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October 28, 2008

Book Notes - Allison Amend ("Things That Pass for Love")

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

Allison Amend's short stories have always impressed me. Things That Pass for Love is her debut short story collection, and simply amazes with the breadth of talent Amend wields.

Hannah Tinti wrote of the book:

“Allison Amend is a gifted storyteller—no, more than gifted. Her writing is powerful enough to create its own kind of weather. Her characters are so real it's as if you could reach between the pages and shake hands with them. If you want to read good stories, read this book.”

In her own words, here is Allison Amend's Book Notes essay for her debut collection of short fiction, :

Let me start this essay by saying that I don’t do music. I mean, I sing in the shower, and I’m familiar with the concept of music, but, frankly, between television, restaurants, literature and film, I just can’t follow music trends too. I don’t have that much cool to spare.

But what I do “do” is daydream about the film version of my fiction. Who would play the leads? Who would be the best director? What would the score be? Below, I’ll answer that last question. (Btw, if Brad’s available to play Peter in “The People You Know Best,” have his agent call mine. And if Jonathan Rhys Meyers is simply available, have him call me.)

Let’s start with Things We Do For Love by 10cc for the front matter and table of contents. Maybe the jacket copy too. It’s not a bad song, not a particularly good one, but every time I hear the title of my book, it starts to run through my head.

Bright Eyes, First Day of My Life. This song brings me to tears every time, especially when I’m listening to it on repeat at 3AM a little drunk and considering emailing an ex. Also, my friends Liz and Lea are in the fantastic video, directed by John Cameron Mitchell (of Hedwig and Shortbus fame) and what’s cooler than that? This might be what Walter Simons listens to in his car in “How Much Greater the Miracle.”

Paolo Conte, Via Con Me. I speak Italian, and I still don’t know what the hell this song is talking about. Chips? Anyway, it’s pretty, and it’s in another language. Think montage of essay-writing in “The Janus Gate.”

Willie Nelson, Georgia on My Mind. Sit on your rural front porch as a hot day fades into twilight and listen to this while drinking a beer. Or while the camera pans back from the final scene in “The World Tastes Good.”

Céline Dion, Si Tu M’aimes Encore. I’m really letting my nerd flag fly here, but there’s a story behind it. I was living in France and chaperoned a ski trip of 5-10 year olds. In a reversal of regular counselor/camper roles, they taught me songs, one of which was about the lengths the singer would go to win a woman’s love. (“If you become an eel, I’ll become a fisherman, if you become a nun, I’ll become a sinner…”). Celine nails the adult version. Literally. She pins those notes to the wall and crucifies them. There must be some point in “Good Shabbos” where this would be appropriate.

Placebo, Every Me and Every You. Though most of the “And Then There was Claire” is about Garvey and Claire’s doomed love, I always thought this song would be playing at the beginning of the story when Garvey goes onto the factory floor to talk to his cousin. A great “f*ck you” ballad.

Bumpus, Open the Door. These are my friends, and they rock. Really, other people think so. Credits to “What Was Over There is Over Here.”

The White Stripes, We’re Going to be Friends. It’s somewhat impossible that this song not appear somewhere in “The People You Know Best,” possibly during the scene where Peter pets Gio in book club.

Diana Ross, Ease on Down the Road, from The Wiz. This would have to be somewhat ironic, as Franklin in “A Personal Matter” is not easing down any road, no matter how hard he might try. Maybe a bossa nova version or an emo version would provide the correct psychic distance. I’d like to hear this in the car… both ways. It’ll mean something different each time.

Fats Waller, Until the Real Thing Comes Along. I’ll admit it, like my characters I’m a pessimistic sentimentalist. I don’t think true love will/can happen, but I still hope it might. So does Tam in “Sometimes it’s Like that.” I hear this song playing at her wedding.

Ricky Skaggs, Bluegrass Breakdown. It had to be Bluegrass for “Bluegrass Banjo.”

Belleville Rendez-Vous from The Triplets of Belleville. This is a freaky song about freaky sisters in a freaky animated movie. And we’re all a little strange like that. Especially the characters in “The Cult of Me” at the first garage sale.

Nina Simone, Ooh Child. I feel so bad for Miss Gold in “Dominion Over Every Erring Thing” that I really want to comfort her with this song. Honey, I’m sorry I did that to you. This should play while everyone is chasing the escaped guinea pig.

Gorillaz, Feel Good Inc. This is pretty much the only song needed for “Carry the Water, Hustle the Hole.” It’s three songs in one, made eerier by their juxtaposition. Tell me your neck hair doesn’t extend when that guy cackles.

Allison Amend and Things That Pass for Love links:

the author's website
the author's book tour
the book's page at the publisher
excerpt from the book

Chicago Life review

Chicago Public Radio Eight Forty-Eight interview with the author
Beatrice essay by the author
Five Chapters fiction by the author
Glimmer Train essay by the author about writing the book

also at Largehearted Boy:

Previous Book Notes submissions (authors create playlists for their book)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Why Obama (musicians and authors explain their support of the Democratic presidential candidate's campaign)
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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