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April 30, 2010

Book Notes - Bob Fingerman ("From the Ashes")

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

Several years ago a friend gave me a collection of Bob Fingerman's Minimum Wage comics, and I soon grew enamored with his quick wit and exaggerated, yet realistic, drawing style.

From the Ashes, his latest graphic novel, is a "speculative memoir" that combines post-apocalyptic life, love, social commentary, and mutants in a thoughtful and provocative book only a master cartoonist like Bob Fingerman could write.

The A.V. Club wrote of the book:

"As a blitz of astringent satire, an unabashed love letter to his wife, and a love-hate manifesto aimed at the whole human race, From The Ashes is a gem; as an addition to the often-staid canon of post-apocalyptic pop culture, it’s a revelation…"

In his own words, here is Bob Fingerman's Book Notes music playlist for his graphic novel, From the Ashes:

First things first: writing a list like this is hazardous to my mental health. I am prone to earworms⎯or if you prefer the original German, Ohrwurms; thanks, Germany! Thanks for nothing. Good songs or bad, it makes no difference. They settle into my gray matter and set up house for days, sometimes weeks on end. The last activity in my brain at the end of the day, as I attempt to fall into sleep, will often be some song playing. And it will be there when I awaken. With that established, I here is a partial playlist to accompany my post-apocalyptic "speculative memoir," From the Ashes. Most of this music didn't [consciously] shape the creation of this book, but as I drew and listened it might have influenced my mood.

"Apocalypse Please" by Muse (from the album Absolution)

This is an obvious choice. It's a tad more melodramatic than any of the content of the book, but it is apocalyptic and oddly hopeful, even as it wails, "This is the end of the world." Except it isn't. It also contains the lyrics, "Proclaim eternal victory/Come on and change the course of history." In my book the end of the world is the beginning of the story. Life doesn't necessarily equal hope, but it does equal life. The course of history is changed in my book. Maybe not in keeping with pounding piano and sweeping synth, but hey, I offer mutants.

"Whispering Rock" by Peter McConnell (from the Psychonauts soundtrack)

Ha! A less obvious choice, but this instrumental was instrumental (double ha) in the creation of the book. The video game Psychonauts is a masterpiece and its soundtrack is pitch perfect for protagonist Rasputin's twisty adventures through the ids of the other characters in the game. This track, with its harmonica leitmotif and jaunty bass riff, is an earworm I actually welcome. Not least of which because there are no pesky lyrics to fester in my noggin. If there were ever a movie or cartoon adaptation of the book, Mr. McConnell would be on my speed-dial to do the soundtrack. The whole album is great and I listened to it several times as I worked.

"Dick Around" by Sparks (from the album Hello Young Lovers)

Falsetto vocals, clever lyrics and the surprise, midway through, of thundering metal riffs. Let's face it, in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, between foraging for food and hiding from cannibals there'd be plenty of time for dicking around. Finally.

"For Whom the Bell Tolls" by Metallica (from the album Ride the Lightning)

An apocalypse without metal is like a day without sunshine and orange juice and all that. I often abuse my ears with the thunder and testosterone of metal. It's Armageddon, dude! "For Whom the Bell Tolls" is essential to ring in the new and wring out the old. Bye-bye, buildings. Later days, Internet. Adios, phone solicitors begging for money. Time marches on, indeed. And good riddance. On top of a pile of twisted rebar and crumbled concrete I like to think I'd have the presence of mind to bang my head in tribute to the failed experiment called Humanity.

"My Apocalypse" by Metallica (from the album Death Magnetic)

Hey, another obvious choice. Seriously, I will try not to just delve into the metal (nor Metallica's canon), but it's so easy. No other musical genre has so often writhed and reveled in the total annihilation of everything. Golly, that's why I just wuv it so much. Though I'm not as enamored of Metallica's more recent offerings, this track pounds the earballs pretty well. Hetfield's vocals seem less full-throated since he sobered up, but still: he's James Hetfield. I want him around in my blighted landscape as my personal troubadour. I'll just get him drunk first.

"Killed by Death" by Motörhead (from the compilation album No Remorse)

Lemmy will only be "killed by death" in this sublimely macho tongue-in-cheek song. I love the braggadocio. Defiant and posturing, Lemmy is protected by dark, umlaut-rich metal and mighty warts. In the book my wife Michele and I are spared even a scratch, as all around us lies in ruin. If that ain't some Lemmy-sized arrogance I don't know what is. And (spoiler alert) we can't even be killed by death. Hubris and neuroses. Meet my DNA (and contents of my wish locker).

"Are You Experienced?" by DEVO (from the album Shout)

I loves me some DEVO. I know this isn't from their best era, but this cover is pretty sweet. It also rejiggers Hendrix's lyrics to include a pivotal phrase that stuck with me throughout the creation of the book: "beautiful mutants." I populated my new world with Darwinian beautiful mutants. Larry, the eleven-year-old boy with tentacles for arms and brambles for legs, embraces his transformation. "Not necessarily beautiful/But mutated" goes DEVO's take. I'll second that.

"Scary Monsters" by David Bowie (from the album Scary Monsters)

Okay, so why didn't I pick the track "Ashes to Ashes"? Because my wasteland is no Utopia. In contrast to the lovely undead and beautiful mutants are our nemeses: other survivors who aren't so welcome. Cannibals. Religious extremists. TV pundits turned cult leaders. Scary monsters, maybe. Super creeps, definitely.

"Fixing a Hole" by The Beatles (from the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band)

In a world where most of the buildings have collapsed, holes will need fixing. Rain's getting in. Metaphorically and literally. I'm no handyman, but this just seems good sense and if I have to do manual labor I'd like to listen to something pretty once in a while. Even if it is an earworm.

"Make It Wit Chu" by Queens of the Stone Age (from the album Era Vulgaris)

The heart and soul of From the Ashes is my love for my wife, Michele. She's the glue. The reason I get up every day. After 20 years together there's not a day I don't feel blessed by her presence. And with time enough at last (and not just to read books, Mr. Meredith), "Make It Wit Chu", a tasty concoction courtesy of QOTSA, would make a fine BG tune for some PA boot-knockin'.

Bob Fingerman and From the Ashes links:

the author's website
the author's blog
the book's blog
excerpt from the book (at Publishers Weekly)
excerpt from the book (at Vulture)
video trailer for the book

A.V. Club review
Atomic Books review
Daily Cross Hatch review
Newsarama review
Publishers Weekly review
Washington City Paper review interview with the author
The Comics Reporter interview with the author
Daily Cross Hatch interview with the author
Graphic NYC profile of the author
Huffington Post articles by the author
Newsarama interview with the author
Robot 6 interview with the author
Suicide Girls interview with the author
Underwire profile of 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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