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November 2, 2015

Book Notes - Sloane Crosley "The Clasp"

The Clasp

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.

Sloane Crosley's debut novel The Clasp proves her as adroit with fiction as she is with essays in this clever, funny, and poignant adaption of Guy de Maupassant's "The Necklace."

The New Republic wrote of the book:

"The newest―and arguably the funniest [tribute to 'The Necklace']―is Sloane Crosley's The Clasp, a light-hearted but sincere novel about three college friends who reunite a decade after graduation and end up in a kind of soul-searching caper that takes them through New York, Los Angeles, Florida, and France…. Crosley's comedy is nearly always upbeat…but it still manages to slyly investigate the downside of 'personal authenticity,' that weird American obsession that distorts everything from our shopping habits to our national politics. In The Clasp, characters struggle on the brink of 30 to transform the fake―meaning the privately miserable and 'successful' lives they've been pretending to lead―into something real…. Crosley has achieved a rare feat: a complex and clever work of homage that deepens the original by connecting it to contemporary life. The Clasp is a gentle, astute, funny, smart, and very entertaining book."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.

In her own words, here is Sloane Crosley's Book Notes music playlist for her debut novel The Clasp:

Music is important to The Clasp and you can tell because it's on the first page — as in the copyright page. Even before the dedication, Pulp's "Common People" gets a shout-out (rather, a "grateful acknowledgement for permission to reprint" the lyrics). The novel tells the story of a group of friends, meeting up with them a decade after graduation, but focusing on three in particular. Victor (a bit of a sad sap), Kezia (a beleaguered worker bee) and Nathaniel (an egotistical faux screenwriter) have long been in a kind of stunted love triangle and over the course of the novel, they get de-stunted in various ways. One of these main characters, Victor, is rife with class issues and at one point he recites the lyrics to "Common People" to a hotel heiress. The song is, in so many ways, the anthem to The Clasp. But beyond that one song, this is a novel that takes place in Miami, LA, New York, Paris and Normandy and involves a road trip. So here are some of the others I imagine playing as these three amusingly lost souls go about their business:

"Los Angeles, I'm Yours" by The Decemberists: Even as Nathaniel defends his choice to give up his literary aspirations in New York and move to Los Angeles, he also struggles with his newfound affection for the city. You can tell fairly on in the novel that he isn't quite confident in his allegiance. This song is a kind of anti-love song to the city. It's "an ocean's garbled vomit on the floor." And yet? "Los Angeles, I'm yours."

"Immigrant Song" by Led Zeppelin: This should, in theory, be the song playing when Victor gets his ass beaten in a bar brawl in an industrial French city. Though, because this is Victor we're talking about — a sensitive soul who should not be getting in bar fights — it might give the whole scene more texture to picture the punches in slow motion and have them set to one of Karen O's Crush Songs.

"Get It While You Can" by Howard Tate: "If someone comes along and offers you genuine love and affection, get it while you can." Sing it, Howard. Two out of three of these main characters could stand to hear this and probably a bunch of the minor ones as well. It's a song about missed chances and lost love and it's just full of soul.

"La Chanson de Prévert" by Serge Gainsbourg: You didn't think I was going to get through a list of songs for a book that takes place half in France without listing this fellow, did you? But this particular song is about an absurdist French poet. Gainsbourg even swiped some lines from Prévert. Since The Clasp becomes very much about Guy de Maupassant's "The Necklace," and even incorporates the story directly into the narrative, I can't think of a better Gainsbourg ditty than this one.

"Holiday Road" by Lindsey Buckingham: When Nathaniel and Kezia get in a car in Paris and are having difficulties with Parisian traffic, Nathaniel makes a "Look kids, Big Ben! Parliament!" joke. Naturally, the mind (at least the 80s/90s-bred mind) goes straight to this song.

"Where's The Time" by Caveman: "I was searching for a friend who would help me in the end." That's what all these characters are doing, even if they don't know it. But by the end of the novel, they either learn to help themselves or learn that assistance comes from very unexpected places. They also, to put it in cliché terms, learn to let go of the past. I imagine any quiet or reflective moment would be served by this song, which also includes the lyric "Where's the time to waste on someone else's life?"

"A Real Mother For Ya" by Johnny "Guitar" Watson: Absolutely no reason for this to be on here except I can imagine Nathaniel being in a supremely good mood and signing to this while Kezia sits in the passenger seat, not amused and glaring at him.

Fleetwood Mac: "Storms" for the scene when Kezia lies awake in the dark in a small B&B with Nathaniel in the next bed and shares a nightmare she had about loosing him forever and "The Chain" for the rest of the novel, with is about old friends and happens to have some pretty apt imagery for a book about clasps and necklaces.

Sloane Crosley and The Clasp links:

the author's website
the author's Wikipedia entry
video trailer for the book

Kirkus review
New Republic review
New York Times review
Publishers Weekly review
San Francisco Chronicle review
Slate review

The Bookseller interview with the author
Broadly interview with the author
Daily Beast profile of the author
Esquire interview with the author
Globe and Mail interview with the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for I Was Told There'd Be Cake
The Lit Up Show interview with the author
Vanity Fair interview with the author
Vogue profile of the author
Vulture 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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