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May 14, 2008

Book Notes - Jeffrey Brown ("Little Things: A Memoir in Slices")

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

Jeffrey Brown is one of my favorite cartoonists, and his new graphic novel Little Things: A Memoir in Slices is an exquisite collection of highly personal vignettes. These comics are a literary bunch, and can be read as short stories as much for their true to life dialogue as for the drawings.

Of the book, the New York Daily News wrote:

"'Little Things' offers readers a more well-rounded portrait of Jeffrey Brown. Instead of focusing solely on his relationships as his earlier works have done, he explores a variety of themes including friendship, health, love, death, nature and fatherhood. Brown also treats fans with the occasional full page illustration, breaking away from his six-panel format to emphasize certain visual moments during his narrative."

In his own words, here is Jeffrey Brown's Book Notes essay for his graphic novel, Little Things: A Memoir in Slices:

My newest book, Little Things, is a collection of autobiographical comics, that try and take the every day moments of insignificance and show how they give life meaning. One theme that comes up repeatedly is music. Partly this is because for long time I was working at a Barnes & Noble store as manager of the music department, and partly it's because I'm a big music lover and I tend to write about things I love (hence my other books about girls, cats, mixed martial arts, etc.). Anyway, with music there's a tendency for songs, albums and artists to be tied to particular feelings or events in life. The first story in the book, 'These Things, These Things' takes its title from the lyrics to the song 'Headsoak' by Andrew Bird, and the story itself traces my discovery of Bird's music over a kind of emotional map of my life at the time. Music continues to be referenced throughout the book, sometimes explicitly and sometimes not. These are just a few of the references...

"The Mysterious Production Of Eggs" Andrew Bird

When I first listened to this album, I was in the midst of breaking up with girl, which would normally overshadow everything for me and justify many of the criticisms people tend to level against my character after reading my other books about relationships. At this time though, I was starting to mature, and also, the album was like some sort of spiritual revelation to me. The only thing I wanted to do then was absorb it, listen to it again and really let it soak in, and it left me with some kind of feeling that it's a really small world even when it's really big.

"From Blown Speakers" The New Pornographers

I already liked Neko Case's solo work and Dan Bejar's other band Destroyer, but for some reason when friends tried to get me into The New Pornographers with their first album, it didn't grab me enough. This song singlehandedly changed that. In the book, I'm driving with a car full of other people. If I had been alone I probably would've played this song over and over the rest of the drive.

"Green Typewriters" Olivia Tremor Control

Before I really understood how great the Elephant Six bands were, I saw Olivia Tremor Control play in Chicago, a couple years before moving to the city. The band broke up, but had a little reunion tour, and I was happy for one more chance to see them play. They didn't play this song that night, I don't think, but it's one of my favorites. Of course, they named a good dozen tracks 'Green Typewriters.' This one is a minute long but I'm not sure what track number it is. Anyway, this is a band whose music I listen to, forget about, suddenly get the urge to listen to again, and then forget about again, and there's a parallel there to how people come in and out of our lives, and we never know if we'll never see them again.

"Pastry Sharp" Califone

In the beginning of the title story of Little Things there's a scene of hanging out with my friend Jeremy and his wife Jennifer and some other friends, just drinking and hanging out, completely relaxed, on a nice cool summer night. It was a night like that - not the night in the story, specifically, but that kind of night - where Jeremy asked me if I had heard the band Califone, and he played this song for me, and that song is forever and ever inexorably tied to that friendship, and it's one of my favorite songs of any band.

"Don't Think Twice, It's Alright" Bob Dylan

My favorite Dylan song. I got into Bob Dylan way later than someone who's a self described music lover had any business getting into his music. I've always been a late bloomer.

"After N. Young" The Microphones

I used part of the first lyric from this song in the subtitle to one story section, but changed it - from "I'd like to shake your hand, disappointment" to "I'd like to hold your hand, disappointment." I'm not sure why I changed it, because I was listening to this song the other day and 'shake' is the right choice of word there. Maybe it's because I misremembered the lyric when I sang it in my head, and after that it was too late to change.

Jeffrey Brown and Little Things: A Memoir in Slices links:

the author's page at Holy Consumption
the author's Wikipedia entry
the author's page at Top Shelf Productions
the author's upcoming book tour appearances
the book's page at the publisher

Comic Book Resources review
Hour review
Powell's Books review

Comics Bulletin interview with the author
Ed Champion interview with the author
National Post profile of the author
New York Daily News interview with the author
p-->dirt interview with the author
Washington Post Express 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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