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June 13, 2006

Book Notes - Jason Headley ("Small Town Odds")

Small Town Odds is an engaging debut novel from Jason Headley. Often compared to Richard Russo, Headley captures the intricacies of small town life in this interestingly offbeat novel.

In his own words, here is Jason Headley's Book Notes contribution for his novel, Small Town Odds:

SMALL TOWN ODDS takes place during one week of the main character’s life. Each chapter is a day, while the chapters in between are flashbacks to an earlier time. So in the spirit of the seven days, I chose seven songs. These either provided some level of inspiration during the writing or fit a particular scene in the book.

If you haven’t read the book, you won’t know what I’m talking about when I reference these scenes. And if you have extreme obsessive compulsive disorder and require closure in every aspect in your life, you’ll run right out and buy the book to provide a thin veneer of order to your life. Which will be to my advantage.

Some might call this preying on the obsessively compulsive for personal gain. To those people I say, “Hey. Did you leave the iron on?”

Coming Down In the Rain — Nancy Griffith
There’s no easy way to transition out of the regular world into a wholly fictional world of your own making. No readily available, over-the-counter way. So I choose to listen to a song. The same song every time. This song was written by Buddy Mondlock, but I only know the version performed by Nancy Griffith. Something about this song seemed to fit the predicament of the main character, Eric Mercer, pretty well. So every night before I started writing, I would spend three minutes and forty-five seconds transitioning into his state of mind. And reminding myself of the central struggle of the thing.

Not Dead — Unified Theory
When I’m writing, anything and everything can be a discovery that fits. This band was made up of the surviving members of Blind Melon and a new singer who sounds SHOCKINGLY like Shannon Hoon. Not quite as impressive as when Bon Scott died and AC/DC replaced him with a guy who sounded EXACTLY like Bon Scott. But that’s not why you called. In the book, Eric works in a funeral home and has all-but given up on his life. His young daughter is the only bright spot. So I found something fitting in the pleading chorus of this song, “I know I’m not dead/Oh God, I know I’m not dead/Yet.” But even more so, the lyric of the bridge, “The more I believe/The less I enjoy this life/The less I need anyone/The more I need you.”

Old Five and Dimers Like Me — Waylon Jennings
Wherever there’s a jukebox, there’s Waylon Jennings. At least in West Virginia. In a scene where Eric attempts to console his ex-girlfriend while at the American Legion, there’s a mention of Waylon on the jukebox. This is the song I heard in my head.

Will the Circle Be Unbroken? — Traditional
I’ve never cared for sad hymnals. The songs I always enjoyed in church were the toe-tappers. “I’ll Fly Away.” “Go Tell it on the Mountain.” “In the Sweet By and By.” And there’s no place on earth that calls for an upbeat number more than a funeral. During the big funeral scene in the book, this is the song that catches everyone off guard, but seems to make everyone feel good again. At least until the song ends.

Sweet Is the Night — E.L.O.
There’s a moment in the book where old love seems rekindled. It’s unexpected and unabashedly welcomed by Eric. This song drives along with a steady rhythm but still seems to float above the fray. Like it’s afraid to even exist. It’s just so hopeful and exciting and everything else that this moment in the book should be. This song almost makes me forgive E.L.O. for Xanadu. Almost.

Throwing Off Glass — The Tragically Hip
As I came down the home stretch with this manuscript, The Tragically Hip released a new album. And this song was a perfectly-shaped example of what I was writing about. The characters are different between the song and the book. The ages and whatnot. But this is love between a father and a daughter. The wonder of it. The small moments. Gordon Downie is a true poet. And not in the way that word is tossed about all hurly-burly. In the way that will make your heart burst and your brain itch and your breath glass over in wonder.

I Live For You — George Harrison
If credits rolled at the end of a book, if you read the last sentence and music came out of nowhere, this song would get the gig. (Who do I talk to about getting that technology rolling, by the way?) I’ve long hated the “You complete me” bullshit that seems to pollute people’s minds about relationships. But when it’s a single father and his only daughter, this song works. It’s beautiful and just terribly appropriate. And not a bad way to end.

see also:

Previous Book Notes submissions (authors create playlists for their book)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2006 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2005 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2004 Edition)

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