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October 3, 2013

Book Notes - Natalie Serber "Shout Her Lovely Name"

Shout Her Lovely Name

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.

Natalie Serber's short story collection Shout Her Lovely Name explores mother-daughter relationships with impressive complexity, a poignant examination of everyday lives that never fails to ring true.

The San Francisco Chronicle wrote of the book:

"From its first page, Serber's debut collection plunges us into the humid heat and lightning of a perfect storm: that of American mothers and daughters struggling for power, love, meaning, and identity. . . .Serber's writing sparkles: practical, strong, brazenly modern, marbled with superb descriptions."

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 Natalie Serber's Book Notes music playlist for her short story collection, Shout Her Lovely Name:

Music plays a pretty big role in my collection. I listen to a lot of different music while I write, and I love including songs in the stories.

Shout Her Lovely Name
"Food, Glorious Food" from Oliver would be the soundtrack for this one, played very low and on a loop. Both the characters in the story, the anorexic daughter and the terrified mother think of nothing else.

Ruby Jewel
"Don't Rain on My Parade," by Barbara Streisand. The character, Ruby, comes home for a visit after her first semester in college and she thinks she is IT. She imagines herself the returning hero, the queen. Of course, the life that greets her in her small Florida hometown is still the same, is she? I love the brittle tension in the song.

Alone As She Felt All Day
"April In Paris," by Mel Torme is the song Ruby dances to with Uncle Iggy, a patron in the bar where she is a waitress. Uncle Iggy, soft and bald and old, is the only person in the story that watches out for her. The song is the single honest tender moment and Ruby doesn't recognize it. The song asks, "Whom can I run to?" which is the central question of Ruby's life in this story.

Free to a Good Home
"Hey That's No Way to Say Goodbye," Leonard Cohen. The story is about a parting, and I imagine the mood of this song is what young Nora would hope was going through her father's head as he made the choice to leave. Ruby too would hope that Marco had these feelings as he left. It is a nice dream for them.

This Is So Not Me
"Girls Just Want to Have Fun," by Cyndi Lauper. Shelby may think this is her theme song as she muddles through being the new wife to a much older man and being a new mother, but her borders are changing as the story moves forward. Ultimately I think Shelby is surprised by her capacity for generosity, for connection.

"Ruby Tuesday" and "Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby," both by the Rolling Stones. The first song is perfect as Ruby and Nora dance to it in the story and of course Ruby loves anything she can interpret as an homage. How happy was I when I learned that the B-side of "Ruby Tuesday" was "Have you Seen Your Mother, Baby," which is what Nora is trying to do in this story—to see herself and her mother as a their own kind of family.

Take Your Daughter To Work
"All I Want," by Joni Mitchell. Take Your Daughter…is Ruby's story more than any other in the collection. Ruby strives to be her very best and makes horrendous mistakes along the way. The lyrics, "All I really, really want our love to do, is to bring out the best in me and you." That's her, and yet she gets in her own way all the time.

A Whole Weekend Of My Life
Of course there is the lovely irony of the Paul Anka song that comes on the radio, "Having My Baby," when Ruby and her father meet, but that isn't the song for this story. The song would have to be the ballad of disappointment from Miss Peggy Lee, "Is That All There Is?"

Plum Tree
"Lies," by the Rolling Stones, for the stories we tell ourselves and those we love, and for a great dance song.

Rate My Life
"Ain't Nobody's Business if I Do," Billie Holiday. Nora totally steps into her own life in this one, making choices she almost isn't brave enough to make. I'd also have to include, "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds," for the beach sequence.

Developmental Blah, Blah
"Man on Fire," by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes. I love this song and I especially love it for the character of Cassie. She is so stuck and uncertain of her identity vis à vis her family. She is a man on fire, waiting for the world around her to realize it and to "come dance with me."

Natalie Serber and Shout Her Lovely Name links:

the author's website

Huffington Post review
Kirkus review
The Millions review
New York Times review
Oprah review
Publishers Weekly review
San Francisco Chronicle review

Literary Mama interview with the author
Salon essays 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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