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November 25, 2014

Book Notes - Fred Venturini "The Heart Does Not Grow Back"

The Heart Does Not Grow Back

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.

Fred Venturini's The Heart Does Not Grow Back is a unique and entertaining debut novel.

The New York Times wrote of the book:

"The writing is joyous, but the dark side of life — fathers who beat their sons, mothers who die of cancer — gives depth to the comedy. Dale's voice is refreshing, his strange power of regeneration and the aftermath of fame and fortune expertly rendered. 'The Heart Does Not Grow Back' is an exciting, thoroughly enjoyable ride, hitting the perfect spot of strange and bittersweet."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


In his own words, here is Fred Venturini's Book Notes music playlist for his novel The Heart Does Not Grow Back:


People have asked me about my novel's genre, and I don't know how to answer. I just like stories, I try to have fun, and let everyone else worry about what shelf it goes on. Only when I made this list of songs did I realize that I'm pretty much the same way when it comes to music, that if someone asked me "what kind of music do you like?" the answer would pretty much be "music that I listen to and I like it." That's how you get Eminem, Hans Zimmer, and Pearl Jam mixed together in the same list, I guess.

I took a stab at making a "soundtrack" for the novel a while back, and ended up with like fifty songs, but for this, I wanted to include tracks had overlap in importance, meaning some of them are soundtrack-y while still important to the people in my life, the characters in the book, and the process of getting this story down on paper.

Eminem, "You're Never Over"

In 2009, when the novel was in its earliest form, I lost a good friend of mine, Tom Pigg. When I heard this song a year later, it made it into heavy rotation. Eminem laments the loss of a friend, but the song is as breezy and celebratory as it is emotional as he channels the pain of the loss through his work, supercharging it in a sense. I can't listen to this song without thinking of Tom. The book is dedicated to him and friendship is one of the central cogs of the story, so the track is a natural fit.

Hans Zimmer, "Time"

I listen to a lot of movie scores and trailer music during the actual act of writing, and Hans Zimmer peppers those playlists. "Time" gets special mention because it captures that something that's hard to describe, an immense sadness that somehow evaporates into hope and ends on a note that makes you feel like anything is possible. If you could crystallize that into prose, you'd do pretty well at the writing game. I gave it my best.

Cypress Hill, "Rock Superstar"

One of those songs that Dale and Mack would listen to in order to rub their country-loving friends the wrong way, and also has a lot to say about the fleeting nature of fame.

Johnny Cash, "Ain't No Grave"

Whenever I hear this, I imagine it playing over the end credits of the "movie" of the book that plays in my head. Everything about it is a wonderful echo once the novel ends, from the twang to the haunting voice to the death-defying lyrics.

Wallflowers, "One Headlight"

When I wanted to write Dale and Mack as young men, I needed to get into a high school state of mind, and this is one of the more memorable tracks from those years. I think it holds up. The hook about bringing it home with "one headlight" makes me think about pushing forward despite being wounded, along with rich images that connect with some of the darker parts of the novel.

Pearl Jam, "Better Man"

While the lyrics of the song are generally on the nose concerning some of the events in the novel, it's also one of those songs that help me get into a "younger" mood for writing the first half of the book. As strange as it sounds, I've always loved this song more than I've loved Pearl Jam as a whole, and I'm told that's an insane stance to take, but there it is, out in the public now. I can't hide from it.

Drew Baldridge, "In the Right Hands"

While I'm not the biggest country fan, that genre is embedded in the DNA of Southern Illinois, and to take this a step further, Drew is from the same town I'm from—he has his finger on the pulse of the vibe I'm going for like few people do. And oh yeah, he's a budding country music star. This track captures so much about the novel, and I'm not even sure if he's read the book yet. The song lyrically resonates with the key relationships in the novel, and it's one of those songs a kid form Dale Sampson's high school would play for a girl and say "you gotta listen to the words." There's something to be said for having a superpower in the "right hands" as well . . .

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, "Consummation"

The novel has one particularly brutal scene of violence, and when I first heard "Consummation" I finally felt like it was a fitting soundtrack to that occurrence. Then I saw Gone Girl and noted that it had an intimate connection to its own brutal violence. So maybe I'm being a copycat here, but listen to this and see if your imagination doesn't start dredging up dark and hideous images.

John Spicer, "Pretty Good at Loving You"

When I heard "I'm just your knight in some rusty armor" from this song, it was one of those things that described Dale Sampson so perfectly, I wanted to steal it. The entire track is about a Dale-type everyman who's just emotionally raw and hopelessly in love. John is yet another budding country music star and guitar virtuoso from my hometown (two music stars and a novelist for a town of 600? Not bad I think).

AC/DC, "The Furor"

One of my best friends from high school this move he pulled just before a fight—he always, always took his shirt off. It made tactical sense, and I guess there was a bit of intimidation factor there since he looked like he could beat your ass. That move is so burned into my memory, there was just no way Mack Tucker would leave his shirt on before a fight. Also burned into my memory is this song, which is one of those obscure AC/DC tracks that could prime you for drinking or fighting like the rest of their catalog, only this one has an almost Biblical anger to it. We listened to it all the time, and the only thing that would have been more perfect is if a sound system followed Mack around and whenever he took his shirt off this track blasted like it was a wrestler coming to the ring.

Hans Zimmer, "Rise"

Yeah I'm putting Hans on here twice, mostly because this song was on repeat during some of my later rewrites. Heart used to be an indie novel called The Samaritan, and one of the reasons I got back into the manuscript when the opportunity arose is because I had an ending in my head that I wish I would have done the first time. Without spoiling it, there's a montage feeling to the ending, and it all takes place without substantial dialogue. Then I saw The Dark Knight Rises and film is obviously a more visual medium, and it has a montage-style ending, and the Hans track really added a lot to those closing scenes. As a novelist you always want to stick the landing, so when I was going through the last few editorial hurdles, this track helped me get my mind right for the last few pages.


Fred Venturini and The Heart Does Not Grow Back links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

Everyday eBook review
Kirkus review
New York Times review

My Bookish Ways interview with the author
Reddit interview with the author
The Quillery interview with the author
St. Louis Post-Dispatch profile of 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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