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May 22, 2008

Book Notes - Augusten Burroughs ("A Wolf at the Table")

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

Augusten Burroughs is known for his wit but his most recent book A Wolf at the Table proves him a master of suspense. As he recounts his life with a sociopathic father, the book reads like a first-rate psychological thriller (with the added weight that this is fact, not fiction).

For the audiobook version of A Wolf at the Table, several songwriters were asked to read the memoir and write songs inspired by the book. Patti Smith, Ingrid Michaelson, Tegan Quin (of Tegan and Sara), and Sea Wolf contributed the resulting songs to the audiobook's CD. Stream the songs on Augusten Burroughs' website or listen to mp3 samples below.

In this Book Notes piece, Augusten Burroughs discusses the original songs inspired by his book and Tegan Quin and Ingrid Michaelson share their thoughts on the book and how it inspired the songs they contributed to the audiobook.


In his own words, here is Augusten Burroughs' Book Notes essay for his memoir, A Wolf at the Table:

Tegan Quin: "His Love" [mp3] (sample)

Tegan's song was the first to arrive and it arrived via email. I hesitated before downloading and playing the song because I am such a huge Tegan and Sara fan. I was kinda-sorta star struck, I must say. Then I played it and it was like being punched in the chest, but in the best possible way. The song was so personal, from Tegan to Augusten. It was so profoundly empathetic and then so damn kick-ass. I loved it. I cried and I played it over and over.

Ingrid Michaelson: "Spare Change" [mp3] (sample)

Ingrid's song. Well. She's an amazing writer; she reminds me of Joni Mitchell a bit in that she combines words in new ways and yet somehow manages to express universal truths, she NAILS the heart stuff. I love the drama of her song, the way it builds into this almost orchestral optimism, this incredible almost anthem of strength. I never could have predicted those lyrics and yet they feel inevitable -perfect.

Sea Wolf: "Song of the Magpie" [mp3] (sample)

SeaWolf's track brings redemption. His brilliant layering upon layering -the richness of his sound, coupled with his poetic lyrics -this is why I love is work in general. He's an original. There is nobody who sounds like SeaWolf. And I loved the "I forgive you" refrain. Because ultimately, one must "forgive" or at the very least fully accept one's circumstances, no matter how bitter. It's such a beautiful, haunting yet hopeful song.

Patti Smith: "The Only Time" [mp3] (sample)

Patti Smith's song was an utter shock. And yet, it shouldn't have been. Because I have loved Patti Smith since I was thirteen. I had to listen to it a dozen times before I could even begin to accept, this is really Patti Smith. She really wrote this for me. Her song is haunting, frightening, luminous, beautiful. She captured, flawlessly, the prologue of the book where I am being chased through the dark woods by my father. She's a genius.


In her own words, here is Tegan Quin's Book Notes contribution for A Wolf at the Table:

I am a huge fan of Augusten Burroughs. It was without question one of the most exciting and flattering requests of our career. There was no question that I was going to be involved. I had never done something like this and felt it was the perfect project to cut my teeth on as I was so interested in the subject....I think Augusten is a wonderful, funny, intensely intuitive and articulate person who has an uncanny ability to disarm those that would typically not be disarmed. I think he has in the past been quite fun to read. He displays his dysfunction in a way that encourages me to embrace my own dysfunction. With his newest book he shows a very serious side. I think he writes beautifully.


In her own words, here is Ingrid Michaelson's Book Notes contribution for A Wolf at the Table:

When I heard that Augusten wanted me to write a song for A Wolf at the Table I nearly exploded. His book is so heartbreakingly devastating and it makes you want to hug him and rock him like a baby. After reading it, I just wanted to sing the words that he felt, put his thoughts to music, as best I could. And help him purge, if I could.


Augusten Burroughs and A Wolf at the Table links:

the author's website
the author's blog
the author's Wikipedia entry
the author's book tour
excerpt from the book (pdf link)

Associated Press review
Charlotte Observer review
Entertainment Weekly review
New York Times review
Publishers Weekly review
Rocky Mountain News review
San Diego Union-Tribune
St. Louis Post-Dispatch review
USA Today review
Washington Post review

AfterElton video interview with the author
Bostonist interview with the author
Chicago Sun-Times interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Previous Book Notes submissions (authors create playlists for their book)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
guest book reviews
musician/author interviews
directors and actors discuss their film's soundtracks
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2008 Edition)
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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