June 30, 2011
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Will Allison's second novel Long Drive Home is a tense psychological thriller that cleverly draws its suspense not from an action, but its resulting coverup. One man's bad decision puts not only his life, but also his marriage, daughter, and community into turmoil when he decides to lie about it.
Entertainment Weekly wrote of the book:
"In Long Drive Home, Allison focuses on the brutally quick unraveling of Glen’s peaceful existence, filling the reader with not only dread but also the desire to discover what terrible—or hopeful—development awaits on the next page.”
Driving and traffic figure prominently in my new novel, Long Drive Home. The book is set just outside New York City in the congested suburbs of northern New Jersey. The main character is Glen Bauer, a self-employed tax accountant and stay-at-home dad. His wife, Liz, works at a bank in the city; their daughter, Sara, is in first grade at a progressive co-op. Driving Sara home from school one afternoon, Glen causes a car accident that kills a teenaged boy. Except for Sara, there are no other witnesses. The accident and Glen's attempted cover-up are what set the rest of the story in motion.
The book isn't autobiographical, but, like Glen, I live in South Orange and drive my daughter to and from school in Montclair, a 45-minute round trip. As it happens, much of Long Drive Home was written during those drives. Basically, I'd talk to myself about the book using a handheld digital recorder. I found this kind of note taking very helpful, in that I often tended to generate ideas more readily in the car than at the computer.
When I wasn't talking to myself or listening to WNYC, I'd listen to one of the handful of CDs floating around in the console. The music on those CDs became the de facto soundtrack of Long Drive Home.
"Don't Get Down" by Hayden
Usually, when someone tells me how "literary" a band is, I know I will hate that band. And usually when someone tells me how "inspiring" a song is, I know I will find it wanting. So I won't say Hayden's music is literary, and I won't say "Don't Get Down" is inspiring. I'll just say Hayden's songs, in general, are as smart and nuanced and moving as really good short stories, and that every time I've ever listened to "Don't Get Down," it's picked me up. I find Hayden to be a very gifted teller of stories in song as well, though "Don't Get Down" isn't one of his narrative songs. Thank you, Canada, for Alice Munro, Neil Young, and Hayden.
"Superior" by Colin Gawel
"Superior" is the title track on Colin Gawel's second solo EP, which came out in early 2010, at a dark and stormy time when I had begun to think I should give up on Long Drive Home. Some backstory: Colin and I went to high school together in Worthington, Ohio, in the 1980s. He and a mutual friend, Joe Oestreich, were in a band called Watershed. Early on, Watershed had a deal with Epic, but they never made it big. That didn't stop Colin and Joe. For going on 25 years, they've kept the band together, kept making CDs, kept performing live. Plus Colin is now doing solo work. I love the gravelly honesty of "Superior." And listening to the song was like having an old friend in the car, one who could teach me a thing or two about not giving up.
"Whatever [sic] Happened to Corey Haim?" by The Thrills
In 2003, when I was living in Indianapolis, a friend gave me The Thrills' debut CD, So Much for the City. I found it rather odd-an Irish band that can't stop singing about California?-but also quite charming and wonderful. I listened to it over and over. Not long after, I went to see The Thrills when they came to town. The lead singer, Conor Deasy, sounded great, but he seemed way too into himself, vamping and preening at the mic. What's more, it was an all-ages show, and the place was packed with kids. I remember thinking, "I'm a grown man who listens to music for teenaged girls." I finally picked up their second CD, Let's Bottle Bohemia, while I was working on Long Drive Home. I didn't like it as much as the first one, but this particular song was ear crack, the perfect escape from writing a novel, a guilty pleasure I enjoyed so much, I stopped feeling guilty about it.
"Supernatural Superserious" by REM
Along with Hayden and Pavement and the Grateful Dead and Rebecca Gates, REM is among my favorite bands/artists of all time. I started listening to them in 1986, when Life's Rich Pageant was released, and never stopped. When Accelerate came out in 2008, I had it in the car for a while. My daughter, who was in first grade, took a fast, strong liking to "Supernatural Superserious." It's my favorite cut on the CD too; I think Stipe sounds as good as ever. And because my daughter liked the song so much, I began to associate it with Sara, the daughter in Long Drive Home, and even with Glen, who as a transplant to New Jersey feels some of the same displacement and alienation that Stipe sings about.
Will Allison and Long Drive Home links:
The Cyberlibrarian Reads review
Entertainment Weekly review
Lit Endeavors review
O Magazine review
New York Times review
The Progressive Reader review
Publishers Weekly review
Reading Between Pages review
The Rumpus review
Sense and Nonsense review
Shelby Meyerhoff review
Trees and Ink review
A Utah Mom's Life review
WV Stitcher review
Better Read Than Dead interview with the author
BookHounds interview with the author
Books with a Cup of Coffee interview with the author
My Book, The Movie guest post by the author
The Page 69 Test guest post by the author
Words by Webb 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)
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