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October 3, 2013

Book Notes - Marek Waldorf "The Short Fall"

The Short Fall

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.

Marek Waldorf's The Short Fall is an exceptional debut, a novel innovative in its language and themes of creativity and the underpinnings of political campaigns.

Laird Hunt wrote of the book:

"Possessed of great verve and tremendous inventive muscle, Marek Waldorf offers style and substance to spare in this terrific debut. Calvino's millennial qualities are all here; but especially quickness and lightness and lots of pleasurable multiplicity. I got hits, in reading The Short Fall-- an experience, in short, that I highly recommend—of early, rollicking Javier Marias, but also of Gilbert Sorrentino and Harry Mathews too."

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


In his own words, here is Marek Waldorf's Book Notes music playlist for his debut novel, The Short Fall:

"I Think Ur A Contra," Vampire Weekend
In my senior year of high school, my dad took a leave from SUNY Binghamton, where he was a tenured professor of economics, to work at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in Washington, DC because the money was better & would help pay for my brother's and my Ivy League educations. He returned for long weekends on prop planes and lived during the week in a pleasantly old-fashioned building off Dupont Circle: orange predominated & there was a pool on an open terrace part-way up. He had one of those tubby recliners, and a pull-out couch. He remained there through my college junior-year, the time of the Iran-Contra affair, and for a contiguous period of 15 years or so, at least one member of my family—typically, my brother—lived in our nation's capital. Thanks to frequent visits, I got a feel for the city, which I put to use in The Short Fall. I liked being able to visit without ever feeling drawn to live there. This song is pretty.

"Coming Together," Frederick Rzewski
For at least its first two sections, The Short Fall is basically an extended monologue by the paralyzed speechwriter. (In the third section, it's arguable.) In silly dreams of an "ideal production" for the book, I used to imagine a cavalcade of presidential witticisms, dinner theater with Hal Holbrook, Lincoln, Adams, Jefferson, etc. Nowadays, my ideal is getting close—reasonably close—to Living Theater's Steve ben Israel's progressive panic, hopscotch & chewed-over, as he rereads a letter from an Attica inmate, in Fred Rzewski's 1973 Minimalist masterpiece, "Coming Together." This song is referenced on page 86 ("'Does anybody here remember Attica?'"), in the third of four scenes/set-pieces inside the circling campaign plane, each iteration embracing the panic of the scenario more fully. I did so without having heard the piece—from descriptions, it sounded like something I'd enjoy, and when I obtained it off the internet much later, I did, of course: the original, that is … the other readings feel too pretty.

"It Wasn't My Idea To Dance," The Move
Before pop went and got unpretentious, there was rock-opera (Tommy) and there was mock-opera ("Bohemian Rhapsody"), and somewhere in the shambles between there was Message From The Country, which features this song, my desert-island favorite. Strangely, because I don't like joke songs normally. Here the conviction overwhelms the humor without diminishing it: double bass, the death-rattle beat tripping over its feet, the baroque pageantry, that voice—weepy, domineering, echoing in its own vaulted chamber. People throwing pennies in my soup / Expecting me to be ashamed of you. Synechdocal for The Beatles, from whose well it draws deeply—and furthers, in its inimitable way (King Crimson & Hawkwind don't occupy the same territory I would argue, and ELO never tried). As dawn is nearing, I'm hearing tearful music.

"Amo Bishop Roden," Boards of Canada
My nephew's favorite Boards of Canada song, from the ep In a Beautiful Place Out in the Country. It strikes me as a good stand-in for the campaign theme song on page 53. Do you ever start out not liking or listening much to a song but being persuaded by somebody else's enthusiasm? In a Beautiful Place isn't at the top of my BoC list, but it has my favorite titles. I like this one best of all. Music Has The Right To Children was my gateway to the laptop music of the ‘90s and beyond. Tranquil yet ominous, like a lot of the music I like.

"Today," Smashing Pumpkins
A band I listened to for maybe ten minutes. This is the song I stole The Short Fall's second-section title from: "rules & distractions." Had to go back to the ice-cream truck video with rutting couples to make 100% certain: still not sure I heard the line (it's around 3 minutes in) correctly. I was living a couple of blocks down & east from the famous UWS Bohemian Café: it was our Elaine's. I shared the apartment with a woman in the Columbia MFA Writing Program, and a Greek mathematician—set theory was his game, I think—and wrote most of the novel there, in a room that could just squeeze a bed and a desk in. There might have been 2 windows, both over airshafts. Summers were simply hell. We were all friendly but I became close with the mathematician: he introduced me to Morel's Invention, a fateful, even inevitable encounter. My friend spent days in bed just thinking about his proofs, which impressed me a great deal back then (& still does).

"Her Eyes Were Huge Things," His Name Is Alive
This song but also the whole album played soundtrack for long stretches of section three, "Everything Comes My Way," with its 13 scenarios. I describe the Astoria apartment where I worked in a story called "Fetch": "a basement apartment below a loud Italian family, its windows overlooking (at ankle-level), on one side, a driveway, and, on the other, a pathetically well-groomed but tiny plot of grass with a plastic, child-sized cast of the Virgin Mary." A Sunday visit to the Socrates Sculpture Park tipped me into this godawful depression in which everything stopped: my work on the novel stopped, I stopped going into my job, etc. The only thing that crawled forward was this album, and this piece in particular, an eerie strum & ethereal harmonizing I returned the needle to again & again, a Pioneer in its immovable groove. The Society of Victims et al. material comes out of this time, eventually. How God only knows. It's still my favorite section of the novel—or maybe what it's striving toward has preoccupied me on & off ever since.

"Be Little With Me," Stars of the Lid
Early iPod fodder, Lynn's theme song … I took an intense interest in somebody in the building where I worked, and this became our theme song. I measured the strength of my feelings with this on continuous repeat for several months. The creepy romantic title of course. Like something you'd hear in a glen—the soundtrack for a hip, site-specific Brigadoon.

"Poolhouse Blue," 18th Dye. Boots are made for walking … thanks for listening!


Marek Waldorf and The Short Fall links:

the author's website


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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