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July 7, 2014

Book Notes - Joshua Kornreich "Knotty, Knotty, Knotty"

Knotty, Knotty, Knotty

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.

Joshua Kornreich impresses with his lyrical and creatively told second novel, Knotty, Knotty, Knotty.

Dawn Raffel wrote of the book:

"Joshua Kornreich has created the ultimate friction hitch with this novel of sex, death, and subverted affection. Even time is dangerously knotted, unravelable, unsoothed."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


In his own words, here is Joshua Kornreich's Book Notes music playlist for his novel, Knotty, Knotty, Knotty:


Look, folks, here's the truth of the matter: I wish I were more jazz-literate. If I were more jazz-literate, this list of tracks here below this paragraph here might have consisted of all jazz tunes. Or maybe half the tracks would be all jazz and the other half would be all ragtime. Or maybe a third of all the tracks would be all jazz, and then another third would be all ragtime, and then another third would be all classical. Or maybe––who knows?––maybe a quarter of all the tracks would be jazz, another quarter would be all ragtime, another quarter would be all classical, and the rest of all the rest would be all showtunes, or not showtunes, I mean, but something more like an opera number, only I've never ever even seen an opera–at least not in person, anyway. Look, you want to know what? I'll tell you what: who's fooling whom here about what is what here? I am a maestro of nothing, and here I am trying to be a maestro of what is what. It is shameful what I have presented here below this paragraph here. Just shameful. No jazz tunes. Hear that? No jazz tunes! None whatsoever. What a trickster I am. A trickster and a–what was that word they said back in the day?––a poseur. No, not an imposter––a poseur was what the word was when it came to the word they said back then back in the day. A poseur! Well, there you have it there then: from one "com-poseur" of nothing to another, here's that shameful playlist of mine here below this paragraph here with not one single strand of jazz to it.


PLAYLIST: Knotty, Knotty, Knotty


Track 1: "Solace (A Mexican Serenade)," Scott Joplin

I live for this tune. I think the unnamed narrator-protagonist of my novel would, too, if he knew what was good for him. But I'm not really sure if he knows what's good for him. Nevertheless, all you have to do is follow the torque of the music in this piece, the way it bobs in and out of the "stanzas"––or whatever they call them––how it coils and uncoils, occurs and recurs, and then you'll get the feel of my book, as well as, maybe, even the progressions and regressions of life's rhythms. This piece laughs and cries at the same time, much like the novel, which is one of many reasons why I selected it for my novel's cinematic book trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0Ff20KxEe8


Track 2: "Problems," Joe Walsh

This song is probably the worst song ever selected on this website. Our leading man has a lot of problems, a lot of internal strife to overcome, but as he himself points out, problems are things you can solve, resolve or point your finger at––that is, something tangible. No, our leading man––he's got something much more complicated than just problems, something that the man in black whom he "comes around to see" refers to as "conflicts." "Conflicts are sticky. / They latch on. / They lurk. / They lurk down in your insides. / They cannot be solved, resolved, or even worked around. / They can only be addressed."


Track 3: "A Well Respected Man," The Kinks

My novel's protagonist likes to present his unseemly conflicts as no biggie, but underneath his narrative swagger is a wounded soul.


Track 4: "I Am Waiting," The Rolling Stones

This fella I've been talking about––he actually waits for other men to show up before taking leaks into urinals. Don't blame him, blame the author.


Track 5: "Smooth Operator," Sade

Yes, this man we're dealing with is a smooth operator of sorts who likes to talk to a certain particular "woman who works the phones" of a certain particular call girl service just so he could hear her cackle. And when he has one of these ladies come over to his place, he is suave enough to keep his cape on when he gets in the sack with them. Talk about smooooooooth.


Track 6: "Mother," John Lennon

"Mother you had me / but I never had you." Mr. Lennon's words capture the protagonist's predicament in a nutshell. "Mommy don't go / Daddy come home." And so does his guttural yearning emanating from the deepest backmost part of his throat.


Track 7: "Fly Me to the Moon," Frank Sinatra

"Are you going to the fly me to the moon or are you going to fly me to the moon?" says the protagonist's "missus" with great frequency and in various iterations––only her version of flying to the moon means using her husband's sore and tired mouth as her private launch pad.


Track 8: "Maple Leaf Rag," Scott Joplin

I could've made this entire playlist just Scott Joplin music. The protagonist's father, after losing his regular day job, now makes his living scalping tickets, and whenever he's out doing his scalping, he brings his two sons with him. Somehow, for me, this is as good a tune as any to scalp tickets to.


Track 9: "Homeless," Paul Simon

The nanny and the deaf-mute "nanny's girl" who live with the protagonist during his youth, are from "some island somewhere that had natives on it," transients living in a home that is not their own––yet the protagonist, his brother and his widower-father are homeless in a sense as well, not able to find shelter from the turmoil that encompasses their everyday lives.


Track 10: "Help Me Thru the Night," Joe Walsh

No, he didn't. Yes, I did. I mean, is that chutzpah or is that chutzpah? Two Joe Walshes in one playlist! I think I just made Largehearted Boy history. In any event, with this song, I'm not sure if Walsh is talking about his own mama when he says "mama" or if it's a prostitute maybe who's spending the night with him (or is it drugs again?), but perhaps this ambiguity as well as the song's sense of dreamy yearning and that feeling of being lost at sea is what makes this song fit so well into this playlist.


Track 11: "Black Magic Woman," Santana

The nanny decides one day to touch her you-know-what with some sort of vibrating metallic object of some sort and, well, it sort of puts the protagonist under a spell, but, yeah, I agree: if I were watching an exotic woman touch her you-know-what with a vibrating hunk of metal in my own home, this song probably isn't the first one that would come to my mind either.


Track 12: "Hillbilly Hare," Bugs Bunny

The protagonist's father loves a certain particular cable channel that has a lot of square dancing and fiddle-playing. "Hillbilly Hare," I believe, is not really the title of the song, but actually the title of an episode in the Bugs Bunny series, and pretty much represents the extent of my knowledge when it comes to square dancing and fiddle-playing.


Track 13: "The William Tell Overture," Gioachino Rossini

The protagonist is obsessed with horse racing, both televised and imagined, even though he can't tell you what win, place or show means to save his life.


Track 14: "The Entertainer," Scott Joplin

The protagonist loves to entertain people, and one of his favorite ways to do this is to stand on the ledge outside of his apartment and shout down to the street audience below words he's obsessed with as well as what Channel 1 says the temperature is.


Track 15: "Is This Love," Bob Marley & The Wailers

Does experimentation with fingering constitute love? My novel's characters think so.


Track 16: "He Was My Brother," Simon & Garfunkel

I hate this fucking song, but this sort of fits with the protagonist's brother's demise in a "sort of" sort of way. I don't know––the brother dies in this song ("he died so his brothers could go free" goes the lyrics) after being ganged up on, so I guess I was thinking it might fit okay with what happens in my book. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't. But I think it does.


Track 17: "Why Not Smile," R.E.M.

I don't know if this song has ever been incorporated into a film, but if it hasn't yet, it should be. It's the ultimate somber vocal/lyrics from Michael Stipe, with the usual droplet of hope mixed in.


Track 18: "Into the Mystic," Van Morrison

This song, without a doubt, is the perfect closer for my novel––read and find out why!


Joshua Kornreich and Knotty, Knotty, Knotty links:

video trailer for the book

Heavy Feather review interview with the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for The Boy Who Killed Caterpillars
Rhizomatic 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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