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March 31, 2011

Book Notes - Meg Howrey ("Blind Sight")

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

Meg Howrey's Blind Sight is an assuredly told novel about a teenage son's newfound relationship with his biological father.

Howrey's fully developed characters combined with her skill at mixing first and third person narratives make this an estimable debut.

Kirkus Reviews wrote of the book:

"The novel resonates with authenticity, both with its description of the world of women from which Luke emerges and the world of easy celebrity in which he is tempered. Even many of Howrey's minor characters—Luke's sisters, for example—shine, and the narrative, related in alternate segments from Luke's point of view and in the third person, will draw the reader in."

In her own words, here is Meg Howrey's Book Notes music playlist for her debut novel, Blind Sight:

When I first started working through the ideas for Blind Sight, I was thinking a lot about identity, mostly in biological terms. There seemed to be articles and essays and books all over the place about the new brain sciences, the "hard problem" of consciousness, the sequencing of the human genome, etc. I was nerding out on all of this, and also listening to a lot of audio lectures. Often at the gym. Until I realized that it was seriously slowing down my cardio. (You try cross training to Wittgenstein.) So I switched over to music, compiling a loose sort of Blind Sight soundtrack, which went with me everywhere.

The story itself concerns a seventeen-year-old boy, Luke, who has grown up in Delaware, basically surrounded by women. When the novel opens, Luke has come to Los Angeles for the summer to meet the father he has never known, Mark, who has become a television star.

Somewhere along the way, what started as a kind of spin on classic heroes journeys and test-and-quest myths also became a love story between this father and son.

There's a great moment in writing where you're almost able to feel your book like a musical score, play it back and forth in your head, hear the rhythms, find where you're missing instruments, laying in too much percussion, going too fast or too slow. I hope someday I get it right like the artists below.

"Good Arms Vs. Bad Arms" by Frightened Rabbit

Luke is on his school's cross-country team and I have him running around L.A. at various points in the book. I fell in love with this fantastic Scottish band, and although the lyrics to this song (which are gorgeous) don't relate to the plot of my novel, the melody was exactly right. Every time I listened, I saw Luke running. It gave me a certain momentum.

"The World Is Full of Crashing Bores" by Morrissey

Really just the perfect song to imagine being played over images of red carpet hoo-hah, Hollywood premieres, award shows. The Replacements' "Unsatisfied" also works well for this. There's a bit of the celebrity side of Hollywood in the book, the shiny awkward flatness of it all. Like a perpetual prom.

"The First Day of My Life" by Bright Eyes

The most modest of love songs, no "I will love you forever" or, "You are my everything". Singer/songwriter Conor Oberst confesses, but doesn't manipulate. For me, this was Mark looking at his son, and feeling the loneliness crack a bit.

"Rich Girl" by The Bird and The Bee

From their Hall and Oates tribute record, "Interpreting the Masters Vol. 1". A friend who knows what's what turned me on to this. (Thanks, Chris.) "Rich Girl" is for when Luke meets Leila at a Hollywood premiere. She's wearing purple cowboy boots. He cannot be blamed.

"All That Money Wants" by The Psychedelic Furs

Leila's pool party, where Luke is confronted with temptation like a modern-day Galahad, although with somewhat different results. The Psychedelic Furs will never get old for me.

"Release the Stars" by Rufus Wainwright

"And believe me/you are no match/for the public that has seen the whites of your eyes." Luke isn't the only one in the book with some identity issues. In general, Rufus reminds me to stop effing around and just swing for the fences.

"Dominoes" by The Big Pink

The Big Pink are Brits, but to me this one evokes the sexy, loose, it don't matter vibe you sometimes catch in Los Angeles. Possibly the song should be issued at LAX to all transplants to help them mellow out and forget about autumn.

"Apples In The Trees" by Mirah

I picked up her record, Advisory Committee, after hearing one of the songs on NPR's "Morning Becomes Eclectic". This song zips along, then stops, unfurls and soars. The ending is for Mark, on the beach, telling Luke that he's going to spend five minutes being happy.

"West Coast" by Coconut Records

Jason Schwartzman's one-man band. This song goes on every compilation I make now, whether or not it makes sense to include it. It does all the right things in all the right places and he sounds great.

"Push Your Head Towards The Air" by Editors

This is an "I will always be there" love song – that's an actual lyric in it - but Tom Smith's voice is so beautiful and sad and hopeful and it's Luke and Mark saying goodbye at the airport and I'm not made of stone.

"Family Tree" by TV On the Radio

Another running song for Luke, this one for when he returns to Delaware at the end of the summer. I was about halfway through writing Blind Sight when my friend Paul introduced me to this band. I heard the song and it freaked me out a little, how perfect it was. Every listen gets a little deeper.

Meg Howrey and Blind Sight links:

the author's website
the author on Facebook

Kirkus Reviews review
Los Angeles review
Maine Edge review
Mainstream Fiction review
New York Times 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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