July 24, 2014
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.
Maya Lang's debut novel The Sixteenth of June is a clever reworking of James Joyce's Ulysses set in modern Philadelphia.
Booklist wrote of the book:
"Lang’s clever first novel tracks three twenty-somethings… They all find some resolution by the end of the day, although it isn’t necessarily the one they expected or hoped for… What matters more is the family dynamic and its currents of longing, loss, and love."
Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.
The Sixteenth of June features three twentysomethings grappling with that post-college, pre-thirties stage of life, a sort of second adolescence as they negotiate adulthood. It also involves quite a bit of music, as one of the characters is a singer.
"Damage" by Yo La Tengo
I love this song's lyrics and haunting vocals. I had this in mind for Nora, grieving over her mother and feeling generally lost. Nora finds that time isn't helping; she thinks about her mother (dead for nearly a year) now more than ever. This melancholic, moody song captures her mindset.
"Mr. Brightside" by The Killers
The novel opens with Leo turning the volume up on an unnamed song. This is the song I had in mind, not only because it played incessantly in 2004 (when the novel is set), but also because it's perfect for Leo, a frat boy, doggedly optimistic by nature, a populist in his tastes. I imagine him blasting it on his commute to work.
"I Am A Rock" by Simon & Garfunkel
I have my books/ And my poetry to protect me;/ I am shielded in my armor,/ Hiding in my room, Safe within my womb / I touch no one and no one touches me. These lines describe Stephen, the brooding intellectual, perfectly. He would wince and protest that it's too folksy and be annoyed with me for choosing it.
"The Very Thought of You" by Ella Fitzgerald
Nora performs at a jazz club on Saturdays. The novel takes place on a Friday, so it made sense to me that she would be going over the notes in her head. I wanted to find a song cheerful on its surface that Nora would turn into something darker. This is a love song, springy and bright and brassy, but Nora ends up changing the key. I imagine her arrangement sounding more like the Etta James version.
"The Flower Duet" from Lakmé
The fact that I first heard this on a British Airways commercial tells you just how familiar I am with opera. I needed an aria for Nora to be rehearsing when Stephen first hears her, practicing in her college dorm room. I wanted that moment to be arresting, Nora's voice startling in its beauty. It had to be a piece I genuinely loved in order to connect with it.
"Golden" by My Morning Jacket
I wrote much of the novel at a coffee shop in Seattle where the tables are just barely bigger than the laptops and you're at constant risk of brushing elbows with the person next to you. (I should note that I had a colicky newborn at the time and needed to get out of the house to write.) The acoustic quality of the song made me feel like I was in a bigger space; it has a cavernous, echo-y quality that's quite mesmerizing. The song also has a feeling of forward momentum that I found encouraging.
"Weird Fishes" by Radiohead
I'm a huge Radiohead fan, and this is one of my favorite songs of theirs. I listened to it on loop while writing The Sixteenth; its play count is absurdly high on my computer.
"Hearts on Fire" by John Cafferty
This is where I lose all music credibility and reveal myself to be the absurd creature I am. I listened to this song (from the Rocky IV soundtrack) when it was time to query agents. I listened to it before my book tour events, before my first big interview, and I still listen to it when I need a boost. I don't know why I identify with a boxer doing calisthenics in the middle of Siberia, but there you have it. No pain.
Maya Lang and The Sixteenth of June links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
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Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
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weekly music release lists