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July 22, 2011

Book Notes - Chad Kultgen ("Men, Women & Children")

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

Chad Kultgen, author of the cult classics The Average American Male and The Lie, returns with a new novel, Men, Women & Children, a book that explores the effects modern technology has changed the way we interact with each other, especially pre-teens and adults.

In his own words, here is Chad Kultgen's Book Notes music playlist for his novel, Men, Women & Children:

My latest book, Men, Women & Children is about junior high kids, their parents and how modern communication technology is changing every aspect of their interaction with one another.

While writing anything, or really while doing anything I constantly have music of some kind playing, even when I'm sleeping. I also usually have the TV on and I might be playing a video game, too. Constant media intake generally helps me think of things to write about. So invariably some of that media makes its way into my books. Sometimes it serves as a kind of background noise for the characters (as it does in my own life) or sometimes it actually becomes part of the plot. In any case, the following songs were playing somewhere at sometime within earshot while I was writing Men, Women & Children and they all feel like they could be part of this book's soundtrack if such a thing existed.

Smoosh – "Make it Through"

If you are what you are and I am what I am, I think we can make it through.

Smoosh is two sisters who wrote their first album when they were in junior high school, which this song was on. It seemed appropriate to me to include it here for that reason as well as because the song is about acceptance, which I feel like all of the characters in my book, no matter what their age, are struggling to attain. And specifically I always had this song in my head when writing chapters that included two of the more innocent 8th grade characters meandering through their first romantic relationship.

The XX – "Islands"

I am yours now so now I don't ever have to leave.

There are two single parent characters in the book that eventually get together. The guy is a recently divorced dad who hasn't dated at all since his wife left him and is a little nervous about getting back out there. The girl is an actress who had a shot in L.A. but blew it and moved back in with her mom in Lincoln, Nebraska. The guy takes it slow in the beginning but once they finally do have sex, this song is what I imagined playing on the iPod next to her bed. Also it should be known that this entire album is a great sex soundtrack.

Millionaires – "Just Got Paid, Let's Get Laid"

You think you'll get famous takin' pictures for free?
Think again bitch maybe you should do it like me.
Can you believe I get paid to shake my ass on stage?
We're gettin' drunk everyday, you're makin' minimum wage.

There's a character in the book, one of the 8th grade girls, whose two goals in life are to be famous by any means necessary and to lose her virginity before she enters high school by any means necessary. I imagined this to be her favorite song.

Sufjan Stevens – "That Dress Looks Nice On You"

I can see a lot of life in you. I can see a lot of bright in you. And I think that dress looks nice on you.

This song is about someone recognizing something special in another person and letting them know about it. It's what I imagine a hipster bride and groom dancing to at their wedding. But my book isn't a hipster wedding. There's a scene that cross-cuts from a husband cheating on his wife for the first time with a prostitute he found on the Internet to his wife simultaneously cheating on him for the first time with a guy from In writing it, I thought this song with those images would make an interesting music video.

Elliot Smith – "Twilight"

Go off to sleep in the sunshine.
I don't want to see the day when it's dying.

I'd never kill myself, but I do think that all suicides should be committed to this song. There are multiple segments of my book that deal with teenage depression and if this song wasn't actually playing on my iPod while I was writing those segments, it was at least playing in my head. A lot of Elliot Smith's songs are in this area, but I really don't think he ever crafted one that's a better combination of sweetness and sorrow that also conveys an attitude of giving in/giving up than this song. Seriously, if you're going to kill yourself, this is what you want to be listening to when you do it.

Jason Hayes – "Stormwind (City Theme) – World of Warcraft Soundtrack"

One of the 8th grade characters in the book, Tim Mooney, is obsessed with World of Warcraft. He plays almost as much as I did until I weaned myself a few months ago. I've shrugged off my shackles at least until Diablo 3 comes out. Take your time Blizzard. Anyway, I thought it would only be fitting to include the theme song from his main avatar's home city, Stormwind, in this list. This is song that Tim has probably heard more than any other in his entire life.

The Fixx – "Saved By Zero"

Maybe I'll win.
Saved by zero.
Maybe I'll win.
Saved by zero.

This is just my favorite song. I listen to it at least a few times a day. Even if I don't want it to, I'm sure it has some influence in everything I write.

Radiohead – "Codex"

The water's clear and innocent. The water's clear and innocent.

One of the 8th grade girls in the book lies to her mother about going to her friend's house to study and then she rides her bicycle to a boy's house where they watch TV and hold hands and eventually share a first kiss. Their relationship is really the only one in the book that has any aspect of an adolescent innocence that seems to have been erased for all other characters with the advent of sexting and internet access to porn. Read the book to see what happens to that innocence. I always imagined this song playing as she rode her bike to and from the guy's house down the quiet, empty streets of the suburb they lived in.

John Boswell, Symphony Of Science (ft. Carl Sagan, Richard Feynman, Neil deGrasse Tyson & Bill Nye) – "We Are All Connected"

We are all connected;
To each other, biologically
To the Earth, chemically
To the rest of the universe, atomically.

John Boswell makes these songs by auto-tuning various notable scientists' speeches, lectures, TV appearances, etc. and setting them to beats that he composes. Not only am I a huge fan of this one, but I always imagined Tim Mooney in my book was, too. It illustrates the nature of the universe and our connection to it and to each other in a pretty unique way.

The Streets – "On The Edge of a Cliff"

For billions of years since the outset of time every single one of your ancestors survived.

This song is about realizing the amazing set of circumstances that had to have occurred throughout human history in order for any one of us to currently exist. For me the application of that idea to any one of the characters in my book is interesting. And even more interesting is its application to any actual person. My ancestors survived whatever horrible, life-threatening trials were the norm in their day so that I could be sitting at a computer in an air-conditioned apartment writing this document. At this moment, that is the sum total of their entire existences and because I never plan on having children their efforts will eventually have yielded nothing.

Chad Kultgen and Men, Women & Children links:

the author's website

Kirkus Reviews review

Interview interview with the author
Metro article by the author
Stoya's Bookclub review (video)

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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