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November 24, 2010

Book Notes - Lindsay Hunter ("Daddy's")

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

Lindsay's Hunter's latest book Daddy's is as powerful a short fiction collection as any I have read all year. These pitch perfect short stories mix the macabre with humor and sex effortlessly, and I agree wholeheartedly with Blake Butler who wrote that "Lindsay’s language is somehow both frightening, gut-bunching, weirdo, home, cover your face, open your mouth, transcendent, and of heaving sound."

The Nervous Breakdown wrote of the book:

"Lindsay Hunter is fearless in her storytelling, no subject taboo, no moment from the past too dark or questionable to put down on paper. It makes me want to give her a hug, and then I remember, it’s fiction, dummy. She’s making worlds here, worlds where she doesn’t turn the camera away from the dirty parts, the naughty moments with a conquest, or perhaps alone, as in “The Fence,” one of my favorite stories from this collection."

In her own words, here is Lindsay Hunter's Book Notes music playlist for her short fiction collection, Daddy's:

I don't generally listen to music as I write—I get so caught up in what I'm hearing that my mind travels. I guess that means I give equal brainspace (i.e,. all that I can muster) to the listening and the writing, so it's hard for me to do both.

That said, music is an important referent to what I write. I love the storytelling quality of a good song, and the way sounds can tell a story, I love how music can surprise you. The joy I find in writing is always at the word/sentence level—creating a line that works in the most literal sense of the word "work." Each word blasting out a meaning, connected in a sentence that tells a story in itself, that paints a picture, that is fun to read and to say. Many of the stories in Daddy's were read out loud to a live audience, so I paid close attention to how each story would feel in my mouth, how each would sound. In doing so, a lot of the guitar solos and extended version cuts were excised or never even considered. Each word is absolutely necessary, the way each chord in a favorite song feels absolutely necessary.

All my life, I've chased after the next favorite song. I am obsessive about it—I'll listen over and over and over and over. In my writing, I edit as I go. I go back to the sentence again and again and again and again until it is right. The stories in Daddy's were not crafted to music, but there is music in the book, if I go back and take a listen. So here's my listen:

The Drive-by Truckers "The Deeper In"

Oh my sweet dark Jesus by the lamp, this song. It's about sibling incest and it ends so abruptly that you are stunned. It damns and it forgives and it damns. This is the kind of storytelling any other writer could spend years attempting. In Daddy's, the story "Let" is my attempt.

Steve Winwood "Back in the High Life"

There is a lot of nostalgia in Daddy's. Characters romanticize their morning coffee, they get wistful about other times and other places. For me, the epitome of nostalgia is the adult contemporary stations of America, who are all obligated to play at least three Steve Winwood songs per 24 hours. "Oh, we'll be back in the high life again" is something any one of my characters could be promising themselves in the rearview of a stolen car.

Marshall Tucker Band "Heard it in a Love Song"

"Heard it in a Love Song" is excerpted in the story "Love Song." The daddy in that song plays it for his daughter and tells her there's a lot of truth in it.

I'm gonna be leavin at the break of dawn / wish you could come but I don't need no woman taggin along

This song perpetuates that idiot (nonetheless romantic) manmyth about the importance of being alone, of how a woman is just there to react to her man—but I buy into it. Or maybe I buy into its power. I can see where someone could get real messed up listening to something like this, over and over. I also just love the song—there is flute, and a heartbreaking guitar moment at about 2:50, where, I propose, the "I" in that song is facing some real "truths." That moment and those truths—I'll spend my life trying to write them.

Crooked Fingers "Carrion Doves"

This song is dark. It's a hopeful corpse. Does the hope make the corpse any more alive? No. The song pronounces dead what is already dead. The carrion doves arrive. Then there is this insane hope at the end that is as close to a rising as I've ever heard.

There's victims to be made
Decisions to be weighed
You're guilty now
But in your heart, there soon could be
a change.

The characters in Daddy's. bank on that change just around the corner. It helps them stay right exactly where they are, waiting.

Louvin Brothers "Knoxville Girl"

This song is straight-up flash fiction. The "I" in the song beats a girl to death, he never says why. The "why" isn't the point. In Daddy's many of the characters tell a story that is beside the actual story, just as the "I" in this song tells the story of his life after the killing rather than explaining why he killed the girl he "loved so well." In the story "It All Go By," the main character does not explain why she has a knife and a gun. In "The Fence," the wife never explains why she goes to the fence. Point of view is myopic and subjective, and that's where it gets interesting.

Jerry Lee Lewis "Crazy Arms"
Jerry Lee could be the name of all the characters in Daddy's. For the most part they say one thing and do another. Jerry Lee is the epitome of that dichotomy. Mouth of the Lord, hands of the devil.

Re-Up Gang "Re-Up Gang Intro, We Got it 4 Cheap v.3: Spirit of Competition"

Clipse in general is a huge inspiration—their monotone delivery (especially in Malice's verses) allows each metaphor to stand on its own, and their metaphors are badass. This song opens with a talking intro that ends with raw, desperate laughing—there's a promise and a threat that makes you want to laugh along but also, deep down, you don't believe a word. There's a lot of threat in Daddy's, a lot of screaming into the void similar to the intro to this song. It's funny, we're all in on the joke, but then, sometimes, it stops being a joke.

England Dan Seals and John Ford Coley "James at 15 Theme"

There is a list at the end of the story "Food Luck" of all the things the character has eaten since his brother moved away. I think in that list he is trying to answer this question posed in the James at 15 theme song: "Is it a feeling in the heart or is it something you can't name?" The answer to which is, of course, Yes.

Bruce Springsteen "Brilliant Disguise"

I suppose I could have chosen a hipper Springsteen song, but "God have mercy on the man who doubts what he's sure of" says it all. In "Loofah," a man doubts his relationship, the dream he had, his sexuality, his hunger. In "Finding There" a man runs from his family, all the way to the ocean. Springsteen provides the kind of recognition and call to arms in his songs that makes the characters in Daddy's feel even more hopeless about themselves.

The Twilight Singers "Clyde"

There is a lot, a lot, of sex in Daddy's. Bored, desperate, predatory, clumsy sex. So much can be learned from a character's discomfort or desire. In sex, discomfort and desire often intersect. This song is sexy and awkward, and so is the sex in Daddy's. See: "Sex Armageddon," "The Fence," "This One."

Baroness "The Gnashing"

Part of what I love about flash fiction is how it plays with expectation. You go in one door and expect to keep walking until you reach the back door, but a lot of the time you get waylaid, redirected. A band like Baroness does that for me—metal in general does that for me. What I'm getting at is something that on its surface looks alien, unrecognizable, ugly even, is revealed to be so beautiful that you can't believe it. I think in a lot of the stories in Daddy's, that goes both ways. At the end of "Tuesday," two sisters sit in a moment of beauty, the sun setting, while one sister begins nodding off from a pill overdose. "All of my arrows that riddle you through are bullets that fire me back into you." Beauty lives with ugly.

Lindsay Hunter and Daddy's links:

the author's blog
excerpt from the book (PDF at the publisher)
excerpt from the book ("The Fence" at Nerve)
excerpt from the book ("Finding There" at Cricket Online Review)
excerpt from the book ("It All Go By" at Thieves Jargon)
excerpt from the book ("Marie Noe Tells You About Her Kids" at Proximity)
excerpt from the book ("Out There" at The Nervous Breakdown)
excerpt from the book ("Scales" at Night Train)
excerpt from the book ("That Baby" at Everyday Genius)
excerpt from the book ("Tuesday" at SmokeLong Quarterly)
excerpt from the book ("Unpreparing" at HOBART)
excerpt from the book ("We" at elimae)

Big Other review
Bitch review
Dactyl Review review
decomP review
The Nervous Breakdown review
Powell's Books review
The Scowl review
Venus Zine review
Vol. 1 Brooklyn review

Big Other interview with the author
HTMLGIANT interview with the author
The Nervous Breakdown self-interview with the author
Newcity Lit interview with the author
Robert Lopez guest post by the author
Three Guys One Book essay by the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

other Book Notes playlists (authors create music playlists for their book)

Online "Best Books of 2010" lists

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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