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February 19, 2018

Book Notes - Cheston Knapp "Up Up, Down Down"

Up Up, Down Down

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

The essays in Cheston Knapp's collection Up Up, Down Down are funny, sharp, and smart explorations of identity.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"Takes a firmly tongue-in-cheek approach to the existential crises of male maturity for the millennial generation… Knapp's philosophizing is kept lively by exuberant and sometimes acerbically funny descriptions… This intelligent take on coming-of-age deserves to be widely read, if only for its effortless-seeming form and its expression of how style and content are irrevocably intertwined."


In his own words, here is Cheston Knapp's Book Notes music playlist for his essay collection Up Up, Down Down:



I'm on this fine site today to promote a book of my word noodlings by the title of Up Up, Down Down. For lack of a better term these noodlings have been called "essays." And in a sick taxonomical joke, so too is this jazzy listicle called an "essay." Anyhoo, I rarely listened to music when I was writing this book—it's hard enough for me to hear through the rampant static in my head—but when I did, it was often wordless ditties, like stuff by Max Richter and John Fahey and Bill Evans. But for this thingamabob here I'll go ahead and give you a little précis of each piece and then a song or two that might capture its spirit. I've also given myself the extra challenge of creating the least listener-friendly playlist in the history of playlists.

Faces of Pain
This piece is made up of two parallel tracks. It's half a profile of an independent professional wrestling promotion in Portland and half a wimpy-ish, Sad Boi excavation of my past hurts, my pain. In emoji you'd spell this thing [flexed biceps] [sad-so-sad-cryface-waaaa-sniffles-waaaa]. So for the first half, let's go with Action Bronson's "Barry Horowitz," which so perfectly captures the kabuki-like aggression and swagger of the wrestlers I hung out with. Just a bunch of juiced-up fun. And for the weepy-whiny half, I'd probably say Kirk Van Houten's 'Can I Borrow a Feeling?," which contains the timeless phrase "glove of love." But that's not a real song, so I'll say 'Feelings," by Morris Albert.

Beirut
Not the city, but the drinking game. I was briefly part of a fraternity and we played this game, which sometimes goes by beer pong. There's an anecdote from my experience in the house that didn't make the cut. We had this tradition, which must've started back in the eighties, where at every party we threw, there would come a time when Blondie's "The Tide is High" started to play over the speakers. At this the brothers would gather in two rows on the dance floor and grasp their arms together, creating what I'll call an arm-hammock. Then, one by one, brothers would summit a four-foot platform by the wall, drop their pants to their ankles, and leap into the arm-hammock. They'd then replace a brother in line so he could do the same. And in case you're curious, this didn't make it into the piece because it wasn't fratty enough…

Learning Curves
This one's about Jules Renard's journal and about keeping a journal myself, and falling in love. So, hmm, let's go with pretty much anything by Serge Gainsbourg, who surely ranks among the most improbably sexy humans of all time. But forced to pick just one, I'd say "Je Taime,…Moi Non Plus."

Far from Me
Here we have a little number about Roger Federer, David Foster Wallace, and the anxiety of influence. I'm thinking of two songs for this one. The first is a recording of Chicago's "Hard to Say I'm Sorry" that Roger did with Tommy Haas, Novak Djokovic, and Grigor Dimitrov. I don't think that's on Spotify, though, so I'm picking a song by the band Tennis, "Origins." And then for the influence side it'd have to be Queen's "Under Pressure." RIP Bowie. RIP Freddie Mercury.

Mysteries We Live With
UFOs! The paranormal! So it's gotta be Blink 182's "Aliens Exist." I think I'm late to the knowledge that Tom DeLonge has devoted himself to proving that, yes, aliens exist. Oh, but it's also about having grown up in the church, so for that let's say Jars of Clay's "Flood." Have these two songs ever been played together?

Neighborhood Watch
This one's about my neighbor Peter, who was murdered in his house by a man he was letting stay with him. He was, without a doubt, the life of the neighborhood. He'd always ride around on his bike with a boom box in his handlebar basket. Typically he'd be playing The Beatles or The Grateful Dead, but sometimes classical stuff, too. I'm including Aaron Copland's "Appalachian Spring" here because it was one of his favorites.

Something's Gotta Stick
Skateboarding and nostalgia, an adult portion of both. I skated growing up, but I was also a Sad Boi then, too, the saddest of all Sad Bois, so this has to be some emo from the late 90s. The options are endless! I'll go with "Holiday," by The Get Up Kids, mostly for the line "Remembering's not helping you yet."


Cheston Knapp and Up Up, Down Down links:

the author's website

Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review

Creative Nonfiction 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






February 16, 2018

Book Notes - Ryan McIlvain "The Radicals"

The Radicals

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

Ryan McIlvain's second novel The Radicals is both timely and fascinating.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"The author of Elders (2013) serves up another story of true belief and its discontents, this time set in the time of failing banks, rising inequality, and the Occupy movement…Memorable…A welcome return that will leave readers looking forward to future work from McIlvain."


In his own words, here is Ryan McIlvain's Book Notes music playlist for his novel The Radicals:



Two Scenes from The Radicals, with musical accompaniment!


Who was it that said writing about music is like dancing about architecture? (I've investigated the oft-quoted line, and it turns out its provenance is murky.) I've always admired the quote, its cleverness anyway, and resented it at the same time—its scoffing agnosticism, how it puts up fences and NO TRESPASSING signs in the backyards of the various media.

I'm content to be a trespasser myself, thinking this morning about the music that coursed through my head and my L.A. apartment as I wrote my latest novel, The Radicals. And not just the pieces and songs that inspired the prose but the music that made its way deep into the rhythms and images of the prose, since music matters very deeply to several characters in this book, and since I reject the idea that writing about music, or architecture for that matter, or dancing, or any other artistic medium, is some sort of travesty. A translation? Sure. Changed, bent, refracted through the changing lens of text? Of course—but what's wrong with that?

This territoriality isn't limited to musicians, I should point out—"The meaning of a poem is another poem," said the critic Harold Bloom, in a gorgeous line. Perhaps the most apt, fluent language to speak to art in is the language of that art: music to music, dancing to dancing, poetry to poetry. Yet who would suggest—certainly not Bloom—that writing about poetry in prose is a waste of time?

Climbing down from my little soapbox, and quickly moving to—


Scene One: Aimee Bender's office at the University of Southern California

Books and papers everywhere, art on the walls, rugs overlaying the industrial blue carpet and lending a certain softness to the room. It's the kind of shabby-chic decor that shows how vibrant and loose, how dynamic and un-desiccated an artist-professor's life can be. I'm talking to Aimee, blathering on, my natural state, when somehow Mahler comes up.

"I've been listening to his Kindertotenlieder," I say. "Songs on the Death of Children."

"Jesus," Aimee says—or something like that, some honest oath at the startling heaviness of the subject.

Or maybe she's taken aback by the weird smile on my face—"All one word," I add, "because, you know, German."

It's part of Mahler's courage, I'll later decide, that he managed to experiment and play without ever taking off the mantle of his seriousness. Not everything reduced to a quippy one-liner for the man, or for Aimee either, as it too often did for me. This was late 2013, early 2014 or thereabouts—and Mahler became a kind of ballast against my own light tendencies, my squeamishness with frank emotion in the post-Gawker moment. When one of the characters in my novel, Professor Karen Hahn, mentions a student recital to her TA and sometimes protégé, Eli Lentz, it's no accident that she recommends the Mahler in particular. I see now that some of the calm openness of Aimee's demeanor—and more than that: her writing, her teaching—found its way into my book.

Later that night Eli turns up at the recital venue, an underused church in Greenwich Village with a smattering of the performer's friends and family in the pews, a few gray-haired locals—it's music as secular sacrament. The Mahler pieces on the program are from another set of his lieder or songs, and the showstopper is "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen"—"I Am Lost to the World."

I first heard this piece in a scaled-down piano interpretation, with the unparalleled, sinuous-voiced Lorraine Hunt Lieberson bringing the song to life. I don't think I'd ever heard Hunt Lieberson sing before, but in 2009—


Scene Two: Sharon Gould's apartment living room in Millburn, New Jersey

—my new girlfriend puts her on the CD player and an almost shockingly beautiful voice rises out of the depths of the piano's bass notes, the notes muddled and a little muddy at first, with the mezzo soprano's voice like something flowering, something pushing up through the earth. I should mention it's dark in the room and the mood romantic—music as a very different kind of sacrament. A few years later Sharon and I will marry, and along the way we'll trot out old favorites for each other like Fiona Apple's "I Know," Led Zeppelin's "Going to California," Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come"—and of course it's no accident that these songs made it into the novel too.

Tonight it's about the Mahler, though, and that quietly shocking sincerity in the notes, and in Lorraine Hunt Lieberson's breath of life. It's the perfect soundtrack to fall in love to.

I did, and Eli will as well, with the gifted musician whose recital he's turned up to on a kind of whim, or maybe on one of the universe's earnest errands.


Ryan McIlvain and The Radicals links:

the author's website

Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review

Largehearted Boy Book Notes playlist by the author for Elders
Signature essay by the author
Tampa Bay Times interview with the author
Vanity Fair profile of 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


This Week's Interesting Music Releases - February 16, 2018

U.S. Girls

This week I can recommend Brandi Carlile's By The Way, I Forgive You, Jim White's Waffles, Triangles & Jesus, Laurie Anderson & Kronos Quartet's Landfall, Ought's Room Inside The World, and U.S. Girls' In A Poem Unlimited.

Vinyl reissues include Nina Simone's At Town Hall, Songs: Ohia's Travels In Constants, and Sun Kil Moon's Ghosts of the Great Highway.


This week's interesting music releases:


Alva Noto & Ryuichi Sakamoto: Glass
American Nightmare: American Nightmare
Bardo Pond: Volume 8 [vinyl]
Beach Boys: Surfin' Safari (reissue) [vinyl]
Belle & Sebastian: How To Solve Our Human Problems
Belle & Sebastian: How To Solve Our Human Problems 3 EP
Bjork: Gling Glo (reissue)
Born Ruffians: Uncle, Duke & The Chief
Brandi Carlile: By The Way, I Forgive You
Car Seat Headrest: Twin Fantasy
Charles Mingus: Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus (reissue) [vinyl]
The Cranberries: No Need To Argue (reissue) [vinyl]
Dashboard Confessional: Crooked Shadows [vinyl]
The Dears: No Cities Left (reissue) [vinyl]
Everything Is Recorded: Everything Is Recorded by Richard Russell
Fischerspooner: Sir
Great Lake Swimmers: Bodies and Minds (reissue) [vinyl]
I'm With Her: See You Around
Jim White: Waffles, Triangles & Jesus
John Coltrane: Chasing Trane (soundtrack) [vinyl]
John Coltrane: My Favorite Things[vinyl]
Kendrick Lamar: DAMN. (Collectors Edition) (2-LP) [vinyl]
Laurie Anderson & Kronos Quartet: Landfall
Loma: Loma
Marlon Williams: Make Way For Love
Molly Hatchett: 5 in 1 (5-CD box set)
Neal Morse: Life & Times
Nina Simone: At Town Hall (reissue) [vinyl]
Nipsey Hussle: Victory Lap
Ought: Room Inside The World
Pianos Become the Teeth: Wait For Love
The Plot In You: Dispose
Poliça and s t a r g a z e: Music for the Long Emergency
Pop Evil: Pop Evil
Ride: Tomorrow's Shore EP
Ryuichi Sakamoto: Async Remodels
Senses Fail: If There Is Light, It Will Find You
Shannon and the Clams: Onion
Songs: Ohia: Travels In Constants EP (reissue) [vinyl]
Sonny Rollins: Way Out West (reissue)

Sun Kil Moon: Ghosts of the Great Highway (reissue) [vinyl]
Superchunk: What A Time To Be Alive
Teenage Fanclub: Grand Prix (reissue) [vinyl]
U.S. Girls: In A Poem Unlimited
Various Artists: Call Me By Your Name (soundtrack) [vinyl]
Walter Martin: Reminisce Bar & Grill
Wild Beasts: Last Night All My Dreams Came True


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

weekly music release lists

Book Notes (authors create music playlists for their book)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily book and music news and links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)


Shorties (Joyce Carol Oates Interviewed, Courtney Barnett on Her New Album, and more)

The Guardian and Literary Hub podcast interviewed author Joyce Carol Oates.


Pitchfork interviewed singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett.


February's best eBook deals.


Stream Fanny's first new song in 44 years.


Terese Marie Mailhot on Maggie Nelson’s Bluets.


Members of the band Son Lux answered questions from the Reddit community.


Electric Literature features new fiction by Lydia Davis and Ali Shapiro.


Stream a new of Montreal song.


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


The A.V. Club went behind the scenes with a Led Zeppelin cover band.


The Washington Post recommended the best recently published crime novels.


Smash Mouth covered Car Seat Headrest's "Something Soon."


Paste interviewed Tee Franklin & Gail Simone about their graphic novel Bingo Love.


Brandi Carlile discussed her new album By The Way, I Forgive You with Rolling Stone.


Signature recommended books that celebrate how words shape our lives.


Stream a new Brazilian Girls song.


Poet Tom Sleigh interviewed himself at The Nervous Breakdown.


Stream a new Kitten song.


Eileen Myles discussed their memoir Afterglow with the Guardian.


Best Coast covered Sheryl Crow's "If It Makes You Happy."


Literary Hub shared a new essay by Michael Nye.


Stream a new Lifted Bells song.


ERica Garza discussed her memoir Getting Off with The Rumpus.


Stream a new Albert Hammond Jr. song.


Stream a new Helena Deland song.


To Kill a Mockingbird is coming to Broadway.


Low covered Al Green's "Let's Stay Together."


Crime novelists on their favorite crime novels at GQ.


Pitchfork examined the lasting power of Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea album.



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


February 15, 2018

Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week - February 15, 2018

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

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


Freshwater

Freshwater
by Akwaeke Emezi

A debut novel by a queer writer that is surreal as it is intimate. It tells a mythic story of trying to mend the gap between bodies and selves. This is a book that feels bright and necessary.


Asymmetry

Asymmetry
by Lisa Halliday

Another debut novel! Three stories intersect in ways that are initially unclear. This is a mystery novel in the most unusual ways. Part of the mystery comes in untying the knot of connections and peering into an exploded world.


The Escapist

Michael Chabon's The Escapist

It's always fun to see novels inspire comics, and vice versa. This book is a unique project, with author Michael Chabon compiling 30 comic artists who have illustrated over two dozen stories of The Escapist - the so-called "great lost superhero of the Golden Age" that inspired his novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.


Cabinet 64, The Nose

Cabinet 64, The Nose

Cabinet is a perennial gem. I love it in part for its imaginative dive into obscure themes, and in part because the writing published is so uniquely and rigorously researched. Check out their latest issue on the often overloooked Nose.


Lagom

Lagom
by Steffi Knowles-Dellner

Let's all learn from the Scandinavians. Following hygge, the Danish way to live cozily, and döstädning, the Swedish art of death cleaning, comes, LAGOM, the Swedish art of eating harmoniously. This is an attractive recipe book that shares wisdom on how to eat according to seasons, occasions, times of day, and appetite.


Librairie Drawn & Quarterly links:

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


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

other Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week

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


Shorties (Recommended New and Forthcoming Debut Novels, New Music from Beach House, and more)

Signature recommended new and forthcoming debut novels.


Stream a new Beach House song.


February's best eBook deals.


Stream a new Tracey Thorn song.


Full Stop shared an excerpt from Jonathan Russell Clark's book An Oasis of Horror in a Desert of Boredom: Roberto Bolano's 2666.


FACT remembered composer Johann Johansson.


Tobias Carroll on fiction that deals with illness and injury at Vol. 1 Brooklyn.


NPR Music is streaming Darlingside's new album Extralife.


BuzzFeed shared an excerpt from Tee Franklin's graphic novel Bingo Love.


Craig Wedren discussed Shudder To Think's major label debut Pony Express Record with Treble.


Author Kristin Hannah talked books and reading with the New York Times.


Stream a new song by Drowze.


BBC News profiled publisher And Other Stories, which is only publishing woman authors in 2018.


Drowned in Sound profiled South Korean indie rock band Say Sue Me.

It’s a rarity to find surf-inspired, indie rock that feels so utterly unaffected; a record that is absolutely present, and yet perfectly summons youthful concerns, feelings, and attitudes (even if you’re at the point where that seems a distant, hazy memory). From the impish irreverence of the title track to the summit climbing guitar line of ‘Crying Episode’, Say Sue Me’s music has an irrepressible magnetism.


Tayari Jones talked to Morning Edition about her new novel An American Marriage.


Stream a new Courtney Barnett song.


Happy 70th birthday, Art Spiegelman!


Paste recommended new British bands you need to know.


The Mary Sue interviewed Jen Wang about her graphic novel The Prince and the Dressmaker.


Bustle profiled Carrie Brownstein.


Paste interviewed Belle and Sebastian's Stuart Murdoch.


Entropy interviewed author Elena Georgiou .


Frank Ocean covered "Moon River."


Dani Shapiro on balancing writing and social media at Literary Hub.


NPR Music is streaming Caroline Rose's new album Loner.


Literary Hub shared an excerpt from Lisa Halliday's debut novel Asymmetry.


Stream new music from Wye Oak.


The Los Angeles Review of Books interviewed poet Vievee Francis.


Living Hour covered Francoise Hardy's "Tous Les Garçons Et Les Filles."


Guernica features new short fiction by Jac Jemc.


Stream a new Ryan Adams song.


Karl Ove Knausgaard on his literary road trip through Russia.


Stream a new S. Carey song.


Literary Hub recommended the week's essential book reviews.


Stream a new song by Femi Kuti.


Electric Literature examined the Bronx's burgeoning literary scene.


Stream new music from Oneida.


Independent publicists discussed their craft with Poets & Writers.


Stream a new Julianne Barwick song.


Literary Hub shared Jenny Erpenbeck's introduction to the new edition of Walter Kempowski's All for Nothing.


Stream a new song by The Drums.



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


February 14, 2018

Book Notes - Tim Wirkus "The Infinite Future"

The Infinite Future

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

Tim Wirkus's novel The Infinite Future is brilliant and inventive, one of the year's best books.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"Stupendously inventive and rewarding…The second half of Wirkus' tale is…a sci-fi epic which echoes Battlestar Galactica and the fiction of Ursula K. Le Guin in equal measure…Especially well suited for fans of Jonathan Lethem and Ron Currie, this work announces Wirkus as one of the most exciting novelists of his generation."


In his own words, here is Tim Wirkus's Book Notes music playlist for his novel The Infinite Future:



"There She Goes (Live at the BBC)" by the La's

As his life spirals out of control, one of The Infinite Future's narrators becomes briefly obsessed with this song:

"Every failure deserves a soundtrack and on that sorry day at the Biblioteca Anita Garibaldi, mine was "There She Goes," by the La's. I know you've heard this song before. The album version is a rom-com staple, a jangly, Steve-Lillywhite-produced pop confection. But the band also recorded a live version for BBC Radio that's not as warm or polished. The vocals are rougher, the guitars more jagged, the production more spare, and it totally skews the feel of the song. The album version has a sweet, wistful vibe to it, but the BBC version, even though it's not that different, sounds like the aural instantiation of pure anxiety, especially once the song hits the 1:40 mark and the backup vocals come in, pleading and echo-y."

There's also, I think, something obsessive about this version of the song, and obsession runs throughout The Infinite Future.

"(Nothing but) Flowers" by Caetano Veloso

This Talking Heads song is my favorite dystopian narrative of all time, in which a horrified speaker is trapped in a verdant, pastoral nightmare-scape devoid of Seven-Elevens, billboards, highways, and candy bars. You should just listen to Caetano Veloso's terrific cover of the song, but to boil it down into an aphoristic, less interesting version of itself, "(Nothing but) Flowers" is about how one person's idea of paradise can become another person's hell.

That's not a groundbreaking sentiment by any means, but it came in handy as I was working on my novel. One intimidating thing about writing a narrative that takes place in the future (as the second half of The Infinite Future does) is deciding how things might be going a few hundred years from now. Dystopia? Utopia? A more complex mix of the terrible and the okay? Along the way, I realized that you can't answer that question without thinking about how things are going in relation to specific people. For the narrator of the novel's second half, then (a nun trapped on a space station about to be destroyed by an elite army unit with orders to kill), things are not going great.

"Survival Car" by Fountains of Wayne

Power pop is happy music for sad people, and no album embodies this principle better than Fountains of Wayne's infectious and melancholy debut. Fountains of Wayne shows up on a top five list created by one of my novel's narrators who's in the midst of an increasingly dire financial crisis. "Survival Car," one of my favorites from the record, is an ooh-la-la-la-backing-vocal-interlaced track about trying to give a sad person a ride (I think?).

"Starman" by David Bowie

Has any major songwriter composed more songs about space stuff than David Bowie? I doubt it. In conceiving the futuristic portions of my novel, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars served as a useful inspiration point of twentieth-century sci-fi panache and going-for-it-ness. "Starman" especially fits that bill, with the godlike title character dispensing such gems to his mortal worshippers as, "Let all the children boogie."

"Lady Stardust" by Seu Jorge

I'm also a huge fan of Seu Jorge's album of Bowie covers, although covers is not quite the right description, since Seu Jorge also wrote Portuguese lyrics for all of the songs on the album. I almost wrote, Translated all the songs into Portuguese, but that also is not quite right, as his lyrics have little to do with Bowie's. That kind of artistic transmutation features heavily in The Infinite Future, as a sad-sack young writer reads and translates the works of a mysterious Brazilian sci-fi author.

Anyway, Seu Jorge's take on "Lady Stardust" is as spooky as it is re-listenable.

"Holocaust" by Big Star

Power pop may be happy music for sad people, but in this instance, it's just very sad music for very sad people. The song is still weirdly catchy, though, which makes for a pretty dangerous combination: a huge downer of a song that you can't get out of your head. Fittingly, my power-pop-loving narrator listens to "Holocaust" at an especially low point in the novel.

"Number of the Beast" by Iron Maiden

When I was living in São Paulo in the early 2000s, everyone in the city owned an Iron Maiden t-shirt except for me. (That's something I should have remedied by this point in my life, but somehow I haven't). One of the Brazilian characters in my novel is a serious music enthusiast, and so of course, Iron Maiden had to come into the picture. They only get a brief shout-out in the novel, but there's something about them that resonates with the concerns of The Infinite Future.

I think a big part of it is that no one could ever accuse Iron Maiden of not committing to a song. "Number of the Beast," for instance, is so over the top (the spoken word intro! the gleeful Satanism! the general bombast!) and so much fun. Tonally, I initially wanted to go for something similar with the novel-within-a-novel in The Infinite Future, but ultimately ended up taking a more restrained route. In the first half of the book, though, the characters discover a book proposal for the fictional Infinite Future written in a maximalist style that I hope could be labelled Iron Maiden-esque.

"Três Letrinhas" by Marisa Monte

A lovely song about longing, a mood that runs throughout The Infinite Future. If you've never listened to Marisa Monte before, check out Universo Au Meu Redor, the album that features this song. It's a great contemporary take on midcentury Brazilian bossa nova, a pleasure to listen to from start to finish.

"Messing with My Head" by Tinted Windows

Another great power pop number, this one about an obsessive and unhealthy relationship. "Messing with My Head" crops up at a cheerier moment in The Infinite Future. (Also, when are these guys going to make another album? Was this thing just a one-off? If Bun E. Carlos, Taylor Hanson, James Iha, or Adam Schlesinger are reading right now, consider this your Bat-Signal. We need you!)

"Diz Que Fui Por Aí" by Nara Leão

Nara Leão, Brazilian music pioneer, makes a cameo in The Infinite Future, mentoring one of the characters in the art of bossa nova guitar. "Diz Que Fui Por Aí" showcases the qualities that made Leão such an unstoppable force. The jaunty guitar perfectly counterbalances the world-weary vocals, creating that quintessential bossa nova mood of danceable melancholy.

"Metamoforse Ambulante" by Raul Seixas

There was a huge Raul Seixas mural across from my first apartment in São Paulo. At the time, I'd never heard of the guy, so I asked my neighbors—a kind pair of aging hippies who sold homemade cleaning products from their house—who he was. They played me this song, an anthem beloved by Brazilian counterculture-ites of a certain generation.

It is a pretty great song, from its psychedelic opener, to Seixas's strategically deployed falsetto. And the cover of the album on which the song features (Krig-ha, Bandolo!) embodies a type of late-sixties, early-seventies pseudo-mysticism that heavily guided The Infinite Future's novel-within-a-novel.


Tim Wirkus and The Infinite Future links:

the author's website

Booklist review
Kirkus review
Locus review
Publishers Weekly review

Dawning of a Brighter Day interview with the author
OTHERPPL 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


Book Notes - Michael Nye "All the Castles Burned"

All the Castles Burned

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

Michael Nye's dark and captivating coming-of-age novel All the Castles Burned is an impressive debut.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"This is a coming-of-age story with mysterious twists, a sports buddy novel that is surprisingly sensitive, and a novel of manners contrasting the aspirations of a dysfunctional middle-class family in 1990s Cincinnati with the over-the-top wealth of another dysfunctional family. It is both an appealing read and an introspective examination of the turbulence of male adolescence. Just as Nye's characters are glued to the O.J. Simpson trial, readers won't want to look away."


In his own words, here is Michael Nye's Book Notes music playlist for his debut novel All the Castles Burned:



Marriage in the '80s, Teenagers in the '90s, and an Author with Terrible Taste

I've broken the playlist for my novel All the Castles Burned into three sections. My debut novel is a semi-autobiographical novel about prep school boys in the 1990s, the early years of which were the golden era of hip-hop. What the two friends, Owen and Carson, would have listened to are familiar to me but not necessarily what I would have listened to; same, too, for Owen's parents. The musical taste of my characters are as complex and multilayered as (I hope) their personalities, and I'm sure there is a sonic thread running through these three sections that I can feel but can't quite articulate. Hopefully by listening, you'll feel it, too.

I've failed to come up with something interesting to say about each and every song here, though it's not for a lack of trying. Some songs I can write about for pages; others, all I have to say is "Well, I like that one!" When I'm writing fiction, I generally prefer to listen to music without any words; I've highlighted a few of my favorite songs from albums that I've listened to on repeat, over and over again, for the many years it took me to write this book (and the failed novels before it). But on occasion, my writing time needs words, and the below songs with lyrics in the final section have hypnotized me in one way or the other.

A brief note about the last song on this list. After leaving Ohio when I graduated from college almost eighteen years ago, I just moved back last year. My wife and I make our home in Columbus, where we plan on being for a long time. This song by Stalley, which is how I first discovered the Massillon (a small town near Cleveland) rapper, is the perfect celebratory song, as breezy and beautiful as a late-night drive through the Midwest.

Joseph and Cheryl Webb

In 1994, Owen Webb, the novel's protagonists, has two parents who are in their 30s. The music of their '70s youth morphs into disco, punk rock, pop, and something called "adult contemporary" as they settle into their disappointing adulthoods. I imagined Joseph finding something to love in the solo efforts of The Eagles band members; both Joseph and Cheri would be loath to give up records they no longer listened to; both were content to flip through FM radio; both pick up a cassette tape now and again only on a nostalgic whiff of unhappiness. They listen to a lot of WEBN, the famous hard rock station in Cincinnati that on Sunday mornings used to play, unironically, classical music.

"Midnight Special" by Creedence Clearwater (1969)
"Riders on the Storm" by The Doors (1971)
"Rocks Off" by The Rolling Stones (1972)
"Four Sticks" by Led Zeppelin (1974)
"The Chain" by Fleetwood Mac (1977)
"Sheep" by Pink Floyd (1977)
"Ride Like the Wind" by Christopher Cross (1979)
"You Belong to the City" by Glenn Frey (1985)
"Circle in the Sand" by Belinda Carlisle (1987)
"Shangri-La" by Don Henley (1991)


Owen and Carson

The boys in my novel grew up as basketball-playing, white suburban kids, and nothing grabbed that demographic quite like the hip-hop era that shifted away from its political roots to the gangster image that blew up with the release of Straight Outta Compton in 1988. In the '90s, the popularity of Snoop and Dre was overwhelming, but I always imagined Carson as being a bit pretentious and picky about the music he listened to, someone determined to show off that he was "real" by gravitating toward hardcore hip-hop that white kids bought from the mall. The inauthentic are always obsessed with proving their authenticity.

"Welcome to the Ghetto" by Spice 1 (1992)
"Zoom Zooms and Wam Wams" by Jayo Felony (1994)
"Wicked" by Ice Cube (1994)
"Guns N Roses" by M.O.P. (1994)
"No Surrender" by Bone Thugs N' Harmony (1994)
"I Got 5 On It" by Luniz (1995)
"Heads Ain't Ready" by Black Moon and Smif-N-Wessun (1995)
"On Top of the World" by Eightball & MJG (1995)
"Do What I Feel" by Tha Dogg Pound (1995)
"2 of America's Most Wanted" by Tupac Shakur (1996)


Michael Nye

I have completely failed to come up with something interesting to say about each and every song here. Generally speaking, I prefer to listen to music without any words; I've highlighted a few of my favorite songs from albums that I've listened to on repeat, over and over again, for the many years it took me to right this book (and the failed novels before it). But I occasionally need words, and the below songs with lyrics have hypnotized me in one way or the other. Once, I listened to "King Push" on loop for an entire afternoon of novel writing.

"So What" by Miles Davis (1959. oe 1957). The truth is I listen to the entire album, Kind of Blue, all the time.
"A Love Supreme" by John Coltrane (1964)
"Time is the Enemy" by Quantic (2001)
"The Time We Lost Our Way" by Thievery Corporation ft. Loulou (2005)
"Aly, Walk With Me" by The Raveonettes (2007)
"Take Out" by The Sound Defects (2008)
"Tonight, Tonight, Tonight" by Low Roar (2011)
"Midnight City" by M83 (2011)
"King Push" by Pusha-T (2015)
"Spaceships & Woodgrain" by Stalley (2015)


Michael Nye and All the Castles Burned links:

video trailer for the book

Foreword review
Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review

Electric Literature 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 (Jen Wang on Her New Graphic Novel, New Music from Lucy Dacus, and more)

Paste interviewed Jen Wang about her graphic novel The Prince and the Dressmaker.


Stream a new Lucy Dacus song.


February's best eBook deals.


Drowned in Sound interviewed composer Nils Frahm.


Kim Fu discussed her new novel The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore with Hazlitt and Shondaland.


Morning Edition profiled the band Loma.


eBook on sale for $2.99 today:

The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin.


Stream a new Mount Kimbie song.


Min Jin Lee discussed her novel Pachinko with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.


Pitchfork talked to the composer of the Fugazi opera.


Author Ranbir Sidhu interviewed himself at The Nervous Breakdown.


Stream a new Forth Wanderers song.


The Guardian recommended books about South Korea.


NPR Music interviewed singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile.


Joyland features new short fiction by Anne-Marie Kinney.


Stream a new Sudan Archives song.


Signature recommended books to understand Australia.


World Cafe shared a playlist of love songs for Valentine's Day.


The OTHERPPL podcast interviewed author Rachel Lyon.


Stream a new Ari Roar song.


Literary Hub shared an excerpt from one of my favorite novels of the year, Akwaeke Emezi's debut Freshwater.


Aquarium Drunkard interviewed Superchunk's Laura Ballance.


The Nervous Breakdown interviewed author Elizabeth Ellen.


Stream a new Kate Teague song.


matchbook features new short fiction by Amber Sparks.


Stream a new song by The Shacks.


Vulture shared an excerpt from Jonathan Abrams' oral history of The Wire, All the Pieces Matter.


Stream a new song by DRINKS (Cate Le Bon & Tim Presley).



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


February 13, 2018

Book Notes - Lauren Moseley "Big Windows"

Big Windows

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.

Lauren Moseley's poetry collection Big Windows is an accomplished and ambitious debut.

Kathryn Nuernberger wrote of the collection:

"Elegant and flawlessly crafted, Lauren Moseley's debut collection allows readers the charms of a perfectly framed view. But step beyond the glass and Moseley's multi-layered poems reveal themselves to be a little sharp and a little dangerous."


In her own words, here is Lauren Moseley's Book Notes music playlist for her poetry collection Big Windows:



The music of poetry has always been one of my favorite aspects of the art form. The poems in Big Windows don't follow rhyme schemes, but they are full of assonance, consonance, slant and internal rhyme, and other types of musicality. I've lived in the South all my life, and the influence that traditionals, rock and roll, and Americana have had on my poetry—in imagery, narrative, and rhythm—cannot be overstated. I'm also lucky enough to live in an area with a thriving music scene. Here are some of the songs that came to hold special meaning over the ten years I worked on this book:

"Coffee" by Sylvan Esso

It's always good to start with a cup of coffee. The members of the synthpop duo Sylvan Esso—singer Amelia Meath and producer Nick Sanborn—are from Durham, NC, where I have lived the past six-plus years, and where most of the poems in Big Windows were written. With lines like "Wild winter, warm coffee / Mind's gone, do you love me? / Blazing summer, cold coffee / Baby's gone, do you love me," this deceptively simple, haunting love song nails what I hope to achieve with the love poems in the first and final sections of the book. And a cup of coffee plays a significant role in "Cyclops," the fourth poem in Big Windows. Don't miss the wonderful video for "Coffee," which includes scenes from a house party you might have attended.

"Frankie" by Mississippi John Hurt

Dark was the night, cold was on the ground . . .

I sample lyrics from "Frankie" in "Before Prayer," a poem early on in Big Windows, with the line "Cold is in the cavern ground." This murder ballad was also performed by Lead Belly (as "Frankie & Albert"), Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash (as "Frankie & Johnny"), Elvis Presley, Van Morrison, Taj Mahal, and countless others. Recordings date all the way back to 1904. Mississippi John Hurt certainly didn't write the traditional, but his version is my favorite. This song also brings out how in music and literature (really, in all art), nothing is completely original, and sometimes, drawing on archetypal stories and age-old cultural memories only enriches new work, paradoxically making it resonate as much as a fresh idea.

"Coal Miner's Daughter" by Loretta Lynn

Though I'm proud to be my father's daughter, I am not a coal miner's daughter. But I saw the biopic starring Sissy Spacek for the first time while working on this book, and it struck me so deeply that it inspired the poem "When Fog, When Mountain," which you can read here.

"Real Real Gone" by Van Morrison

"Mary," a poem in the middle of Big Windows, is about a superstition my husband, Ryland, and I adopted around the time of our wedding, in hopes of conjuring good weather for the all-outdoor event. I'm not saying it worked, but we did have perfect weather. I actually proposed to him (#feminism #strongwomen) in the car while "Real Real Gone" played, so it became our song. As you read "Mary," imagine this song playing in the background.

"Life on Mars" by David Bowie

My poem "Gravity," which begins at the beginning of the universe, was inspired in part by Tracy K. Smith's book Life on Mars, which was inspired in part by David Bowie's work. I'm still not over Bowie's death and have pledged to sing "Life on Mars" every time I enter a karaoke bar for the rest of my life on Earth. I'm doing great so far.

"Coyote" by Joni Mitchell, from The Last Waltz

Ryland and I have probably watched The Last Waltz together twelve times, and listened to the album many more. If I could include the entire four-hour album here, I would. I can't remember if Joni Mitchell's song or Jean Valentine's poem "Coyote" first inspired my poem of the same name, which appears in the final section of Big Windows, but I love this version of the tune from The Band's farewell concert so much that I have to include it here.

"Free Money" by Patti Smith

Reading Just Kids by Patti Smith was a pivotal moment for me as a writer, in part because of the way she imbues simple objects, such as a Polaroid photograph, a homemade necklace, or a plain black coat, with such history, emotion, and meaning. I read the book in December 2014, listened to her seminal album Horses constantly, and wrote the poem "Marriage," which became a linchpin in the Big Windows manuscript. Again, if I could put the entirety of Horses on here I would, but I'll have to stick with "Free Money," my favorite song on the album. I especially love the dynamics of this song, and these variations in speed, tone, and even volume are something I strived for in the arc of Big Windows as well.

"Kammou Taliat" by Bombino

Omara "Bombino" Moctar is a virtuoso guitarist from Niger. I listened to his beautiful album Agadez so much while editing Big Windows that it feels ingrained in the back of my skull like a pleasant humming. "Kammou Taliat," which means "You, My Beloved," is one of my favorites, but each track of this cohesive album is indispensable, and each invokes Bombino's desert home. I live in forested foothills, but I think this album seeped into my brain when I was writing "An Ending," a poem towards the end of the book that contains a dream of the desert.

"Hard Times" by Gillian Welch

My husband and I have been poorly-but-passionately playing and singing Gillian Welch songs in our living room and at get-togethers with friends for a few years now. Despite its hopeful message ("Hard times / ain't gonna rule my mind / no more"), "Hard Times" has an incredibly mournful melody, and tragedy befalls the man described in the first and final verses. Yet, it's such a beautiful song that I can't stop listening to it, no matter my mood. This mixture of darkness and light is what I aim for throughout Big Windows.

"Country Road" by Toots & the Maytals

In this, one of the best covers in music history, Toots replaces John Denver's "West Virginia" with "West Jamaica." If I were to do a version, I'd replace that phrase with "North Carolina." This song is about home, wherever it may be, and the trees, animals, and landscapes of my home state are in every section of Big Windows. The book closes with the title poem, in which the speaker feels a sense of peace in her home and the natural world outside its windows, and the two merge until one is indistinguishable from the other. I attempted to construct this book much like an album, with a satisfying track at the end that fades out a bit. Thank you so much for listening.


Lauren Moseley and Big Windows links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

Bustle review
KJL's Diary 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


Shorties (An Oral History of The Wire, Stream Superchunk's New Album, and more)

Jonathan Abrams talked to the Dallas Morning News about his oral history of The Wire, All the Pieces Matter.

The A.V. Club reviewed the book.


NPR Music is streaming Superchunk's new album What a Time To Be Alive.


February's best eBook deals.


Amanda Palmer shared a new video for her song, "Judy Blume."


Electric Literature interviewed author Tayari Jones.


Stream a new Russian Baths song.


eBook on sale for $4.99 today:

Patti Lupone: A Memoir


Jay Som's Melina Duterte and Japanese Breakfast's Michelle Zauner shared their favorite love songs at All Songs Considered.


Narrative shared an excerpt from Will Boast's novel Daphne.


Stream a new song by La Luz.


The Common interviewed author Carmen Maria Machado.


Ezra Furman discussed his new album Transangelic Exodus with Billboard.


Akwaeke Emezi discussed her debut novel Freshwater with Ms.


Stream a new Okkervil River song.


Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi discussed her novel Call Me Zebra with Literary Hub.


Hype Machine is streaming Johanna Warren's album Gemini II.


The Minneapolis Star Tribune profiled author Kelly Barnhill.


Stream a new Nellie McKay song.


Forbes interviewed Jen Wang about her graphoc novel The Prince and the Dressmaker.


Stream a new Soccer Mommy song.


Mat Johnson discussed his new comic Incognegro: Renaissance with io9.


Stream a new Nap Eyes song.


PopMatters interviewed author Eliza Vitri Handayani.


Stream a new song by Anna Von Hausswolff.


The Creative Independent interviewed author Hermione Hoby.


A. Savage of Parquet Courts covered the Fall's "Frightened."


Literary Hub shared an excerpt from Scott O'Connor's story collection A Perfect Universe.


Stream a new song by The Body.


Literary Hub interviewed Francisco Cantú, Gabrielle Birkner, Tim Kreider, Rachel Lyon, and Sigrid Nunez about their new books.


Neil Gaiman on the Breeders.



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


February 12, 2018

Book Notes - Danielle Lazarin "Back Talk"

Back Talk

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.

Danielle Lazarin's smart collection of stories about women and girls, Back Talk, is an auspicious debut from a talented writer.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"Brilliant and tender . . . With poignant imagery and a fresh voice, Lazarin portrays these women honestly and relatably. Her exceptional craftsmanship speaks to the heart, as she paints these tales with empathy and a compassion that extends to all humankind."


In her own words, here is Danielle Lazarin's Book Notes music playlist for his short story collection Back Talk:



I've always used music to help me understand the world, and I've always made mixes for my books. I need silence to work, but I listen to music when I'm walking my dog or on my way to pick up my kids from school. Back Talk is a collection of stories about women's lives, about the stories we tell behind closed doors, about the things we want to say and are conditioned not to. When I returned to the list I'd been building for this collection I expected more roaring women, but instead found a good number of contemplative ones, which seems fair to the book, which is an interior and intimate one, and reflects how I feel when I am under a set of good headphones, walking through New York, where so many of these stories have roots. I've assigned each story a song.

Appetite—"Ne Me Quitte Pas," Nina Simone
The moment in "Appetite" when Mich plays this song for her younger sister Claudia is based on a similar one between my oldest sister and I with this same song, when I was a teenager and she was in college. As I recall it, we talked about the crushing desperation in the lines where Simone begs to be the shadow of her lover—of his hand, of his dog, of the shadow itself. In the story, Claudia sees Mich's romanticizing of the lines as pathos, but she is too kind to let her know; she lets her see the suffering as beauty. The story is set against the backdrop of the fairly recent loss of their mother; the family is both seized by grief and in denial of it. It's as if all of them are singing this song, saying don't leave me, when, like the song, it's so clearly a done deal. I can only listen to this song when I'm feeling either very strong or in mood to be destroyed: Simone's voice claws at my heart, the song is raw and painful and undeniable. And also quite long—by the time you get to the end of it, you are pleading alongside Simone; you want so badly for her to be out of the pain she's in. You, too, would bargain for any relief.

Floor Plans—"Floorplan," Tegan & Sara covered by Sara Bareilles
It was hard to resist a title overlap, and the song itself is full of lyrics that echo the story's themes: being unsure what you want from someone else, being watched as a woman ("all eyes are on me now"), the knowingness that as something is ending, you'll carry it forward with you ("I know I know I'll hold this loss in my heart forever"). Both women in the story, Robin and Juliet, are in the middle of painful experiences of transformation that they're looking for the edges of. They're in a room together that is hard to let others into.

Spider Legs—"Homeward Bound (Live)," Simon & Garfunkel
Due to a fairly disastrous college application process, I spent my freshman year of college in Paris. I had a full command of French in written form, but like most Americans, was ill-prepared for living immersed in another language and culture. Add to that the hubris of being a New Yorker and having a long-distance boyfriend, and I was homesick in ways I did not see coming. Much like Caitlin, the teenaged protagonist of "Spider Legs," I approached the experience with refusal while also feeling pained at the understanding I didn't belong there, even if I wanted to, as Caitlin does with her siblings. It was a formative year personally and so many of the Paris stories grew from that year, and for that I'm grateful, but damn, I was miserable there.

I did many mundane college kid things during my year in Paris—kept a chocolate stash in my underwear drawer, learned a lot about architecture, read and re-read James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room, with its insights into Paris versus New York, and most stupidly, ran from a taxi without paying as Caitlin and her siblings do in this story. I also often skipped the metro in favor of walking Paris with my Discman (this was 1996-1997), and listened to, amongst others, a lot of Simon & Garfunkel. I knew then it was cheesy that so many of those songs made a lump appear in my throat, but in retrospect I love the way that late adolescence is full of naked longing, how on the nose it was for me to listen to music that was so American. There are many songs that take me back to a long, bitter walk through Paris, but I think the most direct is of course, "Homeward Bound." The live version is the one I listened to, and that section at the end when they address the crowd in Central Park, Ed Koch gets booed, and they make jokes about loose joints, killed me; it felt as though those people in the crowd understood me in ways no one around me managed to.

Weighed and Measured—"Wish You Were Here," Pink Floyd and Hey Mami, Slyvan Esso
I chose two songs because this story is about splitting loyalty and energy between a friendship and a romantic relationship. In the story, one character makes a mixtape for another with "Wish You Were Here," which was absolutely on mixtapes of my adolescence. All the boys thought Pink Floyd was super deep. In full disclosure, I do love this song—it's perfect for when you're being subtextual. "Hey Mami" is the ultimate walking song for me. The tempo matches the pace of walking through New York as a woman, trying to zoom past all those "dudes in bodegas" and "eyeballs" unbothered, seemingly impossible for women from too young an age, but a glorious feeling when it happens, much like the mood of this song.

American Men in Paris I Did Not Love—"Nineteen," Tegan and Sara and Hayley Williams
I've long loved this song by Tegan and Sara, which captures the fierce way we attach to one another at that age and question that attachment just as quickly. Belonging to a place or a person figures prominently in this book and is at the center of this story in particular. When Tegan & Sara released The Con covers, I knew I had to put both versions of "Nineteen" on the list. Tegan and Sara's original is ripe with loss and frustration. The Hayley Williams version is more wistful, a reflective narrator, a kinder understanding of the self and our limitations at that age. "I was nineteen/can you blame me" was a line I never even caught in the original version.

Window Guards—"Let No Grief," The Wild Reeds
This story, like many others in the collection, is about two characters who are meeting in their grief. Lexie and Owen share an unspoken longing for people who are gone, a sort of grief glue between them. They're also bracing for what's next, asking themselves if they can move on from the only community they've ever known. The narrator lets us know: "Next year, college." This is also a story of figuring out how to move forward. The song suggests the only way is to let go of this grief: "Seasons are changing and supposedly I have to as well/My heart is pacing and I have to break free from your spell."

The Holographic Soul—"Breathing Underwater," Metric
I thought of this song because "The Holographic Soul" closes with an image of the sorts of games children play underwater. I also chose it because the lines "I'm the blade/you're the knife//I'm the weight/you're the kite" remind me of the relationship between the two sisters in the story. Vanessa, called V is the younger and freer one, the one who believes she can transform a trick that she and Hannah do pretending they're psychic into actual psychic ability. Throughout the story, Hannah works to protect her sister's trust in the world even as she knows one day it will put distance between them. I see them as inextricable from one another at this stage and also beginning to work their way apart: one ready to fly, the other gathering up the courage to let her.

Landscape No. 27—"Constant Craving," k.d. Lang
A large part of what drives the characters in this story about an affair is want, even if it isn't exactly for one another specifically. Though they are extremely intimate with one another physically, they do so in a very private way that keeps them from knowing one another beyond a surface level. Lang's song, too, contains that sort of mystery that is present between the characters here. How much they don't know that's between them, how that mystery keeps their relationship possible.

Hide and Seek —"The Emperor's New Clothes," Sinead O'Connor
When I was growing up, my oldest sister's room was only accessible through mine, and the door that connected them never closed all the way. She is five years older than I am, and I would be remiss if I didn't mention how much music I absorbed through that doorway, years of unwitting musical eavesdropping on someone older and worldlier than I was. One such album was Sinead O'Connor's. This song came to mind for the mother in this story, Alison, who has made a series of choices that so many people want to tell her are wrong—where and how she lives, who she does or doesn't love, how she is raising her daughters, what stories she tells. There's a peace this character has with herself and her choices that I really admire. Alison does have a bout of insomnia in the story, but I think of her as reflecting the conviction of O'Connor's lines when she sings: "Whatever it may bring/I will live by my own policies/I will sleep with a clear conscience/I will sleep in peace."

Back Talk—"Talk to Me Now," Ani DiFranco /Anticipate, Ani DiFranco
It was on my first phone call with my editor, Sarah Stein, that we discovered we both used to listen to Ani DiFranco in our teens. During edits I joked with her that I'd like the book designer to prompt "Talk to Me Now" to play when the cover opens. DiFranco's music, and this song especially, awakened a fierceness and self-possession in my younger self that I really wanted to get back to when writing this book. In particular the lines: "I played the powerless in too many dark scenes/And I was blessed with a birth and a death/And I guess I just want some say in between" gave voice to what I noticed my place was in the world and how I felt about it. On another note, when I met my cover designer, Lynn Buckley, she also asked me if I had listened to DiFranco in my youth, because she kept thinking of DiFranco's song "Anticipate" as the mood she wanted to capture on the cover—"Get a firm grip girl, before you let go/For every hand extended, another lies in wait/Keep your eye on that one, anticipate"—that state of constant, exhausting watchfulness women are saddled with, physically and emotionally. I love the live version of that song, so I've included it on the playlist, too.

Lovers' Lookout—"Somebody to Anybody," Margaret Glaspy
"Lovers' Lookout" is about a breakup, but more so about a frantic grasping for self so many of us experience in our twenties when we are abutting professional and personal expectations and not yet able to own our desire to swim upstream. I think Foley, the story's protagonist, will do just fine on her own if she can let go of the idea that the way she exists in the world is somehow wrong.

Dinosaurs—"Adventures in Solitude," The New Pornographers
I listened to this The New Pornographers album a lot while walking my dogs through the suburban cul-de-sacs of Ann Arbor when I lived there during graduate school. I wasn't then comfortable writing about places I was living in my stories, so I set "Dinosaurs" around Boston, but those walks, the often-empty streets and wondering what connected all those neighbors, was a huge impetus for writing this story. This song has always been an ode to hope for me. It speaks so compassionately to the liminal space in between a big loss and a commitment to re-inhabiting your life with wounds and all. "More than begin but less than forget/But spirits born from the not happened yet." I love too, like the story itself, that it contains both male and female voices.

Gone—"Better," Regina Spektor
This song's lyrics are full of neat echos of the characters and arcs in "Gone," in which two friends begin to keep a list of girls who are dying near them: the verse references being "born like sisters to this world" and naming names, which both factor in the story. The story turns when one of the girls sinks into the pain of adolescence, breaking their bond. The song asks if you can follow people you love to a place they don't want you in: "If I kiss you where it's sore/Will you feel better, better, better/Will you feel anything at all?”

Looking For a Thief—"In the Dark," Jeffrey Martin
I think of "Looking For a Thief" as a story about marriage after parenting, about how much more difficult kindness and patience can be at the end of a long day or week or month, but how much more necessary it is, too. One of my favorite parts of this song is the simple lyric "To you I'm bound" on repeat. Sometimes it helps to remember you've made a choice to tie yourself to someone for exactly those moments of vulnerability.

Red Light, Green Light—"Come and See," Lean Year
This song and story is about quiet defiance. I'm sure the narrator would love to toss out a "fuck off" to her mother as casually as the song does, but instead she tells us "I narrowed my eyes at her but only when her back was to me." I love too, how the lyrics "come and see" and "come and show me" are delivered more like challenges than asks, reflecting how the mother and daughter in the story engage in a battle for knowledge that exasperates them both.

Second-Chance Family—"Chosen," Rose Cousins
I feel so much for the narrator of this story, Hope. She keeps taking leaps toward what she wants—a kind of man she thinks will click her life into place, a more secure spot in her family—despite falling, many times over, on her face. There's a pain in seeing what you want and not only not getting it, but not understanding why. This song reflects that lost feeling of waiting to be chosen, of turning that doubt inward.


Danielle Lazarin and Back Talk links:

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

Booklist review
Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review

Fiction Writers Review interview with the author
Ploughshares interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

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