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October 20, 2011

Book Notes - Christopher Bollen ("Lightning People")

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

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, George Pelecanos, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, David Peace, Myla Goldberg, and many others.

Christopher Bollen's debut novel Lightning People is one of the year's finest works of fiction, brilliantly capturing both post-9/11 New York and modern America in its pages.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"Bollen's debut tells the story of a loose network of 30-somethings languishing in New York in the years between 9/11 and the financial meltdown... brimming with the verve and stamina of real people searching for meaning in a city beset by calamity... the novel demonstrates the vigor and audacity of a formidable new voice."

Stream a Spotify playlist of these tunes. If you don't have Spotify yet, sign up for the free service.

In his own words, here is Christopher Bollen's Book Notes music playlist for his debut novel, Lightning People:

1." Glass Jar," Gang Gang Dance

"It's everything time." This 11-minute track pretty much embodies what it feels like to be driving across a bridge into Manhattan on a summer night. So dense and rich and gorgeous and terrifying.

2. "Is This What You Wanted," Leonard Cohen

The chorus of this song is absolutely perfect in asking the perverse question, how can you stay living in this place haunted by all the great things that used to be—which is a or THE fitting question for the characters of my novel.

3. "Grape Juice Plus," Cupid Car Club

"Have you had the dream about the boy? And don't you know four horsemen are coming to destroy?" I honestly haven't found a better song to convey the reckless gleeful annihilation of being young in the city than this song by the short live band midway between The Nation of Ulysees and The Make-up. Perhaps because I daily (or rather nightly) played my 45 of this song when I first arrived to New York in 1996. It was something of a soundtrack to the pursuit of finding as much trouble as possible. But New York is like a cult—and we all drink the grape juice plus.

4. "Candy Says," The Velvet Underground

I hesitated to include this song because it seemed a bit too obvious but the obviousness may be the point. This song triggers in me a sense of nostalgia for New York characters I never knew as well as a last anthem for the few remaining who I do know who are left. It's the best New York song I know.

5. "My Mistakes," Eleanor Friedberger

This song (at least for me) is all about repeating your mistakes over and over and then wondering why the hell you are still falling all over them.

6. "Ohio," Modest Mouse

It's not my favorite MM song, but it's a great, swerving road-trip sound through my—and the main character's—homeland. Sometimes I don't think Lightning People is about New York City at all. It's really about Ohio, about leaving it and never leaving it. This song possesses some of the madness in that idea.

7. "Hounds of Love," Kate Bush

A strange origin story, love, and paranoia. A delicious concoction that drives this song and, I hope, the plot of Lightning People. Is she a victim? Is she crazy? Or is she doing all of this herself? It's Kate Bush, so who knows but it's a gorgeously uncomfortable song about giving up any power in your own fate.

8. "I Am the Resurrection," The Stone Roses

The Stone Roses is one of the few bands that are named in Lightning People, and I'm not quite sure why I chose it to be playing at a club during one of the character's very late nights out. Maybe because it always seemed as if New York was trying to revive the Manchester scene on its own terms. But this song of not so much protest but detest really does characterize relationships going wrong.

9. "New World Coming," Nina Simone

I loved this song since I first heard it: running over the opening credits of Emile de Antonio's 1975 documentary about the Weather Underground. And I'd hope the message of this song to be true but I fear it is always a dream deferred, always wishful thinking.

Christopher Bollen and Lightning People links:

the author's website
video trailer for the book

Full Stop review
Kirkus Reviews review
New Yorker review
Out Magazine review
Publishers Weekly review
The Rumpus review
Wall Street Journal review

Artforum essay by the author (on writing a first novel)
Details essay by the author (5 books that made him want to become a writer)
Fictionaut review
Interview magazine interview with the author
Largehearted Boy interview with the author
New York Magazine profile of the author
New York Times T Magazine interview with the author
Nowness interview with the author
Opening Ceremony interview with the author
Three Guys One Book post by the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

other Book Notes playlists (authors create music playlists for their book)

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
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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