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November 17, 2014

Book Notes - Ben Marcus "Leaving the Sea"

Leaving the Sea

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, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Ben Marcus's Leaving the Sea once again finds him leveraging language to its utmost in this brilliant and diverse short story collection.

The New Yorker wrote of the book:

"The protagonists in Marcus's new collection of disturbing and excruciatingly funny short stories are socially inappropriate, alienated from their lovers and relatives, anxious, bitter, mortified, lonely . . . The collection's later stories are more experimental in style and subject matter, but they, too, address themes of isolation and existential inquietude."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


In his own words, here is Ben Marcus's Book Notes music playlist for his short story collection Leaving the Sea:


I don't write to music very often. Sometimes I listen to frictionless, glitchy sounds, ambient air from the 1970s now in the aural public domain, unretouched weather sounds from Switzerland, the room sounds of shuttered businesses. Concentration seems so hard to come by, and lately silence is so unusual that I try to seek it out. I used to listen to music while writing. I had Spiderland, by Slint, on while writing part of Notable American Women. It gave me something to fight against. My latest book, Leaving the Sea, collects fifteen stories, but some don't look like stories, and so some of the music here is not so song-like. I seem to be listening to a lot of music that has no bones in it. Stuff from the Clown and Sunset label, along with Other People. I also seem to have a few Drag City songs on here, which aren't on Spotify. Sorry about that. I tried to pick pieces of music that got at a feeling I was hoping to create in the story, but listening to these songs now I'm struck again by how quickly and intensely a song can make feeling, and how laborious and elusive it can be in writing. Sometimes the tracks are funny in a way I wish I was funny, or strange, or unknowable, or obvious. I'd like to think that each of these songs can function like the CliffsNotes to the stories, but music can't improve writing, it can only taunt it, showing off, making short work of the problems writing struggles with in such awkward, ugly ways.


1. "What Have You Done?"

"Peoria Lunch Box Blues" – Songs: Ohia

2. "I Can Say Many Nice Things"

"Playboy" – Hot Chip

3. "The Dark Arts"

"Nights Out" – Metronomy

4. "Rollingwood"

"Go Long" – Joanna Newsom

5. "On Not Growing Up"

"Born With Monkey Asses" – MC 900 Ft. Jesus

6. "My Views on the Darkness"

"Firewall" – Bright Eyes

7. "Watching Mysteries with My Mother"

"Wolves" – Phosphorescent

8. "The Loyalty Protocol"

"Bal Les Masques" – Marc Ribot & Lucien Dubuis Trio

9. "The Father Costume"

"Esquis(e)" – Valentin Stip

10. "First Love"

"In the Grace of Your Love (Pional remix)" – The Rapture

11. "Fear the Morning"

"Tender Situation" – Ween

12. "Origins of the Family"

"Wild Kindness" – Silver Jews

13. "Against Attachment"

"Vomit" – Girls

14. "Leaving the Sea"

"Bathysphere" – Smog

15. "The Moors"

"I See A Darkness" – Bonnie Prince Billy


Ben Marcus and Leaving the Sea links:

the author's website
the author's Wikipedia entry

Boston Globe review
Dallas Morning News review
Financial Times review
Full Stop review
Guardian review
Kirkus review
LitReactor review
Minneapolis Star Tribune review
New York Review of Books review
New York Times review
Publishers Weekly review
The Quarterly Conversation interview with the author
The Rumpus review
San Francisco Chronicle review
Washington Post review

Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for The Flame Alphabet
New Yorker interview with the author
The Quietus 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

List of Online "Best of 2014" Book Lists

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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