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September 29, 2014

Book Notes - Susan Hope Lanier "The Game We Play"

The Game We Play

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.

Susan Hope Lanier's The Game We Play is an assured and outstanding debut story collection filled with unforgettable characters.

Paste wrote of the book:

"Without glamorizing youthful malaise, her flawed but endearing characters bump—and sometimes grind—against each other, leaving the kinds of bruises that turn into lingering regret and inconvenient wisdom. In The Game We Play, Lanier manages to be understated and unflinching at the same time and strides forward with a confident, highly compassionate debut."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


In her own words, here is Susan Hope Lanier's Book Notes music playlist for her short story collection The Game We Play:


To choose just one song from the artists on this list would be an impossible task. Albums for me are like a good story collection in that they allows for space to take pause and shift tone to visit similar subject matter anew. It's hard to say definitely how these records influenced this book at the time of these stories conceptions, but I suspect through constant obsessive listening they found a way of seeping in. These are the albums that were in constant rotation while writing The Game We Play.

Midnite Vultures by Beck
If this list could include one artist, that artist would be Beck. He's donned so many different hats in a career that has spanned a quarter decade, but he's never donned a hat better than the funk hat. Man, is Midnite Vultures groovy as fuck. This record has Beck playing an outwardly suave and cocky guy lookin' to pick up a nice young thing in his Hyundai. Beck is a party. That Midnite Vultures was followed up by the heart wrenching Sea Change only makes it so much better. Sure, I get that Beck is just playing a character here, but listening back to back Vultures feels like the fun time mask hiding his Sea Change soul. I'll always be interested in a good mask.

Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere by Neil Young & Crazy Horse
This record was about routine. In the winter of 2011 when I first started many of the stories that would become The Game We Play, I would put on this record every morning while making coffee. Then I would sit down to write. I can't say for sure why I liked to write to this record except that I would listen while staring out my front window down onto the grey slab of pavement between the coach house I was living in at the time and the apartment building in front of me. I'd often imagine Neil sitting at his own window imagining his perfect Cinnamon Girl. It got my mind wandering.

Steve McQueen (AKA Two Wheels Good) by Prefab Sprout
This record is cheesy as hell. When Paddy McAloon croons "You're not the first though it hurts," on the endlessly catch tune "Goodbye Lucille" it perfectly sums up the fleeting, albeit agonizing pain of first heart break. And there are other perfect nuggets of endearing earnest buried throughout this little-known gem of a British pop record. So I love it. Basically, go listen to this record now.

Slanted and Enchanted by Pavement
Some records can't be divorced from time and place. Slanted and Enchanted will always remind me of the youthful malaise I had growing up, when driving around the cookie cutter suburban streets of Northern Virginia looking for tacky pink flamingos to steal from neighbors lawns was my idea of an exciting Saturday night activity. Slanted and Enchanted was synonymous with slack and I was proud to be a gifted slacker, albeit one that maintained good grades and skirted trouble like a job. In the story "Night Hawk" when a two dead beat dudes have nothing better to do but score some weed at the local IHOP, I couldn't help but slide in a little self-referential nod to Pavement during the calm before the storm, just before real life manages to take hold and pull them out of their lackadaisical, self-induced haze.

The Kick Inside by Kate Bush
It may not be her most sophisticated record but The Kick Inside was my first exposure to the power-house that is the magical Kate Bush so it holds a special place in my musical rotation. Even at 19 Bush could make her voice jump two octaves like it's no big deal. Whether she was writing from the point of view of Emily Bronte's Catherine--such as in the break out hit "Wuthering Heights"--or singing odes to menstruation ("Strange Phenomena") and pregnancy ("The Kick Inside") Bush was making music well beyond her years. Not to get too sentimental or anything but as a young woman and a writer in a field that is professionally dominated by men, this record remains a reminder to always write what interests me. To hell with the naysayers.


Susan Hope Lanier and The Game We Play links:

the author's website

Newcity Lit review
Paste 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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