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March 24, 2019

Bryan Washington's Playlist for His Story Collection "Lot"

Lot

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

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

Bryan Washington's impressive debut collection Lot brings to life the Houston of the narrator while poignantly exploring race, class, and sexuality.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"A sensitive portrait of life among Houston's struggling working class.... Washington writes with an assurance that signals the arrival of an important literary voice."


In his own words, here is Bryan Washington's Book Notes music playlist for his story collection Lot:



Honestly, the bulk of Lot was written to Frank Ocean’s Blonde and Hiroshi Yoshimura’s Music for Nine Postcards. Those records informed my life, so they had an outsized influence on the book. But the mood and feel of certain stories and characters were scrambled until I heard other tracks -- chord progressions and choruses and motifs I could connect them to. They’re what I turned to when the process felt convoluted. Which was often.

Ideally, Lot’s progression reads a lot like a record’s. I don’t know if I pulled that off. But it’s the mindset that fueled the book.


Lockwood
Ivy, Frank Ocean

This is probably a perfect song. You know when you meet someone new (like the narrator of this story does), and the electricity of attraction starts to bubble? “Ivy” sounds like that.

Alief
Invisible Heartbeat, Helado Negro

Lange’s performances are beyond. Wholly rousing. I kept Double Youth on repeat while I was writing this story.

610 North, 610 West
Luna Negra, Los Cojolites

“Luna Negra” is what I imagine the narrator’s mother danced to in the center of Canino Market on Airline Drive. And with feeling, you know? Los Cojolites are amazing.

Shepherd
Breaking Up Is Hard to Do, Alton Ellis

This song is so sad to me! There’s also a sort of “what can you do, this is life”-ness about it. And I keep hearing that this is a sad story, even though it reads as bittersweet to me. But what the fuck do I know.

Wayside
Cantileñas de São Victor, Jorge Ben Jor

The guitar riff carrying Jorge Ben’s voice sounds how Houston feels in the summer.

Bayou
Lover Is a Day, Cuco

“Bayou” and “Waugh” took the longest for me to write. Partly because they are, in their own ways, love stories. Which are tricky. And partly because, at least for this one, I couldn’t nail down the tone I wanted. But once I finally heard this track, I knew it, and the trick became getting that on the page.

Lot
Sota Wa Ame, Hiroshi Yoshimura

Yoshimura’s record captures the headspace of Lot’s recurring narrator, but this track sounds like how I imagine he physically felt in this story. It’s hard to describe. Just listen to it (and then Yoshimura’s album, which is gorgeous).

South Congress
Untitled, Isaiah Rashad x Goldlink

Rashad and Goldlink are geniuses. There’s something heavenly about this track. I don’t even know how to describe it. Shit. But it feels like riding around Houston, too late at night, or very early in the morning, full of (potentially fatal) possibility.

Navigation
Only Trying 2 Tell U, Puma Blue

There’s sex all over this song, and I wonder how much of it comes from the feeling of trying to connect. It’s probably no small amount, and Jacob Allen’s record was deeply important to imbuing that throughout this story, and others.

Peggy Park
Friday Morning, Khruangbin

The recurring melody here sounds how it feels to see the neighborhoods I adore change while the folks living in them roll with the punches, for better and worse, whatever they look like.

Fannin
Ghost, Lianne La Havas

“Fannin” was the quickest story to write, but its narrator took me a very, very long time to figure out. And I still don’t think I have. But this song (and this record) helped me understand her better.

Waugh
The Sun, Kung Mi Jun

“The Sun” is truly one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard in my life. I listened to it endlessly writing the final stretch of “Waugh”. So when I think of one, the other eventually comes to mind.

Elgin
Manchester (from String Quartet Live!), Kishi Bashi

Have you ever heard a more perfect song? You haven’t. And hearing Ishibashi sing about “aliveness” and “proper ends” feels like listening to the ending of something. Something massive. But it also sounds like possibility, and that’s the way this particular story’s protagonist might feel at the end of the book.


Bryan Washington and Lot links:

the author's website

Booklist review
Kirkus review
New York Times review
NPR Books review
Publishers Weekly review

All Things Considered interview with the author
Houston Chronicle profile of the author
Houston Public Media interview with the author
Los Angeles Times interview with the author
New Yorker interview with the author
Rumpus interview with the author
Texas Monthly interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

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

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






March 22, 2019

Shorties (An Interview with Yiyun Li, Andrew Bird on His New Album, and more)

Yiyun LI

Bookworm interviewed author Yiyun Li.


Andrew Bird visited World Cafe for an interview and live performance.


March's best eBook deals.

eBook on sale for $2.99 today:

Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman


Aquarium Drunkard interviewed guitarist Bill MacKay.


Summer Brennan talked to All Things Considered about her new book, High Heel.


Pitchfork profiled singer-songwriter Jenny Lewis.


Vulture and Esquire previewed spring's best books.


Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast discussed directing music videos with SPIN.


The New York Times reconsidered Kurt Vonnegut's novel Slaughterhouse-5 on its 50th anniversary.


Stream a new song by Calexico & Iron and Wine.


Fiction Writers Review interviewed author Laura Catherine Brown.


Stream a new song by Sorry.


The San Francisco Chronicle profiled cartoonist James Sturm.


Stream a new song by Paige Stark.


Tressie McMillan Cottom discussed her essay collection, Thick, with Roxane Gay at Guernica.


Bryan Washington discussed his story collection, Lot, with the Chicago Review of Books and Debutiful.



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

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

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


March 21, 2019

Polly Rosenwaike's Playlist for Her Story Collection "Look How Happy I'm Making You"

Look How Happy I'm Making You

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

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

Polly Rosenwaike's collection Look How Happy I'm Making You is filled with nuanced and poignant stories of motherhood.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"The 12 stories in Rosenwaike’s debut collection capture the vast and intimate moments of motherhood and womanhood... Rosenwaike’s remarkable prose conjures emotions so effectively that readers will feel pulled into the characters’ lives."


In her own words, here is Polly Rosenwaike's Book Notes music playlist for her short story collection Look How Happy I'm Making You:



My experience of having a baby was fraught, as one might guess from my story collection (though it’s fiction—fiction!), but one joyful moment I recall from what feels like the dark days of new motherhood has to do with music. Specifically, with my love of Joni Mitchell and of singing when no one else is around. The weird thing about taking care of an infant is that it’s like you’re alone, even as you’re very much not alone, but rather in charge of a tiny person entirely dependent on you. We were in the kitchen, my baby daughter and I, and she was lying on a blanket on the floor while I was cleaning up. I can’t remember which album I had on, but probably Ladies of the Canyon, or Hejira, or Blue, and while I sang along with it, my daughter looked up at me utterly enthralled. And I felt the first glimmer of what would become one of the greatest joys of parenthood: introducing something I love to my daughters and seeing how they react. They’re eight and five now, and neither one is a huge Joni Mitchell fan—but there’s still time.

This playlist indulges the sentimental side of having one’s very own child, which can be easily lost amid the challenges of daily life with young children. Also, it has some songs that both my kids and I enjoy listening to in the car, which is no small thing. This morning, while driving the five-year-old to school, I insisted on keeping the radio tuned to CBC Music (in Ann Arbor, Michigan, we’re close enough to Ontario to get the Canadian station on our airwaves), in order to hear Sade’s “Smooth Operator,” while the kid screamed and cried the whole song through for Kimya Dawson’s “Mare and the Bear.” As I tried to tell her, we’ll get to it.


“Dilated to Meet You,” Loudon Wainwright with Kate McGarrigle

Later, they would get divorced and write conflicted songs about each other, and so would their children, and McGarrigle would die of cancer too young, but when they recorded this song together, they’d just had a baby, and that baby was the great Rufus Wainwright. The title is a very bad pun, yes, but the song is a perfect blend of sly and sweet. The last two lines hit me especially: “We really think you’ll like it here / We hope that you like us.” My younger daughter tells her dad and me, “I love you and I like you,” and our dear hope, of course, is that this continues to be true.

“Montauk,” Rufus Wainwright

The Wainwrights’ rich and complicated musical family saga moves into the next generation with Viva—Rufus’s daughter with Leonard Cohen’s daughter Lorca, and Rufus’s husband, Jörn Weisbrodt. I love the way the song begins, with the direct address to a child: “One day you will come to Montauk / And see your dad wearing a kimono / And see your other dad pruning roses.” As with the song written about his birth, Rufus’s song invites his child into his world and also extends a plea of sorts, with the lines, “Hope that you will want to stay / For a while / Don’t worry, I know you’ll have to go.” It’s a stirring recognition that a child’s growing up involves her choosing for herself how she fits into her family.

“Little Green,” Joni Mitchell

I was driving to the airport to pick up my partner and older daughter, who’d gone on a trip together, when I learned (CBC Music again) the story behind this song. While struggling to make a living as a singer in Toronto, the twenty-one-year-old Mitchell had a baby she named Kelly, and gave her up for adoption. “Call her green and the winters cannot fade her / Call her green for the children who’ve made her.” I was in tears on the highway, with my younger daughter asleep in the back seat. So eloquently written, so soaringly sung—oh, Joni!

“Not Too Young for a Song,” Dan Bern

The first concert my partner and I went to after becoming parents featured Dan Bern. He and his wife had a new baby too, and he played a few “lullabies” from his album 2 Feet Tall. Bern’s wryness remains intact through the world of tummy time, and milk, and anthropomorphized animals, and makes you feel like you can have a kid and listen to silly songs without becoming totally lame. And you can allow yourself to tear up at this tender tune, because here you are, with a beautiful, wide-eyed baby, listening to music together: “Little too young / For holding a spoon / Little too young / To know midnight from noon / But not too young / To look up at the moon / And not too young for a tune.”

“All I Could Do,” Kimya Dawson

This is the opening track on Dawson’s album Thunder Thighs, and it tells a moving story of being pregnant and fearful of what’s to come, as well as recounting Dawson’s painful past: “Then I thought back to before my coma / Rehab in Tacoma, my junkie roommates / And all that I knew how to do was / Put cigarettes out on myself, I took pills and I drank / And I thought back to when I was 15 / How I was squeaky clean and I wanted to die.” My eight-year-old doesn’t like this song—I suspect because she’s a sensitive soul and is beginning to become attuned to some of humanity’s struggles, while not quite ready to confront the reality that people might want to die sometimes. (And who can blame her?) In the final lines, Dawson sings, “It’s okay if at the end of the day / All I can do next is be a good mother.” I’m wary of how the notion of being “a good mother” often keeps women down, but in this context it’s really affecting, and it lends the experience of expecting a child the sense of nobility it deserves.

“Mare and the Bear,” Kimya Dawson

This song comes right after “All I Could Do,” and the transition from Dawson contemplating becoming a mother to her daughter’s excited “Mommy” at the beginning of this playful number is so poignant. It’s the most requested (most screamed for) song in my car. The five-year-old calls it “The Marey and the Fairy”—there are no fairies in the song, but that rhyme is irresistible. Seeing her in the rearview mirror mouthing the refrain, “And they were friends forever,” makes me not mind hearing it multiple times in a row.

“St. Judy’s Comet,” Paul Simon

I adored this lovely song about trying to get a little kid to go to sleep long before I learned how maddening it can be to try to get a little kid to go to sleep. In my story “The Dissembler’s Guide to Pregnancy,” the narrator, a woman in her mid-thirties, wants to have a baby with a younger man who won’t commit to her. He plays guitar and sings folks songs—which makes her all the more smitten—and she thinks longingly of the songs Paul Simon wrote about his children. I’ve always been a little in love with Paul Simon (who shares my birthday!), especially when he sings here, “If I can’t sing my boy to sleep / Well it makes your famous daddy / Look so dumb.”

“Mama’s Gone to the Mail Boat” (also known as “Bye-O-Baby”), Traditional American Lullaby

Speaking of trying to sing children to sleep, this was my favorite go-to lullaby during the endless years (in reality, about six) when I had babies and toddlers that would not drift off without complicated sleeping arrangements, tortuous bedtime rituals, and utterly exhausting parental assistance. (Now they lie down in their bunk beds and we can actually leave the room before they’ve gone to sleep! Though they still get to bed way too late! The topic of bedtime makes me very agitated!) The simplicity, repetition, and slight mysteriousness of this song used to calm me down. Basically, it goes like this, ad infinitum: “Bye-o, baby, bye / Bye-o, baby, bye / Mama’s gone to the mail boat / Mama’s gone to the mail boat / Bye.” I found the concept of one’s personal mail arriving by boat to be quite romantic. And I was also charmed by the fact that the speaker of the song had to be someone other than the mother. Mama’s gone—she’s off in the dark, romantic night, meeting the mail boat. Bye-bye, baby. Good luck to you. Unfortunately, though not surprisingly, when I looked into the origin of this lullaby, I discovered that it did not hail from some wonderful egalitarian realm—where, let’s say, the fathers, or maybe the well-paid nannies, took charge of getting babies to bed while the mothers were out—but was rather a song sung by slaves. There’s your American history, baby. Welcome to the world.

“Sari,” Nellie McKay

This fiery, political, self-mocking rap of sorts is emphatically not for or about children. McKay’s 2004 debut album Get Away from Me sports a “Parental Advisory: Explicit Content” label. I’m including it here because my daughters are nonetheless fans, and while I wonder about playing for them lines like “Tit for tat / You fuckin’ bureaucrats,” and “I don’t wanna say ‘diiiie motherfucker!’ / But I wouldn’t mind if you did,” I’m persuaded by the song’s spitfire speed, ironic swagger, and complicated references that they’re way too young to get it. And if they did get it, they’d be well on their way to becoming the super-smart, wise-to-cultural-and-political-bullshit sort of girls I would not at all mind if they turned out to be.

“The Great Gig in the Sky,” Pink Floyd

Also not about children, unless the few lyrics in this Dark Side of the Moon instrumental plus gorgeous wail, about being “not frightened of dying,” makes you think about how we’ve all “gotta go sometime” to make room for the children and for their children’s children, etc. In my story “June,” Natalie’s aunt is dying of cancer as Natalie is about to give birth to her first child. Dina, the aunt, cites “The Great Gig in the Sky” as a kind of spiritual-guide-to-death song. I love Clare Torry’s astonishing shrieks, her ethereal “Ooooh’s” and “Aaaah’s” and “Waaah’s”. If only the screams of labor sounded like that.

“Loving You,” Minnie Riperton

In 1975, when Riperton recorded this swoony song she’d written with her husband Richard Rudolph, she ended it by chanting their two-year-old daughter’s name: Maya. A year later, Riperton was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer and became one of the first public figures to speak openly about it. She died in 1979, at thirty-one, when her daughter was six—and that girl grew up to be the great comic actress Maya Rudolph. This is the kind of mother/child story I find devastatingly moving—the mother, an amazing woman in her own right, who doesn’t get to see what her child grows into. (I think, for instance, of Barack Obama’s irreverent and pioneering mom, Stanley Ann Dunham, who died of cancer at fifty-two. He was thirty-four at the time, but I find it so sad that she would never know that her son became president.) And Riperton’s song, about “making love,” but also, it seems, about what can come from that, loving a child, sends me into the best kind of sentimental state: in which I remember how incredible it is, this ordinary thing—that my partner and I have made our own family together.


Polly Rosenwaike and Look How Happy I'm Making You links:

the author's website

Booklist review
Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review

Fiction Advocate interview with the author
Literary Hub interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

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

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


Atomic Books Comics Preview - March 21, 2019

In the weekly Atomic Books Comics Preview, Benn Ray highlights notable new comics, graphic novels, and books.

Benn Ray is the owner of Atomic Books, an independent bookstore in Baltimore. He also runs the Mutant Funnies Tumblr.

Atomic Books has been named one of BuzzFeed's Great American Bookstores, as well as one of Flavorwire's 10 greatest comic and graphic novel stores in America.


Bubbles #1

Bubbles #1
by Bubbles

Bubbles exists to bring comics fandom off the internet (not that there's anything wrong with that) and back into fanzines, where it's more awesome. This inaugural issue features a look at Blast Books - who published a lot of really incredible cult manga, reviews of awesome comics you need to check out (if you can find 'em), a look at an obscure 1979 Nancy comic strip performance piece, and an excerpted manga from Tsurita Kuniko, and more. Just like an old school fanzine, Bubbles exists to turn you on to awesome things.


Flowery #1

Flowery #1
by Mel Stringer

This mini collects the absolutely adorable and charming autobiographical comics of Mel Stringer - beef jerky, stinky burps, crazy dogs, Arkansas back roads, and more.


The Perineum Technique

The Perineum Technique
by Florent Ruppert / Jerome Mulot

JH is a video artist in need of a muse, and Sarah is the woman he's been having virtual hookups with. As he develops emotions for her, his pressuring her to meet leads to an Eyes Wide Shut-style swingers dinner and a lot of complications. When she teaches him the Perineum Technique to better control himself, his creativity explodes. Beautiful art, rich coloring, and a complex story of art and sex and human connections told in a way that fully embraces the comics medium - The Perineum Technique is a very real rendition of the mind games involved in fledgling romances.


She Could Fly

She Could Fly
by Christopher Cantwell / Martin Morazzo

Easily the best and most successful series in the new Berger Books imprint at Dark Horse, She Could Fly follows the story of a mysterious flying woman who explodes while in flight and the young girl who has become obsessed with her who hopes unlocking the mystery might also solve her own emotional issues. Written by Halt And Catch Fire's Cantwell, She Could Fly feels like discovering an obscure TV show you can't stop yourself from immediately binge-watching.


Atomic Books & Benn Ray links:

Atomic Books website
Atomic Books on Twitter
Atomic Books on Facebook
Benn Ray's blog (The Mobtown Shank)
Benn Ray's comic, Mutant Funnies


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

other Atomic Books Comics Preview lists (weekly new comics & graphic novel highlights)

Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Book Notes (authors create music 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)
WORD Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)


Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week - March 21, 2019

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

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


The White Card

The White Card by Claudia Rankine

Poet and noted Genius (MacArthur Fellow) Claudia Rankine offers us her first published play - it delves into the ways in which white people discredit their whiteness. Originally performed in Boston, the piece features a wealthy white philanthropic couple interested in acquiring the work of an established black artist. What follows are various confrontations about privilege, representation, complicity, and what falls between.


Mars: Stories

Mars: Stories by Asja Bakić, trans. Jennifer Zoble

This is a thrilling debut from Bosnian poet, writer and translator Asja Bakić. Compared to the stylings of George Saunders, Edgar Allen Poe, and Marge Piercy, she plays with sci-fi tropes and speculative narratives in ways that feel darkly imaginative and exhilarating.


The Knowledge Economy

The Knowledge Economy by Roberto Mangabeira Unger

As both a philosopher and politician in Brazil and the US, Unger is interested in how knowledge is produced, enacted upon, and who is allowed to participate in this economy. He writes on how insidiously the knowledge economy infiltrates all aspects of public life: education, culture, politics, and finance.


Giraffes on Horseback Salad: Salvador Dali, the Marx Brothers, and the Strangest Movie Never Made

Giraffes on Horseback Salad: Salvador Dali, the Marx Brothers, and the Strangest Movie Never Made by Josh Frank, Tim Heidecker, illus. Manuela Pertega

A riotous graphic adaptation that brings to life the long lost, never made Dali film Giraffes on a Horseback Salad. Intended to star the Marx Brothers, it was to be a wickedly surrealist film of life manifested through dreams, fantasies and wishes. This book serves as a fascinating re-imagined artifact of the 1930s and of an art movement that wanted so badly to bend the logics of reality.


What’s in a Name: Poems

What’s in a Name: Poems by Ana Luisa Amaral, trans. Margaret Jull Costa

With the original Portuguese to the left and the translated English to the right, this collection of poems beautifully weaves together myths, histories, voyages, and language with elegant ease. Amaral wears her attentiveness on her sleeve, deftly considering her place at home, in her city, and in the wilds.


Librairie Drawn & Quarterly links:

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


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

other Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week

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


Shorties (An Excerpt from Susan Choi's Forthcoming Novel, An Interview with Lucy Dacus, and more)

Trust Exercise

Electric Literature shared an excerpt from Susan Choi’s forthcoming novel Trust Exercise.


Rolling Stone profiled singer-songwriter Lucy Dacus.


March's best eBook deals.

eBook on sale for $1.99 today:

One World: A global anthology of short stories


Alejandro Escovedo played a Tiny Desk Concert.


Oprah Magazine recommended must-read Stephen King novels.


Stream a new Cate Le Bon song.


Stylist recommended television series based on books.


Stream a new John Vanderslice song.


The Guardian listed the top toxic families in fiction.


Pitchfork profiled the band Priests.


Laurie Halse Anderson talked to Salon about her memoir Shout.


Stream a new song by Josephine Wiggs.


Full Stop interviewed author Andrew Ridker.


The Beths covered Death Cab for Cutie's "Soul Meets Body."


The Rumpus Book Club interviewed author T Kira Madden.


The Wall Street Journal profiled Grimes' Claire Boucher.


The Los Angeles Review of Books interviewed author Duke Haney.


Stream a new ANOHNI song.


Bookforum interviewed author Geoff Dyer.


Stream a new AA Bondy song.


Bryan Washington discussed his story collection Lot with the Paris Review.


Stream a new song by Broken Social Scene.


TIME shared an excerpt from Damon Young's memoir What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker.


The Current shared a recent live performance by Sharon Van Etten.


The 2019 Whiting Award recipients have been announced.


NPR Music is streaming Grupo Fantasma's new album, American Music Vol. VII.


Laila Lalami talked books and reading with the New York Times.


The Young Folks ranked every Jenny Lewis song.


Chef Thomas Keller discussed his favorite books at Vulture.


Aquarium Drunkard shared a Calypso mixtape.


The Creative Independent interviewed author Alison Duncan.



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

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

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


March 20, 2019

Chelsey Johnson's Playlist for Her Novel "Stray City"

Stray City

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

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

Chelsey Johnson's novel Stray City is a propulsive and engaging debut.

The New York Times wrote of the book:

"Diverse and colorful . . . a vibrant portrait of a woman coming into her own, in a city also coming into its own, brimming with music, art and beauty . . . a thoughtful and joyous literary experience that celebrates its characters and liberally rewards its readers."


In her own words, here is Chelsey Johnson's Book Notes music playlist for her debut novel Stray City:



“Schizophrenia” by Sonic Youth

This song is like a translation of human interiority itself into sound. Forget the lyrics, the instrumentation is what I feel in my bones: dissonance as a way of being, alleged ugliness made beautiful, friction that generates heat. Halfway through, a quiet, heart-thudding tension builds until the song breaks into a frantic run, a feeling that could be panic or euphoria or both, like that first queer kiss. When she first hears it, Andrea is seventeen and she’s making out with a girl for the first time, and along with the lust and thrill and fear of that moment, the warm body entwined with hers, the sound is reverberating through the wooden floor she’s lying on and into her entire body. Andrea isn’t me, but for both of us, music and music cultures are inextricable from our burgeoning selves and identities and communities. I gave her this song at this catalytic moment of her youth, the breaking point between the self she has been trained to be and the self she will actually become.

“Josh Has A Crush on a Femme From Reed” by New Bad Things

A 1995 Candy-Ass Records catalog describes the New Bad Things as a band that had more members than songs. Raucous, shambolic, exuberant, this song captures the feeling of that era of Portland when people lived cheaply and piled into bands as if they were porch couches. And it’s about a man lusting for a lesbian. Relevant!

“Fuk Shit Up” by Blatz

Has any teenage band ever so gleefully assaulted the norms of sonic and feminine decency as Blatz (and their followers Raooul and Tourettes)? What finer siren to lure novice queer Andrea down a dormitory hallway and into the room of her future girlfriend, best friend, and betrayer?

“Fagetarian and Dyke” by Team Dresch

In the Venn diagram of queer / punk / Portland / nineties, Team Dresch fills the glowing hot center. No recording can capture how riveting and electrifying this band is live, or what they’ve meant to a generation (or two or three) of queers coming of age. Choosing just one song is impossible so here’s the opening salvo of their first album, full of yearning and fuck-yous and testing out love.

“Cold Cold Water” by Mirah

Both desperate and delicate, radiant with pain, this must be the best song ever written about nonmonogamy gone wrong. At the opening of Stray City, Andrea’s still staggering through the emotional fallout of a busted-open relationship, and this miniature epic unfurls how that feels.

“Damaged Goods” by Gang of Four

When you feel like damaged goods, unlovable and wrong, you’re susceptible to taking what you can get even when you know better. Your kiss so sweet, your sweat so sour: what a prickly, analytical takedown of lust this Gang of Four classic is, yet it’s ridiculously danceable. The mind says no, the body says yes.

“My Secret Sex Friend” by Free Kitten

A short, propulsive blast that captures the frenetic, heart-thudding feeling of transgression.

“Let’s Go Away” by the Wipers

An iconic, old-school Portland band gets at the restlessness that drives Ryan—“being stuck in one place too long/ makes me itchy to move”—as well as his longing to haul the girl he’s obsessed with away from her insular world that has no room for him. This song would play on the tape deck as they’re driving to the Oregon coast for a surreptitious getaway.

“Love $$$” by Helium

That foggy wooziness to Mary Timony’s guitar and her airy, insistent voice capture a feeling of dissociation, of being in a relationship with someone that’s severing you from your sense of self. Look at yourself/ you’re like someone you knew.

“Different Drum” by the Stone Poneys

Linda Ronstadt’s biting step-off song plays cheery and upbeat even as it delivers a fatal blow to a guy’s illusions about his chances with the narrator. In Stray City, it plays a key role in a karaoke scene at a lesbian bar. (Note: this song is deceptively hard to sing at karaoke. Even if you practice.)

“Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t Have)” by the Buzzcocks

Part II of the novel shifts to lovelorn Ryan on the lam. He happens to be wearing an old Buzzcocks T-shirt for the entirety of this hail-Mary attempt to change the game with Andrea. But of course Buzzcocks singer Pete Shelley was as gay as she is. Poor Ryan—he can’t escape it.

“I Don’t Think I’m Ever Gonna Figure It Out” by Elliott Smith

Portland’s patron saint of plaintive dissatisfaction sums up the wall Ryan hits. Sometimes, the only thing you can figure out is that you actually never will figure it out.

“Unsatisfied” by the Replacements

Chiming guitars and Paul Westerberg’s ragged-edged voice make for a gorgeous primal howl of unhappiness. The song, barely articulate to start with, breaks down entirely at the end, finally so exhausted by trying to communicate that it just gives up on language altogether.

“The Fairest of the Seasons” by Nico

An artful heartbreaker that walks along the precipice of a fateful choice and tries to untangle every strand of possibility and consequence: “Do I stay or do I go/ and do I have to do just one/ and can I choose again if I should lose the reason?”

“When the Open Road is Closing In” by the Magnetic Fields

This song is for Ryan, and if you’ve ever driven all night, this song is also for you. This happens to be the first Magnetic Fields song I ever heard, and by the end of the brilliant first two lines I was all in.

“Sunday” by the Spinanes

This record came out of Portland twenty-five years ago and it still sounds so fresh and buoyant. I think Ryan’s drumming would have sounded similar to Scott Plouf’s—taut, straightforward, energetic. Extra affinity to singer/guitarist Rebecca Gates, one of the other four artists on the Signal Fire wilderness residency where I figured out the ending of Stray City; I was writing in my notebook and getting obsessed with animal tracks behind my tent while she was drawing waveforms of tree sounds and listening to rocks.

“I Never Want to See You Again” by Quasi

A jaunty, bitter, pithy eight-line song about fundamental incompatibility from the iconic Portland duo of Janet Weiss and Sam Coomes, who can write a wry fuck-you like no one else. We purchase pleasure and pay for it with hurt / And we rarely get our money’s worth.

“Right Track Now” by Dump

Spotify fail here: neither Roky Erickson’s original nor Dump’s lovely 1998 cover can be streamed here. But trust me that it is so very worth it to track down this tender epistolary gem from James McNew (more famous for his membership in Yo La Tengo.) Recorded on a four-track, it feels intimate and wistful. The musical equivalent to a rueful, hopeful letter Ryan never sends.

“No One’s Little Girl” by the Raincoats

On to Part III! Here we turn to the future—or at least the future of the past, the ancient time of 2009—and nearly-ten-year-old Lucia. The first time I heard this song I fell in love with it: the lilting violin and marveling bass line, the song’s girlishness and refusal of girlishness at the same time, an uncharacteristically lush sound for the scrappy punk heroines. “I never shall be on your family tree, even if you ask me to.” It’s fitting for a kid who’s starting to figure out who she is and how complex the meaning of family can be.

“Inimigo” by Mercenárias

A blistering 1982 Brazilian post-punk song for Beatriz by the all-woman trio Mercenárias. Several Brazilian musicians came to work at the girls rock camp in the years I volunteered there, brought by longstanding connections and exchanges with the Portland queer punk community. Some came for a week, others returned summer after summer, and they took what they’d learned and started a rock camp in São Paulo. I think Beatriz would have listened to Mercenárias while she was growing up in São Paulo; she would have seen in this local band a liberating template for another kind of life. Which would lead her to Portland, and to this fortuitous collision with Lucia and Andrea.

“Little Yellow Lemon” by Blübird

Straight out of girls’ rock camp, then-tiny Una Rose made this song by long-lost ‘90s Portland songwriter Cheralee Dillon utterly her own. There’s a lush, swoony version of Blubird performing this live at the Crystal Ballroom when the band members are like, eleven years old, and it’s nape-tinglingly perfect. This recorded official version is cleaner and more upbeat but you get the idea.

“Swan Island” by Marisa Anderson

Closing out with a gentle number from Portland guitar hero and mentor Marisa Anderson. I think this song could belong to any of this novel’s main characters. It’s a song about losing and finding, leaving the door open, and not quite knowing what to say. Swan Island is an industrial park in Portland, a fabulist name for a grim place, and you can sit on the grassy bluffs above it and look out over the warehouses and train tracks and the Willamette River beyond. That grit and beauty side by side are the reality of what makes the city tick. And Anderson’s kindness in this song embraces that kind of human complexity as well.


Chelsey Johnson and Stray City links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

Kirkus review
Minneapolis Star Tribune review
New York Times review
Publishers Weekly review

CarolineLeavittville interview with the author
Lambda Literary interview with the author
Los Angeles Times interview with the author
Out essay by the author
Tin House interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

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

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


Shorties (An Excerpt from the Anthology What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About, An Interview with Jessica Pratt, and more)

What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About

The Sewanee Review shared Melissa Febos's essay from the anthology, What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About.


Drowned in Sound interviewed singer-songwriter Jessica Pratt.


March's best eBook deals.

eBook on sale for $1.99 today:

Fly Away Home by Marge Piercy


Mitski covered Bleachers' "Let's Get Married."


Mira Jacob discussed her new graphic memoir, Good Talk, with The Millions.


Stream a new song by Truth Club.


Janalyn Guo discussed her story collection, Our Colony Beyond the City of Ruins, with Vol. 1 Brooklyn.


Tiny Mix Tapes interviewed Cruel Diagonals' Megan Mitchell.


Halle Butler discussed one of my favorite novels of the year, The New Me, with All Things Considered.


NPR Music is streaming Ex Hex's new album, It's Real.


BuzzFeed recommended spring's best books.


Stream a new Avey Tare song.


Stylist recommended 2019's best science fiction and fantasy books written by women.


Jenny Lewis talked to The A.V. Club, NME, and The Cut about her new album, On the Line.


Tayari Jones discussed her novel, An American Marriage, with WUNC.


The New York Observer previewed spring's most anticipated albums.


Jamming Their Transmissions interviewed author Robert Lopez.


Stream a new song by Wand.


Vol. 1 Brooklyn shared an excerpt from Dmitry Samarov’s forthcoming book Music to My Eyes.


Stream a new Joyero song.


The Witch Haunt interviewed author Gabino Iglesias.


Stream a new Weyes Blood song.


Stream a new song by An Horse.



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

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

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


March 18, 2019

HM Naqvi's Playlist for His Novel "The Selected Works of Abdullah the Cossack"

The Selected Works of Abdullah the Cossack

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

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

HM Naqvi's novel The Selected Works of Abdullah the Cossack is inventive, fun, and wholly evocative of its setting, Karachi.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"A love story, a caper, a family dust-up, a farce—prizewinning Pakistani writer Naqvi’s second novel offers all these things, yet they matter less than its lovingly evoked milieu, the uniquely vibrant neighborhoods and characters, culture, history, architecture, and aromas of the city. Infused with the spirit of Tristram Shandy, a sophisticated shaggy dog story for those happy to take the slow road and its many detours."


In his own words, here is HM Naqvi's Book Notes music playlist for his novel The Selected Works of Abdullah the Cossack:



Abdullah the Cossack, my three-hundred-something-pound septuagenarian hero, is the scion of a family that owned and operated the best jazz joint this side of the Suez once upon a time. The Shadow Lounge was frequented by those who “knew their Bird from Beiderbecke.” Jazz was big in Karachi in the old days – the likes of Dizzy Gillespie famously sold out concerts downtown. Consequently, Abdullah digs jazz. And since he came of age in the late Sixties, he’s also into late rock-and-roll. In more recent times, he developed an appreciation for qawwali or “Muslim soul” – a genre popular across the northern swath of the Subcontinent. Since there is some Abdullah in me and some me in Abdullah, however, I will also include some tracks that I played in the background while transcribing his voice on the page late into the night. He’s not the boss of me.

1) Tito Puente’s Take Five

Early on, Abdullah attempts to distill the experience of taking in “Take Five” in the context of Karachi, a city by the sea: “‘Take Five’ is like you are flying, arms extended, inhaling the beach…on a cool December evening, duddud-duddud-da-da-da, duddud-duddud-da-da-da. You see floodlights lighting up loping camels, and miniature families huddled around miniature stalls preparing corn on charcoal. If you are lucky, you see a woman dancing in the surf, her wispy aquamarine dupatta fluttering in the breeze.” There’s a version for everybody, everywhere: Dave Brubeck’s original, Chet Atkins mellow rendition, Herbie Hanock’s muscular one, not to mention Al Jarreau’s delightfully wacky spoken-work composition. I for one am partial to Tito Puente’s.

2) Theolonious Monk’s “In Walked Bud”

I must include Thelonious Monk’s “In Walked Bud” from the album Underground – it’s so much goddamn fun. Who the hell is Bud? And what happens next? (For the record, I could add Dexter Gordan’s “Tanya” or Lee Morgan’s “The Gigolo” – jaunty numbers quicken the pulse and animate the spirit, but both Abdullah and I have other interests than jazz…).

3) Lee Moses’ “Bad Girl”

My “gloriously unaccomplished” hero considers launching himself off his balcony upon realizing he has turned seventy and led a “fallow life,” but is saved by the gaze of a mysterious lady ambling down the street outside his dilapidated mansion. Lee Moses’ “Bad Girl” comes to mind (though I suspect the Cossack might have picked Cliff Richard’s arguably apt “Devil Woman” instead). Such a resonant voice, such a moving track.

4) The Zombies’ Time of the Season

Old Cossack cannot remember the last time he’d attracted the attention of the fairer sex. He is stirred by the cursory consideration, and what better number of the time evokes the sensation than “Time of the Season,” – “a veritable classic,” he’d aver.

5) Frankie Valli’s “The Night”

Like me, Abdullah reads and writes at night. “I have lived,” he declaims, “oft thrived at night…Carpe Diem? No, Carpe Noctis!” Frankie Valli’s “The Night” is perhaps the most appropriate number for the purpose of this exercise (but, for the record, I will note that his epic disco era “Soul and Heaven” is also a personal favorite.)

6) Future Islands’ “Sun in the Morning”

There are days when one has difficulty dragging one’s self out of bed in the morning. Abdullah has known to spend days in bed, marinating in misery. This lovely number can do the trick for me.

7) Leonard Cohen’s “First We Take Manhattan”

Since I came to Cohen relatively late – late Eighties, early Nineties – I usually prefer relatively later Cohen (but not very late Cohen), in particular, “I’m Your Man” and the “Future.” “First We Take Manhattan” is a fast, tense listen, alluding to some forgotten fight, battle, certain grit. You need grit to embark on a novel, grit to complete one.

8) Flaming Lips’ “Flight Test”

Yoshimi’s valor in the face of a material or figurative foe has always been inspiring, though who know what Yoshimi Battles The Robots is really about? It sounds to me like a soundtrack of movie that was never made. The refrain from “Flight Test,” the first number, has great resonance: “I don’t where the sun beams end/ and the star lights begin – it’s all a mystery.” (It recalls another great Flaming track that goes, “You realize the sun doesn’t go down/ It’s just an illusion by the world spinning around.”) It always gets me.

9) Fire Inc.’s Nowhere Fast

At this juncture, I must insert a single from the real soundtrack of a forgotten film, Walter Hill’s Streets of Fire. It’s a rousing number, a classic from the canon of Eighties pop, and might suggest the trajectory of my protagonist. (If you want more, there’s “Tonight is What it Means to Be Young” or Dan Hartman’s evergreen “I Can Dream About You.)

10) The Knife’s “Pass This On”

A melodious number by a moody Swedish all-female band features a fantastic video starring an attractive transvestite attempting to rouse a languid audience in some community space somewhere in Swedish archipelago. It’s not only a must listen but a must watch.

11) Sanam Marvi’s “Ith Nahin”

Known as a folk singer, Sanam Marvvi took the airwaves in Pakistan and India by storm with “Ith Nahin,” a spiritually inflected number included in the Coke Studio sessions a few years ago. The Selected Works can be read literally but I like to think it can also be read as a religious allegory that contends with the proverbial Fall from Grace.

12) Abu Mohammed and Farid Ayaz’s “Kangna”

The origins of qawwali can be traced back a millennium to Delhi. The form continues to exert influence over the northern swath of the Subcontinent. Although not strictly qawwali, “Kangna” is a composition that contends in part with unrequited love.

13) Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s (and Michael Brook’s) Sweet Pain (Remix)

Before he died at 49, the three-hundred-something-pound Khan was the reigning heavyweight of qawwali and Pakistan’s leading cultural export: his voice and work has been featured in soundtracks from The Last Temptation of Christ to Dead Man Walking to Natural Born Killers. He can still be heard on every street in Pakistan, from malls to tea stalls. (I would have liked to include some traditional qawwalis – say, the Sabri Brothers’ “Saray Lankan Mankan,” “Ya Mohammed Noor-e-Majasam” – but the tracks might not up the uninitiated’s alley).

14) Lisa Stanfield’s I’m Leavin' (Hex Hector Mix)

Because we should end on a high note, I must include this final anthem, an assertion of independence. (I could have also included old favorites such as The Supermen Lovers’ “Starlight” and KLF’s “Justified and Ancient,” or newer ones like Hercules and Love Affair’s “Blind (Hex Hector Mix) or the Gnarls Barkley-Paul Oakenfold collaboration, “Fallin’,” but we all have to wake up in the morning.)


HM Naqvi and The Selected Works of Abdullah the Cossack links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

Booklist review
The Hindu review
Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review

India Today interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

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

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


Shorties (Laurie Halse Anderson on Her New Memoir-in-Verse, An Interview with Jenny Lewis, and more)

Shout

Laurie Halse Anderson discussed her new memoir-in-verse Shout with Weekend Edition.


The Los Angeles Times profiled singer-songwriter Jenny Lewis.

Stream a new song by Lewis.


March's best eBook deals.

eBooks on sale for $1.99 today:


Stream a new Hey Cowboy! song.


The Guardian interviewed Nikesh Shukla about the anthology he edited, The Good Immigrant.


R.I.P., guitarist Dick Dale.


Granta and Literary Hub shared excerpts from Summer Brennan's new book, High Heel.


The Current shared sets by Andrew Bird, Cherry Glazerr, and Justin Townes Earle from their SXSW day party.


Amber Tamblyn discussed her new book Era of Ignition with Read It Forward.


Drowned in Sound and Stereogum reconsidered Blur's 13 album on its 20th anniversary.


The Millions interviewed cartoonist James Sturm.


PopMatters interviewed Cherry Glazer's Clementine Creevy.


The Los Angeles Review of Books interviewed author Steph Post.


Stream a couple of live songs by Mountain Man.


BuzzFeed shared an excerpt from Elizabeth McCracken's novel Bowlaway.


The Lou Reed Archive is now open at the New York Public Library.


Designer Isaac Mizrahi discussed his favorite books at Vulture.


Stream a new song by Fauness.


R.I.P., poet W. S. Merwin.


The Quietus reviewed the coffee table book, The Butthole Surfers: What Does Regret Mean.


The Observer profiled author Marlon James.


Book Riot recommended LGBTQ+ books by Canadian authors.


Etaf Rum discussed her novel A Woman Is No Man with the Los Angeles Review of Books.


Dave Eggers talked to the Guardian about his new novel, The Parade.


The Los Angeles Review of Books interviewed author Frederic Tuten.



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

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

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


March 15, 2019

Shorties (Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness at 50, A Profie of Helado Negro's Roberto Carlos Lange, and more)

The Left Hand of Darkness

The Paris Review reconsidered Ursula K. Le Guin's novel The Left Hand of Darkness on the 50th anniversary of its publication.


Billboard profiled Helado Negro's Roberto Carlos Lange.


March's best eBook deals.


NPR Music shared a history of Woody Guthrie's song, "This Land Is Your Land."


Stream a new Baroness song.


The Boston Globe interviewed cartoonist Bill Griffith.


Stream a new song by the Head and the Heart.


The Rumpus interviewed author Josh Denslow.


NYCTaper shared a recording of a recent show by guitarist Ryley Walker.


The New York Times recommended the week's best new books.


Alicia Keys will publish a memoir in November.


BOMB features a new short story by Laura van den Berg.



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

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

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


March 14, 2019

Joseph Scapellato's Playlist for His Novel "The Made-Up Man"

The Made-Up Man

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

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

Joseph Scapellato's novel The Made-Up Man is one of the most fun books I have read all year, a smart and absurdist take on noir.

NPR Books wrote of the book:

"Joseph Scapellato's The Made-Up Man reminds me of a bacon-topped doughnut — a mixture of incongruent elements that somehow work well together. And like that sweet treat, Scapellato's blend of existential noir, absurdist humor, literary fiction, and surreal exploration of performance art merges into something special ... The Made-Up Man is a rare novel that is simultaneously smart and entertaining. It looks at the ways we perform ourselves, through the experiences of a man floating in a haze after the academic career and the relationship that grounded him and gave him a sense of self are no longer there ... This is a strange book, but just like with food, trying new things can lead to pleasant surprises."


In his own words, here is Joseph Scapellato's Book Notes music playlist for his novel The Made-Up Man:



In The Made-Up Man, the narrator, a Polish-American Chicagoan named Stanley, agrees to apartment-sit in Prague for his maniacal Uncle Lech, even though he knows that in doing so, he’ll be placed at the center of one of his uncle’s dangerous performance art projects. Stanley accepts this proposal mostly because T, the woman he loves, will be in Prague at the same time. The performance art project—which happens to be film-noir-themed—mines Stanley’s personal life for material in increasingly sinister ways.

One of my initial goals for the novel was to attempt to write an “inverted noir”—to find ways to subvert, challenge, and interrogate the most recognizable genre conventions of film noir/detective narratives. (Thankfully, the novel grew past that, which I’ve talked about here.)

The songs on this playlist reflect some of these elements of the novel.

“St. Mary’s Trumpet Call”/“Hejnal mariacki,” anonymous

This beautifully haunting tune is played on the hour by a trumpeter stationed in the highest tower of St. Mary’s Church in Krakow, Poland. The song is short; it ends abruptly, the last phrase intentionally incomplete. According to legend, at some point in the 13th century a watchman on duty in St. Mary’s Church spotted an invading enemy army and played this song to alert his fellow citizens. He didn’t finish the song—he was shot in the throat with an arrow.

“The Beautiful People,” Antichrist Superstar, Marilyn Manson

I was never into Manson’s music, but I have to admit that I’ve always been impressed with his commitment to theatricality and spectacle, to his impassioned apathy, to the image he worked to project of nihilistic bravery. In junior high and high school, I had friends (and briefly, a girlfriend) who—like the narrator of my novel—really dug Manson, who wore trench coats and red contact lenses and black lipstick and dog collars. Whenever I think of 90s goth culture, I think of the catchy, sludgy, doom-inducing riffs of “The Beautiful People.”

“Metagoth,” All Nerve, The Breeders

The Deal sisters have been kicking ass since the '90s. Last summer, when I was finishing the proofs on my novel, my wife and I saw the Breeders play a show in Chicago. There’s something about the sound of their most recent album, All Nerve, that evokes their beginnings in alternative rock—the guitar distortion, the bass lines?—but at the same time, they’re by no means mucking around in nostalgia-land; they continue to carve out their own contemporary voice.

Live-Evil, Miles Davis

Jazz and film noir go together like whiskey and cigars. It’s not hard to imagine any one of Miles Davis’ early albums serving as a magnificent score for a certain sort of classic film noir, the kind with smartly dressed men and women ruining each other’s lives. But Live-Evil—wow. I don’t possess a musician/music critic’s professional terminology, but what I love about this album is how it seems to gleefully undermine jazz conventions in a hypnotic onslaught of experimental funk. An ingenious, intense, and subversive album.

“Turning Violent,” Embryonic, The Flaming Lips

I’ve seen The Flaming Lips in concert a few times, and although their recent set lists generally include a sampling from most of their (many) albums, they seem to steer clear of anything from Embryonic. I can understand why—it’s a majestically gloomy album, and when The Flaming Lips are playing live, majestic gloom isn’t what they’re going for. I love this album for its thematic and tonal departure.

“FEEL.,” DAMN., Kendrick Lamar

DAMN. is a multimodal masterpiece. Again, I lack the musical terminology to talk with any competence about the nature of Kendrick Lamar’s brilliance, so I’ll just say that “FEEL.” is one of my favorite tracks. I love its supercharged focus on form—the many sharp riffs on feeling—and its escalating confessional energy. For me, this song is a deep plunge into a character, and through that character, into a bigger American moment.

“You Won’t Let Go,” Sister Crystals, Sister Crystals

In 2014, I was living in Chicago, working intensely on my novel, and feeling like I was failing at it. One day, while I was stuck in traffic on my way to see my folks in the suburbs, this song came on a local college radio station. It was one of those moments where what you’re listening to is exactly what you didn’t know you needed. I had to go to the station’s website to find out the name of the band, and when I did, I bought the album right away.

“In Heaven There Is No Beer,” various artists

The finest polka song in existence. When my wife and I (and now our daughter, too) attend an event that features a polka band—which, in Chicago/Chicagoland and Central Pennsylvania, happens more often than you might think!—this is the song that I always hope to have a chance to dance to.


Joseph Scapellato and The Made-Up Man links:

the author's website

Chicago Review review
Los Angeles Review of Books review
NPR Books review


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

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

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


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