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August 25, 2016

Book Notes - Gonzalo Torné "Divorce Is in the Air"

Divorce Is in the Air

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, Lauren Groff, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Gonzalo Torné's dark and funny novel Divorce Is in the Air has earned numerous comparisons to Philip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"In a muscular, nimble, and exuberant stream-of-consciousness flow reminiscent of the iconic master of the genre, David Foster Wallace, Torné offers a maniacally playful yet fiercely revelatory study of a man coming to grips with life’s greatest joys and losses."


In his own words, here is Gonzalo Torné's Book Notes music playlist for his novel Divorce Is in the Air:



"Love Is in the Air," John Paul Young
I only thought of this song once I had written most of the novel, but it turned out to be something like the luminous flip side of the book. Because I see Divorce Is in the Air as a comedy (and a comedy about love), when I listen to this song it’s as if I’m hearing the secret heart of the book.

"Mi vida rosa (My Pink Life)," Los Romeos
This is the only song that appears in the book (I think). The lyrics are about the sexual awakening of a girl who leaves behind the "pink" and "innocent" ideas that her parents instilled in her. To my mind the song is also about the moment when life accelerates and starts to get "interesting."

"Seronda," Nacho Vegas
I really like the rolling melody that begins the song, and that Vegas has used in other songs as a kind of signature. The lyrics, like many by this fine artist, are about the things you inevitably have to give up in order to keep going, just to stay where you are. But what keeps me listening to this song is the spell cast by its melody.

"Benvolgut (Dear One)," Manel
I listen to a lot of songs by this band, but I chose this one for its artistic angle (an unusual one for a song), which I also use in the novel to describe the relationship Joan-Marc has with Helen’s son: how are we seen from another family, via familial bonds that had to be broken in order to sustain our current ones?

"Getting Better," The Beatles
This song puts me in a good mood, it reminds me of the music that played in my parents’ house when I was a kid, and it motivates me to always keep improving. Which is the kind of impossible fantasy that we have to take on as novelists if we want to write (and fail) seriously.

"Una vida tranquil·la (A Quiet Life)," Mishima
This conjectural song deals with a classic theme: the frailty of our joy. How a whole life can change with one nighttime phone call. I’d say it’s a theme of my novel (it’s in almost every novel!), but the best thing about the song is that its slow rhythm is very conducive to the tedious hours of rewriting and editing.

"¿Qué se siente al ser tan joven? (How Does It Feel to Be So Young?)," La Casa Azul
I could have picked anything from this one-man band. Guille Milkyway is an artist capable of nearly anything. I chose this song because it inspired the novel I just finished. La Casa Azul is also an important group for the writer who is probably Spain’s probably most disturbing and sophisticated: Luis Magrinyà.

"Rehab," Amy Winehouse
It’s got groove. And there’s a piece of one of my female characters in here, too.

"L’affaire Sofia," Els amics de les arts
These folks are the last examples of a long-standing genre in my mother tongue, Catalan: the joke song (conyeta in Catalan, or a little joke, a wink). This song is especially relevant here because it portrays the way love is articulated between two people who speak different native languages or, rather, who come from different worlds.

"Palabras de papel (Paper Words)," Camela
The lyrics and music are as awful as you might guess. Many of my friends think I’m kidding when I say that this is a central song for engaging my imagination; let’s see if the prestige of international press can convince them. It has a rhythm that, by some mysterious process, tunes up my mind. My theory (going back to Plato) is that it activates the respiratory rate that works best for me. Sometimes I manage to convince myself of that. Meanwhile, I just keep listening to it.


****


"Love is in the Air," John Paul Young
Recordé la canción cuando ya llevaba muy avanzada la novela, pero resultó ser algo así como el reverso luminoso de la novela. Como en mi imaginación el libro es una comedia (y una comedia sobre el amor) al escucharla me parecía escuchar el corazón secreto del libro.

"Mi vida rosa," Los Romeos
Es la única canción (creo) citada en la novela. La letra habla del despertar sexual de una chica que deja atrás las visiones "rosas" e "inocentes" que le habían transmitido sus padres. En mi imaginación la canción habla también de cuando la vida se acelera y empieza a ponerse "interesante".

"Seronda," Nacho Vegas
Me gusta mucho la melodía ondulante con la que empieza la canción y que Vegas ha utilizado en otras canciones como una especie de firma. La letra, como muchas de este finísimo artista, trata sobre las renuncias imprescindibles para seguir adelante, y a poder ser en el mismo sitio. Pero lo que me lleva a escucharla es el sortilegio de su melodía.

"Benvolgut," Manel
De este grupo escucho muchas canciones pero selecciono esta por su ángulo artístico (insólito para una canción) que también empleo en la novela para describir las relaciones entre Joan-Marc y el hijo de Helen: ¿cómo se nos ve desde otra familia, desde los vínculos fraternales que tuvieron que romperse para sostener los nuestros?

"Getting Better," The Beatles
Esta canción me pone de buen humor, me recuerda a lo que sonaba en mi casa de niño, y además me anima a mejorar siempre. Que es la clase de fantasía inasumible que tenemos que plantearnos los novelistas si queremos escribir (y fracasar) en serio.

"Una vida tranquil.la," Mishima
Esta conjetural canción va de un tema clásico: la fragilidad de nuestra alegría. Como puede cambiar toda una vida con una llamada nocturna. Diría que es un tema que está presente en mi novela (¡pero lo está en casi todas!), aunque lo cierto es que su ritmo lentísimo me va muy bien para acompasar las pesadísimas horas de pasar a limpio correcciones.

"¿Qué se siente al ser tan joven?" La casa azul
Podría poner cualquiera de este grupo de un solo hombre, Guille Milkway, que parece un artista capaz de cualquier cosa. Escojo esta porque es ha sido inspiradora de la novela que acabo de terminar. La casa azul es también un grupo de referencia para el que muy probablemente sea el novelista más inquietante y sofisticado de España: Luis Magrinyà.

"Rehab," Amy Winehouse
Ritmo. Y un poco de alguno de mis personajes femeninos también.

"L’affaire Sofia," Els amics de les arts
Estos sujetos (els amics de les arts) son los últimos representantes de un género muy extendido en catalán (mi lengua materna): la canción graciosa (de conyeta). Esta canción es especialmente valiosa porque escenifica cómo se articula el amor entre una pareja que habla idiomas nativos distintos, o si preferís: que parten de dos mundos distintos.

"Palabras de papel," Camela
La letra y la música de esta canción son tan malas como parecen. Muchos amigos piensan que bromeo cuando les digo que es una pieza clave para desplegar mi imaginación, a ver si el prestigio de la prensa extranjera les convence. Tiene un ritmillo que por un proceso misterioso me afina la mente. Yo tampoco lo entiendo. Mi tesis (que se remonta a Platón) es que activa el ritmo respiratorio que más me conviene. A veces he llegado a convencerme, mientras tanto sigo escuchándola.


Gonzalo Torné and Divorce Is in the Air links:

excerpt from the book

Daily Mail review
Irish Times review
Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review
Wall Street Journal review


also at Largehearted Boy:

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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

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weekly music release lists
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