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October 8, 2008

Book Notes - Jonathan Carroll ("The Ghost in Love")

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

Jonathan Carroll does magic with his latest novel, The Ghost in Love. He creates not only a story, but a world (complete with ghosts, the angel of death, demons, and even talking dogs). Here the supernatural is woven into everyday life with an ease that is familiar to anyone who has read any of the author's previous works.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"Ben’s epic battle with his own self-destructive tendencies is made literal, comical, and metaphysical all at once. Delightful reading."

In his own words, here is Jonathan Carroll's Book Notes essay for his novel, The Ghost in Love:

IS THAT YOU?
by Rebekka Bakken


The best love songs are usually the simplest. The lyrics rattle around in your brain like a marble in a clothes dryer but you don't mind because they touch smack in the middle of where you happen to be emotionally at the moment. Sometimes when they're really good, these songs can tell you things about yourself you might have already known but needed another mind and voice to verbalize. When I was writing The Ghost in Love one of the CD's I played often was Rebekka Bakken's Is That You. Her voice is beautiful, the lyrics and phrasing memorable and haunting. There are two or three love songs on this CD that alone are worth the price of admission. Bakken has often (unfairly) been compared to Norah Jones, but to my mind she is everything Jones would like to be but isn't.

A LADY OF A CERTAIN AGE
by The Divine Comedy


One of the few nice things about being twelve years old and either in love or desolate is that you have the capacity to put a song on replay and listen to it four hundred times before growing bored of it. In many ways it's similar to a child asking their mother to read them the same story night after night. Only once in a great while do we encounter a song as adults that makes us want to listen to it ad infinitum. The first time I heard "A Lady of a Certain Age," I let loose a long slow whistle of appreciation. Then I listened to the song again and again and have been for the last year or so. I'm not a fan of all Neil Hannon's music, but this song really sticks. Should I play it for you?

I'LL BE BACK
by Shawn Colvin


Cover versions of classic songs are tricky. Usually they end up lame or just plain bad-- how is it possible to so thoroughly ruin a great tune? Charlie Rich's "Mohair Sam" or Jose Feliciano's "Light My Fire" come to mind. Sometimes an interpretation is either so awful that it's sort of interesting or just downright loony-- like Madonna's version of "American Pie." But every now and then a song is brought back to life in such an interesting or original way that it makes it brand new again. I've always liked Shawn Colvin and have lots of her songs on my iPod. I first heard her version of The Beatles "I'll Be Back" on the radio while doing the dishes one night. As the British say, I was gobsmacked. I knew halfway through the song that I was having one of those great moments where you are reintroduced to something you have always liked but somehow the artist has made it even better this time. The Beatles original version of the song is a kind of macho boast-- I'll be back-- You watch. In contrast, Colvin's version is full of sadness and ghosts, slow and echo'y, like the sound of a single person walking away down an empty hall. They say they'll be back, but don't count on it.

The Soundtracks of Thomas Newman and Gustavo Santaolalla

The soundtracks of so many films and television shows today have shamelessly ripped off the music of Thomas Newman. The singular haunting solo piano, the dissonant chords, long pauses... are ubiquitous on such shows as House MD and any number of films. It's understandable though because the music goes right to your center in the same way Keith Jarrett's Koln Concert did decades ago. But no one does it better than Newman on superb soundtracks like The Shawshank Redemption, Angels in America or Six Feet Under. I discovered Santaolalla's great CD Ronroco by happy accident, and have been a devotee of his music ever since. His compositions for Brokeback Mountain and Babel are really wonderful.

MIDNIGHT WITHOUT YOU
by Chris Botti and The Blue Nile


This is the kind of song you listen to at the end of the evening when you're blue and it's raining outside. The song you listen to after you've read her good bye letter ten more times but it still makes no sense. The song you listen to when there's no reason to hope but you do anyway... You get the point. The marriage of Chris Botti's trumpet and Paul Buchanan's strangely beautiful voice is celestial.

THE BACK OF THE BOTTOM DRAWER
by Chely Wright


Some of the best lyrics in popular music today are being written by Country and Western performers. Chely Wright is one of them although she's not gained the renown of other female C&W vocalists. That's a real shame because her songs are consistently smart, witty and at their best, genuinely poignant. This song is my favorite Chely because I admit, it hits home hardest. Listen to her CD The Metropolitan Hotel and hear for yourself.

Jonathan Carroll and The Ghost in Love links:

the author's website
the author's MySpace page
the author's Wikipedia entry
the book's website
the book's page at the publisher
the book's "(dark)" video trailer
the book's "(light)" video trailer
downloadable excerpt from the book

Barnes & Noble review
Stainless Steel Droppings review

Huffington Post posts by the author

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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