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January 2, 2014

Book Notes - Kevin Sampsell "This Is Between Us"

This Is Between Us

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.

Kevin Sampsell's novel This Is Between Us is a mosaic of captured moments, a book that brilliantly builds an intricate portrait of a relationship.

Eugene Weekly wrote of the book:

"This Is Between Us is written in the same flash fiction, micro-chapter style as Kevin Sampsell’s debut memoir A Common Pornography. The Portland author is a master of the form, building rhythm and stitching together narrative using memory like a photo album."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


In his own words, here is Kevin Sampsell's Book Notes music playlist for his novel, This Is Between Us:

Some people have said they don't really think my new novel, This Is Between Us, is really a novel at all. There's no plot, some have said. The chapters (over two hundred of them) are too short, some argue. The main characters (a couple trying to forge a life together) don't even have names, the critics cry! Well, okay. Some of that may be true. But this book wasn't meant to be an ordinary novel. I wanted to create something new that was inspired by poetry, diary entries, confessional outbursts, hot sex, and love songs. Here are some musical footnotes to This Is Between Us.

pg 25: It's funny when you're getting to know someone and you're sort of judging their disposition. Like, they're "too cheery" or they're "too depressed." In this chapter, the couple compare their dark sides and bands like The Swans and Psychic TV are mentioned. Even though it's not as musically dark as a Throbbing Gristle track, I've always loved this song by Genesis P. Orridge's band. It's a song about the death of original Rolling Stone, Brian Jones.

pg 30: In this chapter, we find out which old pop stars (and the very specific looks) the couple nostalgically pine for.

For her, it's David Bowie.

David Bowie

and for him, Linda Ronstadt.

Linda Ronstadt

pg 43: It's a universal and romantic notion for you and your lover to have "your song." When I mention Fleetwood Mac in this chapter, I was thinking about this song (which always makes me cry).

The LL Cool J song is "I Need Love," which is maybe one of the worst love songs in the world (so, yeah, I'm guilty of using it ironically). Side note: I rapped the first part of I Need Love at the end of my Powell's reading from This Is Between Us in November. I was doing it a cappella and did not exactly nail it.

pg 53: In this chapter, the couple enjoy the movie, Say Anything, even though they're in different cities (they synch their DVD players and comment on the film over the phone). For me, besides the classic boom box scene with Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes," the best musical in the film is when Lili Taylor's character plays some of her angsty heartbreak anthems at a house party. "Joe Lies" is probably my favorite song from the movie. I have a cassette somewhere with my own version of the song on it (recorded around 1990 in Spokane, Washington). But I can't find any videos of Lili singing it. It's like she's more protective of her tunes than Prince or something. Oh, well. Guess you'll have to dig out your VHS copy and find the scene yourself. Here's Peter Gabriel's very literal video of his big hit though (sans boom box).

pg 119: The song "I'm Not In Love" by 10CC from 1975 is not directly mentioned in this chapter, but I was in a cafe recently and this song came on and I became mesmerized. Not just because cheesy old love songs go directly to my heart and squeeze like a mother, but because it's such a weird song! Lyrically, it's a complex little story about a dude fervently denying that he's in love, when in fact you can tell that he probably is! And musically, it has this really orchestral kind of feel and synthesized backing vocals. But my favorite part is the weird "Big boys don't cry" whispery part in the middle. It's like a dream sequence inside a song and it's pretty freakin' cool.

pg 134: I think Mazzy Star is probably (or should be) on everyone's make-out music mix. I wonder how many 20-somethings were conceived to a Mazzy Star album. The flip side of Mazzy Star's seminal influence on folks my age is that their music is probably a big sad reminder of how much more romantic they were back in the day.

pg 139: Sometimes when you're bumming out hard from a broken heart, all you can do is walk around aimlessly and go to a record store to space out at a listening station for a while. Music, especially upbeat rock music, can bring your heart back to life for a while or at least take your mind off your woes. I think when I wrote "the most American rock 'n' roll I could find" I was probably thinking about old Superchunk classics like this.

pg 160: Infidelity is explored in many parts of the book but a few chapters starting on this page dig into the woman's father and her memories of a shaky part of her childhood. One of my favorite songs ever is "Mistress" by Red House Painters, and if there was a movie version of this book, this would hopefully be on the soundtrack. I remember being obsessed with this version in 1993. It was on a special promotional CD that I snagged from a friend who worked at a record store. I used to listen to it in pitch black darkness and feel chills go up my spine.

pg 189: Like I said earlier about 10CC, sometimes hearing old love songs makes my heart all achy and sappy. When I was growing up, I remember the Supertramp album, Breakfast In America, was super popular. I think we may have even had it on 8-track (shows how old I am). In this chapter, I talk about the lyrics of "Goodbye Stranger" by Supertramp and how unusual it is that he says the word "wife" in them. I was going to link to the song here, but it seems as if Supertramp (perhaps specifically main songwriter/singer Roger Hodgson) put the kibosh on posting studio version videos on YouTube. Instead, I'll give you some Stray Cats (who are also mentioned in this chapter, and who, in real life, were one of my favorite bands in high school).

pg 206: I really love writing about live music and what people are doing at shows. Before I even became a book reader, I was mostly obsessed with reading British music magazines like NME and Melody Maker. My favorite things to read were the live reviews. This chapter is based on a real show I went to in 2012 by Mister Heavenly, a band which featured actor Michael Cera on bass. A lot of cell phones were on hand.

Michael Cera

pg 224: In this chapter, there is some frustration when no music videos of Beethoven can be found on YouTube. I just checked again and there still aren't. I mean, there are plenty of videos, but I mean someone like Anton Corbijn should make some with story lines or weird visuals (ooh, maybe Spike Jonze!). I imagine a Beethoven video would look kind of like this infamous Pixies video, with just a bunch of people stumbling in slow motion down a mountain.


Kevin Sampsell and This Is Between Us links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

Bustle review
Eugene Weekly review
HTMLGIANT review
LunaLuna Magazine review
Portland Review review

Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for A Common Pornography
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Creamy Bullets
Other People interview with the author
PDXX Collective interview with the author
Portland Monthly profile of the author
Rumpus interview with the author
Shelf Awareness profile of the author
Tin House 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)
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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