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March 18, 2015

Book Notes - Claire Fuller "Our Endless Numbered Days"

Our Endless Numbered Days

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.

Claire Fuller's novel Our Endless Numbered Days is an auspicious debut, an unforgettable psychological thriller with one of the most haunting unreliable narrators I have ever encountered.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"Like Emma Donoghue's Room, Fuller's thoroughly immersive debut takes child kidnapping to a whole new level of disturbing. . . .Fuller alternates Peggy's time in the forest with chapters that take place [nine years later] in 1985 after she reunites with her mother—building an ever-present sense of foreboding and allowing readers to piece together well-placed clues."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.

In her own words, here is Claire Fuller's Book Notes music playlist for her debut novel Our Endless Numbered Days:

I wrote Our Endless Numbered Days with Iron and Wine's music playing on a loop – every song. It would have been nice, but self-indulgent, to list only his music, so instead here is a possible sound track or playlist.

"Jesus the Mexican Boy" - Iron and Wine
I'm a sucker for songs with a story, and "Jesus the Mexican Boy" is a story about a man who falls in love with his best friend's sister and runs away with her. I've seen Sam Beam (Iron and Wine) a couple of times. The first was at The End of The Road Festival when I persuaded my husband to shout the name of this song in the hope that Sam would play it. But he only cupped his ear with his hand and shouted back, 'What was that? Beard?' The second time I saw him play was more recently in London where Sam encouraged the audience to call out song names, and although I wanted him to play his song "Die," I didn't think it was an appropriate word to shout at Sam Beam in front of an audience of fans. He did however play "Jesus the Mexican Boy" without me even asking.

"Lakes of Pontchartrain" - The Be Good Tanyas

Another piece of music with a story. After I split up with my first husband I had a brief relationship with a man called Gillan. He would borrow CDs from his local library based on their covers and one he liked the look of was Blue Horse by The Be Good Tanyas. I was quickly taken by all of their music and now my nineteen-year-old son plays this song on his guitar and my eighteen-year-old daughter sings along.

"Wash Away" – Joe Purdy
When Gillan and I split up I was devastated beyond all proportion – still grieving I think for my lost marriage. I would lie in bed listening to Julie Blue, the Joe Purdy album that this track comes from. I love the sound of the water as a back-drop to the music. I listened to it until my children (then aged nine and ten) said they were sick of it, and I finally got up and became normal again.

"Street Boy" – Rodriguez
When I was growing up our neighbour gave my family a vinyl album in a white sleeve with no writing on the label. We only had a few records, and I played this one excessively without knowing what it was. Last year I realised it was Rodriguez's music (although not performed by him) and our neighbour was the keyboard player on his albums. It's the music of my childhood even though the album was never released in England. I'm not certain that "Street Boy" was on that test pressing, but I've chosen it because I love the rhythm, and because instead of the lines:

'You need some love and understanding
Not that dead-end life you're planning…'
My second husband, Tim, recently admitted that he has always thought the words were,
'You need some love and understanding, 
Not that dinner like you're planning'.

"7th Fret Over Andres" – Woodpigeon
Before Tim moved in with me about five years ago, we used to do what we called 'art projects'. One of these was to write notes to each other and hide them in the other's houses. When Tim packed up his belongings he found all the notes I had written to him, some of which were lyrics from this Woodpigeon song. I have yet to find two of Tim's notes to me, hidden somewhere in the house we now share.

"La Campanella" – Liszt
This piece of piano music is played many times by Peggy, the main protagonist in Our Endless Numbered Days. I can't play the piano, but I needed a short and beautiful piece which is supposed to be difficult to learn. "La Campanella" means the little bell, but Peggy 'sees' the music as a bird trying to escape from a cat. I listened to it over and over while I was writing the musical sections.

"The Mistress Witch from McClure (or, the Mind that Knows Itself)" - Sufjan Stevens
It was hard to pick a single Sufjan Stevens track, there are so many I love. But this one has banjos, a story, mystery lyrics, laughing and a French horn that comes in at one minute twenty seconds. What's not to love? Plus, my daughter and I sometimes sing this (very badly) when out walking in the woods.

"Spin the Bottle" – Neil Halstead
I first heard Neil play in a tiny upstairs room at The Railway pub in Winchester, England. The room was jammed with chairs, right up against the stage, which was just a low platform. Tim and I got front row seats so we were sitting only about two feet away from Neil, which much have been pretty weird for him with all these faces staring at him. It was a practice gig before the start of a tour and he wasn't working to a playlist, so he asked the audience what we'd like him to play. And I said 'Spin the Bottle please.' I didn't have to shout, I could have whispered and he would have heard. Anyway, he played it, and it felt like he was playing it for me.

"Lakes of Canada" – The Innocence Mission
My son is a fantastic acoustic guitarist and singer, but too shy to play in public. I often give him lifts to and from his father's house, and the payment I demand is for him to play me songs in the privacy of my sitting room. "Lakes of Canada" is one of my favourite. Sometimes he plays for me instead of giving me Christmas or birthday presents. I tell him he's a cheapskate, but secretly I'd much rather have him sing and play his guitar than receive any present he could ever buy me.

Claire Fuller and Our Endless Numbered Days links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

BookPage review
Bustle review
Chicago Tribune review
Guardian review
Independent review
Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review
The Sunday Times review
Telegraph review review

Litro interview with the author
The Nervous Breakdown self-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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