June 17, 2010
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Christian TeBordo's debut short story collection The Awful Possibilities is innovatively written, often shocking, and infused with sad, dark humor. These stories linger like nightmares long after the book is closed, but only in the best of ways.
Booklist wrote of the collection:
"The nine stories of TeBordo’s first collection are ambiguous and creepy. A dire surrealism roils beneath their superficial naturalism. Sheer delight for connoisseurs of nongenre strangeness."
I'm lucky that I'm doing this for a short story collection because that way I can do a simple one story/one song soundtrack. On the other hand, I spent about ten years working on this collection, so the songs I associate with the stories aren't necessarily current or classic. Fine. I'm full of regrets, but I ain't ashamed.
"Sound Bwoy Bureill" by Smif-N-Wessun
"SS Attacks!" is the only story in The Awful Possibilities with a built-in soundtrack. When the narrator of the story imagines himself shooting up his high school, he imagines doing it to "Sound Bwoy Bureill." Its plodding menace matches the subject matter, and I hope it contrasts with the manic and maximalist voice of the story, which is more influenced by early oughts backpack rap.
"Jackie" from Scott Walker Sings Jacque Brel
Scott Walker is the only vocalist I can listen to while I write. This whole record has the kind of weird cartoonish bravado that I was going for with "Three Denials," and the narrator would probably like the lyric at the end of the chorus — "Cute, cute, in a stupid-ass way" — to be his motto. Except he's not cute; he's an asshole.
"Leviticus" by Rwake
"The Champion of Forgetting" is probably the darkest thing I've ever written, and "Leviticus" is one of the darkest songs I know of. Not the whole thing, just the part after the acoustic intro and before it gets all math-y. The really slow, pulsing part where the singer is screaming and the guitars are swinging back and fourth between the low end and discordant howls. I still don't think this is the perfect choice because I also think my story's kind of funny. I'm not sure anybody else does, though.
"Family Portrait" by Rachel's
When I lived in Syracuse I had an awesome apartment in a shitty neighborhood and I would sit at my window on windy fall afternoons, listening to this song and watching cars go by outside until they all got synched up. That's pretty much what I was trying to do with "Wake up Body!," except with crashing — the music of a car crash and how a body should feel about it.
"I Think It's Gonna Rain Today" as performed by Nina Simone
My story "Took and Lost" is kind of like a chamber opera, and "I Think It's Gonna Rain Today" is a blues. But they both deal with urban alienation, and they both have rain in them. If the story was a movie, the song could be the opening credits and the action would start right about when Nina Simone is belting out how she thinks it's gonna rain. By the closing credits, human kindness would be overflowing, I hope, even though it would not be a very good movie.
"Like Herod" by Mogwai
I probably write more to Mogwai than to any other band, not just because they're atmospheric, but because their albums are actually paced like an evening of writing — start slow, build to a frenzy, get out before you've gone too far. I was working on "Oh, Little So-and-So" when I realized this. "Like Herod" is also a good example of what I was trying to do with the story (and with a lot of the stories) — lure you in, then beat you over the head.
"CC (You Set the Fire in Me)" by Tom Vek
The narrator of “Moldering” has to get a new wallet because his wife is grossed out by the old one, which is moldy from too much dancing. My own wallet never actually got moldy, but when you go out dancing in Philadelphia five nights a week like I was doing around the time I wrote this one, you often get home covered in beer and sweat and then you leave your wallet in your pants when you go to bed and when you pull your wallet out the next day, it can be pretty nasty. Really I could have chosen any number of songs that make me freak out like a crazy person, but "CC" always got me going, is about a guy who's crazy about a girl (like my narrator), and is as pretentious (also like my narrator) as dance pop can be. For the record, I have never skinned a friend.
"Iron Galaxy" by Cannibal Ox
“I can only hope that he still believes in redemption” is, like "Took and Lost," partially about urban alienation, but it goes in a different direction, hopefully toward redemption. "Iron Galaxy" doesn't explicitly move toward redemption, but those weird guitar swells that come in every now and then sound like redemption to me.
"One Hit" by the Knife
That line about "spending time with my family like the Corleones" would be enough to explain why I chose this song as the soundtrack for "Rules and Regulations," but there's another reason — I didn't realize until I heard Karen Dreijer Andersson's Fever Ray album that it was actually a woman doing all the singing on Silent Shout. That's kind of the way my story goes, too.
Christian TeBordo and The Awful Possibilities 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 comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
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