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November 30, 2016

Book Notes - Marcy Dermansky "The Red Car"

The Red Car

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.

Marcy Dermansky's compelling novel The Red Car once again proves her a masterful storyteller.

The New York Times wrote of the book:

"Sharp and fiery…The novel’s furious action keeps the pages snapping by, but each incident, at times each sentence, is bubbling with equally furious ideas…There is, now, a literary term for a book you can’t stop reading that makes you stop to think. It is The Red Car.

In her own words, here is Marcy Dermansky's Book Notes music playlist for her novel The Red Car:

Playlist: A Mystery

At the top of Page 188, Leah, the narrator of The Red Car, muses about what if would be like to take a trip with her husband in Big Sur. Because it would be vacation, she decides it would be a good time. Her husband would like it there. She would not have to drive. She would have to negotiate for music.

Here is the end of the paragraph:

He would also want to listen to music that I didn't like. And I would have to pretend that I didn't hate it. Or please with him to turn it down. Or negotiate for Beth Orton."

"La la la," he would say, making fun of my music.

I love Beth Orton. It pleased me to slip in that one line about her into Beth Orton in my novel. I am under the impression that not enough people know about Beth Orton, a British singer/songwriter who combines her melancholy music with a techno beat. You can dance to her music; you can also cry. "Pass in Time" is my favorite Beth Orton song to cry to.

This is my third playlist for largehearted boy. For my first novel Twins, I did it properly, creating a thoughtful playlist that matched the book – songs that would work incredibly well for a soundtrack to the novel. I picked many find songs and wrote about each song.

For Bad Marie, I went off a little bit off track. More than music, I wrote instead about Scarlett Johansson, almost a campaign for her to get the part in the movie that has as of yet never been made. I had listened to her album Anywhere I Lay My Head compulsively.

Now, here we are at Playlist Three: The Red Car and I am going off-road. I didn't think I could listen to an album more compulsively than the Scarlett Johansson until I started working on The Red Car. Because instead of listening to one album while I wrote, I narrowed down to a remix of a single Beth Orton song: "Mystery" from the album Sugaring Season. A composer named Nico Muhly recorded the song, "strip[ing] out the warmth at the center of "Mystery" and replacing it with a chilling wave of white noise that completely reframes the melody while maintaining its beauty," so says Stereogum which is where I found it.

The result is incredible. The song is moody and melancholy, hauntingly beautiful.

I fell in love with the song, I tweeted about it, and someone named Veronica contacted me via direct message. I sent her my address and she sent me an actual LP of the remix – as if I am the kind of cool enough person to own a record player. I do not. The letter also came with a code to download the song and that is what I did.

The download contained two versions of the song: one roughly seven minutes long and the other twelve. I would replay my remixes of "Mystery" over and over again. I'd go into another dreamy trance like state, which is how I best like to write.

That remix of "Mystery" seems like almost an otherworldly gift, almost as mysterious as a red car that can restore itself after a fatal car accident. I still have these two songs on an, eleven inch MacBook Air that I no longer use. The startup disk is full and it won't start up properly and instead of making the computer work again – something I imagine is possible -- I upgraded to a new computer.

If Leah were not too scared to take her hands off the steering wheel, "Mystery" is the song she would listen to. Over and over again.

Marcy Dermansky and The Red Car links:

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

Kirkus review
Los Angeles Times review
The Millions review
New York Times review
Newsday review
Publishers Weekly review
San Francisco Chronicle review

Interview magazine interview with the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes playlist by the author for Bad Marie
Largehearted Boy Book Notes playlist by the author for Twins
Los Angeles Review of Books interview of Books interview with the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

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