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September 1, 2011

Book Notes - Steve Brezenoff ("Brooklyn, Burning")

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

If you enjoy smart, thought-provoking young adult novels, then you should be reading Steve Brezenoff. Last year his Absolute Value of -1 enthralled me, and his new novel Brooklyn, Burning is equally impressive.

Brezenoff fills Brooklyn, Burning with complex characters and situations, and it is his respect for the reader to connect the dots that shines through in this mysterious love story set in Brooklyn's Greenpoint neighborhood.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"Brezenoff lets readers take the reins, recasting and reimagining the lead roles as often as they like. For readers with little use for labels, it’s an intimate yet wonderfully open rock 'n' roll love story."

Steve Brezenoff will read on September 25th at Largehearted Lit at Brooklyn's WORD bookstore along with Libba Bray and musical guest Alicia Jo Rabins of Girls in Trouble.

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

In his own words, here is Steve Brezenoff's Book Notes music playlist for his novel, Brooklyn, Burning:

"I and Love and You"
"Kick Drum Heart"
"Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise"

From I and Love and You, by the Avett Brothers

We've got a great public radio station here in the Twin Cities that goes by the name the Current. They played the hell out of this album, particularly these three tracks. I think the first they featured—and the first I heard—was "I and Love and You," and it was when I was knee-deep in the first draft of the manuscript that would become Brooklyn, Burning. This is appropriate; the song's chorus features the line "Brooklyn, Brooklyn, take me in," and the song's title includes the first- and second-person pronouns, just as Brooklyn, Burning's narrative does. "I and Love and You" quickly became the novel's unofficial theme song. When you add an upbeat love song like "Kick Drum Heart" (the protagonist of Brooklyn, Burning is a drummer in love) and a hopeful dirge like "Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise" (the song's chorus includes the line "There was a kid with a head full of doubt"; Brooklyn, Burning's protagonist is named Kid), the album and novel become almost inseparable. It was an accident, but a happy one.

"We Are the Sleepyheads"
"Sukie in the Graveyard"
"To Be Myself Completely"

From The Life Pursuit, by Belle & Sebastian

Lyrically, these tracks allude to some themes of the novel, but more importantly—especially while I worked on the early drafts—is the songs' mood. I've talked at length about this album before—probably to the annoyance of everyone in earshot—but it captures something that B&S to my ears had never captured before: a timeless, effortless spirit imbues every song and every lyric. Pardon my lack of graceful explanation, but this record—and these three songs in particular—put me in a head space of youth, bliss, and roaming city streets without a care. Sure, the characters in Brooklyn, Burning have plenty to care and worry about, but at times Kid and best friend Konny seem as free as balloons without strings. This record is the perfect soundtrack for those fleeting alcohol-fueled moments.

"Never Forget You" by Noisettes

If Kid and Konny have a theme song, to me this is it. The book takes place in 2005 and 2006, and the song was released in 2009, so I couldn't actually include it in the story, but I would have. It's about old and eternal friends who drift apart and back together, maybe over and over, but neither is ever really complete without the other, and that sums up Kid and Konny's friendship—through some seriously shitty times and a few failed loves for both—over the course of the novel. Bonus: it's got that vintage/timeless vibe to it—in common with the B&S choices above—that (I hope) infuses the text itself.

"Scar" by Missy Higgins

You're not going to find a more saccharine, trite little ditty in my iTunes playlist than this one, but hell, it works. The song's antagonists—there are two, both ex-lovers of the narrator—are of opposite gender, which works nicely for Brooklyn, Burning, as does the song's overall theme: "a triangle trying to squeeze through a circle." The message "be yourself" is, like I said, trite as hell, but maybe in young adult literature in particular, it's still totally valid.

"Androgynous" by the Replacements

It's half the epigraph. It's alluded to within the text of the novel itself. Its theme is at the core of the story. This one speaks for itself.

Steve Brezenoff and Brooklyn, Burning links:

the author's website
the author's blog

Baggins' Book Blabber review
Booklist review
Bookshelf Banter review
Frenzy of Noise review
Gay YA review
Kirkus Reviews review
Minnesota Reads review
Publishers Weekly review
Stacked review

Bookmarked guest post by the author (YA book recommendations)
The Contemps guest post by the author (Brooklyn photo tour)
I Like These Books guest post by the author (on how Brooklyn inspired him)
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for The Absolute Value of -1
Nova Ren Suma 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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