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September 29, 2014

Book Notes - Jean Thompson "The Witch: And Other Tales Re-Told"

The Witch: And Other Tales Re-Told

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.

Jean Thompson brilliantly retells fairy tales from modern perspectives in her new short story collection The Witch: And Other Tales Re-Told.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"In this spooky, enthralling, and morally complex collection, National Book Award finalist Thompson…shows evil, wonder, and majesty…Thompson skillfully infuses our banal world of technology, reality TV, and pop psychology with genuine horror….as eerie as anything you’ll find in the Brothers Grimm."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.

In her own words, here is Jean Thompson's Book Notes music playlist for her short story collection The Witch: And Other Tales Re-Told:

While I was writing the stories in The Witch, I wasn't focussed on any particular music, in fact, I was trying to keep my head clear of a number of songs that wanted to take up residence there. Things like Disney soundtracks and a cheesy 60's song, "The Pied Piper", which even nostalgia does not make any better than it ever was. But here are some songs that I think bounce off the stories in interesting ways, and reinforce or expand their ideas.

1. "Nothing Matters When We're Dancing", by the Magnetic Fields. Of course Cinderella's gotta dance. And this does a nice job of conveying the real, if wistful, enchantment of it all. For a more tough-minded, country take on the story, try 2. "Hey Cinderella", by Suzy Bogguss.

3. Again, one story suggests two songs. My Little Red Riding Hood is up to no good on her bedroom computer, and "Computer Love" by Zapp and Roger has the right jittery, nervous sound. But I can't pass up a nod to the great 1966 novelty song, "Little Red Riding Hood", by the immortal (sort of), Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs.

4. "Bluebeard" by the Cocteau Twins. A dream pop version of the old story. Don't try to understand it, just sit back and let Elizabeth Fraser's voice carry you away.

5. "Are You Alright?" by Lucinda Williams. Quiet, mournful, a knockout song. Although it's addressed to an absent lover, it works just as well for a boy wondering about his missing mother in my story, "Three".

6. "I Follow Rivers" by Lykke Li. I love the energy of this, and the way it evokes journeys to far away places. My Pied Piper story ("Faith"), does not end well for anybody, but one always starts out a trip with high hopes.

7. "The Curse" by Josh Ritter. I'm a sucker for story-songs, and I love this weird, sad version of my own re-working of Sleeping Beauty. See also: 8. "While You Were Sleeping", by Elvis Perkins.

9. Finally, I didn't undertake to write my own "Beauty and the Beast"; Disney sucked up all the oxygen on that one. But I have always loved Stevie Nicks' song of the same name. She has a voice built for heartbreak.

Jean Thompson and The Witch: And Other Tales Re-Told links:

BookPage review
Kirkus review
Library Journal review
Publishers Weekly review

Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Do Not Deny Me
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Throw Like a Girl

Omnivoracious 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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