April 27, 2012
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, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.
Jon Raymond's novel Rain Dragon follows a couple as they escape Los Angeles to find a more idyllic life on an organic farm, and is an impressive addition to his short fiction that I adore.
Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:
"There's pleasure to be derived from his meticulous observations of how systems work and people think. In the end, fans of the author's idiosyncratic screenplays for Wendy and Lucy, Meek’s Cutoff, and Mildred Pierce (co-written with Todd Haynes) will find the same qualities in this intelligent novel."
My book, Rain Dragon, is about a young couple that leaves LA in order to start a new life on an organic farm in Oregon. The farm in the book—called Rain Dragon—is ever-so-distantly inspired by the dairy farm in Springfield, Oregon where Nancy's yogurt is made. Nancy's, as some people might know, is the company founded by Ken Kesey's brother, and enjoyed a longstanding relationship with The Grateful Dead, who played occasional shows on the property through the 70s. Not that any of that has any real bearing on the book. But if yogurt has a soundtrack, it is probably the Dead.
Pink Floyd – "The Nile Song"
The opening scene of the book depicts a young couple driving around on a foggy morning, extremely lost. I think early drafts had them driving at night, and the music on the stereo—in my mind, and possibly on the page—was "The Nile Song" by Pink Floyd. Why? I don't really remember. I can say this, though: a guy I worked with back in the early 90s once told me Pink Floyd was the most nihilistic band in the history of rock and roll, and although I scoffed at him at the time, I also kind of knew what he was talking about. Anyone who experienced adolescence in the long shadow of The Wall understands just how much depravity, depression, and morbid self-destruction that music accompanied. I wonder now, though: do kids still paint The Wall's album art on the back of sleeveless Levi jackets? Maybe teenagers today have no idea of the hugeness of Floyd. But anyway, I wasn't thinking about the 70s hegemonic Floyd in this book. I was thinking of the earlier, more Epicurean Floyd of the soundtrack to More, or Obscured By Clouds, or Saucerful of Secrets. The Floyd of shambolic jams on vineyards in France with Barbet Schroeder. The Floyd of patchcords winding through the amphitheater in Pompeii.
For some of us, Bugskull is among the giants. Veterans of what my friend James (and Bugskull's drummer) calls the "Great Lo-fi Wars of the 90s," Bugskull began as a bedroom 4-track project by Sean Byrne, mutated into a superlative, discordant space-rock outfit with the addition of James and bassist Brendan Bell, mutated again into an ambient thing with defiantly organic instrumentation, and most recently, mutated yet again into an elegiac cosmic cowboy singer-songwriter deal, with Sean, now living in Austin, again solely at the helm. For me, personally, the music of Bugskull is the music of my life, and any writing I do is at least in part influenced by the sounds and personalities of the Bugskull experience. My appreciation of Floyd, for instance, is really just an imitation of Sean's appreciation of Floyd.
Neil Young, all
There is a party scene in the book that takes place on a small organic farm. At one time, there was a rock band playing in a barn, and I always imagined that band as Crazy Horse. I have said this many times, but I'll say it again: someone out there should definitely install totem poles made out of stacked boom boxes on every corner of every city in the entire world, and let the music of Neil Young play softly, everywhere, all the time. The world would be a much better place.
This book is set in contemporary times, but for awhile it took place in the early 80s, an interesting time in the history of communal living on the West Coast. For some people, the bummer years of the 70s never really dissuaded them from living in a purposeful, sustainable fashion, and as such, the Utopian ideals that supposedly died with the election of Ronald Reagan simply continued, chugging along quietly off to the side. Among Reagan-era communes in Oregon, a few produced music. Center Family hailed from Eugene, I think, and Tree People (not to be confused with Doug Martsch's, of Built to Spill's, first band) came from somewhere else, I'm not sure where. They made sincerely spiritual folk rock music well past the supposed throw-away date, and while their songs were okay, the history they represent of a countercultural continuum through the interregnum of the 80s was definitely part of the idea leading into this novel.
Jon Raymond and Rain Dragon links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
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