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October 24, 2014

Book Notes - Lee Klein "The Shimmering Go-Between"

The Shimmering Go-Between

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.

Lee Klein's The Shimmering Go-Betweenis an audaciously told and genuinely moving debut novel.

Foreword Reviews wrote of the book:

"A moving, modern meditation on loss and renewal, The Shimmering Go-Between is recommended for readers who want innovation and whimsy without losing the heart and soul that makes a story resonate long after it's been read."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


In his own words, here is Lee Klein's Book Notes music playlist for his debut novel The Shimmering Go-Between:


I failed to compile a fabulist playlist. I thought I'd find a dozen songs that tell stories marked by weirdness and multiple worlds, good-natured inventiveness tinged with sorrow— songs that synch with my novel. Turns out, rock lyrics that stray from reality tend to blast into space: "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun," "Starship Troopers," "Space Oddity," on and on. Innerspace is explored in the novel but not so many songs come to mind. Rock operas like "Tommy" and "The Wall" tell stories and blend fantasy and reality, yet neither are good-natured or humorous. The only thing I can really think of that might fit is Phish's "Gamehendge,'' but who wants to read about that?

So, instead, the following three songs jibe with my idea of the novel's spirit:

"Yummy, Yummy, Yummy" by Ohio Express


This song's title was the novel's working title for a time—it's bubblegum pop, sure, but there's something sinister about it if all the consumption is taken literally. Also, I love the unexpected Buffalo Springfield-like harmonies as they approach the chorus.

"You Little Shits" by Stereolab


The novel's initial epigram came from this song: "There are worlds within the world, within the world there are worlds . . . Understand that you are another world in miniature and that in you there are the sun, the moon, and also stars."

"Everything in Flames" by Polvo

I once blasted this out the window at my Greenpoint neighbors when they were ridiculously loud one summer afternoon as a storm approached and my skull had cracked open with nicotine withdrawal and atmospheric/existential pressure, a song I imagine soundtracking the novel's explosive climax.

What else? My illustration of Dolores's apartment's back porch that appears in the book is really of a friend's back porch, where he lived in the fall of 1997. I remember sitting out there listening to Jim O'Rourke's "Bad Timing" one beautiful fall afternoon. I listened to that album a lot while working on the novel, always with an ear out for the unexpected fanfare nine-tenths through the second side.

And here are songs mentioned in the novel, followed by relevant quotations:

"Walking on the Moon" by The Police

The call, the hospital, coming home to the unlocked house, all the lights on, the CD player circling through the five-disc random shuffle, playing "Walking on the Moon" by The Police, dishes stacked in the sink, three wine glasses (Rue's sister had just left) side by side by side on the counter, the kitchen floor in need of a mop⎯he'd said he'd do it days ago––and then upstairs to bed, still unmade, the depression of her head on the pillow, hair on her brush, her clothes on the floor, the improper shape of her panties (a twisted, tangled slingshot), all her stuff useless for anything but tyranny: not about to be picked up by anyone else.

"Hurts So Good" by John Cougar Mellencamp

In front of the television, watching the early days of MTV, mysteriously engorged by the perky VJ Martha Quinn, he'd slipped his summer shorts past his knees, flipped his legs over his head, and as John Cougar Mellencamp's video for "Hurts So Good" debuted on the set, he failed to come close to getting himself in his mouth.

"Hold On Loosely" by .38 Special


Asked about the new picture, he'd say something like "I'm trying to direct myself toward a more indirect memory of her." Co-workers agreed that "moving on was probably the best bet," that "life went on for the living," that "he should hold on loosely but not let her go." All of which made him want to throw himself out the window. But it was a one-story building and the windows only opened a crack.

"Brick House" by The Commodores

Recently on lonely late nights I've added a landscaping flourish here and there to the terrarium, sometimes celebrating a pleasing and/or peculiar addition (a boa of silver tinsel, a precariously stacked tower of poker chips, a glass eyeball with a jagged crack right through the bleached iris!) by filling a bottle cap with vodka, placing it among the little women, and waiting to see what happens when they get a bit tipsy – it's the cutest thing to see them gather around the bottle cap and ladle servings for one another in their tiny palms – and then I slap some disco hits on the stereo and by the time "Brickhouse" comes on the little women are boogying the best they can and a little later they're staggering into the terrarium's caulked corners to relieve their little lady bellies, one way or the other

"Misterioso" by Thelonious Monk (Live)

Her last day with him, the day she'd died, she remembered they'd invited Rue's sister over for an evening drink. At first they'd sat inside the apartment. Wilson pressed shuffle on the five-disc CD player. It chose a live version of Thelonious Monk's "Misterioso."

"Veteran of Psychic Wars" by Blue Oyster Cult


Or maybe the question mark evolved from the Symbol of Saturn (or Kronos, the titan of Greek mythology, the god of Time who feared his children would betray him, who therefore ate them up) which Rue remembered as the logo gracing the covers of an old boyfriend's Blue Oyster Cult records: it looked like a question mark standing on its head, with a dash through its center.

"New Year's Day" by U2

Flipped cable-TV channels with the volume very low. Removed and sucked the candy canes that decorated the small Christmas tree, the white lights of which blessed the room as the most all-is-quiet day gave way to New Year's Night.

"Addicted to Love" by Robert Palmer

This isn't a quotation from the novel: the little women in black T-shirts toward the end reminded me of the women in the video.

"Beck's Bolero" by the Jeff Beck Group

This also isn't a quotation: I imagine this song starting up at the end of the novel the moment Dolores sends her confession into the world.


Lee Klein and The Shimmering Go-Between links:

LitReactor review
Monkeybicycle review
Washington Independent Review of Books review
Word Riot review

Atticus Review essay by the author
The Brooklyn Rail interview with the author
Other PPL 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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