September 18, 2009
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
In his fourth novel Ray of the Star, Laird Hunt immerses the reader in a cinematic tale of loss, sorrow, and love, told with the lyrical prose that has impressed Paul Auster enough to name Laird "one of the most talented young writers on the American scene today."
When my last novel, The Exquisite, came out, the wonderful poet and Raintaxi co-conspirator (with Eric Lorberer), Kelly Everding, sent me a mix disc of songs she had thought of while reading the book, and not only was I moved by this gesture, I was also heartened by it, especially in one instance, after giving a reading from The Exquisite, to a small, not-so-slightly hostile group, I put in the CD and listened to Joanna Newsom's "Inflammatory Writ," which ends with the memorable:
While across the great plains, keening lovely and awful
Ululate the last Great American Novels
An unlawful lot, left to stutter and freeze, floodlit
But at least they didn't run, to their undying credit
and while I didn't associate myself with the "great" or even "American" part, I did feel like I had been trying my best to ululate and stutter and to by God not run when I wrote the thing, and so, as it occurred, Newsom's song and many of the others on the mix got played a good deal during the months after that book's release, to such an extent in fact, that when sometime later I started working on a new book, I kept listening to those songs, letting them roll over/tickle/punch/gouge/annoy me as I got involved in writing the series of long sentences that what eventually got called Ray of the Star (after a quote from Blanchot's The Writing of the Disaster) is composed of, meaning that "balance, repetition, composition, mirrors" (The Books); the idea of welcoming angels despite their terribleness (Cocorosie); broken hearts because certain persons are far, perhaps irretrievably far away (Mirah); yes one might well not be alive this time next year and one can hear from trees (Sufjan Stevens); "when to leave/why to stay/how to keep away" (Vetiver); and etc. all informed the book and its development, so much so, now that I think of it, that Ray of the Star — and its tale of Harry, the sometime Knight of the Woeful Countenance, and Solange, the Silver Angel, and green-eyed Ireneo, and the demonic connoisseurs, and the sinister shoes — would have had quite a different, probably unrecognizable shape indeed without them.
Here are the songs:
Cocorosie "Terrible Angels"
The New Pornographers "The Laws Have Changed"
Mirah "Person, Person"
Sufjan Stevens "All the Trees of the Field Will Clap Their Hands"
The Books "Smells Like Content"
Joanna Newsom "Inflammatory Writ"
Laird Hunt and Ray of the Star links:
DU Today profile of the author
HTMLGIANT interview with the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes music playlist by the author for The Exquisite
Paper Cuts music playlist by the author
Recommended Reading interview with the author
Writers in Profile interview with the author
also at Largehearted Boy: