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November 8, 2013

Book Notes - Laura Hemphill "Buying In"

Buying In

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.

Laura Hemphill's Buying In is an impressive debut novel set in the world of high finance, a true literary thriller.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"The world of high finance provides a thrilling setting for Hemphill's fine debut. The author...clearly knows her way around Wall Street, but, more importantly, can make us care about her characters’ successes and failures, against a formidable backdrop rife with competition, backstabbing, and soul-searching."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.

In her own words, here is Laura Hemphill's Book Notes music playlist for her novel, Buying In:

Sophie Landgraf, the protagonist of Buying In, is struggling to find her footing in the male-dominated world of Wall Street. She's making plenty of mistakes in the office, but she doesn't dare plug in her headphones because she wouldn't want to be seen as not paying full attention to her spreadsheets. Not when it's the eve of the financial crisis, and layoffs are imminent. Here's a playlist of what she wishes she could listen to while she's at work:

"Rich Girl" by Gwen Stefani
Fresh out of Yale, Sophie is a few months into her first real job and finally admitting to herself that she's not very good at it. She probably thinks back to all the dorm parties when she danced to this song – badly – while dreaming about landing a job on Wall Street that would allow her to leave behind her modest, small-town roots and become part of the financial elite. She's probably a little embarrassed that she thought working on Wall Street would be easy.

"Myth" by Beach House
If she were being perfectly honest with herself, Sophie would make this her theme song. It's dreamy and tentative, and captures her yearning to reinvent herself without knowing exactly how to make that happen. But she isn't being perfectly honest with herself, and she doesn't like people knowing how insecure she is. Which is why her self-assigned theme song would be something stronger, something more positive, something like…

"Independent Woman" by Destiny's Child
Sophie's boyfriend, Will, can accuse her of selling out as much as he wants. She's proud to be among the fiscally fit. Not only is she fully supporting herself, she's helping her artist father, who's struggling with his mortgage. Will wouldn't be able to make rent without the help of his parents, but Sophie is one of "the honeys who makin' money."

"White Collar Boy" by Belle and Sebastian
Sophie wouldn't want anyone to know this, but she has a bad habit of “exploring” her bosses' desks late at night when she's the only one left in the office. Sometimes she takes things. She knows she shouldn't, and she's terrified of being caught, like the guy in this song, but she can't help herself.

"My Mathematical Mind" by Spoon
Sophie lucked out getting a cubicle next to Jordanne, the only other woman in their group. Jordanne has everything: an untraceable accent, an American Express platinum card, and the ability to skip the lines at the hottest clubs and take Sophie with her. The only problem with sitting next to Jordanne is that all the senior guys compare her and Sophie, and Sophie's pretty positive she's not the favorite. Jordanne's the sort of person who makes sure all the dollar signs on a spreadsheet are perfectly aligned. Sophie's spreadsheets aren't pretty, and she doesn't particularly care – she majored in applied math, not applied bullshit.

Sibelius Violin Concerto
Late one night, Sophie stumbles upon Ethan Pearce, her ruthless boss, standing in his office in the dark, listening to this piece. She doesn't know what to make of it, or of Ethan. Si-be-li-us. The word, the music – both sound like "loneliness."

"Stockholm Syndrome" by Yo La Tengo
When she first started on the job, Sophie was petrified of Ethan. His dark eyes have a coldness, like he's assessing your worth. And he's in such good shape it looks like he could snap you in two. OK. So, maybe, after months of trying unsuccessfully to impress him with her newly acquired Excel skills, she might have developed a little bit of a crush. Not that she'd ever do anything about it.

"Career Opportunities" by The Clash
Don't get hit by any falling bodies on your way out… With layoffs ripping through Wall Street, not to mention Main Street, Sophie is petrified of losing her job. Thank god she's working on the only live deal in her group – that should protect her, at least for a while. The question is, when the deal goes sour, how far will she go to get ahead?

Laura Hemphill and Buying In links:

the author's website
the book's website

BookPage review
Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review

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

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