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June 4, 2008

May 2008 Largehearted Boy Wrapup

Maybe you were smelling the May flowers or out enjoying the springtime weather and missed some of the feature posts at Largehearted Boy last month, but scattered among the daily mp3 downloads, pop culture news, and album and film release lists were some pieces definitely worth checking out. Augusten Burroughs, Tegan Quin, and Ingrid Michaelson all stopped by to contribute to the site (and that was just one post).

For your leisurely perusal, here are links to last month's feature posts, along with short excerpts to whet your whistle.


52 Books 52 Weeks (my book reviews)

my review of Secret Lives of Great Authors

my review of the graphic novel Incognegro

my review of McSweeney's Quarterly Concern #26


Note Books (musicians discuss books)

Jonathan Zeitlin of Mezzanine Owls

Some of my favorite musicians are writers who seemed to wander absent-mindedly (this seems to be a common affliction among these word-obsessed folk) off the glue-bound path and into the tangled wilderness of noise and songs. From opaque image casting to deliberate (if somewhat concise) storytelling, I like music made for people who love novels.

Michael Carreira of Cryptacize

Although Vollers mostly writes Eric Rudolph off as a lunatic religious extremist, she does manage to make you wonder. This is a man who risked everything in order to make the world (in his twisted eyes) better. In a different time or place he could easily be a hero. Don't most of us wish we had the kind of courage to sacrifice everything in service of our own sense of right and wrong?


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

Lee Martin for his novel River of Heaven

When I was working on River of Heaven, I listened to Carl Perkins religiously. Not only “Blue Suede Shoes,” but also songs like Boppin’ the Blues and Everybody’s Tryin’ to Be My Baby and Honey Don’t. Songs with backbone and attitude—jazzed up and sharp as a razor, as Sam’s brother, Cal describes the music, once he’s back in Sam’s life and telling him about his own and how he’s in trouble because he stumbled onto a militia group with a plot to bring down the Sears Tower.

Sloane Crosley for her collection of essays I Was Told There'd Be Cake

I Was Told There’d Be Cake very much about mirrors this dichotomy of going through a life that is often tough by making the best of it. It is about the light at the end in the darkness and that is also what the rodeo clown is about. It’s his (or her!) m.o. As an example, I will tell you that the most famous rodeo clown in history is called “Flint Rasmussen,” a name which sounds very much like the result of mixing one’s first pet and first street name to produce one’s porn star name. And what’s more funny-but-actually-a-little-sad than PORN? I Was Told There’d Be Cake? I don’t flatter myself. But I will say this: some of us are bulls and some of us are reading this. But inside each of us is a very tiny rodeo clown. And if our inner rodeo clown had a soundtrack is would be this.

Tao Lin for his poetry collection Cognitive-Behavioral therapy

I feel good when I look at an album or book and see that someone was selective about what to include. I think this means I “value excellence” or something. But I don't feel bad when I see that someone has “put a lot of shit” together into a book or album. I think it’s “funny.” “Either way is okay with me somehow.” I just put an entire sentence inside quote marks and it was not a quotation. When I start using quotation marks for single words or phrases I feel the urge to put everything in quotation marks. I think it’s because I become aware that the words and ideas already “exist” as possibilities and therefore I am, sort of, “quoting” no matter what I type—the sentences are not really “mine.”

Steven Gillis for his novel Temporary People

I got the idea for Temporary People around the time George W. Bush was elected president. As pissed and surprised as I was, I couldn't help but wonder how the hell this happened. (And not once but twice!) How did a moron become the leader of the free world? It's an astonishing development and one which lead me from there to ask the question: What can we do about it? This is the fundamental question being raised in Temporary People. What can any one of us do to when we find ourselves under an oppressive government, one that is intent on taking away our liberties, distorting reality and messing with our lives. What if the called for response clashes with our personal philosophies?

Mike Edison for his memoir I Have Fun Everywhere I Go

I could probably draw up a good soundtrack just from the pages of the book, beginning with the artists who left their sonic stamp on the right side of my brain (Capt. Beefheart, The Stooges, Rolling Stones, early Who, Hendrix, the Troggs, Sex Pistols, Ornette Coleman, Charles Mingus, Chuck Berry, Ray Charles, James Brown, etc. etc.) or the bands I used to gig with and who are mentioned in the text (Reagan Youth, Mudhoney, GG Allin, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, the Ramones, the Mekons), or just my favorite Sun Ra records, which would give me a pretty good excuse to smoke one of those jazz cigarettes and get out my copy of Cosmic Tones for Mental Therapy.

Jeffrey Brown for his graphic novel Little Things

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...

Donald Ray Pollock for his short fiction collection Knockemstiff

As far as music and writing go, though I never listen to it while I’m working on new stuff (generally in the morning), I often turn to it for inspiration when I’m revising at night. I think that’s one of the main reasons I like revision so much—I get to listen to kickass music! I grew up in the Sixties, and even out in the sticks where I lived, music was a big deal. My buddies and I might have been hicks, but we worshiped Hendrix and Blue Cheer, Joplin and the Stones, Cream and The Doors.

Tara Altebrando for her young adult novel What Happens Here

What Happens Here is largely about learning how to cope with tragedy, learning how to live with all the awful shit that happens in the world. [Suffice it to say that something BAD happens in the book, something I’d rather not give away, and it tears these two girls and their families apart.] I was introduced to Exploding Hearts after the car accident that killed three of the band’s four members so I’ve never been able to listen to Guitar Romantic uninfluenced by the band’s tragic story. This lends the record, for me, a sort of shocking amount of poignancy and sadness. Even though the title of my book eventually changed yet again, there is still a moment where Chloe, the narrator, imagines her own heart—and God’s—exploding with the pain of the modern world. All of which sounds unbearably corny in this context, but hopefully not in the book.

Lavinia Greenlaw for her memoir The Importance of Music to Girls

When I was eleven, we moved out of London to an Essex village. I was a Camden Town hippy kid, and my flared jeans and tangled hair were not well-received by the prim, well-pressed girls at school. So I stayed home, got bored and played the piano. I played rough and loud and in whatever tempo suited my mood, but I paid attention. I got to know a sonata the way someone gets to know a city: its landmarks first, then its streets and vistas. I began to make my way round on my own and recognised familiar things when seen from different angles. I liked the way Fats Waller made his sweet songs ugly, which somehow made the sweetness pertain.

Dash Shaw for his webcomic Bodyworld

BodyWorld is a sci-fi comedy webcomic I’m serializing on my website for free. I post new pages every Tuesday. It’s about Paulie Panther, a writer cataloging the hallucinogenic effects of North American plant life. He travels to an experimental forest town called Boney Borough. There he discovers a plant that, when smoked, grants the smoker telepathic abilities. It takes place in the not-too-distant future, 2060, which feels mostly like the present.

Augusten Burroughs for his memoir Wolf at the Table

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.

John Brandon for his debut novel Arkansas

Many of the folks in Arkansas don't care much for music, and that, as much as anything else, shows they're not right in the head. Whether Kyle would want me to, I've compiled a playlist--a few songs in honor of certain characters, a few fitting the overall feel, a few in honor of the state itself.

Delaune Michel for her novel The Safety of Secrets

The Safety of Secrets takes place in Los Angeles of 2004, with flashbacks to Lake Charles, Louisiana, in the late ‘70’s when the main characters, Fiona and Patricia, were growing up. It was almost impossible for me to be young in the ‘70’s and not want to end up in Hollywood. Everything coming out of there then was innocent, yet brutal, like some perfect inner mirror of childhood. On the radio was Burt Bacharach and in the air were conversations about key parties.

Leni Zumas 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.

David Giffels for his memoir All the Way Home

But for a reason I can explain no more than I can explain sunlight and the red covers of college notebooks, when I sat down to begin writing All the Way Home, background music became vital and inextricable to the process. The truly weird thing is that the music that inspires me to begin writing is almost completely exclusive from the music that works in the actual writing process. And the ways those two distinct sets of music are listened to are equally different.


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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