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February 22, 2012

Book Notes - Sara Benincasa - "Agorafabulous!: Dispatches from My Bedroom"

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.

Sara Benincasa's memoir Agorafabulous! is a surprisingly humorous look at the comic's battles with mental illness. By turns laugh out loud funny and and cringe inducing, Benincasa always impresses in this self-deprecating and honest portrayal of life with panic attacks and agoraphobia.

Kirkus Reviews wrote of the book:

"A blisteringly funny yet affecting debut memoir about a young woman’s struggle to overcome panic disorder and agoraphobia."

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

In her own words, here is Sara Benincasa's Book Notes music playlist for her memoir, Agorafabulous!: Dispatches from My Bedroom:

I wrote a book about going nuts and getting better. It's called Agorafabulous!: Dispatches from My Bedroom, and it's pretty fun for a book about struggling with debilitating mental illness and being terrified of leaving the house. It's sad, it's funny, it's hopeful, it's gross, and it has embarrassing parts about making sexytime with boys. I think you'll enjoy it, or at least find something in it to dissect at the proverbial water cooler the morning after reading it. To give you a little taste of what's in store in the book, here I proudly present an assemblage of songs that might enhance your Agorafabulous! reading experience. Warning: there's a healthy helping of DMB. Deal with it.

1. Liz Phair – "Jealousy"

To set the mood and invoke the era that was my adolescent experience, I revisit Liz Phair's Whip-Smart or Whitechocolatespaceegg albums. As an often-insecure Sicilian Scorpio, I am not unfamiliar with jealousy in romance, and this aspect of my character was on particular display throughout my teen years. Also, man, did I fucking love Liz Phair when I was a teenager. Still do, but these were the early years of my infatuation with her, which was born when I read a review of Whip-Smart in Jane Pratt's Sassy magazine, the coolest magazine for teen girls ever. And now I'm a political blogger for Jane's new venture, Full circle? Probably not, but it's at least a respectable semicircle.

2. Dave Matthews Band – "Satellite"

Fact: I once lost my shit so spectacularly over the course of several months that I stopped leaving the house, and even my bedroom. I'd piss in cereal bowls and other receptacles. To put it mildly, this was not the most adorable phase of my life. My friends intervened and my mother drove up to Boston from Jersey in order to pick me up. When she extracted me from the house and got me into her car, I refused to listen to any song other than the Dave Matthews Band's "Satellite," over and over and over again. The repetition of what was by then an adult contemporary standard was somehow very comforting to me. People with severe (or even mild) anxiety disorders are often comforted by repetition and routine. Even when it involves the Dave Matthews Band.

3. Dave Matthews Band – "The Best of What's Around"

I listened to a lot of Dave Matthews Band in my youth. I still do. I know. Fuck you.

4. Arcade Fire – "The Suburbs"

The setting for much of our beautifully twisted tale (although I also journey to cities near and far, and the countryside of Western North Carolina). Viva New Jersey! I also enjoy the fact that this song sounds as if it could've maybe been recorded by Wilco, but wasn't.

5. Anthony da Costa – "Mountain Range"

Let's say Josh Ritter and Ryan Adams made a baby and hired Conor Oberst as the weekend nanny. This weirdly homoerotic scenario may have produced Anthony da Costa, who makes the kind of music that would've made a great soundtrack to my many roadtrips through the Southeast and Southwest in my post-agoraphobic adulthood. I've never been cured of agoraphobia, but once I learned to manage it, my whole world opened up. I could travel anywhere and everywhere without too much fear. A road trip felt like a victory. Da Costa's music feels like that, too.

6. Emilyn Brodsky – "Ebony (Bread Helps)"

Punky folky ukelele chanteuse Emilyn Brodsky sings a fine tune about a woman at the bakery section of the grocery store who gets a phone call. It's pretty and sweet but my favorite part is the line "Bread helps when you drink too much/Bread helps with anxiety." It's so true. Which is why I'm jittery as I prepare for some TV interviews by NOT sucking down every bread product in sight (as a Sicilian child of pasta, this is tough for me). Bread does not help with weight loss or cardiovascular fitness, but Emilyn's music might. I guess you could listen to her during a nice jaunty little walk on the treadmill. And there have been plenty of times when I really could've used a message like "Take care to recognize that you are truly a miracle every day/even if you are truly miserable every day."

7. Bob Carlisle – "Butterfly Kisses"

Oh my fucking God, I'm kidding. If you listen to this on purpose, you are a terrorist.

8. Bruce Springsteen – "Radio Nowhere"

Reminds me of my days as a host and producer at Sirius XM. Great road trip song, particularly when you're way out in the middle of the continent driving to a comedy gig and can't find anything other than Jesus-flavored hate radio and the bad kind of country.

9. Simon & Garfunkel – "The Only Living Boy in New York."

Written when Paul missed/resented Art. Recorded in an echo chamber! How fucking cool is that? Also lends its name to a chapter title in my book – sort of.

10. Elton John – "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters"

More New York City love. Good on any day, for any mood.

Sara Benincasa and Agorafabulous!: Dispatches from My Bedroom links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book
video trailer for the book

Dayton Daily News review
Kirkus Reviews review
USA Today review

Boston Phoenix profile of the author
The Brooklyn Paper profile of the author
HelloGiggles interview with the author
Huffington Post essays by the author
Huffington Post profile of the author
Moot Magazine interview with the author
My Book, The Movie guest post by the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

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

List of Online "Best Books of 2011" Lists
List of 2011 Year-End Online Music Lists

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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