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November 5, 2010

Book Notes - Laurie Hertzel ("News to Me: Adventures of an Accidental Journalist")

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

Laurie Hertzel's memoir News to Me: Adventures of an Accidental Journalist is a compelling read for many reasons. Hertzel is a masterful storyteller, the recounting of her three decades in journalism not only charts her own experiences and personal growth with charm and humor, but also examines vast changes in newsrooms and the newspaper publishing business overall during her career.

In her own words, here is Laurie Hertzel's Book Notes music playlist for her memoir, News to Me: Adventures of an Accidental Journalist:

Music and memoir go together well — both, for me, are steeped in memory and the past. (Old songs are always the best, aren't they? Or at least they are the most evocative.)

Without being too literal about it, here are 13 songs (heavily weighted toward Minnesota bands, of course) for the 13 chapters of News to Me, which is my memoir about working on the newspaper in Duluth and slowly growing away from my beloved home town.

I can't pretend that I listened to these songs while I was writing the book; I cannot listen to anything while I'm writing, not even instrumental music. I am far too easily distracted. But these songs are all from specific times in my life, and they evoke, in me, the same emotions that these chapters evoke.

"Ten Little Kids," by the Jayhawks (from Tomorrow the Green Grass)

I am no. 7 of 10, and this song has always been, to me, the Hertzel Family Anthem. Especially the line about how we didn’t know what our moms and dads were doing. For us, we were happiest when that went both ways.

"Wrapped up in Books," by Belle and Sebastian (from Dear Catastrophe Waitress)

That's my life, from my earliest memory. My father was an English professor and my mother was a librarian, and our house was stuffed with books. Reading was so revered it was an easy way to get out of chores.

"I Like it in Duluth," by Father Hennepin (from Crooked with Gin)

If we were going to be completely authentic, we should find the original version, recorded by the Moose Wallow Ramblers back in the early 1970s, but that's not on iTunes and the Ramblers disbanded long ago. I remember hearing them play that song down at Canal Park in Duluth when I was about 19 years old and immediately buying their LP, even though I didn't own a record player.

"Kinder Murder" by Elvis Costello (from Brutal Youth)

Crime! You can't be a newspaper reporter and not somehow crave stories about crime and the dark side of life.

"Deadbeat Club," by the B-52s (from Cosmic Thing)

Odd as it might sound, this song sums up my four years on the night desk. We were anything but deadbeats, but we did sit and talk all night, buzzed on caffeine, young and strong and on top of the world.

"Newspaper Reporter," by Watermelon Slim and the Workers (from The Wheel Man)

They didn't let me drink beer on the job, either, but there were old-timers who kept whiskey in their bottom drawer.

"Snow Days" by Trip Shakespeare (from Across the Universe)

Nothing evokes a snowy day in Duluth better than the opening bars of this tender tune, and the sweet, haunting, "It's coming down…" "Her wheels are spinning now" pretty well describes my early snow-driving abilities.

"Waiting for the Great Leap Forward" by Billy Bragg (from Workers Playtime)

You can't go to the Soviet Union without somehow taking Billy with you in your heart.

"Sault Ste. Marie," by Joe Henry (From Short Man's Room)

How to explain the reason for the inclusion of this song? There is none, other than the song's sheer beauty, its wintry north-country feel, and the way it brings me instantly back to my time in Duluth.

"Coast of Carolina" by Telekinesis (from Telekinesis!)

North Carolina was a new world for me, and new possibilities.

"The Long Cut" by Uncle Tupelo (from Anodyne)

I have never taken the short cut to anything, even when I probably should have. This song is half despair, half hope, which is pretty much what I was bound up in those last years in Duluth.

"Are You Tired of Me, My Darling?" by the Red Clay Ramblers (from Meeting in the Air)

I first started listening to the Ramblers in the late 1970s. I used to drive down to the Twin Cities to see them whenever they were on Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion," which was performed, in those years, outside on the lawn of the Science and Arts Museum in St. Paul. If it rained, they'd pack up the show and move it across the street to the World Theater (now the Fitzgerald Theater), the show in process the entire time. This wistful song reflects my feelings about Duluth at the end—was I tired of living there? Did I still love it?

"It's All Good," by Bob Dylan (from Together Through Life)

Because, in the end, it was.

Laurie Hertzel and News to Me: Adventures of an Accidental Journalist links:

the author's website
the author's blog
video trailer for the book
excerpt from the book
excerpt from the book
excerpt from the book
excerpt from the book

Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog review
Blogcritics review
The Book Studio review
Downtown Journal review
The Far Side of Fifty review
The Iota Quota review
Lane's Write review
My Bookshelf review
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette review
Sophisticated Dorkiness review
Superior Reviews reviews
Twin Cities Daily Planet review

CarolineLeavittville interview with the author
A Closer Look at Flyover land interview with the author
Dulut News Tribune interview with the author
Examiner interview with the author
Minnesota Reads interview with the author
MN Artists interview with the author
Nieman Storyboard interview with the author
Publishers Weekly interview with the author
Realgoodblog 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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