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February 21, 2020

Shorties (Sally Rooney on Books and Reading, Zoë Kravitz and Nick Hornby on the New Television Adaptation of Hgh Fidelity, and more)

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Sally Rooney talked books and reading with the New York Times.


Vulture interviewed Zoë Kravitz and Nick Hornby about the television adaptation of Hornby's novel High Fidelity.


February's best eBook deals.

eBook on sale for $1.99 today:

The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti


Stream Archers of Loaf's first new song in over 20 years.


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


All Ears examined musicians' varied uses of distortion.


Tor.com shared a story from Ken Liu's collection The Hidden Girl and Other Stories.


Paste listed the best posthumous albums of all time.


O: The Oprah Magazine recommended books to spark conversations at your book club.


PopSugar recommended spring's best books.


SPIN interviewed Dashboard Confessional's Chris Carrabba.


The L.A. Times Book Prize finalists are announced.


Stream a previously unreleased Jay Som song.


The Washington Post profiled Daniel Lavery, formerly Daniel Mallory Ortberg.


Stream a new Sufjan Stevens song.


Vanity Fair profiled author Jenny Offill.


Fontaines D.C. covered the Pixies' "Gouge Away."


The Los Angeles Times profiled author Charles Yu.


Stream a new song by Christelle Bofale,


Laura Lippman on Spelling Bee at Slate.

Spelling Bee, however, is perfect, a sort of no-holds-barred Boggle, minus the time limit. Every day, it’s made up of seven letters, six of which surround a central letter. Because each letter is encased in a hexagon, the visual effect is hivelike. The goal is to make as many so-called common words as you can, using the letters as often as you like—as long as the central letter appears at least once in each word and each word is at least four letters long.


Stereogum interviewed Caribou's Dan Snaith.


Philippe Falardeau discussed his film adaptation of Joanna Rakoff's My Salinger Year with the Hollywood Reporter.


Dresden Dolls covered Midnight Oil's "Beds Are Burning."


The New York Times Style Magazine recommended spring's most anticipated books.


Wolf Parade discussed their influences at BrooklynVegan.


Full Stop interviewed author Helen Philips.


The Maris Review interviewed author Ada Calhoun.


Chana Porter discussed her novel The Seep with Electric Literature.


The New York Observer profiled author Andrew Krivak.


The Millions interviewed author Sarah Moss.



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)
Flash Dancers (authors pair original flash fiction with a song
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 20, 2020

Flash Dancers: Ekphrastic Singles - "Hey Nineteen" by Aimee Parkison

The Flash Dancers: Ekphrastic Singles series is curated by Meg Pokrass. Authors pair an original work of flash fiction with a song.



Hey Nineteen by Aimee Parkison

(inspired by the song “Hey Nineteen” by Steely Dan)


Because he didn’t know my name and I wasn’t going to tell, he asked how old I was.

I said, “Nineteen.”

After that, he started calling me Nineteen, as if I were a number.

“Hey, Nineteen,” he said. He laughed, so I guess he thought it funny. It got old real fast, the way he did.

“Seems like only yesterday I was your age, Nineteen,” he said, grinning and sweating in his designer shades while driving up to me in his shiny white convertible, top down, engine revving like a big cat’s purr.

“Hey Nineteen, we got zilch in common and can’t chat at all, but slide on in my car, and we’ll go for a long ride.”

“No,” I said, “no way, old man.”

And he said, “Come on, Nineteen, we can’t dance together, we can’t chat. So, let’s drive.”

“We can’t dance? We can’t chat?” I asked, knowing he thought the car could do the flirting for him. He revved it, again.

He said, “I mean, there’s nothing I can say that you’ll understand, and the dances I used to dance are nothing like the dances they have now, but we could spend time together tonight, on a long drive and have some fun. You like fun, don’t you, Nineteen?”

“Why?” I asked. “Where would we go? We can’t dance together. We can’t chat at all. We can’t even screw.”

He said, “Hold on! I said we can’t chat, and we can’t dance, but I could teach you a few things about a few things. Maybe tonight?”

That’s when I realized he thought he could screw me without dancing, without talking, without knowing my name.

Sometimes it sucks to be Nineteen, especially if you’re Thirteen.




Aimee Parkison is the author of Girl Zoo, Refrigerated Music for a Gleaming Woman, Woman with Dark Horses, The Innocent Party, and The Petals of Your Eyes. Parkison has won the FC2 Catherine Doctorow Innovative Fiction Prize, a Christopher Isherwood Fellowship, and the North American Review Kurt Vonnegut Fiction Prize. She teaches in the creative writing program at Oklahoma State University and serves on FC2’s Boards of Directors.


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

previous Flash Dancers stories

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 (Two Interviews with Brandon Taylor, The 10th Anniversary of Joanna Newsom's Have One on Me Album, and more)

Real Life by Brandon Taylor

them. and The Rumpus interviewed author Brandon Taylor.


Aquarium Drunkard reconsidered Joanna Newsom's Have One on Me album on its 10th anniversary.


February's best eBook deals.

eBook on sale for $2.99 today:

Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene

eBook on sale for $3.99 today:

Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick by Zora Neale Hurston


Paste previewed 2020's music books.


The finalists for the Aspen Words Literary Prize have been announced.


Stream a new Josh Ritter song.


USA Today listed the best books of 2020 so far.


Stream a new Mark Lanegan song.


The Atlantic examined "deathfic," fan fiction where popular characters are killed.


Stream a new song by Man Man.


WIRED examined "doomer-lit," cli-fi with a dark edge.


Steam a new song by Beauty Queen.


The Rumpus Book Club interviewed author Jenn Shapland.


Stream a new Wye Oak song.


Literary Hub shared a reading list about America's housing crisis.


Stream a new song by Street Whirl.


Literary Hub shared an excerpt from Ander Monson's new book I Will Take The Answer.


Vogue shared a new essay by Lily King.



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)
Flash Dancers (authors pair original flash fiction with a song
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 19, 2020

Crissy Van Meter's Playlist for Her Novel "Creatures"

Cargill Falls

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, Roxane Gay, and many others.

Crissy Van Meter's novel Creatures is a stunning debut, a coming-of-age tale with a strong sense of place.

The New York Times wrote of the book:

"Vivid and moving . . . The tempo of [Van Meter’s] sentences matches Winter Island’s foggy skies and roiling seas: at once bright and languid, visceral and lyric . . .Van Meter’s debut is an unwavering triumph . . . A coming-of-age that’s as human as it is wild."


In her own words, here is Crissy Van Meter's Book Notes music playlist for her debut novel Creatures:



Creatures is set off the coast of California on the fictional Winter Island. It’s the story of Evie and her well-meaning, drug-dealing, drunk father, and a portrait of a life that asks how we can truly overcome our past to have a future full of love. So much of the book is about California, grief, betrayal, and of course, love. Also, it’s a lot about whales.

I can’t really listen to music (at least with lyrics) while I’m writing, but as I get to know my characters, I start building a soundtrack to their lives. I end up making a lot of Spotify playlists for each character, sometimes per chapter, sometimes based on how I’m emotionally feeling during a part of the writing process.

Here are a few songs that live on many of my Creatures playlists.


“Midnight Special” by Creedence Clearwater Revival

There’s a scene in Creatures when Evangeline’s absent mother returns and forces her out for a cheezy bachelorette party on Winter Island. They get loaded and watch a CCR cover band at a bar. Things get weird and go emotionally south. This is the song the band plays while Evie’s wild mother dances along.

“Charlie Don't Surf” by The Clash

Creatures is so much about place – California and the ocean. Naturally, there’s a lot of surf culture in the book. I love “Charlie Don’t Surf” and imagine that Evangeline and her father would sing this song to kook tourists.

“Xxplosive” by Dr. Dre

Evangeline comes of age in the '90s. When Evie and her best friend, Rook, spend their time getting into teenage trouble, they listen to a lot of Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre. This song is one of my personal favorites, but is also the perfect, too-sexual song for a pair of lost and troubled fourteen-year-old girls.

“Forever” by The Beach Boys

Evangeline falls in love with Liam and she must figure out how to overcome her past to truly make her marriage work. I loved writing the marriage section of Creatures so much and I imagine this perfect love song to be their wedding song.

“Evangeline” by Emmylous Harris and The Band

I grew up dancing to this song with my own father. This name has always been so lovely and special to me. My father and I shared in so much love for music, and especially we love Emmylou Harris. When I began writing Creatures, and building a world for a young girl and her father – I knew my heroine had to be named Evangeline.

“Maybellene” by Chuck Berry

Evangeline’s father drives a beat-up, old truck that he lovingly names Maybellene after this song. He’s a guy who loves music, who likes to dance and party, and who loves Chuck Berry. In this book, so many people have nick names, or code names, or silly names – as way to protect themselves perhaps – so it makes sense that Evie’s father named his truck.

“Sweet Virginia” by The Rolling Stones

This is my favorite get-drunk song. This book is a lot about people getting drunk and high, for better or worse. I imagine this song playing throughout these characters’ lives, especially when they are the perfect amount of drunk. A very good sing-along-with-your-buddies tune.

“Sunday Morning Coming Down” by Johnny Cash

And, a lot of this book is about coming down -- from booze, and drugs, but also from betrayal. This song so perfectly captures the dread of the day after you’ve gone too hard. There’s so much desperation in these lyrics, and in the tone of Cash’s voice. This the theme song of Evangeline’s father.


Crissy Van Meter and Creatures links:

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

Kirkus review
Los Angeles Tines review
New York Times review
NPR Books review
Publishers Weekly review
San Francisco Chronicle 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


Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week - February 20, 2020

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.


Black Sunday

Black Sunday by Tola Rotimi Abraham

This promising debut novel from Nigerian-born, Iowa-based Tola Rotimi Abraham comes via the consistently interesting Catapult press and narrates the aftermath of a Lagos family’s dissolution following a father’s immersion in a “wealth gospel” church and subsequent financial ruin. The two twin daughters and their brothers are left in the care of their Yoruba grandmother as their parents’ marriage dissolves and the story follows their divergent paths to resistance and independence.


Machines in the Head: Selected Stories

Machines in the Head: Selected Stories by Anna Kavan

Anna Kavan is a cult favourite for her final novel, 1967’s Ice, an uncategorizable work of post-apocalyptic surrealist science fiction inspired by the author’s long heroin addiction. That book was republished in 2017 to some attention, and the stalwart NYRB Classics have now published a collection of her short works, including her elegiac tale of mental breakdown, Asylum Piece (1940), war stories from I Am Lazarus (1945), fantastical tales from the late 1950s, and accounts of addiction from her posthumous Julie and the Bazooka (1970). Sometimes compared to Jean Rhys and Leonora Carrington (and praised by J.G. Ballard and Doris Lessing), Kavan was a true original whose diverse writings plumbed the interior world of the imagination.


Sports is Hell

Sports is Hell by Ben Passmore

This 60-page comic is the latest from the amazing Ben Passmore (BTTM FDRS, Your Black Friend) and one of the final releases from Koyama Press, which is sadly closing up shop this year. Sports is Hell is another violent and outrageous satire on race relations from Passmore, in which Super Bowl riots balloon into a civil war among armed groups of football fans. A ragtag band of black anarchists battle white supremacist militias, searching for a star player while babysitting mealy-mouthed white hipsters. But will celebrity wide receiver Marshall Quandary Collins be their doom or their salvation?


Real Life

Real Life by Brandon Taylor

Brandon Taylor is senior editor of Electric Literature's Recommended Reading and a staff writer at Lit Hub. A graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, Real Life is his first novel, a coming-of-age story about young black queer man from Alabama whose studies in biochemistrry at a midwestern university have shletered him from truths about himself. Praised by Roxane Gay, Kiese Layman, Garth Greenwell, and others, Real Life announces the arrival of a bold new voice.


Verge

Verge by Lidia Yuknavitch

Lidia Yuknavitchis the bestselling author of the novels The Book of Joan, The Small Backs of Children, and Dora: a Headcase, as well as the memoir The Chronology of Water. She has won two Oregon Book Awards and been nominated for various prizes. Verge is her first short story collection, an empathetic group portrait of marginalized and outcast characters that is by turns furious, tender, and explosive.


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 (Lebron James' First Children's Book, New Music from Purity Ring, and more)

I Promise by Lebron James

Lebron James will publish his first children's book in August.


Stream a new Purity Ring song.


February's best eBook deals.

eBook on sale for $1.99 today:

The Leavers by Nancy Ko

eBook on sale for $2.99 today:

The Famished Road by Ben Okri

eBook on sale for $3.99 today:

Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi


Paste recommended albums and soundtracks for productivity.


PopSugar ranked Jane Austen film and television adaptations.


Stream a previously unreleased Stephen Malkmus song.


BOMB features new short fiction by Kevin Wilson.


Stream a new song by Cecile Believe.


The Washington Post and Literary Hub remembered author Charles Portis.


Stream a new song by Yves Tumor.


Literary Hub recommended the week's best new books.


Stream a new song by Yumi Zouma.


Words Without Borders interviewed author Roque Larraquy.



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)
Flash Dancers (authors pair original flash fiction with a song
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 18, 2020

William Lychack's Playlist for His Novel "Cargill Falls"

Cargill Falls

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, Roxane Gay, and many others.

William Lychack's novel Cargill Falls is a powerful and lyrical evocation of youth in the recent past.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote of the book:

"'Cargill Falls' is a poignant eulogy for childhood, and childhood friendship, in a time when the world seemed somehow both very small and limitless."


In his own words, here is William Lychack's Book Notes music playlist for his novel Cargill Falls:


We once found a gun in the woods...
me and Brownie, twelve years old...
two of us walking home from school one day...
and there on the ground in the leaves was a pistol...

In many ways, I thought of this novel as a kind of love story to a place and time, a kind of resurrection of a friend and a friendship, but also a hard reckoning of the toll of expectations and disappointments. After hearing about the suicide of my childhood friend, Brownie, I wrote Cargill Falls as an attempt to make amends for what might have gone wrong in a life, circling back to one long-departed winter’s day, when everything seemed to change for “these two little idiots.”

Years from this place—a lifetime away that one afternoon—and still I can’t help but wish I could reach down and somehow lift the gun away from these two little idiots. Give them baseball practice or trumpet lessons. Somehow linger them back to the playground after school with friends. Wish I could make a train set of their town: Cargill Falls, Connecticut, circa 1980, its old mills and tired little worker houses, its churches and sidewalks and cemeteries, the grocery and package stores, that constant hint of potato chips in the air from the Frito-Lay factory in the next town over. If I could, I’d put those boys anywhere but the woods that day. I’d set them out by the train station, figurines throwing rocks at freight cars going by. I’d get them out near the river where the carp pucker the weeds above the falls. I’d wander them home through a kind of Busytown, give them bikes to ride, whisper for them to get out of here already. That’d be me rustling the maple and oak leaves, just enough to spook these kids away.

Not like they’d have listened, of course. Not like they’d have been able to hear a single word. All the iron filings would line up on that magnet of a gun for them, and yet there were so many things a pair of boys might have done different at this point in the story....

As for a soundtrack, the book is noisy with music, a kind of emotional wash over the scenes, an undercurrent in the lives of the people in this world. Crawford's mother wanted to be a singer, so she sings Dusty Springfield and the Shirelles; the narrator's mother has sad and sentimental songs on the hi-fi when he comes home, his childhood filled with Merle Haggard and The Righteous Brothers; and the three boys have bands and albums and radio stations running through their 12-year-old days:

It wasn’t far to Brownie’s house from here. Less than a mile, and we went along singing snippets of The Cars, The Police, The Who. We sang Cheap Trick. We sang like we were driving with the windows down, the three of us hollering Earth, Wind, and Fire. We kicked a flattened soda can. We cross-country skied along the sand and salt that collected in the gutter from winter. We sang, the Devil went down to Georgia, he was looking for a soul to steal, he was in a bind, he was way behind, he was willing to make a deal. We tried not to look over our shoulders for a rescue, some miracle of Cutlass or Chevelle to swoop down, some teacher or coach to come calling after us, me and Brownie and Crawford dragging our feet through our la la la la Lola....



Songs of the boys:

"Devil Went Down to Georgia," Charlie Daniels Band
"Dream Police," Cheap Trick
"Let's Go," The Cars
"Behind Blue Eyes," The Who
"Don't Stand So Close to Me," The Police
"Message in a Bottle," The Police
"Got to Get You into My Life," Earth, Wind, and Fire
"Lola," Kinks


Songs of their mothers:

"You Don't Have to Say You Love Me," Dusty Springfield
"Will You Love Me Tomorrow," The Shirelles
"Unchained Melody," Righeous Brothers
"Green, Green Grass of Home," Merle Haggard


You could reach down into your throat and pull your heart out raw and warm and still-beating to show the world, but the world would probably just shrug like it was nothing. The world had its own problems. The world didn’t want your heart. It had more than enough hearts already.

William Lychack and Cargill Falls links:

the author's website
the author's Wikipedia entry

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette review

Largehearted Boy playlist by the author for The Architect of Flowers


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 (R.I.P., Author Charles Portis, New Music from Anna Calvi, and more)

The Dog of the South by Charles Portis

R.I.P., author Charles Portis.


Stream a new Anna Calvi song that features Charlotte Gainsbourg.


February's best eBook deals.

eBook on sale for $1.99 today:

The Collector's Apprentice by B.A. Shapiro


Stream a new Waxahatchee song.


Hannah Rothschild recommended books of British satire at Literary Hub.


Stream a new song by Greg Dulli.


BuzzFeed and Literary Hub featured new essays by Brandon Taylor.


Aquarium Drunkard found some interesting music at Bandcamp.


Book Riot recommended books about anti-Mexican violence along the Mexico-Texas border.


Stream a new song by Nap Eyes.


National Geographic UK remembered author Jack London.


The Fiery Furnaces may be teasing a reunion.


The New York Times shared an excerpt from Julian Barnes ' new novel The Man in the Red Coat.


Stream a new King Krule song.


Joan Frank recommended short novels at BookMarks.


Veronica Esposito share an essay about misgendered childhood at Literary Hub.


The New York Times showcased three of 2020's addiction memoirs.


Bat for Lashes' Natasha Khan discussed her new concept album, Lost Girls, with All Things Considered.

I've always loved artists like David Bowie and Kate Bush — wild, imaginative people that take on roles and use theater and costume and film to explore sub-personalities. So Nikki was my LA girl, the vampire version of me that did all the daring wonderful things and met up with this gang of bike-riding lost girls that have great earrings and great leather jackets. I was living in Highland Park and very inspired by all of the Mexican families there. The culture, again, reminded me of Pakistan: all of the families, all the kids eating together, and the music and the fashion. I felt immersed in all that, too. So Nikki came out of all of those things.


Black feminist literary scholars discussed the work of Toni Morrison at Ms. Magazine.


Brendan Benson discussed his forthcoming album with American Songwriter.


The Conversation examined how psychology has labeled science fiction over the years.


BOMB shared an excerpt from Daniel Kehlmann's new novel Tyll.


Vol. 1 Brooklyn interviewed author David James Keaton.


Jenn Shapland talked about her book My Autobiography of Carson McCullers with Bookforum.

It tells my own love story, falling in love with my partner, Chelsea, which coincided with the research and writing of the book (we met in the archive where I found Carson’s love letters from Annemarie). It’s also about my own “love story” with Carson. I think my love for Carson as a writer and a person betrays itself in my obsession with getting her story right. I’m trying to understand her and make others understand her as I see her; it’s a kind of love that is possessive.


The New York Review of Books shared Lauren Groff's introduction to Collected Stories by Lorrie Moore.

Ploughshares talked climate change and art with Groff.


The Quietus reconsidered John Zorn's Naked City album 30 years after its release.


The Outline makes a case for why we should all read more Jenny Diski.



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)
Flash Dancers (authors pair original flash fiction with a song
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 17, 2020

Wesley Browne's Playlist for His Novel "Hillbilly Hustle"

Hillbilly Hustle

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, Roxane Gay, and many others.

Wesley Browne's novel Hillbilly Hustle is a fast-paced and thoroughly enjoyable debut.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"A top-notch debut with a winning narrative voice and unexpectedly multidimensional characters."


In his own words, here is Wesley Browne's Book Notes music playlist for his debut novel Hillbilly Hustle:



As I wrote Hillbilly Hustle—a novel set in a Kentucky pizza shop—I sometimes chose music for the pleasure of it. Other times it was strategic. I needed to go somewhere so I played what would take me there. This playlist is a mix of both those things: pleasure and strategy. There are a number of bands, musicians and songs mentioned in the novel. A few of those are on this list as well.

This playlist isn’t all Kentucky, but Kentucky’s well represented. That was mostly where I needed to be when I wrote. The pizza shop in the book, Porthos Pizza, is a stand-in for one my family co-owns and we help run. Before we owned it, you could buy pot there. Porthos sells it in the book, too. We’ve turned our attention to live music. In our listening room, I’ve seen a lot of the best of what’s coming out of Kentucky, Appalachia, and nearby places. Like Hillbilly Hustle, the music and those musicians don’t always look or sound like you’d expect.

“Tattoos” by Tyler Childers

There was this wedding reception in a warehouse in Lexington, Kentucky. On stage was this red-haired kid. I grabbed the groom. “Who is that?” I tried to book Tyler Childers in the line for the toilet. I was drunk and he had to go. We couldn’t work anything out. Months later he turned up in one of our pizza shops asking to play.

As it turned out, Tyler’s granddad drove my wife’s school bus in Lawrence County. His mother rode it. Kentucky’s a small state. Eastern Kentucky’s even smaller. Tyler Childers is as Eastern Kentucky as they come. His album, Purgatory, spun throughout the revisions of Hillbilly Hustle. My protagonist, Knox, falls in love with a tattoo artist, Darla. This track is from an album that’s entirely gems, and it’s on point.

Tyler Childers is from Lawrence County, Kentucky.

“Sodajerk” by Buffalo Tom

Knox and Darla bond over getting high and watching VHS tapes of My So Called Life. Buffalo Tom songs are ubiquitous in that show. This is the fun one. If you remember My So Called Life but aren’t sure you know this song, you know this song.

Buffalo Tom is not from Kentucky.

“Irene” by Amanda Anne Platt and the Honeycutters

Hillbilly Hustle had a different title for a long time. So did this band. They were simply The Honeycutters. I had just gotten turned on to them when I wrote the first draft of the book. I let them play and play. The lyrics of this song have nothing to do with the story, it’s the vibe. An old Appalachian sound that’s somehow fresh and new, it was an apt accompaniment to what I was trying to do. This is one good track of many.

Amanda Anne Platt and the Honeycutters are from Asheville, North Carolina.

“Wishbone” by Wayne Graham

The glaring flaw in Knox and Darla’s relationship is imbalance. She’s wiser. Has more foresight. Is more clearheaded. Wishbone is a song about just such a relationship. Wayne Graham is a band whose sound you don’t see coming, and whose hooks compel you to sing.

Wayne Graham is from Whitesburg, Kentucky.

“Just Like The Rest” by Arlo McKinley

Tortured. Melancholic. Lovelorn. Arlo McKinley bleeds every time he plays. A long section of Hillbilly Hustle takes place while Knox mourns lost love. Something he cost himself. The connection between Arlo and Knox was to the point that Arlo became one of a handful of real people I pictured while writing the character. This song is a quintessential Arlo McKinley lament.

Arlo McKinley is from across the river in Cincinnati, Ohio, but he’s beloved in Kentucky.

“Bless My Heart” by Angaleena Presley

This is another one that’s pure Eastern Kentucky. If someone’s vicious enough to bless your heart, slap their face. When I needed to go there, Angaleena Presley was one of the people I played.

Angaleena Presley is from Beauty, Kentucky in Martin County.

“Mighty Little Man” by Steve Burns

During a slow shift at Porthos, two characters discuss their preference for Blue’s Clues host. They touch on the album where this song appears, and it ain’t half bad.

Steve Burns is not from Kentucky.

“The Dogs” by Justin Wells

So much of the book concerns the unglamourous grind of getting by. Of questioning it. Of the coping mechanisms employed to do it. About busting ass to stay afloat and keep things going. This song is all of that.

Justin Wells is from Lexington, Kentucky.

"When You Go" - Tiffany Williams

Another Kentucky atmospheric musician. A voice like a bell. Songs about loving an imperfect place. Her EP took me to the mountains every time I played it.

Tiffany Williams is from Letcher County, Kentucky.

“One Big Holiday” by My Morning Jacket

Knox’s body is more ruin than temple. But he’s a born hustler, like the opening lyrics of this song say, “waking up feeling good and limber” each morning, ripping off his CPAP mask, and getting to work.

My Morning Jacket is from Louisville, Kentucky.

“Build A Fire” by Chelsea Nolan

More bombastic than some of her Kentucky contemporaries. People call out for Chelsea’s Janis Joplin covers at her live shows, but this original is my favorite. It fits the women of Hillbilly Hustle well.

Chelsea Nolan is from Powell County, Kentucky.

“Sleepy Lagoon” by Carl Broemel

I avoided literal pot songs on this playlist, but this song is stoned. Fanciful, ethereal, pleasurable.

Carl Broemel is a member of the Louisville, Kentucky band My Morning Jacket.

“Martha” by Tom Waits

This one’s in the book. The album plays while Darla tattoos Knox. Later, after she’s gone, Knox sings the song to himself. It’s his state of mind.

Tom Waits is not from Kentucky.

“Behind Me Now/El Camino Reprise” by Amos Lee/Willie Nelson

Amos Lee sings “All my best days are behind me now” which is exactly how Knox feels. On the second half of this dual-track Willie Nelson’s voice bubbles up. The patron saint of American marijuana, he had to be on this playlist.

Neither Amos Lee nor Willie Nelson is from Kentucky.

“Time After All” by Sturgill Simpson

The more solo albums Sturgill Simpson makes, the more he departs from traditional country, and to fine result. But this song’s from the first one, and it brought a throwback sound to a Commonwealth hungry for it. A shining example of what he can do. A shining example of Kentucky.

Sturgill Simpson is from Breathitt County, Kentucky.

“Family Tree” by Senora May

Vocally and lyrically, Senora May might go anywhere. She doesn’t sound like anyone. Her voice is that of the eclectic Kentucky young woman, whatever that might be. After cutting the original protagonist during revisions, I added a character named Tori to fill the void. A new hire at Porthos Pizza who stabilizes the listing ship. It helped to find Tori’s character in Senora’s songs because Senora worked as a server for us in her early days as a performer.

Senora May is from Estill County, Kentucky

“Workingman’s Blues #2” by Bob Dylan

We only have a pizza shop because a good friend who owned it passed away. A black and white photo of Bob Dylan that hung over his desk now hangs behind the counter in our real life place, and it also hangs there in the fictional Porthos Pizza. This song overlays Hillbilly Hustle imperfectly, but quite well nonetheless.

Bob Dylan is not from Kentucky.

“Fish and Whistle” by John Prine

I wrote two endings. One pitch black, another more hopeful. John Prine has songs that fall at both ends as well. He practices something he calls “optimistic pessimism” and that pretty well sums up Hillbilly Hustle, and Kentucky, really. Fish and Whistle is hopeful, much like the ending I ultimately chose.

John Prine is from Illinois, but his family roots are in Kentucky, and he once said, “I’m a Kentucky boy through and through.”


Wesley Browne and Hillbilly Hustle links:

the author's website

Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review

Ace 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


Shorties (Three Interviews with Jenny Offill, The Best Breakup Songs, and more)

Weather by Jenny Offill

The Paris Review, Shondaland and Vulture interviewed author Jenny Offill.


The Ringer and SPIN listed the greatest breakup songs.


February's best eBook deals.

eBook on sale for $2.99 today:

The Black Presidency by Michael Eric Dyson


Laura Stevenson played a Tiny Desk Concert.


Jared Reinmuth discussed his graphic novel Big Black: Stand at Attica with the New York Times.


Stream a new song by Habibi.


Off the Shelf recommended impactful books for Black History Month.


Maura Johnston discussed Scritti Politti at Morning Edition.


The New York Public Library recommended 125 books from the past 125 years.


Emerson, Lake and Palmer's song "Karn Evil 9" is being adapted into a film.


PopSugar recommended 2020's best true crime books.


Desire covered New Order's "Bizarre Love Triangle."


Ta-Nehisi Coates talked Toni Morrison with artist Calida Rawles at W Magazine.


Gorilla Vs. Bear recommended the week's best albums.


Financial Times profiled Nobel laureate Olga Tokarczuk.

I ask Tokarczuk if she considers herself a political author. “Whether I like it or not, I am, especially in Poland,” she replies. “The views I have, the books I write, are read as political, or even as manifestos. In today’s world everything is political. We are a statement — our clothes, haircut, the way we act. I think 40 or 50 years ago, being political meant belonging to a political party. Today life itself is political.”


Stereogum reconsidered the Cure's Bloodflowers album on its 20th anniversary.


Margaret Atwood's MaddAddam trilogy is being adapted into a ballet.


Stream a new Gang of Four song.


LitReactor interviewed Chuck Palahniuk.


Aquarium Drunkard interviewed Lee Ranaldo & Raül Refree.


Erik Larson discussed his favorite books at The Week.


Stream a new Forever song.


Literary Hub shared Michelle Chihara's contribution to the anthology Slouching Towards Los Angeles: Living and Writing by Joan Didion’s Light.


Kim Gordon discussed her art with BOMB.


Vikram Paralkar discussed his debut novel Night Theater with The Rumpus.


The Los Angeles Times recommended authors of Korean thrillers.


Book Rot listed the best musicals adapted from books.


Bryan Washington discussed his forthcoming debut novel Memorial with Entertainment Weekly.


Mel Magazine interviewed author Brandon Taylor.


Colum McCann discussed his new novel Apeirogon with the New York Times.


PEN America interviewed author Paul Yoon.


Vanity Fair examined Virginia Woolf's influence on fashion.


Stream a new song by Lake Ruth.


System of a Down’s Serj Tankian and John Dolmayan covered David Bowie's "Starman."


Aquarium Drunkard shared a guide to the music of Carla Bley.



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)
Flash Dancers (authors pair original flash fiction with a song
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, 2020

Amina Cain's Playlist for Her Novel "Indelicacy"

Indelicacy

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, Roxane Gay, and many others.

Amina Cain's novel Indelicacy is as inventive and assuredly written as any I have ever read. An exemplary contemporary novel from one of our most talented writers.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"Bewitching . . . Cain’s concentrated, subtle, and intriguing portrait of an evolving artist resolutely rejecting gender and class roles, with its subtle nods to Jean Rhys, Clarice Lispector, and Octavia Butler, explores the risks and rewards of a call to create and self-liberate."


In her own words, here is Amina Cain's Book Notes music playlist for her novel Indelicacy:



Indelicacy is a novel about Vitória, a young cleaning woman at a museum who dreams of writing about paintings. And so she tries to write, and she wanders her city, and marries a rich man, and in that marriage gains a maid, a situation to which she never adjusts. The novel is set "atmospherically" in the 1800s and in some ways is inspired by the Victorian novels of that period, though it is not a historical novel in the traditional sense, and in writing it I thought a lot about time, perception, and the supernatural. It is a novel about seeing, finding one's true calling, class, desire, anxiety, pleasure, friendship, and the flawed self.

Sometimes I needed it to be absolutely quiet when I was writing Indelicacy, and sometimes I listened to music. But I couldn’t listen to just anything. It had to be music that, like my favorite books, made me feel a lot and want to write. I love every song on this playlist. Some of them I played over and over again during the time I worked on my novel. The others are for Vitória, because they remind me of her, or I think she’d like them.

“Two Weeks” by FKA twigs

This song pulses with both lightness and darkness. I love how slow the music is, and the precise, pronounced delivery of the lyrics. It’s dramatic and strange in all the best ways. I think Vitória would want to be friends with FKA twigs.

“Chosen One” by Smog

More than anything, I’m taken in by the lyrics in Smog songs. I like the music too, and the voice of Bill Callahan, but the lyrics are their own special thing: deceptively simple and unexpected. In “Chosen One” it’s the idea of the wild horse I love the most, wanting to ride a horse you know will throw you off. Indelicacy is interested in wild horses.

“Concerto For Two Violins” by Johann Sebastian Bach

I listened to Bach a lot when I was working on the book, tuned in especially to those elegant and expressive violins. They transformed my study and desk and what I was writing. They made me feel I was somewhere else.

“Tosca Vissi dâ ‘Arte” performed by Maria Callas

I can picture Vitória sitting in an opera house, tears streaming down her face, listening intently to Maria Callas sing this song. And then she goes home to write. Or she writes in the lobby of the theater.

“New Partner” by Bonnie “Prince” Billy (Coney Island extended version)

Can I just put these lyrics here instead of talking about the song? They say it all, truly.

“When you asked me to sing / Feels like my heart would burst with pride / And I look at your face / And tears come to my eyes / And all that’s harsh and wrong / In my life / Melts into one sweet song / And my love spreads wings / Like a blackbird flying over the road / Well I know you take pleasure in my singing / And I know that only when I sing do you hear me / Because then I touch things I can’t touch / I touch parts of you that I can’t really touch / And then drunk with this joy of singing / I forget myself / And call you my friend”

“Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole” by Martha Wainwright

If Vitória has an anthem, this is it. She’s warm, but she’s a little angry too. She doesn’t mind telling men who bug her that their faces look like the butts of wolves. She wants to be who she is, always. Wainwright holds nothing back in this song, singing loudly with all that she has.

“Bad Girls” by M.I.A.

M.I.A is just the best, and this might be one of the best lyrics of all time: “My chain hits my chest / When I’m bangin’ on the dashboard / My chain hits my chest / When I’m bangin’ on the radio.” Who wouldn’t want to dance all night to this song, and feel free?

“Tecumseh Valley” by Townes Van Zandt performed with Nanci Griffith

A moving song about the daughter of a coal miner named Caroline who leaves home for work. I find some parallels here to the story I’ve told. Setting off alone, trying to make ends meet. Van Zandt and Griffith sound very nice together too.

“The Roving” by Bonny Light Horseman

This song is new to me, as is Bonny Light Horseman, and I can’t stop listening to it, or them. I feel some kinship with the ways in which their music sounds as if it exists in a couple of different times at once. Both old and new.

“All The Leaves Are Gone” by Josephine Foster and The Supposed

Josephine Foster’s music has always made me want to write. She is an artist in every way, and her music sends me to a place I could never imagine on my own. A trained opera singer, her voice is beautiful and haunting. This song is about sorrow, yet there’s something almost exhilarating about it.


Amina Cain and Indelicacy links:

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

Bookforum review
Booklist review
Harper's review
Kirkus review
The Rumpus review

Full Stop interview with the author
Los Angeles Review of Books interview with the author
OTHERPPL podcast interview with the author
Paris Review 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


Clare Beams' Playlist for Her Novel "The Illness Lesson"

The Illness Lesson

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, Roxane Gay, and many others.

Clare Beams' debut The Illness Lesson is a brilliant, inventive, and evocative debut.

The New York Times wrote of the book:

"Astoundingly original, this impressive debut belongs on the shelf with your Margaret Atwood and Octavia Butler collections."


In her own words, here is Clare Beams' Book Notes music playlist for her debut novel The Illness Lesson:



My first novel, The Illness Lesson, is about an episode of mass hysteria at a newly founded school for girls in 1871 Massachusetts. The protagonist is Caroline Hood, the twenty-nine-year-old daughter of a Transcendentalist philosopher who’s outlived his fame and who’s trying, now, one more venture to win it back: establishing a girls’ school that will show the world women’s true capabilities, and, of course, Samuel’s own. The Trilling Heart School (named after a flock of strange red birds that has recently descended) opens, and Caroline begins to teach alongside Samuel and his protégé David, despite misgivings about the whole enterprise. But Trilling Heart’s first students quickly begin to develop mysterious symptoms, and soon Caroline does too. The teachers then have to decide how to handle this strange and sudden plague.

When I made a playlist for my debut story collection, We Show What We Have Learned, in 2016, I wrote that I need silence to write well. This continues to be true (and now I have a second child—my girls are now six and three—and so such silence is even harder to come by). But I do continue to use music as a sort of warmup, to get myself into the mental space where my fiction lives. Some of the following songs and pieces were part of that warmup as I wrote The Illness Lesson; all of them feel like part of my characters’ mental weather.


“Poets”
The Tragically Hip

This song captures something of the propulsive rage that’s fueling Caroline for a lot of the novel. The line that starts its chorus, Don’t tell me what the poets are doing, is something I often feel Caroline thinking: she’s spent her life hearing about Vast Cosmic Truths from her father (a truthteller with the best of them), and it all seems to her to have gotten her nowhere especially useful. She loves him deeply and loves the intellectual world he’s opened for her, but she’s found it open only partway in the end—she’s still tending his life, really, instead of living her own. This to me is the root of her anger as the Trilling Heart School opens. She’s meant to be its poster child, the shining example of the kind of education it will provide, and yet she doesn’t feel her father has thought through, even now, what he has and hasn’t given her, what the actual dimensions of her life have been.


Piano Sonata No. 2, “Concord, MA, 1840-1860”; III. The Alcotts
Charles Ives

Charles Ives was born and began composing not far from where I grew up in Connecticut. He’s from an era later than the fictional world I’m writing about in this novel—the Concord piano sonata was written between 1911-1915 and published in 1920—but he’s often calling back to and commenting on earlier times, the way he’s doing here, taking traditional New England music and twisting it a little. This piece feels to me like a hymn that gets stretched and pulled into discordance. While my Hoods are fictional, the Alcotts (Louisa May and her idealistic, sometimes misguided father Bronson) were important underpinnings for my invention of them, and I love this musical portrait. In a way that’s just right, it feels like an idyllic form that can’t quite hold.


“Colossus of Rhodes”
The New Pornographers

This song makes me think of a vast thing, toppling—apart from the title and lyrics, the music itself seems full of a destructive rhythm already set in motion. When I hear it too I always think of the Sylvia Plath poem “The Colossus” and its powerful portrait of the tending of a fractured, mythic, and enormous father, from the perspective of the daughter (“I crawl like an ant in mourning / Over the weedy acres of your brow / To mend the immense skull plates and clear / The bald, white tumuli of your eyes…”). That plight has shaped my Caroline’s life.


“Heartbeats”
Jose Gonzalez

Another force at work within Caroline, as the Trilling Heart project unfolds, is a kind of tragic longing for David, her father’s protégé and their co-teacher at the school. I don’t think it’s giving too much away to say that this is a longing that’s doomed from the beginning to be unfulfilled in most of the important ways; Caroline herself has this sense even before she learns of the particulars that doom it. “Heartbeats” captures for me that mingled sweetness and sadness of wanting a thing you know you can’t really have.


“White Winter Hymnal”
The Fleet Foxes

While I was in the thick of reworking The Illness Lesson, I listened to this song every day. It’s such a delicate work of menace. There’s something wonderfully ominous in that suspended moment at its start, those swirling lines, “I was following the / I was following the / I…”, which keep looping back on themselves without arriving at an object. Following the what? we wonder, with increasing anxiety. And then when we do arrive it’s in such an unsettling place: “I was following the pack, all swallowed in their coats / With scarves of red tied ’round their throats / To keep their little heads from falling in the snow...” These lyrics make me picture, every time, the pack of students in my novel (snow and the color red both come up a lot in The Illness Lesson). There’s the sublime creepiness too of what comes after, which takes gorgeous, rich harmonies and pastoral imagery and coopts them into violence: “you would fall and turn the white snow red / as strawberries in summertime.” This song always brought me back to the feeling I was hoping my novel would create for the reader.


Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, Third Movement

The Transcendentalists loved Beethoven. Emerson wrote that his music “labor[ed] with vaster conceptions and aspirations than music has ever attempted before”; Margaret Fuller that “Beethoven, towering far above our heads, still with colossal gesture points above.” For these thinkers, striving for the infinite was the noblest pursuit possible. Beethoven’s music was first brought to Boston, Transcendentalism’s epicenter, in 1842—the Fifth Symphony, which I’ve drawn from here, and the sunny Second—and this was the period in which my fictional Samuel Hood’s fame would have been flowering. This third movement recalls the ultra-recognizable dun-dun-dun-DUN from the first movement but turns it more regimented, march-like, in a way that for me captures something of Trilling Heart’s momentum. Once Samuel’s students arrive, they begin to experience on their own terms what he has envisioned for them, and the vision begins to change in ways the teachers can’t control.


“Measuring Cups”
Andrew Bird

I love the eerie lilt of this one. And the classroom imagery (“Get out your measuring cups / And we'll play a new game / Come to the front of the class / And we'll measure your brain”) feels connected to the kind of classroom-mood I wanted for The Illness Lesson. Foundational to the education that Samuel and David want to provide is their misguided assumption that, with the right tools, the full selves of their students are comprehensible, measurable.


“Starwatcher”
The Decemberists

Like so much of The Decemberists’ music, this song is so richly narrative and somehow almost 19th-century in its sensibility (“calamity”! “a-shambling”!)—and I adore it. “Starwatcher” is about the process of trying to decode omens of catastrophe, which is what Caroline finds herself doing for much of The Illness Lesson. In watching Eliza, the students’ ringleader, grow in power and influence, she often feels she’s watching the first signs of impending doom, like the “poison in the well,” the “rider on the road,” the “lady on the stair” here.


“Little Talks”
Of Monsters and Men

This song takes the form of a dialogue in which the female singer’s experiences are repeatedly, insistently reframed by the male singer. She expresses a fear or a complaint (“The stairs creak as you sleep; it’s keeping me awake”) and he explains that fear/complaint in a way that’s meant to comfort her (“It’s the house telling you to close your eyes”). Except comfort of this kind seems only so comforting, hinging as it does on questioning and correcting her judgment (“Some days, I don’t know if I am wrong or right / Your mind is playing tricks on you, my dear”). This dynamic is the lifeblood of my novel: what happens when you’ve been made to trust someone else’s understanding more than your own, even about the truths that live inside your own skin.


Finale, The Firebird
Igor Stravinsky

Before we had kids, my husband and I used to play in the second violin section of a community orchestra, and one of my favorite memories from that time is of playing The Firebird. I love the whole thorny ballet, but I think there’s something particularly gorgeous about this finale and its emergence out of all the chaos and agony that came before. There’s something of that trajectory in Caroline’s story. She makes her way to a very hard-won kind of power by my novel’s end—a power that’s shaped but not diminished by what she’s experienced.


Clare Beams and The Illness Lesson links:

the author's website

The ARTery review
BookPage review
Kirkus review
New York Journal of Books review
New York Times review
Publishers Weekly review
San Francisco Chronicle review

Largehearted Boy playlist by the author for We Show What We Have Learned
The Rumpus 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


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