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January 21, 2014

Book Notes - Diane Johnson "Flyover Lives"

Flyover Lives

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.

Diane Johnson explores her family history and Midwestern roots in her memoir Flyover Lives.

Kirkus Reviews wrote of the book:

"Johnson is a felicitous writer, cheerfully alert to irony and absurdity. The unfailing deftness of the prose makes this book a pleasure.”

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


In her own words, here is Diane Johnson's Book Notes music playlist for her memoir, Flyover Lives:


My book is a memoir, and therefore my selections begin with oldies- ones reaching back to childhood, where I was riveted by the soundtrack of the musical Oklahoma, but particularly the one about poor Judd, with his fingernails newly cleaned: "His fingernails have never been so clean,"... which really motivated children to clean their nails.

Oklahoma: "Poor Jud Is Dead"

Flatt and Scruggs

Gerry Mulligan

Elvis Presley: "Hound Dog"

Who could recapture the excitement we felt, in college in Missouri, listening to the radio from Nashville, with the first Rock and Roll we'd heard, and especially the thrilling Elvis, who was also rumored to French-kiss his women fans waiting outside stage-doors, though we never had this opportunity.

Janis Joplin: "Me and Bobby McGee"

This brings back a particular visit to New Orleans, newly married, where we played this track dozens of times on the jukebox in a bar, in love with Joplin's brilliance but also trying to figure out what its portentous and mysterious lyrics were trying to tell us.

Tracy Nelson: "Down so Low," with "Mother Earth"

This is sort of Rock and Country both, a mellow and endearing combination from a fellow midwesterner turned, for a while in the sixties, San Franciscan, which is where I got interested in her.

J.S. Bach: The Goldberg Variations

Glenn Gould, of course. This fascinating work, and fascinating pianist, give the illusion that one, with trying, could and should play it yourself; it is within your reach somehow, even if you don't have a piano. Its enormous complexity is lucid and gives the illusion that art is always lucid, and lucidity and beauty are the same.

Kathleen Ferrier: "What is life?" from Orfeo or Die junge Nonne by Schubert

Ferrier's rich, dark, strange, contralto transformed anything she sang, but was particularly suited to Baroque and to German lieder. It was hard to decide between Gluck and Schubert, or any of the tracks on her fabulous CD of Schubert, Brahms and Schumann, though some of the early live recordings could use remastering. Here she is accompanied by Bruno Walter on the piano.

Bob Dylan, absolutely. "Mama, You Been On My Mind."

Or almost any of the songs of this genius and his inimitable, reedy voice. This one fits into my view back on the sixties.


Diane Johnson and Flyover Lives links:

the author's Wikipedia entry

BookPage review
Boston Globe review
Chicago Tribune review
ELLE review
Kirkus review
New York Times review
Publishers Weekly review
Washington Post review

The Daily Beast interview with 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
2013 Year-End Online Music 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)
weekly music release lists


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