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January 3, 2013

Book Notes - Juliann Garey "Too Bright to Hear Too Loud to See"

Too Bright to Hear Too Loud to See

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.

Juliann Garey's debut novel Too Bright to Hear Too Loud to See is a gripping and powerful story of mental illness and recovery.

Kirkus Reviews wrote of the book:

"Garey breathes life into an uncomfortable and often misunderstood subject and creates a riveting experience."

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 Juliann Garey's Book Notes music playlist for her debut novel, Too Bright to Hear Too Loud to See:


Okay, I admit it, as I compiled the soundtrack for Too Bright to Hear Too Loud to See, I fantasized about hearing it as I was watched the movie version of the book. starring a brooding Leonardo DiCaprio or maybe Christian Bale playing Greyson. As a former screenwriter, I suppose maybe this is an occupational hazard. Or maybe I just have a rich fantasy life.

The songs in my playlist fall into two categories. The first, in film speak, is, diegetic music, or music you can "see" [imagine music that comes from a radio, or music someone is dancing to].. The second is non-diegetic music—you can't "see" it because it plays, underneath a montage or a sex scene or the credits.

But I'd be lying to you and to myself if I led you to believe it was that simple. Because the diegetic songs on my list—and the songs I wrote into the book—are also diegetic songs from my own life. They are part of my narrative.

All I have to do is listen to Gordon Lightfoot's "Sundown," or Harry Nilsson's "Coconut," or Elton John's "Rocket Man" and I am instantly transported.

It is the mid-70's. I am seven or eight years-old. My parents have been divorced for a couple of years. Every Friday night my father, an entertainment lawyer with a lot of important clients ("important" as defined by Hollywood), about whom I know almost nothing, picks my older sister and me up from the post-divorce house I hate and drives us out to his little, beautiful house in Malibu to spend the weekend with him. And we listen to music the whole way.

The glove compartment of his celery green Mercedes sedan is crammed full of 8-track tapes. We listen to Donovan's "Mellow Yellow", "Our House" by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and Carly Simon's "You're So Vain." And sometimes he even pulls out Arlo Guthrie and sings because he knows all he words to "Alice's Restaurant."

My father committed suicide less than ten years later. I was 16. So listening to that music was—still is—for me like an aural Madeleine that conjures an entire era. In sensaround. To my mind, Hollywood produced some of its best work in the 70s and early 80s—movies like The Godfather, Taxi Driver, The Conversation, The French Connection, Easy Rider, Mean Streets, The Sting. Directors like Scorsese and Coppola were just cutting their teeth. It was an exciting time to be in the business of making movies.

And so when I was writing, I listened to a lot of the music that brought back that period for me; hoping it would permeate the page because I wanted to create that very specific sense of time and place in Hollywood—one that I could really only see through the lens of the music I had listened to in the backseat of my father's car, speeding along Pacific Coast Highway, staring out at the ocean.

The non-diegetic music on my playlist is both easier and more difficult to explain. The short version is that over the course of the time it took to write the book I became a curator of "crazy music,"— songs that have to do with being mentally ill or, that I felt expressed Greyson's fifty shades of crazy.

But here again, I'm not telling the whole truth. Because often what Greyson was feeling during the time I was writing him was the same thing I was feeling. So I was collecting music to score the seven year-long movie marathon of my own highly unstable bipolar disorder. Music that was less evocative than it was cathartic. There are over 40 of those songs on my playlist. But I'll share just a few of the highlights.


If there's one song I viscerally connect the book with it's:

"Sooner or Later" by Mike Errico: off his album Tonight I Drink You In

Errico is an incredible singer-songwriter who is not nearly as well-known as he should be. It's hard to choose just a few lines since the whole song resonates so strongly for me and describes Greyson so well: someone who totally loses control, alienates everyone in his life, goes through hell but in the end, finds his own way home.. I wish I could print the all the lyrics here. It's really Greyson's theme song.

Sooner or later it all builds up ‘til it explodes /Wake up my friend you take everything too far/ But I love the strength of your convictions/Even when you don't know what they are…Now that every bridge is burning it's so easy to disappear.

There's a lot of Mike Errico on my playlist. His lyrics are smart and witty and sad and full of regret. They struck just the right tone for writing Greyson.


"Sympathy" The Goo Goo Dolls from Greatest Hits Vol. 1-The Singles

In my head, this song plays when Greyson thinks he's fucked up the very tentative reconciliation he's forged with his daughter.

It's hard to lead the life you choose/When all your luck's run out on you/And you can't see when all your dreams are comin' true/It's easy to forget, yeah/ When you choke on the regrets, yeah/Who the hell did I think I was?


"Crazy" (a capella) by The Violent Femmes

I love this version—a capella—because I feel like it's like a tiny glimpse into what's playing in Greyson's head when he's losing it. It's the voices he's hearing.

Who do you think you are/Bless your soul/You really think you're in control/ Well I think you're crazy, I think you're crazy, I think you're crazy/ Just like me


"Unwell" Matchbox Twenty from Exile on Mainstreet

Greyson in denial:

I'm not crazy I'm just a little unwell/ I know you can't tell/Pretty soon you'll think of me and how I used to be/ I'm not crazy I'm just a little impaired/ I know you don't care/ Pretty soon they'll come to get me


"How Did You Find Me Here?" David Wilcox

If the novel were a musical, this gorgeous, quiet ballad is what Greyson would sing when, still groggy and drugged, he finally realizes the girl who's been visiting him at the hospital is his daughter. Love this song…

I couldn't reach for rescue/I hid myself from you/ I couldn't stand to see me from your point of view/ Now inches from the water/About to disappear/ I feel you behind me/ How did you find me here?


Other songs on the "crazy" playlist include:

"Lithium Sunset," Sting
"Mad Season," Matchbox Twenty
"Manic Depression," by Jimi Hendrix
"Beautiful," Elvis Costello
"Walter Reed," Michael Penn
"Far, Far, " Yael Naim
"Richard Cory," Simon and Garfunkel
"God, Please Let Me Go Back," Josh Rouse
"The Bitch of Living" from Spring Awakening
"Feelin' Alright," Joe Cocker"
"Last chance Waltz," David Wilcox
"Run," Mike Errico
"Further From You," William Fitzsimmons
"I Will Follow You Into The Dark," Death Cab For Cutie

Check them out. When you're in the right mood. Or Better yet, while you're reading the book.


Juliann Garey and Too Bright to Hear Too Loud to See links:

the author's website

Bookreporter review
Boston Globe review
Entertainment Weekly review
Kirkus Reviews review
Marie Claire review

Reuters profile of 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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