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February 26, 2009

Book Notes - Eugene Mirman ("The Will to Whatevs")

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

Eugene Mirman is one of my favorite comedians, and his new book, The Will to Whatevs, is one of the funniest things I have read in years. This book delightfully skewers the self-help genre, Mirman reminds me of Woody Allen's prose works with his self-obsessed narrator, witty asides, and non-sequiturs that will leave you reeling.

The Boston Phoenix called the book a "freewheeling mix of bemused ironies and trenchantly silly non-sequiturs."

In his own words, here is Eugene Mirman's Book Notes essay for his book, The Will to Whatevs: A Guide to Modern Life:

Here is my sweet mix. These songs are either something I was listening to while writing my book, songs/ artists that I mention in the book, or songs whose theme is in common with my book.

Aerosmith — Make It

I love Aerosmith’s first album. There’s a story in the a book about a friend of mine that met Steven Tyler when he was a kid and about how Steven gave him some advice about staying away from drugs. Plus this song is about willing a career in rock and roll.

Robyn Hitchcock — Belltown Ramble

It’s a beautiful song about Seattle. I spent a week in Seattle when I was working on my book in a cabin behind my friend Megan’s house (which is full of taxidermied animals and has a gas stove for heat!). We went to see Robyn Hitchcock play when I was there. This song is off of Ole, Tarantula, which came out when I was working on the book and I listened to it a lot.

Pixies — U-Mass

Probably a third of the book was written in western Mass. At the time my girlfriend lived in Amherst, MA (she did all the images and graphics for the book) and I would go and visit her and write. I also went to college out there and have many stories about Hampshire College, including one where heroin-addicted student-eco-terrorists (sort of) tried to free the Hampshire lawn by putting rocks on it to prevent the physical plant from mowing it.

Blitzen Trapper — Country Caravan

I wrote some of the book on Cape Cod (where I like to go in the off season and enjoy the inexpensive beauty of this blue blood/ homosexual hideaway). On one of my trips there my friend Matt Savage (who is in the bands Joy and Coo & Howl), played me this song and I really loved it. Now I associate that trip with this song and working on the book.

The Mr. T Experience — Even Hitler Had A Girlfriend

A lot of my book is about the hardships of high school, college and romance. I used to really love this song in college and I think it summarizes how lonely, awkward boys feel about dating in high school.

Jethro Tull — Inside/ With You There To Help Me

In high school, my friend Josh got me into Jethro Tull. I had a hard time deciding between these two songs, since they both deal so much with themes of self-help and both are off my favorite Jethro Tull album Benefit — because it’s catchy and charmingly arrogant. I spent many high school nights walking around Lexington, MA with Josh joking around and talking about will, morality, the corruption of organized religion — Jethro Tull shit. Josh is now a philosophy professor and married to my friend Alina Simone. Some teenagers retreat into the sad songs of The Cure and The Smiths, I found validation and vindication in Jethro Tull. These songs and my high school years are all intertwined in this book, though maybe not literally. I do mention Jethro Tull though.

Rick Nelson — Garden Party

Just like Rick Nelson, you should do what you want, regardless of what your audience and various celebrities who attend your concert at Madison Square Garden want to hear. “You got to please yourself” as Mr. Nelson says.

Wolf Parade — Shine A Light

I associate this song with my Nightlife chapter and staying up late, probably, because I would stay up late and play it and because of the line “I don’t sleep, I don’t sleep, I don’t sleep ‘til it’s light.” I used to temp at a law firm (which I talk about it in the book) and whenever I hear the line “I spend boring hours in an office tour”, I remember how glad I am to not be temping any more. Though I do miss going through legal documents using Delta View, software made exclusively for lawyers I believe.

Herman Dune — On A Saturday

Every mix needs a charming love song. I’ve chosen this one.

Toby Keith — The Taliban Song

I once saw Toby Keith on TV use the word “Chucklehead” and I used it in my book (don’t worry — I gave him credit). This song sounds sort of like the Eagles. It also seems to profoundly misunderstand the situation on the ground in Afghanistan and the events that led to the conflict (though he is right that 9/11 was the catalyst). I was surprised to find out that he is a Democrat. Who knew? Both Toby and I address terrorism, the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, however, I never sing, “ooooooo, yeah, the Taliban, ooooo, the Taliban, baby, oh yeah…”

Eugene Mirman and The Will to Whatevs: A Guide to Modern Life links:

the author's website
MySpace page of the author
Wikipedia entry for the author
the publisher's page for the book
Goodreads page for the author
Goodreads page for the book
Facebook group for the book

Boston Comedy review
Weekly Dig review

A.V. Club advice column by the author
Anthem interview with the author
BlackBook interview with the author
The Comic's Comic interview with the author
Daily Texan interview with the author
Dead Frog interview with the author
Decider Austin interview with the author
Flavorwire interview with the author
Jumbo Dump interview with the author
New Hampshire Public Radio interview with the author
The Phoenix interview with the author
Punchline video interview with the author
The Stranger interview with the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

Previous Book Notes submissions (authors create playlists for their book)
Online "Best Books of 2008" Lists
Largehearted Boy Favorite Novels of 2008
Largehearted Boy Favorite Graphic Novels of 2008
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
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2009 Edition)
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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