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March 12, 2010

Book Notes - Henry Baum ("The American Book of the Dead")

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Henry Baum's latest novel The American Book of the Dead is reminiscent of Philip K. Dick and Haruki Murakami, a book that boldly explores the future and defies genre.


In his own words, here is Henry Baum's Book Notes music playlist for his novel, The American Book of the Dead:


Jim O'Rourke - "Prelude to 110 or 220/Women of the World"

Jim O'Rourke is my God. Eureka is everything I want to do musically, thematically, spiritually...with songwriting and recording, and really with fiction. Won't happen of course, but that's where I want to go. "Women of the world take over, because if you don't the world will come to an end, and it won't take long." Basically.


Jim O'Rourke - Get a Room

O'Rourke again - the final sequence of this song is the closest I've heard to what it might sound like to die. And that's a beautiful thing. Expressive in the way that Bach or Beethoven is expressive, and most rock music doesn't touch that, as much as I love it.


David Bowie - "Five Years"

I'm sort of an ignoramus when it comes to lyrics. Or, I'm much more interested in the melody and music than I am with lyrics. Especially with my own songs - too confining, maybe, when compared to fiction. So I didn't realize "Five Years" was so explicitly an apocalypse song until many years into listening to it. This should have been a clue: "News guy wept and told us, earth was really dying." And it makes it into the novel. Characters are sitting in a park, watching kids play, lamenting the coming war, which is also inspiring their increased love of people. One says to the other, "It's like that song, 'Five Years.' 'All the tall short people, all the fat skinny people. I never thought I'd need so many people.'"


Talking Heads - "The Great Curve"

Very inspired by Eno - though I'll consolidate by mentioning this one, which is a masterpiece for two major people at once. Love how the song (and most of the songs on Remain in Light) is really just the same motif which adds layers and layers and layers...I see the book as trying to do the same thing. It's about a writer who predicts the state of the world in his writing, til eventually you're not sure if this is his self-important fantasy or it's really happening. There's also the idea that the novel's being channeled from the future by his younger self (i.e. me). So it's a kind of puzzle that can't exactly be solved. "The world is near but it's out of reach. Some people touch it but they can't hold on."


Beach Boys - "Heroes and Villains"

Obsessed with Smile, every iteration of it. Have a song for the book/record (unrecorded, as of yet) which references "Heroes and Villains." Nicely insane. Jimi Hendrix called the Beach Boys a "psychedelic barbershop quartet." I have no problem with that.


The Who - "Amazing Journey"

Have to include something from Tommy. "Rock Opera" makes the soundtrack to the novel sound more complex than it is. Really, it's just a concept record. It won't be sung from many different characters' points of view. Tommy is basically a spiritual journey that ends with him worshiping the sun ("Gazing at you, I get the heat"). The sun doesn't really play a part in The American Book of the Dead, but it is after finding a God that might have a basis in science.


The Kinks - "Australia"

The Kinks do a space jam.


Adrian Belew - Man in the Moon"

I have no proof, but I think Neutral Milk Hotel's Jeff Mangum might have been obsessed with this song. His rolling vocal melodies that seem to have no end have a lot in common with this. Also lyrically beautiful. On that front, Alice in Chains seemed to base every harmony on King Crimson/Belew's "Frame by Frame." So I'm also a kind of Belew fanatic (Talking Heads' Remain in Light too).


Do Make Say Think - & Yet & Yet

The whole record. Perfect, moody guitar music for when Godspeed You Black Emperor is too depressing (most of the time).


Pinback - "Tripoli"

Another inspiring song about death. Book's called The American Book of the Dead. It's about death. Also the afterlife. And war. If it was determined with certainty that there was an afterlife, war would lose its utility. One of the ideas in the book. Part of me believes this is possible, but still, "Sad I'm gonna die. Hope it's going to happen later than I think."


Henry Baum and The American Book of the Dead links:

the book's website
the book's soundtrack (written by the author)

POD People review

Charles Todd White's Blog interview with the author
Craig Lancaster interview with the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

other Book Notes playlists (authors create music playlists for their book)

52 Books, 52 Weeks (weekly book reviews)
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly highlights of comics & graphic novels)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly highlights of new books)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from this week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists


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