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March 30, 2015

Book Notes - Dale Herd "Empty Pockets"

Empty Pockets

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.

Dale Herd's Empty Pockets collects nineteen new and sixty-four previously published stories from one of America's masters of the form.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote of the book:

"Whether in his blending of the traditional and the experimental, or in distilling stories down to a precisely phrased form, these stories offer plenty to savor."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


In his own words, here is Dale Herd's Book Notes music playlist for his short story collection Empty Pockets:


Empty Pockets, New and Selected Stories, collects eighty-three stories written over a long number of years. As in music, in the writing of short prose one can make any kind of melodic sorties one likes, and can imagine, so long as each sortie rides out on a solid and continual base, the rhythm and sound of the sentences establishing that base, the images of the sentences becoming the melody, the ideas linked off the images telling the tale. Every once in a while one gets lucky and finds it all working together, rhythm, melody and ideas, and a pretty good story appears. Hopefully, this collection has a few of those.

Here is a partial playlist of some of the music that was at least subconsciously present at the time the following stories were being written and helped me in the writing.

Story: EARLY MORNING WIND: a young man hitchhiking through the American South:

"Seven Bridges Road" by Steve Young. One of the greatest country song ever written, covered by the Eagles and made famous by them, but don't stop there, listen to the original for the authentic purity of its emotion: "There are stars in the southern sky, Southward as you go, There is moonlight and moss in the trees, Down the seven bridges road, Now I have loved you like a baby, Like some lonesome child, And I have loved you in a tame way, And I have loved you wild…"

Story: THE FORTUNES OF THE DAY: two lovers separated by mistakes made in the past bump into each other again and face there is no going back even though they both want to:

"I'd Rather Leave While I'm In Love" (Carole Bayer Sager/Peter Allen) as sung by the husky-voiced Rita Coolidge when she was in love with Kris Kristofferson and he was in love with her: "I'd rather leave while I'm in love, While I still believe the meaning of the word, I'll keep my dreams and just pretend, That you and I are never gonna end…"

Story: CAPTAIN BAA BAA: the eternal horrors of all wars, in this specific case the horrific and misguided mess that was Vietnam:

"Feel Like I'm Fixin' To Die Rag" - Country Joe and the Fish: "…Come on mothers throughout the land, pack your boys off to Viet Nam, come on fathers don't hesitate, send your sons off before it's too late, and you can be the first ones on your block, to have your boy come home in a box…"
"The End" - The Doors: "…This is the end, my friend…I'll never look into your eyes again…."
"Fortunate Son" - Credence Clearwater Revival: "It ain't me, it ain't me, I ain't no millionaire's son, son, It ain't me, it ain't me, I ain't no fortunate one, no…"

Story: COME HOME PLEASE: a young pregnant girl finding herself alone and asking:

"Love And Happiness" - Al Green: "…Happiness is when you really feel good about somebody…."

Story: DEATH: taking place in an upscale mid-town Manhattan restaurant, memories of the holocaust are revisited:

Miles Davis Live At The Fillmore East with Miles, Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, Dave Holland, Jack Dejohnette and Airto Moreira painting the musical portrait of the multi-billions of synapses simultaneously firing in all movements and all conversations as each of us is being bombarded with all the clutter and electronic glitter of this massive city while, underneath it all, central and eternal realities are revealed, ones of terror, as well as of civility and art.

Story: DEAR ANTHONY: a young Latina, beginning her childish play in the game of love:

"Kiko and the Lavender Moon" - Los Lobos: "… And then he waits. And then he fakes, And then he bends, And then he shakes, He plays and plays... Out dreaming 'bout green shoes, haircuts and cake, and then he wishes, the world away, and then he kneels, as if to pray, he dreams and dreams, Kiko and the lavender moon."

Story: THE PROWLER: a boy and girl's first sexual experiences:

"Love Is Strange" - Mickey & Sylvia. The title of this song says it all.

Story: HANDCRAFTED DOLLS: when two people first get hit and smothered with the heat of passion, oblivious of anything else:

"Do Wah Diddy Diddy" by Manfred Mann. This song as actually sung a cappela by a trio of Afro–American street guys in their own beautifully rendered sidewalk version was the central image around which the story was constructed: "There she was just a-walkin' down the street, singin' do-wah diddy-diddy down diddy-do, snappin' her fingers and shufflin' her feet, singin' do-wah diddy-diddy down diddy-do, …I'm hers, she's mine…, wedding bells are gonna chime…"

Story: GONE TO POLYESTER: the grandfather recalling his musical days in Paris right after WW11, the old standards, many that Frank Sinatra was known for:

"Stardust," "That Old Black Magic," "Laura," "Stella By Starlight," "September In The Rain," "I'll Be Seeing You."

Story: YOU PROMISE ME: holding on to the past, and being burned by it, through memories of the one who got away:

"Only The Lonely" - Martha Davis and The Motels; "Stay With Me Tonight" - Jeffrey Osborne

Story: EMERALDS: the hip narco-trafficker, a gringo, maneuvering his way through Bogota, Colombia back to the States. On his iPhone he mostly listens to Eminem, and 50 Cent's Get Rich Or Die Tryin' album like the ordinary white middle class American guy he is:

"Lose Yourself" – Eminem: "…If you had one shot, one opportunity…"
"Candy Shop" – 50 Cent: "I got the magic stick, I'm the love doctor…"

And finally, some other music definitely being listened to as most of the other 72 stories were being written:

"Darkness, Darkness" - The Youngbloods
The Gilded Palace of Sin - the Flying Burrito Brothers
Bo Diddley – Bo Diddley
"Cause We've Ended As Lovers" – (Stevie Wonder) as played by Jeff Beck and Tal Wilkenfeld
"Smooth Operator" - Sade
"Gonna Find Her" – The Coasters
"Driven To Tears" – Sting and Robert Downey, Jr.
"Simply Irresistible" - Robert Palmer
"That'll Be The Day" – Buddy Holly
"Shake Rattle And Roll" - Bill Haley and the Comets
"Honky Tonk" – Bill Doggett
"She Came in Through the Bathroom Window" - Joe Cocker's great cover of The Beatles' song
"Tequila" – The Champs
Brazilliance - Laurindo Almedia and Bud Shank
"I Don't Want to Talk About It" - Rod Stewart
"Satisfaction," "Street Fighting Man," "Miss You" - The Stones
"Crying" – Roy Orbison
"Pusher Man" – Curtis Mayfield
"Tell Me Something Good" – Chaka Khan and Rufus
"Sweet Dreams," "I Fall To Pieces," "Crazy" - Patsy Cline
"Let's Get It On"- Marvin Gaye
"A Thousand Kisses Deep" – Leonard Cohen
"I Fooled Around And Fell In Love" – Elvin Bishop
"I Shot The Sheriff" – Bob Marley
"Cruisin'" – Smokey Robinson
"Jazz On A Summer's Day" - Jimmy Giuffre Three
"We're All Alone" – Boz Scaggs
School Days – Stanley Clarke
"Caballo Viejo" off Mambo Sinuendo – Ry Cooder
Chet Baker Sings - Chet Baker
"To Ramona," "Lay Lady Lay," "Knockin' On Heaven's Door," "Tangled Up In Blue" - Bob Dylan

"Big Sky Country," "I Forget You Every Day" – Chris Whitley:

"He'd play the dirtiest, smallest clubs on stage w/6 rat guitars, cut up t-shirt, all skin & bones...and then he'd start to play & it was beyond words beautiful. It was like what like I was pinned & mounted on the wall to his stuff. The minute I heard his music… It hurt so good." (Comment by Jackson8)

"Hey, Good Lookin'," "Cold, Cold Heart," "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," "Blue Eyes Cryin' In The Rain," "I Can't Help It If I'm Still In Love With You," and anything and everything else by the great Hank Williams.

And overall, and really overall: "Misterioso"Thelonious Sphere (as in music of the spheres – his actual name) Monk.


Dale Herd and Empty Pockets links:

excerpt from the book ("Handcrafted Dolls")
excerpts from the book ("Rawlins" and "All There Is")

The Foxing Review review
Minneapolis Star Tribune review
Queen Mobs Teahouse review


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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