Twitter Facebook Tumblr Pinterest Instagram

May 4, 2016

Book Notes - Raja Alem "The Dove's Necklace"

The Dove's Necklace

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.

Winner of the 2011 International Prize for Arabic Fiction, Raja Alem's novel The Dove's Necklace is a compelling and nuanced literary mystery.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"Alem, the first woman to win the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, blends surrealism and mystery in this challenging novel."


In her own words, here is Raja Alem's Book Notes music playlist for her novel The Dove's Necklace:



1) Edith Piaf's "Non, je ne regrette rien"

"Non, Rien de rien
Non, Je ne regrette rien"


"No, I regret nothing

Not the good thing,
Nor the bad things, it's all the same to me.

It's paid for, swept away, forgotten."

When I left Mecca, I was overwhelmed with sadness and anger, due to the ultra-modern changes overtaking the holy city. I felt the changes robbing me of my references, crushing the city and my spirituality. As a reaction I started writing this book as a eulogy to my childhood. This book was like ground zero, the base on which I reconstructed what is holy to me, a mixture of being human and godly at the same time. All the pain I witnessed in those small alleys, I tried to capture in words and embrace.

But, as the book progressed, I felt a gradual relief of that inhuman weight, and reaching the end coincided with hearing this song for the first time. I felt Edith Piaf was lighting a bonfire with my eulogy.

"I don't care about the past.
With my memories I lit the fire.
I start again from zero."

Nevertheless, up until now, the book and song merged, whenever I hear it, I feel the pain again and again, but finally I reached a state of catharsis where I was embracing Mecca's new face.

And after all, spirituality is not about the outer form or location. My new home near Notre Dame in Paris echoed the chants and incense of the home I left in Mecca. I found what I lost on the Seine's banks.

2) Muddy Waters' "I'm Ready"

"I got an axe handle pistol on a graveyard frame

That shoot tombstone bullets, wearin' balls and chain

I'm drinkin' TNT, I'm smokin' dynamite

I hope some screwball start a fight

'Cause I'm ready, ready as anybody can be

I'm ready for you, I hope you're ready for me."


It represents the alley of Abu-Alroos, who is narrating part of the story in The Dove's Necklace. The song brings to life the alley's readiness for war. The misery lurks in its crumbling sheds and in the faces of the desperate poor and illegal residents, who overcome their harsh conditions by prostituting or drinking glue or TNT. The alley has a human voice, and what is obvious in the novel is its quarreling moods, especially when deserted by its favorite girls who escaped either by death or running away.
 
3) Amy Winehouse's "Back to Black
"

Amy roars, "And I go back to black," the same sentiment Aisha, the heroine in The Dove's Necklace, sharply experiences. Aisha transfers to Germany, falls in love with her therapist, and is immediately pulled back to the alley where she was left limping in the dark, out of life and love. The emails she exchanged with her lover are summed up in these lyrics:



"And life is like a pipe

And I'm a tiny penny rolling up the walls inside
I died a hundred times

You go back to her

And I go back to Black Black Black."

Aisha is the real black behind walls of norms and traditions in her primitive neighborhood, and she reveals what women underwent in their relations with men. The physical and mental pain inflicted on her by the deserting husband reminds her of Antony and the Johnsons or Cripple and the Starfish. Aisha is the cripple inviting pain.

"And it's true I always wanted love to be
Filled with pain
(and bruises)
So please hit me
I am very, very happy
So please hurt me
Watch, I'll even cut off my finger
It'll grow back like a starfish."

4) Esther Phillips' "Home is Where the Hatred Is"

The characters of my books usually rebel and rebuild their lives. I was especially helpless with Azza, who has no control especially in the methods she invented to escape her father's taboos and restrictions. And I remember I was following Azza's evolution when we were first trying to settle in Paris, after losing our home in Jeddah in the flood along with everything we owned. We were literally uprooted, and my sister Shadia—who was preparing to represent Saudi Arabia in Venice Biennial 54—played this song over and over again.

"Home is where the needle marks

And it might not be such a bad idea

If I never, never went home again."

 
Azza catches the fire, and the notion of escape swells in her mind. I cowered from tackling a girl's rebellion, and then took it to the extreme, escaping a family home. Still, Azza is possessed with the song, and I almost heard her humming it while closely watching her heartless father.
 
"Hang on to your rosary beads
Close your eyes to watch me die

You keep sayin', kick it, quit it

Kick it, quit it, kick it, quit it

God, but did you ever try to turn your sick soul

Inside out so that the world can watch you die."


I expected the worst of Azza.

The Dove's Necklace is about turning the soul inside out to watch a world dying.

5) Sammy Davis Jr.'s "Mr. Bojangles
"

He could jump so high,

jump so high,

and then he'd lightly touch down."

Mr. Bojangles reminds of Khaleel, the expelled pilot. He gives the feeling of an acrobat yet he is part of the elite, and he comes from a family that lost its fortune and ended up in the alley. Still, he holds on to the false pride of their lineage.

For me, despite Khaleel's seriousness, he represents a clowny attitude while roaming Mecca's street as a taxi driver, challenging his clients with his provocative masquerade clothes and mockery.



"I met him in a cell

He looked to me to be the very eyes of age

as the smoke ran out,

talked of life, lord that man talked of life,


He grabbed his pants,

took a bitter stance, 
jumped up high.

That's when he 
clicked his heels.

Then he let go a laugh,
lord, he'd let go a laugh."

6) Pink Floyd's The Wall, "Hey You"

This special song represents all the suffocating taboos in the alley: what stifles the spirits of the people either in the small jobs they strive to keep, the schools where girls are crushed, or the prison where they wait for whatever savior.



"Hey you, don't help them to bury the light

Don't give in without a fight.

The wall was too high, 
As you can see.

No matter how he tried, 
He could not break free.

And the worms ate into his brain."

This album is like a pomp, contained in the song.

"All in all you're just another brick in the wall." 
 
7) Janis Joplin's "Piece of My Heart"

This song is originally by Erma Franklin 1967, but I love it especially from Janis Joplin. Her voice gives me goose bumps.

This song talks about Nora, who is a mistress of the tycoon Khalid. She makes that choice where she finds herself, as if offering her heart to the pig.


"Take another little piece of my heart now, baby

Oh, oh, break it."


And while dressing like a queen roaming the world, discovering herself and the new world around, she is torn deep inside between what she really wants to be and what she is presenting to others, swept and consumed by Khalid's lust.
 
"You're out on the streets looking good
And baby deep down in your heart I guess you know that it ain't right
But each time I tell myself that I, well I can't stand the pain
But when you hold me in your arms, I'll sing it once again."

8) David Bowie's "Space Oddity"

Taking this song with its space rock and psychedelic music, one would think nothing is further from my book, which takes place in Mecca.

But, in a way, I found nothing but this song could describe the situation Nora experiences when escaping to Sheikh Khalid.

"Now it's time to leave the capsule if you dare
 I'm stepping through the door

And I'm floating in a most peculiar way

And the stars look very different today

For here

Am I sitting in a tin can

Far above the world

And there's nothing I can do
Though I'm past one hundred thousand miles

I'm feeling very still." 

Like this astronaut who cuts off communication with earth and floats into space, Nora floats beyond the realm of gravity, in a trance with no connection whatsoever to the dear people she left behind or the taboos which suffocated her all her life. She is reference-less and ready to start new.


9) Léo Ferré's "Avec Le Temps, With Time"

Writing in Paris was a new experience for me, after being in the family house in Jeddah where seclusion was not a great sacrifice. But in Paris I would write for hours, and then suddenly I would feel the horizon closing in. I needed to feel the call of this endless city. Then I would go out walking the routes of Paris, charmed with unexpected music coming from the houses.

Once I was walking in the nearby rue des chantres, which was inhabited in the middle ages with Notre Dame's chorus singers, when I heard this legendary French singer Léo Ferré's song "Avec Le Tepms."

I was struck by the longing in the song. I felt as if that were the voice of the road, talking about time passing, and the people and events we shed as we go.

The closing sentence of that song summed up the fears in my novel,

"Avec le temps on n'aime plus."
"with time we don't love any more."

10) Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne"

I was listening to this song when discovering Mushabbab, the black man who carries the glory of the past, who plays like a kind of a guide to joy, attracting the youth in the Alley.

"And he spent a long time watching from his lonely wooden tower
And when he knew for certain only drowning men could see him.
Forsaken, almost human, he sank beneath your wisdom like a stone.
And you want to travel with him, and you want to travel blind
For he's touched your perfect body with her mind."

His meeting with the heroine Azza is like Suzanne. She led the boys of the alley to discoveries, and at the same time she discovered the outer life.


"And you know that she's half-crazy but that's why you want to be there

She's wearing rags and feathers from Salvation Army counters


And she shows you where to look among the garbage and the flowers

There are heroes in the seaweed, there are children in the morning

They are leaning out for love and they will lean that way forever

While Suzanne holds her mirror."

Azza is that mirror in which the alley's youth see their longing for freedom.
 
11) Jacques Brel's "Ne Me Quitte Pas":

"Do not leave me
I will invent for you
Foolish words,
Which you'll understand."

 
I heard Yusuf's voice. Courting Azza since an early age with letters smuggled behind her father's back, he manages to break the siege drawn around her and he considers himself her lover. That's why when he suspects that she is promised to another man, he goes mad.

"I will hide myself there
To watch you
Dance and smile
And listen to you
Sing and then laugh
Let me be
The shadow of your shadow
The shadow of your hand
The shadow of your dog."
 
12) Billie Holiday's "What a Little Moonlight Can Do"


"Ooh, what a little moonlight
Can do to you
You only stutter
'Cause your poor tongue
Just will not utter
The words, I love you

Wait a while
Till a little moonbeam
Comes peepin' through"

It's a love song, but represents Muaaz, the son of Imam. Muaaz is passionately in love with Mecca and its glowing past, almost obsessed as he goes possessively around with his camera, trying to capture Mecca's ancient faces before they were demolished, keeping his treasure a secret.


Raja Alem and The Dove's Necklace links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

Chicago Review of Books review
New York Journal of Books review
Words Without Borders review

Qantara.de 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)
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)





May 4, 2016

Book Notes - Amanda Nadelberg "Songs from a Mountain"

Songs from a Mountain

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.

Amanda Nadelberg's new poetry collection Songs from a Mountain is boldly modern and powerful.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"[Songs from a Mountain is] a wild, careening, conceptually wily (yet somehow ruly) book that refuses to keep its feet on the ground. . . . Through the de- and recontextualization of what was first familiar and is now strange, Nadelberg establishes herself as an exemplar of early 21st-century artistic practice."

In her own words, here is Amanda Nadelberg's Book Notes music playlist for her poetry collection Songs from a Mountain:



A few thoughts: I'm not one to know song titles or even pay much attention to lyrics (save for say, the ones of Bill Callahan or David Berman, you can't not hear them). My mother used to fret, how you can like this song, he says he'd "die for you" why are 7th graders singing that? (c.f. Bryan Adams, "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You") and while I was rarely certain what anyone was saying, I either liked the music or I didn't. I often listen to things when I'm piecing poems together, not always, but it can help. Sometimes music can change everything—for instance before beginning to write my second book, listening to AC/DC taught me a new kind of metric for lines and sentences. Nothing so singular happened regarding music with Songs from a Mountain, which I wrote from 2010 into late 2014, but I remember some of the songs that were on repeat during that time. There is no order because I don't think I've ever been competent in mix tapes.

"River Lay" or "Onward We Trudge" by David Thomas Broughton
I remember first hearing this album after I'd moved back to Massachusetts in the second-fifth(ish) of my way through writing this book. Broughton's previous album, The Complete Guide to Insufficiency, was a life soundtrack for some years, and then here was another. I like in "River Lay" how his voice sounds like he's doing an impression (and while singing) of another person. I like the moment around the first minute mark where the other instruments come in like a great opening up. I remember where my desk sat when I first heard Outbreeding more than I remember what poem I wrote while listening but I remember the lit scene and sensing how it would make for good time writing.

"Cover the Long Way" by Grouper
I look forward to hearing anything Liz Harris does, and I could list any song of hers here to listen to, and this particular album came out when I was deep in the meat of writing this book. Not always knowing what she's saying is a nicety in writing (I think) because it suggests language without dictating it, which is tremendously generative for poems—a looseness that opens thought up.

"Guitar Trio" by Rhys Chatham
Sometime in 2007 I went with friends to hear him play in a basement at the University of Minnesota, not knowing anything about him. The awe, then, of seeing 30 guitars or so colliding—some latecomers were smiled onto the stage by Mr. Chatham, which is also a town on Cape Cod. In the past few years (now it seems to have vanished) I could find a YouTube video of the show, which I'd watch to enjoy the false experience of someone else's recording of a memory I'd almost forgotten. I think I was wearing on that day what I referred to then as my electric sweater. Anyway, this music is good for writing. Drone (the safe kind) as a means of production.

"Ducks on a Pond" by The Incredible String Band
I listened to Wee Tam and The Big Huge a lot in the last several years. There's the minor change just before the 6th minute ends, where the syllables and sounds contract like baby steps in song and then when the kazoo comes in fifteen seconds later my head and heart and body soar. It would feel good to be an anthem such as this.

"Uncle Albert Admiral Halsley" by Paul McCartney
Ram was on a lot in 2014, and this song slays me for the transition at 2:18. And again when they start singing "Hands across the water" and then again near the end of the 4th minute. I think the song is a garment you put on and have difficulty taking off, in a funny way. Stubborn garment.

"Crab Song" by Maxine Funke
Any song from Lace or Felt could be on this list, and this is one of my favorites. It's sad but not too sad. It's sad and persistent. Maxine Funke helped me write these poems. Thank you to her.

"The Way We Fall" by Alela Diane
I was listening to this album in the summer of 2013, which was the summer I spent writing the poem "Matson." Around the 3-minute mark this song becomes another song completely, flutes becoming a portal to something else (via Led Zeppelin maybe?). That practice, to put two things in one container (a song) and call it done, is one I admire for letting us sit with that imperfection (scare quotes, if you please) and lack of clarity. "In Search of Little Sadie" by Bob Dylan does that in less than two-and-half minutes (first song change at the 1:20 mark).

"Marienbad" by Julia Holter
An excellent aspect of 2012, this, too, is of the categories "a song that contains multiple songs within it" and "songs in which I often have no idea what she's saying." Sometimes it seems like she's singing in other languages. I think I tried to write part of an essay about Ekstasis when it came out and failed. "In the Same Room" was first my favorite jam, but later "Marienbad" (the last minute and a half!) and the two "Goddess Eyes" took over. "Goddess Eyes" feels like it could be part of Starlight Express, which I saw in 1987.

"All the Tired Horses" by Bob Dylan
I fell in love with Self Portrait since moving to California. This particular song feels like it could accompany an animation. I love how his voice isn't there. And then I love when his voice comes in on "Alberta #1" and I love the audacity of the album having an "Alberta #2." Listening to Self Portrait helped with freeing up some of the stigma about rampant repetition, which I let myself do in this book. Lines repeating in an almost embarrassing way.

"Planet Phrom" by Ducktails
The Flower Lane was an excellent development of 2013. I also like the original version by Peter Gutteridge that sounds like it's a Byrds song to me. Bonus fun fact: some songs in this book were written—on infinite repeat—to "Suburban Beverage" by Real Estate.

"Ballad of the Golden Hour" by Widowspeak
The riff that first comes in around the 49th second of the preceding lead-in "Almanac" makes something happen in my nose/eyes/throat for which I should probably visit an ENT. The two-fer-one of it reminds me of the first two songs off Starlite Walker. Once I met Cassie Berman in the bathroom at The Picador.

"Dream Tape Number One" by Cloaks
I have written many things while listening to this 35-minute song. It makes me think of scenes in a movie in which someone keeps doling out speech in cliffhanger-segments of confession.

"Shame Chamber" by Kurt Vile
Song title aside, he says "Chubby in the face in a world of muck and slime" in a tumble and when he whelps it makes me want to learn how to whelp, too. The tune is ecstatic and the lyrics sound sad and that combo wins lotteries. In other news it's a good driving song and sometimes when I drive far I take notes on the passenger seat where I keep my notebook open.

"Stream" by Meg Baird
However many songs fit into this one, I dig it and the other things she does.

"My Own World" by Eleanor Friedberger
This whole album is important to me, and I like how there is a kind of parenthetical in her voice sometimes, and especially in this song.

"Fine Summer Morning" or "What Can a Song Do To You?" by Molly Drake
I want to live in the movie her songs are soundtrack to.

"Argonauts" by Hospitality
Winter of 2011 becoming 2012 I was living for a small while in Tucson (where/when I finished writing "Mont America" which is the first mess of a long poem in this book, which, at the time, felt like a new thing) and I listened to this album, and especially this song, on repeat. When Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts came out last year I read it twice. Maybe reading a book twice within a few months is the equivalent of listening to a song ad infinitum. There's a poem in this book intentionally called "Love Ad Infinum." Argonaut sounds old and of the future at once.

"Deep Water" by Ed Askew
I saw him play before Bill Callahan did, in Boston one year. Is it wrong to say that so many of his songs sound alike and that this is a positive quality to me? To sit in someone's art and feel familiar immediately.


Amanda Nadelberg and Songs from a Mountain links:

the author's website

Dallas Morning News review
Heavy Feather Review review
Publishers Weekly review

Please Excuse This Poem interview with the author
Tin House 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)
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 (Don DeLillo on His New Novel, Ryan Adams on Heartbreaker, and more)

Bookworm interviewed Don DeLillo about his new novel Zero K.


Ryan Adams looked back on his Heartbreaker album (a remastered and expanded edition will be released on Friday) at Rolling Stone.


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 the site and supporting Largehearted Boy.


eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

Harold and Maude by Colin Higgins
Prayers for the Living by Alan Cheuse


Winterpills visited World Cafe for an interview and live performance.


The Hollywood Reporter examined the genesis of the Los Angeles Review of Books.


NPR Music is streaming a recent Ra Ra Riot performance.


The Rumpus interviewed author Tania James.


Beck covered Prince's "Raspberry Beret."


The Paris Review interviewed author Édouard Louis about the state of the political novel.


Paste interviewed the members of the band White Lung.

Stereogum profiled the band.


Leela Corman shared a comic about her parents at Tablet.


Lady Gaga covered Talking Heads' "Burning Down the House."


Electric Literature interviewed author Ruth Ozeki about her book The Face: A Time Code.


Stream a new Radiohead song.


Camille Perri discussed her debut novel The Assistants with Refinery29 and Bustle.


Britta Phillips discussed her solo album Luck or Magic with LA Weekly.


Flavorwire previewed May's must-read 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 3, 2016

Book Notes - Patricia Engel "The Veins of the Ocean"

The Veins of the Ocean

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.

Patricia Engel's novel The Veins of the Ocean is a vibrant book about loss and redemption.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"In a novel that is vitally relevant today when the word refugee has such loaded connotations, Engel delivers a pulsating . . . and deeply introspective take on how family, love, and guilt can both 'chain us together' and set us free.'"

In her own words, here is Patricia Engel's Book Notes music playlist for her novel The Veins of the Ocean:



I don't listen to music when I write but so much of the research that went into writing this novel came from simply living, putting myself in places and spaces, forging friendships that revealed pieces of what came to be the story of Reina and Nesto. I spent years traveling in Cuba and the Caribbean coast of Colombia, as well as exploring the Florida Keys and my adopted hometown of Miami. Through it all, music was a companion, and became a part of the architecture and spirit of The Veins of the Ocean.

"Colombia" by Locos Por Juana

The opening chapters of The Veins of the Ocean are set in Miami and Los Por Juana is the quintessential Miami band, playing a mix of Cumbia, funk, and reggae, and whose lyrics often paint stories of immigration and exile. "Colombia" is basically a call to action from afar, holding the nation accountable for its failures as you would do to someone you love.

"La Fantástica" by Carlos Vives

This song is a love letter to Cartagena, where Reina, the novel's narrator was born and where she returns to later in the story. Though Cartagena was already a place I knew well, I went back several times while researching the novel and learned so much more about its complicated history and African heritage, which this song celebrates.

"Habaname" by Carlos Varela

Nesto, one of the novel's main characters, is from Havana and dealing with the pain of having left his family behind. "Habaname" is a classic, speaking tenderly and courageously about the Havana that has been has been neglected and betrayed, yet which endures, beloved by its people. When I had the chance to see Carlos Varela perform live in concert, nearly all the Cubans in the audience were brought to tears by this song.

"El Colombiano Errante" by Jorge Villamizar

I, like Reina, am a child of the Colombian diaspora and this song perfectly embodies the conflicted feelings immigrants and their children have about being a face among strangers representing a country that has left them wounded in many ways, yet still defending its honor with love and loyalty.

"537 Cuba" by Orishas

This song was released in 2000, at the end of the Special Period, by young exiles who met in Paris. Hip-Hop mixed with the classic Cuban song "Chan Chan," made famous by Compay Segundo with the Buenavista Social Club, it speaks of the pain of leaving one's homeland, the beauty, the loss, the añoranza.

"Latinoamérica" by Calle 13

I conceived The Veins of the Ocean as a novel of the Americas. I have spent my entire life in the crossroads of immigration, feeling connected to multiple nations and peoples. I wanted to write a story that reflected this kinship and the struggle, pain, and hope felt through all of Latin America; a region so beautiful and so rich, yet eternally robbed of its treasures, and enduring abuse, often at its own hands. Like the song says, "Aquí se respira lucha."

"Viva Cuba Libre" by Los Aldeanos

This song spells out the hardships and resentment fueling the island's youth, challenging the broken promises of a government that controls everything including the music industry. It's a devastatingly honest song that hits at so many truths, which those in power have tried to silence.

"Blackbird" by The Beatles

Havana is full of surprises and one of them is El Submarino Amarillo (The Yellow Submarine), a Beatles tribute nightclub in the heart of Vedado, next to John Lennon park, where any night of the week you'll find bands belting out rock tunes previously banned by the Cuban government for years. This is where I heard an unforgettable rendition of "Blackbird" performed by local favorites, Miel con Limón.

"Stranger/Lover" by Ibeyi

Since I first heard this beautiful song by twin daughters of Cuban exile, born and raised in Paris, it reminded me of how Reina and Nesto take refuge in one another's company, especially with the lyric, "Stranger lover, come heal in my arms." It also happens that the Yoruba patakí of Los Ibeyis, the twins who outwitted the devil, appears in my novel.

"Este Camino Largo" by Clave y Guaguancó

I fell in love with rumba and guaguancó while writing this novel and this song is pulsing with Afro-Cuban rhythms while also offering a heart-shattering lament for the kind of love that binds people together no matter the time or distance or circumstances that may separate them. It reminds me of Reina's devotion to both her brother Carlito and then to Nesto.

"Todo Se Acabó" by Los Van Van

Juan Formell died in 2014, when the manuscript for was nearing completion. I was long a fan of Los Van Van, but after Formell's death, I would find something of a shrine to Formell in nearly every club I went to in Havana, and so many local musicians had personal anecdotes of how he'd personally touched their lives with his generosity and kindness. I saw this song performed live at a club in Cayo Hueso where old time musicians gather on Tuesdays to perform rumba in the afternoon.

"Rebelión" by Joe Arroyo

Another salsa classic from the other side of the Caribbean, by the Colombian musical icon, Joe Arroyo, who also passed away while I was working on this book. The song tells the story of a slave couple rebelling against their Spanish slave master, and I drew a lot from it in terms of how it describes courage and strength in the face of injustice.

"La Vida es Una Carnaval" by Celia Cruz

There are many dark moments in the novel, but there is always a yearning and a faith in a better day ahead. This song, a Cuban anthem of sorts by the great Celia Cruz, is a guaranteed antidote to sorrow.

"Somos Dos" by Bomba Estereo

A song in praise of unexpectedly discovering love in another person, and though it's by a Colombian band, I heard it played nonstop in both Havana and Cartagena on my research trips and it wove its way into several moments in the novel.


Patricia Engel and The Veins of the Ocean links:

the author's website

Kirkus review

Electric Literature list by the author of great novels of exile and dislocation
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for It's Not Love, It's Just Paris


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)
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 - Anna Smaill "The Chimes"

The Chimes

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.

Longlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize, Anna Smaill's novel The Chimes is a striking debut that poetically portrays a dystopian future where music has replaced the written word.

Shelf Awareness wrote of the book:

"Creates an artistic and cerebral vision of a people without past or future . . . Smaill's melodious prose lures the reader like a pied piper. With literary trappings, but a solidly speculative heart, The Chimes is a cantata of pure delight."

In her own words, here is Anna Smaill's Book Notes music playlist for her novel The Chimes:



For a book about music, it was surprisingly hard to devise a playlist for The Chimes. In part this is because I rarely listen to music while I am writing. However, it also reflects something about the book's genesis: it was born out of a strangely personal love-hate relationship with music itself. Some of my first memories are of lying in bed listening to my father playing Bach preludes and fugues on the piano at the end of the hall. Occasionally he'd play the guitar for us too - usually English and Irish folk songs. At five I begged my parents for music lessons and at seven, after two years of recorder, I began to learn the violin. When I was 17 I enrolled in a degree in performance music. During this year something strange happened – I began to find it nearly impossible to listen to music. It began to feel like a language that I couldn't understand. It took quitting the violin for music to come back to life for me. I began to write seriously and music re-entered my life in a more balanced way. The Chimes is a response, I suppose, to this all-or-nothing phase with music. This playlist is a hybrid – a mixture of tracks that inspired the world of the book, but also pieces that are included in the plot itself.

'The Dead Girls' – Orchestral Maneouvres in the Dark

I am not sure by what odd alchemy this song helped me to build and inhabit the world of The Chimes, but it is without doubt the novel's theme song. Whenever I listen, it takes me directly back to the early days of writing the book. Aesthetically, the lush, superheated, new romantic vibe is a million miles from the pre-industrial world of The Chimes, but yet it's complementary too. There's something in the fatalistic romance of the lyrics, the epic strings, those long swathes of sound that all just seemed to allow and encourage the world of the book to grow. One of my chapter titles is a blatant act of homage.

'Black Velvet Band' – The Dubliners

This song was one of the handful my father used to play on the guitar, and it turns up in The Chimes as the melody for the 'audition' that Lucien conducts to test Simon on his musical and mnemonic skills. I remember loving the song – especially the chorus – but being fascinated and horrified by the hero's transgression and the lover's betrayal. As Simon says, the song 'is about when innocence is really blindness. How when you want something very much, so bad you can taste it, your mind likes to trick you that it's in your grasp.' This recording is about the closest to the way I remember my Dad singing it.

'The Butcher Boy' – The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem

Another folk song that has haunted me for a long while, and that perfectly threaded itself into the pre-modern backdrop of The Chimes. It's one of the oldest stories around: young girl falls in love, falls pregnant, is abandoned, commits suicide. Yet I can't think of any other melody that so perfectly catches the bittersweetness of love when it's unrequited. The emotion worked its way into the book – desire, trust, the threat of betrayal. Maybe this was in in part because the early days of writing felt themselves like a clandestine, ill-fated romance. This is a brilliant recording of the song. Watch the youtube video for added Aran sweaters.

'Experiment IV' – Kate Bush

This song without doubt influenced and underpinned the plot of this book. I love how Bush is both deeply playful and deeply serious – it's an aesthetic I was determined to capture somehow. The sonic weapon of this song is the protoype for the Carillon, but also influenced the novel's final act of destruction: 'They told us what they wanted was a sound that could kill someone from a distance.' 'From the painful cries of mothers and the terrifying scream. We recorded it and put it into our machine.'

'Comfort Ye My People' (from the Messiah) – Handel

In the world of the novel, the Carillon (the sonic weapon that organises and controls the populace) is incredibly violent, yet there's a benevolent impulse behind it as well. It's so loud that it literally forces people to their knees, but it also offers a kind of near-religious oblivion, as well as a perverse sort of education. At Vespers the instrument plays a canon – a contrapuntal composition that interweaves melody and variations. Listeners are encouraged to follow the shifting of the melody for their own intellectual improvement. When Simon arrives in London at the start of the novel, the theme for Vespers is this aria from the Messiah. Simon is very far from any comfort, yet the allusion is not meant to be entirely ironic.

'New Generation' – Suede

So, I could have chosen any song off Dog Man Star for this. Suede somehow perfectly capture the post-apocalyptic vibe that is part of the daily texture of London; they are the laureates of glamorous devastation. The upbeat mood of this track, though, and the prettiness of Brett's vocals are perfect for the turning point of the novel, when Simon and Lucien are on the road and on their quest: 'While the styles turn and the books still burn / Yes it's there in the platinum spires / It's there in the telephone wires / And we spread it around to a techno sound / But like a new generation rise.'

Let England Shake – PJ Harvey

This album came out while I was writing The Chimes, and was immediately folded into its imaginative world. I went to see her at the Royal Albert Hall while pregnant, and my daughter jigged around wildly in vitro. I love this track in particular, the hurdy gurdy of it, the offbeat rhythm, the mix of raucousness and beauty and devastating sadness. The video's allusion to Punch and Judy was also a perfect chime with one of the book's key influences – Russell Hoban's Riddley Walker.

'Albion' – Babyshambles

Continuing the unabashed anglophilia of this playlist, but from a different angle. This was on frequent repeat on my train journeys from London to Hertfordshire for work in the early days of the book's life. There is just something irresistably shambolic and nostalgic about this track, and it's all nicely dirtied up by Pete Doherty's hopeless, stumbling delivery. There is a scene in the book when Simon and Lucien walk through Camden and past all the beautiful Georgian terraced houses of Regent's Canal, with their gardens sloping down to the water. A faded gentility in which, without doubt, the residents take their gin in teacups, on leaf-strewn lawns.

'Lillibulero' – Anonymous

The narrowboat on which Simon and Lucien travel to Oxford is named after this famous march. As soon as Simon reads the boat's nameplate, he falls victim to its legendary earworm capacities. 'Lillibulero' is awesomely rousing and stirring – particularly with a full contingent of bagpipes – and, appropriately for this stage of the novel, has a long history as a protest song. Alluding to Lillibulero also has a distinguished pedigree in fiction, I have found. Everyone from Laurence Sterne to Frederick Forsyth has done it, and I eagerly await the approbation that is sure to follow. It's true, though, that for me it will always be synonymous with washing the dishes in the kitchen while my parents listen to the BBC world service.

Symphony of Sorrowful Songs – Gorecki

I very much wanted to keep the book's most important piece of music, the final composition to be played on the Carillon, as opaque and allusive as possible. I didn't 'hear' it, not really, but I did have a strong sense of what it felt like to listen to, what kind of music it was: dischordant, but not dissonant, painful but filled with simple overarching human melody. The closest I could come to a real-world equivalent would be this.

'Bravado' – Lorde

I started listening to Lorde much later than everyone else, probably because I was so shut away while writing The Chimes and rarely listened to the radio. I was editing the novel, getting ready to send the manuscript to agents, when I came across The Love Club EP. It was so brilliant to encounter Lorde's imagination and the seeming limitlessness of her talent, particularly as a New Zealander, and having only recently returned to the country. This song is so great, it has such a driving energy and anger and bitterness, but there's also a heady confidence – 'when the lights come up, I'll be ready for this'. It seemed to magically synch with the end of Simon's journey, and the start of The Chimes'sjourney into the world.


Anna Smaill and The Chimes links:

the author's website
the author's Wikipedia entry

Guardian review
Independent review
Kirkus review
Library Journal review
NPR Books review

The Dominion Post profile of the author
Independent profile of the author
Helen Lowe interview with the author
Independent profile of 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)
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 - Alyson Foster "Heart Attack Watch"

Heart Attack Watch

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.

Alyson Foster's impressive short story collection Heart Attack Watch examines the pivotal moments where lives change.

Kirkus wrote of the collection:

"Foster explores people and relationships on the razor's edge . . . [with a] masterful use of tension and language. These short stories are brief windows opening into private moments of hope, pain, and struggle . . . A heavy-hitting emotional exploration of the ways lives can change in single moments."


In her own words, here is Alyson Foster's Book Notes music playlist for her short story collection Heart Attack Watch:



"The Theory of Clouds"

"Rebellion (Lies)" by Arcade Fire is, or should be, Julia's song, since it's about the lies people live when they're living according to convention, or, in Julia's case, the lies she's living while she's trying to keep her head down and not be noticed, while some deeper part of her is somewhere else. She doesn't even realize what she's doing until the scientist Tenley comes to town and forces her to reckon with it.


"Heart Attack Watch"

When I think of Jane, I think of the Twilight Singer's "Dead To Rights." There's a self-deprecating, almost bitter, way in which melodrama is sung about that makes me think of that rudderless time everyone seems to have at some point during their twenties. But as clichéd as it may be, that crisis is real, and it feels, and maybe is, in some ways, a matter of life and death.


"Sand Castles"

I stayed up all night writing this story and listening to Calexico's "Deep Down." I think the refrain in this song – deep down you know it's evil/ you've always known – actually led me to the story's climax on the beach at night when the narrator and her husband stumble on the sinister fish that's washed up from deep, and also the realization that there's something deeply and unspeakably wrong with their marriage.


"The Place of the Holy"

There's something about Alison Krauss's "You Will Be My Ain True Love" that I associate with this story. The spooky intensity of it, the feeling that death has just brushed by. The way it conjures up, in an eerie way, both attraction and violence. That's exactly what I wanted this story to do.


"The Art of Falling"

Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings." Probably way too obvious, but it's still so unbelievably gorgeous. Plus, Elizabeth is a cello player. For me the crescendo builds right to that moment when Kevin's car is poised on the cliff, teetering and ready to go over.


"Blackout"

I think of Johnny Cash's "Hurt" here. The story is about a lot of things that are hard for me to really explain or understand, but I do know that part of it is about the deep and terrifying feelings of being a failure and the fear of what those failures do to those people you love the most.

"Blight"

I wrote a lot of this story in my head while walking to and from work one spring a few years ago. During that time I was listening a lot to "Many Peaks" by Electrelane, so the two are strongly associated. I love the way the song starts off quietly uneasy and then takes on a life of its own as it builds to a calamitous crescendo. Just like how at the end of the story, the secrets come out during a wedding in the middle of a storm. I wanted to evoke that in some way.


Alyson Foster and Heart Attack Watch links:

the author's website

Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review

The Quivering Pen post by 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)
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 (Daniel Clowes on His Creative Process, A History of Radiohead's Unconventional Album Releases, and more)

Daniel Clowes talked to the University of Chicago about his exhibition on campus, "Integrity of the Page: The Creative Process of Daniel Clowes."


The Guardian looked back at Radiohead's unconventional album releases.


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 the site and supporting Largehearted Boy.


eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

Harold and Maude by Colin Higgins
Prayers for the Living by Alan Cheuse


Paste examined the legacy of author Dashiell Hammett.


Rolling Stone shared a 2014 profile of Prince.


Literary Hub shared an excerpt from Chris McCormick's short story collection Desert Boys.


Stream new music from J. Robbins.


The Millions interviewed author Victor LaValle.


PopMatters interviewed Zach Rogue of Rogue Wave.


Patricia Engel recommended novels of exile and dislocation at Electric Literature.


Paste listed April's best new albums.


Adam Haslett discussed the loneliness of being a writer at Literary Hub.


Anonhi discussed her new album Hopelessness with The Record.


Entertainment Weekly on the appeal of debut novelists to publishers.


John Doe, Exene Cervenka, and Dave Alvin discussed Doe's book Under the Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk with Fresh Air.


Bookslut interviewed author Joni Murphy in its final issue.


Drowned in Sound profiled the band Frightened Rabbit.


Author Brian Evenson recommended novels that justify making you sick to your stomach at The A.V. Club.


Pitchfork examined the diminishing number of greatest hits albums and reissues.


Joshua Ferris reviewed Don DeLillo's new novel Zero K in the New York Times.

"DeLillo's novels generally ­offer consolation simply by enacting so well the mystery and awe of the real world, by probing deeply and mystically into so much, and by offering the pleasures of his unique style. Just as his characters plunge through constructed realities in quest of truer selves, so do we, as DeLillo's readers, find in his pages something akin to insight of a gnostic order. DeLillo's characters long to penetrate the enigmas and intrigues of his conjured worlds; DeLillo's readers devour his sentences, images and narratives for what amounts to something similar: for all that DeLillo — the seeker, the prophet, the mystic, the guide — sees."


Magnet shared an oral history of Ted Leo and the Pharmacists' The Tyranny of Distance album.


BuzzFeed and Vol. 1 Brooklyn recommended May's best new 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 2, 2016

Book Notes - Lydia Millet "Sweet Lamb of Heaven"

Sweet Lamb of Heaven

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.

Lydia Millet's new novel Sweet Lamb of Heaven is a striking literary thriller with a surprising paranormal angle.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"A peculiar, stirring thriller. . . . Millet has a knack for planting plainspoken, world-weary narrators in otherworldly circumstances, and Anna is one of her sharpest, most intriguingly philosophical creations."


In her own words, here is Lydia Millet's Book Notes music playlist for her novel Sweet Lamb of Heaven:



Sweet Lamb of Heaven tells of a woman who hears a constant stream of talk and noise and music when her daughter is an infant. A few years later, when the voice has ceased, she leaves her husband and takes their child with her; most of the story occurs after he decides he needs them for political purposes and starts to hunt them down. I've assigned each chapter a song, below, either to reflect certain moods or moments, or sometimes because the song is explicitly mentioned or implicitly alluded to in the text.

Chapter 1. "This Land Is Your Land," Woody Guthrie. No matter how many campfires it's been sung beside, it can still make me tear up. I'm not ashamed. This is partly a book about who owns the country, so Guthrie's Wobblyish old tune is on the money. Mentioned on page 25.

Chapter 2. "Romance in Durango," Bob Dylan. Hardcore Dylan fans often dismiss the album (Desire) containing this track, but I'm sentimental as hell so its sometimes hokey lyrics and openly emotive melodies are right up my alley. "The way is long but the end is near... the face of God will appear." Invoked vaguely on page 45.

Chapter 3. "Lay My Love," by John Cale and Brian Eno, from their excellent collaboration Wrong Way Up, which is rumored to have made them angry at each other. (I'm still annoyed I can't bring up the album on Spotify.) Every song on the album is great.

Chapter 4. "Lili Marlene" sung by Marlene Dietrich or Vera Lynn, though I prefer the Marlene Dietrich version in German (she sang it first in German and later in English to entertain U.S. troops). This World War II love song was beloved by soldiers on both sides of the conflict and is sometimes referred to as the most popular war song ever written. Goebbels didn't like it much.

Chapter 5. "Far From Any Road," The Handsome Family. My children are sick of hearing the doleful music of the Handsome Family issue from my music player in the kitchen. This particular track made the big time as the theme music for the first season of "True Detective," over a moody montage that, with the music, was the best thing about the show by far.

Chapter 6. "Life Is Life," Laibach. Do you know this crypto-fascist art band from Slovenia? Industrial music, says Wikipedia. One-note, relentless marching beats, often. They're parody, self-parody, and also possibly completely serious. They also do a good cover of "Jesus Christ, Superstar."

Chapter 7. "Ride a White Horse," Goldfrapp. There's a model who has a walk-on in this chapter and the Goldfrapp is for her.

Chapter 8. "Hate Is the New Love," by the Mekons. Because I'm not capable of putting together a soundtrack without the Mekons. "Underneath all this/The only thing that matters is/What and where you were born/And how well you use it and conceal it/ Cause there's no peace/On this terrible shore/Every day is a battle/How we still love the war."

Chapter 9. "Lake of Fire," Nirvana cover of Meat Puppets song. The original's good too, but there's something about Kurt Cobain's restrained, unplugged delivery that rings more sinister. "Where do bad folks go when they die/They don't go to Heaven where the angels fly."

Chapter 10. "Skye Boat Song," traditional, mentioned on page 229. "Carry the lad that was born to be king/Over the sea to Skye." Scottish song often sung as a lullaby. As the book has very little to do with Bonnie Prince Charlie or the Jacobite succession, this suits the final chapter best if you forget the historical context.


Lydia Millet and Sweet Lamb of Heaven links:

the author's website

Booklist review
Kirkus review
Los Angeles Times review
New York Times review
Publishers Weekly review
Washington Post review

Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Love in Infant Monkeys
New York Times 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)
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 - Amy Parker "Beasts and Children"

Beasts and Children

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.

Amy Parker's brilliantly dark collection of interconnected stories Beasts and Children has earned her numerous comparisons to Flannery O'Connor.

Booklist wrote of the collection:

"An electrifying, daring, and magical debut collection sure to appeal to fans of Karen Russell and Lorrie Moore."


In her own words, here is Amy Parker's Book Notes music playlist for her short story collection Beasts and Children:



So many songs about broken hearts only treat romantic love, as if your heart can only be broken in one specific, adult way. I wanted to find music that is about love and heartbreak, but not necessarily cued in terms of a sexual or romantic relationship. Beasts and Children playlist reflects the other ways hearts can break, the other kinds of losses we sustain, and the many other types of loves we experience in a lifetime. Also, because it's a story collection, I imagined the playlist as a series of jukebox singles, with A and B sides.

Townes Van Zandt is the patron saint of this book.


The White Elephant

A side: "Kathleen," Townes Van Zandt

It's plain to see, the sun won't shine today

But I ain't in the mood for sunshine anyway

Maybe I'll go insane

I got to stop the pain

Or maybe I'll go down to see Kathleen.

The book's first story is about a lot of things; violence; parents betraying children; bad choices; but central to it is the death of a beloved adult sibling. Midway through the story, Mark Bowman's wild sister Loretta dies unexpectedly, and he spirals into a profound depression. In "Kathleen" the bathos of overproduced strings contrasts with the stark resignation in Townes' voice. The song combines self pity with all-out mourning, and it perfectly describes the grief that leads Mark Bowman into the jungle with a rifle in his hands.

B Side: "Pancho and Lefty," Townes Van Zandt

Lefty he can't sing the blues/all night long like he used to/
the dust that Pancho bit down South/ended up in Lefty's mouth.

Violence links us as intimately as love. The harm we do to others lingers—to choke or to poison us, or simply to silence a vital part of ourselves. Lefty's betrayal of Pancho silences Lefty for good. Pancho dies. Lefty winds up alone in a cheap motel in Ohio. The blame may lie with Lefty, but the song mourns for them both. Then there's the chorus: all the federales, hanging out talking over mistakes—their failure to catch their man twisted into deflated boasts about kindness. Which is what we all do, right? We justify ourselves. And as we age, we try to soften our mistakes and give them heroic meaning. The song moves between compassion and irony so beautifully. Townes knew the human heart better than anyone.


Rainy Season

A Side: "Like a Prayer," Madonna

This song appeals to the fanatical romanticism of teenaged girls. Jill and Maizie hear it in a karaoke bar, but they've also listened to the album on bootleg cassettes they bought in the Chiang Mai night market, and danced to it in their rooms, dreaming of that kind of love—forbidden and holy. In the story, it comes on at a crucial moment when Jill is being pulled over the line by her impulse to run off into the night with a group of drunk businessmen. "Like a Prayer" is exhilarating for Jill because it's a song about loss of control, about giving yourself over to something (or someone) bigger and stronger.

You're in control/just like a child/heaven help me!

When the adult Madonna sings it, it's a gleeful celebration, but in this story it takes on darker undertones.

B-side: "Nightswimming," R.E.M.

Love and youth and newness. The two sisters, Jill and Maizie, side by side in orbit, around the fairest sun.


The Balcony

A side: "The Wayward Wind," Patsy Cline

he was born the next of kin/to the wayward wind

A lesser known song of Patsy Cline's, and it plays on the radio during Danny's ill fated road trip with his mother. She's chasing bad love, and she drags Danny and his dog along for the ride. The wayward wind, in this case, is his love-drunk (and literally drunk) mother, and Danny, of course, is her next of kin.

B side: "Rake," Townes Van Zandt

And now the dark air is like fire on my skin

And even the moonlight is blinding

"Rake" is one of Townes' all time greatest. This song is kind of an inversion of Neil Young's “My my, hey hey (out of the blue)”, with a dash of William Blake thrown in. The protagonist laments his descent—from a man once so vital his “laughter the devil would frighten” to a used-up, exhausted husk, stripped bare by hard living. Rakes can be female, and this song predicts the fate of Danny's mother Loretta.


Endangered Creatures

A side: "All Things Bright and Beautiful"

Played on a slightly out of tune, plunky piano, and sung by an amateur children's choir, preferably without comprehension, with a soloist who can't quite hit the high notes. And there should be a recorder in the background. This will reproduce the sense of what shitty, half-assed singing in church is like—frustrating, endless, dull, and sorrowful. This hymn pointedly doesn't say who made the other things in the world (all things dark and horrible, for example). It's a haunting little tune, and it has way too many verses. It's exhausting. (The same has been said of my book).

B-side: "Little Green," Joni Mitchell

there'll be icicles/and birthday clothes/and sometimes there'll be sorrow

A love letter to a surrendered child.


Beasts and Children

A side: "Me and Little Andy," Dolly Parton

I LOVE this song. It's everything— melodramatic but effective, it tells a damn good story, it incorporates nursery rhymes to devastating effect, Dolly Parton does a creepy little girl voice, and it contains lyrics like:

London Bridge is falling down
my daddy's drunk again in town.

My own work just barely stays on the right side of kitsch, so I appreciate Dolly Parton's total disregard for taste. And underneath all its kitsch is a song about the deadliness of childhood neglect. Sandy, a neglected child, is so far gone that even Dolly Parton can't save her—and if Dolly can't save you, who can?

I chose it for "Beasts and Children" because it is period appropriate, and I'd like the to think that little Jerry heard this song on the radio with his mother, and that it cut to his heart. When Sandy dies, God, in his great mercy, doesn't want her puppy (Little Andy) to be lonely without her, so he kills the dog, too.

Ain't you got no gingerbread/ain't you got no candy/ain't you got an extra bed/for me and little Andy?

Dolly's sigh on the last line, like Sandy's expiring breath, will give even the most cynical ironist chills.

B side: "Ben," Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson, the quintessential wounded child, singing to his animal friend.


Catastrophic Molt

A side: "Song to the Siren," Tim Buckley

Long afloat on shipless oceans
I did all my best to smile

"Catastrophic Molt" is a sea-change story about a mother leaving her barely-adult children, and departing the world. The mother has a long hidden grief that comes to light too late. Buckley's throbbing vibrato, backed by the eerie wailing of sea-sirens, will echo in your head for days. There are many covers of this song, because it's a strange, heart-breaking, bravura tune, but Buckley's is the best. Oh my heart/oh my heart/cries from the sorrow.

B side: "Shahdaroba," Roy Orbison

The future will be better than the past, right? Right??


The Corpse Diver

A side: "Solo le Pido a Dios," Mercedes Soza

All I ask of God is that he make me not indifferent to suffering. What a request! This is an anti-war protest song, an anthem in South America, Argentina in particular. This is a call for the ability to bear witness—something we could all use more of—and the strength to stand up to oppression. Sosa's voice is pleading and defiant—begging God, in his mercy to allow her to feel mercy, and defying those who trample the weak, and those who turn away. In "Corpse Diver," everyone is so fucking tired, and so wound up in their own problems, that they miss the suffering of those nearest to them.

B side: "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms," Iris Dement

Dement's piney-woods yowl is so pure in this. Part faith, part exhaustion. This is a hymn for those pushed beyond the brink.

Sunfish

A side: "Shilo," Neil Diamond

Shilo when I was young/I used to call your name/When no one else would come/Shilo you always came/and you'd stay

This delightful anthem of loneliness begins in childhood and progresses through a breakup, as the singer invents an imaginary friend to make up for the lack of a parent, projects those qualities onto a lover, and then loses the lover, reverting once again to magical thinking in the last verse.

Aren't all badly matched lovers basically one another's imaginary friend?

B side: "Red, Red Wine," Neil Diamond


A Neighborly Day for a Beauty

A side: "Fish and Bird," Tom Waits

I'll always pretend you're mine/and though we both must part/you can live/in my heart

Like Maizie, I had a crisis pregnancy. I was obsessed by this song the whole time I was pregnant, and I sang it to my son as a baby. It's about love, and how you can't hold on, and how all love is a meeting and a letting go, and it has a whale in it, so of course I love it, and it's about the impossibility of keeping what you love, and the line “you can live in my heart” is so true—because when we're between worlds, or encountering impossible contradictions, the only possible place to make a home for the impossibly beloved is in one's own heart.

B side: "You Can Never Go Down the Drain," Mister Rogers

Like Jill I find this song literally and metaphysically reassuring.


Grace

A side: "Balm in Gilead," Nina Simone

There is a balm/in Gilead/to make the wounded whole/there is a balm/in Gilead/to heal the sin-sick soul

This version of "Balm in Gilead" comes from my favorite Nina Simone album, Baltimore, which everyone should buy immediately. It's the penultimate track on the album (leading into the vociferous and uplifting "If You Pray Right"). Simone takes a traditional bible verse and gives it such contemplative sorrow. It's a low key rendition, syncopated and slightly reggae inflected. She repeats a single verse and chorus, and her voice, rough as a callous, tender as a caress, offers the wistful promise that somewhere, someplace, there is restoration for every wound, wholeness for the broken places, and that there is the potential for even the most ‘sin-sick soul' to be healed.

In the final story, Cissy, the permanently-on-the-margins daughter of the Texas stories, longtime spinster and secret romantic, meets Hector, a Mennonite minister who has sustained incomprehensible losses in Colombia's civil war. Each has lost a family member to suicide. Each has deep wounds. As the two begin a tentative midlife relationship, Hector's gentleness shows Cissy a way forward out of resentment and suffering. The book closes with the possibility that none of us is ever as alone as we imagine ourselves to be.

B side: "To Live is to Fly," Townes Van Zandt

Shake the dust off of your wings and the tears out of your eyes


Amy Parker and Beasts and Children links:

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

Kirkus review
Library Journal review
New York Times review
Publishers Weekly review
School Library Journal review

Writer's Bone 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)
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 (May's Best New Books, The Connection Between Music and Poetry, and more)

Signature, Cultured Vultures and the Sunday Express listed May's biggest new books.

Bustle recommended May's best new fiction, nonfiction, and young adult books.


Pitchfork examined the connection between music and poetry.


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 the site and supporting Largehearted Boy.


eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:

Harold and Maude by Colin Higgins
Prayers for the Living by Alan Cheuse


Bookforum interviewed Adam Ehrlich Sachs about his debut story collection Inherited Disorders.


The Quietus recapped April's best new music.


Benjamin Wood shared Billy Joel's influence on his writing at Literary Hub.


Anton DiSclafani recommended books that define Texas at Electric Literature.


Book Riot recommended books about the Beatles.


The Rumpus interviewed Brendan Jones about his debut novel The Alaskan Laundry.


Parquet Courts visited World Cafe for an interview and live performance.


Literary Hub interviewed Lydia Millet about her new novel Sweet Lamb of Heaven.


Islands' Nick Diamonds ranked the band's albums at Noisey.


Book Riot paired a reading list with Beyonce's new album Lemonade.


Newsweek previewed May's new music releases.


Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's complicated history of printing Mein Kampf in the United States.


Stream Bob Dylan's cover of Frank Sinatra's "All the Way."


The Rumpus interviewed author Lauren Groff.


Stream a new Braids track.


The Rumpus interviewed author Anne Enright.


Florist played a Tiny Desk Concert.


Camille Peri talked to Weekend Edition about her debut novel The Assistants.


Stream a new Aloha song.


Jillian Keenan discussed her new book Sex with Shakespeare with Vogue.


Gary Louris discussed the new Jayhawks album Paging Mr. Proust with Rolling Stone.


Weekend Edition interviewed Adam Haslett about her new novel Imagine Me Gone.


Stream a new Local Natives song.


Actor Alan Cumming discussed his favorite books at the New York Times.


Stream Frightened Rabbit's cover of "Streets of Philadelphia" by Bruce Springsteen.


Matt Kindt interviewed fellow cartoonist Jeff Lemire at Paste.


Prince's music vault has been opened, and contains enough new music to release an album a year for the next century.


The Los Angeles Times and Weekend Edition interviewed Don DeLillo about his new novel Zero K.


Salon examined the influence of NPR Music's Tiny Desk Concerts.


Men's Journal interviewed author Rob Spillman.


James McBride talked to the Virginian-Pilot about his book Kill 'Em and Leave: Searching for James Brown and the American Soul.


Time Out New York interviewed author Roxane Gay.


The Record reconsidered Rush's 2112 album 40 years after its release.


Tobias Carroll examined secret societies in fiction at Literary Hub.


Pitchfork and All Songs Considered interviewed electronic musician Tim Hecker.


Literary Hub shared an excerpt from Raja Alem's novel The Dove's Necklace.



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 1, 2016

Largehearted Boy Weekly Wrap-Up - May 1, 2016

A list of the past week's Largehearted Boy features:


Book Notes: (authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates to their book)

Brian Blanchfield for his essay collection Proxies
Christine Reilly for her novel Sunday's on the Phone to Monday
Colleen M. Story for her novel Loreena's Gift
Justin Tussing for his novel Vexation Lullaby
Molly Prentiss for her novel Tuesday Nights in 1980
Nick Soulsby for his book Cobain on Cobain: Interviews and Encounters
Shawn Vestal for his novel Daredevils


Author/Musician Interviews:

Author Paula Bomer interviewed musician Nick Zubek
Author Paul Bomer's Unanswered Questions for Musician Mark Kozelek


Weekly New Book Recommendations:

Atomic Books Comics Preview (recommended new comics and graphic novels)
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
WORD Bookstores Books of the Week (recommended new books)


New Music Recommendations:

The Week's Interesting Music Releases


And of course, the daily literature and music news and link posts:

Shorties (news & links from the worlds of music, books, and pop culture)


also at Largehearted Boy:

Antiheroines
Atomic Books Comics Preview
Book Notes
Cover Song Collections
Lists
weekly music release lists
musician/author Interviews
Note Books
Soundtracked
WORD Bookstores Books of the Week


Posted by david | Permalink | Comments (View)

April 29, 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:


Posted by david | Permalink | Comments (View)

Google
  Web largeheartedboy.com   


1 | older