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August 18, 2010

Book Notes - Chris Binchy ("Five Days Apart")

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

Chris Binchy's novel Five Days Apart deftly explores both friendship and love relationships while immersing the reader in the Dublin of the 1990s.

Binchy is a bestselling writer in Ireland, with four novels to his name (though this is the first published in the United States). After reading this book, I hope a U.S. publisher recognizes his talent and prints the other three novels here.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote of the book:

"Like Nick Hornby and Roddy Doyle, Chris Binchy interweaves his characters' lives in a tale of their irreversible mistakes, poor timing and undeniable affections. Readers will appreciate the honesty of this first novel, and the humor with which it is told."

In his own words, here is Chris Binchy's Book Notes music playlist for his novel, Five Days Apart:

Five Days Apart is the story of three characters, two guys who have known each other forever and a girl that they both fall in love with. It's a love triangle really, but I think it's more about friendship and being young and uncertain, about trying to do the right thing and making bad choices. It's my fourth book but my first to be published in America.

I did most of the work in 2004 and 2005, and the music on this list is what I was listening to at the time. Each song has a strong association with specific sections in the book, where I was when I was doing the work and how I felt about it at the time.

"Hit the City" - Mark Lanegan Band

When this album came out, I was getting towards the end of the first draft. There's always a period of inertia for me before finishing a book, a couple of weeks of nothing happening where it's like I'm standing on a diving board, refusing to jump. Listening to music like this, stuff with momentum and heft and beauty (and PJ Harvey as a bonus) was helpful in getting me back on track for this book.

"Ain't Sayin' Nothin' New" - The Roots

I listened to Things Fall Apart all the time when I was writing my first book, The Very Man, and I came to associate it with getting work done. When I started on Five Days Apart I was staying in an artists' centre at a country house in Ireland. I spent a lot of time walking around a lake with this song on repeat. Being told repeatedly that you're not saying anything new is maybe not encouraging background noise for someone engaged in a creative endeavour, but I was oblivious at the time.

"Theme from Turnpike" - Deus

This is from another album, In a Bar Under the Sea, that I associate with working on new stuff. The first three songs are quite upbeat and then this song kicks in. It sounds like the soundtrack of a film noir, threatening and heavy, nothing like the book I was working on. It rolls along with a Charles Mingus sample going through it, getting more and more discordant until you can't ignore it and then it just stops.

"Live and Learn" - The Cardigans

When I finished the first draft, I wasn't happy with how it ended. It had taken a good deal of work to get there and I just wasn't ready to take it apart and start again. I went to France with my wife and a couple of friends and we stayed in a house a long way from anywhere. For two weeks all we did was eat and drink and stay up all night, playing cards and shouting at each other. We only had a couple of CDs with us and this was one of them. It was a very happy trip.

"The New" – Interpol

I deliberately listened to the first two albums by Interpol when I was writing this. It seemed like the right kind of soundtrack for the two central male characters- minor key, tragic, a bit doom-laden and self-obsessed. I went through a fertile couple of weeks in June of 2005 post-France when I was staying in my in-laws' house in the north of Scotland, working in a bedroom upstairs. The sky only got dark for about two hours a night and by the time I finished at 4am it would be bright again. I associate this song with that period of manic productivity and a sense that the end was just around the corner.

"Samba de Bencao" - Bebel Gilberto

There's a section in the book where one of the characters goes on holiday to Brazil to get away from an uncomfortable situation at home. The book is set in Dublin and most of the action takes place in pubs and clubs, people's apartments and offices. It felt like I needed to give the character a break, get him outside, give him some daylight and sunshine and colour. Then when I wrote it he spent most of his time in Brazil asleep. I like the old bossa nova version of this but Bebel Gilberto's is lazier and dopier and it seems about right for him.

"Mais um Adeus" – Marilia Medalha/Toquinho

I listened to this song all the time and it had an effect. A guy's girlfriend is leaving and he sings about how unhappy he is, how life is all loneliness and suffering, love is agony, happiness is fleeting. Then she starts singing and tells him to pull himself together, to lay off the gin and write the odd letter and everything will be fine. The book is written in a first-person voice and in the early versions the narrator was too maudlin and downbeat. He needed someone like this girl to knock him into shape. In later versions he lightened up, took himself less seriously and got a sense of humour.

"Popstar Researching Oblivion" - Flotation Toy Warning

My father-in-law is into music and buys a lot of esoteric stuff on spec. I don't know where he heard about this lot but he was a big fan when the album came out. They're English, play unusual instruments and don't seem to be big into publicity. He gave me a copy around the time I was finishing the book. This song starts out like a Victorian hymn, plodding along with organs and wavering vocals, then piano and horns start up and it gets uplifting and exhilarating and beautiful, I think. When I came back to do edits last year, this song got my head back into how I was feeling when I'd left it.

Chris Binchy and Five Days Apart links:

Cleveland Plain Dealer review
Confessions of a Bookaholic review
Houston Chronicle review
Irish Voice review
New York Journal of Books review

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)
musician/author interviews
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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