July 20, 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.
Ted Sanders' No Animals We Could Name is a crisply written, imaginative, and always impressive short story collection.
Bookslut wrote of the collection:
"The history of these characters is no more than hinted at and the future is uncertain. All that is left is the moment, carefully cut from the surrounding rock and polished to a shine."
So I guess really, the collection is about the tectonic plates of relationships, and how they slip and stutter, and how you can get crushed in the cracks or carried someplace new. People can get thrown. There's a lot of chaos and uncertainty and danger in the stories in No Animals, which I guess comes from what was happening to me at the time and my ongoing sense that if you put one stake in your surroundings and the other in yourself, you can get strangled by the rope between them. I mean, people can lose limbs.
In the years before and during the writing of these stories, my life and especially relationships were tumultuous and all over the place—like the most senselessly ambitious buffet ever, all the awesome and horrible things people can do to each other spread out on steamtables. There was a lot of loss and change and falling. This is not to say it was all terrible, not at all, just that it was a jagged decade with a lot of casualties. And so a bunch of these songs are along those same lines. Other songs, or artists, are here because I admire them and am probably milking something from them in some way. Or am wishing I could.
"Metal Heart," Cat Power
Such a voice on her. This one is just hand-inside-your-chest awesome. I also love that every version of this song sounds different.
"9 Crimes," Damien Rice
I'm a sucker for that layered, duety, crescendo stuff. And I think probably it's the little crimes we commit that define our lives for us more than anything. The story collection is almost entirely about those crimes, and about navigating the possibilities of confession.
"Tonight is the Night," Barenaked Ladies
This one has to be included because it—for the first and only time in my life—was the direct and explicit seed for a story. The story "Deer in the Road," like the song, is a proclamation of love embodied in the moment of a fatal car accident. The romantic joke of the song is the final refrain, at the guy's dying moment: You're the last thing on my mind. The idea's the same in the story, sort of, though the story's not nearly so cutesy—if gruesome can be cutesy in the first place, which apparently it can.
Dryland, Chris Pureka
The whole album here because it's just so goddamn good, in all the right pure and bittersweet ways. "These Pages," "So It Goes," "31 and Falling," especially, but there's hardly a song on there that can't wreck me. The closest thing to an encapsulation of my mindset while working on the book.
Not to be confused with S.A.S. the rap duo. I don't even know who the hell these SAS people are, and the internet barely seems to either, but I love this album (Feel Sorrier for Me) and this song especially. Nice piano and guitar, great quirky and clever lyrics: According to my calculations/it's your turn to do something stupid.
"Beautiful Son," Without Gravity
This guy sings like a ballerina. Lots of precision and drifting, both. Love it.
"Say It to Me Now," Glen Hansard
Outside bed, I don't know that I've ever done anything as unadulteratedly as Hansard sings this song. I envy it. As a writer, I think it's harder to just swing your balls so fierce like this.
"As the Crow Flies," Meg Hutchinson
The sweetest break-up lament I know of.
"Hour Follows Hour," Ani Difranco
Or maybe this is. Ani Difranco drives me apeshit sometimes, but when she's not chest/vagina thumping too hard she's one of the best lyricists ever. And the guitar, oh god.
"Crying Over," Patty Griffin
Another brutally sweet break-up song. I guess the point is, there's a theme here.
"Brand New Sound," Kris Delmhorst
I wish I could be plaintive and piercing the way this song is. There's a moment towards the end:
Halfway around the world / a blue and shaky girl / is lying underneath the clouds.
She's whispering your name. / She sings it right out loud.
And she sings the same three words—right out loud—three more times, three different ways. First shouting, then whispering, then just simple and plain and exposed. Killer. Again it's that emotion mash that pulls me down and in, the same layers I try to pack into my stories.
"Naked As We Came," Iron & Wine
I wish I could write love stories. Sometimes I wish I could write shorter than I do. This is maybe the greatest love song ever, and it's not even 100 words long.
"The Trapeze Swinger," Iron & Wine
I do like Iron & Wine. This song fascinates me because at first it seems like an epic sort of love song, in a way, but it's actually a really selfish and lonely song of fear and regret.
"That Was the Worst Christmas Ever," Sufjan Stevens
My favorite Christmas song—I love banjo. And dysfunction.
"#41," Dave Matthews Band
Whatever your feelings about DMB are—and if you fancy yourself cool they're possibly not good—the awesomeness of this song, lyrics and groove both, cannot be legitimately denied.
Scarlet's Walk, Tori Amos
Another full album, on here not because of any topical import, really, but because she puts out these albums packed with great songs, and in her lyrics it's almost like she's afraid to repeat herself. If I were a song writer, just to avoid repetition, I would probably try to go so far as to write songs without choruses. Which is just one of the many reasons I'm not a songwriter.
"Elephants," Rachael Yamagata
She is so good too, that range and that voice. Another one who doesn't like to repeat herself—so much variety in her work. And this song is so sad and scary and hopeful, all at the same time, just a knee-weakening emotional mash. And gorgeous. Plus animals. A dagger in every way.
"Hearts and Bones," Paul Simon
Another break-up song, this one just so brutally and beautifully adult. Paul Simon is such a grown-up. I keep waiting for that to happen to me. But maybe people who actually know Paul Simon would laugh if they heard me saying that. Maybe he's a fuck-up. Or now that I think about it, probably he is, and it's the portrayal of that fucked-up-ness that seems so adult. Long story short, I'd be happy if I felt like my writing one day wandered into some of the same territory as this song.
Ted Sanders and No Animals We Could Name links:
Full Stop review
Kirkus Reviews review
Minneapolis Star Tribune review
Publishers Weekly review
Time Out Chicago review
TNBBC's The Next Best Book Blog review
Village Voice review
also at Largehearted Boy:
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)
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