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July 18, 2014

Book Notes - Michael J. Seidlinger "The Fun We've Had"

The Fun We've Had

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.

Michael J Seidlinger's novel The Fun We've Had brilliantly melds joy and poignancy in a work as imaginative as it is engaging and thought provoking.

Amber Sparks wrote of the book:

"Michael J Seidlinger writes with the kind of weird, wonderful, joyful abandon that reminds the reader that world is still the great unknown. In The Fun We've Had, he examines the long blank space between life and death, fills it with love and loss and boats made of coffins, with people clinging to life and using the weight of the past as ballast. This is a fun read, true; but it's also a true read, and that's what makes it so beautifully sad."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.

In his own words, here is Michael J. Seidlinger's Book Notes music playlist for his novel, The Fun We've Had:

The theoretical soundtrack populating the empty spaces of the novel, The Fun We've Had, that's what I'm going to attempt to do here. These are the noises, the sounds, the ambience, the epic crescendos, as well as the depressing and anticlimactic lows that will inevitably occur across the endless purgatorial sea in the book. It both accentuates and masks the voice of the titular sea.

What I'm saying is: Here's a bunch of post-rock. I hope you all like post rock.

Godspeed You Black Emperor – "Storm"

This track alone could be the entirely of the book notes feature given its breadth of scale but yeah I intend on offering more than one of the most popular Godspeed tracks. But at the same time, I can imagine the entirety of the events that took place within the pages of the book completely mapping to this track. I could do without the noise at the end and I'd need more lows, more ambience to the booming post-rock highs that this track most definitely excels at… but then again, I've got other chances to fill in what's missing. Big ups to Godspeed, though. Man, this track.

On to the sections of the book…


This Will Destroy You – "Black Dunes"

It starts out, like any argument, with a denial of what is about to come to pass. This song in particular consistently holds back, opting to establish mood over doing anything in the way of building the typical track via verses, bridges, interludes, and what have you. It helps that the track itself captures the sense of hopelessness and inner pining that starts off the novel. Both him and her, the two main characters, are out at sea and for however many attempts he might have to try to steer them to a definitive direction, they end up where they began.

Russian Circles – "Xavii"

With this one, it feels more hopeful, but it's the same brand of denial—built on the unwillingness of two souls unwilling to work together. I give this one to her, a more hopeful and confident track. Listening to this, it almost feels definitive, like this will all be okay, but it won't. And it never will. It's misleading. She likes to mislead herself into thinking that none of this matters.


Frondibus – "Chimeras Were Born"

This track fits in if only because it feels so much like the rise of some new feeling. In this case, it's anger, and it's him, fighting to get back what he feels has been lost against the endless sea that will always and forever be the setting of this book. This song defines an uprising; it defines the first strike in an angered and embittered attack against where both him and her have found themselves.

Man Mountain – "Man of Science, Man of Faith"

But for all the anticipation and aggression, reality sets in and it cuts both characters right down to the coffin: You are here and there's a certain impossibility that has everything to do with what they are unwilling to admit. This song captures that inner quarrel that both characters inevitably face. Plus, it's one of the lesser known post-rock outfits and, man, I love this song.


Jesu – "Heartache"

But for all that anger and aggression, you end up on your knees, like both characters, facing the absurdity of their setting. Jesu has written some of the most intense instrumental music around and this one, which was actually the fist track I listened to by them, remains one of my favorites. There's something about the way it plods along, taking its time, like some kind of assailant so confident with its kill that it walks slowly, enjoying the moment before the actual kill. Jesu. Yup.

Audrey Fall – "Petrina"

But it can't all be bad. There needs to be some sense of promise, some sense of hope. This track, among so many others—I will state here that it took me a long time to figure out what would follow up Jesu—is perfect as a sort of pick-me-up, hopeful enough to assume that after so much, there can still be more. Keep going, even if there is no end in sight… given that fear is next. There won't be. Somehow, the characters continue, and we keep listening.


Moonlit Sailor – "The Golden Years"

Oh man, this was one of those random encounters, a band that I might never have known about. So glad that I've discovered their work and now own their albums. But yeah, here, at the start of the fear section of the novel, I figure it's best to give him and her the benefit of the doubt with a track that sounds more uplifting and promising than the expected dejected shit that a “fear” section would have led on. It's a great track and I am able to map it to a specific scene in this section, though I won't tell because that would only spoil things.

Capricorns – "1946: The Last Renaissance Man"

Don't know anything about this band except for the fact that they have this one album that is amazing. As a whole, it hits all the perfect highs and lows. This track in particular fits with the strung-out situation that both him and her find themselves towards the end of the section. They need a pick-me-up; they need something to feed off of, and it might as well be this track.


If These Trees Could Talk – "The Aleutian Clouds"

This is where it begins to fade. Acceptance. This is where everything you'd rather forget, the guilt, the summary of your failures, what makes you human, it all echoes out right before you are left with who you are… but hey, this band is incredible. One of the lesser-known post-rock outfits. Most of their tracks are equally as good.

Sleepmakeswaves - "…And So We Destroyed Everything"

This track encapsulates the final section of the book, Acceptance, as well as everything else. It works as well as Godspeed You Black Emperor's "Storm," but maybe a little better because it fits so well as a closer. The way I view the theoretical soundtrack, it's not about giving tracks to certain scenes but rather providing a landscape for those about to dive into the novel. If you agree, then you'll appreciate this track. It's the proverbial life-flashing-before-your-eyes moment, the final exhale, the moment before letting go. Life fading. I hope that you enjoy this track. I'd let go to something as well tempered/written as this. If sleep makes waves, please, let me fall asleep.

Michael J. Seidlinger and The Fun We've Had links:

excerpt from the book
excerpt from the book

Fanzine review

Flavorwire profile of the author
Monkeybicycle 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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