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March 19, 2009

Book Notes - David Cristofano ("The Girl She Used to Be")

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

David Cristofano's debut novel The Girl She Used to Be impresses with its unique plot, believable characters, tenderness, and genuinely surprising twists that never seem forced.

Brad Listi wrote of the book:

"David Cristofano's debut novel captures the essence of the human spirit, and delivers a story that is simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking."

In his own words, here is David Cristofano's Book Notes essay for his debut novel, The Girl She Used to Be:

While The Girl She Used to Be takes place in the current moment, it ended up pivotally using a few songs from the 1980’s, most notably Billy Idol’s "White Wedding," which became a subtle anthem for said Girl, a fading individual lost in the Federal Witness Protection Program. In fact, at one point in writing the novel, the lyrics for all of "White Wedding" were embedded in the prose of the story, only to be pulled in later edits. So went the fate of a handful of Scorpions’ tunes, two Tony Bennett numbers, and The Killers’ "Believe Me Natalie."

However, when it came to shaping the story, music was quite integral. The entire first draft was written with headphones firmly affixed. And while the number of different songs to have passed my ears during that period would count way over 2000 (repeatedly), the following playlist represents the songs whose mood, style, and lyrics (despite being taken out of context in many cases) sort of shifted the novel in one direction or the other.

“Progress” by Mute Math, from Reset.

Life is a card that you lay down sometimes.

This difficult-to-find EP captured my attention when first released back in 2004. The songs possess a carefully-constructed wall of sound that I have found unmatched by Mute Math’s peers. Here, in "Progress," the gentle rock/reggae groove will have you closing your eyes and swaying. And the words are spot on.

“Awakening” by Switchfoot, from Oh! Gravity.

I want to live like I know what I’m leaving.

While I’ve loved Switchfoot from way back in the Legend of Chin days (you might not recognize them there), Oh! Gravity was an experiment that worked, and brought forth thoughtful lyrics and music to a flooded genre. With Steve Lillywhite at the production helm, they could do no wrong.

“Aliens” by Luna Halo, from Shimmer.

Sometimes I’ll admit I purposely forget.

If the aforementioned Mute Math EP is a rare find, then the closest you may come to hearing this Luna Halo disc is my telling you about it. Possessing some of the best-crafted rock songs in the last decade, this disc would go into your iPod and remain permanently burned to its memory—and yours.

“What You Wish For” by Guster, from Lost and Gone Forever.

Would you do it all over right from the start?

These guys manage to put out a lot of sound for an acoustic-based project. The strongest of the Guster library, you can’t go wrong with Lost and Gone Forever. And coincidentally, who produced this masterpiece? You got it: Steve Lillywhite.

“Spies” by Coldplay, from Parachutes.

I awake to find no peace of mind.

Back when no one had really heard of (or paid attention to) Coldplay, they released this gem. The first four songs here justify the cost of the disc and made me a fan, no matter what would come later.

“People Are Like Suns” by Crowded House, from Time on Earth.

What kind of fool imagines love with all this going on?

Nowhere near the best Crowded House album, Time did squeak out some classics, including the above tune. And though it may be hard to believe, Steve Lillywhite put his fingerprint on this record as well.

“Taken” by Plumb, from Beautiful Lumps of Coal.

I’ll always be with you, in the distance that has taken you from me.

Plumb has likely influenced more artists than you might know, and her music has back-doored its way into movies and television shows with regularity over the years. She could write a catchy tune standing on her head, and "Taken" is the perfect example.

“3X5” by John Mayer, from Room for Squares.

And you have this letter. You probably got excited, but there’s nothing else inside it.

Constantly miscategorized and misunderstood, John Mayer can both portray passion and play a mean guitar. He’s not just a man’s man; he’s a woman’s man. It is easy to discard "Your Body Is a Wonderland"—until you recognize just how clever it is. I had John Mayer days when I was writing, where his entire library was queued up and I would run through them in chronological order, then start over again. This was the perfect music for balancing the love/emotion equation, page after page.


David Cristofano and The Girl She Used to Be links:

the author's website
publisher's page for the book
Reading Group Guide for the book
excerpt from the book

Booking Mama review
CrimeCritics review
Debbie's World of Books review
My Two Blessings review
The Mystery Site review
Paperback Frenzy review
Reading with Monie review
Scoffery.com review

Goodreads page for the book
Hachette 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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