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April 21, 2014

Book Notes - Simon Wroe "Chop Chop"

Chop Chop

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.

Simon Wroe's debut novel Chop Chop is a dark, funny, and original look at life in a restaurant kitchen.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"Wroe's imaginative metaphors and gritty kitchen colloquialisms are the key ingredients in a story that will appeal to anyone with a taste for the morbid and the whimsical."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.

In his own words, here is Simon Wroe's Book Notes music playlist for his novel, Chop Chop:


Music is a big part of kitchen life: there's always a radio burbling in the background or some poor pot wash singing of lament and longing. The isle is full of noises, and the first draft of the novel was thronged with songs and sounds to echo that. It was a joyous, wonderful thing. But my publisher pointed out that sample rights were expensive and my kneecaps were easily breakable, so I had to kill my darlings. I thank Largehearted Boy for letting them live again.

Kate Bush, "Eat The Music"
An apt song for the exercise. Also a good example, I think, of the sort of merry sadism kitchens revel in. At first glance it seems happy, but the lyrics are all ripping out hearts and splitting people open.

The Animals, "We Gotta Get Out of This Place"
We used to sing this during clean down. Eight chefs screaming along at the top of their lungs. Extraordinary rendition. I don't know if any of The Animals ever worked in the service industry, but they nailed its effect on the soul.

Snoop Doggy Dogg, "Gin and Juice"
Gangsta rap and kitchens have so much in common. Barefaced attitude. Ludicrous bragging. Ingenious threats. A questionable, medieval outlook on women. Chefs are forever seeking fresh ways to offend. We need new insults, to misquote another writer.

The Stranglers, "Nice n Sleazy"
Since the book is set in a gastropub in Camden Town, we've got to have something punkish and swaggering. I'm a big fan of the insane synth solo halfway through.

Pigbag, "Papa's Got a Brand New Pigbag"
More post-punk! More wild solos! More madness!

Wicked, "Defying Gravity"
This was the favorite song of the sous chef at the last place I worked. He was a massive Northern guy with a big Smokey and the Bandit Burt Reynolds moustache. He used to bellow this song out with great sincerity, and tuneful he was not. "Something has changed within me / Something is not the same / I'm through with playing by the rules of someone else's game."

Tempa T, "Next Hype"
In my selection, I've tried to do justice to the diversity – and downright schizophrenia – of chefs' listening habits. After the Wicked soundtrack, the logical step would be some filthy grime. It's the sort of drastic switch which has left some chefs permanently stuck somewhere between Mary Poppins and Dizzee Rascal. This particular delicacy is five years old and remains the angriest song in the world. For evidence of rap's Sphinx-like presence in modern English, I ask you to consider the phrase "boy off da ting". It is used in six different sentences in the space of 12 seconds, and I still couldn't really tell you what it means.

Acid Pauli, "Den Mahlstrom rauf"
Because chefs love drugs.

Harry Nilsson, "Jump into the Fire"
Though less psychedelic than the previous offering, Nilsson's song is also all about the monumental build. This is how service feels in the kitchen: the slow gathering of elements as one by one each section joins the fray; the momentum swelling, insisting, dragging you along; every onslaught wilder and fiercer than the last. At two minutes in to this song your knee is trembling. At four minutes your whole body is shaking. At six minutes you've lost your shirt, shoes and house keys. And that lyric: "You can jump into the fire / But you'll never be free." Is there a chef alive who wouldn't appreciate that sentiment?

Sly and the Family Stone, "If You Want Me To Stay"
… And relax.


Simon Wroe and Chop Chop links:

video trailer for the book

BookPage review
Fiction Writers Review review
Flavorwire review
Independent review
Publishers Weekly review
St. Louis Post-Dispatch review

Telegraph 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

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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