November 29, 2011
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Laura Ellen Scott's novel Death Wishing is a clever, fun, and smartly written work of speculative fiction. In New Orleans, people's dying wishes intermittently come true in this charming and unforgettable comic fantasy that begs to be adapted into a feature film.
Necessary Fiction wrote of the book:
"Death Wishing is a fresh book, a fun book, and one definitely worth your time. It's laced with wit, flirts with science fiction, and turns our world inside out."
Death Wishing is a comic fantasy about what happens when dying wishes come true. Early on, cancer is eliminated, cats are wiped out, and the clouds turn orange. Set in New Orleans, the influence of music is not at all subtle. In fact it's probably juiced up to overcompensate for my deliberate attempt to limit the food porn. I listened to a lot of traditional jazz while writing the book, and there are two explicitly musical main characters: Pebbles, a bad blues singer, and The Elvis, 1968 vintage. Poor fella has been wished back.
"Scherzo alla Mazurka" (aka "Dance in the Village Pub" or "Tea Dance in the Little Country Manor") by de Gomar, Sonneborn & Williams
The narrator, Victor, is a big man trying to lose weight in New Orleans, and he's also a corset maker, so body shape is a constant concern. His best friend Martine is also heavy, and when they go for a sloooow walk together in the noonday sun, Martine says, "All we need now is some bassoon laden theme music." This famous tune by Julius Weissenborn is what I was thinking of, but I swear my whole life I've confused it with Mancini's "Baby Elephant Walk."
"You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman" by Aretha Franklin
This song is what legendary Bourbon Street stripper-entertainer named Mirella chooses to sing, unaccompanied, to end a "Wish Local" rally. Victor is naïve about sexual identity and Mirella fascinates him. He describes her as "occupying a realm beyond sex; a creature of the fourth dimension, with better practices and more interesting options than any of us fools could imagine." When Mirella passes away, she wishes for the clouds over New Orleans to turn orange.
"Bernadette" by Beau Jocque
NOT the Four Tops song, but the zydeco classic. At Mirella's wake, an accordion-carrying busker busts out a frantic version. Fun fact: Jocque's real name was Andrus Esprit. Guess that wasn't fancy enough.
"The Tide is High" by Blondie
We once saw a young man lean his head against a carriage house gate on one of the residential streets in Faubourg Marigny late at night. It had just stopped raining so the streets were sparkly. The faint strains of "Tide" emanated from deep within the premises. He moaned a little, said something like, "this is wrong," when we walked by. He was in love, I think.
"Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans" by Charmaine Neville
One of the toughest songs to listen to right after the storm. We heard Ms. Neville perform this song live at Satchmo Fest. She does an uncanny Louis Armstrong, and it's not funny. It's stunning.
"Hey! Ba-Ba-Rebop" by Louis Prima
On occasion, Victor provides shelter to a homeless drug addict called Bobby Rebar. His real name is Terrence Flick, but because he likes to scare the tourist children by dancing a crazy jig to the Prima classic in Jackson Square he's earned the nickname Bobby Rebar. No one's sure why they don't just call him Bobby Rebop.
"Crazy Little Thing Called Love" by Queen
Pebbles sings this song at Open Mic night at Checkpoint Charlie's right after Bobby Rebar is tossed out for tracking filth into the club. He's hired himself out as a rodent exterminator after cats have been wished away, but his method is very old school and disturbing.
"Them There Eyes" by The Jazz Vipers
Pebbles breaks Victor's heart at The Spotted Cat. Now called The Spotted Cat Music Club, the venue is frequently featured in HBO's excellent Treme, and it's still a terrific place to hear traditional, usually unamplified jazz-if you can get in. The original Jazz Vipers used to play there all the time. In an early draft of the novel, the bandleader Joe Braun nearly ran over my narrator with his bicycle because that almost happened to me. My fault, though.
"Zydeco Gris-Gris" by Beausoleil
Very exciting, heart pounding fiddle rave up with occult spice. I was at a festival once where Beausoleil started up this song and some backwards-cap-wearing-post-frat-boy complained about that "jungle shit." During a later set by Rockin Dopsie, the same gentleman said to his friend: "You know I hear Little Dopsie likes young blonde white women." His friend replied, "I do too."
"Do it Again (Again)" by Galactic with Cheeky Blakk
After she hears this one, your Grandmother's gonna be humming "Hey mother fucker hey mother fucker hey!" all through the WalMart. A reworking of Blakk's infectious original, "Bitch Get Off of Me." We need more bounce in the world.
"Where Y'at" by Trombone Shorty
New Orleans Funk Heartthrob. Lots of "women of a certain age" (myself included) at his shows.
"Heartbreak Hotel/Love Me Tender" by Elvis Presley
When The Elvis finds himself in New Orleans he tries to hide in his hotel room from a growing crowd of fans. These are the songs the crowd sings to entice him to come out to the balcony.
"I Miss You" by Rosie Ledet
Many zydeco songs are raunchy, but this one is actually hot.
"Do Whatcha Wanna" by Rebirth Brass Band
A second line to take us out. Youtube comment from Vancouver, apparently: "so funky I want to throw my pants at a bus." I actually become incredibly shy and self conscious during a second line, even though I love them. My father was a dance instructor with the Fred Astaire and Arthur Murray studios, but I can't dance a step without knocking someone's drink over.
Laura Ellen Scott and Death Wishing links:
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)
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