September 15, 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.
Luke Goebel's Fourteen Stories, None of Them Are Yours is a masterfully told debut novel of love and loss.
Kirkus wrote of the book:
"If Kerouac were writing today, his work might look something like this—and despite the title, many of the stories are indeed ours, as they focus on love and loss, pain and yearning."
Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.
Fourteen Stories, None of Them Are Yours has been called a "proud standing mess, like a Faulkner mess" by Padgett Powell. I would guess this refers both to the proud mess-ness of the narrator as well as to the nature of the form of this book. A collection of stories, often with a common narrator (the rest allegorical to the main narrative), was ordered and woven and spoken through by the speaker to create a part road story, part fictionalized memoir, part roaming storytelling reflection on America and the world-life. It is a novel of love and loss bound to the landscape, the times, and to an attention to speaking and story-telling and language experimentation. It is a music of the intrepid expansive self and the road and adventure and destruction and remaking of self and story.
In order to write this book, each story had to be crafted as both a story on its own and as pieces of a much larger cobbled and interwoven landscape or novel-shaped narrative. To explore what the book is doing, I'm creating a playlist of songs, one for each story in the book, and so each song will be related to not only the story as its own discrete unit (Ha! Or not discrete but wild and wily and perhaps overly-revealing), but to how each story plays into the larger whole of this improbable book as well.
1) Insides: Story One: Buffy Sainte-Marie God is Alive Magic is Afoot
This song strikes me as a match because it is so psychedelic and strange, so involved in the archetypal, and universal—also threatening, terrifying, overpowering. This is how the narrative begins in the book. If you look up the song to listen, you will likely see images of huichol art. Peyote art. Our narrator has done a bit too much. The first story in this collection is the invocation of a self, the invocation of the world, the invocation of the pasts and stories and literature and art and the human heart. But this self is terrified, is alive, is in the hospital, is agonizing in love lost, is trying to get some sort of understanding on himself and life and the forms of living and his place among the world of people and powers before it’s all over. And here’s an opening. Our speaker gets that he’s living in the midst of the universal, the archetypal, the game of living blindly. He is both direly serious and aware of the cosmic joke. He is both bound to himself and boundlessly exploring being-ness. He is the archetypal fool and the magician, bound to lose bound to win.
2) The Adventures of Eagle Feather: The Beatles Helter Skelter
I have no idea. The wild guitar screaming. The chorus shouting. The shaking earth. The eagles coming down. The unknown. How it’s all reframing. How you have your eye on one thing and the other thing departs. How you don’t know shit. How the elements are hot. How the summer comes. How the eagle feather stands up from the earth. How you just want to tear open the earth and take it all back. The one(s) you lost. How wild. How wild. How wild. I wish I could make something that wild, birth heavy metal, scream out like that. But then, you know, you get Charles Manson.
3) Drunk and Naked as He Was: Roy Orbison In Dreams
This is a setting builder, a shift of landscape and location and region and tone. It’s a cowboy song of heartbreak, out in the Texas night—on a hundred-acre steer ranch, the first night with a new puppy alone in the new land. It’s a move from New York City to rural Texas. And most of all, it’s about soon having your heart broken open and not knowing you’re about to have your heart broken. It’s that calm cool of dancing with a puppy to Roy Orbison in the naked Texas night—it’s knowing somehow everything that’s coming before it arrives, and dancing anyhow.
4) Boot of the Boot: Grateful Dead Friend of the Devil
This story is about losing the love for good. It’s come. There’s getting robbed. There’s a woman who keeps losing her tooth in her white pasta and sticking it back in her mouth and gumline. There’s a million stories woven into one lesson. It’s also a story that starts with the line, “If I ever meet a man named Manuelo from Paris, he better watch his fucking head.” It’s been dirty for dirty for so long, that one can’t help but invoke this joker card. And the stories keep coming in this story, adding up, dog-piling, intersecting, just dirty for dirty, until the beauty comes, and the joker fades back into the milieu.
5) Before Carl Left: Pink Floyd How I Wish You Were Here
This was the first song my brother Carl ever learned on the guitar. I can still see him on that first bed he ever had, sitting up, playing a huge guitar far too big for him, making the impossibility of music possible. This is the story where he dies and heartbreak really comes to the Earth for our narrator and for the writer.
6) Tough Beauty: Katherine Lee Bates America The Beautiful
This story is literally talking to Katherine Lee Bates, as well as to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as to peyote and San Francisco and the whole American trip. Unfortunately, it’s being told by a fellow named H. Roc, who is, let’s just say, TROUBLED. Also, it’s being interrupted by the narrator, who is telling his own troubled stories of American lunatic loss and Carl. Bah Bah Bah Bah! America, America, God shed his grace on thee.
7) Apache: Townes Van Zandt Dead Flowers
We got a horse story, Folks. Racing desert horses. The old teacher in disguise as a probably faux Apache. Out in the Southwest. Before it all goes, there’s the time when you just have to prove your guts against a lunatic you can’t beat. You have to beat him. Then it’s all this sort of feeling (the feeling of this song, best known from the Rolling Stones but always a Townes song) afterwards. And you wish only you could go back to the races. But those RACES. Goddamn. And that APACHE.
8) Hogs: Joni Mitchell Michael From Mountains
This is a song you don’t want to admit you know. Your mom played it. It really bums you out. It’s so embarrassing. You want to get away from admitting you know this song. You want to pretend you aren’t this person, like in photos of yourself at puberty. You want to die from humiliation from yourself. But you live. It’s your mom.
9) Out There: Bob Dylan Jokerman
We are in the RV on the coast in San Francisco, which isn’t San Francisco anymore. Freedom is just out of reach. We have traveled up from L.A. where we crashed into cars, drove with a loaded colt .45, made love in the big rig, got lost, shed layers of skin, were born with snakes in both fists, danced to the nightingale tune, saw the sea, and we are ready to go FURTHER. Jokerman is fucking with the stories and the archetypes, suffering from having enough power to run the ships. Losing it. Getting it back. Being better off if we didn’t have two jokers in a hand of five-card poker (assuming the jokers aren’t wild, which they may very well be.)
10) The Minds of Boys: Tom Waits I Don’t Wanna Grow Up
Kids on the beach, right by where the RV was parked last story. Kids living with a wild man named Keiko. Dogs. Elements. Childhood. Trouble. Fun. Never growing up.
11) Girls in Heat: Sinhala Version on Youtube Hotel California
In a hotel. Rain coming. No way forward. No way back. Haunted by what’s gone.
12) America, America, America: Johnny Cash God Bless Robert E. Lee
Not a great song, per se, but watch what I’m doing with it. Fighting with the International Gay Rodeo Association Grand Champion Squeaky at that ranch in Texas. Rat holes in the walls. Getting thrown out of the ranch. Dealing with loss. Fighting. Down in the South. Having no idea how to operate in the South. This song, regardless of its title, is about surrendering and saving lives. I’m glad Squeak and my narrator found peace out there in the Southern fields.
13) Chores: Alphaville (But also Jay Z) Forever Young
The lyrics are the point. This last story in the book is about washing a Ford truck, remembering, recapping the book, bringing the parts together, tying it up, staring at the sky, seeing visions, washing the truck, remembering it all. The narrator is not young, not forever, has lost it all, and is out still in Texas in the sun washing up the truck his brother left behind. There is plenty onward from that moment though, since the book works in strange time abilities, and throughout the book is fueled with stories that happen after this moment in the sun. Still, who doesn’t want to live forever? Not me is who doesn’t want this! I want to live forever. And I want my brother to live forever. And that’s partly why a book has been made. A large part. And for the America and for the world and for every reader, who I deeply thank and would love to hear from about their trip through the novel’s stories and the whole.
14) Surprise. There is no fourteenth story, but the stories added together make a whole fourteenth story. Talking Heads Burning Down The House
Pace, tone, aggression turned self-ward, 80’s enthusiasm and madness, want, need, self-ruination, lostness, craziness, tone, pitch, sound. Just going fuckwise with the self into burning through all you got for a home. GO!
Luke B. Goebel and Fourteen Stories, None of Them Are Yours links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
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