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December 13, 2012

Book Notes - A.M. Homes "May We Be Forgiven"

May We Be Forgiven

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.

A.M. Homes has a gift for writing satire that melds heartbreak with cutting wit, and her latest novel May We Be Forgiven is a darkly comic masterpiece that may be her best yet.

The Observer wrote of the book:

"AM Homes can't really be compared to any other writer; no one else is quite as dark and funny and elegant all at the same time. May We Be Forgiven has the narrative intensity of Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections and the emotional punch of Siri Hustvedt's What I Loved, all told through the eyes of Larry David. It's the best thing I've read this year."

Stream a Spotify playlist of these tunes. If you don't have Spotify yet, sign up for the free service.

In her own words, here is A.M. Homes' Book Notes music playlist for her novel, May We Be Forgiven:

Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit"—for how magical it is; simultaneously historical, childlike, transgressive, druggy and inspiring —a giant wow—a perfect poem capturing past present and future.

Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth"—an amazingly articulate and lyrical expression of a social/political moment in 1966. "Something happenin' here what it is ain't exactly clear," yeah because it was America flushing all that was our promise, our dream down the toilet.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's "Ohio", written by Neil Young in response to the shooting at Kent State in May 1970. IBID—same as above "Tin soldiers and Nixon coming, We're finally on our own. This summer I hear the drumming, Four dead in Ohio." I really liked this period of popular music that was overt and unabashedly political.

Paul Revere & the Raiders -"Indian Reservation"—I like the youthful ease—the spring in the step of their 1966 hit, "Kicks," but the best part is the contrast of that to the 1971 #1 hit "Indian Reservation (The Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian)" with a deep dark insistent beat—tribal and menacing.

"D.O.A." by Bloodrock a band from Fort Worth, TX. I always found this song truly terrifying—its image of smashed youth, a horrific accident, knowing death is coming soon.

The Velvet Underground - "Sweet Jane," I listened to this one with my stereo on repeat so it would just go around and around again—a good session with this was about 10-15 times.

Pink Floyd—"Another Brick in the Wall." "How can you have any pudding if you don't eat yer meat?" Well I just love this—the hypnotic incantation of it, and the absurdity, the reminder that at heart we're all children even when we're stoned.

"7 O'clock News/Silent Night" has Simon and Garfunkel singing this beautiful mournful song with the 7 o'clock news from August 3 1966 being read in the background, the news reported includes the dispute in the house over the Civil Rights Bill, the death of comedian Lenny Bruce from an overdose, a grand jury indicting Richard Speck for the murder of nine student nurses and a speech by Richard Nixon urging an increase in the war effort in Vietnam.

I heard this song while at a boy/girl party a the home of my youthful 6th grade crush-and found it so scary to hear it floating out over the backyard—that I had to go and call my mother and have her come and pick me up. I never recovered.

Godspell—which played at Ford's Theatre Washington D.C. (i.e. the same place that President Lincoln was assassinated) it played from April 6, 1972 – September 16, 1973. I didn’t have a clue what this was really about but I thought it was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen—and bought the cast album. Somehow I identified deeply with it—and I think really took the whole thing—the story of Jesus as a kind of inspiration to overcome adolescent angst and depression.

I recently saw a revival of this play in NYC and by comparison to what I remembered it was nothing—it was like a joke—a trick of the mind—the same songs, the same music but none of the depth, the passion.

From "By My Side"—a song which I have in my mind inexorably now linked with Suzanne Vega’s "Small Blue Thing"—see below.

Let me skip the road with you
I can dare myself
I can dare myself
I'll put a pebble in my shoe
And watch me walk (watch me walk)
I can walk and walk!
(I can walk!)

I shall call the pebble Dare
I shall call the pebble Dare
We will talk, we will talk together
We will talk (chorus) about walking
Dare shall be carried
And when we both have had enough
I will take him from my shoe, singing:
"Meet your new road!"

Together they are amazing—better than Prozac.

Today I am
A small blue thing
Like a marble
Or an eye

With my knees against my mouth
I am perfectly round
I am watching you

I am cold against your skin
You are perfectly reflected
I am lost inside your pocket
I am lost against
Your fingers

A.M. Homes and May We Be Forgiven links:

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

The Age review
Boston Globe review
Buffalo News review
Dallas Morning News review
Financial Times review
Fresh Air review
Guardian review
Independent review
Los Angeles Times review
The Millions review
Minneapolis Star Tribune review
The National review
New York Times review
NPR review
The Observer review
San Francisco Chronicle review
Telegraph review

Bat Segundo Show interview with the author
The Big Issue profile of the author
The Daily Beast profile of the author
The Leonard Lopate Show interview with the author
Open Book interview with the author
Telegraph profile of the author
Tin House 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

The list of online "best of 2012" book lists
The list of online "best of 2012" music lists

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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