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February 16, 2015

Book Notes - Kyle Boelte "The Beautiful Unseen"

The Beautiful Unseen

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.

Kyle Boelte's memoir The Beautiful Unseen is a thought-provoking and pitch-perfect examination of grief.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"With lush, expressive imagery that conjures an uncertain emotional and physical terrain, Boelte conveys the deep, abiding sense of loss such tragedies inflict, yet softly, tenderly communicates the conflicting sensations of confronting memories, both lost and found."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


In his own words, here is Kyle Boelte's Book Notes music playlist for his memoir The Beautiful Unseen:


For many years, I've seen human figures in shadows and coat racks in the dark of night. The figures are always one figure, a singular figure, the figure of my brother Kris, who killed himself when we were both teenagers. ‘Hallucination' is too strong of a word for it—though, no doubt, I've experienced those too. It's something more like a 'feeling' of sight rather than sight itself.

In my book, The Beautiful Unseen, I'm preoccupied with sight. I spend days wandering around San Francisco, looking for the fog that wraps around the hills and flows through the valleys like streams. I try to understand these 'visions' of my brother in part by understanding the fog, which hides and reveals the city as it appears and disappears throughout the day.

Sight is the primary way most people experience fog, but in the city of San Francisco, where the human world and the natural world meet, one can hear the fog, in the form of the foghorns that sound across the city. Each horn has its own rhythm, its own particular tone. On a foggy summer night, walk across San Francisco and enter into a concert hall where the wind and fog, as well as the fog's voice, the foghorn, are on full display.

Radiohead – "How to Disappear Completely"

I listened to a lot of Radiohead while writing the book. If there is a band that evokes the fog more than Radiohead, I haven't found it. Amnesiac, Kid A, In Rainbows, and of course OK Computer: all have the power to transport me into an alternate state where the writing comes just a little easier.

Pink Floyd – "Hey You"

This is the song I chose to play at my brother's memorial service. As a teenager, it was a song I could put on to feel. Pink Floyd was probably my favorite band then, and though I don't listen to the band much anymore, this song continues to be something I can put on when I want to feel something like what I felt back then.

The wall was too high / as you can see / No matter how he tried / he could not break free

The Offspring – "Come Out and Play"

I stopped listening to The Offspring at the height of their popularity, in 1994. The band's best-selling album Smash had been found in the CD player downstairs, in our basement, not far from where Kris was found hanging.

I started listening to the album again as I was working on The Beautiful Unseen. At first, it was something like "research." It was difficult to listen to, but over time I grew to like the album. I started listening to it when I was writing, and even when I wasn't writing.

By the time you hear the siren / it's already too late / One goes to the morgue and the other to jail / One guy's wasted and the other's a waste / It goes down the same as the thousands before / No one's getting smarter / no one's learning the score / Your never-ending spree of death and violence and hate / is gonna tie your own rope, tie your own rope, tie your own . . .

Sonic Youth – "Bull in the Heather"
Nirvana – "About a Girl"
Public Enemy - "Bring the Noise"
Sublime – "Smoke Two Joints"

Kris loved music. He was learning to play the drums. He was always listening to something, and his music sensibility, at sixteen, was way cooler than mine ever has been.

"My favorite types of music are rap and alternative and an occasional mix of heavy metal," Kris wrote in one of the his papers I found while working on the book. "My parents despise my taste in music but I'd rather listen to my music than my parents' over the hill classics." Classic teenager.

Pink Floyd – "Shine on You Crazy Diamond"

A cemetery in south Denver, with the mountains in the distance. A place I would go in high school when I was struggling with something. On the tombstone, a few words I had chosen at 13:

Nobody knows where you are, how near or how far / Shine on you crazy diamond / Pile on many more layers and I'll be joining you there / Shine on you crazy diamond / And we'll bask in the shadow of yesterday's triumph, sail on the steel breeze / Come on you boy child, you winner and loser, come on you miner for truth and delusion, and shine


Kyle Boelte and The Beautiful Unseen links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book
excerpt from the book

Kirkus review
Los Angeles Review of Books review
Portland Mercury review
San Francisco Chronicle review

Sierra interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (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
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
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
Word Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)


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