January 5, 2012
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Caitlin Horrocks' This Is Not Your City is one of the most stunning debut story collections I have read in years. These eleven stories by the Plimpton Prize-winning author explore the nuances of hope in all its forms through the eyes of their characters in straightforward, yet magical prose.
The San Francisco Chronicle wrote of the book:
"This Is Not Your City offers much more than bold plotlines. These are delicate, character-driven stories whose distinct narrators demonstrate the hand of a remarkably versatile writer . . . Caitlin Horrocks is writing well beyond her years, not only raising our expectations of what a story can do but also setting a high standard for any debut fiction author."
There's virtually no music in the stories in This Is Not Your City. This was not a conscience choice—I didn't even notice until I sat to make this playlist. There are only a handful of references to music in the entire book, and one of them is to an Amish woman who doesn't make music for religious reasons. The narrator of that story takes a little schadenfreude in this, but not because she really listens to music, either: "… it makes me happy to know that that's something I have that she doesn't, that if I ever wanted or found the time I could draw or dance or listen to music or just drive too fast with my window open and Elsa can't do any of those things." The narrator could, but she mostly doesn't. There's a lot of loneliness in this book. Some of the characters are able to crack jokes about it, but they don't really boogie.
But when I really thought about it, I could imagine lots of music in the book. It's offstage, but it's there, and plenty of the characters let me know pretty clearly what they'd want to listen to.
"Glory Bound" -- Martin Sexton
This is the song Renee is listening to when her plane takes off for Greece (before the story "The Lion Gate" begins). She's chosen it specifically, and the lyrics make her self-conscious, they're so dead on: "Freedom came my way that night / Just like a jet plane in and out of sight / I was hauling ass at a million miles an hour / Wondering how hard I'd hit." For the length of this song she pretends her life is a movie she's standing outside of, watching, and this is the soundtrack.
"For the Widows in Paradise, for the Fatherless in Ypsilanti" -- Sufjan Stevens
For my most Michigan-y story, the most Michigan-y album there is: Robin, in "World Champion Cow of the Insane," would buy Stevens' Greetings from Michigan as a gift for Charlie. He'd tell her he likes the music more than he really does, but he does love that there's an album out there with Michigan's Official State Game Animal featured in the cover art.
"Daj mi Znac" -- Tara Fuki
The narrator of "Embodied" listens to a lot of world music. She's got all those past lives to keep in touch with, after all. She'd really like Tara Fuki, two Czech women playing cello and singing in Polish.
"Fake Empire" -- The National
Eril in "Zero Conditional" gets home from work and listens to Boxer on repeat, feeling sorry for herself.
"Satumaa Tango" -- Maija Vilkumaa
Ursula, the main character in "Going to Estonia," bought this album when it first came out. There aren't a lot of Finnish female rockers, so Ursula listens to this and enjoys getting a little angry, and wishes she were in love.
"Making Pies" -- Patty Griffin
Lucinda, in "In the Gulf of Aden, Past the Cape of Guardafui," would listen to a lot of Gillian Welch and Neko Case and Patty Griffin. "Making Pies" is all about a woman living resolutely a life that is smaller than what she once expected—Lucinda knows all the lyrics.
"Rolling in the Deep" -- Adele
If the narrator in "It Looks Like This" followed through on driving around with the music up, she'd be listening to whatever was on the radio. She wouldn't seek out anything obscure, and I don't think her friends would be bringing it to her. She's got the windows down, and she's singing along to Beyonce or Katy Perry or Adele.
Caitlin Horrocks and This Is Not Your City links:
Boston Globe review
Cleveland Plain Dealer review
Grand Rapids Press review
The Journal review
The Lit Pub review
The New Republic review
New York Times review
The Rumpus review
San Francisco Chronicle review
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