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October 25, 2013

Book Notes - Kari Luna "The Theory of Everything"

The Theory of Everything

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.

Kari Luna's The Theory of Everything has earned comparisons to my favorite modern young adult novel, Libba Bray's Going Bovine. This debut is whimsical, charming, and heartfelt, a truly unique and special YA novel.

Stream a Spotify playlist of these tunes.

In her own words, here is Kari Luna's Book Notes music playlist for her novel, The Theory of Everything:

It's rare for me to have a day that doesn't have music in it. While I write, songs serenade me, transporting the word count from five words to 5,000 faster than I ever imagined. Melodies are clues, leading me to pieces of research and symbols, tucked inside my mind. Maybe it's because I'm also a musician, but music is a part of my heart as well as how I think about writing. Rhythm, hotspots, poetry. Scenes as songs.

In The Theory of Everything, the main character – Sophie Sophia – is abandoned by her brilliant, but eccentric physicist father. And the only thing he leaves behind? A box of mixtapes, originally made for her mother. These cassettes, themed and mostly songs from the 80's, are Sophie's only connection to her father. "Music is memory," she says in the book, and I agree with her. It's why so many of the chapters begin with lyrics. But music is also the present! So enjoy some of the songs that inspired and fueled the book. Sure, a lot of them are from the 80's, but I would have chosen them, anyway. Pinky-swear.

"Strange Bath" - Jon Brion, I Heart Huckabees

Want to know what the inside of my head sounds like? Listen to this guy. Whimsical, cartoony music with a dose of melancholy thrown in. He's my favorite composer to listen to while writing. I wish I knew him. I'd like to think we'd have a picnic composed entirely of champagne and cotton candy.

"Love Will Tear Us Apart" – Joy Division

This song is not only how Sophie Sophia feels, it's also how I felt when I listened to this song in high school. Love helps you find yourself – and then it tears you apart. Brutally. Beautifully. Until you go back for more. This song is for the brokenhearted, and not just the ones upset about girls or boys, but those upset about the world. Humanity. Nothing complements the simultaneous swelling and breaking of the heart as well as this.

"Angels Come To Comfort You" - Black Francis

Sophie has a shaman panda – Walt – who guides her on her journey. He's her guardian angel or, as he says, "guardian angel, sans the wings. Unless they're chicken wings, of course." Walt loves to eat, but he loves helping Sophie, more. This is his song, especially the chorus. When I hear it, I picture them walking – hand-in-panda-paw – down the street. It makes me giddy.

"Memphis Train" - Rufus Thomas

I like to call this the "Sophie-Finny-Dance-On-The-Train-Song." Sure, it's a song about a train playing on a train. But it's Rufus Thomas! No one else can make two best friends hop out of their seats and shake it better than he can. Even though it's not mentioned in the book anymore, this song will always and forever be the one that took them home. It's celebration. Relief. (Bonus: the King Sound Quartet do a killer version of this song. Look it up.)

"Bird's Lament" - Moondog

The first time I heard "Bird's Lament," I knew it was Sophie's Dad's theme song. But the more I listened, the more I heard a conversation between the two of them, a call and response, via horns. Sophie is the higher horn, telling him why she needs him. Begging him to come back. And Angelino is the lower, brasher horn, honking his answer, which I don't want to give away, here. They struggle. But in the end, they come together, at least for a moment. It's like Peter and the Wolf. It's perfect.

"A Forest" – The Cure

Robert Smith knows lipstick, but he also knows longing. I played this song over and over as Sophie tried to figure out what was wrong with her. Was she crazy or traveling to parallel universes? Did her father leave her or just disappear? The lyrics mimic her struggle. "I'm running toward nothing... again and again and again..." Good thing the guitars are so lovely. It helps mask the pain, right?

"Broadway" - The Old 97's

I used to watch the Old 97's play this song in a tiny bar in Dallas, Texas. It feels like coming home to me, which is exactly where Sophie goes in this particular scene. She wanders down Broadway, confused and upset, until she runs smack dab into Times Square – and her reality. Homecoming dances are lame, but actual homecomings are bittersweet – just like Rhett Miller's voice. Oh, the yearning!

"Underdog" - The Dirtbombs
So there you are - stuck in the middle of a draft. Or sitting with another round of revisions. You don't need coffee, you need an anthem. Something that takes you from draft one to draft ten. For me, this song does it every time. I love the original version, but this one makes me write – and dance – toward the finish line. Seriously, try it! And if you don't feel like a bad-ass by the end, we need to talk.

"How Soon Is Now" - The Smiths

If I had to pare the novel down to one song, this would be it. While listening to it, Sophie says: "It said something I needed to hear, like a song that had been with me whether I knew I needed it or not." Everyone needs to be loved, but luckily, love is everywhere! Even parallel universes. Or, you know, that cute little pocket underneath your heart.

"Look To Tomorrow" - The Now Time Delegation

I played in this band, but not on this song. And when I thought about the end of the story – and Sophie making a mixtape – I knew this would be on it. To me, this song is what hope sounds like. And that's what this story is all about. There's love and shaman pandas, dimensional travel and 80's mixtapes, but there's also the belief that no matter who you are – or how you feel – there's a place for you. Maybe you can't see it right now, but it's there. Believe it. And for those times you can't believe, let your shaman panda do it for you.

For one of the mixtapes in the book, visit

Kari Luna and The Theory of Everything links:

the author's website
the book's mixtape
video trailer for the book

Hello Giggles review

Bitch interview with the author
Jean BookNerd interview with the author
Rookie contributions by the author
The Weeklings contributions 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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