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June 27, 2014

Book Notes - Samrat Upadhyay "The City Son"

The City Son

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.

Samrat Upadhyay's dark and moving novel The City Son is skillfully told in spare and precise prose.

The Wall Street Journal wrote of the book:

"Fearless . . . There's an eerie element of black magic in Didi's Svengali-like manipulation that evokes the domestic horror novels of Shirley Jackson. This superb book stages an intensely powerful showdown."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


In his own words, here is Samrat Upadhyay's Book Notes music playlist for his novel, The City Son:


Since nearly all of my fiction is set in Nepal, much of the music that's associated with my stories and novels is also directly or indirectly related to that part of the world.

"Din Dhal Jaye Hai Raat Na Jaye" by Mohammed Rafi

I grew up on a steady diet of Bollywood movies, so many of the songs from the golden years of Bollywood, i.e. the sixties and the seventies, ring through my ears when I compose my work. Mohammed Rafi, in particular, is someone I continue to love, and listening to one of his songs is apt to give me the emotional charge I need for the work at hand.

This is from the 1965 movie The Guide, featuring Dev Anand and Waheeda Rahman. The movie is based on RK Narayan's classic novel of the same name. The song title translates to The Day is Finished But Night Doesn't Arrive. It's a song about heartbreak, and it's sung with such sorrow that it seems to fit perfectly the distance that Tarun feels towards Rukma in The City Son.

"Apni Dhun Me Rehta Hoon," a ghazal by Ghulam Ali

Any ghazal by Ghulam Ali often puts me in the proper mood for writing, but this one has been a favorite of mine for a number of years for the carefree attitude that it conveys. The title and the first couple of lines basically translate to:

I live in my own world.
How am I any different from you?
Oh, my love of yesteryears
This year I am by myself.

While the song doesn't correspond with the themes of The City Son, which is basically a sad story, it does convey the playful attitude that I find necessary when I'm composing. And so I listened to this ghazal many times while working on The City Son.

"Rhiannon" by Fleetwood Mac

Rumours by Fleetwood Mac was one of my favorite albums while I was growing up in Nepal, and this song in particular takes me back home every time I listen to it.

Sitar Sudha by Bijaya Vaidya

This is not one song but an entire album. Bijaya Vaidya is the most well know sitarist from Nepal, and his work is an energetic blend of rock and classical music. This album is his finest, and one that I listened to continuously as I was working on The City Son, even though admittedly the themes of The City Son are in sharp contrast to the peace and harmony espoused on the album.

"Katmandu" by Cat Stevens

Although there is clearly an "exotic East” aspect to this song about my hometown by Cat Stevens, every time I listen to it I become nostalgic, and it helps me depict my city in my fiction more vividly and with more emotion.


Samrat Upadhyay and The City Son links:

Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review
Wall Street Journal review

The Writer 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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