August 21, 2009
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
James Lasdun is a masterful writer, and It's Beginning to Hurt is yet another example of his inventive and rich storytelling skills.
In the Miami Herald wrote of the collection:
"Like such masters of dark literature as Edgar Allan Poe and Franz Kafka, Lasdun limns the deep cracks in the soul even as his tales are enlivened by his gift for insight and ear for language. His stories are a fury of elements: skilled dramatic monologues; sketches of fraught emotional states; postmortems of choked lives and numbed hopes and the literary equivalent of stares at the ruin left by a violent storm."
I wrote most of the stories in my new collection It's Beginning to Hurt, over a long period that coincided with starting a family and moving from New York to a house in the mountains.
Whether it was the rural setting or the need for kid-compatible music that I could stand to listen to, I discovered (embarrassingly late in life) the joys of Bluegrass at this time. For several years I went around with the mighty voice of Ralph Stanley echoing in my head from our car journeys and bedtime rituals, and even now, long after the kids have moved on to their own music, I still get a lift out of my Clinch Mountain Boys CDs that nothing else quite delivers.
I like to think that some of the spirit of this music found its way into the book in general, and there's one story in particular that's more or less a direct homage. It's called Oh Death (after Stanley's epic rendition of that song), and at one point the narrator describes his new-found love of the music. Here's what he says:
I liked this mountain music. I'd started listening to it a few years before and found I was susceptible to its mercurial moods and colors—more so than ever since we'd moved up here to mountains of our own, where it had come to seem conjured directly out of the bristly, unyielding landscape itself, the rapid successions of pain and sweetness, tension and release, frugality and spilling richness, arising straight out of these thickly wooded crags and gloomy gullies with their sunshot clearings and glittering, wind-riffled creeks. I would listen to it in the car as I drove to work, an hour down the thruway. The lucrative drudgery of my job left me with a depleted sensation, as though I'd spent the days asleep or dead, but driving there and back I would play my Clinch Mountain Boys CDs at full volume, and as their frenzied, propulsive energies surged into me I would bray along at the top of my lungs, harmonizing with unabashed tunelessness, and a feeling of joy would arise in me as if a second self, full of fiery, passionate vitality were at the point of awakening inside me.
Mostly the book isn't very autobiographical, but that's straight from the heart.
James Lasdun and It's Beginning to Hurt links:
Baltimore City Paper review
The Blurb review
The List review
Los Angeles Times review
Miami Herald review
O, The Oprah Magazine review
Publishers Weekly review
The Rumpus review
The Second Pass review
Time Out Chicago review
Time Out New York review
Times Online review
also at Largehearted Boy: