June 5, 2009
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Amelia Gray's AM/PM is a collection of flash fiction, stories that create tangible worlds and interesting characters in their 50 to 150 words. More importantly (and amazingly), read together these stories form a cohesive and often surprising narrative through their recurring themes and characters.
Tobias Carroll wrote of the book:
"Reading AM/PM, the first collection of short stories from Austin’s Amelia Gray, one can’t help but be impressed: across a series of flash fiction pieces, Gray evokes wonder and dread; romanticism and despair. And slowly, as you make your way through AM/PM’s stories, patterns begin to emerge as characters recur and situations evolve — a much more resonant emotional experience than one might expect from flash fiction."
AM/PM is 120 very short pieces--about 50 to 150 words each--following 21 characters. I wrote two per day for two months and edited for a year and a half after that. The editing process required a stack of character lists and maps complete with arrows looping and intertwining and small hearts and skulls. It all looked like a sixth grader's Trapper Keeper. I wanted every character to be tied to at least one other, and then I wanted the pacing to work, and then I wanted each page to work both as a singular piece, in short excerpts, and as a whole collection. It was a good puzzle.
When I listen to music, I usually end up looping one or two songs for months. I'm trying to get out of the habit because it makes me kind of boring to talk to about music, but for the purposes of this playlist it comes in handy. For this I took the songs I listened to a lot during the writing and editing and assigned them to characters they might represent.
1. The National "Fake Empire"
It’s hard to keep track of you falling through the sky
The piano intro to this song should play every time someone walks with purpose. It plays when June does her high-wire stunt.
2. The Hold Steady "Cattle and the Creeping Things"
You in the corner with a good looking drifter. Two cups of coffee and ten packs of sugar.
Leonard's song. It plays when he is escorted out of the elementary school. He listens to it on headphones as he sits on his chaise longue.
3. David Bowie "Life on Mars?" as performed by Seu Jorge
Eu quero abraçar voce. Seu poder vem do sol
This song is on a loop in the box with Charles and Terrence.
4. Sage Francis "Got Up This Morning"
What you want with a woman who won't do what you say?
The intro sounds like a rubber-band ball hitting a forehead, which makes this a song for Hazel and Sam.
5. Margot and The Nuclear So and So's "Pages Written on a Wall"
Let's settle our score with a two by four
Olivia listens to this song when she is drinking whiskey and aiming to feel scared and important at the same time.
6. Mozart's Requium Mass "Dies Irae"
Dies irae, dies illa / Solvet saeclum in favilla
Don't drink whiskey while listening to the Requium Mass if you are prone to dire thoughts. Martha listens to it while Emily balls up wads of newspaper and sticks it in her ears. Wallace listens to it faintly from the apartment below.
7. Feist "1 2 3 4"
One, two, three, four / Tell me that you love me more
Carla plays this one while she mops the floor.
8. WHY? "The Hollows"
this goes out to all my under done under tongue lung long frontmen
Andrew likes singing this one at karaoke while his friends look at their hands. Chastity, Missy, and Frances sing backup on the chorus.
9. John Mayer "Your Body is a Wonderland"
Damn baby, you frustrate me. I know you're mine all mine all mine, but you look so good it hurts sometimes. Your body is a wonderland. Your body is a wonder, I'll use my hands. Your body is a wonderland. Your body is a wonderland. Da da dup ba da da da ba ba dup ba la la la ba ba dup ba ba da da ba ba dup ba da da da ba ba dup ba ba da da ba ba dup ba da da da ba ba dup ba ba da da ba ba dup ba da da da.
10. Adam Carroll "Rice Birds"
I was dreamin' about you and the fleur-de-lis
Here is a peaceful little song from Texas. Betty and Simon listen to it during quiet afternoons at home.
11. Regina Spektor "Samson"
And history books forgot about us and the bible didn't mention us
This one is for poor Tess.
12. Dolly Parton "Jolene"
Please don't take him just because you can
I didn't really listen to this one a lot, but I sure got it stuck in my head whenever I wrote a story about Doreen. Now, I pass this gift on to you.
13. Cold War Kids "We Used to Vacation"
still things could be much worse / natural disasters on the evening news
This makes me think of Reginald because of the reenactment thing and because he's just chock full of secrets.
14. The White Stripes "Hotel Yorba"
I was watching / with one eye on the other side
Truck-driving music. The Amazing Chet listens to this on the way to work.
Amelia Gray and AM/PM links:
also at Largehearted Boy: