August 20, 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.
Dennis Bock's novel Going Home Again is a compelling and beautifully written tale of family and manhood.
Kirkus Reviews wrote of the book:
"Finely crafted, disarmingly casual prose that quietly penetrates the reader’s mind and heart."
Bruce Springsteen, "Girls in Their Summer Clothes"
I don't listen to music while I write, but occasionally I put something on while I circle my desk, getting ready to slip into my work. This song, with its nostalgia, regret and hope, brought me closer to my narrator, Charlie Bellerose, while I was working through drafts of Going Home Again. Something about it touches me. The narrator in the song, like Charlie, has been banged around pretty good, but, like the most noble among us, he's still got some fight left in him. Springsteen captures the hope-in-hard times thing like the great artist he is, with simple story-telling, real-to-life characters, and razor-sharp images of time and place. And I'm a sucker for melodies as sweet and ascendant as this. A song like "Girls in Their Summer Clothes" opens me up emotionally, helps get me in touch with a character who's experienced the big hard emotions but won't ever let that pummeling be an excuse to drop to a knee and surrender.
Radio Futura, "Escuela de Calor"
Much of Going Home Again is set in Madrid, where I lived for years back in the eighties and nineties. Radio Futura was big then. Hearing them now fills me with the urge to hit the street, cubata in one hand, a smoke in the other, and wander around the plazas, down crowded streets from bar to bar, eating and drinking till sunrise. Madrid nightlife is legendary, was even more so back then. At five a.m. my crowd used to ask me what's wrong, why are you slowing down? I'd look at them like they were on drugs. (Maybe they were.) Radio Futura was part of the counterculture movement of 1980s Madrid. It was the great opening up of Spanish society after the death of Franco in 1975. People stepped out of their dark living rooms and into the street and found something going on. Madrid, and Radio Futura, was at the centre of it all. Bands like Alaska, Kaka de Luxe (I taught English to Raul, the guitar player, after he morphed into a music exec at BMG Madrid), and Gabinete Caligari. Pedro Almodóvar was part of that whole deal. Artists breaking rules after decades of oppressive dictatorship, encouraging the shell-shocked to get back to living. This was Madrid expressing itself for the first time in decades. It's smart, joyful, sexy music, a generational voice.
The Clash, "The Magnificent Seven"
The Clash. A sonic tattoo of cool punk, political savvy, and street cred. This song is the perfect moment when political assassination meets dead budgie. Infectious, witty as hell, it's something that makes me gasp with joy. Sandinista! is the record that lays down the bridge between Charlie my narrator and Isabel a few months into his Spanish odyssey. He sees her wearing a Clash T-shirt at bike shop in Madrid, this beautiful chick, gloriously unlike anything he's ever seen before. It's a gift, an open door. Music as the great uniter. At the moment of their meeting this record offers each an entry-point into the other's life. It's a mutual love, a mark of cool, a passport into the other's world.
Leonard Cohen, "The Partisan"
Leonard Cohen's stint in the Greek Isles took on the quality of myth back in the eighties when I was at university. He bought a house on one of those islands with a Canada Council writing grant, so the story went. It was one of those mouth-watering possibilities that jumped up a whole generation of English undergrads. Shit, if he could do it…. Until Cohen came along, we were a tribe of Canadian kids reading everyone else's books, Keats and Kerouac and Ginsburg, with no romantic heroes to call our own. He helped put some flesh on our fantasies. Made that romantic life seem possible. God Bless you, Leonard. Naked bodies and booze among the ruins, words, music, the hell and beauty of being in love. It made us hard just thinking about that Greek sun. He said it all, and did it while living the life we thought every good poet should aspire to. It serves as the soundtrack for that ex-pat's life we craved back then— Charlie, too, as he negotiates through the betrayal of friendship and love.
The Waterboys, "The Whole of the Moon"
This song's playing on the turntable the night in Montreal that changes everything in Charlie's life. From that point on the song carries an emotional weight in the novel, like a tragic refrain. Someone dies and this song becomes his musical headstone. After Charlie and his best friend's girlfriend move to West Berlin, trying to outrun the loss, Holly crawls out of bed every night and listens to this song. It's her attempt to conjure a life and a love lost. I chose this song because it carries a similar weight in my own life. It represents a time, and a dear friend, gone now ten years. No one reading the novel would know that but me and one other person, but I wanted to throw that in as a sort of quiet homage to a time that's long past, and friend I miss very much. We all have songs like that in our lives. This one is mine.
Dennis Bock and Going Home Again links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
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