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April 1, 2014

Book Notes - Ben Tanzer "Lost in Space: A Father's Journey There and Back Again"

Lost in Space

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.

Ben Tanzer's honesty is striking throughout his new book, Lost in Space: A Father's Journey There and Back Again. These enlightening essays candidly capture the highs and lows of parenting.

Joshua Mohr wrote of the book:

"Ben Tanzer has that ever elusive elixir, that ability to be both funny and poignant simultaneously. These essays have that requisite gallows humor about being a parent, but there's tenderness oozing from the page, too, a kind of trickling empathy."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.

In his own words, here is Ben Tanzer's Book Notes music playlist for his essay collection, Lost in Space: A Father's Journey There and Back Again:

It all starts with Glee.

Which is not to suggest that everything starts with Glee. Just this thing. And this thing was the music in the house.

Some of you might feel empathy for me, and it might even be growing by leaps and bounds right now, but there's no need to pity me. Really. Well, unless it sells books of course, because if it sells books, please don't hesitate.

Still, hear me out.

There was the Jonas Brothers, the soundtracks to High School Musical and Camp Rock, and Kids Bop, Volumes One through Seven Million.

And before that there were Barney CDs and Marlo Thomas and who knows what else, I think I may have blocked it all out.

But then Glee came along, and there was change across the land. Change is something you can generally count on regardless with children. Once there is a pattern, it will end, that's just how it works. Sometimes it's welcome, and sometimes not, but in this case it was.

Which is to say that the music in the house sort of sucked, and then it did not totally suck, and it was Glee that paved the way.

Sad, but true, and with that, there is playlist for Lost in Space, a book about being a father, and a son, and the soundtrack for what things sound like for this particular father, and his sons.

Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)/Beyonce

All it was supposed to be was a field goal attempt. A game winning one of course. But that's all, and yet there was Kurt hoping to please his dad, then the dancing, and Beyonce, and he kicks the football, it's good, there is mad celebration, and a love for Beyonce in our house that has not waned. So hate Glee if you will, but I will not, because anything by Beyonce beats the soundtrack to Camp Rock any day of the week, even if said soundtrack includes the sublime, in our house anyway, Demi Lovato.

And speaking of Demi Lovato.

Neon Lights/Demi Lovato, Wrecking Ball/Miley Cyrus, Roar/Katy Perry, Applause/Lady GaGa

I don't want to imply that these songs, or singers, are interchangeable, not exactly, but Beyonce did beget Demi, Miley, Katy, and GaGa, and if the ultimate blending of all of their music into one glorious mass of bubblegum pop madness isn't an argument for something, say, I don't know, a desire for popular radio to play anything else, seriously, anything please, at least you can dance to these songs without your brain slowly imploding into a morass of cover song hell.

Which I believe used to be Dick Clark's catchphrase, right?

Rolling in the Deep/Adele

Adele gets her own category, because in our house she is her own category. Which is not to say I'm clear what that category is, though I think it is something like the music we play so we can cry while making pancakes.

Los Angeles/X

The irony of course, is that it wasn't always like this. We once listed to X, and Myles, the older one, in particular loved X. Really. Which allowed me to feel hip and subversive, and somehow above, or at least outside, all of that nonsense about being forced to listen to kids' music. Not in our house. We had retained our cool. As cool as you can be while still working 9-5 and stressing all the time about health care and 401(k)s anyway. And then one night as Myles and I were starting off on a road trip, I surprised him with Wild Gift by X, and as the opening notes slammed into the otherwise quiet night, he said, "No, no X!" "Why?" I said alarmed. "Because it's not kid's music. Disney is kid's music."

And that was that for years. Until Glee. See above.

Istanbul (not Constantinople)/They Might Be Giants and Hells Bells/ACDC

Among my endless attempts to somehow try and play something, anything, interesting during the post-X dark ages, I tried to introduce They Might Be Giants to the boys via their kids albums, and ACDC, by appealing to the loudness of the songs, something they otherwise embrace in all other facets of their lives. They Might Be Giants didn't quite stick, but the boys love for geography and all things New York City has at least kept the discussion of once listening to Istanbul (not Constantinople) going for years. Meanwhile, I was sure Hell Bells would hit, but as the song ended, and the walls stopped shaking, Myles looked at me and said, "I thought you said they were loud."


Jessie's Girl/Rick Springfield, Bullet in the Head/Rage Against the Machine, Ice Ice Baby/Vanilla Ice

Timeouts can be very nice. Kid in room. Negative energy dispersed. Violence averted. But sometimes you need to go to your room. Clear your head. Breathe like a motherfucker. That too can very nice. Especially so when there's music. I cover this in more depth during the Vanilla Ice Interlude in Lost in Space, but suffice to say, sometimes you a self-imposed timeout calls for nostalgia, other times rage, and sometimes humor, to make it through the day, or at least the moment when everything is about to blow-up, and at those times I suggest these songs.

Defective Kids/Peekaboos

I am at a reading at the Empty Bottle. There are words and music and late at night the Peekaboos take the stage. They are young, punk, filled with boundless energy and loudness, and they have this red haired singer and lead guitarist, all ramped-up and lovely, and she's wearing this killer dress, and she's throwing her hair around, and as I watch her, I am struck how much one of my younger son Noah's beautiful, little dress wearing, red haired friend's looks like her, and how that could be this friend on stage one day, and this image reminds how that is one thing about parenting you can never escape, whether you are in a club or writing an essay: everything is filtered through your fucking kids, every thought, every idea, and feeling, even music, it's inescapable.

Let it Go/Idina Menzel, or is it Adele Dazeem?

The sheer ubiquity of this song's existence across the entire universe and beyond, not to mention the limited expanses of our two bedroom apartment, points to the fact that despite the endless commentary I keep reading and hearing about the intense love, nay ferocity, young girls feel about this song, it's not only girls who love it. It's boys too, because Let it Go makes everyone feel like a God or Goddess. Which is a pretty amazing thing really when you stop and think about it.

So please do think about it. Go ahead, I'll wait.

Side by Side/Dan Zanes

One final shout-out to the Dan Zanes, he of the crazed hair and quasi-punk, folk, hipster tunes, which allows so many parents, this one certainly, to feel even remotely alternadad or mom. I don't even know if the boys even liked Dan Zanes when they were really little, but if nothing else, we could always make them listen to him with minimal fussing, while not feeling terrible about ourselves. All of which is to say, that one day we went to see Dan Zanes at the Old Town Music School, and Jon Langford, yes that one, from the Mekons and Waco Brothers, was sitting next to us with his kid, and during the show Dan Zanes invited him on stage to perform, and when he did, I looked at Myles all wild-eyed, and like my dad before me, trying to make me care about paintings or cows on the side on the road, or whatever he wanted me to better appreciate, I said, "dude, fuck, wow, look, it's Jon Langford, the Jon Langford, of the Mekons." To which he replied, "Who cares?"

Who cares? I do. And apparently way too much at that.

Ben Tanzer and Lost in Space: A Father's Journey There and Back Again links:

the author's blog

Babble review
Chicago Magazine review
Entropy review

All Write Already! interview with the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for for 99 Problems
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for for Lucky Man
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for for Most Likely You Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for for Orphans

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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