March 16, 2012
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Adam Levin's debut novel The Instructions was my favorite book of 2010, and my hopes were great for his first story collection Hot Pink. I was not disappointed, these stories are clever and diverse, and filled with dark humor and the pathos that dwells behind the facade of everyday life.
Chicago Magazine wrote of the collection:
"In this complex and often-tragic volume, a misplaced origami crane, a doll created to illustrate the hazards of anorexia, or a punch to the chin can change the course of life and love. Hot Pink leaves readers wondering what might be lurking nearby, on the verge of uprooting their own lives."
The stories in Hot Pink were written and revised over a period of eleven years, during which I listened to all sorts of music while pacing the living rooms of various apartments, riding the El, walking around Chicago, and driving around Syracuse. A couple of the stories make mention of songs—in "Finch," Deborah Harry's "French Kissing in the USA" comes into play for a second, and Johnny Cash's version of "Long Black Veil" has its moment in the story "Jane Tell"—but the relationship of music to the collection is otherwise pretty indirect.
Initially, I wanted to make a playlist that matched individual songs to individual stories, but the same problem kept arising: the lyrics. Like, how could I explain that "(The Best Part of) Breaking Up" by The Ronettes, the chorus of which is, "The best part of breaking up/Is when you're making up/So after breaking up/Be sure you're making up/With me," seemed to me to fit pretty well with "Frankenwittgenstein," a story about a man who invents a puking doll? Or that "Antennas" by Rancid, wherein the singer repeatedly shouts, "Let California fall into the fucking ocean!" seemed to me to go with the story "RSVP," which, among other things, concerns itself with the fate of the author of the world's greatest love letter. Or the ways in which the story "Scientific American," whose dog-loving protagonist grows increasingly troubled by a gel that oozes from a crack in his bedroom wall, could be as easily soundtracked with "Shields" by Big Business, a song that warns, "You could be mauled or burned for starters/You could still drown in knee-deep waters" as it could with Rihanna's "Umbrella," especially the part when the young diva exclaims, "Ella ella ella/ay ay ay." I mean, I could explain the connections I see between these songs and stories, but doing so would entail all sorts of abstract talk about mood and theme and, even if I were able to execute that kind of thing with any dignity, it would be boring to read.
So rather than picking a song for each story, I've decided to make a playlist comprised of the kind of music I've liked the longest, the assumption being that that kind of music, by virtue of its having been in my head more often than any other, has probably informed Hot Pink more than any other, even if I can't explain exactly how. And what is that kind of music? It's the girl-group stuff that Phil Spector produced, and anything reminiscent of the girl-group stuff that Phil Spector produced.
And then also there's Nobunny.
"He's a Rebel" The Crystals
"Just Like Honey" Jesus and Mary Chain
"Don't Move" Phantogram
"For Ex-Lovers Only" Black Tambourine
"Go Square Go" Glasvegas
"Baby I Love You" The Ronettes
"Be My Girl" Smith Westerns
"Live It Up" Nobunny
"It's Not You" The Okmoniks
"Evil Eyes Again" The Warlocks
"Road to Hell" Sleigh Bells
Adam Levin and Hot Pink links:
All Things Considered contribution by the author (on james Ellroy's American Tabloid)
Chicago Sun-Times profile of the author
Interview Magazine interview with the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for The Instructions
Time Out Chicago interview with the author
TriQuarterly interview with 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)
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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