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August 4, 2014

Book Notes - Robert Vaughan "Addicts & Basements"

Addicts & Basements

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.

Robert Vaughn's collection Addicts & Basements brilliantly straddles the line between prose poetry and flash fiction, defying categorization while impressing with its unlikable characters that repeatedly earn the compassion of readers.

Dorianne Laux wrote of the book:

"Drawing its energy from society's underbelly-the dim corner booths of bars, the stalls of public bathrooms, the thickets of unkempt parks-Vaughan's book is part prose poem, part fractured sonnet, part Whitmanian love-cry."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


In his own words, here is Robert Vaughan's Book Notes music playlist for his poetry collection, Addicts & Basements:


"Hard Out Here," by Lily Allen
Lily Allen typifies the good-girl getting away with her lyrics, and in this manner, encompasses the entire collection, particularly the pieces that feel like I stretched when I wrote pieces like "Avoidance," Four Myths," or "Nine Shutters of Snow."

"You Really Got Me," by Van Halen
I picture those kids in "The Black Sea" having their cassette player all jacked up to this rocking guitar riff while they lay in their neighbor’s kiddie pool and discuss which of their parents is screwing around with someone else.

"Last of the Famous International Playboys," by Morrissey
I probably listened to this song more than a hundred times, especially writing the "Addicts" portion of the book. I like to sing along, and watch the video also. It influenced "Harley Heaven" and some of the other typically outsider pieces.

"Dance With My Father," by Luther Vandross
"Turkeytown" was the name of my first restaurant busboy job. They also had a catering service on certain weekends. So much of this poem is fictional, but recently I saw a movie where the father of the bride danced with his daughter to this song. Then I recalled a teenager I worked with at Turkeytown, whose father had just left his mom. I wrote the piece from his p.o.v.

"Hummingbird," by Seals & Crofts
My poem has the same title, but has little to do with the lyrics. Overall, I enjoy 70s songs, and a carefree essence many of them seem to inhabit. I wrote the first draft of this piece during a poetry workshop at Esalen. I am fascinated by birds (they appear in "Watching Them," "On The Wings of a Dove," and "Man on the Moon") and by flight and its complicated implications.

"A Case of You," by Joni Mitchell
The plethora of JM songs that I listened to while I wrote Addicts & Basements is endless. The legacy this woman is, not just her wizardry of lyrics, but the music. Complex relationships. Legendary. Pieces like "Fallout," or "Bonus Question." Even the repetitive lyric from this song, "I could drink a case of you and still be on my feet," somehow informs the Addict mentality, if one allows.

"One Night in Bangkok" by Murray Head
A quirky 80s tune, the irony was this song came out around the same time that my best childhood pal, James’s life abruptly ended in the named city. So "Seven Shades of James" is a legacy piece, and this loss influences other pieces like "I Always Believed I Would See Her Again," or "Leaving."

"Chasing Cars" by Snow Patrol
A modern favorite and used with word play and ideas in my poem "Forget It." Originally this piece was written as a 100 word poem for a contest in which it was a finalist. There is an ache in the lyrics of this song that I interpreted into the poem. A feeling that never quite entirely resolves, much like most feelings in life.

"Man on the Moon," by R.E.M.
A pretty popular indie band of my era, and a nod to them in the title of a piece that really has nothing more to do with them. I once shared a bathroom with lead singer Michael Stipe. And the song is about Andy Kaufman, and makes mention of lots of cultural games of the 80s: Twister, Risk, Life. So in this manner it also informs my other pieces that have current references like "Neighbors," or "Bagpipe Refrains," written with mentions of current events.

"Hate My Way," by Throwing Muses
An offbeat indie group from the 80s, this Throwing Muses song seemed at the time to hold lots of my anger, angst and sadness simultaneously. Informed the poem "Leaving," one of the older poems in Addicts & Basements. And was one of my first experiences with writing word play, lines like "an aching troubled fit creeps along the path to the street," or "The front yard screams at you."

"Dirty Back Road" and "Legal Tender," by B-52s
One of my all-time favorite bands, these two are mos def in the collection. But there are snippets throughout, especially where FUN or play is inherent in a piece.

"Transatlanticism," by Death Cab for Cutie
The last line of "Cold Wind Closer" is a direct steal, but lots of this band’s lyrics resonated with me while writing the collection.

"Just What I Needed," by The Cars
Freshman year in college I fronted a band and we covered this tune. It drifts to the surface in the gritty family fiction, "Nuts."

"She Sells Sanctuary," by The Cult
Another of my favorite alternative bands from the 80s, there are so many! This song informed the poem "Chain of Fools" in a very abstract manner. And the title is an earlier Aretha Franklin hit tune.

"Fields of Gold," by Eva Cassidy
I will never forget the moment I was turned on to this version of a song that has always haunted me. And then, when you learn more about Eva’s story and her prescient early death, it becomes even more of a tribute and testimony to legacy. This, then is the song I’d like to end the playlist with, and I hope you enjoyed the list.


Robert Vaughan and Addicts & Basements links:

the author's website

HTMLGIANT review


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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