September 7, 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.
Andrew Porter follows his impressive short story collection The Theory of Light and Matter with the exquisitely told dysfunctional family drama In Between Days, one of the year's stellar debut novels.
Booklist wrote of the book:
"The story is told with great emotional and psychological insight. All of the four Hardings get to tell their pieces of the story in their distinct voices, creating a multilayered and suspenseful tale of love in all its varieties and family defined in different ways."
My novel, In Between Days, is about a family that has been torn apart by divorce, and because there isn't one main protagonist—the story alternates in point of view between the four different family members—I decided to choose a few songs for each of the four main characters. These are either songs I could imagine the characters listening to or songs that I could imagine playing in the background were the story being told as a movie.
Chloe (the daughter)
"Waiting for the Moon to Rise" —Belle & Sebastian
The first time we're introduced to the character of Chloe, she's sitting in her college dorm room with her boyfriend, staring out the window at the moonlit snow of the quad. We learn shortly after that she's just been kicked out of college and that this is actually the last night she'll ever spend in this room. Later in the novel, there are other references to Chloe and her boyfriend listening to Belle & Sebastian, so this seemed like a fitting choice.
"Cool as Kim Deal"—The Dandy Warhols
Throughout the novel, Chloe, like a lot of kids in their early twenties, is struggling to figure out who she is. I don't know if she ever finds an answer to this question, but when I found myself wondering who she'd want to be, or who she might look up to, I kept thinking about Kim Deal of the Pixies. Calm, confident, effortlessly cool, Kim Deal seemed like a perfect idol for Chloe. I think she definitely wants to have that same type of tough, self-possessed exterior that we see in Kim Deal, but her own neuroses and self-doubt keep getting in the way.
"November Was White, December Was Grey"—Say Hi
Though the novel is set in Houston, at least half of Chloe's storyline takes place in the past at her East Coast college. I wanted to contrast the cold, claustrophobic winter-time setting of her college life with the tropical and wide open landscape of Houston, and this song—both lyrically and tonally—seems to capture the feeling of winter I wanted to evoke in those sections from the past. In addition, I thought Say Hi would be a band Chloe might listen to.
Richard (the son)
"All I Need"—Radiohead
I reference Radiohead numerous times in Richard's storyline, and I always imagined their music as a perfect soundtrack for his story. Though a little older than his sister, he's just as lost and struggling (like Thom Yorke in this song) to figure out what he "needs."
"My Drug Buddy" —The Lemonheads
As a recent college graduate working in a coffee shop, Richard is constantly vacillating between what he describes as "the anaesthetizing freedom of a life defined by excess"—a life filled with late night parties and drugs—and a more focused and responsible career path. In the former, we see him seeking the comfort of a young girl named Angel, who becomes his confidant, ally, and, for lack of a better phrase, "drug buddy."
"In Between Days"—The Cure
Well, I had to stick this song in somewhere, and it seemed especially appropriate to add it to Richard's storyline—not only because it's easy to imagine him listening to The Cure, but also because the song's lyrics (that sense of being in a time of transition) resonate perfectly with his conflict.
Cadence (the mother)
"So Far Away"—Carole King
Of all of the characters, Cadence is perhaps the most nostalgic, and so I tried to pick songs that not only evoke that feeling, but that I could also imagine her listening to as a child or teenager. She's 45 when the novel takes place, but she strikes me as the type of character whose musical tastes were probably pretty firmly established by the time she left high school. This lonely, melancholy classic by Carol King is one that speaks to her feelings about her two grown children (who have recently left the nest) and it's also a song I'm pretty sure she'd have in her own music collection (on vinyl, of course!)
I could also see Cadence owning a lot of Joni Mitchell records, and this song about a mysterious, irresponsible, yet strangely magnetic man seems to speak directly to her own feelings about her ex-husband, Elson. Like the man in this song, Elson is constantly reappearing in Cadence's life, drawing her in emotionally, then disappearing.
Again, Cadence would have grown up during the heyday of Fleetwood Mac, and I could imagine her, as a teenager, connecting to the sensibility and lyrics of Stevie Nicks. At one point toward the end of this song, Stevie Nicks sings, "I have never, ever been any blue, calm sea/ I have always been a storm." And I think the same could definitely be said of Cadence.
Elson (the father)
In the opening paragraph of the novel, we find Elson sitting in a modern hotel bar, staring out the window at the futuristic office buildings of downtown Houston. It's early evening, but already dark out, and there are signs of a storm approaching. It's an ominous scene and if were to imagine it in a movie, I'd want to use this song by Mogwai as the background music—a quiet, somewhat surreal instrumental piece that also feels a little foreboding.
"Trouble"— Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions
Though I doubt Elson would have any Hope Sandoval CDs in his music collection, this is a song that I would definitely use in the soundtrack for his storyline. The melancholy, somewhat lonesome feel of it and also the lyrics—since Elson is both "troubled" and the source of "trouble"—seem perfect for his character. As Hope Sandoval sings in the opening lines, "The trouble with trouble is the trouble in me."
"The Summer Wind"—Frank Sinatra
A man who is happiest at the side of his swimming pool with a gin-n-tonic in his hand, Elson seems to belong to a different era. I chose this song because it seems to speak to his memories of brighter days and, more specifically, to his nostalgic attachment to the "oil boom" years of the late 1970s and early 1980s in Houston—a time when there seemed to be endless opportunities and lavish poolside parties every night, a time when everything seemed as light and breezy as the melody of this song.
Andrew Porter and In Between Days links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
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