May 21, 2010
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Katie Arnoldi's third novel Point Dume is a clever, fast-paced novel that brings together California surfers, pot dealers, and drug cartels in what may be the year's perfect summer read. Arnoldi's prose effortlessly draws you into this entertaining book brimming with social commentary.
Library Journal wrote of the book:
"Arnoldi knows how to make readers care about her protagonists. Her well-researched, well-written novel will appeal to fans of T.C. Boyle and Cormac McCarthy as well as to readers who mourn the destruction of the environment."
In all my novels, music has helped me transform myself into character. Sometimes I simply have to think of a song and I'm able to see the world from that person's point of view. Other times, I have to play a key song, over and over, before I can fully inhabit the mind of that individual. I think of it like Clark Kent rushing into his phone booth, slamming the door shut and emerging as Superman, complete with cape. Only for me it's usually my car, parked outside my office, hitting the replay button, over and over, until I've transformed myself into whomever I need to be for that day.
There are five strong characters in my new novel Point Dume. Chapters shift from one point of view to another and I had to make huge leaps from one mindset to the next. I could not have written this book without this playlist.
"If Wishes Were Horses" - Lucinda Williams
"Cowgirl in the Sand" - Neil Young, from Live at Massey Hall 1971
Ellis Gardner is tough and independent and lonely as hell. She grew up in Malibu on one of the best surf spots in all of Southern California and watched as the once small subculture of surfing has been turned into a mainstream fad. She has a very dark past and there's permanent scarring. Her heart is broken and she's angry. Lucinda Williams' voice is Ellis' personality, all rough and gritty. But if you listen to the lyrics, you hear sadness and intense longing--tough on the outside, soft, sensitive and broken inside. That's the true Ellis. And "Cowgirl in the Sand" is how Ellis sees herself—strong and independent. Neil Young's voice is what she hears when she thinks of herself. The two songs formed the character.
"Violeta" - Ozomatli
"The Border" - Bruce Springsteen
Felix comes from a poor village in Michoacan, Mexico. He is brought across the border by one of the drug cartels and given a job in a huge pot farm in the hills of Malibu. This is not a job Felix would normally take but he's desperate for money in order to support his family and eventually marry his sweetheart. I listened to many kinds of Mexican music to try and get a feel for his life. I listened to a lot of Norteno music but as Felix began to form in my mind I found that he was extremely romantic. He prefers love songs. I don't understand all the lyrics in "Violeta" (my Spanish is on the level of that of a two year old child) but the sweetness of the melody contrasted with the anger in the rap section of the song perfectly captures Felix's dilemma. I named his girlfriend after that song. The entire Ghost of Tom Joad album helped me enter the mindset of the migrant worker but "The Border" was very specific to Felix's plight. I listened to that song hundreds of time. It is the sound of Felix's hopes and dreams.
"Midnight Rider" - Allman Brothers
"Whipping Post (23:04 minute version)" - Allman Brothers Band, from Fillmore East Live
Frank Bane grew up wealthy and spoiled in Beverly Hills, CA. He was given every freedom and advantage money could buy. To the outside world he looked like just another rich kid, following in his father's footsteps. But that's not how Frank saw himself. Just beneath that polished surfaced there lay an outlaw, bidding his time, waiting to make his move and perhaps grow his hair out really, really long. When Frank's father finally died, he sold off the family business and moved out west to the wilds of Malibu where he stripped the land and planted his seed. He created a vanity vineyard that would yield countless bottles of wine that Frank could then name after himself “Bane Vineyards” and pass out to his friends. But it took a lot of strength to make that big move and it was the Allman Brothers who gave him the courage. Whenever Frank wavered in his conviction, he'd throw on "Midnight Rider" and picture himself summitting a mountain peak—alone and self-sufficient. He spent a lot of time behind closed doors playing air guitar to the long version of "Whipping Post." Yep, Gregg and Duane Allman were his soul brothers. They wrote the secret sound track of his life.
"Walking After Midnight" - Patsy Cline
Janice Bane is not happy. She hates living in Malibu, is embarrassed by the excess in her life and thinks Frank's vineyard is ridiculous. But Janice has a family and she is nothing if not dutiful. Through trial and error she has finally found a way to cope with her day-to-day existence—copious amounts of marijuana. She lights up first thing in the morning and tries to spend her waking hours stoned—not too stoned to function, just stoned enough not to care. When the high wears off, the loneliness kicks in and Patsy Cline's "Walking After Midnight" says it all for Janice. If only there was someone out there, after midnight, waiting for her.
"Ring My Bell" - Anita Ward
"Lonely Bull" - Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass
Pablo is Ellis' oldest friend and, when she's in the mood, he also fills in as her lover. He grew up in this beach town and watched the transformation from a blue-collar community to the billionaire's playground. He can't afford the prices so he lives in his van and makes a living stealing from the cartel grow-sites in the Malibu Mountains and selling pot to rich people like Janice. Pablo is handsome, extremely macho, and he keeps his love of disco a secret. Ring My Bell is his favorite song. Something about that 1979 mega hit really unleashes the dancer within. He plays it every morning before he hits the surf—sonic coffee. And Lonely Bull is the sound of early surf music. His mother constantly played Herb Albert and The Tijuana Brass all throughout his childhood. "Lonely Bull" is Malibu when it was still paradise.
Katie Arnoldi and Point Dume links:
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)
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 the week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists