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June 29, 2012

Book Notes - David Yoo "The Choke Artist"

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.

David Yoo's new essay collection The Choke Artist: Confessions of a Chronic Underachiever is filled with self-deprecating humor and situations that will keep you on edge in only the best way.

The Daily Beast wrote of the book:

"Yoo's first foray into nonfiction possesses the same cringe-inducing, self-deprecating humor evident in his novels.The book's humor belies a deeper story: that of an insecure child, conscious of his status as the only minority growing up in an all-white, upper middle-class suburb, torn between his desire to cultivate his own identity and his fear of being different. "

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 David Yoo's Book Notes music playlist for his essay collection, The Choke Artist: Confessions of a Chronic Underachiever:

"Axel F" by Harold Faltermeyer: As a chronic self-saboteur, I refused to practice the piano at age 11 and as a result every Saturday morning at Hartt School of Music my teacher would sigh wanly when, rather than mangle the assigned piece, I'd instead repeatedly bang out the theme song to Beverly Hills Cop. To my credit, I did eventually learn to play it in every possible key, which should count for something.

"Ice Cream" by Sarah McLachlan: For a lonely, single guy in college, there are few moments more depressing than sitting at the desk in your dorm room at night trying to read while your roommate and his giggly girlfriend give each other simultaneous foot rubs on a ratty futon as this song plays on repeat in the background.

"Brass in Pocket," by the Pretenders: There's something intensely homoerotic about flexing in the privacy of your freshman dorm room under the watchful gaze of your similarly shirt/pantsless workout partner sitting cross-legged on your roommate's bed--even more so if the shuffle function on your 5-disc CD carousel chooses this song to accompany said impromptu bodybuilding routine.

"Release Me" by Pearl Jam: Freshman year I'd hear the opening strains of this song coming from a dorm room at the other end of the hall at all hours of the day, thanks to a meathead jock who routinely faced his speakers out the window so he could force-feed a grunge soundtrack to anyone skittering by in the quad below. I can admit now, years later (no harm no foul) that I'd unsuccessfully attempted to spread the rumor on the floor that he played this song every time he masturbated.

"Don't Trust the Government" by the Talking Heads: The official soundtrack to my temping years was the album '77, in particular this song, which I'd adopted as my temping theme song every morning as I'd barrel up 93N to whichever company I was set to surf the internet at that day.

"Turning Japanese" by the Vapors: As a self-loathing, ambivalent token Asian guy growing up in the 'burbs of Connecticut, this was the song I'd presumed involuntarily played in strangers' heads whenever they first spied me at the mall or wherever; a decade later the tables turned and I started hearing the song playing in my head whenever I considered myself from a bird's eye view, particularly when I found myself having no choice but to pretend I was Japanese in order to maintain a temp gig.

Meanwhile, in the essay, "Gangs of New England," about my extended high school phase as an wannabe aspiring rapper/thug growing up in an affluent, lily-white suburb of Connecticut, these are some of the songs that got heavy play as my friends and I tooled around town...

"You're Gonna Get Yours" by Public Enemy: At night we'd cruise to various cul de sacs within town limits in search of impromptu gatherings we hadn't been invited to, blasting this PE classic. The song's about a 98 Oldsmobile, but I figured we were close enough driving my dad's Toronado Trofeo. This song conveniently served as the saving grace of having to drive an Oldsmobile in high school.

"Alwayz into Somethin'" by NWA: The perfect song to blare out the back speakers when we'd roll into McDonalds on Route 44. It felt especially tough to stash a replica 9mm air pistol (that I'd secretly purchased at Service Merchandise) along with a dusty nip of Crown Royal that I'd found sitting in a drawer in the kitchen (my parents didn't drink) under my floor mat, just in case (like the grenade in Hal Hartley's Trust). Well over a decade later I had my first official moment where I suddenly felt really old, unearthing the CD and blasting this track out the windows in Teele Square, Somerville, which opens with MC Ren announcing, "Nineteen ninety motha-_______ one!"

"Square Dance Rap," by Sir-Mix-a-Lot: The most strangely addictive rap song, ever, which we cheerfully sang along to with the windows up (to protect our imagined street cred).

"Jane Stop This Crazy Thing" by MC Shan: In hindsight I don't know why this track received heavy rotation as well, but it did.

"Ya Slippin'" by BDP: As social lepers we had no choice but to loiter with the Safe Rides kids in order to find out where the parties were. It was a losing proposition, though, since inebriated classmates only called in at the end of the night, and by the time we'd roll up the party would be dying down. I took mild solace in fantasizing that the student government kids manning the Safe Rides post at West Avon Congregational shuddered anytime we pulled into the church parking lot blaring songs like "It's Funky Enough" by the D.O.C. or "The Devil Made Me Do It" by Paris, but the most menacing track to play by far was this classic from my favorite rap album of all time, By All Means Necessary.

"Lower The Dynamite" by DJ Magic Mike: The ultimate test of a subwoofer, hands down. With a decent enough boomin' system, people in the parking lot of the West Farms mall could hear the menacing thump of bass even when we were still heading in on 84 West. I know this because we once staggered two cars to the mall in order to test this theory out.

"Rockbox," by Run DMC: It sounded dated even back then, but the song always made me feel exceedingly happy. One of the few great songs pairing rap and rock, proven by the fact that the only good song on the Judgment Night soundtrack is "Fallin'," featuring De la Soul and Teenage Fanclub, which isn't remotely rockin'.

"Let's Go," by Kool Moe Dee: In the long-standing feud between Kool Moe Dee and LL Cool J, the greatest single diss ever was when Kool Moe Dee snarled toward the end of this track, "You got a lock on my jock like a pit-bull." Quoted to my opponent during a changeover at a high school varsity tennis match, not so much.

"I'm Your Pusher," by Ice T: To rebut my parents complaints about my listening to gangsta rap, I sat them down and made them listen to this admittedly corny yet incredibly catchy song about abstaining from drugs in favor of a musical high. They were not remotely swayed.

"We Ain't Goin' Out Like That" by Cypress Hill: I'd never been a good singer and my attempt to become the next Michael Winslow was decidedly short-lived, but I could sound exactly like Sen Dog during the chorus of this song with little to no effort.

"Seventeen," by Winger: During a short period when I stopped listening to rap (shortly after seeing BDP in concert and realizing I wasn't nearly as black as I'd thought I was previously) I went through a brief hair metal phase, spending countless hours blasting the opening 7 seconds of this song in the parking lot of the defunct Edward's grocery store in town, but it just wasn't the same.

"Terminator X" by Public Enemy: If played loudly enough on a non-boomin' system (that's basically all tweeter), the whistling sound on this track can make your ears feel like it's bleeding.

"Strictly Business" by EPMD: Receiving the third degree from my parents after returning home late at night reeking of cigarettes, I'd dismissively wave them off as I shuffled up to bed, muttering, "You gots to chill, I'm strictly business."

"Streets of New York," by Kool G Rap & DJ Polo: Chronicling urban hardships we had no experience with, we still felt justified in co-opting this song as the de facto soundtrack to our own, equally fraught lives, as we dealt with getting profiled by mall security, acquiring "the food poisoning" from sampling slivers of orange chicken at the food court, to the nearly indescribable heartache of losing yet another private school.

"Ain't My Type of Hype" by Full Force: After seeing House Party at the Bristol Theaters, my friends and I bought the soundtrack at Strawberries and sort of learned how to pop rock, spending countless hours exuberantly busting the "Running Man" in darkened cul de sacs, which was the sole perk of showing up at said cul de sac long after everyone else had cleared out. No witnesses.

"Party For Your Right To Fight" by Public Enemy: Driving home by myself late on a Saturday night, I liked to crank up this track, manually switching the speakers from left to right with my right hand, thereby isolating Chuck D and Flavor Flav's voices as they shouted the verses. The only problem was that I'd steer in whichever direction the voice was coming from and ended up pulling involuntary lawn jobs on several occasions that utterly destroyed the alignment on my dad's Oldsmobile.

David Yoo and The Choke Artist: Confessions of a Chronic Underachiever links:

the author's website

Bookstove review
Daily Beast review

Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before
MAKE interview with the author

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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