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April 4, 2008

March 2008 Largehearted Boy Wrapup

For me, March was split into three parts: preparing for SXSW, attending SXSW, recuperating from SXSW. Not surprisingly, the first item on the recap of last month's feature posts at Largehearted Boy is the list of 2008 SXSW music downloads & streams.

Music Festival Downloads (free and legal audio & video)

2008 SXSW Music Downloads & Streams

Over 110 performances are available to stream or download, and more are added daily.

52 Books 52 Weeks (my book reviews)

review of the short story compilation, The Book of Other People

Guest Book Review

Tim Frederick of Baby Got Books reviewed Dean Wareham's memoir, Black Postcards

Although the split with Galaxie 500 was ugly, Wareham seems to go out of his way to be fair and generous to his former band members while telling his side of the story. It is not clear if this even handedness is the result of therapy or the gentle padding of time, but the book certainly reads better as a result.

Book Notes (authors create a music playlist for their book)

Evan Fallenberg for his novel Light Fell

So what seemed most natural was to choose musical themes for each character in Light Fell, as in Peter and the Wolf. Prokofiev orchestrated seven different themes, but I would need eight to do minimal justice to the characters and thirteen to be fair to all.

Elisa Albert for her novel, The Book of Dahlia

Some of these are songs to which I listened obsessively while I was working on Dahlia. Some are just songs that embody how I imagine her to have felt. Still others are songs I imagined playing over the narration of her life, what might have been on her iPod at any given time. The lines got a little blurry, as lines often will when you’re trying to inhabit imaginary people. By the time the book was finished, it was all fairly indistinguishable to me. This is, simply, quintessentially “Dahlia Finger” music. By which I mean deeply felt, variously angry, cathartic, sentimental, exuberant, late, late night, stoned, sad, happy, sad, happysad/sadhappy music. All of which defies explanation and too much exegesis, which is why it’s music.

Matt Haig for his novel The Labrador Pact

Big Time Sensuality – Bjork

This should be the Springer Spaniel’s anthem. They’re the hedonists of the novel. The debauched ‘sniffaholics’ who love corrupting Labradors. I think this song, with its euphoric rave-era rhythms and triumphant keyboards, plus Bjork’s vocals bursting with insane live-for-the-moment happiness, is what Springer Spaniels play in their heads all the time.

Kate Torgovnick for her book, Cheer!

Bloc Party “The Prayer”

I know the song isn’t about cheerleading. But it sure sounds like it is. “Tonight make me unstoppable / And I will charm, I will slice, I will dazzle / I will outshine them all.” These could be words right of the cheerleaders’ mouths. This album came out while I was following the three teams, and this is the song that instantly pops into my mind when I think about the CHEER! experience as a whole.

Laura Lippman for her novel, Another Thing to Fall

Almost every novel I have written has had a key song or two and I usually put those songs -- first on a mix tape, later on an iPod -- on my work-out tape/playlist so I can pound them into my brain while I am pounding a treadmile or an elliptical machine. The songs are, I'm sorry to say, often far from breathtakingly hip or edgy. My musical tastes are broad, inredibly broad, but the songs that affect my writing are often corny. I tend to have no more than two or three songs per book, so it's hard for me to imagine an entire playlist.

Jeffrey Ford for his novel The Shadow Year

“Time of the Season” by The Zombies

A very haunting song that portended some darkness we could never really figure out but knew was there beneath the beat and lyrics. It was my sister’s favorite song, and just knowing this told me there was more going on behind her shy, retiring demeanor than I had the wherewithal to gauge. This experience was a hallmark of childhood for me – sensing something deeper than my current knowledge of the world could explain. I still play this song every now and then, and it still reminds me that there are unseen forces both physical and metaphysical at work all around me. Who’s your Daddy?

Will Leitch for his book God Save the Fan

I live by myself, but this wasn't always the case, and back when I had roommates, anytime I was working was guaranteed to terrify them. Why? Because I must have absolute isolation when I write. That is to say: I shut off all lights in my apartment, put on my headphones and blast them as loud as I can. The music has no specific purpose except to serve as loud, fast, subconscious white noise. I need something that won't distract me while I'm working -- this is why I can't listen to hip-hop when I'm writing; I pay too much attention to the words -- but will provide a pulse that will keep me going.

Kevin Brockmeier for his short fiction collection The View from the Seventh Layer

The View from the Seventh Layer is not strictly or even primarily a work of science fiction; in a collection of thirteen stories, I would say that four of them fall squarely within the science fiction and fantasy tradition, four of them squarely outside, and the other five straddle the border, some leaning most of their weight toward realism, some toward fantasy or science fiction. (And yes, I’m aware that science fiction and fantasy are not one and the same. A few fantasy- but-not-science-fiction bands: The Divine Comedy, Nilsson, The Magnetic Fields, and Dead Can Dance.) That said, the question of which musicians are science fiction and which not is one that I began to toy around with when I was writing the stories included in the collection.

James Morrow for his novel The Philosopher's Apprentice

Much of the music I consumed while writing The Philosopher's Apprentice came from my collection of soundtracks for various Hollywood and British films exploring the Frankenstein mythos. I also listened repeatedly to Gary Chang's compelling score for the John Frankenheimer version of The Island of Dr. Moreau, H. G. Wells's great novella being another of my touchstones. Together these selections constitute a kind of "Symphony of Biological Diabolism": themes and cues by which to write -- and read -- homages to Mary Shelley.

Lauren Groff for her novel The Monsters of Templeton

I can't listen to songs with lyrics that I understand while I write, but before and after the hours in which I wrote my first novel, The Monsters of Templeton, I listened to the following songs on repeat. While I write, I listen to whatever classical music I have (and now can hum the Goldberg Variations in their entirety, which is not a very useful skill). Compiling this list was a very strange exercise because I can see very clearly how each song influenced my book and charged it with energy.

Jeff Gordinier for his book X Saves the World

“Don’t Look Back,” by Boston. At the end of X Saves the World, after the acknowledgements section, I include a “hidden track” — a three-page passage in which I pay flaming tribute to this song. Because the song is by Boston, those faceless dukes of the classic-rock radio dial, a few readers have presumed that I’m being tongue-in-cheek. I’m not. Really. There was a point in “the writing process” when I was so utterly blocked and downcast that I started to imagine myself jumping off the Tappan Zee Bridge. Then one night I heard this song on the car radio and it filled me up with a mutant surge of energy. I had a Tony Robbins moment! Yes! I bought the song for 99 cents on iTunes and wound up playing it almost every morning until I was done with the manuscript. Now I’m just waiting for Sonic Youth to cover it, along with Billy Joel’s “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant.”

William Walsh for his novel Without Wax

The closest musical equivalent to Without Wax would be The Smiths with the Red Hot Chili Peppers rhythm section. But I couldn’t approximate that within a single mixtape. The segues would have been off: The Connells fading into Bad Brains and the Beastie Boys following The Beautiful South. So this mixtape certainly dates me as a guy who worked in record stores all through grad school in the early nineties, and it leans heavily on guitar pop/twang and singer-songwriters. But these songs have aged well, for the most part, and they’re thematically appropriate.

also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
guest book reviews
musician/author interviews
directors discuss their film's soundtracks
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2007 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2006 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2005 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2004 Edition)


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