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February 9, 2016

Book Notes - Rob Roberge "Liar"


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.

Rob Roberge's Liar is an intense memoir innovatively told in the second person, a poignant story of the author's addiction, mental illness, and recovery.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"In this absorbing memoir, novelist Roberge (The Cost of Living) shifts among memories of his youth, drug-fueled episodes from his young adulthood, and recent relapses into addiction that threaten his marriage and his work as a college professor…The sense of urgency in Roberge's writing is increased by his effective use of the second person…The rapid back-and-forth mirrors to some degree the diagnosis of bipolar disorder with rapid cycling, which he first received in the 1980s. But it is also the way Roberge is best able to try and make sense of his world and his experiences."

Stream this playlist at Spotify.

In his own words, here is Rob Roberge's Book Notes music playlist for his memoir Liar:

This one's a little hard because there so much music actually in the book that it would take forever to cover it all. So, I'll just go with some of the highlights.

Music to listen to after you've been dumped:

Bob Dylan's Blood On the Tracks. When my freshman year girlfriend dumped me, I ended up listening repeatedly to this album on my Walkman (how's that for dating myself?)…letting one side play, then flipping to the other when the tape reached the end. I drank beer and chain-smoked alone in my dorm room. Well, as alone as I could be with a roommate. At the time, in my self-wallowing pity, I thought I was the only person on earth who could feel as much pain as I was feeling. No one had ever felt the pain I was feeling. Except, of course, Bob Dylan.

A couple of years later, after another relationship had gone south, I spent all my time listening to Joni Mitchell's Blue. It was painfully clear to me, as I fell in and out of a opiate and alcohol haze, that Joni Mitchell would totally understand the pain I was in and would empathize like no one else. Well, except for Bob Dylan. Only Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan could possible get it.

Another year later, another breakup. At this point, I'd been kicked out of my girlfriend's apartment and was staying in a closet in my friend Jay's enormous rehearsal space. I'd tried to sleep in the equipment room, but it was too close to the rehearsal rooms, and the bass and drums would keep me up at night. So, I went with sleeping in the closet and listening to Richard and Linda Thompson's Shoot Out the Lights. An album filled with songs about the end of a love affair, recorded by a couple who were breaking up during the recording. After repeated listenings, high or drunk on whatever I could get my hands on, it struck me that several of the songs didn't end on their root note. Richard Thompson had written a record about things ending with no obvious resolve, and the music reflected that. I thought he was a genius for doing this. I thought I was something of a genius for noticing it. John Cage once wrote that the human ear would listen to any amount of noise, so long as it ended melodically. They would think it was musical. Yet, take a piece of melodic music that ends in noise, or without resolve, and people won't find it musical. I sat in that closet night after night, thinking about the lack of resolve from my latest relationship, painfully aware of the fact that how things ended changed everything that came before. And, of course, I wallowed in the fact that only Richard Thompson could understand the pain I was in. Well, Richard Thompson, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan, of course.

Best music to listen to while nodding on Dilaudid for a solid month:

A tape with The Velvet Underground's third album on one side and The Dream Syndicate's debut, The Days of Wine and Roses on the other side. Luckily, by this time, I had a tape player on the stereo that automatically flipped the cassette, so neither I nor my girlfriend had to get up.

Music that proved, to my nine year old chagrin, that my father had good taste in music:

I'd bought Springsteen's Born to Run at the local Sam Goody record shop and my father—a narcotics agent—had said that Springsteen looked like "a homeless fucking hippy" on the cover. Later, listening to the sax solo on "Jungleland" as loud as my mother would allow, my father stood there listening for a moment, and then said, "This guy sounds a lot like King Curtis. Or the sax player in Duane Eddy's band."

I said, "I don't think so," thinking my dad—the narc—could never know cool music at all. He went downstairs and got the two albums. And he was right. Bruce Springsteen's sax player sounded a lot like the guys he mentioned. Guys in his record collection.

I put on Eddy's "Rebel Rouser" as soon as it ended, listening to it at least five times through. It was, at that point, the greatest sound I had ever heard. How could my father the narc know anything about anything that sounded this good?

Record albums of my parent's I never listened to, but jerked off to while looking at the covers:

Carly Simon's No Secrets, and, especially, Playing Possum.

Best unknown Boston band mentioned in the book:

Dumptruck's D Is For Dumptruck. A great Boston band from the 80's who should have made it big. An album worth looking for.

Another great unknown Boston band who should have been mentioned in the book:

Scruffy the Cat, whose "My Fate" would have been a huge hit in a just world.

Song that was playing when I was robbed at gunpoint while working at an ice cream pallor:

Dire Straights' "Telegraph Road." The robber had me and a co-worker on our knees facing away from him as he asked for the combination to the safe, which neither of us knew. I thought, surprisingly calmly, so this is how I'm going to die. But, for some reason, he didn't shoot either of us, even though we had no idea what the combination to the safe was. I was wearing shorts. When I got up, I saw the indentations from the one-inch tiles on my knees and started to shake.

More evidence my parents had better taste in music than anyone else's parents in the neighborhood:

Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Pete Seeger, Eric Anderson, Tom Paxton. Heavy on the folk side, to be sure, but worlds better than the Jerry Vale and Perry Como records my friends' parents listened to.

Music I listened to on repeat while writing the book:

An absolute ton of The Brian Jonestown Massacre on repeat. Which is not as annoying to others in the house as it may sound, because they have over twenty albums, so even listening to them over and over takes a bit of time to cycle through. Also played on repeat and shuffle, so I never knew what was coming next, The Ike Reilly Assassination. Some Jay Bennett. A bunch of The Dream Syndicate (who also happen to be the most frequently mentioned band in the book). A mix from the Nugget's CD's. And then, probably more Brian Jonestown Massacre. Maybe it did start to annoy people in the house.

Rob Roberge and Liar links:

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

Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review

CarolineLeavittville interview with the author
Fiction Advocate interview with the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for The Cost of Living
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Working Backwards from the Worst Moment of My Life
Los Angeles Review of Books 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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