February 20, 2009
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published books.
N. Frank Daniel's Futureproof is a modern day publishing Cinderella story. After self-publishing the novel and paying for his own book tour, Harper Perennial bought the rights to the book after contacting Daniels through his MySpace page.
Jay McInerney wrote of Daniels and the book:
“N. Frank Daniels has one of the freshest and most original voices I’ve encountered in years. He manages to strike an improbable balance between jaded and vulnerable. He sounds like he was born yesterday and, at the same time, like he’s been on the planet forever and has seen it all. The fierceness of his vision coexists with a leavening humor that I find irresistible. I think Futureproof is an important novel and one we’ll be talking about for years to come.”
Writing, for me, has always been inextricably linked to music. Whether scratching out poetry for Leah, a girl I had a crush on in 5th grade (she held my hand at recess for three whole weeks!), composing my senior thesis on Joyce's Dubliners in college, or writing this novel, I have always had something playing in the background. The link between music and writing is so strong for me, in fact, that I am instantly reminded of feverishly writing that thesis paper every time I hear PJ Harvey's album Dry. So it wasn't hard to come up with 11 albums that I had playing in the background when I was first grinding out the 200,000 word manuscript that would become Futureproof. There are many more songs and albums that come to mind when I rehash this process, but these records were definitely in the rotation longer than any of the others.
This album liberated the hell out of me when I first heard it at the tender age of fifteen. It made me feel like I could do anything, like I had finally found my place in the world. There was that “a ha!” moment that hit me soon after a friend first put it on the stereo. Every time I hear ritual it takes me back to that age of infinite possibility.
Key track: “Then She Did”
From the time this album first dropped in '99, I knew that the bar had been forever raised on all emcees. Em's rhymes were instantly relatable to everybody. And the poetry! This guy was just amazing. Even acclaimed Irish poet Seamus Heaney has gone on record saying Eminem is the savior of modern poetics. And then there was his determination to break from years of poverty and deprivation to find success as an artist. I could relate in nearly every way to every single lyric he spit. It was great inspiration listening to this ‘LP' while writing a book that might never be published. I only knew I was hungry.
Key track: “Rock Bottom”
This is simply one of the most haunting, spiritual albums I have ever heard. Every lyric Chan Marshall sings sounds like it's breaking in her throat before she can get it to your ear so that it can then break you. For me, this album was a perfect example of how powerful art can be regardless of how large or small an audience is hearing it.
Key track: "Back of Your Head”
The groove on this album is perfect for writing. Every track is separate and unique but all work together to form a much larger whole than the sum of the parts. The songs are so hypnotizing that you don't even realize you've all along been nodding your head in rhythm as the words unraveled themselves in front of you.
Key track: “Group Four”
This album has a lot of really nice sentimental memories for me. It reminds me less of the times when I was actually writing, but of the breaks in between when I'd play with my kids in the yard. Or kiss my wife as we watched the kids beating the crap out of each other. Good times all around.
Key track: “Do You Realize?”
Neil Young has a gigantic catalogue but this is by far his greatest overall achievement as a whole record. Every song on here is exquisitely crafted and rendered flawlessly. For me, it was inspiring to know that it was possible to sit down and make something you could really be proud of at the end of the day. I hope old Neil realizes how great this album is. A true artistic accomplishment.
Key track: “Old Man”
This album was the first that came to mind as soon as I was offered the opportunity to write this piece. If any one album has ever been used to speak for an entire generation, it is this one. Every possible emotion and insecurity is mined in these 12 tracks (13 if you have the CD that includes the hidden track “endless, nameless”). And of course, Nirvana as a band and Kurt Cobain as a person play a big role in Futureproof.
Key track: “Drain You”
This band has had a monster influence on my writing. They took the most commonly used modern instrument and completely changed its use so that sounds that had never previously been heard were now jangling around in the atmosphere. They re-tune their guitars so thoroughly, in fact, that when they had a trailer-full of guitars stolen in 2003, they had no way of replicating certain songs that those guitars had been specifically tuned for. My point: sometimes it's just good form to f**k around with the tried and true, to venture out on your own and attempt something completely unique.
Key track: “Disappearer”
Wu-Tang Clan EVERYTHING
I couldn't choose just one album by this group of nine emcees because as a collective, and separately as individual artists, their output is astounding and unmatched. But more than that, Wu-tang really helped define for me the importance of working not just as a solo ‘artist', but with other writers and readers to make shit happen that wouldn't have happened otherwise. It worked for Wu-tang and it continues to work for me.
Key track: “Triumph"
It was easy to choose this album as opposed to any other from the Beatles catalogue because it's the only one that blends the majority of the songs into one another, a forty-minute landscape of sound and beauty. It never gets old.
Key track: “Maxwell's Silver Hammer"
I know I can't be the only person who knows about this incredible album. It's from a band whose life-span would be missed if you blinked, but Spiderland is testimony that you can't keep amazing art down. This album is so unlike anything I have ever heard, from the whispered, half-spoken lyrics to the multiple changes in tempo and progression of each song. Every time I take a listen it makes me want to create. Amazingly inspiring.
Key track: “Breadcrumb Trail"
N. Frank Daniels and Futureproof links:
Atlanta Journal-Constitution profile of the author
Blackbook profile of the author
Paperback Writer interview with the author
The PODler interview with the author
Tuesday Shorts 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
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)