October 4, 2011
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Greg Olear's second novel Fathermucker offers a refreshingly honest view of modern suburban life through the eyes of a stay at home dad. An intimate, wise, and funny exploration of neighborhood politics, love, and parenting is a worthy successor to Olear's stunning debut novel, Totally Killer.
Booklist wrote of the book:
"This brilliantly insightful novel explores the trials of modern fatherhood through one hectic day….Littered with hilariously genuine anecdotes, parental pathos, and a hearty dose of pop culture, this clever, comic, and compassionate novel will appeal to fans of Jim Lindberg and Jonathan Evison."
I do the bulk of my music listening in the minivan, which means that I do the bulk of my music listening while in the presence of my two young and highly impressionable kids. The songs I play over and over—and if you have kids who listen to music in the car, you're nodding now—are the songs they demand I play over and over.
Thankfully, my kids have good and eclectic taste—if kids don't like your music, I've found, your music is probably not very good. Plus, we never acquired the soundtrack to The Fresh Beat Band (if you don't know what that is, consider yourself blessed), so there's no Nick Jr. stuff on the mixes.
Rather than submit a list of music I listened to while writing Fathermucker—a dull list it would be; one day I played "Bossy" by Kelis on repeat about 25 times, then did the same thing with Dylan's "Hurricane"—I shall instead present a ten-song playlist comprised of my kids' most-requested songs, five for each. (Our classic rock station used to do this on holiday weekends back when radio was still relevant; "Stairway to Heaven" was always number one).
Side A: Dominick
Dominick, who just turned six, began life with a taste for soft, acoustic, folkie music; his first attempt to sing, at age one, was a cooing of teach you—his way of imitating the sweet harmonies of "Sounds of Silence," which we sang to him often. As he gets older, he has shelved the Garfunkel and the Simon in favor of punk and hip hop; these days, he walks around the house singing songs into a tape recorder, complete with human beat box intros, that sound a bit like early Fat Boys demos.
5. "My Humps," Black-Eyed Peas
I threw a radio edit of this on a mix, as I write about Fergie and Josh Duhamel in my book, and wanted to figure out what the fuss was all about. I didn't realize Dominick liked it until he performed the song in front of 20 or so adults at an otherwise-dull family gathering. He did a particularly good job enunciating "lovely lady lumps;" my mother was so proud.
4. "Cherry Bomb," The Runaways
I'd never heard this song before—it found its way into my MP3 collection via a connection at Criterion, who gave me an extended Dazed and Confused soundtrack; for all I know, it was ripped off Richard Linklater's hard drive—and added it to a car mix because I thought the kids would dig it. Did they ever! It took only one listen for Dominick to start singing it (loudly) around the house, and even inspired one of his own compositions ("Chapel Bomb," which sounds eerily identical to the original). He insists Joan Jett is a man.
3. "L.A. Woman," The Doors
He really likes The Doors (the band's name is giggle-inducing to kids). This song appeals to him because a) he likes songs that are really long, and b) he likes songs that are about cities and states. He particularly enjoys the bridge of this one, where it slows down and Jim Morrison talks about Mr. Mojo Risin. He finds this highly amusing.
2. "Bad Kids," Black Lips
The Black Lips are—as a quick glance at their website reveals—a "flower punk" band from the ATL, which is where my friend Charles lives. Charles is the one who hipped us to this song, which sounds like something recorded in the late 70s. While Dominick grooves on the doo-wop-ish melody line, what he really likes are the words. (Sidenote: if there is a bad word in a song, your kids will intuitively know, and hone in on it, and sing only that part of the song over and over).
1. "Thursday," Morphine
This ditty about a casual affair gone bad is Dominick's all-time favorite song. Is it the hypnotic voice of Mark Sandman? The repetition of the eponymous day of the week? The barry sax? All I know is, I can't go around telling other parents, "Yeah, my son is into Morphine now!"
Side B: Prudence
We've known Prudence had exquisite taste in music from the time she was ten months old, when she crawled out of a Dan Zanes concert at the Bardavon Opera House. Now four, she favors straight-ahead pop, especially when the singers are chicks.
5. "Femme Fatale," Nico + The Velvet Underground
I had the privilege of doing Book Notes for my first novel, Totally Killer. At the time, I played that soundtrack quite a bit in the car (always skipping over "Add It Up"). Of all the songs on that list, this was Prudence's favorite. She'd just turned three. I'm still not sure if it was because my daughter is precociously hip, or because Nico looks a bit like her pre-school teacher.
4. "Fucking Boyfriend," The Bird and The Bee
We had to ix-nay this one once she learned to really speak, substituting "Again and Again" or "Polite Dance Song." It was around this time that we learned an important lesson: if your child is vocal enough to issue the request "I want Jay-Z," she should not be listening to Jay-Z (waaaaay too many N-bombs).
3. "Rehab," Amy Winehouse
Prudence refers to her as "Mickey Winehouse," which always cracks me up. This is probably the most appealing songs for children on this list; the repetition of no no no and go go go is textbook Music Together stuff. Word to the wise: they will ask what rehab means, eventually.
2. "Your Love is My Drug," Ke$ha
For all the talk about Lady Gaga being the evolutionary Madonna, it's Ke$ha, for my $, who more closely approximates the "Borderline"-era Material Girl. Although she tries to project a bad girl image, she's essentially playful, like a little kid in grown-up clothes. Which is probably why Prudence loves her. I hope. (Sidenote: she thinks this song is called "Your Love is My Drum").
1. "Bad Romance" and "Paparazzi," Lady Gaga
No one touches Lady Gaga in our house. No one comes close. Prudence loves all things Gaga. (As do I. Lady Gaga is not copying Madonna; she's satirizing Madonna; she's a performance artist of the highest order, a man in drag who is actually female). Cablevision has the videos on demand for free, and Prudence will watch "Bad Romance" and try and cop the dance moves. Which, come to think of it, sort of makes me wish she'd stayed at the Dan Zanes show after all…
Greg Olear and Fathermucker links:
Authors on Air interview with the author
Bookslut interview with the author
Huffington Post articles by the author
The Nervous Breakdown's numerical analysis of the book
New Paltz Oracle profile of the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Totally Killer
The Nervous Breakdown 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