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November 2, 2010

Book Notes - Anthony De Sa ("Barnacle Love")

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

I first picked up Anthony De Sa's linked collection of short stories Barnacle Love a couple of years ago when the book was a finalist for the 2008 Giller Prize. At first I was mesmerized by the cover of the Canadian edition, but I was quickly drawn in by De Sa's engaging tale of a Portuguese fisherman's immigration to Canada.

Reminiscent of the works of Jhumpa Lahiri, these stories deal with immigrants' hopes and disappointments, and their effect on family relationships. De Sa deftly shifts points of view from immigrant father to Canadian-born son and clearly brings the Little Portugal of Toronto alive (as well as the Portuguese village left behind).

Bookslut wrote of the book:

"On its surface, Barnacle Love is fiction typical of the immigrant genre. Authored by the offspring of parents who have emigrated from their native land, such novels reflect on their family's transition to the West. As is typical of such narratives, Barnacle Love reflects on what has been left behind as well as on difficulties in assimilation, and predictably, the principal underlying conflict in De Sa's work centers around a tension between generations. De Sa distinguishes himself, however, by heightening supporting tensions first through a fresh, unadorned juxtaposition of the old and the new, and second, through the family’s melancholy and elusive understanding of their own motivations for moving to this new world in the first place."

In his own words, here is Anthony De Sa's Book Notes music playlist for his novel, Barnacle Love:

Barnacle Love simply explores the relationship between a father and his son. A young fisherman washes up nearly dead on the shores of Newfoundland. It is Manuel Rebelo, who has tried to escape the suffocating smallness of his Portuguese village and the crushing weight of his mother's expectations to build a future in a new land. The novel's point of view then shifts to Manuel's son, Antonio, who is born into Toronto's Little Portugal, a world of colorful houses and labyrinthine back alleys. In the Rebelo home the Church looms large, men and women inhabit sharply divided space, pigs are slaughtered in the garage, and the family lives in the shadow cast by Manuel's failures. Most days Antonio and his friends take to their bikes, pushing the boundaries of their neighborhood street by street. When they finally break through to the city beyond they confront dangers of a new sort.

Music played a large role for me during the writing of my book. I remember writing Fado—the third story in the collection—savoring wonderful Portuguese wine as the incredible voices of Amalia Rodrigues and Mariza blared through the house. Those haunting voices and the plucky guitara helped me capture the sorrowful mood of that piece. There is an element of self-consciousness in offering this eclectic playlist but if it were not for the muse of song, well . . . there may not have been a book.

In no particular order, here they are:

"Rehab" by Amy Winehouse
Her voice just makes me want to swoosh a martini in my mouth along with a cigarette, even though I quit smoking thirty pounds ago.

"Piano Man" by Billy Joel

There is a loneliness to this song (I don't know if it's the tender mix of piano and harmonica) but it just gets me every time, just when the regular crowd shuffles in looking for a song about memory.

"Clocks" by Coldplay

It just makes me feel like I'm at a live concert. I can't remember the last time I was at a live concert. There's just something raw about the tribal repeat of thumping drums.

"Chances" by Jill Barber

If my parents weren't immigrants it's the kind of song I think they would have picked to dance to at their wedding. Romantic, sweeping and ultimately doomed!

"Suzanne" by Leonard Cohen

Cohen is simply a poet, in words, in song and in life. I knew a Suzanne. I think we've all had a Suzanne in our lives, looking for that sky to open.

"O Gente da Minha Terra" by Mariza

I'm always blown away by a modern take on the traditional. The tension of straddling both worlds of old and new is something that has seeped into my writing. The emotion in her voice is haunting.

"Grace Kelly" by Mika

It's just fun. What happened to fun songs? There were so many of them in the seventies—all void of any kind of political subversive message. Just . . .fun!

"Glitter in the Air" by Pink

The juxtaposition of Pink's raspy strong voice pleading through this tender ballad that makes it remarkable.

"Sweet Dreams" by Patsy Cline

I chose this one song but I think every song she sings has that earnest quality that makes the heartbreak and loneliness something we should all want.

"Going to a Town" by Rufus Wainwright

I'll let the opening verse of the song say it:
I'm going to a town that has already been burnt down

I'm going to a place that has already been disgraced

I'm gonna see some folks who have already been let down

I'm so tired of America

"O Fortuna" by Carl Orff from Carmina Burana

I can take on the world! Or take over the world! I'm not sure which. I like the sneaky buildup to the diabolical crescendo.

"In Dreams" by Roy Orbison

My father would play this song over and over when we were kids. He pitied Roy Orbison because he thought he was blind. He asked me once what was a candy-colored clown they called the sandman was. I chose that moment to tell my father Roy Orbison wasn't blind. He simply continued to sway to the music. (I got to use this in my next novel).

Anthony De Sa and Barnacle Love links:

the author's website
the author's Wikipedia entry

Books and Quilts review
Bookslut review
Boston Globe review
The Can-Lit Project review
Canadian Literature review
The Daily Shred review
Fiction Addict review
Kate's Bookcase review
Monniblog review
New York Times review
Ottawa Citizen review
Quill & Quire review
Savvy Verse & Wit review
The Short Review review
Toronto Star review
Vancouver Sun review
The Written World review

CTV profile of the author
National Post interview with the author
Open Book Toronto interview with 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)
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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