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December 2, 2016

Book Notes - Meredith Alling "Sing the Song"

Sing the Song

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.

Meredith Alling's short story collection Sing the Song is powerful and unsettling.

Vol. 1 Brooklyn wrote of the book:

"Alling has managed to write a collection that succeeds to, as Alan Partiridge might say, 'Straight away, you’ve got them by the jaffers.' Whether you've got jaffers or not, these stories will undoubtedly grab you."

In her own words, here is Meredith Alling's Book Notes music playlist for her short story collection Sing the Song:

I can't listen to anything while I'm writing. A friend recently told me that they listen to podcasts while writing. Podcasts! I can't even listen to an instrumental. I need total silence; it's not ideal. This means that for the most part, I write at home, usually in my bed, with only the occasional airplane or helicopter noise in the background, or a dog barking, or—worst case—a leaf-blower. Sometimes I also listen to my neighbor calling his cats in.

So what I've made is a playlist of songs that I love and relate to my book on a mood level.

Mazzy Star - "She's My Baby"

Sometimes when I'm stressed out, I look up old videos of Mazzy Star performing. Hope Sandoval is sweet-looking—textbook waif—with a wavy, astral voice. I thought of her—and this song—when I was writing the story Rita. "She's my baby, ain't that something?"

Failure - "The Nurse Who Loved Me"

I was big into Failure in college. I'm not going to make a joke here. This song has always sounded to me like a record played on the wrong speed; it's bendy and strong. "She's got everything I need: pharmacy keys."

Superdrag - "Annetichrist"

When I was 15, I became friends with an older guy in a Michigan rock band. I used to go to punk shows at The Shelter and St. Andrews and The Magic Stick, and sometimes I'd see his band play. I don't remember how much older he was than me, but I think four or five years. He made me a mixtape that introduced me to bands I still love, like Ida and Jets to Brazil, and later, he made me a tape with Slint on one side and Superdrag on the other. He gave it to me when he picked me up in his van one night to go to Big Boy. I remember looking at his powder blue turtleneck while he ate spaghetti. "Crazy how when I get shattered, nothing's cool, nothing matters."

Warpaint - "Disco//very"

Warpaint is an all-women rock band and very, very cool. I love this song and dancing in slow motion to it. "Don't you battle, we'll kill you."

Morrissey - "He Knows I'd Love to See Him"

When I was 22, I was really close to getting a tattoo that said "Patrick Michael" above my heart. What of it. "He knows, he knows, or I think he does."

The Beach Boys - "Don't Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)"

I read that Brian Wilson said this is one of the sweetest songs he ever sang, childlike and innocent. It's definitely sweet, but it's also a dirge. "Come close, close your eyes and be still."

Cap'n Jazz - "In The Clear"

I had to make a pinewood derby car for science class in tenth grade, and I painted it red and wrote a lyric from this song on the side: "ABCDEFGHIJKLOST." I won (I didn't).

Todd Terje feat. Bryan Ferry - "Johnny and Mary"

A yoga instructor played this song during savasana about six months ago (savasana is when you lie flat at the end of class like you're dead and just completely chill), and I couldn't focus on relaxing because I was straining to hear the lyrics so I could look it up after. It's a cover of a song by Robert Palmer, and it sounds like Twins Peaks x David Bowie. "Mary says he's lacking a real sense of proportion."

Drake - "Too Much"

I'm legally obligated, as a member of year-strong Drake-related text group and an all-around fan and defender, to include a song by the kid, Champagne Papi, the 6 God. It's fun to hate Drake; I understand. He was on the TV! And his voice is funny! And he tells women not to talk to other men, and that their boyfriends aren't cool, and that he made them, but here's the thing: when I listen to Drake, I feel pure, clean, effortless happiness. I'll take it. "Done saying I'm done playing."

Meredith Alling and Sing the Song links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book
excerpts from the book
excerpt from the book
excerpt from the book

Vol. 1 Brooklyn review

The Nervous Breakdown interview with the author
Otherppl interview with the author
Vol. 1 Brooklyn interview with the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

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List of Online "Best Books of 2016" Lists

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my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

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