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March 4, 2015

Book Notes - Kevin Brockmeier "A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip"

A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip

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.

Kevin Brockmeier's memoir A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip eloquently captures the awkwardness of his seventh grade year.

Biographile wrote of the book:

"This is painful stuff—and important and beautifully written stuff, in Brockmeier’s hands—worthy of your time and attention. It’s insightful, relayed at a propulsive clip, and captures the complicated inner life of a seventh grader with more unflinching precision than anything you’ll read on the subject. This book will help you."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.

In his own words, here is Kevin Brockmeier's Book Notes music playlist for his memoir A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip: A Memoir of Seventh Grade:

December 6, 1985

Dear "David Gutowski," who supposedly passed me this note,

What is a Largehearted Boy? I'm guessing you made it up, since before today I'd never heard of one, or of you for that matter. 5 dollars says this is actually Thad playing some sort of trick on me. But you asked me about the songs I like and what I think of when I listen to them, so what the hey. Here are my top 10:

#1. Billy Joel: "The Longest Time"

It's been 2 years since An Innocent Man came out, and it's still my favorite tape—particularly "The Longest Time" because there aren't any instruments on it, or at least none that I can hear, just singing and snapping and clapping. I won 2nd place lip-syncing this one at Bateman's Halloween party a couple of years ago. My prize was a hat with foam lightning bolts on it.

#2. Naked Eyes: "Always Something There to Remind Me"

When I was about 10, I was at 8 Wheels one Saturday night, and this song was playing on the big-screen TV above the snack bar. Dad hadn't gotten cable yet, so it was the first music video I'd ever seen. I don't remember much about the video, just the guy standing beneath the umbrella at the beginning and how awesome it was to skate around in the darkness listening to those drums and church bells. I wish MTV was like a radio station, and I could phone the VJs and ask them to play it again.

#3. Phil Collins: "Against All Odds"

You want a secret? OK, this is a secret. In 5th grade, after I asked Jennifer if she would go with me and she said no but we could still be friends, I spent an afternoon riding my bike as fast as I could around my apartment complex singing "Against All Odds." I remember the way the wind felt rushing over my cheeks, and the sleeves of my shirt flapping against my arms. It was like I'd leapt off a building.

#4. Dexys Midnight Runners: "Come On Eileen"

Sometimes, walking around the neighborhood, I'll start singing this song for no reason at all, and during the part where it slows down and then speeds back up, my footsteps will slow down and then speed back up, too. It's irresistible. In 4th grade, Chad and I made a copy of "Come On Eileen" by holding my tape recorder up to his record player. On the same tape we copied—

#5. Paul Davis: "'65 Love Affair"


#6. Styx: "Don't Let It End"

You can hear our voices introducing the songs. "Up next is Paul Davis singing 'That Wonderful '65 Love Affair'!" We sound like mice or something. Maybe it was just the tape or maybe my voice is really that high all the time and I just don't realize it. It's hard to believe. Back in elementary school, when I used to write song parodies like Weird Al, I came up with a version of "Don't Let It End" sung by Mr. T. The whole thing was about how hard he found it to get out of bed in the morning. It made my babysitter laugh. "Sometimes I wake up and punch my alarm clock"—that's the only line I remember.

#7. A-Ha: "Take On Me"

Ever since 7th grade started, before Mom gets home from work, I'll watch MTV for half an hour or so hoping they'll play this video, and most of the time they do. It's the best music video anyone's ever made, period. Better than "Thriller." Better than "Just a Gigolo." No arguments allowed. Like a comic book with a soundtrack. I wish comic books did have soundtracks.

#8. New Edition: "Cool It Now"

This one reminds me of "Earth Angel" and "In the Still of the Night" and all those 50s songs on the tape Dad made for me a few years ago, except with modern music and that "Ronnie, Bobby, Ricky, and Mike" rap in the middle, which I know word for word. "Why you all coming down on me trying to tell me how my life is supposed to be?" I have a poster of New Edition on the wall beside my desk, even though no one else at school likes them.

#9. Wham!: "Careless Whisper"

Once, in the sticker shop over by Sturbridge, I had an argument with Bateman about whether or not the guy from Wham!—George Michael—was actually Jm J. Bullock from Too Close for Comfort. Bateman was right, and I was wrong, but I've got to tell you, on the sticker he definitely looked like Jm J. Bullock.

#10. The Blue Beetle: "I Would If I Could But I Can't So I Won't"

Except for "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" and "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" and stuff like that, this is the first song I ever memorized. It's from the kids' show The Electric Company, performed by the Blue Beetle, who was kind of like Spider-Man if Spider-Man was weak and clumsy but made up for it by trying really hard. When I was a kid I used to wear a cape and pretend I was fighting crime with Spider-Man, the Blue Beetle, and Batman. Sometimes it scares me how much time has passed.


Kevin Brockmeier, officially 13 years old as of 4:30 this morning, so wish me happy birthday

Kevin Brockmeier and A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip: A Memoir of Seventh Grade links:

the author's Wikipedia entry

Adult Books 4 Teens review
Biographile review
Boston Globe review
Christian Science Monitor review
Entertainment Weekly review
Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review
The Rumpus review

Arkansas Times interview with the author
CarolineLeavittville interview with the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for The Brief History of the Dead
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for The Illumination
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for The View from the Seventh Layer
Salon 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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