October 27, 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.
Brian Costello's debut novel Losing in Gainesville is a literary slacker epic, a book that brings to life the mid-'90s post-college Florida life.
Kirkus wrote of the book:
"If Joyce was right that you could rebuild Dublin by reading Ulysses, you could definitely reconstruct a very specific American village of dive bars, record shops and drugstore cowboys from this slab of post-punk tragicomedy."
Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.
Like all the characters in Losing in Gainesville, music is the dead-center of my life. All of my friends are equally music-obsessed, and most of them also play in bands. I'm a drummer who writes, and not the other way around.
My novel is set in Gainesville, Florida in the mid-1990's. While it doesn't seem that long ago, looking back on that time now, what's interesting is that--for better or worse--if you wanted to find like-minded people, you had to go out into the world and find them instead of douching around on the internet behind your carefully cultivated social media persona or whatever. To meet potential love interests, you had to (gasp!) actually have conversations with them, and you'd sometimes even have to leave rambling messages on answering machines. To find new music, you had to leave your house and go to record stores, to shows, buy zines. If you lived faraway from the cosmopolitan culture centers, you had to make your own scene, find your own scene, and get off your ass and do it; these were the last years of doing so without a Mr. Google to hold your stupid hand and help you.
While this is a much better time for dating and playing music, what's lost is the freedom in toiling in the void, of, say, playing in a band where the only people who will ever hear it are your friends. I'm not nostalgic for that time, and I could be completely full of shit here...but there was something special in the magical moments of being young and finding yourself through music and through the camaraderie of those in your town who shared your passion for music.
Richard Hell--"Time": In the bedroom of the Orlando house Ronnie Altamont flees post-haste for Gainesville, there's this Richard Hell quote written on the wall: "Rock and roll as a way of turning sadness and loneliness and anger into something transcendentally beautiful, or at least energy transmitting." This is what Ronnie and all these characters are trying to do, in their own way.
The Who--"Cut My Hair": In the double album Quadrophenia, as Keith Moon made the whole kit sing in his finest musical moments, Pete Townshend captured the insane paradoxes and manic angst of being a teenager. You didn't have to be a mod to understand it. You could even be a high school band geek bashing a snare drum in Altamonte Springs, Florida. If this album didn't "save my life," it certainly got me through high school. And "Cut My Hair" perfectly encapsulates the conforming nonconformity of the subcultures you try to fit in with growing up.
Replacements--"Treatment Bound": When you spend enough time working on a novel, certain aspects surprise you, the things you didn't consciously plan. For instance, I was surprised at how often sunsets were described. I was also surprised at how much all the characters drank. One of the characters, rudderless after coming back from a bad tour with his hardcore band and unsure of what to do with his life, has to eventually come to terms with his drug and alcohol abuse. When I was a kid, I thought it was awesome how bands like The Replacements got shitfaced drunk and played sloppy shows. Now, older and with way more experience in playing in bands and living life, the romance of that has given way to the reality.
Spoke--"Mothra": I'll never forget when, a couple years into college, my friend Trey Romano came over with a copy of a Spoke record. We listened to it, blown away, and Trey said something like "It's amazing that these are friends of ours, people we went to high school with." There was something very inspiring about that, that this album was created by people we knew, kids who also attended Lake Brantley High School. I only saw Spoke once--at their last show at the Hardback in July, 1993 in Gainesville--and it remains one of the greatest shows I've ever seen, and it certainly helped me realize that a gawkward dipshit like me could also start a band, write stories, perform….
Red House Painters--"24": My favorite character in Losing in Gainesville is Portland Patty. She's living on the opposite side of the continent from where she grew up, and Portland is no longer home, and Gainesville never really was. She wants to believe that Ronnie Altamont is different from the other guys she's dated, but has to face the fact that he's just as screwed up as everybody else. She's also 25, an age when you get your first inklings that you too will one day get old, and is beginning to outgrow collegiate shenanigans. The very last page of Losing in Gainesville is a mixtape she made for herself. The songs are firmly rooted in the mid-1990's; when I finish a book, I feel like I'm saying goodbye to the past. Portland Patty's mixtape is a fond farewell to youth, to "those days," to everything that came out of that time.
Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band--"She's Too Much for My Mirror": I can't write while listening to music, but I'll take breaks, and a record I always return to and never get sick of is Trout Mask Replica. By this point, it sounds like a perfectly normal record to me. The rhythms are like no other, and once you're converted, there's no going back. Kill the 4/4 mama heartbeat and join us!
Albert Ayler--"Truth is Marching In": In grad school, I had a Russian Literature professor named Mark Davidov, a brilliant man who asked us to bring in a piece of music that we thought captured all facets of American culture like how Tolstoy did with Russian culture. While perhaps I should have brought in the theme to the TV show The Facts of Life, I instead brought in this free jazz masterpiece and forced the class to listen to all thirteen minutes of it at a very loud volume. To me it sounds like preservation jazz, the Civil War, 1960's riots, the chaos of conquering this land and simply trying to survive in it...and the drums sound like they're thrown off a cliff. I FUCKING LOVE THIS.
Nobunny--"Live it Up": The Hedonist's Creed. A reminder to have some f-u-n in this too-short life. Run out of the boring panel discussion, shitcan the totebag, and do the watusi.
Naomi's Hair--"This Song": A sweat-fueled Orlando three-piece that jumped around and fused the Minutemen with the Meat Puppets, drizzled in SST sauce. They inspired me like no other, and I can directly attribute seeing them at "Club Spacefish" night at the Beach Club in downtown Orlando as a teenager to me later doing all the creative endeavors I continue to do. So...Scott, Marty, and Joel, if you ever come across this in a moment of nostalgia-fueled self-googling...THANK YOU.
Rolling Stones--"Torn and Frayed": With Losing in Gainesville, I wanted to write a "triple album," with six sides/parts that each have their own moods and styles happening. My favorite albums are double albums, and I especially love the mood conveyed in side two of Exile on Main Street. By the way, the greatest book ever written about rock and roll is The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones by Stanley Booth. No joke. Even if you hate the Rolling Stones, the story itself (the events leading up to Altamont alternating between chapters leading up to the death of Brian Jones) is so well-written, it goes above and beyond the thing itself.
Minutemen--"The Toe Jam": One of my all-time favorite bands. For the musical risks they took, for the depth and breadth of subject matter they tackled in their lyrics, for the independent spirit they embodied...I'm eternally grateful. What Beefheart did for rock and roll, the Minutemen did for p-u-n-k: a sonic liberation from cliched thought and feeling.
The Stooges-"TV Eye": I've listened to Funhouse so many times by this point, and "TV Eye" never fails to adrenalize me….that "tell-tale tingle" in the spine Nabokov told us about.
Teddy and the Frat Girls--"Club Nite": God, this is so insane and so very Florida somehow. Ineptitude never sounded so, well...inept!
Electric Eels "Splitterty Splat": The story of Cleveland's Electric Eels is too wonderfully strange to go into here. One of the weirdest bands of genuine weirdos to ever hate on the world, and they were doing it way back in 1974.
The Kinks "Lola": Beatles, schmeatles. God Save the Kinks.
Vom "Punkmobile": Hilariously dumb/brilliant "punk" from 1978, fronted by one of the greatest rock-writers of all time, Richard Meltzer.
John Coltrane--"India": The purity, the risks, the unrelenting search for new sounds...spirituality in a sea of dipshits bragging about how atheist they are. There's an intensity at work that I've only ever experienced from reading Melville. The dedication and pursuit always inspires...
Brian Costello and Losing in Gainesville links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
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Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
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weekly music release lists