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February 26, 2015

Book Notes - Peter Richardson "No Simple Highway: A Cultural History of the Grateful Dead"

No Simple Highway: A Cultural History of the Grateful Dead

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, Kevin Brockmeier, George Pelecanos, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Peter Richardson's book No Simple Highway is an exhaustively researched and compelling cultural history of the Grateful Dead and the community that rose up around the band.

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


In his own words, here is Peter Richardson's Book Notes music playlist for his book No Simple Highway: A Cultural History of the Grateful Dead:


How to assemble a soundtrack for a cultural history of the Grateful Dead? Fill it with my favorite Dead songs, collect their most revered jams, or try to represent the various music streams that fed their huge repertoire? I could even feature the music that Jerry Garcia and Phil Lesh spun at KMPX while that San Francisco radio station was pioneering free-format rock programming in the mid-1960s.

I finally decided to produce a soundtrack that highlights the Dead's origins. Well before the band existed, Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter were listening avidly to Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music, which Folkways Records released in 1952. That idiosyncratic collection was a portal to what Greil Marcus called the Old, Weird America—a shadow world of obscure heroes, rogues, doomed love affairs, suicides, murderous exploits, and half-forgotten legends.

In that spirit, then, I begin with Noah Lewis's "New Minglewood Blues," which Smith included in his anthology, and which the Dead recorded and performed many times in concert. Lewis's song was only twelve years older than Garcia, but by the time he heard it, it already sounded ancient, not to mention very weird and very American.

As a youth, Garcia heard fiddler Scotty Stoneman stretch out a bluegrass number for twenty minutes during a live performance. That was the first time Garcia recalled getting high from music; he later said his hands hurt from applauding so much. I've included Stoneman's "Talkin' Fiddlin' Blues" to mark that turning point in Garcia's musical journey. From then on, the experience of total rapture he sought would require improvisation rather than recital.

Meanwhile, Garcia's fellow folkie, Robert Hunter, was reading James Joyce and trying to write fiction. That is, until he heard Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde (1966) and realized rock music could be a fit vehicle for his literary aspirations. Thus, I include "Visions of Johanna." Dylan was another Harry Smith fan; later, he and Hunter would collaborate on Together Through Life (2009).

By the mid-1960s, the Dead were part of a vibrant San Francisco scene that included Jefferson Airplane. When they recruited Grace Slick from The Great Society, she brought along two songs, "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit," a touchstone for the San Francisco counterculture. Like the older San Francisco artists who introduced the teenaged Garcia to bohemianism, the local bands were highly collaborative. Garcia contributed to the Airplane's debut album, Surrealistic Pillow, and coined the title. The Dead also benefited indirectly from their commercial success. Aided by San Francisco music impresario Tom Donahue, Warner Bros. signed the Dead to their first record deal.

One of Hunter's early lyrics was "Dark Star," which became the Dead's most famous (and protean) jam. Many bands, including the Beatles and Rolling Stones, were going psychedelic; with this song, the Dead went galactic. And where Jefferson Airplane alluded to Lewis Carroll, Hunter raised the literary stakes by echoing T.S. Eliot. Hunter would soon cast himself as a western writer, but there was nothing especially western about this lyric, except that it featured a frontier—the final one, space.

The Dead's early, more experimental music didn't sell many albums. But they also had other challenges. In October 1967, most of them were arrested for drug possession in their home at 710 Ashbury. The following year, they moved to bucolic Marin County, where they hung out with David Crosby and his folkie friends. Meanwhile, Garcia taught himself to play pedal steel and provided the opening riff for "Teach Your Children." That song appeared on Crosby, Stills & Nash (1969), a huge critical and commercial success. Both bands appeared at Woodstock that summer. Insofar as the event drew on the contemporary urge to "get back to the garden," Woodstock was a powerful expression of the back-to-the-land movement at its peak.

The Dead's next album, Workingman's Dead, tapped that same back-to-the-land urge. It was packed with soulful acoustic music and vocal harmonies, and when the executives at Warner Bros. heard "Uncle John's Band," they also heard the cash registers ringing. The Dead toured Canada that summer on the so-called Festival Express and returned to the Bay Area to record American Beauty. Those two albums gave the Dead their first taste of commercial success and something to tour behind.

American Beauty included "Truckin'," another popular single. This one tapped the American fascination with the open road, which the band inherited from Jack Kerouac and On the Road. As their touring machine grew in the 1970s, more and more fans began to follow their annual migrations. Those tours modeled a new form of American wanderlust and expanded the social space for the expression and transmission of countercultural values.

On one of their live albums in the 1970s, the Dead included "Brown-Eyed Women." Set somewhere in Appalachia, the song details the challenges of moonshiners during the Great Depression. Hunter's lyric would have been right at home in Smith's anthology. Garcia once said that he related more to Dylan's lyrics, but that Hunter had the ability to evoke a whole world in a song. This one is a good example.

The Dead's touring machine rumbled through the 1970s, when critics wrote them off as a nostalgic act. After a creatively slack period in the early 1980s, the most serious challenge to their enterprise was Garcia's diabetic coma in 1986. When he pulled through and resumed touring, the Dead scored their first top-ten single with "Touch of Grey," which was accompanied by a creative music video. Hunter's lyric can be read as a complex response to the Age of Reagan, but mostly the song is an anthem to survival—Garcia's, the Dead's, and the Dead Head community's. When the band changed the chorus from "I will survive" to "We will survive," they gave their fans something to celebrate. They would survive Reagan, scourge of the hippies, as well as his militarized war on drugs.

The Dead disbanded when Garcia died of a heart attack in 1995. But the music lives on, largely through the continuous reinterpretation of the Dead songbook. Countless bands have covered the Dead, but I chose Los Lobos' version of "Bertha" as a token of that type. (I especially like the unlikely combination of an East Los Angeles bar band and San Francisco hippies.) The Dead's legacy will continue as long as new artists are drawn to their music. And as the overwhelming response to the Soldier Field shows in July demonstrates, the community is still going strong.


Peter Richardson and No Simple Highway: A Cultural History of the Grateful Dead links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

Boston Globe review
Riverfront Times review
San Jose Mercury News review
San Francisco Chronicle review

Golden Gate Xpress profile of the author
KALW interview with the author
On Point interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

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)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
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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February 26, 2015

Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week - February 26, 2015

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.


Girl in a Band

Girl in a Band
by Kim Gordon

It doesn't really matter if you're a diehard Sonic Youth fan or you've only heard of singer/bassist/founding member Kim Gordon in passing, Girl in a Band is a candid, fascinating memoir from an often-elusive artist. Recounting Gordon's sunny SoCal upbringing, her family troubles, move to downtown New York, the birth of a band that would revolutionize American music, this isn't a book to miss.

Lucky Alan and Other Stories

Lucky Alan and Other Stories
by Jonathan Lethem

This collection of nine stories, Lethem's third, includes a breakdown at Sea World, a child rescued from a blizzard, and a political prisoner in a hole in a Brooklyn street, among many other situations and characters that embody the humour and the eeriness for which Lethem has, rightly become know.


Home

Home
by Carson Ellis

Previously illustrator of the Wildwood series and Decemberists artist, Ellis has in her solo debut crafted a loving tribute to the many places we call home. Whether houses, ships, or shoes, underwater palaces or science fictionial domes, the many places we live in come to life in Ellis' beautiful watercolours.


Discontent and Its Civilizations

Discontent and Its Civilizations
by Mohsin Hamid

Hamid has worked as a journalist, written fiction, lived on three continents, and become a trusted voice for topics as diverse as pop culture and international politics. In Discontents and Its Civilizations, his essays show in no uncertain terms that he is, as the Los Angeles Review of Books called him, a "master stylist."


Akademie X: Lessons in Art + Life

Akademie X: Lessons in Art + Life

Phaidon has put together another beautiful brook, this time riffing off a student notebook to present lessons from 36 "tutors," the colour-coded advice of, and assignment from, artists like Marina Abramovic, Miranda July, Chris Kraus, and Shirley Tse.


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:

other Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week

List of Online "Best of 2014" Book Lists

52 Books, 52 Weeks
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly new comics and graphic novel highlights)
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
Book Notes (authors create music playlists for their book)
guest book reviews
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
WORD Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)


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Shorties (Knausgaard's United States Experience, Jimmy Page on Physical Graffiti, and more)

The New York Times magazine features an essay by Karl Ove Knausgaard which chronicles his travels in the United States.


Jimmy Page talked to All Songs Considered about the 40th anniversary of Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti album.


Word and Film interviewed author Matthew Dickman.


What if grunge never happened?


Edward St. Aubyn will reimagine Shakespeare's King Lear in a forthcoming novel.


Dan Deacon played a Tiny Desk Concert.

Exclaim! profiled Deacon.


Electric Literature interviewed author John Benditt.


Under the Radar profiled singer-songwriter Jenny Lewis.


Author Matt Sumell listed the top troublemakers in fiction.


SPIN shared an oral history of the Simple Minds song "Don't You (Forget About Me)."


Bookworm interviewed poet Peter Cole.


The A.V. Club suggested entry points into '80s UK synth pop.


VICE interviewed author Laura van den Berg.


Stream Thom Yorke's collaborative soundtrack for the documentary The UK Gold.


The importance of a book's final sentence.


Paste interviewed Iron and Wine's Sam Beam.


Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, Google+, and Stumbleupon for links (updated throughout the day) that don't make the daily "Shorties" posts.


also at Largehearted Boy:

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

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Atomic Books Comics Preview (the week's best new comics and graphic novels)
Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
daily mp3 downloads
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)

Daily Downloads (Helmet, Embleton, and more)

Every day, Daily Downloads offers 10 free and legal mp3 downloads.


Today's free and legal mp3 downloads:

The Bandoliers: "Leslie (Alternate Version)" [mp3]

Embleton: Sampler single [mp3]

Felice LaZae: "I Need To Feel" [mp3]

Jude Moses: "Inside" [mp3]

Moses Luster: The Hangman's Door album [mp3]

Paper Aeroplanes: Souvenirs EP [mp3]

The Rollups: The Rollups album [mp3]

Secretary: Secretary EP [mp3]

Steve Robinson & Ed Woltil: Tandem EP [mp3]


Free and legal live performances at other websites:

Helmet: 2015-02-22, Brooklyn [mp3]


search for more free and legal music downloads at Largehearted Boy


also at Largehearted Boy:

other daily free and legal mp3 downloads

covers collections
100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads

Book Notes (authors create 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 music, books, and pop culture news and links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtrack)
weekly new album lists


Posted by david | Permalink | Comments (View)

February 25, 2015

Book Notes - Matt Burriesci "Nonprofit"

Nonprofit

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, Kevin Brockmeier, George Pelecanos, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Matt Burriesci's Nonprofit, winner of the AWP Prize for the Novel, is a smart and funny debut.

Charles Yu wrote of the book:

"The prose in Nonprofit is cut with a sharp tool from stone, words and sentences fitting together just right, with nothing seeming to be wasted or out of place. The dry, bleak wit, unrelenting and consistently funny, reminds me more than a little of Helen DeWitt. [T]he writer has the amazing ability to generate and sustain forward narrative velocity almost completely from the twin engines of dim hope and awful dread this sense of rolling forward toward disaster....[T]he novel never loses its nuanced, dark and funny tone, all of which is tempered by a small kernel of warmth, love, and buried optimism at the core of the story."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


In his own words, here is Matt Burriesci's Book Notes music playlist for his novel Nonprofit:


I can't actually write or revise while music is playing (I'm an ARTIST! I REQUIRE COMPLETE SILENCE FOR MY GENIUS!), but I always create a playlist for projects I'm working on. Often I pick songs for the playlist before I know why I picked them, and then I listen to them whenever I'm thinking about the book–– when I'm in the car, or getting groceries, or just walking around. Then when I'm revising, I go back and whittle the playlist down to the songs that turned out to be the most meaningful. There were 34 songs on the original playlist, but these are the 13 that made the revision playlist.

I don't know if other writers do this, but I always imagine what it would be like as a movie, so of course there are "soundtrack" songs. But other songs on the playlist capture the particulars of a scene (the actual events that transpire), or the feeling I want to convey (the tone, or the emotions I want to create in the reader, or the mental state of a particular character), or just the things I was thinking about when I was writing.

"E-Pro" by Beck
I ripped off the opening scene of Nonprofit from the open to Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep: our hero, a man of modest means, is introduced into the bizarre world of the wealthy, where he clearly does not fit in (and he's far less capable than Philip Marlowe). He's been summoned to meet with the nonprofit's biggest donor, a strange woman named Alice Cavanaugh Williams. He's made to wait in a strange white room for an obscene amount of time, where he's attended to by various domestic servants. Finally the donor emerges, acknowledges his presence, and our hero is immediately dismissed without any further discussion. In the "movie version" in my mind, I imagine him standing outside the home in the doorway, immediately after being dismissed, trying to figure out what the hell just happened, and this song blares as the title credits roll. It starts so dissonant and loud, so it's a jarring juxtaposition to the fancy pants mansion, and the song contains these words, "Don't forget to pickup what you sow/talkin' trash to the garbage around you." I had some real contempt for some of the antagonists, who aren't really evil so much as they are indifferent.

"I'm Dancing in the Show Tonight" by Ween
A lot of Nonprofit is about "assuming the position," often in absurd circumstances, and this song cracks me up. The song is about a little girl getting ready to dance in a recital. The song is told from the little girl's perspective, but it's performed by a clearly inebriated man. For me, this song sums up the absurdity I was trying to capture in the book. The main character is put in these bizarre situations, but he's got to constantly behave as if nothing is strange. "Are my lemons tied? / is my hair in place? / have I got a cute expression on my face? / Are my shoes all shined? / I'll try to keep in line / When I'm dancin' in the show tonight."

"Enjoy the Silence" by Nada Surf
This is another soundtrack song. It's an alt-rock cover of the Depeche Mode song. The "second plot" of Nonprofit involves the main character's struggle to conceive a child with his wife, and I imagined this song playing after the very last scene in the book. This song took on a whole new meaning for me once I was a dad.

"Here Comes Your Man" by Vitamin String Quartet
I'm a huge Pixies fan, and this song really helped me find the tone of the book. The biggest problem I have when writing a book is finding the voice, the tone––the sound of it. For me if I can figure out how the book is told, and the voice of the narrator, then usually most everything else will fall into place. I usually can't figure that out, and so the books fall apart. I'll start with a plot idea, but then the book becomes a labored, forced mess where people are just exchanging information and doing things to each other. There's no feeling to any of it, which I guess is the result of a lack of style. I found the style for Nonprofit after listening to the Vitamin String Quartet cover of "Here Comes Your Man." I imagined being at a fancy-pants benefit with this song playing (this version actually sounds perfectly appropriate for such an affair), but then I imagined a completely inappropriate Pixies song playing, like "Gouge Away" or "Something Against You," and I thought about a sea of horrified wrinkled WASPs. I imagined a man describing such a scene if he's standing outside his body, as if someone else was narrating his life as it unfolded, and I found the way to tell the story.

"As We Go Up, We Go Down" by Guided by Voices
Something I thought about a lot when I was writing Nonprofit was the issue of social class, specifically how one class is becoming increasingly distant from the rest of society, sort of ‘pulling away' from everyone else. The aristocracy is beginning to inhabit a reality that is actually different from the reality everyone else knows––it has different laws, different institutions, and different problems. This is one of GBV's catchier ditties. Like most of their stuff, I have no idea what it's actually about, so I pretend it's about that notion: that sometimes getting ahead is actually falling behind.

"‘Til I can Gain Control Again" by This Mortal Coil
When the book came out, I was surprised that a lot of people commented on how sad it was, but I guess I did listen to this song a lot when I was writing it. It's basically the saddest song ever. Another cover (Willie Nelson did the original), but there's something really desperate in this version–– like the singer is pleading for their husband/wife/partner to just be patient while the singer gets it together, but you're pretty sure it's not gonna work out. There's a lot of that in the book–– the main character is just trying to hold on to what he's got for dear life, and he's about an inch a way from losing everything.

"Ride Into The Sun" by Lou Reed
A lot of the book is about the city of Washington, DC, which can be a very harsh place to live. People keep explaining how cities work to the hero, how "this town" is different from all other towns. There's a snobby pride about living in DC, and yet there's also a stubborn nostalgia for a better city that existed sometime in the past. Nobody can identify what changed, but everybody knows it wasn't good. I prefer this version to the Velvet Underground version, which was recorded in their weird stint with the alternate vocalist. It's cynical but strangely optimistic at the same time. "Oh, the city….where everything seems so…dirty/ but if you're tired and you're filled with self pity / remember that you're just one more / person who's there."

"Good Times, Bad Times" by Led Zeppelin
Mostly for the opening verse, "In the days of my youth / I was told what it means to be a man…" The main character in the book has this problem where his balls are literally shrinking, so he has a crisis as a man–- it's not just that he can't conceive a child, but also that he can't provide for his family, or be what society expects him to be "as a man." But he does try to do all those things as best he can.

"Fight Test" by Flaming Lips
Along with the stuff about 'being a man' in the book, I thought a lot about courage, and what it is, and why it's important. I'm an anxious, neurotic person, so I guess this theme is on my mind a lot. The main character starts off as a bit of a coward, but then is pushed so far that he has to confront his cowardice, and remedy the defect in his character.

"Cause I'm a man, not a boy / and there are things you can't avoid / you have to face them / when you're not prepared to face them."

"Van Helsing Boombox" by Man Man
This is a great song from a freaky band. To me, it speaks to the structure of the book, which is basically Vonnegut's "Man in Hole" story shape. I have no idea why this song is called "Van Helsing Boom Box," because it doesn't appear to have anything to do with vampires or boom boxes. Whatever––it's Man Man. Don't go looking for rational explanations. But it does have to do with the book, because things go from bad to worse for our hero. "Only time will tell if I'll allow / the scenery around me to eat me alive…"

"Commissioning a Symphony in C" by Cake
The main storyline of the book is about a guy who tries to save an arts organization from collapsing into bankruptcy. This song cracks me up because I think it's very true of the arts– that oftentimes a work of great art is produced with the patronage of awful people with bizarre motivations. "With money you squeezed from the peasants / to your nephew you can give it as a present…"

"Sweet Child of Mine" by Luna
GNR gets Luna-fied! I always though this song was about Axl Rose's girlfriend, but then I found out it was about his kid and suddenly it became the sweetest song I'd ever heard. So this song has a lot of secret heart to it, and it hits you in the gut when you least expect it. I thought that was a neat trick to steal from Axl Rose.

"Don't Ya Rile ‘Em" by Frank Black
I love the Pixies, but I really think some of Frank Black's solo stuff is even better, especially this tune. There's a moment in the book where the main character really loses his marbles, and throughout, he's really at risk of going off the deep end–– this song echoed that feeling for me as I was writing it. "I've been working my way back to sane / It's coming back to me again / old navigational ways…"


Matt Burriesci and Nonprofit links:

the publisher's page for the book


also at Largehearted Boy:

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)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
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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WORD Bookstores Books of the Week - February 25, 2015

In the Largehearted Word series, the staff of Brooklyn's WORD bookstore highlights several new books released this week.

WORD Bookstores are independent neighborhood bookstores in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and Jersey City, New Jersey. Our primary goal is to be whatever our communities needs us to be, which currently means carrying everything from fiction to nonfiction to absurdly cute cards and stationery. In addition, we're fiends for a good event, from the classic author reading and Q&A to potlucks and a basketball league (and anything set in a bar). If a weekly dose of WORD here isn't enough for you, follow us on Twitter: @wordbookstores.


Discontent and Its Civilizations

Discontent and Its Civilizations
by Mohsin Hamid

Born in Pakistan, reared in the U.S., and living now in England, Mohsin Hamid has kept his eyes open the whole time, and offers an engrossing, firmly informed take on life in the ever-wider world.


Cured: The People Who Defeated HIV

Cured: The People Who Defeated HIV
by Nathalia Holt

The gripping, extraordinary story of the first patients cured of human immunodeficiency virus.


Call Me Home

Call Me Home
by Megan Kruse

A moving story of a family, told in three voices, each with equal, but distinct, power.


Frog Music

Frog Music
by Emma Donoghue

Accomplished novelist Emma Donoghue takes on San Francisco in the summer of 1876 -- heat waves, an unsolved crime, burlesque, and more.


WORD Brooklyn links:

WORD website
WORD Facebook page
WORD on Instagram
WORD Tumblr
WORD Twitter


also at Largehearted Boy:

other Word Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)

List of Online "Best of 2014" Book Lists

Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics & graphic novel highlights)
Book Notes (authors create music playlists for their book)
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)


Posted by david | Permalink | Comments (View)

Shorties (Windham Campbell Prize Winners, New Godspeed You! Black Emperor Music, and more)

Congratulations to the winners of the 2015 Windham Campbell Prizes, including Largehearted Book Notes contributors Teju Cole and Ivan Vladislavic.


Stream new music from Godspeed You! Black Emperor's forthcoming album Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress.


The Atlantic pondered why author Jim Harrison is "the Rodney Dangerfield of literature."


Stream a new solo song from Mac McCaughan of Superchunk.


Paste interviewed Stephanie Kegan about her new novel Golden State.


The Quietus interviewed Duncan Wallis of the band the Dutch Uncles.


The Rumpus interviewed author Benjamin Parzybok.


Stream Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds' new album, Chasing Yesterday (out March 3rd).


The Nervous Breakdown shared an excerpt from Halle Butler's debut novel Jillian.


Stream a new Tallest Man on Earth song.


io9 listed 10 books that will change how you see history.


Economist Paul Krugman on the changing (or not changing) economics of being a musician.

"What all this suggests to me, at least, is that the economics of being a financially successful musician aren't that different from success in other walks of life, and haven't changed that much over the long run despite huge changes in technology and tastes. Basically, musicians are just like bankers, except for the business about saving our souls versus destroying them. "


Paste shared a drinker's guide to the books of Hunter S. Thompson.


They Might Be Giants is offering a free download of a live performance of the band's Flood album.


SPIN interviewed Robert Christgau about his new memoir Going into the City: Portrait of a Critic as a Young Man.


Stream Ghostpoet's new album, Shedding Skin (out March 3rd).


Junkee interviewed singer-songwriter and author John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats.


Houndmouth visited The Current studio for an interview and live performance.


Fresh Air interviewed Philip Connors about his memoir All the Wrong Places.

Read an excerpt from the book.


NPR Music is streaming Sleater-Kinney's recent Washington show.


Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, Google+, and Stumbleupon for links (updated throughout the day) that don't make the daily "Shorties" posts.


also at Largehearted Boy:

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

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Atomic Books Comics Preview (the week's best new comics and graphic novels)
Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
daily mp3 downloads
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)

Daily Downloads (The Show Ponies, Josh Garrels, and more)

Every day, Daily Downloads offers 10 free and legal mp3 downloads.


Today's free and legal mp3 downloads:

The American Spirit: Season of Violence or Mourning, Protest, and The Birth of Bishop Killborne EP [mp3]

Avid Dancer: An Introduction EP [mp3]

Blackfoot Daisy: Jubilee EP [mp3]

Cameron Matthew Ray: CMR EP [mp3]

Cara Louise Band: To Be Dead Is To Be Known EP [mp3]

Clairovoyance: Lost Near the Darkness EP [mp3]

Josh Garrels: Over Oceans album [mp3]

Midnight Pilot: Let Go EP [mp3]

The Show Ponies: The Indiegrass EP [mp3]


Free and legal live performances at other websites:

Mind Over Mirrors: 2015-02-05, Brooklyn [mp3]


search for more free and legal music downloads at Largehearted Boy


also at Largehearted Boy:

other daily free and legal mp3 downloads

covers collections
100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads

Book Notes (authors create 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 music, books, and pop culture news and links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtrack)
weekly new album lists


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February 24, 2015

Book Notes - Reif Larsen "I Am Radar"

I Am Radar

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, Kevin Brockmeier, George Pelecanos, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Reif Larsen's novel I Am Radar is beautifully written and ambitiously told.

Kirkus wrote of the collection:

"Strange things happen when Radar Radmanovic is around… If Larsen's story makes demands of its readers, it also offers plenty of rewards. Imaginative, original, nicely surreal."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


In his own words, here is Reif Larsen's Book Notes music playlist for his novel I Am Radar:


I have a confession to make. In the five plus years it took me to write I Am Radar I actually thought a lot about assembling this playlist for this blog. Most of the time I couldn't even really fathom finishing the book or whether the mass of text before me would ever actually become a real book, but somehow my Largehearted Boy Book Notes entry was this tiny carrot dangling in the distance, a seemingly attainable finish line and the only coherent manifestation that real life could also exist in the future. In a weird way this blog thusly affected the writing process—strange how creative material and media about that creative material have become inextricably bound together...

I Am Radar takes place in a wide array of places, none of which I'm from. This was at first a bit daunting, as I knew I lacked the local's knowledge of the minute contradictions that add up to a sense of belonging. I couldn't comment on the subtle history of pastries in this little Bosnian hamlet, or the intense Norwegian vocabulary around the quality of light. But what I did have was my outsiderness, which actually liberated me to some extent. And songs became my way in. I would listen to a song from a particular region and sonically inhabit its core. I would then try to recreate the emotional ecology of the song on the page. These tunes became like little wormholes into the soul of the story. Like little crib notes for me. Almost all of these songs are actually referenced directly in the novel, so I give the corresponding page numbers here.


(These songs are meant to be cued and all played at the same time.)


"Halfway Down The Stairs"—Robin the Frog (From the A.A. Milne poem)

(from p. 92) The Muppets are very close to the source for me. Much of my narrative sensibility comes from the zany brilliance of that show, which even as a child you could tell was resonant for both adults and children alike, and thus the show secretly introduced you to what being an adult was like, and not just any adult but an empathetic adult with a sense of humor. Obviously since I Am Radar concerns puppetry, the book owes a good deal to Henson's legacy, as one of the characters in the novel, Leif Christian-Holtsmark, openly admits. But beyond this apparent modal connection, Milne's poem itself is oddly quantum ("Halfway up the stairs/Isn't up/And isn't down.") and the beautiful certain/uncertainty posed by its young narrator was a tone I was trying to strike throughout the book. On a slightly unrelated note, I always imagined Robin growing up to be this very screwed up frog, with lots of emotional problems as a direct result of being ignored by his manic extended family, despite the best efforts of uncle Kermit.


"I Want You Back"—Jackson 5

(p. 102) "Trying to live without your love is one long sleepless night/Let me show you, girl, that I know wrong from right." I actually had these lines in a late stage draft of the novel before realizing they would probably charge me an arm and a leg for the pleasure. But I like how in the book Michael Jackson's voice appears out of the great spectrum of radio static at the north pole, as if the song is just constantly playing up there; it has become as elemental as the molecules of the thinning ozone. And Kermin grabs onto the signal for a second, gets that beautiful MJ medicine before the frequency quickly evaporates. A fleeting moment of perfection in the northern territories. MJ himself is a brother (and I mean this in the cosmic sense) of Radar as each undergoes their journey towards a paler shade of black.


"Vostani Serbije" ("Arise Serbia") and "Marš na Drinu" (March of the River Drina")

(p. 184) Two old songs—one from a battle with the Ottomans in 1804 and the other from WWI—which were both reappropriated to take on new nationalist significance during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. This region and that conflict is incredibly complex, but in order to make any headway you must understand the necessary repetition/reuse/requisition of history by its various players. A battle fought 600 years ago can become such a powerful signifier that people will take up arms in its name and slaughter their neighbor. It is a horrific aspect of humanity, but it is also the reason I have a job—our undying belief in stories, particularly stories told in the right way. And if anything, the Yugoslav War was a masterclass in nationalistic storytelling. I get chills listening to both of these songs thinking they were written at one point in history and then rekindled for a very different purpose much later.


"Zajdi, Zajdi, Janso Sonce" and "Ajde Slušaj, Slušaj Kaleš Bre Andjo"

(p. 218 & 244) Two beautiful Macedonian folk tunes played by the busboy Eder in Belgrade. Balkan folk music is a vast genre that is so rich and beguiling and these two songs break my heart with their thousand-yard melancholy and irreducible wisdom. I listened to them a lot trying to conjure inheritance, perseverance, loss, love.


"Stani, Stani Ibar Vodo"

(p.243 & 274) Another old folk song, "Stani, Stani" was a critical genesis for the book. I first heard it when watching Emir Kusturica's Underground, a bonkers film that blew me away with its seductive cocktail of black humor, frenetic glee, and constant brass. What kind of culture could produce such a document that was on the one hand totally dismissive of history and yet also so clearly damaged by it? In particular, the scene where Lazar Ristovski's Blacky mourns the death of his wife during childbirth by singing this song, serenaded by the ever-present horns behind him as glasses shatter and people weep and violence is always just brewing beneath the surface—this wonderful moment of inter-possibility was something I wanted to constantly strive for in the book. It is not an accurate depiction of life; it is a kind of Balkan commedia dell'arte, but it strikes me at the same time as very true. Someone from Belgrade once said to me about something else entirely but it seems applicable here: "This is not how it is, but this is how it should be."


"Uz Maršala Tita"

(p. 240) Oh Tito, Tito, we hardly knew you.


"Symphony #7 (Leningrad)" by Dmitri Shostakovich

(p. 291) One of the more aggressive symphonies I've ever heard. The music feels suspended in taught equilibrium, even if it also flirts with the vagaries of chaos. Whether it is indeed about a city under siege, poised on the brink of collapse or the tyranny of Stalin or the impossibility of art, the entwined complexity, the brashness, and also the weird undercurrent of vulnerability is enthralling and also inspiring. I would love to see a goldfish swimming on the big screen in Times Square to this. Worth also watching is Dmitri himself playing a fragment of Leningrad on the piano. Wowzers, that dude can play (also his hair is awesome): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOKL_q-Ribs


"Una Furtiva Lagrima" by Enrico Caruso

(p. 333) Just a stunning piece of music-as-mourning. First heard this at a friend's house one unreasonably hot summer night. The frission of humidity and the crackle of the record are forever fused into my sense memory of this song. I begin sweating every time I hear it, although not in a bad way. But that voice! Since that moment I've become a bit obsessed with Caruso. He is one of those talents that is transcendent beyond his or her genre, like Miles Davis or Susan Sontag. On a side note, there was a lovely piece on Studio 360 about how Caruso connected a father and son together: http://www.studio360.org/story/216418-aha-moment-enrico-caruso/


"The River (live)" by Bruce Springsteen

(p. 352) The Boss is, of course, essential reading for any New Jersey tale. I think his storytelling is actually underrated. Growing up, we had the Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band Live/1975-85 on vinyl and I think the extended intro of "The River" was one of my first encounters with a story that went nowhere but also went everywhere. It's a perfect song for this novel…the image of the river is central to the novel and the notion of all rivers being the same river and also a river never being the same river draws together the three main strands of the narrative.


"Symphony #7 (Unfinished)" by Franz Schubert

(p. 413) "Eugenia bristled but said nothing. Leila, aware that she was being sheltered, resorted to her nervous habit of turning her wedding ring in circles. Jean-Baptise rose from the table and switched on the Zenith. A symphony from Schubert came on, full blast. The strings pulled and churned. The radio had become an instrument of retaliation, a playground beyond his mother's perception."


"Au Clair de la Lune" by André Claveau and Mathé Altéry

(p. 426) Is there a more perfect song? I find this scene one of the most heartbreaking in the book.


"Les Illumination OP. 18" by Benjamin Britten

(p. 476) I listened to a bunch of Britten over the course of manifesting the narrative, particularly the Cambodian section. His music feels perfectly balanced between modern and classic, with an occasional light touch swerve into the experimental. I love the idea of a young Cambodian physicist listening to this recording at CERN, in the middle of the Alps, in 1974. If you haven't, check out Night Mail, a brilliant 1936 short film collaboration between Auden and Britten, produced by the GPO about the UK's mail train: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FkLoDg7e_ns


"Freeman Etude #18" by John Cage

(p. 492) I think I am not alone in saying that Cage is a huge artistic hero of mine. Where others have a picture of Chekov above their writing desk, I have a picture of Cage. He is the reminder to never settle, to always go for the more difficult choice, to trust the randomness on the page, to plum the depths of what's possible. His silence is our silence but we will never touch his silence.


"Robam Reamker: Rama Battles Ravana" by Cambodia Royal Classical Ballet

(p. 492) While this song is not explicitly mentioned in the text, it's a good example of the Khmer pinpeat band playing along to the Reamker epic, which is the departure point for Kirkenesferda's Cambodian performance in 1979. Should give a good sense of the lulling atonal lilt of the pinpeat. Makes me kind of dizzy upon intense listening.


"Beds Are Burning" by Midnight Oil

(p. 537) I went through a slightly obsessive Midnight Oil phase in the 1990s. Apparently so too did Ivan. I kind of miss the quasi-pretentious affected accent that certain lead singers used to take on, à la Morrissey. Feels like it doesn't happen much anymore (Future Islands?). I imagine Leif Christian-Holtsmark (from the book) looks a bit like lead singer Peter Garrett. I imagine if you combined all humans together he/she would look like a slightly darker-skinned Peter Garrett.


"Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" by Crash Test Dummies

(p.537) Did I mention that I Am Radar is simply a retelling of this song?


"Mea Culpa" by Papa Wemba

(p. 567) Papa Wemba's many iterations over the years reflect the DR Congo's own tumultuous shapeshifting. He has fallen and risen and fallen again, been jailed for human smuggling, underwent a religious conversion in prison, spawned dozens of dance styles, adapted to the times and is currently a legend on the world music circuit. "Mea Culpa" was from his early Viva La Musica days in the late 1970s, following in the disastrous wake of Mobutu's Zairianization of the country. This is the song I imagine playing on the speakers at Chez Mamam in Matadi as the troupe zip by on Horeb's motorbike.


"Adieu Mon Coeur" by Edith Piaf

(p. 584) "She fished a record from the shelf and put it on. The vinyl was in bad shape. The dust and scratches could be heard, but the singer was French and sang so beautifully that the three of them sat there in stunned silence, listening to the little miracles of heartbreak."


"Talking Drums of the Upper Congo" by Hugh Tracey

(p. 618) For a wonderful primer on the Congo drum language, read the first chapter of James Gleick's amazing The Information: A History, a Theory, A Flood. Freeman Dyson has a nice piece on the book in the NYRB: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2011/mar/10/how-we-know/ But what struck me as so poetic about the drum language and indeed most of coded information was that to get more specific you need to actually talk around your message—you need to create this cushion of filler information that protects those couple of fragile truth morsels. This is a perfect analogue to the novel. We create the whole trappings of this invented world—the sets, the characters, the dialogue, the stakes, the climax, the denouement—all so that we might convey one or two little precious moments that could've just as easily been expressed in a poem. What to make of the ratio between abundant context (99%) and these fleeting glimpses of the sublime (1%)? I don't know, but the disparate percentages inherent in novels, the soft pacing between the everyday and the ecstatic, has always felt more akin to real life to me than any other form of meaning-making.


Reif Larsen and I Am Radar links:

the book's website
video trailer for the book

A.V. Club review
Bookmarks review
Harvard Crimson review
Los Angeles Times review
Publishers Weekly review

Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet


also at Largehearted Boy:

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)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
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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This Week's Interesting Music Releases - February 24, 2015

Lead Belly

A remastered and expanded edition of Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti (remastered and expanded) and the 5-disc box set Lead Belly: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection are the week's archival release highlights.

Among new albums, I can recommend Dan Deacon's Gliss Riffer, Dutch Uncles' O Shudder, Elvis Perkins' I Aubade, and Screaming Females' Rose Mountain.

What new releases are you picking up this week? What can you recommend? Have I left anything noteworthy off the list?


This week's interesting music releases:

Aidan Baker: The Confessional Tapes
The Airborne Toxic Event: Dope Machines
Alcoa: Parlour Tricks
All That Remains: The Order Of Things
Big Sean: Dark Sky Paradise
The Black Ryder: The Door Behind The Door
Black Star Riders: The Killer Instinct
Colleen Green: I Want To Grow Up
Dan Deacon: Gliss Riffer
Dave Matthews Band: Under The Table And Dreaming (remastered) [vinyl]
Dengue Fever: The Deepest Lake [vinyl]
Drug Cabin: Yard Work
Dutch Uncles: O Shudder
Eilen Jewell: Live at the Narrows
Elvis Perkins: I Aubade
Emile Haynie: We Fall
Falling in Reverse: Just Like You
Fleetwood Mac: Then Play On (reissue) [vinyl]
Future Brown: Future Brown
Gang of Four: What Happens Next
Idlewild: Everything Ever Written
Jack Ladder & The Dreamlanders: Playmates
James McMurtry: Complicated Game
JJ Grey: Ol' Glory
Johnny Marr: Dynamo [vinyl]
Keath Mead: Sunday Dinner
Kid Rock: First Kiss
Lead Belly: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection
Led Zeppelin: Physical Graffiti (remastered and expanded)
Make Do and Mend: Don't Be Long
Mat Kearney: Just Kids
MisterWives: Our Own House
Oceans Ate Alaska: Lost Isles
Of Mice & Men: Restoring Force: Full Circle
The Pop Group: Citizen Zombie
Public Service Broadcasting: The Race for Space
Punch Brothers: The Phosphorescent Blues [vinyl]
Revolution Saints: Revolution Saints
Rush: Caress of Steel (remastered) [vinyl]
Sam Prekop: The Republic
Santiparro: True Prayer
Scout Paré Phillips: Heed The Call
Screaming Females: Rose Mountain
THEESatisfaction: EarthEE
Torche: Restarter
Various Artists: Songs of Anarchy: Volume 4
Wind In Sails: Morning Light


also at Largehearted Boy:

weekly music release lists

100 online sources for free and legal music downloads
Book Notes (authors create music playlists for their book)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)


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Shorties (An Interview with Catherine Lacey, A New Suede Song, and more)

Tin House interviewed author Catherine Lacey.

Lacey and Will Chancellor chatted at 0s&1s Reads.


Stream a new Suede song.


Father John Misty covered Leonard Cohen's "Bird on the Wire."


Bookforum profiled author Atticus Lish.


Stream an audio excerpt from Kim Gordon's new memoir Girl in a Band.


Hazlitt interviewed author Alexandra Fuller.


Stereogum interviewed musician Noel Gallagher.


Read an excerpt from Chuck Palahniuk's graphic novel sequel to Fight Club.


Arcade Fire's Will Butler is streaming songs based on Guardian headlines this week.


Flavorwire listed female Harlem Renaissance writers you should know.


John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats discussed his debut novel Wolf in White Van with the Sydney Morning Herald.


The Paris Review interviewed author and playwright Yasmina Reza.


Death Cab for Cutie shared another song from their forthcoming album Kintsugi.


All Things Considered interviewed Elisa Albert about her new novel After Birth.


Sea Change's Ellen W. Sundes broke down her album Breakage track-by-track at The Line of Best Fit.


Paste listed chefs whose books are worth reading.


The Districts visited The Current studio for an interview and live performance.


Stephen Burt explained why "snow makes American poetry American" at Poetry.


Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, Google+, and Stumbleupon for links (updated throughout the day) that don't make the daily "Shorties" posts.


also at Largehearted Boy:

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

Essential and Interesting 2014 Year-End Music Lists
List of Online "Best of 2014" Book Lists

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Atomic Books Comics Preview (the week's best new comics and graphic novels)
Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
daily mp3 downloads
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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Daily Downloads (Hurray for the Riff Raff, The Felice Brothers, and more)

Every day, Daily Downloads offers 10 free and legal mp3 downloads.


Today's free and legal mp3 downloads:

Featherfin: Butterfly Girl EP [mp3]

Hurray for the Riff Raff: The Body Electric Tour EP [mp3]

Ian David: Ian David Sampler album [mp3]

Ivan and Alyosha: All These Wandering Times album [mp3]

Kid Trails: This State EP [mp3]

Sam Pinkerton: An Introduction album [mp3]

Stacey Randol: Fables: Noisetrade Sampler EP [mp3]

Stranger Things: Where You Go EP [mp3]

Various Artists: Marfa Myths Compilation album [mp3]


Free and legal live performances at other websites:

Felice Brothers: 2015-02-07, Rockville Centre [mp3]


search for more free and legal music downloads at Largehearted Boy


also at Largehearted Boy:

other daily free and legal mp3 downloads

covers collections
100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads

Book Notes (authors create 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 music, books, and pop culture news and links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtrack)
weekly new album lists


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