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February 11, 2016

Book Notes - Jarett Kobek "I Hate the Internet"

I Hate the Internet

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.

Jarett Kobek has followed up his novella ATTA (one of my favorite books of the 2000s) with the impressive novel I Hate the Internet.

Jonathan Lethem wrote of the book:

"Could we have an American Houellebecq? Jarett Kobek might come close, in the fervor of his assault on sacred cows of our own secretly-Victorian era, even if some of his implicit politics may be the exact reverse of the Frenchman's. I just got an early copy of his newest, I Hate The Internet and devoured it - he's as riotous as Houellebecq, and you don't need a translator, only fireproof gloves for turning the pages."

Stream this playlist at Spotify.


In his own words, here is Jarett Kobek's Book Notes music playlist for his novel I Hate the Internet:


#1 Persia feat. DADDIE$ PLA$TIK – "Google Google Apps Apps"
The raison d'etre of I Hate the Internet. Persia distills not only the horrors of Google and Bay Area gentrification but also makes a thematic link to the desire for racial assimilation and hints that Whiteness can be put on layaway for Christmas. The video's a masterpiece.

#2 Trick Daddy feat. Khia and Tampa Tony – "J.O.D.D."
A filthy song with a chorus that includes a rejoinder from the underrated Khia, who also has an astounding verse. "J.O.D.D." gets to a thing running through I Hate the Internet, which is the thrill of bluntly-stated English without any desire for social politesse, something that's been effaced in serious writing via fifty years of MFA-induced water metaphors. This push-and-pull has been present since at least the Norman Yoke of 1066, with the squares trying to kill off the stout Saxon words. At present, the joy is best found in hip-hop. I tried to put something of this in the novel.

#3 Jarvis Cocker – "Cunts are Still Running the World"
Before anyone breaks out the pitchforks and takes to Twitter, please remember that the world doesn't begin and end at the borders of the contiguous 48, and Cocker's titular cunts are in the British usage, which is fairly synonymous with "dickhead." The farther north you go, the more common its appearance. Eventually you get to Glasgow and it's only punctuation before you realize Irvine Welsh is a bit shit and you should've read Alasdair Gray.

The song is a wonderful expression of a very necessary idea—that no matter what we do, we still end up with horrible people in charge. Crying won't help you. Praying won't do no good. Take a look at the smiling faces and coy social media presence of any Bay Area corporate board and you'll get the gist of things. Google Doodles in extremis and written on the parchment of your soul.

#4 Etta James – "I'd Rather Go Blind"
One of the four songs that I Hate the Internet suggests are God. The other three: (1) Elvis Presley's version of "Long Black Limousine." (2) Abner Jay's "I'm So Depressed." (3) Shirley Collins singing "Lady Margaret and Sweet William." I defy anyone to come up with a better definition of the divine.

#5 Neko Case – "Deep Red Bells"
Inspired by the Green River Killer's victims, Case manages that cold lonely feeling of being in a place that doesn't care about you and won't give two shakes if you end up dead. Which is the exact state of all the communities in San Francisco being obliterated by tech gentrification. There is no protection and no one will save you and you're about to learn a basic lesson of the world, one known by sex workers like Bible writ: when people have more money than you, they use your whole life like a pawn.

#6 Lil' Boosie – "They Dykin"
Lil' Boosie posits a scenario in which I'm sure Jonathan Franzen has found himself—two redbones kissing in his backseat—and then manages several glorious minutes of utterly unredeemable sonic delight.

When I first heard this song, I was under the misapprehension that Lil' Boosie was a sex addled lesbian, which made it really interesting. Then I realized that Lil' Boosie was a man, which made it a lot less interesting. This ambiguity of Lil' Boosie-as-a-lesbian-but-actually-not filtered into I Hate the Internet.

#7 Fiona Apple – "Used to Love Him" (leaked version)
Fiona Apple is a person the Internet would destroy if she were starting her career in the 2010s. Genuinely weird, outspoken, radiating self-doubt and willing to make mistakes in public. Put these qualities into a semi-famous woman and watch as the Knights of the Burning Keyboard pierce her with their lances.

#8 Black Randy and the MetroSquad – "San Francisco"
I Hate the Internet offers an accurate summation of San Francisco: the most beautiful city in America filled with the most annoying people in the world. "San Francisco" is a narrative of prowling the city in a search for earnest gay sex and being surrounded by people who want to do the deed in open graves. Finally a guy takes Black Randy home and instead of going to bed, they water some ferns and talk about Chairman Mao. (All of which still sounds like it could happen today. Except for the Chairman Mao. To get that, you'd have to go to Berkeley.)

#9 L7 – "Pretend We're Dead"
Throughout the early aughties, there was an L7 poster in the ground floor window of the building at 656 Valencia in San Francisco. You could walk by that poster, year after year after year, and think about how delightful it was that one of the city's residents still cared enough to tend the flame of a band best remembered for the tampon-throwing of vocalist Donita Sparks. Now the poster's gone, the building's repainted, and Valencia, which lent its name to a novel by the great Michelle Tea, is the main corridor of culturally imperialism. Twenty-one blocks of fine dining, reclaimed materials, Google buses and overpriced denim. (And, it should be said, one really good bookstore. Never die Dog Eared Books!)

#10 Rasheeda – "Got That Good (My Bubble Gum)"
The song centers around a junkfood based double entendre for cunnilingus. In the grand tradition of double entendres, it falls apart if you think too much about it.
There's an appalling food based double entendre in I Hate the Internet, which someone told me is in use amongst the moneyed of Silicon Valley. I don't know if that's true but I ran with it. A good rule of thumb when writing a book called I Hate the Internet: always say the worst things about the moneyed of Silicon Valley.

#11 Neutral Milk Hotel – "Oh Comely"
It took me about 12 years to realize that people weren't wrong about In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. Jeff Magnum's lyric in "Oh Comely" about wishing for a time machine to save Anne Frank is the inspiration for Saving Anne Frank, a Science Fiction novel written by a character in I Hate the Internet. It's about a time-traveler who rescues Anne Frank from the planet of ashes.

#12 Son House – "My Black Mama, Part One"
The first side of a 78 record. The other side was "My Black Mama, Part Two." Everyone remembers the latter. It eventually transformed into "Death Letter Blues." No one talks about the former. A character in I Hate the Internet finds this revelatory of a grotesque social preference: "Part One" is about Black women being beautiful. "Part Two" is about a Black woman being dead. Despite being musically identical, the second became a putative classic, covered by Bonnie Raitt and Jack White. Draw your own inferences about AmeriKKKa.

#13 Avanoslu Selahattin Küçükdağ – "Üzerinde cennet gibi"
The Anatolian Nightingale, Avansolu Selahattin was one of the first recorded practitioners of Türkü, the Turkish rough equivalent of early American folk music. At some point—and I can't quite figure out when it happened or if this is even true—he changed his surname to Küçükdağ, which means "Little Mountain."

One of the characters in I Hate the Internet uses a different name in each language. In Turkish, he calls himself Küçükkutsaldağ, which means "Little Holy Mountain."

#14 Odetta – "No Expectations"
The original is one of those Jagger/Richards compositions where callow youth burbles through the heroin like cut on a hot spoon. When Odetta sings the song, it's the most moving thing you've ever heard. This is long after the folk days, long after the Civil Rights Movement, long after that brief window of righteous time when things made sense. You've never heard anyone sound as sad as Odetta on this track.

This is how everyone should feel in 2016. This is what the Internet has done to you.


Jarett Kobek and I Hate the Internet links:

The Compulsive Reader review
Vol. 1 Brooklyn review

OTHERPPL 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)
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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