October 3, 2008
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that is in some way relevant to their recently published books.
Sana Krasikov's debut short fiction collection, One More Year, has been drawing critical raves, notably being named one of the National Book Foundation's "5 under 35" fiction selections.
In a year brimming with exceptional short story collections (notably Jhumpa Lahiri's Unaccustomed Earth and Nam Le's The Boat immediately come to mind), One More Year stands out with its unforgettable, impeccably crafted stories that already have me wanting to read more from Sana Krasikov.
The San Francisco Chronicle wrote of the collection:
"There are stories you read, absorb and think you've forgotten until you re-encounter them - when the world they've created blooms again to full size in memory, like a sponge dropped into water. So it is with Sana Krasikov's stories, some of which first appeared in the New Yorker and elsewhere, and now emerge in her excellent first collection, 'One More Year.'"
I wanted to pick a handful of songs that were rare and beautiful in their own right, but also reflected some of the energy of my stories: love, heartbreak, being a stranger in a strange land. I have to give my friend Corey Patterson credit for turning me on to some of these excellent songwriters. He's a true connoisseur of music that grabs at your soul.
1. Nantes (Beirut)
There are few bands that can evoke a landscape the way Beirut does, mixing Balkan, traditional French and gypsy melodies, mandolin, accordion and ukulele and still coming out with an accessible, modern sound. "Nantes" is a city that was destroyed in World War II. The song, like the city, has a timeless quality to it. Nantes a place you can go back to but never reach. It exists only in memory, the way I think home exists for many of the characters in my stories.
2. "Keepin' Up" (Arthur Russell) & 3. "Snake Mountain Blues" (Townes Van Zandt)
Two songs from two brilliant musicians who both explored alienation, but in completely different ways.
I picked Arthur Russell's for "Maia in Yonkers" because it's about day-to day-survival, but also has a symphonic richness that's not prosaic at all. Russell's music still holds the wonder of a Midwestern walking around the strange land that is New York: everything is disorienting, but the foreignness has potential in it. It's optimistic.
Townes Van Zandt's exploration of alienation deals more with paranoia - Van Zandt was a real musician's musician - someone who might have been a Johnny Cash if it weren't for the erratic ups and downs that made big labels reluctant to get fully behind him. Coming from the same moneyed Texas world as George Bush, he was sent to Harvard, but later exiled himself and roamed the country, make his unique brand of dark musical poetry. Snake Mountain Blues is all about that woman who can destroy a man without thinking twice about, which I thought was appropriate for the backstory in "Debt."
4. "La chanson de Prevert" (Serge Gainsbourg)
It's hard not to love Gainsbourg – the dirty old uncle of French music.
I picked this song for "The Alternate," whose hero is a somewhat unlikable older man trying to connect with the daughter of a former girlfriend. The lyrics, from a well known poem, capture that the nostalgia experienced by someone who's fallen from grace.
"And every time the dead leaves/ bring you back into my mind/ Day after day, the dead loves, they never ever cease their dying"
It reminds the listener of the younger, more innocent Gainsbourg before he became the monster known as "Gainsbarre" who smoked four packs a day and drank all the time. It a song that shows that even filthy old men have a history and nobility worth telling about.
5. "One Step Ahead" (Aretha Franklin)
I chose this for "Asal" and "Better Half" – two stories of women who are always tempted to take that one step backward.
I have this song on an old tape I listen to in the car, and can't seem to find a digital recording anywhere. The tape must have been cut from an old Demo made when Aretha was still the young girl everyone knew as Reverend Franklin's daughter. Here are some Internet links to her performance of this wonderful song.
6. "I've Got it Bad and That ain't Good" (Eydie Gorme)
In keeping with the Lady-sings-the-blues theme, this track by Eydie Gorme is a classic that's been sung by many divas. Yet no one put their touch on it quite the way Eydie did, if only because other divas went through so many classics that singing one more became clichéd for them. Gorme really owned this one – and her voice captures the unsung pain of one of my favorite characters in the last story: Larissa - the "Turgenev woman" who's heart will always be given to one man.
Sana Krasikov and One More Year links:
Boston Bibliophile review
Devourer of Books review
Entertainment Weekly review
In the Shadow of Mount TBR review
Kathleen's Book Reviews review
Los Angeles Times review
Miami Herald review
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel review
Minds Alive on the Shelves review
New York Sun review
New York Times review
San Francisco Chronicle review
Silverheron's Nest review
St. Petersburg Times review
Three Guys One Book review
Village Voice review
also at Largehearted Boy:
Previous Book Notes submissions (authors create playlists for their book)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
guest book reviews
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)