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May 21, 2009

Book Notes - Sean Dixon ("The Last Days of the Lacuna Cabal")

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

First published as The Girls Who Saw Everything in Canada, Sean Dixon's The Last Days of the Lacuna Cabal is a complex, magical journey that celebrates the love of literature while unfolding its fascinating tale.

Baby Got Books wrote of the book:

"The Last Days of the Lacuna Cabal is a darkly comedic paen to friendship, love, and, most of all, books. Not to get all Reading Rainbow, but I won’t tell you what the group ends up reading, where they end up or how a little “fitzbot” robot ends up playing a vital part in the story. Linguistically, thematically, emotionally-every facet of The Last Days of the Lacuna Cabal sprawls and is loaded with inter-textual references and winking narrative play that’s fun and engrossing."

In his own words, here is Sean Dixon's Book Notes music playlist for his novel, The Last Days of the Lacuna Cabal:

“This isn't the world. It's the Lacuna Cabal Young Women's Book Club!”

Different obsessions, different priorities, different agendas. That's what it's like to be individuals in a group. And so each member of the Lacuna Cabal Montreal Young Women's Book Club would have their own idea about how I should approach this playlist.

- LC founder and president Missy Bean would demand that I be eclectic (read, ambitious) in my presentation. Never lose sight of that fact that I'm trying to sell the book. "Kodaly's Sonata for Solo Cello," performed by Alisa Weilerstein. Kodaly's Sonata for Solo Cello. While the ambition agenda certainly does represent Missy Bean, this is also true of Weilerstein's passionate, stylish performance.

- Resident loose cannon Runner Coghill, on the other hand, would want my selections to be epic. She would choose on behalf of the goddesses Inanna and Erishkigal (read, Runner and Ruby Coghill), the first two women who ever wanted to swap places, Placebo - "Running Up that Hill" and she would also make Kate Bush an honorary member, relishing the idea of the LC having an ever-expanding membership. It goes without saying the Placebo fans in the video would have been welcomed as well.

- Aline Irwin would be political. Right up to the moment. For him, it's not even a choice. He keeps his ear to the ground. (N.B. I say he and him even though during the events depicted in the novel he would have preferred to be identified by she and her) His choice, therefore, would currently be about the recent death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski—arriving in Canada to live with his mother—in the Vancouver airport. Mr. Dziekanski didn't understand that he was in a secure area, so his mother was waiting outside while he waited inside, feeling more and more abandoned and confused, until the Royal Canadian Mounted Police finally came and killed him with their Tasers. Bob Wiseman - "What A Surprise."

- Priya Underhay, who is herself a songwriter, would wish for me to be musically relevant, choosing music proper to the time period in which the novel takes place, (late winter & spring 2003), with particular emphasis on the rise of Joanna Newsom, whose early effort Yarn and Glue first appeared then. In the book, I tried to allude to this discovery, with Priya's mode of dress and occasional references to harps and hawking and the new beard America showing the influence of Newsom. But it got too fussy and besides, Priya had her own songs, (about which more later) so I got rid of all of it. Or most of it. But Priya is most definitely a fan. Especially "The Sprout and the Bean," which took her breath away when she first heard it.

- Romy Childerhose would want me to emphasize color and beauty. So much so that this isn't even a song. Color Wheel.

- Emmy Jones would roll her eyes and say she didn't want to be involved in the further mythopoeticization of a long-defunct book club. Then she would go home and listen on her headphones so her neighbours would not hear: "Tomorrow," from the Musical Annie.

In the interest of satire, however, Emmy might choose, for Missy, "Common People" by Pulp, adding with a cocked eyebrow that the character played by Sadie Frost in the video reminds her of Donna Tartt's slutty sister, so there's a bookish dimension to the choice.

- Runner would think she was supposed to choose for her brother Neil, Nat King Cole - "Nature Boy." Neil himself would object to the implication and likely be a little morbid in his selection, even though he's very much alive. Klaus Nomi's "Cold Song."

- Du (short for Dumuzi) would be inclined toward the romantic, though he might not realize it. He'd likely pick something that recalls a certain tormenting presence in his (cough, Anna, cough) life. Metric - "Gimme Sympathy (acoustic version)," which simply documents a gentle, seeming late-night seduction. But he'd later wish he'd been cavalier enough to choose something grittier and independent, like Seasick Steve - "Started Out With Nothin'." That's Du's problem. The kind of guy he wants to be is always clear but just out of reach.

- Coby would pick something at random, placing all his faith in chaos theory, which has great implications for the future of artificial intelligence.

Moving away from the confines of the Lacuna Cabal and out into the world:

- Honorary member Suzanne would present the song that made her famous.

- and honorary member, Seyed Samir, of the Bahrain Port Authority—who gets stuck with the complex job of interviewing the members of the LC in an effort to determine how they ended up so many thousands of miles from home and in the middle of a war zone—would confess that, though he's no great appreciator of music, he was once partial to the celebratory songs of Dahman El Harrachi and has heard the new version of "Ya Rayah" by Rachid Taha.

- As for myself, I would wonder the whole time if I was taking the correct approach to Largehearted Boy's assignment. Melody Gardot - "Worrisome Heart." But when I was finished I would breathe a sigh of relief, happy to have caught a bit of the world in the musical selections of the Lacuna Cabal Montreal Young Women's Book Club.

And then the book's narrators, Jennifer H. and Danielle D., would remind me that I'm not finished yet, that there is a song in the book, written by Priya, which is itself the subject of a contest, sponsored by the Other Press. The details are here: Since Priya is a fictional character, she cannot perform the song herself, so for the moment, one has to make do with a version performed by me.

Sean Dixon and The Last Days of the Lacuna Cabal links:

the author's website
the book's Twitter account
excerpt from the book
Reading Group Guide for the book
video contest for the book

Baby Got Books review
BCF Book Reviews review
Canadian Literature review
Corduroy Books review
The Georgia Straight review
The Literary Word review
Quill & Quire review
Time Out London review

Desk Space interview with the author
Indyish interview with the author
The Danforth Review interview with the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

Previous Book Notes submissions (authors create playlists for their book)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
guest book reviews
musician/author interviews
52 Books, 52 Weeks


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