July 14, 2010
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
One year ago today (on Bastille Day), Matt Stewart began serializing his debut novel The French Revolution on Twitter. This year he celebrates the French national holiday with the book's print publication.
The French Revolution is a satirical and cleverly funny allegorical novel set in San Francisco that already has earned the author comparisons to John Kenendy Toole and Tom Robbins.
The San Francisco Chronicle wrote of the book:
"Stewart writes the sort of sentences that punch holes in a 140-character ceiling and sail out corkscrewing across the bay. From its first pages, which describe the laborious morning ritual of Esmeralda Van Twinkle - a persnickety, ravenous and extremely large cashier in a copy shop - the novel fondly recalls John Kennedy Toole's 1980 classic 'A Confederacy of Dunces.'"
My debut novel, The French Revolution, is a San Francisco family saga loosely structured on the extreme swings of, well, the historical French Revolution. While I never listen to music when I write, this book is dripping with song.
The conceit of revolution is central to the story, and had to generate at least one ass-kicking anthem. I've got a character named Werewolf who becomes a street singer, reworking classic tunes in his spare style to international acclaim. There's ample teenage angst, which always has a soundtrack; drug dealers lost in a haze of reggae; and a challenging love story that simmers and pops over decades, ringing with war-torn ballads and devastating end-of-disc tracks.
“La Marseillaise” – The National Anthem of France
The best national anthem ever. Upbeat and radiating power in a way only a wall of horns can achieve. This is music for revolution.
“Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien” – Edith Piaf
Edith Piaf is the soul of France. Also, this was one of my grandmother’s favorite songs, and she died just before I landed the book deal. My grandmother was a terrific storyteller (“never let the truth get in the way of a good story” was one of her maxims) and her soul flows through this book.
“Thriller,” Michael Jackson
The video that changed everything, that misled every weird kid (including power-hungry foster child Murphy Ahn) into thinking they might turn out perfectly fine. From an era when huge stars ruled the world. I miss that time.
“Estranged,” Guns N Roses
A few months ago, a teary-eyed woman on the subway was listening to “Estranged” so loud I could hear it through her headphones AND my headphones. That's what this song was made for. I can't think of Esmerelda and Jasper's soft fall into love after a 20-year separation without hearing this one in my head.
"Joyride” – Roxette
The natural pick for an elaborate Swedish orgy scene centered on a 450-pound woman.
“Luck Be a Lady” – Frank Sinatra
Vegas schlock, reimagined by Werewolf as a bebop soulcat crooner. Roll with me on this one.
“What Am I Gonna Do With You” - Barry White
I feel more mature and suave just thinking about this song, and it has a similar revolutionary effect on Murphy Ahn during his prickly juvenile serial killer phase.
“When the Levee Breaks” – Led Zeppelin
Yes, it’s about Katrina, but with just a drummer and a singer--a blind singer who lives on vodka in the backseat of a '96 Buick Skylark for crying out loud. Performed raw, without irony. It just has to hurt.
“Country Backroad” - JJ Schultz
There’s a certain kind of desolation experienced only when JJ sings this one live, when love isn’t that far away but that’s actually what makes it worse. Also, JJ programmed my Twitter experiment. He's pretty heroic.
“One In a Billion” – Dub Syndicates & Luciano
Closing out with Marat, my war-addled hero, a former pot-dealing military vet seeking closure with his family. You've probably never heard this reggae/dub track before (I only found out about it as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guyana), so give it a listen. Desperation boiled down to peace. I'm not all that spiritual, but this song makes me want to be.
Matt Stewart and The French Revolution links:
American Short Fiction interview with the author
Digits profile of the author
Huffington Post essays by the author
National Post profile of the author
Powell's Books Blog guest posts by the author
A Revolution in Fiction guest essay by the author
SciTechBlog 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 comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
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
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