June 28, 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.
Chris Eaton, a Biography is one of the year's most ambitious and fascinating novels, a book that builds its protagonist from the real lives of those that share the name of its author, Chris Eaton.
The Los Angeles Review of Books wrote of the book:
"In a publishing world besotted with fabricated memoirs and bogus celebrity autobiographies, Chris Eaton: A Biography breaks new ground in the art of family myth-making. Eaton combines world history, North American folklore, personal memories and postmodern storytelling to create an intricate novel that can stand alongside the work of both Mark Twain and Roberto Bolaño."
I listened to a lot of music while I wrote this book. A lot. And it was written over the course of eight years so I probably also spanned a couple of shifts in my musical tastes. But I do also tend to listen to complete records, and also to listen to those same records on repeat, possibly for a whole day or week of writing, just because there's something about it, outside of the lyrics or rhythms or shapes of the songs, that puts me in a certain mood I need to be in for writing.
And there was one summer in particular when I was house sitting for some friends where, for four months, I listened to almost nothing but four records on CD. I'm not entirely sure if they took the rest of their collection with them, or if they had already digitized everything and taken that. But I was left with a very small set from which to make my choices, and I found the coincidence of their exclusivity particularly fitting.
The novel is largely about coincidence, and approaching coincidence like a conspiracy theorist. Maybe because most novels follow this kind of structure, we tend to obsess over moments in our past as if they shaped the rest of our lives, making linear connections that likely aren't there. I also have memories of things that my family assures me did not happen. So I researched every Chris Eaton I could find on the Internet and began to connect the dots between them (and between them and me) and created a life out of them. And the number of times that my birthday came up (I recently found a guy in England who was born on the exact same day as me) or the number of people who seemed to be from places named St Petersburg or who had married someone with the same name… it was a little alarming.
So it was probably fitting to be stuck with four records that really made me recall my own youth:
Neil Diamond's Greatest Hits – I grew up in a city on the east coast of Canada called Moncton, New Brunswick. And anyone who grew up in Moncton and then went elsewhere (or who grew up elsewhere and moved near Moncton or even just crossed paths with someone from Moncton) knows what a strange alternate universe of music exists there. It's sort of like AM radio in the US, I think, but without the normal classic rock hits you might associate with it. I recall going to university and hearing about bands like REM and the Smiths and all I really knew was Air Supply, Chicago, REO Speedwagon, Gowan, Haywire… It's amazing that this place turned some of my classmates into Eric's Trip.
Though Neil Diamond was one of the hitmakers, I'm sure I knew every song on this record intimately.
Blossom Dearie's Greatest Hits – Another of my big childhood memories is of School House Rocks. I had never really listened to Blossom Dearie before, but she immediately felt so familiar, and it took me part of that summer to figure out that she was the singer for “Figure 8”.
Fleetwood Mac's Rumours – The first album I ever bought that wasn't by the Hollies. I had somehow made a strange habit of collecting LPs by them because I had become obsessed with Buddy Holly at the age of 12 and assumed they must be the same guys.
The Roots' The Tipping Point – I'm going to come straight out and admit that I had no prior connection to The Roots, but I loved this record so much. I don't really even have a ton to say about it, except that you should own it.
I also want to include a song that I don't remember listening to at the moment of writing but that I listened to recently and couldn't believe the connections it had to my book, particularly with regards to a storyline about people evolving back into fish. "Deeper Than Our Love" is a song by the wonderful Albany band, Jeneric (who now go under the name The Parlor), from their impeccable first album called Hansel and Gretel; Stories from the Stove. I know I would have listened to it at some point in the creation of the book, and I suppose I'll die without knowing which really came first. I love the collective mind that came up with both.
Chris Eaton and Chris Eaton, a Biography links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
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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