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September 21, 2012

Book Notes - Michael Kimball "Big Ray"

Big Ray

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.

MIchael Kimball's Big Ray is a powerfully intimate and sorrowful work, a novel that will forever mark your consciousness with its indelible and heartfelt beauty.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

The book reads like a memoir, the entirely believable product of a son grappling with the death and life of his father. The narrator talks frankly of his estrangement and efforts to connect, the abuse he suffered and his mixed feelings; the obituary, he notes, listed those who preceded Ray in death and those who survived him. 'I'm one of the people who survived.'"

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 Michael Kimball's Book Notes music playlist for his novel, Big Ray:

"It's All Gonna Break" – Broken Social Scene

These are the second and third lines of the song: "when i was a kid, you fucked me in the ass/but i took my pen to paper." That isn't exactly what happens, but you get the idea. Some terrible stuff happened, then I wrote a book about it. Also, I love the way he screams "break" throughout the song.

"Hell Is for Children" – Pat Benatar

This song was so cool back when I was getting roughed up by my dad and last week a stranger sang it at karaoke and I thought, I need to put that on my Book Notes playlist.

"When Doves Cry" – Prince

An abusive father, a damaged son – that's the six word summary of "When Doves Cry" and of Big Ray, though the song and the book get it done in very different ways.

"Fat" – Weird Al Yankovic

This parody of Michael Jackson's "Bad" always made me uncomfortable because it always made me think of my dad. It still does, but it also feels good to make my own jokes about it, which is why there are a couple of pages of "Yo Daddy so fat …" jokes in Big Ray.

"The Living Years" – Mike and the Mechanics

I needed a song about a dead dad and I had to go back to 1989 and "The Living Years" to find the sadness I needed for it. Mike feels a little differently about his dad than I did about mine (I have more hate), but, you know, "Say it loud, say it clear."

"Papa Was A Rolling Stone" – Was (Not Was)

I like the extra funk in this Was (Not Was) version and I have always wondered what it would have been like if my father wasn't there, if he had left. Would that have been better or worse?

"Big Poppa" – Notorious B.I.G.

This song doesn't really have anything to do with the novel, but when I hear it, I think of the name Big Ray.

"Daniel" – Bat for Lashes

When I changed Big Ray Big Ray from a memoir into a novel, I named the narrator after this song.

"Voices Carry" – 'til tuesday

This was Aimee Mann before we knew she was Aimee Mann with a song about an abusive relationship – and an abuser who works to keep the abusive relationship hidden from others. This is part of how abuse works – through shame, humiliation, control, domination, etc. I still get chills watching the ending of the video where she breaks free, singing louder and louder in a crowded theater.

"The Child Is Gone" – Fiona Apple

I don't know what this song is actually about. I probably do, but I'm not entirely sure. Anyway, there are a couple of lines in it that cut right through me. One is: "I suddenly feel like a different person." This is something that happens to the abused child. After that first instance of abuse, the whole world is a different place. And, as Fiona says, "There's no kind of loving that could make this all right."

"What's the Matter Here" – 10,000 Maniacs

I was going to add Suzanne Vega's "Luka, but the lines in "What's the Matter Here" are closer to the story in Big Ray, including this one: "Looking for a place to hide/from his father."

"Exit Music (for a film)" – Radiohead

I needed something that swells a bit for the end of the book (and this song is a little bit about getting away from a father). When I finished Big Ray, I was emotionally exhausted, but also changed. I was a different person – lighter, happier, released. I found a way to reconcile the love and the hate I had for my father and that gave me myself back.

Michael Kimball and Big Ray links:

the author's website
the author's blog
the author's Wikipedia entry
excerpt from the book

Bibliosaurustext review
The Next Best Book Blog review
Publishers Weekly review

HTMLGIANT contributions by the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay for Dear Everybody
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay for Us
Urbanite Baltimore profile of the author
VICE 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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