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November 30, 2015

Book Notes - Russell Quinn "The Pickle Index"

The Pickle Index

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, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

The Pickle Index, a collaboration between Eli Horowitz and Russell Quinn, illustrated by Ian Huebert, is an innovatively told and imaginative novel available in three distinct and wholly entertaining editions: hardback, paperback, and app.

Arthur Bradford wrote of the book:

"You know when you find a book that feels original and fresh and weird in just the right way? The Pickle Index is such a book. Eli Horowitz has created a carnival world a little like that amazing place Katherine Dunn took us to in Geek Love. But this book has more laughs."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.

In his own words, here is Russell Quinn's Book Notes music playlist for the novel The Pickle Index:

The Pickle Index is a novel that's simultaneously a hardcover, a paperback, and an immersive smartphone app that disseminates the story via a fictional recipe-sharing network with mini games. It was also a collaboration between Eli Horowitz and myself. We each did a lot of different things, but Eli mainly wrote the words and I mainly wrote the software. We spoke a lot on the phone and by email and sometimes in person. In the entirety of the three-year project I can't remember us ever purposefully listening to music together. Eli came over for dinner once and I think I was playing something kinda sensual and he didn't like it. Another time — during a three-week stint in the Canadian mountains — we were waiting for a car ride and he put in headphones so we didn't have to talk. I think it was the week Carrie & Lowell came out. We'd spent all day talking, so it was a smart move.

Most of my tasks on the project fell into one of three categories: designing, programming, admin. Each comes with different musical demands. The app is supposed to be a fictional device in a slightly goofy faraway land. I'd mainly listen to chart hip-hop while designing, to feel driven and weird. Three years is a long time to work on a project. Drake went from Soft Drake to Tough Drake in that time. I love them both.


Drake — "Trophies"
Kanye West — "Black Skinhead"
Nicki Minaj — "I Am Your Leader"
Rae Sremmurd — "No Flex Zone"
DJ Khaled — "Suffering From Success"
Angel Haze — "New York"
2 Chainz — "I'm Different"
Good Music — "Mercy.1"

My use of music while programming is the most specific of the three. I often need music to focus, to block out distractions. Because of this, I usually play the same songs over and over — songs I've heard so many times that they no longer register. Sometimes I just need sixty seconds of something familiar to get through a tricky logic problem. It's the fastest way to control the external environment. White noise.


Grimes — "Oblivion"
Sbtrkt — "Wildfire"
Townes Van Zandt — "Dollar Bill Blues"
Harry Harris — "The Ballad of Ronnie Radford"

It's often late at night when I get around to answering emails, bookkeeping, calculating sales tax, and looking at acquisition funnels. The mental vacuum of administration lets the self-doubt creep back in. Why am I doing this? Who at the IRS thought section 170(e)(3) was a good idea? Why the hell am I making an app about pickles? I always reach for the saddies.


Phosphorescent — "Wolves"
Fiona Apple — "Every Single Night"
James Blake — "The Wilhelm Scream"
Blood Orange — "You're Not Good Enough"
Scott Walker — "The World's Strongest Man"
Bruce Springsteen — "The River"

Russell Quinn and The Pickle Index links:

the book's website

East Bay Express review
NPR Books review

Work in Progress 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

Online "Best of 2015" Book Lists

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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