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December 2, 2014

Book Notes - Carla Panciera "Bewildered"


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.

Winner of the 2013 Grace Paley Prize in Short Fiction, Carla Panciera's debut short story collection is remarkably diverse and impressive in its sparse prose.

Pam Houston wrote of the book:

"Apart from range in Bewildered, the level of excellence lies in the ways in which the author navigates so many different kinds of territories – first person, second person, third person, the canted realities of childhood, the accumulating losses of middle and even old age. The writing is always economical without ever being minimal."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.

In her own words, here is Carla Panciera's Book Notes music playlist for her short fiction collection Bewildered

All of a Sudden

My fourteen year old daughter, Apphia, who knows a little something about the friendships between young girls, chose "Turning Tables" by Adele. She said: "I chose this song because one line says, 'I can't give you what you think you gave me,' and I think that symbolizes how the narrator does so much for Albinna, but Albinna doesn't want to be friends anymore because she can't return the favor."

My other fourteen year old daughter, Justina, chose "Young Blood" by Bea Miller because "the song is about teenagers and a lot of stuff happens when you're a teenager [she speaks from experience]. In the song it says when we close our eyes, it's a nightmare and in this story, sad things happen."

No Sooner

My colleague, Colleen, a woman whose favorite t-shirt is emblazoned with Pythagoras's quote about the geometry of music, chose "I'll Fly Away" by Gillian Welch and David Rawlings because, she said, "I think the main character thinks a lot about escaping. I can imagine Michael enjoying the bluegrass music while his wife is listening to the lyrics and recalling her dreams."


My friend Rebecca is a Piscean poet, a writer and a dreamer who loves to swim and pick several things at once. She says, "All through this story, I could hear a sort of score, something that almost seemed sweet or familiar, but most definitely was not. I was thinking of some dissonant post-modern pieces, but most of them didn't have enough of a sense of humor. But ultimately, I think what fits the score best is either Henryk Gorecki's Quasi Una Fantasia, or 24'44' from Karlheinz Stokhausen. They both have an unsettling, off kilter sound – both have a mid-century movie feeling. And while I think the setting of the story is sometime in the 2000s, I can see crazy Mirabelle Joy in an apron, and of course, Ben is thinking in terms of his perfect 1950s self with the perfect wife and perfect house and perfect child and perfect coffee table, but it is all askew, all wrong, all a bad dream – just as these pieces of music are."

It Can't Be This Way Everywhere -- Keren and Leora

Had to give a sad story to two of the happiest people I know, my sweet friend Keren and her loveable daughter, Leora. They decided on "A Drop in the Ocean" by Ron Pope and The District. They wrote: "We chose this song- because as these lyrics might suggest - making the commitment to another means there is sacrifice, disappointment, and longing, yet the reality of the commitment endures."

Having Your Italy

My sister, Barbara Ann and her husband, Bill, from Westerly, RI, which is still very much a little part of Italy, chose The Beatles: "We know the character would love a 'Long and Winding Road' by the Beatles because that is the path she is on."


My former student, Britta, an inveterate concert-goer, chose "We Never Change" by Coldplay. She said, "When reading the story I had this feeling of being lost and kind of a solemn feeling of how we never really know where we are going in life. The song gives me the same vibe when it talks about how as people we never change and a lot of the time we just get caught up in this funk that no one really seems to get out of, but maybe that's just what life should be like. Who knows?"

Fine Creatures of the Deep

BFFs from my new hometown, the kind of people who make you CDs for your birthday and would never torture you about the placement of your birdbath, Bill and Anne Ganzenmuller, also chose The Beatles. They thought "No Reply" fit because "it follows the storyline of trying tirelessly for love when there is no chance of receiving it."

End of Story

From my Boston-born friends, women who would recognize the neighborhood Colin grew up in and the Irish world of which he is a part: Jeanne says,"I think that Rosanna would love "Brilliant Disguise" by Bruce Springsteen (maybe sung by Sinead O'Connor) because she could use it during the breakup scene to fill the silent drive home. She really put Colin in the cold light of day. Colin seems like he would like to slip into one of his many disguises and act his way through the life story he has constructed." Robin suggests "Broken Together" by Casting Crowns: "When I read the ending of the story, all I could think of was one of the heart charms that breaks in two pieces.You know the kind that a teenaged boy might buy to give one half of to his girlfriend? In this case, these two former loves come back together, but will never heal - will always remain broken."

Singing Donkeys, Happy Families

Another member of my own happy family, my niece and goddaughter, Amy-Jo Conant said: "I was thinking of Mags and how she felt lost and stuck in a life that seems to be spinning around her. So in one sense I was thinking of melancholy and dreaming, or possibly sad and longing for things she doesn't have. But then I kept coming back to the very end where she realizes she dropped his hand. Then I began to think about her taking charge and making a conscious decision to move on. I love the song "Shake It Out"- by Florence Against the Machine, first,because it has an infectious upbeat tempo. This song manages to capture the part of Mags that feels lost and helpless. Even the part of her that seems manic and desperate is in the lines "I can see no way." Then it changes to a mantra or chant of "shake it out", meaning move on! She's taking charge and fighting back ad in the end she will be just fine.

On Being Lonely and Other Theories

My very loyal husband Dennis introduced me to the character and to the setting that inspired this story for which he chose, "Dyslexic Heart", by Paul Westerberg, because "it captures Jon. He doesn't know if he wants to stay with Shar or go back to his wife. He seems to be handicapped by his shortsightedness in terms of his marriage and what he's doing to both women."

Carla Panciera and Bewildered links:

the author's website

Publishers Weekly review

The Quivering Pen essay by the author
Westerly Sun profile of the author
The Write Step 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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