September 12, 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.
Claudia Zuluaga's Fort Starlight is one of the year's most assured and confident debut novels, a powerful and compelling book steeped in its South Florida locale.
Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:
"Zuluaga’s absorbing, expertly written debut explores the intersection of dreams and reality in the bizarre wilderness of Florida’s wetlands."
Fort Starlight is about a young woman's struggle to find herself in a half-built house in an unfinished housing community. She is isolated, alone, and surrounded by heat and silence. If only she had something on which to play music, she could soothe her soul. These are the songs I hear when I feel the heat and longing and hope and despair in Fort Starlight.
"The Boom Boom Bap" – Scritti Politti
OK, don't knock it until you try it. I was never a fan of Scritti Politti, back when they were cool, but Green Gartside's voice is a breathy butterscotch to my ears. This song, from 2006's White Bread Black Beer feels like the inside of my head, the loud sort of quiet that you hear when your head is pressed against the pillow and your heart is beating in your ear. This song is Ida when she is alone in the house in Fort Starlight, but when she is optimistic, when she is most capable of coping with being alone, when there seems to be something important in the sound of her own heartbeat.
"Anything" - Mark Eitzel
A quiet subplot in Fort Starlight is Ida's search for her brother, Robert, who left home when she was still in high school and never looked back. Their family home was a dead end for a kid trying to grow and become, and so his leaving was understandable. What she can't accept is that he left her behind without looking back. She doesn't know if he has created a happy life for himself without her or if something more sinister has happened. He doesn't know that she got out, too, and it hurts that she can't share it. Because she doesn't know what became of him or where to find him, to Ida, Robert is both a hero and someone to mourn.
I am a long-time fan of Mark Eitzel, formerly of American Music Club. "Anything" is a sad lament to a friend about that friend's overwhelming sadness, but it was re-recorded, up-tempo and with happy, Greek instruments. The bazouki (I'm guessing – I don't know Greek instruments) plays along to Your mother always said you'd be a sad old maid, alone and sour as a glass of lemonade and You're not alone, you should know that by now, I'd give anything to be where you are. Ida would give anything to be where Robert is, wherever that may be. He has crossed over to something that must be better than all that came before it.
"Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence" – Ryuichi Sakamoto
"Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence" begins with just a piano, and it is calm and meditative until the strings come in. The sounds build, the strings get percussive, and all becomes animated and purposeful, like a wild animal waking up and searching for prey. I see it most clearly in the conscience of Peter, a billionaire's son who lives in a self-built tree house, hidden within the forest hammock. Peter's obsession is the sounds of nature here, the wildlife and the wind. He records the sounds and wants to put the sounds together and create something bigger than the sub of its parts. He wants to make nature come alive.
"Sleeping Rough" – Paddy McAloon
This is music for the place, the wilderness as it reasserts itself over the attempt at civilization. Paddy McAloon is the voice of Prefab Sprout, and one of my favorite voices. There is something Peter and the Wolf narrative about this song, and I see the land rejecting the building and the infrastructure and taking itself over again, needing nobody, wanting only to be left alone. I'm lost. Yes, I am lost. I'll grow a long and silver beard, And let it reach my knees. And duty will not track me down, asleep among the trees.
Claudia Zuluaga and Fort Starlight links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
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