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April 7, 2011

Book Notes - Various Authors ("Re: Telling")

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

Re: Telling is a collection of stories featuring appropriated themes from classic literature, pop culture, and folklore. Edited by William Walsh, the stories in this compilation are as clever as they are entertaining, and include contributions by Matt Bell, Blake Butler, Molly Gaudry, Kathleen Rooney, and many other authors, all talented and inventive.

In their own words, here is a collective music playlist from the contributors to Book Notes music playlist for the collection, Re: Telling:

Re: Telling is an anthology of stories (and a few poems) that appropriate characters, borrow premises, hijack plots, and steal settings. Featuring work from thirty of today’s most innovative writers, Re: Telling riffs on Shakespeare, Beckett, I Love Lucy, Melville, Salinger, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Paul Bunyan, Godzilla, Law & Order, Updike, Borges, Henry Miller, and more.

Pedro Ponce "The Devil and the Dairy Princess"

Richard Thompson's version of "Oops! I Did It Again" featured on 1000 Years of Popular Music. Creepy, paranoid, guilt-ridden—Richard Thompson finds the song buried deep inside a video soundtrack.

Matt Bell "Mario’s Three Lives"

"Since U Been Gone / Maps" by Kelly Clarkson / Yeah Yeah Yeahs, covered by Ted Leo. Not only is this a catchy indie rock rendition of Kelly Clarkson's already irritatingly catchy pop song (remember the era when the people who won American Idol really went on to become, well, something like American idols?), but Ted Leo also transitions from the "yeah yeah" of "Since U Been Gone" into the actual Yeah Yeah Yeahs, which always seemed a subtle and smart way to connect the two songs. Oh, and he had vocal cord surgery right before recording this, which is just badass.

Teresa Buzzard "Mona Teresas" (illustrations)

"True Love Will Find You in the End" by Daniel Johnston, as covered by Matthew Good (from the album Hospital Music in 2007) is one of the few cover songs I gravitate towards... I love broken people. Broken people who write honest songs about the most raw and emotional experiences of their lives; even at the darkest times, they don't let the last sliver of hope fade. (Should I stop there? I don't want this to seem like an album review... but the backstory is interesting.) A nasty divorce, a loved one's battle with cancer, a personal drug addiction, overdose, and subsequent stay in a psychiatric ward (following a bipolar diagnosis), as well as Good's usual political commentary all made for some pretty dark and heavy subject matter. "True Love Will Find You in the End" made for a perfect finish to such a tumultuous production. 

Steve Himmer "Big Blue"

Gillian Welch, "Black Star" (original by Radiohead). There are covers that redeem a bad song, and there are others — like this one — that give an already great song new resonance. Radiohead's original builds in a way that increases the tension, as if frustration is verging on rage, but Gillian Welch turns toward something quieter, a resignation that the world is a painful place where things were unlikely to ever work out so it's not worth being upset when they don't. That kind of earthy fatalism born from experience is what I found in revisiting Paul Bunyan's tall tale.

Corey Mesler "The Plot to Kidnap Stonehenge"

The Mekons' "King Arthur." The Arthurian legends run so deeply through our literature: T. H. White’s The Once and Future King, modern retellings of Thomas Berger (Arthur Rex) and John Steinbeck (The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights), not to mention perhaps the greatest reworking of the myths, Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Michael Kimball "From the Suicide Letters of Jonathon Bender, 1967-1999"

Alanis Morissette covering The Black Eyes Peas' "My Humps" — which she turns into an ironic ballad filled with genius.

Darcie Dennigan "Bartleby in Domesticity"

Jon Brion pretending to be Tom Waits covering Radiohead's "Creep". Is that one retelling too many? Well... I mean... the fact that Brion would dare mess with Radiohead...and mess with Tom Waits…he is a creep for doing it. And writers are creeps? I don't know.

Timothy Gager "Not the Stuff of Fairy Tales"

Husker Du's single of " "Eight Miles High" with the flip side being The Mary Tyler Moore Show theme, "Love is All Around". Also REM's cover of Velvet Underground's "There She Goes Again".
Jason Cook (Ampersand Books) Publisher of RE:Telling

Every version of the song "Landslide" I've ever heard makes me want to stab myself in the eye with a spork. Fleetwood Mac's original is too bouncy to convey the sadness of the lyrics, and almost everyone oversings it. The Smashing Pumpkins' cover is understated, without the bounciness of the original, messy and heartfelt.  Covering "Landslide," the Pumpkins revealed something beautiful hiding in what is usually a terrible piece of music.

William Walsh Editor of RE:Telling

Burning Sensations' cover of "Pablo Picasso" by Jonathan Richman. Because it’s from the Repo Man soundtrack and because it concerns Picasso who did so much with multiple points of view. I like how Jonathan appropriated Picasso’s persona for the song. HYPERLINK "" Bowie does a nice bullfighter version of it.

Erin Fitzgerald "What You Should Have Known About ABBA"

U2 covering "Dancing Queen."ABBA songs were almost always heavily produced. For me, cover versions of their songs prove that the music itself was solid, almost timeless. U2 played this in concert during their 1992 Zoo TV tour. Bjorn and Benny joined the band on stage in Stockholm. My favorite moment, besides Bono ripping his earlobe right after the song, is when he drops out and lets the crowd take over.

Michael Martone "Borges in Indiana"

My song—John Mellencamp's "Little Pink Houses." At the time Borges visited Bloomington, John was John Cougar in the Bloomington bars. Also it would be cool if it could be intercut with a Gardel tango, keeping up with the theme of Borges in Indiana and Indiana in Borges.

Kathleen Rooney & Lily Hoang "So Cold and Far Away"

"Islands in the Stream," originally sung by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, covered by Feist and the Constantines. We chose this song because it’s also a duet, and our story in the collection is a collaboration—we rely on each other (uh-huh). In a way, we should almost have selected something by a trio since "So Cold and Far Away" is not just a collaboration between the two of us, but also with the anonymous biblical writer responsible for the Book of Ruth, whoever s/he was.

Curtis Smith "The Real, True-Life Story of Godzilla!"

I can only go with "Godzilla" by Blue Oyster Cult

Jeff Brewer "The Impossible Dripping Heap"

"Hazy Shade of Winter" by The Bangles: Instrumentally, this version assaults the 60's folk sound of the Simon and Garfunkel original by electrifying the song's signature guitar riff and turning up the volume of the up tempo drum beat. This cover pays homage to the original by layering the melancholic lyrics with the Bangles brilliant vocal harmonies. This is the only Bangles song where all the band members sing lead vocals. The joint vocals provide a subtle chaotic harmony and it's only near the end of the song where he hear Susanna Hoffs chime in with a brief lyric solo, which serves as a touch of order, before the joint vocals pick back up and swell around her while the guitars and keyboards and the drums rightfully speed and crash everything to the song's abrupt end. This is not only a brilliant homage, it also stands alone as a late 80s rock gem.

Re: Telling links:

the book's blog
excerpt from the book

Prick of the Spindle review
Time Out Chicago review

the editor's website

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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