July 16, 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.
Mathew Guinn skillfully explores themes of class, race, and ethics in his compelling debut novel The Resurrectionist.
Library Journal wrote of the book:
"Strong pacing, interesting lead characters, and clever resolutions to both prongs of the story are the hallmarks of this winning debut that shows that in matters of race and American history, navigating to 'truth' and 'right' is almost always a complex journey."
"One Headlight," The Wallflowers
If there is a single song that runs throughout The Resurrectionist, both through the writing of it and what I hope the reader will take away from it, this is it. I had this track on a CD on a boombox in my basement, set on ‘repeat,' the whole time I was writing the first draft of the novel. And I never got tired of it. The Wallflowers hit the emotional tone I was trying to get into the ink on the page. It's sad; it's about a death, but it's also resolute and determined not to go without a fight. A minor key, but not defeated. The title image actually made it into one of the pivotal scenes in the novel. Whether I took that from the song or it was there all along, I don't know, but I'll give the credit for it to Jakob Dylan. Also, that opening guitar riff, with the Echoplex on it, always sounded to me like it could be coming out over a graveyard, ringing off the tombstones. Just me, maybe.
"Shortsighted," The Drams
I started writing The Resurrectionist when I finally decided I had to leave academia for something else—not because I didn't love teaching, but because the academic jobs I could get were so overloaded with committees and petty work and because landing a tenure-track job was beginning to seem as likely as winning the lottery—and anyway, the money was no better than laying brick or hanging sheetrock. That's hard to swallow when you've spent 10 years in college and graduate school as an idealist preparing yourself for that career. I believe Brent Best is the best songwriter of his generation, and this song seems to be his bittersweet farewell over the breakup of his previous band Slobberbone. There's a lot of heartbreak in it. That sentiment really got me and I tried to write it into Jacob's predicament in the novel, which certainly mirrored mine. In Brent's words: "I could not tell / A low-rent heaven is the equal of hell." But all is not dire; with an eye to the future, Brent also writes: "Let's buckle down."
"People Get Ready," Jeff Beck & Rod Stewart (Curtis Mayfield)
True, the drums and bass sound the worst of 80s digital aesthetic, and you wish Rod Stewart would step away from the mic and let Beck do the singing with his guitar, but it's still a great cover of a classic because of Beck. I'd like to think this is something like the music that happens between my characters Nemo and Amy when they are alone. And the second part of the solo—when Beck digs in and the Marshall stack roars like the bark of some prehistoric creature—that is the voice of Nemo Johnston.
"Trapped," Bruce Springsteen (Jimmy Cliff)
Speaks to Nemo's situation, and to Jacob's. Beaten down but beginning to resolve to turn it around, with a fist in the air. "But when the game is over/I won't walk out a loser." Hell yes! Doesn't always turn out that way in life but I was happy to write it that way for my characters, who made it work. I think this track shows why the E Street Band has a legitimate claim to being the best rock band of all time. Also, my favorite Clarence Clemons solo ever.
"Feel of the World," Tift Merritt
The scene when Kaye gets back from Germany and reunites with Jacob—then wakes up with him the next morning . . . this is the song playing then. Nothing else. The sort of resigned, mortal sadness, but resilient love of the world, that Tift got into this song is what I hope runs through my whole novel. "Time will take care of you, my love"—I'd steal that line if I thought I could get away with it. And Tift's harmonies with Jim James bring the lyrics to life.
"Seven Turns," The Allman Brothers
I wish I could write like Dickey Betts plays guitar. This song's long been on the perpetual jukebox in my head and I probably couldn't write a book without it in the circulation of writing music that keeps me going. As for the fictional world of The Resurrectionist, this one was surely playing on a jukebox at The Hub, or at Aunt Pauline's bait shop, or on Jacob's tape deck—when he had the top down and was driving out into the country. Never heard anything like Dickey's playing and singing, or the way Warren Haynes climbs the scales on the second solo, plus Gregg Allman's field holler in the background. Everything good about the South is in this track.
"Can't Get High," Widespread Panic
Love the vibe of this song and I tried to get it into the lighter moments of The Resurrectionist. When I was at UGA we used to go see Widespread at the Georgia Theater for $3.50 a ticket. Senior year, 1991 or '92, when the tickets went up to $4, there was talk of selling out, the band losing touch with its fans, other assorted late adolescent rants—over a price increase that cost us less than an evening's extra Milwaukee's Best. Ah Athens, ah youth. What bullshit! Wish I could go back for just one of those evenings.
"I Ain't Ever Satisfied," Steve Earle
Is anybody? If I were, I wouldn't be writing novels. Likewise, I imagine, avid readers of novels are after something beyond or they'd give up on fiction and just read self-help or the Wall Street Journal instead. Whoever manages to write this song's message into a novel will be turning rock n roll into literature. I'll keep trying.
"Ventilator Blues," The Rolling Stones
The Stones have recorded scarier songs, but there's something about this one that summons up things from my id that I'd rather not call out by name. It's helped me over more than one slump of writer's block.
"Land of Hope and Dreams," Bruce Springsteen
The Wrecking Ball version is great but it was the Live in NYC version I heard while I was working on my book. Bruce's list of souls on the way to salvation is rich: 'This train carries/Saints and sinners/Losers and winners/Whores and gamblers/Lost souls' and ends with 'Dreams will not be thwarted/Faith will be rewarded.' Like a contemporary take on something biblical. I hope I got a piece of that into the end of my novel and the way it resolves—certainly a choice few of my characters pack their bags and set off for the best promised land they can chart on their compasses. The older I get, the more I admire Springsteen. You can dismiss him as an overblown romantic, a hopeless sentimentalist (as I once did), but you'd be wrong (as I was). I stand on what he says in his whole body of work about fidelity, faith, honesty, and friendship. I'm proud to stand or fall on those—my work and hopefully my life. Peace.
Matthew Guinn and The Resurrectionist links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
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