March 5, 2015
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.
Timothy S. Lane's novel Rules for Becoming a Legend is a compelling and insightful debut.
Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.
"Go On, Say It" by Blind Pilot
Blind Pilot hails from Astoria, Oregon—inspiration for the Columbia City of my novel. I had art class with the bass player. He could draw way better than me. Anyway, Blind Pilot gets the Oregon Coast right. They are able to constellate the moods and experiences ranging from oppressive and sad to beautiful and affirming in a way that resonates authentically.
"Home" by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
The idea of home being less a place and more the love from family and friends is a large part of what Jimmy deals with. His home was wrecked before he even entered the world. He's setting out to find if basketball can become his place to return to.
"Baby" by Justin Bieber
I worked at a school in Harlem while writing this book and this song was HUGE at the time. My students would sing it any chance they got—while waiting in line for lunch, while at recess, under their breath in class—and eventually I outlawed its singing—a rule they gleefully ignored. But the song was a good reminder of how things can seem when you are young.
"Otis (feat. Otis Redding)" by Kanye West & Jay Z
"They ain't seen me cause I pulled up in my other Benz. Last week I was in my other-other Benz." Jimmy's a shy kid—until he gets on the court. Then he has that confidence exclusive to successful artists and athletes. A complete belief in himself that makes him great. Considering the odds, it's ridiculous to hope you can have great success. You have to be just a little caught up in yourself to step up and take that big shot.
"Dance Music" by the Mountain Goats
Jimmy's family is a nuclear waste site—past tragedies ticking out their half-lifes—infecting him and his brother, Dex. Kids have an uncanny ability of being able to compartmentalize. For Jimmy it's ball. In this song it's dance music. There's a particularly heartbreaking line about how when the police come to get the kid because of how viciously the parents are fighting, he's listening to dance music. Also, while the song is about intense domestic unhappiness, it's played in a jangly, dancey, upbeat style. It hijacks a dance song to speak to something darker. I tried to do the same with the hyperbolic language of sports writing.
"Pink Moon" by Nick Drake
I'm obsessed with small, beautiful moments that crop up in the chaos of life. And this song inspired the scene of Dex driving back with his mother after the game where he resurrects Jimmy's play. He watches the light caught in the raindrops studding the window and is at peace.
"The Seed 2.0" by the Roots
In terms of life-changing events, having a child is right up there. And when you're young? I imagine it's like trading in your youth for your child's. But in the moment, in the making of the child, it's sexy and fun. For Todd and Genny, in the back seat of his van, it doesn't seem to be about making a child at all. This song does a good job of juxtaposing those two feelings. All at once, Todd goes from man on the make to man making due.
"Underwater Love" by Smoke City
That clingy first teenage love slips over Jimmy Kirkus and doesn't let him go. It's like going underwater. The very gravity changes. The distorted sounds and warbling beat stagger behind a singer crooning softly in English and Portuguese. As in love, most people can only understand half of what is going on. "Follow me now to a place you only dreamt of before I came along," the song demands. Jimmy follows, until he can't. Then he is back on dry land and looking at the water, wondering why he's wet.
"A Wake (feat. Evan Roman)" by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
This song is about a lot of things, but the tone of regret and contemplation fits Jimmy well. At some point we all long for better times—imagined or real—but Kid Kirkus is one of the few who actually has a case. There's a line in this song that may as well have been written for Kamikaze Kirkus. "I need love, you need love, give me love, and I'll give you my love."
"Sugar High" by Holiday Friends
Another Astoria band with a perfect line on how it feels to grow up in a small town on the Oregon coast. "Tell your son, tell your daughter, when the rain hits the water here in Oregon, we're bored again." There's something that happens to geography when you grow up in a small town. The houses, the parks, the cracks in the sidewalk all become holy. You are forced to consider the world being the walk to the corner store or the community pool. The place you grow up, the town you come from, is stamped on whomever you end up becoming. Columbia City—the Oregon Coast—is written in Jimmy at the DNA level.
Timothy S. Lane and Rules for Becoming a Legend links:
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
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