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January 16, 2013

Book Notes - Lara Santoro "The Boy"

The Boy

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.

Lara Santoro's novel The Boy is a hard-hitting and compelling story of conflicted motherhood.

The New York Journal of Books wrote of the book:

"It takes a special kind of writer to pursue the development of a character like Anna….Lara Santoro had to realize that her character was nearly as despicable as Humbert Humbert in Lolita, yet she forges ahead in this starkly brilliant book, letting the character be who she is without apology and without the usual redemption scenes….Ms. Santoro has crafted a book just as fascinating [as Junot Diaz's This Is How You Lose Her], twice as stark, and simply unforgettable."

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 Lara Santoro's Book Notes music playlist for her novel, The Boy:

Chambao, "Pokito a Poko"

I'd started writing The Boy and I had no idea where it was going. My daughter was gone for the summer, money was tight, sleep kept eluding me while alcohol would not, so I called my friend Patricia. It was a late Sunday afternoon when I got to her farm. Patricia had fed her animals already – goats and sheep and horses, and I suspect a few other furry four-legged things as well. We were in the kitchen of her old adobe house making paella when this song came on. Patricia comes from old Spanish blood. She saw my face as I listened to the words ("volvere' a decirte que he sonao colores nuevos y dias claros"), patted me on the back and showed me to the cutting board. Ahi Estas Tu. The minute I got home I downloaded all of Chambao and for days danced to this one song.

James Blunt, "You're Beautiful"

I came to this tune very late, years after it was released but only minutes after my daughter, barely nine at the time, came home from the summer with the explicit version of in her back pack. I feigned consternation and tried to impose full censorship. The results were pitiful. In no time at all we were both howling the lyrics – F-word excerpted – first thing in the morning. The part worth singing out loud for me was, "My life is brilliant, my love is pure, I saw an angel, of that of I am sure" as my daughter darted from room to room.

Kings of Leon, "Closer"

I had just started writing the book and somehow got sent this song, I can't remember by who or why but I remember the lyrics going off like a bomb in my head, the pure drama in "With the moon I run far from the carnage of the fiery sun" keeping me in a state of heightened emotion until my daughter sat me down and asked me why anyone would run away from a "fur ball." We listened to the song together and she was right, the word "sun" sounds exactly like "fur ball." It was hard to keep the drama going after that.

Coldplay, "Violet Hill"

It was indeed "a long and dark December" during which my friend Cameron and I were perfecting the art of lying low. Cameron, who ran the line at The Love Apple, the restaurant we cooked in, had developed an obsession for Coldplay and downloaded the band's entire production on a flash drive for me. That winter, as The Boy's plot began to run out from under me once again, Cameron and I developed the habit of chugging a clandestine beer by the walk-in before our shift and arguing over which song by the British band kicked the most ass. Cameron was ecumenical in his taste. I instantly acquired a few favorites and stuck to them obsessively. "Violet Hill" was one of them.

Pearl Jam, "Black"

I stole this CD from my sister's extravagant collection thinking she wouldn't notice only to find myself returning it under extreme pressure a couple decades later. By then I had downloaded the album onto every portable device I owned but this song, with its reference to "bitter hands" cradling "broken glass of what was everything" never lost the ability to lance my side. It came on one afternoon as I was driving and I decided right then and there that The Boy, tentatively titled A Child at that point, would come to an abrupt and shocking ending. I finished the book in a marathon session and sent it to my agent, Elaine Markson, who called me back the next day and said: "I'm not selling this book if you're killing this child, go ahead and find yourself another agent." I had to think about that. A month later I sat down and wrote a different ending. No one ended up being gladder for the process than I was.

Miles Davis, Kind of Blue

For years I obstinately refused to develop a relationship to this musical masterpiece because it had been forced upon me by my daughter's father. As fate would have it, I had no closer companion during the entire writing of The Boy.

Lara Santoro and The Boy links:

the author's website

BroadartVibe review
Kirkus Reviews review
New york Journal of Books review
Publishers Weekly review
Wall Street Journal review

BOMB 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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