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May 28, 2008

Book Notes - Leni Zumas ("Farewell Navigator")

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

A couple of weeks ago, my wife stopped asking me what I was reading. After getting my synopses of the wonderfully dark John Brandon novel Arkansas and Donald Ray Pollock short story collection Knockemstiff, she decided to take less interest in my recreational reading until I read something "a bit brighter." She's still waiting.

I finished Farewell Navigator not long after reading Arkansas and Knockemstiff. Like those books, Farewell Navigator focuses on the outcasts of society, its misfit protagonists struggling against the confines of their environment. Grotesque and gothic, these stories make us take a closer look at our personal dark sides.

Miranda July wrote of the book:

"Attention unrequited lovers, sisters of suicidal brothers, children of the legally blind: you are not alone. Leni Zumas understands your quiet agony and describes it with such a wry, unflinching familiarity that even the gory details ring true. If darkness has ever been your friend, your story is in here."

Zumas will be reading from the collection in New York tonight at KGB Bar as part of the Open City Reading Series.

In her own words, here is Leni Zumas's Book Notes essay for her short fiction collection, Farewell Navigator:

The heroes of my stories made me a mix.

I was shocked and flattered.

It came on a cassette, which is a sound recording device consisting of two tiny spools in a plastic shell, around which winds a magnetically coated plastic tape.

One hero from each story chose some songs.

I use the term hero loosely.


Leni, WHY THE HELL did you use a line from a Pixies song for my title? The Pixies are NOT COOL. Sure they were a great band, but they are PLAYED AT FRAT PARTIES. I have provided you with some less embarrassing choices for entitling my tale of woe.
—Timothy from “How He Was a Wicked Son”

Indian Jewelry, “Horrendous Habits”
Gary Numan & Tubeway Army, “Music for Chameleons”
The Clean, “Anything Could Happen”
Jay Reatard, “My Shadow”


All the kids in my town like heavy stuff, so I like it too. And there was a witch in my town. And when the chorus kicks in, I feel free.
—Giles from “Handfasting”

Extreme Noise Terror, “Another Nail on the Coffin”
Pantera, “Psycho Holiday”
Neurosis, “Raze the Stray”
The Sonics, “The Witch”


So, Leni, you were trying to make my travels with the thief into a kind of fairy tale, right? Like, modern-day Bluebeard? It was a good try, I guess.
—the mapmaker from “Thieves & Mapmakers”

Babes in Toyland, “Handsome and Gretel”
Life Without Buildings, “New Town”
New York Dolls, “Pirate Love”
Mission of Burma, “That’s How I Escaped My Certain Fate”


My best (well, only—but only because everyone at school is a douche) friend is from Iceland, so the unpronounceable song. And I love the ocean, so everything else.
—the son from “Farewell Navigator”

Botnleðja, “Pið eruð Frábær”
Murder City Devils, “No Grave But the Sea”
“The Dreadnought” [trad. shanty]
“We’ll Rant and We’ll Roar” [trad. shanty]


I can only listen to songs with ____. In them. When I’m not listening, I hold a baby eel. To my nipple. Hear it suck?
—the animal tender from “____ Sockets”

Big Black, “____ Beat”
Witch Hats, “____aches”
The Birthday Party, “Faint ____”
Stacey Q, “Two of ____”


Yes, I sell blood for pocket money. Yes, I am a suicide dilettante. Yes, my rent is paid by my mother and I’m too petrified to go after the woman I want. But I’ve got better taste in music than anyone else in your book.
—Horace from “The Everything Hater”

James Chance & the Contortions, “Can’t Stand Myself”
The Intelligence, “The World is a Drag”
Grinderman, “No Pussy Blues”
Love Is All, “Ageing Had Never Been His Friend”


When my mother won’t shut up, I pray that my boyfriend James Agee will kill or at least mutilate her. Until that happens, I turn these songs louder.
—the daughter from “Dragons May Be the Way Forward”

Big 50, “4-A-Gee”
Spandau Ballet, “Virgin”
a-Ha, “The Sun Always Shines on T.V.”
The Stiffs, Inc., “Die, Mother, Die”


I enjoy red candy, songs about illness, and mental images of the cafeteria worker losing her knickers. I have read The Odyssey. I will help my roommate kill George W. Bush. I am no sicker than any of you.
—the patient from “Waste No Time If This Method Fails”

The Chinese Stars, “Hospital Fly”
Jonathan Fire*Eater, “Bipolar Summer”
The Jam, “Don’t Tell Them You’re Sane”
Six Finger Satellite, “Rabies (Baby’s Got the)”


Dear Leni, I am not a tuneful person, so Horace the fake suicide picked my songs for me. He said don’t worry, there’s plenty of eating-disorder music out there!
—Blotilla from “Blotilla Takes the Cake”

Les Georges Leningrad, “Mange Avec Tes Doigts”
Sonic Youth, “Tunic (Song for Karen)”
Fear of Music, “Skin and Bones”
L7, “Diet Pill”


Ms. Zumas, I have been subjected, during my Tenure in Kyllthembourg, to such Cacophonies as could fell a Horse. The Makers of this appalling Blather are, it would seem, popular Rock Groups manned by local Luminaries. How anyone tolerates their ear-rupturing Jingles, I cannot fathom—but the Demimondaines of Brooklyn are with child to hear them!
—the gargoyle from “Leopard Arms”

Roxy Pain, “Last Bullet Two More”
Print, “Hunted, Haunted”
Ex Models, “The Mystery of Brine”
Golden Triangle, “Ghosts”


Leni Zumas and Farewell Navigator links:

the book's page at the publisher
the book's MySpace page
the author's book tour itinerary
excerpt from the book
excerpt from the book

Publishers Weekly review

Five Chapters fiction by 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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