January 9, 2013
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.
Marjorie Celona's Y is a stellar debut, an intense novel told through the intertwined narratives of mother and daughter.
Colum McCann wrote of the book:
"I love ambition in a novel. I love humour, audacity, perseverance, craft. And I am deeply grateful when it gets exquisitely blended in a brand-new voice. Marjorie Celona’s debut weaves the twin stories of a foster child’s search for home and the raw account of her mother’s decision to abandon her newborn. Y is an evocative look into what makes a family, and what makes a home, and how they are undeniably helixed together."
Everyone has a theme song. Even dogs. My pit bull/Bassett hound, Betsy Lou, for example, has the opening bars from "Contrabanda" by DeVotchKa running through her dog-brain at all times. Terriers, for whatever reason, prefer 70s-era Jean Michel Jarre.
I write to music. Partly to block out the sounds of the neighborhood, which are multitudinous, but also to keep me going. To keep me from thinking. To keep me writing to a rhythm. I listened to Eno's Music for Films and Reich's Different Trains while I wrote Y—I was living in the woods of upstate New York so all that needed blocking out were my own loud thoughts. Now that I'm in the city again, I've had to up the ante, and the other day found myself writing to disco.
My novel, Y, is about Shannon, a 16-year-old misfit who goes searching for her birth mother, a woman named Yula who abandoned her on the day she was born. But it's also Yula's story, as well as the story of everyone else who comes into contact with Shannon—her foster parents, her adoptive mother and sister, the man who discovered her wrapped in a dirty sweatshirt outside the YMCA.
What's below is a playlist of these characters' theme songs. Thankfully, a dog features prominently in Y, so I'll start there, as I've already given it tremendous consideration.
Winkie, Shannon's dog
As I said, terriers are into 70s-era Jarre. Winkie, in particular, marches to the beat of "Oxygene, Pt. 4." There's a sense of whimsy to this song that undeniably captures her little, ever-hopeful dog spirit. (Close your eyes and pretend you're noodling around in a field, low to the ground. This is your song.)
"O Superman" by Laurie Anderson. Superman, like Shannon, was a foundling. Shannon, like Superman, is a hero, at least in my eyes. Laurie Anderson and Shannon have a lot in common hair-wise, so there's that, too.
Miranda, Shannon's adoptive mother
"Hard Times" by Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band. I was obsessed with the cover of this album when I was a girl: the conductor dressed as a bird, standing on water like Jesus, the popsicle-like things on the bottom right hand corner. Cory Daye's voice kills me it's so good. More than a theme song, I think of "Hard Times" as the anthem of women whom I admire, Miranda chief among them.
Harrison, Shannon's birth father
"They Never Got You" by Spoon. I got to know Harrison slowly during the course of writing Y. The minute I felt like I understood him, he slipped from my grasp. Cover your tracks. Cover the path to the heart. Now I keep naming characters Harrison—I keep trying to figure out who he is, outside of who he was in Y.
Yula, Shannon's birth mother
A tie between "The Night" and "The Hours" by Exitmusic. It's really just Alexsa Palladino, who somehow looks and sounds like Yula. I saw Exitmusic live in Cincinnati and got so weirded out that I've been obsessed ever since.
Lydia-Rose, Shannon's adoptive sister
"Transformation" by Nona Hendryx. How to decide between all the amazing women Lydia-Rose listens to? Sinead O'Connor, The Pointer Sisters, The Eurythmics, Kate Bush, Chaka Khan, Sade—but this is her favorite song. This is the song she listens to on her Walkman as she walks to school, Shannon trailing behind her.
Vaughn, the man who discovers Shannon
"Seen and Not Seen" by Talking Heads. The ultimate song about identity, and how we construct ourselves, and how we sometimes get ourselves wrong. Vaughn catches a glimpse of Shannon's mother but chooses to lie to the police about her appearance—he knows, for whatever reason, that Shannon is better off without her.
Quinn, Shannon's grandfather
"This is the Picture (Excellent Birds)" by Peter Gabriel. I imagine that the sound of Quinn's deceased wife, Jo, haunts him, much like Laurie Anderson's vocals haunt this song—it also gives this playlist a nice kind of circularity that seems fitting for Y, which starts where it ends and ends where it begins.
Marjorie Celona and Y links:
Globe and Mail review
Kirkus Reviews review
National Post review
Publishers Weekly review
Quill and Quire review
Toronto Star review
Vancouver Observer review
Winnipeg Free Press review
AbeBooks interview with the author
CBC Books interview with the author
Free Press interview with the author
Globe and Mail profile of the author
International Festival of Authors interview with the author
National Post profile of the author
also at Largehearted Boy:
100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
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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)
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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