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April 21, 2014

Book Notes - Joseph Riippi "Because"


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.

Joseph Riippi's incantory novel Because is startlingly raw and beautiful, a powerful book from a talented writer.

HTMLGIANT wrote of the book:

"It hurts, a lot, to read something so raw, composed with few tools besides human desire. But once you have finished—once the proverbial nail is in the tree—it is even more difficult to get it back out, to forget a book as open and rending as this."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.

In his own words, here is Joseph Riippi's Book Notes music playlist for his novel, Because:

I tried to empty myself out with this book. The entire idea and process was to write as much "wanting" as I could until I'd hollowed out. That's when it was done. Then I tried to shape it into some larger "want" I didn't know I had. Thus the music that accompanied this was that for which I had the most heart. Through my whole life. The stuff that beat the memories out of me best, the songs and records I remember louder than the rest.

Sigur Ros "Untitled 1 (aka Vaka)"

First time I heard this song I was stuck in a rainstorm. I missed the bus and it was a long walk back to my dorm from the local record store. It was the Tuesday Sigur Ros' ( ) record came out. I was going through a rough patch in terms of mental health, my medications were growing, and I was writing more and more in these little notebooks I got at the convenience store. Really bad poems. So I was walking, sneakers soaking up puddles, and listening to this first track for the first time. I remember wanting so very, very, very badly to make something as beautiful as this song. It was all I wanted. I think I've heard more objectively beautiful songs since then, but in the memory of walking through the rain, with the heat lightning, the dark sky, a deep, deep depression, this remains perhaps the most beautiful listening experience of my life. Now I put this record on whenever I feel like writing isn't going well. Whenever life isn't going well. I remember wanting. I remembered and listened a lot while writing Because. I'm listening to this right now.

Miles Davis "All Blues"

I have a hard time writing to anything with vocals. At least vocals in English that might distract from whatever I'm working on. It's fine while editing, but when it's the digging up of raw stuff I'm too easily distracted by someone else's languages. "All Blues" provides the best kind of non-words to write to. Rhythmic and meandering and over eleven minutes long. Always makes me wish I could play something brass.

Brian Eno Music for Airports

Another "while writing" record. Only on vinyl. That's a must. The flaws in the copy I have make it a necessity. There's a bit of a scratch midway through "2/2" on the B-side; it's like a little reminder that the record's about to finish and I'll need to flip it back to the start soon. I love that it's unique to my Music for Airports, too. I remember I bought the copy during college at Plan 9 records in Richmond, Virginia, with a best friend who worked at a different record store. I remember he said upon seeing this seemingly pristine copy, "Don't let me touch it. If I touch it I'll buy it." I think it was the first record on which I paid more then ten dollars; I think it was twenty-five or thereabouts. This same friend and I had a rule that we wouldn't allow ourselves to purchase a record unless we were absolutely sure we'd listen to it all the way through for each dollar it cost. Twenty-five was a lot of spins, especially on an ambient record. There are still five dollar records I bought back then that I haven't gotten through five times yet. But my Music for Airports is the vinyl I listen to more than any other. Probably worth a couple hundred.

Dismemberment Plan "The City"

So much of Because was born out of my relationship with my wife. It's a crazy deep, deep, deep kind of love I never thought I'd have, and the "wants" of Because are often centered on wants for us both in the future—concepts of family and home and happiness, etcetera. She's a year older than me, we met in college. For a year she was in New York City and I was still in Virginia, buying records. Our early relationship was sound-tracked to the Dismemberment Plan's Emergency & I, and I visited New York often in that year we were apart. But more visits means more goodbyes, and I remember taking a departing bus from Port Authority and waving through a stinky window and feeling that sick love-nausea of falling. That early love, before it's been wrapped around you and worn comfortable like a sweater, I had to get it into the book. "The city's been dead since you've been gone," Travis Morrison sings at the top of his lungs. I listened to "The City" a lot to feel that nausea harder. The whole record, really. Love.

Phosphorescent "Wolves"

My wife and I have been to Berlin together three times. The first time, Phosphorescent's Pride album had just come out and I was listening to it a lot. My wife was in Berlin for a grad school trip at the art biennale and I'd tagged along. One day while she was at an exhibition I got a little lost in Prenzlauer Berg. I'd been looking around the city and just walking, walking, walking, really loving what my life had become, was becoming. I listened to the song over and over, trying to attach sentiment to the moment through "Wolves," a kind of counterweighted sentiment to what I already had with Sigur Ros. Even though "Wolves" is full of blood and claws and "tearing holes in the ground," it still makes me so happy whenever I hear it.

David Bowie Hunky Dory

I finished Because on the third Berlin trip. Spent a few long days on a rooftop in Prenzlauer Berg reading it aloud to myself in a couched corner. The ambient music on the roof was out of my control, run by the bartender. The Berliners love their beer and Bowie, and these were a few great days. I remember Hunky Dory coming on and it reminding me of my father, when I was six or seven years old and he had a CD player put in the car where the tape deck had been. He would drive me home from little league or basketball practice and we always listened to one of the only two CDs he had, Sgt Peppers or Changesbowie. I didn't really care for the Bowie back then but I remember him singing along to the "Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes" at the start. When Hunky Dory came on over the rooftop speakers just as I was finishing Because, the "ch-ch-ch-ch-ch" took me right back to being in that car, being carried home, when my world was so small and yet felt so impossibly huge and I was afraid of everything. I remember wishing I could have told that six or seven year old boy that twenty-five years later he'd be sitting on a rooftop in a different country, married and impossibly happy with no medication, finishing a book and feeling damned good about the book that it became. I wonder what difference that would have made. I wonder what difference those two CDs in my father's car made. I wonder what Bowie was reading while recording in Berlin.

Joseph Riippi and Because links:

the author's website
excerpts from the book (at Atticus Review)
excerpt from the book (at The Collagist)
excerpt from the book (at Recommended Reading)
excerpt from the book (at Vol. 1 Brooklyn)

LunaLuna review

Extract(s) interview with the author
Vol. 1 Brooklyn 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

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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