September 10, 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.
Paul Harding's novel Enon is an exquisitely told story of grief, one of the most dark and moving novels I have read in years.
Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:
"Drawing upon the same New England landscape and family as his Pulitzer Prize–winning debut, Tinkers, Harding deftly captures loss and its consequences in this gorgeous and haunting follow-up. [Enon is] an elegiac portrait of a severed family and the town of Enon itself, and Harding again proves himself a contemporary master and one of our most important writers."
This list is very associative. These songs capture certain moods and atmospheres that I tried to work with in my new novel, Enon. They are in no particular order.
"St. Elmo's Fire," Brian Eno
"Over the nights and through the fires / We went surging down the wires / Through the towns and all the highways/ Through the storms and all their thunderings / In the blue August moon…" This song is the quintessential, trippy late summer night song. When Charlie, the protagonist of Enon, recalls staying out all night playing games like flashlight tag with his friends, I think of this song and of Eno's album Another Green World generally. I aspire to make with words places like Eno makes with his music.
"The Darkest Hour is Just Before Dawn," Emmylou Harris w/ Ricky Skaggs
Enon is frankly tragic and sad and there's a lot of that "I'm so lonesome I could die" kind of sorrow in the book. There's also a constant search and yearning for redemption. Every time I hear this song, my hair stands on end and my heart skips a beat when Ricky Skaggs first comes in on the second verse. Someday, all our tears will be wiped away.
"Come All You Tenderhearted," The Stanley Brothers
This one is even sadder than "The Darkest Hour." It's full-on, old time Baptist tragedy, about a mother who leaves her kids for a minute to get a bowl of sugar or something from the neighbor and the house burns down with the kids in it. These kinds of hymns are profound and cathartic and comforting for the simple fact that they acknowledge the experience of utter tragedy in human life.
"Moonlight Mile," Rolling Stones
This is actually more about romantic love, but Charlie spends much of the novel strung out and straggling home deep, deep in the night, "when the wind blows and the rain feels cold," and you're "sleeping under strange, strange skies." There's that beautiful, desolate, yearning in this song that I encountered as I followed Charlie on his midnight misadventures. I guess "Memory Motel" might get an honorable mention, if only because I snagged the old green and blue pick-up truck mentioned in it for Charlie to have and work on at the end of the book.
Quartet in A minor, op.132, Beethoven
One of the masterpieces of western music, I think, and it sounds the depths and reaches the heights of human emotion. When the tension is released and the melody line (or whatever it's called: motif? I'm clueless about describing the anatomy of a string quartet or sonata or any musical form like that) signaling the turn back toward health and redemption is sounded in the movement titled, A Convalescent's Holy Song of Thanksgiving to the Divinity, I always want to burst into tears like a grateful baby.
"A Love Supreme," John Coltrane
One of the jewels in the crown of jazz music – of music, period, even though everyone says it is. It's another example of one of the profoundest explorations of and witnessings to Love with a capital "L," in all of its mystery and mercy and violence and holiness. I think of Charlie as wrestling with this in the book. Hard love. Real love. And Elvin Jones is my all time personal favorite drummer/musician. I saw him perform a cocktail table's length away at least three dozen times. He taught me so much about art and truth and beauty I'll still be exploring it all when I draw my last breath.
"Frankie Teardrop," Suicide
This is just an all out, epic, full-on nightmare. It's what I imagine angel dust is like. It's bleak and hopeless and righteous and outraged and so free of bullshit that it's nearly impossible to listen to. I need to sleep with the lights on after I listen to this.
3 Gymnopedies, Erik Satie
I'm always a little embarrassed by how much I like these lovely little soufflés, but they are lovely, and peaceful – soothing and beautiful lullabies. They sound like the sort of modest but true kind of peace and balm I want for Charlie at the end of his dark odyssey.
Paul Harding and Enon links:
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