March 9, 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.
Quan Barry's novel She Weeps Each Time You're Born is one of the year's most impressive debuts, one that spans three decades in a multi-faceted and fascinating Vietnam.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote of the novel:
"A strange and unadorned, inspired sort of beautiful . . . . The great beauty of Quan Barry's novel is in its transcendence of this impulse, its attention to all the stories, whose sum is not darkness but light, not death but life."
Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.
First off, a handful of disclaimers about me in no particular order:
• I'm not the kind of writer who listens to music while writing.
• When I listen to the radio, it's mostly NPR, which means I tend to listen to music only at the gym or while shopping at Hot Topic (a long story).
• Consequently I am completely unsure as to how new music enters my life (dare I admit to the importance of TV car ads (e.g. Nick Drake's "Pink Moon," Band of Skulls' "Light of the Morning," The Heavy's "How You Like Me Now?"), and I don't even own a TV!).
• I probably have the least number of songs on my iPod of anyone in this solar system (3000 (and yes, I still have an iPod as I'm cellphone-less too (I know, why don't I just find a nice cave with some decent southern exposure and call it a day?))).
• Apropos of absolutely nothing, I'm also a sucker for a good soundtrack.
Tracks 1-10 from the soundtrack All is Lost – Alexander Ebert
If you've seen this movie, starring Robert Redford as a guy who wears southwestern jewelry and suffers a lot of serious maritime mishaps while sailing off the Sumatran coast, then forget all the gorgeous water stuff (but keep the sturm und drang atmosphere) and concentrate instead on the journey of the soul. True, my novel takes place in Vietnam, mostly in the shadow of the American War (which is one reason why I had such a difficult time musically casting it—ideally its soundtrack should be Vietnamese, instrumental, and haunting), but since I couldn't come up with the former, I decided to at least try for the later two elements. To me, Alexander Ebert's score is the sound of a soul recognizing its wondrousness in the face of tremendous adversity. The process of both physically and emotionally wrenching meaning from the void is beautiful, delicate, steely, and dark, but ultimately the journey is worth what we invest in it even if we already know what lies waiting for us in the final act.
Loose Strife (poems)
Thankfully, I also have a book of poetry out this spring, which was a little easier to pair up with some of the 3000 songs I own. Here, I just went literal.
Poem: "Loose Strife ('I will not say its name')"
"Physical" – Nine Inch Nails
I sorta think of this poem as my Paula Broadwell poem (remember her and General Petraeus?); in a nutshell, it's a poem about the fact that sometimes love can ruin us. (Can I get an amen?)
Poem: "Loose Strife ('Where I first learned of it')"
"The Star-Spangled Banner" – Marvin Gaye
This piece literally takes place on the Boston Esplanade on the fourth of July, so who better to sing of our country's founding travails than Mr. Sex himself at an NBA game?
Poem: "The Lord Be With You But Not Also With You"
"Paradise by the Dashboard Light" – Meatloaf
This poem is a ghazal, an ancient poetic form that originated in Persia. Because repetition is central to the ghazal, mine is structured around the word "paradise" and various variations thereof.
Poem: "Someone Once Said We Were Put on this Earth to Witness and Testify"
"Yeh Jo Halka Halka Saroor" — Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
Every time I hear this song, I just want to work myself up into an ecstatic frenzy. The poem's about the birth of a friend's baby, so yeah, let's go crazy.
Poem: "Abortion on Demand and Without Apology"
"Baby Baby" – Justin Bieber
It's 100% not what you're thinking. And no, I don't actually count this song among my 3000. Besides, I'm Team Gomez, but I didn't have a poem to pair up with "The Heart Wants What It Wants."
Boston Globe review of She Weeps Each Time You're Born
Kirkus review of She Weeps Each Time You're Born
Library Journal review of She Weeps Each Time You're Born
Los Angeles Times review of She Weeps Each Time You're Born
The Millions review
Minneapolis Star Tribune review of She Weeps Each Time You're Born
Publishers Weekly review of Loose Strife
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)
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)