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December 3, 2013

Book Notes - Mark Haskell Smith "Raw: A Love Story"

Raw: A Love Story

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.

Mark Haskell Smith's Raw: A Love Story skillfully brings together the worlds of literary culture and reality television to hilarious and often poignant results in this thoroughly enjoyable satirical novel.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"By turns racy and profound, Haskell Smith writes at mach speed about what passes for culture in today’s often unreal world."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


In his own words, here is Mark Haskell Smith's Book Notes music playlist for his novel, Raw: A Love Story:


Raw - a love story is my attempt to write a romance novel. I wanted to do one of those classic bodice-rippers starring a hunky piece of man meat with rippling abdominal muscles and eyes that might be a little too close together who takes a shy and sexually inexperienced bookworm and savages her between the sheets. Of course in the classic Harlequin romance style, the young woman turns out to be a lusty, insatiable sex fiend who rides the hunk hard and teaches him the meaning of love in the process. Not surprisingly, Raw isn't really about any of that. Or, it is, but it's also about art, dialectical materialism, Joshua Tree, our celebrity obsessed culture, the Playboy Mansion, the importance of independent bookstores, and Buddha's teaching on the ultimate nature of reality.

Sepp Gregory is the reality TV star of Sex Crib and Love Express and was named People magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive." He does possess spectacular abs. Harriet Post is a book critic and blogger, a woman of fierce intelligence who loves nothing more than showing off her vocabulary and eviscerating a debut novel. It's a classic "opposites attract" brain meets brawn scenario. But then, love is complicated and so is the story, as Sepp's ghostwriter, an aspiring novelist, and his media whore ex-girlfriend arrive on the scene to make it a bizarre love rhombus.

So, in honor of love and lovers and romantic complications everywhere…

"California Girls" - David Lee Roth
Before Sepp became a household name, he was a semi-pro beach volleyball player in San Diego. He's not the kind of guy who'd dig the Beach Boys excellent original version, he's more the bro who would prefer "Diamond Dave's" rendition. But whichever version you prefer, is there a more inspirational song about American geography and regional customs than this?

"The Book of Love" - Magnetic Fields
Of course Harriet would like a band named after an Andre Breton novel. She's pretentious. I, on the other hand, simply adore Stephen Merritt's song.

"Swing Lo Magellan" - Dirty Projectors
Curtis, the ghostwriter of Sepp's novel, is a struggling Brooklyn novelist and he would probably love this song as much as I do, unless he felt that Dirty Projectors were too popular and, consequently, complete sell outs.

"Let Me Smell Your Dick" - RisKay
Roxy Sandoval is Sepp's ex-girlfriend and she is jealous and jealousy is a terrible, terrible thing.

"Sexual Healing" - Marvin Gaye
Not many songs prescribe a session of therapeutic treatment better than this.

"I Want Your Sex" - George Michael
As direct and clear a message as anyone would desire. George Michael doesn't play games, he's above innuendo. He wants your sex. He wants it now.

"Between the Sheets" - The Isley Brothers
Although Sepp seems to have sex everywhere but in bed, you have to count this as one of the great seduction songs of all time.

"Un Homme et Une Femme" performed by David Guetta
Nino Rota meets romantic techno-schmaltz in an elevator while rolling on MDMA. Perhaps a good soundtrack for oral sex...

"...Till The Cops Come Knockin'" - Maxwell
From the classic make out LP Urban Hang Suite. Has any singer uttered sweeter words than, "We're gonna be rockin', ‘till the cops come knockin'" I don't think so.

"A Night at the Playboy Mansion" - DJ Dimitri from Paris
There is a major scene in the book set at the Playboy Mansion. Here's the soundtrack for that.

"Je T'Aime… Moi Non Plus" - Serge Gainsbourg & Jane Birkin
I don't know what they're saying, but it seems post coital.

"Don't Speak (I Came to Make a Bang)" - Eagles of Death Metal
The Eagles of Death Metal are from Joshua Tree and there is a section in the novel that takes place there. It seems to make sense to me.

"By The Time I Get to Phoenix" - Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Sepp and Harriet take a strange road trip across the southwest and this version of Jimmy Webb's classic of love and regret resonates with sadness and strangeness in a most appropriate way.

"Perfect" - Smashing Pumpkins
This song makes me feel tingly. And then I roll over and go to sleep.


Bonus Tracks!

Three cuts from some of reality television's hottest stars.

"Jam" - Kim Kardashian
The Kardashian phenomenon mystifies me. It really does.

"Stars are Blind" - Paris Hilton
Reggae-inflected garbage from the one of reality television's true superstars.

"Faded Fluorescent" - Lisa D'Amato
From one of America's Next Top Models comes fake dubstep with lyrics that may have been written using William Burrough's experimental "cut and paste" method.


Mark Haskell Smith and Raw: A Love Story links:

the author's website

Publishers Weekly review
The Wrap review

Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for his novel Baked
The Los Angeles Review of Books contributions by the author
Writers Read guest post 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

Online "Best of 2013" Book Lists

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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