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September 6, 2011

Book Notes - Gerry Hadden ("Never the Hope Itself")

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

In Never the Hope Itself, Gerry Hadden gives firsthand accounts of many of the world's disenfranchised people while seamlessly weaving in his own personal narrative.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"From the Caribbean to the Andes, Hadden’s beat took him to some of the world's most dangerous environments and embedded him among its most deprived cultures. As he traversed fetid waters, dodged earthquake debris, and crawled through unspeakable squalor following his stories, Hadden never lost sight of the journalist’s true goal: to bring to light and life those stories, large and small, that can impact both the individual and society as a whole. A superb communicator and stalwart reporter, Hadden brings personal compassion and professional craft to this shining insider’s glimpse at the people and events that shape the news."

Stream a Spotify playlist of these tunes. If you don't have Spotify yet, request an invitation.

In his own words, here is Gerry Hadden's Book Notes music playlist for his book, Never the Hope Itself: Love and Ghosts in Latin America and Haiti:

The right music opens a sluice in your head, releasing the words. For me, that music can't be lyrics-driven; someone else's lines distract. They compete. They pull you away from the task at hand, drawing you into a different story. Late-night pebbles against your bedroom window.

While writing this memoir I listened almost exclusively to Sigur Ros. Fittingly, another writer turned me on to the Icelandic foursome. I was trundling around central Spain with author Mike Paterniti in the winter of 2006, before I started writing Never the Hope Itself. You gotta check this band out, he said, slipping a CD into the car stereo. Outside it was snowing pretty hard. By the end of the first song on Takk I was hooked. And that's how the island-bound, volcanic masters of the ethereal became the catalysts for the retelling of events that happened mostly in the tropics.

With Sigur Ros I can't speak to specific tracks, since the brief silences between songs seem more like a nod to tradition than a necessity. Their music winds and weaves and builds and blends into its own singular narrative – long, like a book.

That said, there is one track that carried me through a particular part of the writing of my memoir: Se Lest, the fifth track on Takk. It is the only thing I hear while I plane along in an old wooden skiff off the coast of Panama, the sun drenched Darien Gap to my right, the off-limits Colombian jungle off the bow. My terrified fixer clinging to the gunwale. The wind, the spray, the smell of diesel. The stupidity. It was a majestic moment, pivotal in the life of a young reporter eager to push himself to his limits. Se Lest will always be that moment's song because the song itself is majestic.

Years later, deep into writing Never the Hope Itself, I was dispatched to Iceland for my radio job, to interview Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Before going I wrote to Sigur Ros's manager, to see about interviewing them for a separate music story. It didn't work out. But while in Reykjavik I did meet up with some local musicians who were keeping alive a canon of ancient Icelandic chants. It turned out that one of the chanters had played trumpet on Se Lest, in the live version of the song for the band's documentary, Heima. I thought to myself, you are damn close. But not close enough.

Later that day the snow started. As I walked back to my hotel through that darkly cast world of grays and blues and whites, all of it woven together into a singular landscape, I stopped beneath a street lamp. I had the idea that if I waited there for a while Sigur Ros would walk by. You know, on their way to the movies or something. Here is a picture of that place.

Finally, when my toes had frozen, I gave up and went into my hotel and opened my computer. I turned on Takk, returned to the task at hand.

Gerry Hadden and Never the Hope Itself: Love and Ghosts in Latin America and Haiti links:

the author's website
the author's blog
video trailer for the book

The Frangipani Journals review
Kirkus Reviews review
Publishers Weekly 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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