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October 8, 2013

Book Notes - Jessica Keener "Women in Bed"

Women in Bed

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.

Jessica Keener's Women in Bed is an impressive, vividly told collection of short stories about love and intimacy.

Caroline Leavitt wrote of the book:

"What we do – or don’t or won’t do – for love, in all its incarnations, is at the fiercely beating heart of this stellar collection of linked stories. As exhilarating as love at first sight, and written in prose as clear and spare as a single bed, these stories linger, haunt and showcase the talents of a literary master."

Stream a Spotify playlist of these tunes. If you don't have Spotify yet, sign up for the free service.

In her own words, here is Jessica Keener's Book Notes music playlist for her short story collection, Women in Bed:

Women in Bed is a collection of nine thematically connected stories about familial and romantic love. Each of the nine stories is shaped by a woman protagonist. Five of the nine feature the same woman at a different emotional place in her life. My playlist consists of one song per story, listed in the same order as the stories appear in the collection.

Secrets: The Beatles' "Hide Your Love Away" speaks to the unnamed protagonist in this opening story. Desires are hidden; identity is submerged.

Papier-mâché: Bjork's' "Human Behavior" has a pounding, insistent drumbeat that underscores college student Leah's driving need to confront her own and other's bewildering behaviors. Bjork sings: "Be ready to get confused/there's definitely no logic to human behavior/ but yet so irresistible."

Boarders: Stevie Nicks singing "Landslide" reflects Jennifer's romance gone awry in this story; the dangerous, unstoppable emotions that take on a life of their own when love is shattered.

Women with Birds in her Chest: Darlene Love singing "Lean on Me" (written by Bill Withers). In this story, a married woman isolates herself from her husband in a botched attempt to deal with her growing anxiety about her life and purpose. Darlene Love was an unaccredited backup singer recently and finally inducted to Rock & Roll's Hall of fame.

Recovery: Linda Rondstadt singing "Blue Bayou" chosen, in part to honor Rondstadt's gorgeous but silenced voice due to Parkinson's disease. "Recovery" is based on my experience dealing with a fatal illness, a time when I lost my singing voice due to male hormones doctors administered in the hopes that the hormones would cure me. (They didn't.) I underwent a bone marrow transplant, which worked, thankfully.

Shoreline: "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" sung by Sarah Vaughan, a song made famous by the singular Judy Garland. Both women are genius vocalists who express the sounds of our hearts' yearnings for someplace better than where we are—Laura's dilemma in this story.

Bird of Grief: Laura Nyro's "Beads of Sweat" offers up a complex melody of pain—the highs and lows of it—the ever-shifting rhythms that grief takes on when we least expect it.

Forgiveness: America's "Horse with No Name" is one of those songs people either love or hate. Obviously, I'm in the love camp. The pared down melody conveys, for me, the stark loneliness my protagonist feels in this story as she revisits issues around parental abuse.

Heart: Laura Nyro's "Lucky" is an up-tempo song for the closing story's notes of optimism and hope.

Jessica Keener and Women in Bed links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

Publishers Weekly review

Hartford Books Examiner interview with the author
Huffington Post contributions by the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Night Swim
Psychology Today essay by the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2012 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

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)
musician/author interviews
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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