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March 20, 2012

Book Notes - Kris D'Agostino - "The Sleepy Hollow Family Almanac"

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.

Kris D'Agostino's The Sleepy Hollow Family Almanac is a tragicomic tale of the first order. This contemporary debut novel is filled with crisp dialogue and keen observations, and foretells a big future for its author.

Kirkus Reviews wrote of the book:

"D’Agostino’s fiction debut winningly describes the millennial generation exploring the borders of love and responsibility."

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

In his own words, here is Kris D'Agostino's Book Notes music playlist for his debut novel, The Sleepy Hollow Family Almanac:

Music plays a huge part of my life. It did when I was a teenager, exponentially more so when I was in college, and still to this day. There really is nothing better than putting on my headphones on the subway and blasting Bursum while surrounded by droves of flat-faced commuters, or popping in some Neu in the car and just driving.

The funny thing is, when I was writing The Sleepy Hollow Family Almanac, I had lots of music in mind for a sort of "running soundtrack" to fit the writing and Calvin's voice. But I didn't want there to be any "music writing" in the novel, if that makes any sense. I always hate when novelists try to write about music. It's hard to mention actual bands or songs or to write about music culture without having it come across as, for lack of a better word, lame. Or cloying, or too on-the-nose, or soon-to-be-dated sounded. So Calvin just rattles of the names of albums he listens to. I think the only band he namechecks is Gang of Four.

One ironic thing to note also is that I consider myself a film nerd and am, like Calvin, a film school dropout. I believe strongly that for the most part, music ruins films. So, in what I consider to be a funny twist, when I picture a film version of the book, in my ideal world, there would be no music at all. The only song I'd want in it would be "Chimes of Freedom" by The Byrds. And you wouldn't hear that until the very end.

So, with all of that said, the following list is a pretty good entry point into the world of music that Calvin Moretti lives by:

1. The Byrds – "The Chimes of Freedom"

In my mind, this song actually set the mood for the whole book. I have no idea why. The quote that prefaces the first chapter is lifted from here, even though Bob Dylan penned the words.

2. Arthur Russell – "This Time Dad You're Wrong"

Calvin loves this song. He thinks it's about him.

3. Big Black – "Heartbeat"

I feel like this is tight and focused enough to be the theme song to Calvin and Wally's Vicodin fueled drive to the woods to watch the LARPERS.

4. Palace Music – "Ohio River Boat Song"

At one point, the book contained a list of songs that Calvin's father wanted played at his hypothetical funeral. This was on that list.

5. Fuck Buttons – "The Lisbon Maru"

This could be the soundtrack to the nightmarish salvia session in Wally's basement: beautifully and achingly propulsive.

6. New Order – "Your Silent Face"

This is one of my top five favorite songs and I imagine it could be the propelling backdrop to any number of montage scenes in the book. The whole Cape Cod trip could be set to this.

7. The Nation of Ulysses - "A Kid Who Tells on Another Kid's a Dead Kid"

Early 90's post-hardcore was largely influential in Calvin's musical upbringing. The punk aesthetic is very much alive and well in him throughout the book even though he feels obligated to "grow up."

8. Willie Nelson – "Hands on the Wheel"

At one point Calvin talks about how he lies on the floor in his bedroom and listens to Red Headed Stranger.

9. Gang of Four – "Damaged Goods"

In the opening scene of the novel, Calvin bolts to his car after work and peels out. He just needs to get drive and clear his head, and as he does, he talks about putting this band on as the soundtrack to his frustration.

10. The Game – "Hate it or Love it"

Calvin Moretti is definitely one of those suburban white kids who thinks they "get" rap. And seriously, is there a better rap song than this?

Kris D'Agostino and The Sleepy Hollow Family Almanac links:

excerpt from the book

Daily Candy review
Kirkus Reviews review
Minneapolis Star Tribune review
Publishers Weekly review

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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