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October 29, 2013

Book Notes - Scott McClanahan "Hill William"

Hill William

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.

Scott McClanahan's Hill William unfolds in vignettes written in dynamic and honest prose. McClanahan is as talented a storyteller as anyone writing today, and though this is his darkest book, it is his best yet.

Stream a Spotify playlist of these tunes.

In his own words, here is Scott McClanahan's Book Notes music playlist for his novel, Hill William:

I did a playlist for my book Hill William. These are the songs that are inside of the book. This is not what I was listening to when I wrote it, but these are the songs that the people inside of the book would listen to. I wrote little memories to go with the songs.


But first a clip from Conan The Barbarian


Peter, Paul, and Mary "Puff the Magic Dragon"

We used to have this on a record my mother played when she was a first grade teacher. I used to play the hell out of it when I was a kid. One spring my mother was depressed and having a rough time of it. My dad used to ask me to look after her and tell him if she was doing anything strange. I used to pretend I didn't know what he meant even though I knew exactly what he meant. One Saturday when I was in fourth grade she just flopped on the couch and slept and it was her birthday. I can't remember if it was a good day or a bad day but I went outside to play and I thought of an idea. I had a couple of dollars I always saved. So I snuck down the mountain and went to this store called AIDES (yes that was the name of the store). It felt dangerous and I bought her a card. When I came back she didn't even know I had been gone. She was sleeping. I slid the card under her cover. When she woke up she read it and she cried. What did I write? That's between the two of us.

Peter, Paul, and Mary, "I'm Being Swallowed By A Boa Constrictor"

This is still the truest song ever written. This feels like somebody dying to me. You are being swallowed by a boa constrictor right now and you don't even know it. You are. Look down. One is at your feet, but it's probably invisible.

"Stardust," Nat King Cole version

This was my mothers favorite song. It makes me think of the backyard in Rainelle and the summer and her putting clothes out to dry. It's Saturday and my father is getting ready to go to work for the late shift at Kroger. He has a t-shirt on and I'm watching him shave and wishing I had muscles like him. That afternoon Mom and I probably go out. I have stolen a key from some store and I keep it in my pocket so that if anyone attacks us I can protect her. These are still the days when I think you can protect something. I should have listened to this song and realized you can't protect anything. You can only shut your eyes and dream.

New Kids on the Block, "Tonight"

When I was in the sixth grade I liked this girl named Cara. She lived in the house over the mountain from mine. She was about four years older than me and I was in love with her. She had a boyfriend though who was older. He even had a mustache and pubic hair. I was so crazy about her I used to go down into the woods behind her house and carve little messages on trees. CARA IS AMAZING. CARA IS SWEET. SM/CH. I don't even know if she ever saw them or even knew who I was, but I did it anyway.

I think of her when I think of this song because she liked New Kids on the Block and saw them at the State Fair. I wanted to go with her, but I was too busy carving her messages on trees.


"Sweet Child O Mine" by Guns N Roses
Marky Mark "Wildside"
Young MC's "Bust a Move"
I listened to the Fat Boys a bunch.
I liked the Arsenio Hall rap project Chunky A. I pretty much liked all rappers who pointed out their weight problems.
The Statler Brothers "I'll Go to My Grave Loving You"
The Oak Ridge Boys "Elvira."
This is the sound of God.
Franz Liszt "The Hungarian Rhapsody"


Cinderella, "You Don't Know What You Got Till It's Gone"

I always think of my friend Mickey when I hear this song. He's not in Hill William, but he puked on my head. One night he ate a whole box of ice cream sandwiches over at my house. I woke up and there was brown gunk all over me. Mickey said, "I think the cat must have got inside and crapped." I woke up my mom and she smelled the brown gunk and said, "That's not cat shit. That's vomit." About that time Mickey started puking again.

When we were in 9th grade a man who lived next door to Mickey blew his head off with a 30/30. The man's wife came out screaming. Mickey went over and he was dead. Mickey said he didn't even have a head anymore but just where a head used to be. He helped the wife clean up the house after they took her husband's body away. Mickey was always quiet after that.

Alabama, "Roll On" "Dixieland Delight"

I never really liked Alabama but everyone else did. I didn't approve of their beards. I heard the bass player in Alabama tell a great story about Jerry Lee Lewis. The bass player was working as a gas station attendant at this little out of the way gas station. I guess Jerry Lee was drunk and plowed his Cadillac into the gas station. He filled up though and then he ended up crashing into the gas pump. The bass player came running out and saw it was Jerry lee Lewis. He asked Jerry Lee how he was going to explain all the damage to the owners of the gas station. Jerry Lee lit a cigarette and got back in his car. Then he said, "Tell em The Killer was here."

Alabama, "Tennessee River"

This song reminds me of my friend Derrick in the book who ended up shooting and wounding an albino deer. I helped him look for it all day and into the next but the blood trail dried up and we never found it. I thought that you couldn't kill the rare things. A month later I was walking in the woods and I came across it. It was dead and rotting. I almost didn't believe Derrick when he told me it was an albino deer, but it was an albino deer. I could see now. I knew that it's always the rare things that get killed. I just left it there in woods, rotting.


There is this (I never click on these things either, but go ahead. It's okay):

And this:

And this

And then there is this.

These people are singing because they have to. These people are listening because if they don't--then they will die. This is the only reason to do anything. I hope Hill William is a book like that. I hope Hill William is a book like this:

"If you bring forth what is within you
what you bring forth will save you.
If you do not bring forth what is within you
what you do not bring forth will destroy you"
--The Gospel of Thomas

So let us be destroyed.

Scott McClanahan and Hill William links:

the author's website
the author's Wikipedia entry
excerpt from the book
video trailer for the book

ACM review
Hobart review
PopMatters review
Verbicide review

Atticus Review interview with the author
The Coffin Factory review
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for The Collected Works of Scott McClanahan Vol. 1
Publishers Weekly profile of 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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