October 1, 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.
Austin independent publisher A Strange Object's first book is fantastic in every sense of the word. Kelly Luce's Three Scenarios In Which Hana Sasaki Grows A Tail is filled with imaginative and bold stories that mine the depths of memory and love to profound results.
Claire Vaye Watkins wrote of the book:
"Let us all now append one more syllable to the list of the most acrobatic imaginations in contemporary American fiction: Saunders, Bender, Link, and Luce! This book in an incantation, and I adore it."
Music is one of my favorite ways of organizing experience. Songs are these neat packets where you can store memories and complicated emotion; they're spill-proof and the contents never degrade. In that sense, listening to a song from our past is the closest we can come to time-travel.
Instead of a written journal, I keep a musical diary: a record of when songs "happened to me." And I judge peoples' character by the music they like. I once sent a drunk 2am email declaring, "All I need is a man who loves the Moody Blues!" (And years later married such a man, the man, actually, to whom I'd sent that email).
I spent years with the characters that populate Hana Sasaki, messing with them more than even the most ambitious mix tape. I feel like I should do something nice for them. So, since the book is a story collection, I'll dedicate a song to a character from each of the ten stories.
"The Mollusk" by Ween
This one goes out to Keisuke, the boy who delivers beer to Ms. Yamada and her psychic toaster. He'd enjoy the song's weirdness, its odd grandeur, and the random mention of the trinity, which Ms. Yamada, as a Jehova's Witness, would take issue with. There's sometimes a hint of the divine in the strange, and this song touches on that.
"Black Magic Woman" by Santana
Poor Masa ("The Blue Demon of Ikumi"). He really thinks he's got it all under control. Then his new wife pulls the rug out from under him. Here's a tip, buddy: don't let her eat your autumn eggplants.
"Unravel" by Björk
For the narrator of "Reunion." Björk imparts such a sense of longing to sparse lyrics that capture what love is: a huge risk. Will the lover come back to "make new love," or will the devil get the last of their ball-of-yarn love? Also, Björk seems like appropriate music for a story containing an anthropomorphic vacuum cleaner.
"Lily (My One and Only)" by The Smashing Pumpkins
Dedicated to Lily Mizukami, the girl Maxine goes to visit in "Rooey." I love the mix of playfulness and sketchiness in this song about a boy hanging in a tree spying on his love, hoping she'll see him and that somehow, something good will come of his stalking. Who thinks that way? But, well: wild logic is what first love is all about.
"恋のルール・新しいルール" by Pizzicato Five
For Lou and Yumi. The rules of love are always changing, says the song. In "Pioneers," Lou and Yumi are at a crisis point early in their marriage, and they need to figure out a way forward—to set their own rules, to create a family culture, a culture of two. This was the one story in the collection that underwent an ending-180 during editing, and I'm happy with how it came out. The new ending is not one I could have hit on when I was 28; at 32 and with expert editorial encouragement and nudging, it became clear.
"Hot Chocolate" by Shonen Knife
For Hana Sasaki. Her favorite beverage since childhood, hot chocolate is what inspired her to take that job at Mister Donut. "Nobody can stop the melting chocolate." And, it seems, nothing can alter Hana's fate.
"今日までそして明日から"by Yoshida Takuro (吉田拓郎)
For Nao, hearer of wishes. A sentimentally hopeful song that Nao listened to as a young man in the 60's. The title means "Until today, from tomorrow." It's about starting to live in a new way, and accepting whatever comes. At the end of "Wisher," I can hear him humming this song.
"Fancy Work Funk" by Takako Minekawa (嶺川貴子)
For Monte and Alex and Beth ("Ash"). Monte was totally a secret music geek who knew about Takako Minekawa—she's such a musical badass—from his college radio days. It's a fun, ridiculous song about a strange journey, perhaps not unlike living in a foreign country and getting arrested for stealing a bicycle.
"Sakura (さくら)" by Naotaro Moriyama (森山直太朗)
For Nozomi. In "Cram Island," the kids sing a song called "Sakura" in Room 17, their special karaoke box. This is that song. It's 100% sap and I adore it. I've sung it so many times that part of me believes I was a Japanese schoolgirl in 2002. There are probably a hundred songs titled "Sakura," which means "cherry blossom." These flowers are of course hugely symbolic; they bloom for just a couple of weeks and then flutter prettily in the wind and wind up mashed along street curbs so represent impermanence, the fleeting beauty of nature. There's a phrase for the ephemeral nature of everything in Japanese, mono no aware, which means the transience, or "ahh-ness" of things. I hope that Hana Sasaki as a whole touches on the ahh-ness of things.
"Arpeggione, first movement," by Franz Schubert
The final track goes out to Aya Kawaguchi. In "Amorometer," Aya plays the impostor to a psychologist who's mistaken her for someone else: someone, he thinks, with the highest capacity for love of all the people he's ever studied. In the process, Aya starts to remember who she used to be. This piece, named in the story, is a key to regaining an identity she thought she'd lost long ago.
Kelly Luce and Three Scenarios In Which Hana Sasaki Grows A Tail links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
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)
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