October 22, 2015
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
David Winner's novel Tyler's Last is an inventive and fascinating homage to the works of Patricia Highsmith.
Ann Beattie wrote of the book:
"It's hard to describe David Winner’s fascinating and original book. On one level it's satirical, but as with any kind of comedy, its performance depends on our understanding the riff being done on very serious matters. Also, as the author knows, the serious and the satirical are by now often synonymous in people’s minds, our society has become so absurd. I kept thinking of Hitchcock, and the way he made his audience voyeurs. David Winner’s method is similar, though there’s more than a whiff of Tarantino in the Hitchcock homage, as well. It's riveting and funny, a sort of dazzling movie script that is a novel that involves another book within it. . . It comes at you cinematically, but with the advantage of a novel that alludes to literary models, as well."
Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.
Tyler's Last tells two stories that eventually collide. Eve, a version of Patricia Highsmith, stalks an ex-lover while slowly succumbing to Parkinson's. Tyler, a take on Highsmith's most famous character Ripley (as in The Talented Mr….) is harassed by someone claiming to be an ex-lover he thought he'd knocked off decades before. Highsmith's work has been so often filmed (most recently Carol, by Todd Haynes with Cate Blanchett) that I tried to set some of the scenes from my novel to music.
"Ex-Lion Tamer" by Wire : But first myself at home in Brooklyn. So here I am in my living room in the middle of a workday, my big yellow mutt by my side, getting Tyler in and out of danger. I climb to my feet and walk over to the yoga mat on the floor. Right on cue, Hazel, the dog, shuffles nervously out of the room. I flip on the Wire song and hysterically exercise on the yoga mat, fast-paced early punk chords pushing me forward. Not anarchic nor rabble-rousing like the Clash or the Pistols, Wire charges Dadaist words with manic intensity: "Next week will solve your problems, but now, fish fingers in a line, and all the milk bottles stand empty."
"Substitute" by The Who: The novel opens with Tyler climbing a hill in a dreary Spanish beach town. Well-heeled, patrician and continental, he is really "just a substitute for another guy" as nothing is as it seems. The ponzi scheme he curates has fallen apart. His wife has left him for her "little French girlfriend." He's never tricked the Queens from his voice. The old Who song playing in his head has made him nervous since he first heard it a few years after arriving in Europe because it's got him pegged. He "looks pretty tall" without need of "high heels," but the "simple things about him are complicated:" an aging and broke life-criminal rather than a youngish, moneyed gadabout.
"Smooth Operator" by Sade: Ten years earlier, Eve, the character based on Highsmith, is taken by an unpleasant German woman to a bar after the judging of the Rotterdam film contest. Sade's slick, pseudo jazzy tale of a player booms from the sound system. Though a plain dresser herself, Eve appreciates the old fashioned suits worn by the men and the women's cocktail dresses from an era she can't quite place. That's until she realizes that while the women are women, the men are women too. Yes she had written that book under a nom de plum [Carol] in which two women French Kissed and she preferred them in bed however much they bored her at dinner, but that didn't' mean she had to be taken to a place for lesbians. A beer was a beer. But Tab, a beautiful young woman with spiked blond hair, seduces her in the bathroom as Smooth Operator crescendos. "His eyes like angels, but his heart is cold. No need to ask. He's a smooth operator." Tab cruelly dumps Eve and disappears after a week together only to be rediscovered on-line and stalked years later.
"You Belong to Me" by Jo Stafford: In the early fifties, thirteen-year-old Tyler arrives at the apartment he shares with his mother far out in Queens to hear the luxuriant tones of Jo Stafford on the radio singing a WW2-era song reminding overseas GIs that they were missed back home. Tyler, who doesn't ever feel missed, slips nervously through the living room, praying that his mother is down on the fourth floor playing cards with the Italian ladies. The trouble is that Tyler isn't returning from school in Jackson Heights but from playing hooky in Manhattan where he had had a troubling encounter in a dirty movie house and swung on swings in Washington Square Park. "Fly the ocean in a silver plane. Watch the jungle when it's wet with rain," sings Stafford lovingly. "Just remember when you're home again, you belong to me." Which takes on a different meaning as Tyler's sadistic mother lies in wait in order to smack him with her laundress hands.
"Get Off of My Cloud" by the Rolling Stones: Chris, the adopted Asian nephew of the man Tyler thought he'd successfully killed, is alone in his room when Tyler bursts into the house. Chris bounces up and down, a simulacrum of an electric guitar in his hands, screaming, "Hey, you, get off of my cloud." The "you" he's got in mind is his pompous father, and the song is much better than the Brittany Spears bullshit cherished by his classmates. Tyler, filled with European snobbery and good old-fashioned American rage, assumes the annoying little Oriental lad must be the housekeeper's son.
"It Girl" by Brian Jonestown Massacre: Anton, the lead singer's, arch delivery has an early 60s feel, swinging London, Julie Christie in Darling. Eve is being driven through Spain to Rotterdam to confront Tab, the girl who had once seduced her in a bathroom, when her driver chances across the song on some alternative station. "Baby you could be my it girl. Baby, you're the shit girl. Loving you could be a crime, crazy how we fit, girl." About eight years later right before the 2008 elections, Anton appeared and disappeared from the stage at a show in Brooklyn. He got sloppier and sloppier as the evening progressed, and outlasted most of the audience. Only a few of us were around by the end when he was rambling incoherently about John McCain.
"Into the Groovey" by Ciccone Youth: Dissonant ironic chords blast through the warehouse in which Tab has her work displayed. Eve, who has stalked her to her opening, recognizes the rather pleasant song from the eighties by the awful woman who wrote the gratuitous sex book. A hoarse, out-of-tune very un-Madonna like voice exhorts her to "get into the groove, boy, you've got to prove your love to me." But Eve, unsteady and out of sorts, doesn't want to prove her love to Tab but teach her a lesson or two instead, how one doesn't force someone to fall in love only to leave them in the dust a week later.
"Sodade" by Cesaria Evora: I won't go into the plot machinations, but Tyler and Chris later find themselves in a sept place, a sort of local taxi, driving through Senegal. I once visited the country myself and have huge nostalgia for the long empty plains, the blazing heat and sudden storms. The Senegalese music I've listened to (Baaba Maal, Youssou N'dour) is generally upbeat and up-tempo. To find the right melancholic sound to express my nostalgia for Senegal, we have to travel about 400 miles out into the Atlantic to Cape Verde, where the late Cesaria Evora grew up. Sodade is a Cape Verdian creole version of the untranslatable Portuguese word, saudade, a deep, yearning: arresting, inexpressible.
David Winner and Tyler's Last 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
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)