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May 29, 2012

Book Notes - Dallas Hudgens "Wake Up, We're Here"

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.

As much as I enjoyed Dallas Hudgens' novels Drive Like Hell and Season of Gene, his new short story collection Wake Up, We're Here is his strongest book yet. Dark and heartbreaking, the collection is filled with the down on their luck characters Hudgens is known for, and genuinely surprises.

At The Millions, Emily St. John Mandel wrote of the book:

"Dallas Hudgens' Wake Up, We're Here is easily one of the best books I've read this year."

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 Dallas Hudgens' Book Notes music playlist for his short story collection, Wake Up, We're Here:

Mastodon – "The Wolf is Loose"

Two of the characters in the stories play in bands, and a third believes that the only time his brain works and makes sense is when he's playing guitar. I think all three would like Mastodon, but I picked this song for Leo, the wayward father and drummer in the story "Velour." Leo is recruited by a band after the lead singer hears his drumming through the walls of their apartment building. The singer tells Leo with admiration, "You are the angriest motherfucker on the face of the earth."

Mogwai – "San Pedro"

I listened to this song a lot when I was rewriting scenes and parts of the story "Zamboni." The song made me feel like I was riding in a car as it careened through a cold, gray city, so it was kind of like being inside the brain of Serge, the story's main character. Serge is a drug addict who cares for his mother until her death. Afterward, he tries to find meaning in everyday tasks, whether it's folding laundry or washing dishes. His father's violent past is always close to him, and Serge can never quiet his own brain. He breaks things. He breaks people. And then he rushes to fix them.

Minutemen – "The Anchor"

Cami, from "The Scavenger's Daughter," sits in her late daughter's bedroom smoking pot from a clown-head pipe and listening to her daughter's CD's. In the story, Cami listens to Pantera, but the Minutemen are one of the other bands in the shoebox full of CD's under the bed. These are the last words in the song: "Wake up/Heart yanked out/Anchor dragging behind."

Charles Mingus – "Old Portrait"

This song plays during a scene in the story "As Sounding Brass." Tek and his new friend, Linda, are discussing the mentally ill people in their lives (his father, her ex) while eating at a diner. Tek is a jazz musician who does corporate gigs on the weekends. He and Linda are sitting in a warm booth while this song plays, and through the window they can see Linda's ex-boyfriend, who's also the father of her young daughter, as he drives through the diner's parking lot again and again.

Neurosis – "I Can See You"

This is a song Cami could have heard in her friend Rex's car. At the end of "The Scavenger's Daughter," as Cami makes the long drive from Oxnard to Redding for Rex's funeral, she might have listened to it again. The song is mournful, pretty, and then overwhelming.

Motorhead – "(Teach You How To) Sing the Blues

Nance, from the story "Stella," has a somewhat dishonest auto mechanic named Gil. While Gil is supposedly waiting for a part to arrive from Italy, Nance sees him driving her Alfa Romeo around town with a female companion. She and her grandson are walking in the rain at the time. Nance reclaims her car and finds a Motorhead cassette tape and a collection of beer cans on the floorboard. She pledges to find a new mechanic, but a chance meeting on a very bad day leads her to realize that Gil isn't such a bad person. In fact, she enjoys his company quite a lot. The cassette in the car is Overkill, but I picked a newer Motorhead song here.

The Stooges – "T.V. Eye"

In the story "Hand Job," I tried to create a character who was successful, generous, humble, and good looking; the kind of person you might want to hate, but then you feel guilty for hating them. That character was Ron Lyme. The story's narrator, Jim, takes pleasure in defiling Ron's immaculate hybrid Chevy Tahoe, from smoking in it to enjoying the air conditioned seats while naked. Jim also likes to man the radio dial while Ron is driving. I could see Jim coming across this classic on the Tahoe's satellite radio and turning it up really loud as Ron tries to talk.

Ice Cube – "It Was a Good Day"

In the last scene of "The Palace of Weariness," two middle-aged brothers get into a fistfight at their elderly mother's house after a Thanksgiving Day game of ping pong. They eventually make up and decide to steal a Mercedes convertible from the older brother's ex wife and drive it to Florida. All of that leads to the older brother singing the great line from this song: "I gotta go ‘cause I got me a drop top. And if I hit the switch, I can make the ass drop."

Wilco – "Country Disappeared"

I took the title of the book from the first line of this song: "Wake up, we're here." It made me think of Cami, who took car trips with her father when she was growing up. She enjoyed falling asleep in the car and waking up somewhere else. I thought it might apply in another way to other characters in the book who were trying to wake up and handle some of the difficult things in their lives.

Dallas Hudgens and Wake Up, We're Here links:

the author's website

Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Drive Like Hell
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Season of Gene
The Millions profile of the author
Unabashedly Bookish post by the author (on the cover design)

also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2012 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

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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