February 19, 2016
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Mo Daviau's ambitious debut Every Anxious Wave is the definitive rock and roll time travel novel, filled with sympathetic characters and intriguing developments.
Kirkus wrote of the book:
"A punk-rock time-travel love story for the ages . . . Daviau is ferocious with her sad and flawed characters, whose pain propels the story through several iterations. Because the tale keeps changing with every visit to the future, the book doesn't end the way even its characters expect it to but is satisfying nonetheless. A dark and funny love story that, like its main characters, is much sweeter than it appears on the surface."
My first encounter with college radio was around 1988. Fresno State's radio station's DJs were cool to get phone calls from young me, their devoted tween fangirl who asked to hear The Smiths, They Might be Giants, and, later, all the bands I learned about from reading Sassy magazine: Nation of Ulysses, Tsunami, Unrest. Remember that this was the era when New Kids on the Block reigned supreme over my demographic. At summer camp circa 1989, a fellow camper, also named Monique, threatened to kill me for opining on their cheesiness and lack of real talent.
In 2012, a decade and change since the last time I helmed a college radio microphone, I visited the studios of WCBN, the student radio station of the University of Michigan. Digitized music had long been the standard. Record store extinction had more or less been accepted. And yet: rows and rows of vinyl and CDs. Stickers adorning every surface. The old-style phone with the flashing light in place of a ringer. WCBN looked exactly the same as my beloved WOZQ at Smith College looked in the mid-nineties. No progress in technology, save for a computer screen atop the soundboard. A veritable time capsule, it made me so happy that I demanded the undergraduate DJ on duty sell me one of the station's hoodies.
I was in my mid-thirties when I did my MFA in creative writing at Michigan, where I wrote most of Every Anxious Wave. The day I visited WCBN, I asked the DJ who sold me the hoodie about DJing myself. He mumbled something about how he hated the old fart community DJs, about how they ruined station meetings with their talking, and I told him I was a student at the university, and he said something about maybe there might be 3-5am shifts available, and I said I was too old to do overnight ever again.
So I didn't get a second shot at DJing college radio, which is just as well. To everything there is a season, unless you have a time traveling wormhole.
Only Losers by Lou Barlow/Sentridoh
The title of the book is from the Sebadoh song "Kath," but as for Mr. Barlow's contribution to this list, I choose this track from his 1995 solo album The Original Losing Losers. If, taken as a whole, there is a narrative arc to the work of Lou Barlow, it is the idea of Everyman as Loser. What is the loser losing? Love, dignity, ego, sex, money, the ability to avoid death. Deeply thematic question as it pertains to the Barlow musical corpus, and all things Karl in the novel must think about as he moves through life.
Yes by Morphine
I often think of this as being Lena's theme song: "Swing your swift sword, sister, swing your swift sword now." I generally find "you go girl!" tropes distasteful, but coming from the late Mark Sandman, it's totally welcome. What other sexy songs out there encourage women to achieve?
Woyaya by Art Garfunkel
Don't get me started on the weirdness of Art Garfunkel's first post-Simon solo album, Angel Clare. It was recorded in 1973 and saw Garfunkel covering African pop songs long before his friend Paul got around to doing the same. "Woyaya" was one of my favorite songs when I was little—my mom owned Angel Clare and played it in the car. A sentimental tune for children who grew up in Garfunkel-positive households.
Writing Letters by Tsunami
There's a line in the book about how Lena once met Jenny Toomey of Tsunami/Simple Machines and how she made her feel "two inches tall." That happened to me. I still feel sick to my stomach about something I said to Jenny at a show nearly twenty years ago and I don't even remember what it was. I still listen to Deep End once in a while.
Words by Low
The band Eggs covered this song and I knew the Eggs cover long before I knew the Low version. The original track by Low lends itself to long, languid make-out sessions that would somehow be improved if they happened in 1994.
St. Ides Heaven by Elliott Smith
I'm still weirded out by the fact that Elliott died. And that twelve years have passed. And that I didn't know what St. Ides was before knowing this song. My experience with forty-ounce containers of malt liquor is limited to Mickey's. "The moon is a lightbulb breaking" would make a nice tattoo, I think.
Walking on the Dune by The Make-Up
Ian Svenonius once made me worry that I would be held liable for thousands of dollars of damage to Smith College property when he suspended himself from a rather flimsy water pipe in the house basement we were using illegally as a show venue. When I think about what The Axis (the fictional band in the novel) sounds like, they sound like The Make-Up.
Hell Rules by Thinking Fellers Union Local 282
Picture this: a seven-inch vinyl single in a shaggy plastic sleeve. It's title: The Natural Finger. Of course you play it. You play it more than once. Of course you do. The first track is the least danceable song you'll ever hear in your life. It's called Hell Rules and you will figure out how to play it on the guitar in about an hour.
No Nothing by Davíd Garza
If I could go back in time to see any rock show it would be any of the hundred or so Davíd Garza shows I attended in Austin between 2001-2011. I finished my final rewrites of Every Anxious Wave while waiting for my brain to adjust to the drugs I was prescribed after a diagnosis of PTSD after getting out of an abusive relationship, and the line "now she's singing songs that hurt, telling sad truths" stuck in my head as I listened to this particular Davíd song on repeat. Davíd once gave me a sweaty kiss on the cheek at a show. He's a sweetheart. Know him/love him.
Sally Wants by Henry's Dress
Attempting to disrupt the space-time continuum using this track from Henry's Dress's eponymous 1995 Slumberland release will end in tears and disappointment. I once tried to propel myself back to 1995 with this song cranked up as loud as it could go once. The experiment was ultimately unsuccessful, but rather than be sad about it, I started writing a novel about time travel and indie rock.
Laid by James
This is the greatest song of the 1990s and if you disagree, I will fight you. Savvy readers will detect that Karl has some particular kinks and fetishes. There are clues to what he's into in this song.
Vacation by Beach Fossils
As I imagine the final scene of Every Anxious Wave, the happy family that manifests at the end slides into the sloppy Seattle sludge water to this song. "I'm on my way to you/it's all I want to do" are not exactly the most profound lyrics ever written, but when you're in a hurry to be with the one you love, you say what you mean and if you can skip over a few years, you do it. Life is brief and time's a thief.
Mo Daviau and Every Anxious Wave links:
Austin Chronicle interview with the author
Austin American-Statesman profile of the author
Fiction Writers Review interview with the author
FSG Bookkeeping essay by the author
Late Night Library interview with the author
Michigan Quarterly Review 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)
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)