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March 3, 2014

Book Notes - Pamela Ribon "Notes to Boys"

Notes to Boys

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.

Pamela Ribon's memoir Notes to Boys: And Other Things I Shouldn't Share in Public shares letters the author sent to young men when she was younger, framed by commentary by the author as an adult, creating a book both hilarious and unsettling.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"[Ribon] bares her teenage soul in this hilariously endearing memoir, which chronicles her youthful passions. In asides dropped in between the text of the notes, Ribon winces at the flowery prose she used to woo elusive teenage boys. She also shares mortifying memories, such as an uncomfortable sex talk from her father and a sexual encounter that goes awry thanks to the unfortunate presence of gum. Imaginative children of the 1980s and '90s will likely see themselves in Ribon's writing, as will like-minded teens today."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.

In her own words, here is Pamela Ribon's Book Notes music playlist for her memoir, Notes to Boys: And Other Things I Shouldn't Share in Public:


Notes to Boys (And Other Things I Shouldn't Share in Public) is a collection of essays and stories from my teen years, when I had a lot of thoughts and feelings, but not a lot of boundaries. I wrote hundreds of letters and poems to a handful of carefully chosen boys, some of whom had never once spoken to me.

When I was thirteen, I wrote a two-hundred page letter to a boy as a Christmas present. At fifteen, I wrote a seven-page letter to a boy and then immediately called him to read it to him over the phone. Every. Single. Word.

I left love notes in lockers. I dropped poems in textbooks. I spent months writing terrible erotica, which I'd fold into these awkward origami packets. I wanted to be some irresistible combination of Sylvia Plath and Anais Nin. Looking back, I realize now I much more like a terrifying combination of Mary Catherine Gallagher… and Gallagher.

Book Notes is perfect for Notes to Boys because so many of my notes were delivered wrapped around a mixtape. A mixtape I would've been making while writing the letter I was going to wrap around the mixtape. Probably the letter would be about the mixtape I was making, and how I was writing a letter about it. The point is: I was exhausting. And accidentally hilarious.

If I had to make the ultimate mixtape for Notes to Boys, a song for just about every broken heart included in these pages, it would look something like this:

Metallica—"Fade to Black"

Oh, that first boy with the floppy hair and the skateboard and the one-syllable answers to all of your questions. The one who takes your two-hundred page letter, and responds by hand-drawing the guitar tab for "Harvester of Sorrow."

Since it's hard to love heavy metal just because boys do, I appreciated Metallica's softer side. This was the first song on a mixtape I played for myself every night before I went to sleep. I'm sure somewhere a therapist read that confession and thought, "She should call me."

U2—"With Or Without You"

I mean, that's it, right there. Probably what every single one of these boys thought about me. "I can't live with or without you. With you because you are kinda crazypants. Without you because you sometimes do my homework." This was actually The Song for one of my relationships. A boyfriend who broke up with me after thirty-six hours. What's the formula they say to get over a break-up? Half the time you were together? When you are fifteen, it goes the other way. It takes fifteen times as long as you were together. Actually… how old am I now? Because I'm still writing about it with the same sting, so I don't know how long it takes. I'll let you know if I ever find out. (Why did he leave me? What did I do wrong? And I give and I give and I give myself away….)

Jane's Addiction—"Summertime Rolls"

There's an entire chapter in Notes to Boys about an unfortunate ending to a sexual encounter that happened while this song was playing in the background. I'm sure hundreds of teen girls had disappointing experiences to Jane's Addiction songs during the Nineties. Maybe we need a Tumblr for it, or something. Janesayswhattheeffwasthat.tumblr.com.

Edie Brickell and New Bohemians—"Now"

I once called a boy, waited for him to pick up, and then held my phone to my stereo speakers and let this song play in its entirety. Then I probably wrote him a letter about it, only to call him up and read it to him over the phone. There was no stopping me. I was like Lloyd Dobler with a hundred boomboxes.

Guns N' Roses—"Patience"

That part where Axl screeches "Oooh, I need you! WooooAAAH I NEEEEED YOU! WOOOOOOO THIS TIIIIIIIiiiIIIiiiIIIiiiIIIIIiiiime"? That is what it felt like to be me, 1989-present.

The Cure—"One More Time"

I once made out with a boy while this song played on a loop for about an hour and a half. To this day I have a quite personal Pavlovian response to Robert Smith's warble. I can't believe I just told you that.

(That's kind of what the entire book is like. Me telling you something and then wishing I could take it back but it's too late and you sitting there like THIS IS A LOT OF PERSONAL INFORMATION, LADY. I AM LAUGHING BUT ALSO FEEL LIKE TALKING ABOUT YOU TO THIS STRANGER NEXT TO ME ON THE SUBWAY BECAUSE I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS IS HAPPENING AND I'M SCARED FOR YOU.)

The Breeders—"Do You Love Me Now?"

Or ….now? How about now? Now? I can wait. Oh, you might be moving? That's okay. I like writing letters. --Where are you going?

Red Hot Chili Peppers—"Pretty Little Ditty"

Are you a boy I had a crush on somewhere between my freshman year of high school and my freshman year of college? Then you definitely received a mixtape from me that had this song as the last song on either side one or two, as it's a quick little instrumental number that fills the last bit of space before the tape ends. Plus it has a little bit of longing in Flea's solo and shows you that I'm cool and it's cool and we're cool and DO YOU LOVE ME NOW?

Pearl Jam—"Black"

I know someday you'll have a beautiful life. I know you'll be the sun in somebody else's sky but WHY WHYYYYYY WHYYYIIEEEHIII AH-CAN'T IT BE, AH-CAN'T IT BEEEEeeeEEEeeeEEEEEEE miiiiiiIIIIIIIIIIIIAH-HIIIIIIiinne?

These days I can really frighten/amaze people with my karaoke rendition of Pearl Jam's finest love song about lost love. But back then, I was terrifying teenage boys with my insistence that this song was ABOUT US.

Smashing Pumpkins—"Cherub Rock"

This song is the star of one of the essays in the book, on a summer night before I left for college. A boy tried to use a lyric on me as a pick-up line. You would think it would work on a girl like me, but instead it did the opposite. Maybe it's because Billy Corgan acted like a lot of those boys that I pined for—you could tell he was trying to be cool but was worried maybe he wasn't cool, so he over-cooled himself until everybody was a little uncomfortable looking at him. And then he got mad at us for not knowing what to do about what he was doing. I lived near Houston, Texas, at the time, where the Smashing Pumpkins had an ongoing feud. They would intentionally play aggressively disappointing sets. I wasted so much money over the years, thinking they would come around and play for real. How could they sound so good when I was alone and they were in my head, but once we were in front of each other in real life, everything went to shit? That's what my love life was like in high school, you guys. And….SCENE.


Pamela Ribon and Notes to Boys: And Other Things I Shouldn't Share in Public links:

the author's blog
video trailer for the book

HelloGiggles review
LitReactor review
Monkey See review

Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Going in Circles
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Why Moms Are Weird
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for You Take It from Here
Whatever essay 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
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)
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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