April 17, 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, Aimee Bender, Myla Goldberg, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.
Jessica Soffer's Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots is an exceptional novel, filled with well-wrought characters and sharp, beautiful prose. This profound story of two lonely people who find common ground in food, told in Soffer's singular voice, is unforgettable.
Library Journal wrote of the book:
"This powerful debut sheds light on the meaning and power of family, whether its members are blood-related or "created" by nonrelatives. Food is what strengthens relationships here, particularly the search for specific recipes. Young, troubled Lorca lives in New York City; her distracted mother, a chef, is rather uninterested in Lorca's psychological troubles; her estranged father lives in New Hampshire. Researching how to prepare an unusual meal, Lorca feels she can win her mother’s interest and love if she can prepare this delicacy. She meets Victoria, who once owned a restaurant specializing in Iraqi meals. Their cooking lessons lead to confided morsels of their own pasts. However, it is not just the love of food but understanding and acceptance that help to make this such a lovely novel."
I am obsessed with rhythm. I'm an awful poet, play no instruments, and wish I were a better singer, but I've always been taken with the music of things. Perhaps it has something to do with growing up in New York City, the relentless orchestra: radiators on the xylophone, garbage trucks idling on the bass, wrecking ball on the triangle, vacuum upstairs on first violin. You've got to find a way to harmonize with the noise, or implode. I suppose I've come to rely on it. In a perfect world, I'd be a Raelette and a flamenco dancer on weekends: rhythm in my bones, and for a living. But, the world is far from perfect. And here I am, at my desk, in my slippers, typing to the tune of a car alarm, trying to get it right. Right. Right. Right-uh.
It is probably unsurprising then that music has everything to do with writing for me. I listen while I write. I write while I listen. My first novel, Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots, was built to the rhythm, for the rhythm, because of the rhythm of a very wonderful set of songs.
There are those (1) that I listened to while actually writing—as I sat, hands on keys, ass in chair, earbuds ensconced and there are others (2) that I listened to extracurricular-ally, while living—hands off keys, hands on doorknobs, hands soapy and scrubbing a pan—that either informed a scene or character or mood or feels, in retrospect, like they should have.
"Big Red Machine" by Aaron Dessner & Justin Vernon
Plot does not come naturally to me. At a certain point in the process, I realized that music could help. When I listen to a tune that bristles with foreboding, that moves along at a steady clip, that builds and surges, the writing seems—on good days—to snap to, and follow suit. This song is just right for that: arresting but unaggressive, significant but not hyperbolic. It's gorgeous. And the final lines feel so appropriate for the characters in Apricots. "That's all I've learned: to suffer."
"Waltz for Debbie" by Bill Evans String Quartet
Because this song is charming but not sanguine, full of forward momentum but not cataclysmic, it was my go-to tune for writing the unassuming sections of Apricots. If this song were an activity, it would be walking around town, doing errands. It's awful to think of any section of the novel as merely functional, but. Noted. Won't happen again.
"Ivy" by Active Child
This song draws my focus along as if by the pull of a very sturdy thread. I'm wary of dissecting why too terribly much lest the magic wear off. And it is magic. At least until the phone rings. Or my stomach growls. Or it's too cold in here. Or shiny thing.
"Redford (For Yia-Yia & Papou)" by Sufjan Stevens
For me, this is a song about death, which is something that the characters of Apricots are constantly swerving around. It's poignant, compelling and completely devoid of fanfare. After one character's husband dies, she keeps wondering when the explosion will happen. Any kind. And it doesn't. The most shocking part about death for her (for everyone?) is that life doesn't skip a beat.
"Hope There's Someone" by Antony and The Johnsons
The two main narrators in Apricots need and want so much from each other. Antony's voice is suspended with that same kind of hope—and his lyrics reveal the stuff that's deeper: the desperation. This song might be overstating the point a bit, but there's nothing quite as heartbreaking as finding oneself and/or feeling utterly, devastatingly alone.
"Sweet Disposition" by The Temper Trap
Someone passed this along and I felt like I'd discovered the cure for melancholy. Turned out, everyone had been listening to this song until their ears bled, was still melancholy, and I'd just been living under a rock. Still, it feels like the essence of young love to me, at least from the perspective of Apricots' teenage narrator, Lorca. It's so eager, so wide-eyed that it belongs in a streetlight love scene, which is also, often, where teenagers feel they belong, too.
"Al Atlal" by Umm Kulthum
Umm Kulthum (a.k.a. Oum Kalthoum, Om Kalsoum) is an Arabic music legend and her songs would have been playing at The Shohet and His Wife, an Iraqi restaurant at the core of Apricots' storyline. This song makes me think of Iraqi women in lots of pattern and magenta silk, dancing and clucking and clapping as something orange and heavily spiced simmers in the kitchen.
"Just Breathe" by Pearl Jam
Longing, regret, death: all so much a part of Apricots. And for Lorca, a pain addict, Vedder's particular lyric—"There's so much in this world to make me bleed"—really says it better than I ever could, than I did. Too late. Fail again. Fail better.
Jessica Soffer and Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots links:
Author Recipe Blog guest post by the author
The Atlantic interview with the author
Jewish Daily Forward profile of the author
Library Journal interview with the author
My Book, The Movie guest post by the author
Publishers Weekly essay by the author (on the 10 best book endings)
The Quivering Pen essay by the author
Writers Read guest post by the author
also at Largehearted Boy:
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)
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