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November 13, 2014

Book Notes - Jac Jemc "A Different Bed Every Time"

A Different Bed Every Time

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.

Poignant and unsettling, the stories in Jac Jemc's collection A Different Bed Every Time burrow into your subconscious and linger long after you finish them.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"Jemc's stories are, on the whole, somber, her characters dispirited and constrained by a world unable to understand them. It is the prose—in the playful and poetic approach to language and form—that gives these stories light."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


In her own words, here is Jac Jemc's Book Notes music playlist for her short story collection A Different Bed Every Time:


Patty Griffin "Mother of God" - "The Grifted"
The first line of this story is pulled directly from this song (I'll probably be arrested now for stealing). It's a very simple sentence, but it struck me when I'd hear it: "It's Saturday at the mansion." The tone of the song doesn't quite match with what the bulk of "The Grifted" ended up being. The story moves a bit more wrecklessly, but it comes back to the sorrow of the song at the end - the loss and quiet desperation, the need for an answer.

Nat Baldwin "Weights" - "The Dark Spot"
Nat Baldwin is a master of unsettled, assonant melancholy that makes a perfect match here. That sawing bass has a feeling of suspense, the vocals are a little unmoored, popping up and settling back in. The narrator of the story needs a break from all the ragged activity of her family, and I think this song somehow accomplishes both that frenetic energy and the respite from it.

Fiona Apple "Parting Gift" - "Ratman"
I found this song after writing the story, but there's a moment of the story where the narrator opens her eyes while she and her partner are having sex to smile at him, but his eyes are squeezed shut and he looks sort of pathetic with effort. It's different than what Apple talks about in this song, but there's an overlap that makes sense to me, the point being that in both cases things are off balance in when and to what people are supposed to be paying attention. And then the line about all the signs telling them to stop, but they "went on wholehearted. It ended bad, but I loved where we started:" that seems like a perfect explanation of every failed relationship.

The Nerves "Hanging on the Telephone" - "Somebody Else's"
I imagine the narrator going out and dancing to this when she's in her prime time, to celebrate having filmed the TV show, before she becomes deeply depressed. And then there's the thematic overlap of waiting for a call, waiting for something to happen, trying to force action that might be out of your control.

Yo La Tengo "Stockholm Syndrome" - "Unaccounted"
Pochard in this story is convinced the relationship is salvagable, until he's forced to admit it was a total disaster. This song sounds so poppy and tender on the surface, but if you listen it's quite sinister. "No, don't warn me, I know it's wrong, but I swear it won't take long. And I know you know, It makes me sigh; I do believe in love." I think that's Pochard's MO, too. He knows he's in a mess of a situation but warning him won't make a difference. He needs to figure it out on his own.

Cat Power "Sweedeedee" - "A Heaven Gone"
I call the format of this story "the road," and I think of this as a rambler of a song, so the impulses match up. Both are a little dirty, a little down on their luck, looking to run away from their troubles.

Townes Van Zandt "Be Here to Love Me Today" - "Before We Pass This Way Again"
The song is mentioned in this story. It's the father and daughter's anthem. I don't think it needs much more explanation.

Tim Kinsella sings the songs of Marvin Tate by Leroy Bach "Idolize" - "More Mysteries"
This is one of the most messed up songs I know, but I love the exuberance and rawness. It gets at the heart of something that I've always been aware of as problematic, but also bears logic: You can idolize a total fuck-up. And in idolizing that fuck-up, you might realize that you're the one that doesn't have your shit together.

Radiohead "Black Star" - "The Tackiness of Souls"
This song gets matched because I probably listened to it several hundred times the year I wrote this story. Obsession. "I get on the train and I just stand about now that I don't think of you. I keep falling over I keep passing out when I see a face like you." It's so destructive to give yourself over to that kind of love, but sometimes you have to give it a shot: to test it, to know, to feel alive.

Joni Mitchell "Case of You" - "Recipe for Her Absence"
I don't know that it's that every story in this collection is about loss and confusion and sadness and needing to make your own mistakes, or if it's just with the ones that are that I can easily pair songs. Dialogue from an argument in a song? Only Joni can pull it off so well, "‘I am as constant as a northern star.' And I said, "Constantly in the darkness? Where's that at? If you want me I'll be in the bar.'" I imagine this discussion having happened before this couple broke up.

YACHT "Psychic City" - "The Things Which Blind Us"
The lackluster joy. The vaguely hallucinatory way of looking at the world. The amped up way of feeling emotions when you don't have any options.

Dixie Cups "Iko Iko"- "Let Me Be Your Tugboat King"
The rhythm of this song, like jumping rope, like playground rhymes, like call and response, like a spell, like a hymn. The story falls somewhere between this and a square dance for me.

Chopin Mazurkas Op. 6 - "The Hush of the Party"
Quiet but danceable, these songs are what I hear in my head beneath the din of voices in this story, fading to silence as the guests start their bows and curtsies.


Jac Jemc and A Different Bed Every Time links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

Chicago Reader review
Foreword Reviews review
Heavy Feather Review review
Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review
The Rumpus review
Shelf Awareness review

The Austin Review interview with the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for My Only Wife
Monkeybicycle interview with the author
The Nervous Breakdown self-interview by 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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