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March 25, 2014

Book Notes - Anthony De Sa "Kicking the Sky"

Kicking the Sky

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.

Anthony De Sa skillfully brings to life Toronto's Portuguese community of the late 1970s in his debut novel Kicking the Sky, a gritty coming-of-age tale brimming with humanity.

The National Post wrote of the book:

"The novel remains an impressive achievement: a synthesis of two fraught worlds. It reminds us that hidden gay lives blossom, or shrivel, inside every larger community. Kicking the Sky bridges its polarized worlds, staying true to the humanity in each. It's one of the best things fiction can do."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.

In his own words, here is Anthony De Sa's Book Notes music playlist for his novel, Kicking the Sky:


Music played a large role for me during the writing of my book. I downloaded many of Billboard’s greatest hits from 1977-1978, and would listen to these songs throughout the writing of the novel. Again, there is an element of self-consciousness in offering this playlist, but if it were not for the recollections these songs gave birth to, the world I hope I’ve created may not have been so real.

"Solidao" by Amalia Rodrigues

Saturday morning was house-cleaning day. My mother would wake up early and place Amalia Rodrigues’s greatest hits album on the turntable. She’d open windows and doors to air out the house, before beginning her meticulous cleaning as the sorrowful sounds of Amalia’s fado swept across our home and spilled onto the sidewalk.


"Tonight’s The Night (Gonna be Alright)" by Rod Stewart

No song was as popular as Rod Stewart's top hit in 1977. His raspy voice blared through the radio, only adding to the static quality of our small transistor radios. That’s the image that pops into my head when I think of this song; duct-taping my small transistor radio to my bike’s handlebars and riding through the city.


“Evergreen: Love Theme” from A Star is Born by Barbra Streisand

It takes me back to a place. My sister would play this small 45-RPM on REPEAT throughout the day. She never got tired of it. I hated it, but I must admit, there is something to Streisand’s voice and the way she sings those words that is quite impressive. She coos like a pigeon at times. But it’s the black and white album image—her porcelain skin, her permed hair—, which makes it indicative of a particular time.

"Dancing Queen" by Abba

It’s the kind of happy song my immigrant parents would have picked to dance to at a party or family gathering. They were convinced ABBA’s hit, Fernando, was written about a Portuguese love affair. After that hit, this band could do no wrong. All their pop songs were repetitive and catchy. My parents could sing along; the words were simple and few. I think they puffed up a bit just feeling like they knew a pop song and could sing to it. (I’m smiling thinking about it)


"You Made me Believe in Magic" by Bay City Rollers

My sister was decked out in plaid that summer. Her jeans cuffed with tartan, a matching scarf draped around her neck, falling across her Bay City Rollers t-shirt. What young girl didn’t swoon over the shaggy haired heartthrobs from Scotland. She had a huge crush on Woody. She’d cut out pictures of their toothy grins from Tiger Beat magazine, covered every square inch of her bedroom walls.


"Stayin’ Alive" by Bee Gees

Probably the biggest movie and album of 1978. It changed the way we dressed, the way we walked, and it harkened a kind of sexual awakening in teens across the world. It ushered in a dance craze that could exist outside the discos of big cities. The songs contained in this album became integral in shaping and defining 1978; I couldn’t help but revisit them while writing.


"We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions" by Queen

Every boy creamed his jeans singing out this anthem of victory! It was everywhere. It became a sports anthem, a rally cry, and a song of brotherhood when we were far too young to understand anything about what the words meant. We just knew that chanting those words empowered us, and if we said them often enough the words became true.


"Don’t Stop" by Fleetwood Mac

This song summed up everything we were feeling as kids: wanting that next day to come FAST! We were always waiting for something bigger and better around the corner. I guess that’s the kind of thing we were anxious about as kids—speeding up time so we could be older, and if we were older then we’d be allowed to get into all other kinds of trouble. It never stopped us.

"In Dreams" by Roy Orbison

As in my first book, Barnacle Love, my father would play this song over and over when we were kids. He pitied Roy Orbison because he thought he was blind. He asked me once what the candy-colored clown they called the sandman was. I chose that moment to tell my father Roy Orbison wasn't blind. He simply continued to sway to the music. (I got to use this in Kicking the Sky).

“Hino do Senhor Santo Cristo”

This anthem (hino) is played by many bands in the Island of Sao Miguel in the Azores. It is the song that was written for the most revered saint on the island, Senhor Santo Cristo. I grew up with the graphic image of this saint floating in my head, the hino plucking at my brain. I couldn’t help but make it part of my novel.


Anthony De Sa and Kicking the Sky links:

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

The Common review
Globe and Mail review
National Post review
Quill and Quire review
Toronto Star review

Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Barnacle Love
Macleans.ca 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)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
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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