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March 17, 2015

Book Notes - Alan Cheuse "Prayers for the Living"

Prayers for the Living

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.

Alan Cheuse's novel Prayers for the Living offers a pitch-perfect account of one family's deterioration and tragedy.

Foreword Reviews wrote of the book:

"Prayers for the Living troubles notions of righteousness and forgiveness, madness, and fate, providing no easy answers while still leaving readers feeling edified. Cheuse's is a challenging and intelligent novel, replete with beauty and heartbreak, and perhaps even containing a measure of redemption."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


In his own words, here is Alan Cheuse's Book Notes music playlist for his novel Prayers for the Living:


In this story we follow the rise and fall of a New Jersey rabbi—who falls from the dais before his congregation and puts his pulpit behind him, rising in business to become the head of an international corporation like United Fruit (which grew and shipped almost all of the bananas in the American diet for multitudes of decades). Scenes out of Emmanuel (Manny) Bloch’s early life had a hidden soundtrack for me, something like a fusion of the great thunder, though with intermittent playfulness, of a Mahler symphony, and the early Russian scenes something as ethnically folksy as klesmer.

Manny’s mother tells the entire story to a group of friends of her own generation.

Manny’s daughter Sarah brings in the sounds of the family’s youngest generation, with interludes of lyrics from Duke Ellington’s “Mood Indigo” and the faintest strains of Bob Dylan songs (which grandmother Minnie Bloch refers to as “Baby Dylan”).

From klesmer to Ellington to Dylan, a hitch and a glide and a gallop toward the presentation of a feeling of the times against which Minnie tells her story….a varied soundtrack for contemporary tragic events…


Alan Cheuse and Prayers for the Living links:

the author's website
the author's Wikipedia entry

Foreword Reviews review
Jewish Book Council review

Superstition Review Blog essay by 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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