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January 27, 2016

Book Notes - Amber Sparks "The Unfinished World"

The Unfinished World

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 stories Amber Sparks new short fiction collection The Unfinished World are imaginative and richly told, fantastic in every sense of the word.

Kirkus wrote of the collection:

"The strength of the collection is Sparks' lush, lyrical writing, saturating the dark, death-filled stories with beauty…. Stylish and deeply imagined."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


In her own words, here is Amber Sparks' Book Notes music playlist for her short story collection The Unfinished World:


When I started putting together a Book Notes list of songs to accompany my book, The Unfinished World and Other Stories, I felt stuck because all I wanted to do was, well, listen to David Bowie. I was devastated when his death was made public, because no one's music and art – and life as an artist – has meant more to me. And so finally I said, you know, I bet I'm not the only person who just wants to listen to Bowie right now. And I'm going to make a list for those people. An all-Bowie list for my book.

I have to admit, it was more than a little therapeutic. And appropriate, given what a reader Bowie was, how many literary references fill his lyrics and serve as his influences. And appropriate, too, given for me how much time spent writing has also been time spent listening to David Bowie, how much his music has no doubt seeped into the pages of my books and filled my words with weirdness.

Anyhow, I'd normally explain each song, and how it fits each story. But in this case, I'd rather let the lyrics themselves do the talking. No need to explain – just read and listen and I hope, enjoy these songs and stories in a new way.


The Janitor in Space/Hallo Spaceboy

"Your silhouette is so stationary
You're released but your custody calls
And I want to be free
Don't you want to be free
Do you like girls or boys
It's confusing these days
But moondust will cover you"

Lizzie Borden Jazz Babies/Oh You Pretty Things

"Look at your children
See their faces in golden rays

Don't kid yourself they belong to you

They're the start of a coming race"


The Cemetery for Lost Faces/Breaking Glass

"Baby, I've been
Breaking glass
In your room again"

Thirteen Ways of Destroying a Painting/We Are the Dead


"Oh caress yourself, my juicy
For my hands have all but withered

Oh dress yourself my urchin one,
For I hear them on the stairs

Because of all we've seen
Because of all we've said
We are the dead"

And the World Was Crowded with Things That Meant Love/Strangers When We Meet

"Cold tired fingers

Tapping out your memories

Halfway sadness

Dazzled by the new

Your embrace

Was all that I feared"

Birds with Teeth/Golden Years

"Last night they loved you, opening doors and pulling some strings, angel

Come get up my baby

In walked luck and you looked in time

Never look back, walk tall, act fine

Come get up my baby"


We Were Holy Once/Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)

"She could've been a killer

if she didn't walk the way she do,
and she do

She opened strange doors

That we'd never close again"

La Belle de Nuit, La Belle de Jour/Queen Bitch

"She's an old-time ambassador of sweet-talking, night-walking games
And she's known in the darkest clubs for pushing ahead of the dames

If she says she can do it, then she can do it, she don't make false claims

But she's a queen and such are queens that your laughter is sucked in their brain"

The Men and Women Like Him/Look Back in Anger

"'You know who I am,' he said
The speaker was an angel

He coughed and shook his crumpled wings

Closed his eyes and moved his lips

'It's time we should be going'"

Things You Should Know About Cassandra Dee/Heart's Filthy Lesson

"If there was only something between us
Other than our clothes

Something in our skies

Something in our skies

Something in our blood"


The Fires of Western Heaven/How Does the Grass Grow

"If the clocks could go backwards
The girls would fill with blood and
The grass would be green again
Remember the dead
They were so great"

The Fever Librarian/African Night Flight

"Seemed like another day
I could fly 
Into the eye of god on high
His burning eye will see me through
One of these days, one of these days
Gotta get a word through one of these days"

Unfinished World/Fantastic Voyage


"In the event
That this fantastic voyage

Should turn to erosion

and we never get old

Remember it's true, dignity is valuable

But our lives are valuable too"


Amber Sparks and The Unfinished World links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book
excerpt from the book

Kirkus review
Minneapolis Star Tribune review
New York Times review
Publishers Weekly review
Vol. 1 Brooklyn review
Washington Post review

Curbside Splendor interview with the author
Fiction Advocate interview with the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for May We Shed These Human Bodies


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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