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September 9, 2008

Book Notes - Matthew Quick ("The Silver Linings Playbook")

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

The cover of Matthew Quick's debut novel, The Silver Linings Playbook, drew me in. I mistook the cover's football helmet for one of my beloved Philadelphia Eagles (the grey cloud replaced the familiar wings), and at first glance I assumed the author was Michael Quick, five-time Pro Bowl Eagle wide receiver. Expecting a gritty "inside the NFL" novel, I started reading...

Matthew Quick wasn't an NFL wideout, but he is an Eagles fan. Crazed football fandom is at the heart of The Silver Linings Playbook, but the book is the moving story of a man with mental illness and the people around him. This debut novel manages to be comic, tragic, and often surprising.

phillyBurbs wrote of the book:

"This is Quick’s debut novel, and it is at times sweet, funny and cynical, and from a pure sports perspective, it captures perfectly the intangible details unique to being a Philadelphia fan."

In his own words, here is Matthew Quick's Book Notes essay for his novel, The Silver Linings Playbook:

On a regular day, I usually do three things: e-mail, write, and run. All are done with headphones on; music bookends my every thought.

I listen to all types of music—everything from Paganini to Public Enemy, Velvet Underground to Vanessa Carlton, Rage Against The Machine to Rihanna, Coltrane to Coldplay, Johnny Cash to Kate Nash, and so forth. Right now I’m listening to ‘Hero’ by Nas—wait a second, that song just ended and the snappy ‘I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You’ by Black Kids is now playing. “Dance! Dance! Dance! Dance!”

When I run, I air drum, and I don’t really care if you’re watching. Go ahead and snicker. (‘Dammit’ by Blink 182 and ‘I Feel So’ by Box Car Racer are pretty much my top two air-drumming-while-running songs.) While writing, regardless of what song is playing, I usually just nod my head to the beat—lips pursed together intensely, gangsta style. And when I am e-mailing, I sing like Freddie Mercury (think ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’) until my wife Alicia flings open my office door and says, “Hello? There’s someone named Me writing in the next room!”

Other authors have told me that career novelists must work with blinders on. When you decide to write fiction—even if you have talent and the necessary drive—the odds are so heavily stacked against you. The fiction market keeps shrinking, and yet, each year MFA programs pump out thousands of writers ready and willing to fight to the death for your slot at whatever publishing house. My headphones are my blinders.

Morrissey (‘I Don’t Mind If You Forget Me’) and The Smiths (‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’) were enough to get me through high school, but it has taken much of the iTunes library to get me through my initial voyage into publishing.

When I listen to music—when I sing, nod, air drum, and, dare we say, gyrate—I am transported to a place where being a career novelist is actually possible. It’s a world where I also star in music videos all day long, if only in my head, a magical land where moxie and swagger are pumped generously into my writing office—like dry-ice fog at a Dio concert, perhaps during the ‘Rainbow In The Dark’ guitar solo.

Pat Peoples—the protagonist of my debut novel, The Silver Linings Playbook—also uses escapism to get through his version of what The Notorious B.I.G. once tagged the ‘Everyday Struggle.’

At the start of the novel Pat is released from a neural health facility into the custody of his mother. To deal with the change, he formulates this theory: his life is a movie produced by god, and—should he become a better man—his happy ending will be the return of his estranged wife. As he implements his philosophy, the plot unfolds.

Throughout the novel Pat quotes his friend from the neural health facility, Danny, who—unbeknownst to Pat—often quotes 2Pac and various other gangsta rappers. So Pat, who is suburban-born-and-bred, Catholic, squarely middle-aged and middle-class, often says things like ‘Picture Me Rollin’’ at unlikely but oddly appropriate times.

During the musical montage section of TSLP—yes, there really is a musical montage section—Pat, who is from the Philadelphia area, trains to his favorite tune in the entire world, Rocky Balboa’s theme song, ‘Gonna Fly Now.’ Pat also encourages the reader to play music while reading the montage section, saying, “Maybe you’ll want to play ‘Gonna Fly Now’ on your CD player, if you have a copy handy—or you could put on any song you find inspiring—and read along to the music.”

Pat—for reasons explained at the end of the book—is haunted by a phantasmal or maybe hallucinogenic rendering of Kenny G who will not stop performing his hit tune ‘Songbird’ no matter how many times Pat bangs his fist against his forehead.

Toward the end of the novel, Pat enters the ‘Dance Away Depression’ competition with his new friend Tiffany and they perform an interpretive dance to a popular 80s pop ballad. (I’m not going to tell you which song, because it would be a spoiler.) Even though the dance scene is comical, the song is a strong metaphor for the life Pat has led since being released from the neural health facility, and as the ballad rises and falls—oscillating from sad and slow, to powerfully invigorating—we get a sense of how polar Pat and Tiffany’s emotions really are.

And so, music is as much a part of my debut novel as it is a part of my daily life. As Rihanna sings, “Let’s escape into the music…mama say, mama sah, ma-ma coo sah!”

Matthew Quick and The Silver Linings Playbook links:

the author's website
the author's blog
the book's page at the publisher
an excerpt from the book

Daily Candy review
Philadelphia City Paper review
phillyBurbs.com review
Phillyist review
Publishers Weekly review
Wall Street Journal review

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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