuing to make this dream possible.


Donate via PayPal:


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May 26, 2016

Book Notes - Juan Gómez Bárcena "The Sky Over Lima"

The Sky Over Lima

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

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

Juan Gómez Bárcena's novel The Sky Over Lima is an engaging debut that deftly explores themes of class, friendship, and creativity.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"Bárcena grounds the literary games in a richly detailed, early 20th-century Lima and its cast of secondary characters: dock workers, prostitutes, café-haunting literati. Its lightly ironic tone darkening as it proceeds, the novel sensitively explores how a literary prank shapes the sentimental, romantic, and moral education of Carlos."


In his own words, here is Juan Gómez Bárcena's Book Notes music playlist for his debut novel The Sky Over Lima:



The Sky Over Lima is set in the Peru of 1904. Nevertheless, its narrator transcends continents and centuries. Let's imagine this narrator puts together a soundtrack: someone capable of living in 1904 and 2014 at the same time, someone able to take Leonard Cohen back to the beginning of the 20th century and bring Víctor Jara's verses to life once more, allowing them to cry out against injustices perpetrated thirty years before the singer was even born. This would be that soundtrack.

"Vertigo (Love scene)" – Bernard Herrmann

Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo is not only my favourite movie, but was also a constant source of inspiration while I was writing "The Sky over Lima". A man in love with a dream, a made up woman, a sick romantic idealization… The film touches upon many of the subjects of my novel. A journalist once asked Hitchcock what his film was about. His answer: "It is about a man who wants to make love to a ghost." I think that same definition would also be a good synopsis for The Sky Over Lima.
Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard – Paul Simon

Carlos Rodríguez and José Gálvez are two Peruvian friends, just boys who want to become poets. And, as in Paul Simon's song, at some point they decide to "break the rules:" they write to their favorite poet, the Spanish maestro Juan Ramón Jiménez, impersonating a gorgeous young lady, hoping he will make her his muse.

Sweet Georgina Brown – Django Reinhart

The girl could have been called "Georgia Brown," but they decided to give her a more exotic name: Georgina Hübner. And the two friends had a great time doing it, in keeping with this cheerful rendition by Django Reinhart, because creating a literary character is a fun thing to do…

Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd

…that is, when things don't get twisted and the poet Juan Ramón Jiménez falls in love with your character from the other edge of the world. And the poet of course wants Georgina to be in Spain with him, to hold her in his arms. Something of a problem, considering Georgina has no body to hold and only exists in a handful of letters, scribbled with wit and an almost childish cruelty.

No he desitjat mai cos com el teu - Marcel Bagés i Maria Arnal Dimas

"I have never desired a body like yours" say the verses by the poet Estellès sung by María Arnal, and there is no doubt Juan Ramón Jiménez could say much the same thing. That being said, his life would have been way easier if he had listened to the last verse of the song: "To hell with all verses!"

Famous Blue Raincoat – Leonard Cohen

This is a novel full of letters the characters sent incessantly to each other. I would have liked them to be as beautiful as this one that L. Cohen wrote for us all, and that I listened to obsessively while I was writing the novel.

Everybody Knows – Leonard Cohen

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded, that is, that Georgina isn't but a joke. Everybody except Juan Ramón, of course, who, letter by letter, will start planning how to meet his adored Georgina.

Playground Love – Air

But love in The Sky Over Lima isn't only of the platonic, idealized kind; physical love also plays an important role. For instance, prostitutes sashay through many of its pages. One of them is only a girl whose virginity is sold for an exorbitant price to the rubber tycoons in Peru. She is be the playground love of Carlos Rodríguez, himself barely more than a boy at the time.

Vientos del pueblo – Víctor Jara

Meanwhile, while Carlos and José play writing letters, Lima workers fight in vane for better working conditions and basic social rights. Some decades will have to pass before their demands are met. For the moment, the government prefers to shut up the people with gunpowder and blood, as Víctor Jara sings: "Again, they want to soil, my land with workers' blood/those who speak about freedom/ and have black hands."

For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her – Simon and Garfunkel

Simon and Garfunkel are persuaded that it is possible to fall in love with a dream, conceive a woman in fantasy and give in to her, just as Pigmalion did with his sculpture. This same thing will happen to Carlos Gálvez when he begins falling in love with his own character.

Gloomy Sunday – Billie Holliday

It's obvious that none of this will end well for anybody. Not for Juan Ramón, who falls in love head over feet for Georgina, nor for the boys, who aren't aware of how seriously their joke has been taken. Choosing "Gloomy Sunday" for the dénouement might be going a bit too far, as some have called this the saddest song ever; in The Sky Over Lima humor prevails always, even in the darkest passages. But my characters often enjoy drama, and who am I to contradict them?

Bookends – Simon and Garfunkel

Everything has an end, comforting or horrible, happy or sad, but an end at last. Carlos and José also have an ending, which comes many years later: a watchtower where they can reflect on the time gone by, about all that they've lost in the passing years.

Time it was
And what a time it was, it was
A time of innocence
A time of confidences

Long ago it must be
I have a photograph
Preserve your memories
They're all that's left you.


Juan Gómez Bárcena and The Sky Over Lima links:

excerpt from the book

Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review
ZYZZYVA review


also at Largehearted Boy:

Largehearted Boy's 2016 Fundraiser

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

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


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Shorties (Summer's New Fiction, Two Profiles of Car Seat Headrest, and more)

The Wall Street Journal recommended summer's new fiction.


Flavorwire profiled Car Seat Headrest's Will Toledo.

The A.V. Club also talked to Toledo about the band's new album Teens of Denial and its now deleted Ric Ocasek sample.


May is Largehearted Boy's first fundraising month. All donations will go toward creating new features, crafting a better user experience, and much-needed back end work on the site. Thank you for reading and supporting Largehearted Boy.


eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

Harold and Maude by Colin Higgins
Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted: And all the Brilliant Minds Who Made The Mary Tyler Moore Show a Classic by Jennifer Keshin Armstrong
Prayers for the Living by Alan Cheuse


The British Library's "Discovering the 20th Century" website is fascinating.


Stream a new No Joy song.


Karl Ove Knausgard on James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.


NPR Music is streaming Fantastic Negrito's new album The Last Days of Oakland.


Literary Hub interviewed author Julian Barnes about editing his work.


Laura Jane Grace shared an essay about her North Carolina performance last week.


New nonfiction from Alexander Chee.


Stream a new Spoon song.


The OTHERPPL podcast interviewed authors Nayomi Munaweera and Jung Yun.


NYCTaper shared a recent live performance by Luna.


The New York Times interviewed authors Michael Marissen and Lauren Belfer.


NPR Music is streaming Xenia Rubinos's new album Black Terry Cat.


The Spectator reviewed one of my favorite nonfiction books of the year, Juan Villoro's essay collection God is Round.


Stereogum is streaming Karen Meat's On the Couch EP.


The Chicago Tribune interviewed editor Chris Ying about his book The Wurst of Lucky Peach.


NPR Music is streaming William Tyler's new album Modern Country.


Tor.com listed essay collections, literary criticism, and biography that explore the craft of science fiction and fantasy.


SPIN profiled the band the Gotobeds.


Bookworm interviewed author John D'Agata.


NPR Music is streaming Paul Simon's new album Stranger to Stranger.


Newsday recommended summer's best new books.


Yahoo Music will stream select acts live from the Sasquatch music festival starting tomorrow.


Ebook on sale for $2.99 today: Barbara Kingsolver's novel The Poisonwood Bible.


The Cleveland Scene profiled singer-songwriter Jason Isbell.


Bustle recommended summer's best new nonfiction books.


Paste listed politicians who meddled in music.


The Wall Street Journal recommended summer books about animals.


Moby talked to Morning Edition about his new memoir Porcelain.


Comic Book Resources interviewed Evie Wyld about er graphic novel Everything Is Teeth.


Pink Floyd stamps.



also at 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
WORD Bookstores Books of the Week (recommended new books)


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May 25, 2016

Book Notes - Jensen Beach "Swallowed by the Cold"

Swallowed by the Cold

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

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

Jensen Beach's impressive story collection is one of the year's most rewarding (and unsettling) books.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"Characters' morally ambiguous actions . . . simultaneously provoke readers' judgment and invite compassion. . . . [Swallowed by the Cold] memorably depicts how selfish humans can be, and how often we’re alienated from one another."


In his own words, here is Jensen Beach's Book Notes music playlist for his short story collection Swallowed by the Cold:



Since I was eighteen I've moved on average once every three years or so. The longest I've lived in one place as an adult is a little more than six years in Stockholm, but this stretch, too, was interrupted by kids and marriage, kinds of moves themselves. Music has always seemed to me to arrange itself around each of these periods, and then, often, certain songs will get lost to the transitions, or else simply to time, only to surface later on some forgotten corner of my phone or in a bar or at a party and hurtle me back to a previous time, a previous place.

Here are eight songs that I was listening to during the years I was writing the stories in this book, roughly 2010 to 2013, all but one of them by Swedish musicians.


Ebba Grön – "We're Only in It for the Drugs" (1978)

My book doesn't seem particularly angry to me, though I was listening to a lot of Ebba Grön during the years I wrote these stories. This song is about the anger of circumstance, of being born into working class suburbs and a boring, aimless, or else narrowly determined, life. Though the variables in my stories are different, I think this is a kind of frustration that many of the characters would share.

Joakim Thåström – "Fanfanfan" (2005)

When this song came out it played endlessly on the radio in Sweden. At the time I was working in a warehouse, where I packed and unpacked boxes of cable modems. Whenever this song came on the radio, the guy I worked with, he was a musician, would stop whatever he was doing and turn the volume up to listen. It is a great song, catchy, melodic, and really sad. Joakim Thåström was the lead singer of Ebba Grön. This song is punk in its sensibilities, I suppose, like Ebba Grön was, particularly in the early albums, but this song and the album it comes from seems sadder to me, richer, more textured and deeper than Thåström's music from the 70s and 80s. More mature and reflective. This song is about lost opportunities. Again, I think this is an emotional tenor that resonates with my book. A note on the title: Fan is a Swedish word for devil and used in a number of ways and has a number of translations into English. Depending on context and use it can mean everything from damn to fuck.

Jose Gonzalez – "Heartbeats" (2003)

Jose Gonzalez's cover of this song is probably best remembered for being the soundtrack to a commercial for televisions that featured thousands of brightly colored bouncy balls bouncing down a street in San Francisco. That was a good commercial. The song is better. I find Jose Gonzalez's voice really haunting and this song, played on a classical guitar, is at once calming and heartbreaking.

Robyn – "Fembot" (2010)

I never listen to music while I'm writing. I find it distracting. But I do listen to music when I exercise. Robyn has been a part of my workout playlists for years. She's the perfect combination of thoughtful and catchy pop, and though I do not ever dance, it's nice to listen to music that makes me want to move when I'm lifting weights or riding my bike. I also think about writing when I exercise. I can't pinpoint an exact example, but I'm certain that some problem in one or more of these stories was solved, on a bike, riding the flat, gridded streets outside of Champaign, IL with Robyn in my ears.

The Knife – "Heartbeats" (2003)

This song reminds me of the summer. I'm not sure if it's because I listened to it a lot during one summer, or if it taps into some nostalgic node in my brain that is also all about summer. Either way, this song is about loss, something my book deals with, and I really love it. "Heartbeats" is a gorgeous song.

A.C. Newman – "Submarines of Stockholm" (2009)

One of the stories in my book is called "Ships of Stockholm." The story takes place on the terrace of a bar called Mosebacke. The terrace overlooks Slussen, the lock between the Baltic Sea and the lake in the western part of the city. I've always liked the view from this bar. It's one of my favorite places to go in the summer. It seems to me that the view captures something essential about Stockholm, or in any case my memory of it. You can see water and islands, some typical Swedish apartment houses. Whenever I hear this song, I always think of a submarine, slowly working its way in from the sea, between the islands and among the cruise ships with A.C. Newman standing at its bridge. For some reason this thought has always made me smile. And I find this song catchy and fun. My kids love it, too.

Shout Out Louds – "The Comeback" (2003)

There's something about Adam Olenius's voice, a cracked and vulnerable quality, that I find appealing. It's probably harder than I think to summarize the emotional center of a song (in any case, I find it difficult), but I think this song is about being hurt and then, in spite of that hurt, trying again. I like that. But I mainly like this song for sentimental reasons. When my oldest son was little he often used to ask us to put on the song about the "reasonable man" (a lyric in the song). Even now I like the song for these personal reasons. And, you know, maybe art is meant to be enjoyed mainly for personal reasons.

Kent – "Dom Andra" (2002)

Kent is a band that never managed to make it outside of Sweden. If they sang in English, they'd probably as widely known as a band like U2 or Coldplay (which is to say both loved and despised by exactly the types of people you'd expect). But I like them, and because this book is so much about Sweden, particularly a Sweden when this band was so big, I couldn't not include one of their songs. Also, it turns out that this playlist is entirely made up of songs that make me feel nostalgic, an emotion that might not be at the surface of the book, but for me, is present nonetheless.


Jensen Beach and Swallowed by the Cold links:

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

Kirkus review

American Short Fiction interview with the author
New Yorker interview with the author
Vermont Public Radio interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Largehearted Boy's 2016 Fundraiser

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

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


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Book Notes - Sean Carswell "The Metaphysical Ukulele"

The Metaphysical Ukulele

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

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

Sean Carswell's collection The Metaphysical Ukulele is filled with clever and insightful homages to his favorite authors.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the collection:

"Carswell excels at composing compelling, whimsical tales that reveal the human side of canonized authors, gently bringing them down from their pedestals."


In his own words, here is Sean Carswell's Book Notes music playlist for his short story collection The Metaphysical Ukulele:



I'm fascinated by the parts of writers' biographies that run counter to their public personas. Take Herman Melville, for instance. The guy lived with a tribe of cannibals in the Marquesas. He was a sex symbol after his first two novels came out. There's good reason to think he had an affair with Nathanial Hawthorne. If you carry all of this into Moby-Dick with you, the novel comes off its pedestal and becomes a fun book written by a sailor in his thirties. I think all of this context helps me understand how he writes so well, blending together genres, being funny and heartbreaking while asking the biggest questions. So for The Metaphysical Ukulele, I started with Melville. I wrote a story about him that borrowed several of the tools from his writer's toolbox. The story seemed to make the most sense when Melville had a ukulele to play. So I gave him one.

After writing my Melville story, I established a pattern. I searched out unlikely events in writers' lives—Flannery O'Connor's love affair with a textbook salesman, Chester Himes's years of exile in France and Spain, Leigh Brackett writing Star Wars II (later retitled The Empire Strikes Back) as she died from cancer, Pam Houston releasing a hitchhiking ghost in the mountains of northern Arizona—and I used those events as the springboard to write my paeans to several of my favorite authors. Each story took me a few months to write. I did ridiculous amounts of research, read a half-dozen books for each story, sampled actual passages from the authors' works, and tried to get to know their work better by writing about them.

I gave them all ukuleles, too. Ukuleles are funny instruments. They come loaded with symbolic value. They can be the toys of hipsters, trinkets tourists bring back from the Islands, real artifacts of a colonized Hawaiian culture, nostalgia for the Roaring Twenties, whatever. For me, they're personal. I married a girl who grew up in Hawaii. My brothers-in-law taught me to play the uke fifteen years ago. Since then, ukuleles have been part of the fabric of spending time with loved ones. When I wrote about the writers I loved, the uke had to be there.

When I crafted this playlist, the uke didn't have to be there. Instead, I picked songs that matched the writers I wrote about.

George Formby, "Leaning on a Lamp Post"
The first story in the collection is about Herman Melville. It's the farthest back in time that the stories go, so I wanted to pair it with an old-timey song. George Formby would've been born right around the time when Melville died. Formby was a vaudevillian and a big British movie star in the between-World-War years. Almost all of his songs are goofy jokes played on a banjo ukulele. "Leaning on a Lamp Post" breaks from his pattern. Initially, it's a simple, sweet song. I'm pretty sure he's only playing three chords (though with some ornamental notes), which pleases my inner punk rocker. Starting with that split stroke about two minutes in, the song becomes paradoxically simple and complex. Like Melville. Like the ukulele itself. And, hopefully, like my short story collection.

The Sugar Stems "Baby Teeth"
The second story in the collection is about Leigh Brackett. Brackett was a pulp writer, mostly known for her sci-fi, but she also wrote some pretty powerful noir. When William Faulkner was struggling with the screenplay for The Big Sleep, director Howard Hawkes brought in Brackett to fix the script. Brackett became known as the woman Hollywood called when they needed someone to write like a man. There's a toughness and a sadness to Brackett's writing and life story that fits well with The Sugar Stems. Something about the end of the chorus, when Betsy Heibler sings "But you've gone away somehow and know your all I think about. I had you once but not now," haunts me like Brackett.

Banner Pilot "Wired Wrong"
I know that when I pair music with Jack Kerouac, who's the protagonist of my third story, I should play jazz. I just don't know jazz very well. I grew up on punk rock. It still informs all my musical choices. So here's Banner Pilot, writing about drinking in Minneapolis in the early aughts, missing bars called Moby Dicks, and, midway through the song, sampling Kerouac reading from The Subterraneans. Kerouac calls someone a "hip pretending weasel." I'd like to read the novel with that title.

Pink Mink "Hidden Beach"
I'm staying with Minneapolis bands here. This time, it's Pink Mink. I went with "Hidden Beach" because it matches the author who stars in my next ukulele story, Patricia Geary. In the song, the narrator goes to a haunted place and runs into ghosts she's familiar with. You're invited to the party. This matter-of-fact treatment of the supernatural echoes Geary's novels, especially her favorite one of mine, Guru Cigarettes, which lures us into a world adjacent to ours so seamlessly that the world we live in feels askew once we put the book down.

Dillinger Four "Doublewhiskeycokenoice"
I guess this is the Minneapolis part of my playlist. Here's the city's second favorite sons, Dillinger Four. "Doublewhiskeycokenoice" captures that frustration of an artist—musician, writer, whomever—when his work is overshadowed or dismissed by dilettantes. Paddy namedrops Nelson Algren and Otis Redding in the song. Chester Himes, who I wrote my next short story about, would fit in that group well. Paddy Costello sings about these guys being on "the beat-up side of a thing called pride," and that's where I'll always see Himes.

Martha "Dust, Bones, Juice, and Hair"
I have to put Martha in the middle of the playlist because their songs are too catchy. If I play their record once and don't play anything immediately afterward, the songs keep running on an endless loop in my head. I feel the same way when I read a Richard Brautigan book. His writing style is infectious. Everyone who reads Brautigan tries to write like Brautigan, at least for a couple of days. Martha and Brautigan also both share the knack of being entertaining and feeling light initially, but there's a deep, sad vein running through all their stuff.

The Pine Hill Haints "When You Fall"
My next story tells about Flannery O'Connor's brief love affair with a textbook salesman. To me, every Flannery O'Connor story is both a love story and a ghost story. The love is complicated and flawed and almost never romantic. The ghosts are all internal. This makes her a great match for a band named after ghosts singing a love song.

The Marked Men "A Little Time"
Raymond Chandler is the protagonist in my next story. In 1944, he essentially held Paramount hostage, refusing to write the end of a mystery no one else could solve. And the biggest problem with him not writing the ending: the rest of the film was already shot, the cast and crew were waiting for the last ten pages of the screenplay, and the star had been drafted into the army. I reimagined this event for my collection. The Marked Men's "A Little Time" sets just the right mood.

The Gateway District "Go Home"
I namedrop a few songs in my Pam Houston story, but they're all songs that Houston namedrops in her books. They're not songs I particularly like. As a compromise, I picked "Go Home." Like Houston's characters, the narrator of the song is a strong woman who's helping her friend out of a bad relationship. I could hear a Houston character singing along to the song: "Girl, don't you waste no more lipstick on him."

The Sonics "Skinny Minnie"
I've done a lot of scholarship (several essays, a book that's coming out next year) on power, resistance, and economics in Thomas Pynchon's novels. I've written a lot less about just how fun his books are. I wanted to pay homage to that in my Thomas Pynchon story in this collection. And this is why I pick The Sonics to accompany Pynchon. They're straight ahead rock and roll. As pure and fun as it can be. There's also a scene in Pynchon's Vineland where college students take over a university, secede from the US, and form The People's Republic of Rock and Roll. They appoint Weed Atman as their leader. Weed tells them that he's not a leader, that he's "tall, that's all." I'm convinced that Pynchon is alluding not only to this song, but to The Sonics' version of it.

The Blue Hearts "Linda Linda"
The Blue Hearts are one of my all-time favorite bands. "Linda Linda" is my favorite Blue Hearts song. I don't speak Japanese, but I know every word. If you catch me in the right mood, I might play it for you on the ukulele. A Japanese friend of mine told me the song was about a rat, but not any rat. She pointed at a ditch. "Like one of those," she told me. What could match my short story about Yoko Ogawa better than a beautiful and absurd song about a gutter rat?

Stevie Wonder "I Wish"
After writing eleven stories about my favorite writers, I decided to finish the collection with a sendup of my own work. I wrote a story about being a mischievous kid. When I was a mischievous kid in real life, "I Wish" was in high rotation around my neighborhood. I remember being six years old and thinking the farting trumpet in the song was the funniest thing. Now I'm sentimental about the whole song. I used to play "I Wish" on the ukulele, too, but my wife banned me from playing it when she was around. She was right to do so.


Sean Carswell and The Metaphysical Ukulele links:

the author's website

Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review


also at Largehearted Boy:

Largehearted Boy's 2016 Fundraiser

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

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


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Shorties (Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather Notebook To Be Published, A Ranking of Bob Dylan's Studio Albums, and more)

Regan Arts will publish Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather Notebook, a collection of notes the director made while working on his iconic film, in November.


The Daily Beast ranked Bob Dylan's studio albums.


May is Largehearted Boy's first fundraising month. All donations will go toward creating new features, crafting a better user experience, and much-needed back end work on the site. Thank you for reading and supporting Largehearted Boy.


eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

Harold and Maude by Colin Higgins
Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted: And all the Brilliant Minds Who Made The Mary Tyler Moore Show a Classic by Jennifer Keshin Armstrong
Prayers for the Living by Alan Cheuse


Broadly interviewed cartoonist MariNaomi.


Magnetic Fields will release a new album, 50 Song Memoir, next year.


Hobart interviewed author Brian Evenson.


King Khan has produced ambient music to back passages of Naked Lunch read by William S. Burroughs.


BuzzFeed interviewed Lindy West about her new book Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman.


Richard Fearless of Death in Vegas discussed his favorite songs at The Quietus.


Vol. 1 Brooklyn interviewed author Mario Bellatin.


Stream a track from Thee Oh Sees' forthcoming live album.


Bookforum interviewed author Gary Indiana.


Stream new Cass McCombs music.


Recommended Reading shared a short story from Jensen Beach's collection Swallowed by the Cold.


Aquarium Drunkard interviewed Beth Orton about her new album Kidsticks.


The New York Times visited the American West of Vladimir Nabokov.


Tacocat covered Katy Perry's "Roar."


The Paris Review and Guernica interviewed author Stehanie Danler.


Stream a new song by the Kills.


Men's Journal interviewed author Geoff Dyer.


Julien Baker covered Jawbreaker's "Accident Prone."


AllAfrica recommended African writers you should be reading.


The Guardian listed the best Elton John songs.


The Times of Israel profiled cartoonist Roz Chast.


Stream a new Cocktails song.


The Wall Street Journal recommended summer's best new books.


Tiny Ruins' Hollie Fullbrook discussed albums that changed her life at Howl and Echoes.


Author Chuck Palahniuk shared Portland tips at WIRED.


Paste profiled the musical duo Whitney.


The Chicago Review of Books interviewed author Justin Cronin.


The A.V. Club shared a collection of Bob Dylan parodies.


The Washington Post recommended soccer books for summer reading.


A collection of Prince interviews.


Lauren Graham's essay collection Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in Between will be published in November.


Drowned in Sound shared new music from Nils Frahm.


The Chicago Tribune recommended recently published travel books.



also at 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
WORD Bookstores Books of the Week (recommended new books)


Posted by david | Permalink | Comments (View)

May 24, 2016

Book Notes - Manuel Gonzales "The Regional Office is Under Attack!"

The Regional Office is Under Attack!

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

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

Manuel Gonzales's debut novel The Regional Office is Under Attack! is one of the year's most entertaining books, a fascinating literary romp that defies genre labels.

The New York Times wrote of the book:

"The Regional Office is Under Attack! is an entertaining and satisfying novel. Like the best of the stories it satirizes so gently, it’s rollicking good fun on the surface, action-packed and shiny in all the right places; underneath that surface, though, it’s thoughtful and well considered. Gonzales has created a superheroic fighting force of the kind we’ve grown so used to through constant exposure to the Avengers and various iterations of the X-Men, and then he has turned out their pockets and flipped open their diaries."


In his own words, here is Manuel Gonzales's Book Notes music playlist for his debut novel The Regional Office is Under Attack!:



Deciding on the songs for this playlist was easy. The Regional Office is Under Attack! is a novel about an organization that secretly trains women to fight the forces of evil and a second group of women who, for mysterious reasons, attack it, and for the playlist I focused on both the women defending the Regional Office and the women attacking it. I asked myself, What would they listen to during training sessions, fight sequences, field ops?, and the songs lined up one by one. But when it came to contextualizing each song, well, it wasn’t that I was stumped, but that with each one, I kept thinking to myself, “I really can’t, I mean — look, have you HEARD this song? It’s perfect for these characters!” Each short description was a repetition of the description before, and not because these songs are so similar — they cross genres (soul, punk, glam rock, pop, R&B, hip-hop), span thirty to forty years of music, are songs by white women, black women, Latina women, Asian women, are angry, are powerful, are compelling, are heartbreaking, and are fun to listen to, to move to, to play loud in my beat-up Honda Element full of my kids’ junk in the back seat as I drive away from the kids’ school after drop-off.

Icona Pop’s "I Love It," from the first beat to the last note, epitomizes the voice of Rose, one of the main women attacking the Regional Office, is full of her bravado, her energy, her dark humor. Joan Jett’s "Bad Reputation," on the other hand, is Sarah’s song (she’s defending the Regional Office, equipped with only her wits, her inner strength, and a mechanical arm) not because she’s got a bad reputation but because she wishes she had. That song makes up the soundtrack she wished were hers, though deep down she knows it’s not. (She’s misunderstood but not in the good/bad way.) Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood’s song, "Somethin’ Bad," feels like the song that should play every time the Regional Office operatives head out on a mission. Janelle Monae’s "Q.U.E.E.N.," the song they listen to as they’re alone in their dorm room after an operation, a training session, with nothing but their own thoughts to keep them company. "Hugo" from The Done Deals — a band based out of Paris, TX, which I based Rose’s hometown on — contains a lyric — Sometimes a man’s best work is done just trying to find a way out of a plan — that I originally used as an epigraph, but the rest of the song’s lyrics speak directly to Rose and her desire to leave her small Texas town and to everything happens to her after she does. The women who front Mother Feather with their glamrock makeup and shiny studded outfits and their energized rock sound could almost be the backing band for either side of this fight between the Regional Office and those who hope to destroy it.

But what ties these all together, really, is how powerful I see these women or these women-fronted bands and yet how vulnerable their music can feel, and this power and aggression and sadness and regret and dark humor and badassery is what drew me to the women in my novel and what draws me to these songs as its soundtrack.

Jenny Lewis, "Just One of the Guys"
Icona Pop, "I Love It"
Mother Feather, "Mother Feather"
MIA, "Bad Girls"
Christina Aguilera, "Fighter"
Minaj/Beyonce, "Feeling Myself"
Joan Jett, "Bad Reputation"
Bikini Kill, "Rebel Grrl"
Haim, "The Wire"
Coathangers, "Watch Your Back"
No Doubt, "Just a Girl"
Janelle Monae, "q.u.e.e.n."
Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood, "Somethin' Bad"
Done Deals," "Hugo"


Manuel Gonzales and The Regional Office is Under Attack! links:

BookPage review
Guardian review
Kirkus review
New York Times review
Slate review


also at Largehearted Boy:

Largehearted Boy's 2016 Fundraiser

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

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


Posted by david | Permalink | Comments (View)

Book Notes - Lindsay Tigue "System of Ghosts"

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

Lindsay Tigue's impressive poetry collection System of Ghosts was awarded the Iowa Poetry Prize.

Craig Morgan Teicher wrote of the book:

"Lindsay Tigue has, first and foremost, a curious mind: her poems are motored by information. Bits of knowledge, gathered magpielike, which others might consider trivia—the origins of the red and green
on traffic lights, the different ways distant towns told time before railroads connected them, the composition of the asteroid Ceres—spur these poems toward startling personal and public insights."


In her own words, here is Lindsay Tigue's Book Notes music playlist for her poetry collection System of Ghosts:



My first poetry collection, System of Ghosts, betrays a lot of my obsessions—namely, the people, places, and ideas that haunt the spaces around me. I didn't listen to music while writing these poems, but music did happen in those spaces. In the driving and walking and kitchen-dancing that occurred alongside (or behind) these pages.

So here are some of the songs I've been obsessed with—both as I was writing this book and more recently—a soundtrack of sorts to the ideas explored. Here are the lonely places and rebuilt moments, the connected melancholies, and the filled-up hollows.

Joanna Newsom, "Peach, Plum, Pear"

I've listened to this song so many times. I love its play, its taunting, and its earnest questioning. "Am I so rare? / Do I run dear?" I think I'm asking earnest questions in these poems and that I am often writing, via associated images, to attempt impossible answers.

Spirit Family Reunion, "I Want to Be Relieved"

I wrote much of this book in Iowa where I lived in a crumbling, old, sun-bright and orange house. I lived with other writers and a musician/scientist among the flaking paint and scratched banisters. So much happened there: a garden grew full of tiny tomatoes; I had my heart broken; we filled a huge dining room table with friends and food for so many dinners, bats flew down from the attic, needing to be caught and released; my roommates fell in love; cats chased each other and lazed about on sun-streaked carpet. We hosted concerts in this house, gathering together friends and community members. One of the bands that played there was Spirit Family Reunion, whose album "No Separation" now feels like a soundtrack to that time. So much of this house is in my book.

I love the optimism of "I Want to Be Relieved." I love the lyric, "Though the burden hangs like an echo / We are turning up the sound." I hope there is optimism in this book amidst all its loss and fear. I hope for hope by "turning up the sound[s]" and I think I am writing about echoes.

Claire Cronin, "They Say"

I was only recently introduced to the brilliant music of singer-songwriter Claire Cronin. She is a fellow poet in my Creative Writing PhD program at the University of Georgia. I heard her play this song the other day in Athens and it brought tears to my eyes.

Someone told me recently that I am trying to write poems and stories that fill up the empty spaces in people, at least for a second. This person said it better than that, better than I could. But "They Say" is Claire Cronin filling in what's missing: "two notes, two notes / fill up the empty field / like a doorbell."

Frontier Ruckus, "Pontiac, the Nightbrink"

I went to college with Matthew Milia and Zach Nichols and they play songs about the Michigan I know and remember. Their music brings me back to college and even before that—to high school in southeastern Michigan and the "salted roads," the "drugstore dried out parking lots," "the Rochesters and Troys."

Feist, "1,2,3,4"

This song, to me, is being 22 and working at my first job. It's living in Chicago and listening to this song and walking to the El and riding the train and arriving at an office full of books. I will always love this song. "That is what my youth was for."

Svevestøv, "Here Comes the Flood," (Peter Gabriel cover)

I downloaded this cover of "Here Comes the Flood" on my first iPod when I was nineteen and I listened to it over and over in my dorm room. After that iPod died and I lost the file, I forgot the band's name and couldn't find it for a while. This near-loss mitigated by technology feels like the first part of my book's title poem. It's the Italian restaurant my mom and I could never find again.

This song probably is the soundtrack of my collection. It's an apocalypse song. It's a song of interconnection and radio waves and silent seas. "I took the old track / the hollow shoulder, across the waters." I'm less interested in the religious story that can be read in the lyrics and more interested in the quiet—in the environmental loss and loneliness there. This song is such a spooky emptiness to me. It's the white space of the poems and it's the blankness around the stark door of the book's cover.

The music of Svevestøv, a duo from Norway, is described on their MySpace page as "songs made around a beautiful voice within an airy soundscape." I think I am trying to write in an airy soundscape about the vanishing and ephemeral, about "All the strange things / [that] come and go, as early warnings."


Lindsay Tigue and System of Ghosts links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

The Gazette review
NewPages review

The Adroit Journal interview with the author
First Person Plural interview with the author
ing Magazine interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Largehearted Boy's 2016 Fundraiser

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

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


Posted by david | Permalink | Comments (View)

Shorties (Lidia Yuknavitch's TED Talk, Anohni on Her New Album, and more)

Stream author Lidia Yuknavitch's TED Talk.


Anohni discussed her new album Hopelessness with All Things Considered.


May is Largehearted Boy's first fundraising month. All donations will go toward creating new features, crafting a better user experience, and much-needed back end work on the site. Thank you for reading and supporting Largehearted Boy.


eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

Harold and Maude by Colin Higgins
Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted: And all the Brilliant Minds Who Made The Mary Tyler Moore Show a Classic by Jennifer Keshin Armstrong
Prayers for the Living by Alan Cheuse


Stream a new Sarah Jarosz song.


Brooklyn Magazine listed 50 fictional women they are obsessed with.


Stream a new Julie Ruin song.


Juan Villoro discussed his new book God Is Round with Howler.


Stream a new Speedy Ortiz song.


Wigleaf listed the year's best very short fiction.


Stereogum reconsidered Soundgarden's Down on the Upside album 20 years after its release.


Divedapper interviewed poet francine j. harris.


The Music Hall of Detroit has commissioned a ballet tribute to David Bowie.


Mother Jones interviewed Lindy West about her new book Shrill.


Stream a new Russian Circles song.


Lovecraft Zine interviewed author Victor LaValle.


PopMatters interviewed singer-songwriter Beatrice Martin (aka Coeur de Pirate).


Jim Ruland recommended summer reading at San Diego CityBeat.


Car Seat Headrest covered Radiohead's "Paranoid Android."

NPR Music is streaming the band's recent Washington performance.

Bandcamp interviewed Will Toledo about his music.


Signature interviewed Evie Wyld about her new graphic novel Everything Is Teeth.


The WTF with Marc Maron podcast interviewed singer-songwriter Joanna Newsom.


The New Yorker features new short fiction by Charles Yu.


The New Yorker reviewed Bob Mehr's book Trouble Boys: The True Story of the Replacements.


Julia Rochester shared the genesis of her novel The House at the Edge of the World at the Guardian.

"It feels random at the time, but what consistently emerges in both my fiction and nonfiction, is a preoccupation with belonging and exile."


Chuck Klosterman pondered which rock and rollers would be remembered by future generations at the New York Times.


Book Riot listed memorable author moments from Late Night with Seth Meyers.


Pitchfork shed light on the art of music mastering.


The A.V. Club shared a recipe from Eat Like a Gilmore: The Unofficial Cookbook for Fans of Gilmore Girls.


Drowned in Sound interviewed Nonni Dead of the psych band Dead Skeletons.



also at 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
WORD Bookstores Books of the Week (recommended new books)


Posted by david | Permalink | Comments (View)

May 23, 2016

Book Notes - Melissa Broder "So Sad Today"

So Sad Today

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

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

Melissa Broder's essay collection So Sad Today resounds with honesty and clarity.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"Vividly rendered and outspokenly delivered essays...Sordid, compulsively readable entries that lay bare a troubled soul painstakingly on the mend."


In her own words, here is Melissa Broder's Book Notes music playlist for her essay collection So Sad Today:



I don't know how to just "do stuff casually" or "for fun." Anything that's fun I get addicted to and then have to quit (or, I never engage with in the first place, particularly if the hordes are saying "it's so amazing," because no).

In keeping, I was not able to create this playlist whimsically: as a disparate group of songs that lyrically or chronologically mirror each of the essays in So Sad Today. Consumed by worry, I sojourned to my safe space, the 7-11 parking lot, to obsess over what to do, consuming a green apple Perrier, a caffeine free Diet Coke and two Quest bars (chocolate brownie and chocolate chunk), until a voice spoke from within:

"Make the entire playlist electronic," it said. "A collection of (largely ambient) songs that you love, which loosely, subconsciously and/or ekphrastically reflect each of the essays. But don't torture yourself with being narrative or linear. No one really cares."

Yes. This was the way.

It is my hope that out of my flaws--anxiety, perfectionism, self-obsession--I have created a playlist that will provide you with a few moments of comfort in your own self-torture. Such is my hope for So Sad Today, the book, as well.

Extent – Arca

This is what is sounds like in the womb, obvi. No shitty techno, no new age guide, just you and the infinite. Why would you ever leave the womb? Idk. I stayed in there three weeks extra till I was evicted without my consent. Bringing a child into the world without its consent seems unethical. But what do I know?

PAPAT4 [155][pineal mix] – Aphex Twin

When I set out for San Francisco in my youth, fancying myself as a Jack Kerouac or other widely-fetishized-dude-figure, I was searching for inner peace, my true self, the great oneness, my pineal gland. What I found instead was Charles Manson and, like, a boss who got naked at board meetings, but it's fine.

Be Brave, Clench Fists – Leon Vynehall

Songs I've definitely binge eaten to: Iesha by Another Bad Creation; I'd Die Without You by P.M. Dawn, Informer by Snow; Here Come the Hotstepper by Ine Kamoze; Hip Hop Hooray by Naughty by Nature; Jump by Kriss Kross; It's So Hard To Say Goodbye to Yesterday by Boyz II Men; I Got a Man by Positive K; Two Princes by The Spin Doctors; Walk On the Ocean by Toad the Wet Sprocket; When I Come Around by Green Day; Found Out About You by The Gin Blossoms; Far Behind by Candlebox; School by Nirvana; Sex and Candy by Marcy Playground; No Self-Esteem by The Offspring; Semi Charmed Life by Third Eye Blind; Butterfly by Crazy Town; Ride Wit Me by Nelly

Songs I would definitely want to hear in the club if I was still using MDMA and ephedrine as appetite suppressants: Be Brave, Clench Fists by Leon Vynehall.

2 B Luvd – Machinedrum

I want to be loved (when I can control the narrative and am definitely given a lot of space) but mostly I want 2 B LUVD in a fantasy way, largely based on distance and then coming together. My perception and dream of what love should feel like (dopamine) is probably ultimately less about love and more about luv. But we keep growing maybe.

Cold Sand – Teen Daze

In this essay I get my pussy eaten for the entirety of the Teen Daze album All of Us, Together. This is my favorite song from that album. (Note: It might have actually been the album Glacier or The Inner Mansions, but whatev). Brooklyn Sunburn is also a really good song from this album, in a chillwave-it's-never-too-late-to-have-a-happy-childhood way.

Adrift (Shigeto's Adrift a Dream Remix) – Tycho

When the committee in my head stops telling me I'm a piece of shit for, like, five seconds a day, it's nice. This usually doesn't happen until the last minute of my morning meditation. But I really love that silence once I am in it. This song is like that silence only with music.

Fight – Nicholas Jaar

This song has nothing to do with internet addiction, but it's beautiful and amazing so I wanted to put it in. Also, maybe it does? It's sort of infinite and fucked like the internet.

Arterial – Lusine

This song reminds me of my relationship with my body. An artery is a living, fleshy thing that needs gentleness and organic surroundings, but the song itself is very glitchy and tech-ified. Similarly, my body is a breathing thing that would like to be treated compassionately and naturally, but sorry, no, I have no use for it. Bring on the Sephora, porn and artificial sweetener. Get me out of here.

004 – HWLS

This is the theme song to my addiction to Nicotine gum. It really isn't, but I like this song. Don't ask questions. It's fine.

Galaxy in Janaki – Flying Lotus

While I'd never consider myself as creative as FlyLo, I will say that the creation of the @sosadtoday Twitter account makes me feel proud of my creativity. I love that I created it out of nothing but my own need for it in a time of anxiety and darkness. Also, throughout my life, I've always been a weirdo. I've never really worn a "weirdo" costume but under the surface shit is fucking strange. This song is creative and weird. The chapter this song corresponds to is about my vomit fetish. My vomit fetish is a result of being nurtured as a child when I was sick. While I don't actually want to vomit or see others vomiting IRL, it's a major turn-on in my head, because it represents being cared for at your ultimate grossness—loved and embraced at your most vile. For someone with low self-esteem that's amazing. I don't talk about this stuff to seem "edgy" or "outré" or whatev. I talk about it from a place of trying to heal (not to change the vomit fetish but accept it). Putting your darkest stuff out there can be very healing if you find that the world still is cool with you being in it. This was the scariest chapter to write and I ultimately wanted to cut it out of the book at the last minute, but my friends, the writers Mira Gonzalez, Blake Butler, Kristen Iskandrian, Lorian Long, Ryan Britt and Jason Diamond said to keep it in. So I did, because I trust these people. Still, it's the chapter that, when my aunt says she got the book, I'm like, fuck no.

Candles – Jon Hopkins

Ok, one time I was having an affair with this dude and then we were supposed to hang out and we didn't, but I knew where he was, and I really wanted to go find him. Instead I made a beautiful, nurturing, ambient playlist called "Angels" and put on a sleep mask, lit a candle and applied lavender oil. It was a good choice. This was the first song of that playlist. Anyway, this chapter "One Text Is Too Many and 1000 Are Never Enough" isn't about that dude. But it's about another dude, and the heartbreak of that romantic obsession and sext compulsion, which was pretty much the same. They're all pretty interchangeable anyway. The common denominator is me.

Maliblue – Darius

I lived in NYC for ten years and never considered getting botox. I move to LA and two minutes later it's like: let's freeze time.

Your Love Will Set You Free – Caribou

I've gone through a lot of phases with a higher power, or what people might call god, as any longterm relationship goes through many faces. As of now, that higher self isa still, small voice within. But there was a period of time in my life where I envisioned my higher power as a cosmic lover, the way that the poet Hafiz sometimes describes his god. If god was my lover, I think it would feel like this song. This whole album is kind of one of the best of the past five years or ever.

Custom Hype (Slava Remix) – Chits

Last year, after having been on Effexor for 12 years, my psychiatrist and I decided to change my meds, because I felt like it wasn't working anymore. I didn't suffer any withdrawal symptoms as we gradually reduced the Effexor and introduced Prozac, but two days after I was completely off the Effexor, I had a panic attack (and then a resulting series of them) that felt like my mind had no bottom. This song has that vibe.

Anything – Chad Valley

This song is like the ultimate in 2010 chillwave, which was also the era when I became obsessed with time, aging and attempting to live out the fantasy of a teenhood I never had. One of those fantasies was romance. Chillwave is that imaginary youth—and the longing for that youth— embodied in sound. Being real hurts.

Ezra – Oneohtrix Point Never

OPN's work is always a major inspiration to me and captures the anxiety of existence perfectly. When I'm in the throes of existential anxiety, and I feel confused that no one is talking about how weird it is both that we are alive and going to die, I feel like OPN gets it.

Marriage (Baths remix) – Gold Panda

This is the essay about my husband, his illness and our marriage: both open and monogamous. You can read it here. I fucking love Gold Panda.

Ethereal Slap – Odd Nosdam

What can I say? Life is a mystery, everyone must stand alone. But sometimes you get a little wink from the universe and it feels like a chill dance party. I didn't ask to be born. Shit has not been easy in this mind and body. But here I am.


Melissa Broder and So Sad Today links:

the author's website

Full Stop review
Globe and Mail review
Kirkus review
New Yorker review
Publishers Weekly review
Slate review

Complex interview with the author
The Cut interview with the author
Elle profile of the author
Fader interview with the author
The Frisky interview with the author
Guardian interview with the author
Lit Up interview with the author
National Post profile of the author
Nylon interview with the author
Refinery29 interview with the author
Vanity Fair interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Largehearted Boy's 2016 Fundraiser

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

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


Posted by david | Permalink | Comments (View)

Book Notes - Jillian Keenan "Sex with Shakespeare"

Sex with Shakespeare

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

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

Jillian Keenan's Sex with Shakespeare is an insightful and fascinating memoir that examines the sexuality in the Bard's plays alongside the author's own life experiences.

The New Republic wrote of the book:

"Keenan is at her most confident. Her prose soars with a clarity of vision and purpose… Keenan writes a story of language and lust, and the pain of trying to get to that thing you want but you can’t quite put into words."


In her own words, here is Jillian Keenan's Book Notes music playlist for her book Sex with Shakespeare:



Music plays a central role in my writing process. I've often joked that the only difference between the times when I can't write at all and the times when words flow out of me so fast I can't keep up with them is whether I have a song addiction at the time. When I get addicted to a song, I overindulge. I put it on a repeat and listen to it over and over and over again—for days. For weeks, even. (Luckily, headphones spare people around me the tedium of my writing process.) Bingeing on music this way has a meditative effect on me: I slip into a state where it's very easy to focus on work. Before I know it, hours have passed and I have twenty new pages. It's glorious.

The downside, of course, is that if I don't have a song I'm obsessed with at the time, I'm out of luck. I stare at blank pages and drink too much wine. That is less glorious.

The songs in this playlist aren't necessarily songs that I binged while writing my bibliomemoir, Sex with Shakespeare, but some of them are. Others evoke the feelings or ideas that I wrestled with during my writing process, or are songs that I listened to a lot during the period of my life reflected in that chapter. But each is a song that I adore.


A Midsummer Night's Dream: Stand and Unfold
"Witton Woods" by 64 Stitches

Sex with Shakespeare is my love letter to the Shakespearean canon, and "Witton Woods" is a love song. It explores the consistency and reliability of love in a way that is almost idealistic: "No fear darling, I'm here." In most relationships, of course, it is impossible for all involved to be so constantly available. Even the best romances have moments of logistical or emotional disconnect.

With one exception: books. The relationships we build with the authors and characters we love are accessible in every moment, every mood, and every circumstance. In my first chapter, A Midsummer Night's Dream: Stand and Unfold, I find myself in the middle of an Omani desert and greatly in need of a friend. I find that friend in Shakespeare's Helena, who follows me wherever I go—even Oman. My relationship with her is every bit as rich, and as reliable, as the perfect one that "Witton Woods" imagines.


The Tempest: Were I Human
"Inside of Love" by Nada Surf

"Inside of Love" is a quite literal choice for The Tempest: Were I Human, but it matches the feelings of this chapter so well that I can't resist. This chapter describes my childhood and adolescence—a time when I longed to know love but felt certain that it would never be available to me. My non-normative sexual identity (which I did not recognize as such at the time, but rather thought was a "disgusting" mental illness) would make it impossible. By sixteen, I was certain.

Of course, I was wrong. But a lot of things would have to happen, and years would have to pass, before I realized it. I was standing way too close to the canvas to see the whole picture—a dilemma captured in the lyrics of this song.


The Winter's Tale: An Aspect More Favorable
"Buleria" by David Bisbal

This one is easy: "Buleria" by David Bisbal. In this chapter, I move to Spain and leap (or fall?) into an intense relationship with my first boyfriend, John. It was an extraordinary year in my life, and this song was its soundtrack. Everyone in Spain in early 2004 heard this song. To this day, when I hear it I am immediately transported.

But I chose this song for more than the sense memories it evokes. Its lyrics remind me of how the exhilarating freedom of Spain (and de-facto "adulthood") made me feel. Bisbal sings about the value of merely knowing that someone else exists, and that's how I felt in Spain. I was certain that I was deeply, hopelessly "fucked up"—but it was okay, because my boyfriend was too. The mere discovery that he existed—that I wasn't the only one after all—changed everything.


Romeo and Juliet: These Violent Delights
"Joga" by Bjork

The intensity of my first relationship deepens in this chapter, so the tone of my playlist also deepens, with Bjork's "Joga." The vocals are powerful, of course, but Joga's lyrics strike me most. They describe my relationship with John—its intimacy, and its silence—perfectly: "You don't have to speak / I feel."

There are times when, to me, pain speaks more intimately than language. John and I shared a language that speaks without words.


The Taming of the Shrew: Rough with Love
"Hurricane" by MS MR

Read the lyrics of this song. They say it all.


Hamlet: Nothing, My Lord
"Shelter from the Storm" by Bob Dylan

This book deals with the sexual (and literary) experiences of people who deserve discretion. When they walked into my life, they had no idea that my memories and relationships with later show up in a book. So, of course, I protected their identities with pseudonyms. But I wanted to choose synonyms that would spark the same emotions and nostalgia as their real names. And when I had to choose a pseudonym for the second man I ever kissed, "Dylan" was a clear frontrunner.

The real Dylan is the person who first introduced me to Bob Dylan's music. (I was an eighteen-year-old who had never heard of Bob Dylan—I know, I know. I promise, I am appropriately ashamed about this.) I listened to "Shelter from the Storm" so relentlessly that year that it will always, I suspect, remind me of "Dylan." Using the musician's surname as a pseudonym for the man I knew gave me the same emotions when I wrote about him as using "Dylan"'s real name would have. It's a credit to the real Dylan that this timeless music still reminds me of him, even a decade after he first played it for me.


Twelfth Night: What Should I Do
"Ma Sar" by Haifa Wehbe

My Arabic is terrible, so I don't understand all the lyrics in Haifa Wehbe's "Ma Sar." But it doesn't matter! The tune alone is enough to transport me back to Oman, where a dear friend first introduced me to this song. The tune is tinged with enough pathos to reflect the anxiety and confusion of earlier chapters, but hints at the positive changes that are to come.


Love's Labor's Lost: Wonder of the World
"Umbrella" by Rihanna

David is going to hate this one, but facts are facts: Rihanna's "Umbrella" dominated the airwaves in 2007, the year that he and I met. The song was so inescapable that I suggested to David that it be "our" song. (I was only half-joking.) He refused, and to this day we don't have a song. Nevertheless, I will always associate this song with the early months of my relationship with David—and, now, with this playlist.


Antony and Cleopatra: Here Is My Space
"Midnight" by Coldplay

I listened to "Midnight" by Coldplay more than any other song while writing Sex with Shakespeare. When I listen to it now, I understand why I so effectively pushes me into the meditative, trance-like state that is best for my writing: it is rhythmic, repetitive, and inoffensive.

It pairs well with my Antony and Cleopatra chapter precisely because it so predictably dark. Repression and violence are like that, too: repetitive cycles that we see, but often cannot break.


Macbeth: Double, Double
"Sound of Violence" by Dennis de Laat

I picked "Sound of Violence" by Dennia de Laat for my Macbeth chapter because, to me, it sounds endemically urban. I can imagine this song playing at a club or a restaurant—in any of the places, really, that come to mind when I recall the year I lived in Singapore.

But this song also feels hesitant, like it is on the brink of something important. Perfect.


King Lear: Speak
"Great Headless Blank" by Makeunder

King Lear—both the play by William Shakespeare and its chapter in my book—are heavy with rage, fear, guilt, and grief. The thought of tying this anchor to a song feels more than difficult: it feels cruel. How dare I burden someone else's art with the heaviest and most controversial part of my book?

"Great Headless Blank" can bear the weight. This song is like Shakespeare: it challenges me. And the more I start to untangle its complexity, the more I realize how little I truly understand it. "Great Headless Blank" captures the banality of violence, which I tried to illustrate in King Lear, better than any song I've heard in recent memory. I describe some songs as "inoffensive," which is a good and necessary thing at times. But "Great Headless Blank" is proudly, aggressively on the offensive. It transformed my preconceived notions of what music can be.


Othello: Beast with Two Backs
"Ojalá" by Silvio Rodríguez

The time in my life I describe in my Othello chapter was a very reflective one. I spent much of that year on airplanes—and a lot of time alone—and listened to music during all of it. More often than not, I was listening to "Ojalá" by Silvio Rodríguez.

This song isn't what you'd expect. If you only listen to the tune (or don't speak Spanish), "Ojalá" sounds like it might be a love song. But things aren't always what they seem to be. Its lyrics betray the pain, longing, and disappointment that spill past the edges of this song. If I had to choose an all-time favorite piece of music, "Ojalá" (which, roughly translated, is Spanish for "hopefully") would be it. It comforts me to pair it with a chapter in which I am ashamed of my own behavior.


Cymbeline: What We May Be
"Interlude [YUNGFWAYGO]" by Afros and Hair Picks

"Interlude" by Afros and Hair Picks is all wrong. This song stutters, coughs, and transforms itself so often that I struggle to keep up with it. It sounds like something breaking down.

But that's not necessarily a bad thing. In my Cymbeline chapter, something breaks down—and in its place, something better starts to grow. Its final lyric—"let's just stop and think"—could be the motto for this chapter.


As You Like It: What You Will
"Chalomot Shel Acherim" by The Idan Raichel Project

Real stories never have perfect endings, but they can come damn close. The tone of "Chalomot Shel Acherim" (which means "Other People's Dreams"), by The Idan Raichel Project, reflects this balanced joy. It is upbeat and optimistic, but not idealistically so. And its lyrics stun me—particularly the message that life, even at its most challenging, is not to be avoided, but embraced.

It is, as the song says, "better to run to the fire."

Or just light the match yourself.


Jillian Keenan and Sex with Shakespeare links:

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

Kirkus review
National Post review
New Republic review
New York Times review

Bust interview with the author
Longreads interview with the author
Quartz profile of the author
Refinery29 interview with the author
The Toast interview with the author
Vogue profile of the author
Washington Post profile of the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Largehearted Boy's 2016 Fundraiser

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

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


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Book Notes - Scott Esposito "The Surrender"

The Surrender

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

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

Scott Esposito's book The Surrender collects three linked essays that explore themes of genre and identity with honesty and clarity.

Juliet Jacques wrote of the book:

"Smart and sensitive, written with great lucidity, these essays combine acute art criticism with fearless self-examination, suggesting new ways to consider our relationships with culture."


In his own words, here is Scott Esposito's Book Notes music playlist for his book The Surrender:


For a long, long time now I've derived huge amounts of inspiration and catharsis from hip hop. In its best moments it can be one of the truest, most authentic art forms I know of—I don't mean the hip hop you hear up in the club, where everybody's talking about cars they don't own and money they don't have. I mean the music that people who really love hip hop love to listen to.

Both as I was living the events that later became The Surrender and as I was writing the book itself, there were a lot of great tracks that helped me find my way. Here are a few that stand out in my mind, along with a few words about what each has meant to me.


Going through Changes -- Eminem

Eminem has had one of the bigger roller coaster rides of any musician in our era. He came up from nothing, where he was bullied in school and dismissed as an MC, and he eventually became the rapper who had more success than anyone. Then he lost his shit over what happened in his life and almost died of a drug overdose. This track comes from the album made after he got off drugs and alcohol for good, aptly called "Recovery." Here he's recounting everything he's gone through, and the song just has that feel of hitting rock bottom and struggling to find your way out. In 2010 and 2011, as I was finally beginning to get right with who I was, I was hearing this one a lot.


Civil War -- Immortal Technique, ft. Killer Mike, Brother Ali & Chuck D

Summer 2011. The day after I watched Close-Up by Abbas Kiarostami, I remember biking around and listening to this track. Immortal Technique is just a crazy, hyper-political guy rapping all the time about post-colonial theory, conspiracies, revolution, etc, etc. This track really spoke to me on that day just because all three MCs here are speaking truth about who they are and how they just want everyone in their communities to be alright with everyone.


Pineal Gland -- Ab-Soul

Now we're in Spring 2012, when things in my life were starting to get a little crazy. The thing I love about Ab-Soul is he's just his own dude. He's grown up with all sorts of adversity, and he knows he's an outcast, a weird guy, and he just makes his music his way. This song epitomizes what he's on. The first time I heard this track, I didn't know what the fuck I was listening to. I loved it, it was amazing, it was just what I was waiting for, just what I wanted at that moment.


Tougher Colder Killer -- El-P ft. Killer Mike and Despot

Pound for pound, I don't think there's a single El-P track that's ever gotten me more hyped. This is basically what the summer of 2012 was for me.


The Book of Soul -- Ab-Soul

"I guess the Mayans wasn't lying / 2012 my world ended." Yeah, this track is deep, and that basically sums up 2012 for me. That year had crazy ups and downs, things I couldn't always talk about frankly in The Surrender but that I just had to get in there. What this one tells me is, sometimes you gotta go to those dark places to see the light and the meaning, just to get through it. Even today, this track can break me down.


Otherside -- Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

Unfortunately Macklemore makes a lot of shitty music that seems to play well on the charts, but he can make some really honest, great stuff when he puts his mind to it. This is probably the realest song he ever did. The first half of 2013 was about putting things back together and finding my way, and I had this song on a lot.


Numbers on the Board -- Pusha T

The fall of 2013 Pusha T released My Name Is My Name and this was my jam. The beat here is just so damn cool, and Pusha kills it. This was the fall I started painting my nails, making myself known to the world in small ways bit by bit, and I was getting a lot of adrenaline and confidence from listening to this one. This track sums up that season for me in my mind.


Control -- Big Sean, Kendrick Lamar, Jay Electronica

Same story here as Numbers on the Board. This was just inspiration right when I needed it. The sound of that sped-up voice screaming on the track, and those descending piano keys . . . still gives me chills. In truth, I downloaded the version with just Lamar's verse, because I didn't really care about the other two (although, in fairness, Big Sean gets off too here). I remember listening to this track at night, after being out all day pushing all sorts of boundaries, kind of impressed, kind of amazed with myself, one moment feeling very cool, the next feeling like a complete moron.


Offshore -- Slaughterhouse

Now we're in the summer of 2014. I remember warm summer nights sitting on the floor in front of my MacBook Pro writing "The Last Redoubt" and listening to this to get inspired. I didn't even know if I had the guts to publish the essay at that point, I just wanted to write it. Listening to these guys, they were giving me courage. I just love how they come across in this song—that honesty, that realness, the way they do it. I wanted that essay to hit those same notes.


Lie, Cheat, Steal -- Run the Jewels

Halloween 2014, the first time I was ever going to appear in public as a woman and interact with people, only the second time I was going to leave the house. I had crazy butterflies in my stomach, lungs, pancreas, everywhere. Run the Jewels has just released their second album, which was just one gigantic adrenaline shot, and I had this track on repeat.


Wishin' -- PRhyme ft. Common

PRhyme is Royce 5'9" and DJ Premier. I've been listening to Royce for a long, long time—he's the kind of MC who puts his life on wax, so I've seen him go through a lot. He's been an alcoholic, he's gone to jail, he's gotten sober, he's found his way. This has been his life, and he's been honest about it with his fans every step of the way. So it's been immensely pleasing to watch him grow with each release, to just watch his tenacity and his development, and this is the album where I knew he'd finally gotten to where he needed to be. It came out in December 2014, more or less at the same time I knew I'd finally climbed my own mountain. So this song here was victory for me.

Scott Esposito and The Surrender links:

excerpt from the book
excerpt from the book

Indirect Libre review


also at Largehearted Boy:

Largehearted Boy's 2016 Fundraiser

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

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


Posted by david | Permalink | Comments (View)

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