June 5, 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.
Increasingly I find myself drawn to the prose works of poets. In her debut short fiction collection Happiness Is a Chemical in the Brain, Lucia Perillo utilizes her poetic eye to paint emotional, arresting, and compassionate portraits of damaged women.
Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:
"Perillo (Inseminating the Elephant) strikes a glorious balance between wryly intelligent prose and emotional force, recalling Alice Munro at her best. This volume's vibrant stories demonstrate the full potential of the short story form when put in the hands of a true artist."
Short playlist, Long Footnote
There's not a lot of music in my book of stories, Happiness Is a Chemical in the Brain, and what music appears is mostly ambient sound—such as the Doobie Brothers playing on a jukebox or Marilyn Manson on TV. The Andrews Sisters make an appearance, as does Ted Nugent. This is not music I particularly care for, with the exception of Neil Young, who has a cameo. And Chet Baker sings a few songs to party-goers who are unwitting participants in a woman's suicide. Poets such as myself are taken with Baker, because of the mysterious way his life ended when he fell (or jumped?) out a window, shortly after being filmed for the documentary Let's Get Lost, which is shot in beautiful black and white and turns Baker back into the beautiful boy he was before an assailant kicked in his mouth.
Though I know jazz purists fault his voice and his playing, I like Baker and listen to him a lot, though not generally while I'm working. For work, I need music that, as a friend said of Miles Davis's Kind of Blue, “does not intrude.” Lately this has been John Fahey's guitar—the retrospective double CD Return of the Repressed.
The album I most often play when I'm not working is Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes, in which he's backed up by The Band, particularly disc 2 which ends with “This Wheel's On Fire” and its beseeching refrain: If your memory serves you well.
Lucia Perillo and Happiness Is a Chemical in the Brain links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
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