June 12, 2009
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Doug Dorst's debut novel, Alive in Necropolis, has been on my ever-growing "to-read" list for almost a year, ever since I read Sarah Weinman's glowing review that compared the book to something "Richard Price might have concocted had he dabbled in the supernatural."
Alive in Necropolis is indeed an impressive debut, a novel that blends literary thriller with speculative fiction, where ghosts are as fully-formed characters as the living, and as integral to the plot.
I generally listen to music when I write--sometimes just one song at a time, on infinite-repeat, which somehow helps me to ignore my Inner Critic and write more freely. These are some of those songs, the ones that both helped me write and resonated with themes and moods in the book.
1. "Gather" - Jay Farrar
This is from the soundtrack to the film The Slaughter Rule, for which Farrar wrote the score. In the film, it plays over a funeral sequence that I found deeply moving. Alive in Necropolis deals a lot with sadness and loss, as well as the need for connection with others, and "Gather" captures all of that for me.
2. "On the Way Downtown" - Peter Case
It's about ghosts. And San Francisco. And getting older.
3. "Get Miles" - Gomez
The riff is hypnotic, and the lyrics speak to the sort of frustration and dissatisfaction that many of the characters in the book have to grapple with.
4. "Dry River" - James McMurtry
A great cover of a great Dave Alvin song. Melancholy and loss, paired with resilience and steadfast hope.
5. "Alone Again Or" - Calexico with Nicolai Dunger (from the Convict Pool EP)
Best. Song. Ever. And my favorite version of it.
6. "Misunderstood" - Wilco (studio version, from Being There)*
For me, this was the mother of all Necropolis infinite-repeat tunes. Particularly useful when words weren't coming very easily; there's something about the blasting, punchy defiance and dissonance at the end that helped me attack the blank page.
7. "The Bleeding Heart Show" - The New Pornographers
What the world needs now is more music with bouncy hey-la hey-las all over the place.
8. "Plan to Stay Awake" - The Deathray Davies
A song about creating fearlessly— and one that kept the blood pumping during many insomniac nights at my desk.
9. "All of it, All" - Phosphorescent
From The Weight of Flight EP. If I'd had the thing on vinyl, I would've worn out the grooves on several copies by now. Thanks, digital downloading.
10. "Beware of Darkness" - George Harrison
The world would be a much kinder place if everyone were issued a copy of All Things Must Pass at birth.
11. "That Teenage Feeling" - Neko Case
For me, this is a song about a kind of innocence, openness, and fearlessness that is easily lost and seldom regained.
12. "The Pearl" - Emmylou Harris
From Red Dirt Girl, which was a companion throughout all eight years it took me to write the book. Hard to pick one track from it, but I guess I just did.
13. "Slainte Mhath" - Marillion
It's about writing. And drinking. And trying to live a life with some sort of meaning.
14. "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" - Bill Frisell
An incredible eleven-and-a-half-minute journey.
15. "Wall of Death" - R.E.M.
Their cover of the Richard Thompson tune. Another song about living fearlessly.
16. "Airline to Heaven" - Billy Bragg & Wilco*
If you get to the last page in the book, you'll understand.
* R.I.P. Jay Bennett. You rocked.
Doug Dorst and Alive in Necropolis links:
Austin Chronicle review
Dallas Morning News review
Devourer of Books review
Los Angeles Times review
Needs More Demons? review
New York Times review
Publishers Weekly review
A Reading Odyssey review
San Francisco Chronicle review
Sarah Weinman review
Seattle Times review
Stanford Magazine review
The Stranger review
Tampa Tribune review
Texas Monthly review
USA Today review
also at Largehearted Boy: