May 15, 2009
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published books.
Timmy Waldron's short story collection, World Takes, is filled with unforgettable, troubled, but ultimately endearing characters.
Steven Seighman of Monkeybicycle wrote of the collection:
Timmy Waldron packs a wallop with these stories of problem-soaked characters making their way through life one hurdle at a time. Honesty oozes from this book and you can't help but be pulled in deeper and deeper with each turn of the page. Waldron is truly a new voice you need to know.
Working on a Book
For a moment, just a moment, I considered an ultra hip version of this list; a mix of earnest rock, super phat hip-hop beats, and ironical pop-songs. I wanted something a young city dweller might have on their MP3-phone-pod-watching-device as they made their way to Awesome via subterranean transit. Then I came to a realization, 99% of music I listen to is Bruce Springsteen. To list any other music as having any connection with my writing would be too hard to fake.
I have no shame about it, the guy writes good songs. Songs filled with well drawn characters. They make hard life choices and don’t always end up on top. His songs are redemptive, if only because the stories are so relatable. And his albums, they’re the keys to the car that will get you out of this dump. 1, 2, ah 1, 2, 3, 4….
Song: Take’em as They Come
I’ve decided that Amanda is a prequel to Springsteen’s song Take ‘em as They Come. The tune was included on Springsteen’s Tracks box-set and was recorded around the time Bruce was fixating on Charles Starkweather and his girlfriend Caril Ann Fugate. With Amanda we get a look at a young man that is deluded and dejected. He is pining for his lost lover, trying to trick her into running away with him, all the while hopelessly trying to seem cool. So the story Amanda ends. But then, in Take’em we find out it works. All his B.S. hipster posturing has worked. She hops in his car and we follow the couple on their romantic cross-country killing spree. The horror is set to a toe tapping beat that makes all the gun and knife play seem romantic. The song and the story should never be enjoyed separately.
Story: Sinjin’s Crossing:
Song: Local Hero
Local Hero is a tongue and cheek rocker with a winking Faustian slant. The song appeared on the Lucky Town album, where Springsteen is backed by the “Other Band.” It’s kind of a lame duck track on wax, but Bruce reworked the arrangement, brought it out on the road, and turned it into a classic Springsteen stadium shaker. The live turn is an energetic and fun pop tune, and that’s its connection to Sinjin’s Crossing. Sinjin Morran, the local hero of the story, is an old timey theater actor. He lives his life in a manner slightly more dramatic than most people find comfortable, but he enjoys every moment. Sinjin’s also a revolutionary war re-enactor who has just been stripped of his coveted role playing George Washington. The story is meant to be a fun treat, but hopefully not at the expense of being shallow. Lastly, I’d like to say that the “other band” doesn’t get the respect it deserves. There are some very talented musicians on those albums. Having said that, nothing can replace the E street Band. Sometimes Daddy cheats. It’s not always the other girl’s fault.
Story: Gravity Alone Would Not Hold Her
Song: Lift Me Up
This song played a large part in shaping the final version on Gravity Alone Would Not Hold Her. Originally it was a much longer story with a more detailed exploration of the couple's past, but I never felt I had it quite right. Lift Me Up came on my iPod as I was driving around central Jersey’s highways and byways, something clicked. I decided the song had a quality I wanted in my story. The tune is acoustic, haunting, and spare. Springsteen opts to use a falsetto voice to great effect. His most successful attempt, really. I listened to the song several times while working on subsequent drafts. The back-story was deleted and replaced with a surreal turn. Springsteen’s song is about taking a relationship to a higher level and making it stronger. Gravity Alone goes the opposite way and is very much the songs carbon copy. Hopefully it reads a bit more moody and ghostly than much of my other work.
Story: Before Floyd Hit
Song: Darkness on the Edge of Town
This is just a good song. In a pinch I could probably come up with a reason why it connects to any story… in my collection or anyone else’s. In this particular case I’ll say both the song and the story are inhabited by downtrodden characters that are put-upon, and a bit broken down. Redemption is on the line, and always just out of reach. But, damn it, they’re going to go for it. The song has evolved and changed throughout the years, lyrics have been altered, and recently Bruce’s sometimes inconsistent falsetto has made an appearance for a stanza or two. At some shows it is a guitar driven tune and in other performances the piano takes the spotlight. That kind of malleability is interesting. When is a song finished? When is a short-story complete? Oh! Before Floyd Hit is a story about a high school in the path of a hurricane, so that’s like, literally The Darkness on the Edge of Town.
Story: Worry is for the Well Rested:
Song: Light of Day
I like to imagine that the thundering drum beat in the opening of this rocker is similar to the pounding going on in my character’s head. In WIFTWR a young man shows up for work with a horrible hangover and is unexpectedly called into the boardroom with the rest of the company. As he listens to the CEO talk about the state of the company his mind is feverish. There is a “things can only get better from here” vibe in both the story and the song. Both character’s are a bit out of sorts and have made some bad decision, but ultimately they find the will to be hopeful. And yes, this is the song from the M. J. Fox and Joan Jett film or the same name.
Story: City Limits
What can you say about a song like Backstreets that hasn’t been said already? It’s a classic song from one of the greatest albums of all time. Some writers would be hesitant to compare their work to such a widely regarded and lauded piece of art, not me. World Takes is the Born to Run of short-story collections and City Limits is its Backstreets. There, I’ve said it. Kidding. But, I will boldly state that what makes Backstreets so great is well represented in City Limits. Wild, reckless, romanticized youth run free in these pages. They howl in the night and feel feelings tenfold. It’s a tale of love, heartache, and backstabbing; much like the song. Play the piano intro to Backstreets and then read the story. It could only help my work.
Story: A Song for Orphans
Song: Song to the Orphans
For most of its life, this story went by another name. As I closed in on the final draft, the idea of orphans emerged in the text and it reminded me of a song I saw Bruce perform in Trenton during one of his solo acoustic shows. It was a stirring song, I had never heard it before, and couldn’t remember much by way of lyrics or title. I recalled was that he said something about orphans before he played it. I searched through the old bootlegs and found a studio version of tune. It seems to be something recorded around the time he was auditioning for John Hammond. Anyway, the lyrics are about as nonsensical as you can get, probably the result of an overdose on Bob Dylan. There seemed to be little hope of finding any metaphorical merit. The recording wasn’t as good as the live performance, but held enough of whatever that thing is that makes it special to keep me interested. I listen to it on repeat for weeks and named a story after it. The slight difference between my title and Bruce’s is not intentional. I simply misremembered the name. Ultimately, I think the difference makes for a better fit for the story.
Story: County Line
Song: State Trooper
This is the only other example of music being a direct influence on one of my short stories. At a point, I realized that I was sick, and I had to exercise Bruce from my writing and move on. My idea was to go overboard with one story and then leave the poor guy alone. This was how County Line came to be. The story owes a lot to songs from The River, the narrator is driving the same car as the horny dragster in Ramrod and the lonely thoughts of a car thief echo the rumination toiled in Stolen Cars. However, the story shares the most DNA with State Trooper from the Nebraska album. A guy sees a cop car and prays it just keeps going. It is such a relatable moment. You don’t need to be a criminal to identify. The dread described in the song is wonderful. County Line is a terse story and I’d like to think could be read perfectly in synch with repetitive strumming guitar driving State Trooper. Hi-Ho Silvero, deliver me from nowhere.
Timmy Waldron and World Takes links:
also at Largehearted Boy: