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May 19, 2011

Book Notes - Jeff Kass ("Knuckleheads")

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

Jeff Kass's short story collection Knuckleheads is filled with tales of men both young and old on the brink, and he clearly depicts their uncertainty with both humor and pathos that everyone can relate to.

Steve Amick wrote of the book:

"Knuckleheads is a high-octane protein shake, equal parts heartbreak and hilarity, a thing of both sweat-reeking adrenalin and nostalgic, time-stopping beauty. Kass achieves what all fiction writers want—he makes us believe and makes us care. Even those of us who stayed as far away from the jocks as possible will want to cheer."

In his own words, here is Jeff Kass's Book Notes music playlist for his short story collection, Knuckleheads:

Knuckleheads, man, what do we listen to?

Gotta start with hard-driving rock. Some Zeppelin and Clapton, those thick bass guitars that make you want to lift weights. Make you want to curl your hands into fists and see your veins pop from your forearms.

Listen, it's not about Heavy Metal though; maybe some Aerosmith, a hint of AC/DC, but nothing that seeks a more involved head-banging commitment than that. No Sabbath. No Ozzy. No Metallica. Knuckleheads don't really go for a genre that occasions black t-shirts or leather pants. Oddly, there's also something about pure Heavy Metal that moves dudes toward wanting to please women too much. Something lurking in all that darkness that pleads for their attention. Knuckleheads don't plead. We don't mope around in darkness, don’t really scream, and we don't know how to please women. We can charm them on occasion, make them laugh, sometimes fool them for a few weeks, but largely we don’t have much of a clue. We'll end up back in our basements, on the bench press, blasting something cheesy like the Grease soundtrack, imagining we're Danny Zuko.

We love Springsteen too. Not even the cars so much, the driving on highways, but the hope that the women we want – the ones who will appreciate our dumb hope, our inability to plead, or please them, or figure anything out properly – those women in blue jeans and sundresses and bony shoulders are out there, somewhere, waiting for us. When Springsteen tells Mary in "Thunderoad," "you ain’t a beauty, but, hey, you’re all right," we know he's saying we don't know what we're doing and we don't know how to tell you that, but if you have faith – and patience – we'll eventually stumble into being better versions of our current selves.

Some hip hop too, yes, early seminal stuff; Run-DMC (hence the cross-over w/ Aerosmith); maybe something goofy like The Fat Boys, or Whodini; Digital Underground's "The Humpty Dance." Again, anything that suggests a kind of goofiness, or a false bravado that's so obviously false it's laughable, that's the kind of music that tugs at our knuckleheaded hearts.

We're not against reflection either. Though our contemplations are often superficial or wrongly conceived or straight-out misguided, we're open to the idea of thinking. Thus, in more mellow moods, when we're too tired to weight-lift or to practice clanging jump-shots off the back of the rim, we might throw some Eagles on the turntable, some Jackson Browne or Journey or Joe Jackson or Cars. We won't admit this in public and won't do it in the company of our knucklehead posse, but, when alone, we might even opt for James Taylor, for Carly Simon, Stevie Nicks or something like the Monkees' "Daydream Believer."

Here's the weirdest aspect – dance music. Listen, knuckleheads generally don't dance. Again, not in public. Not at weddings of bar-mitzvahs or even drunken golf-course parties. But when we're on our own, solo in our cars or bedrooms, we think about it. We occasionally feel a kind of disjointed rhythm motivating our ankles or our shoulders, our hips, to try and do something. At such times, we can be fans of songs like Frankie Valle and the Four Seasons' "Oh, What a Night," or Hot Chocolate’s "You Sexy Thing." Even something like the Go-Go's "We Got the Beat" will appeal to us because we know we don't have it now, not even close, but someday, someday, you know what, stick with us, we might. We just might.

Jeff Kass and Knuckleheads links:

AAPSNews profile of the author 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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