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January 18, 2017

Book Notes - Jordan A. Rothacker "And Wind Will Wash Away"

And Wind Will Wash Away

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.

Jordan Rothacker's And Wind Will Wash Away is an ambitiously told and rewarding detective novel.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"A penetrating, provocative tale of a detective who psychoanalyzes as often as he investigates."

In his own words, here is Jordan A. Rothacker's Book Notes music playlist for his novel And Wind Will Wash Away:

1) "Wild is the Wind" by Nina Simone, Wild is the Wind
This song, that voice, its vibrato… may they arch over the whole book like the night sky or the belly of ancient Egyptian Goddess Nut, an aural and thematic womb to contain the narrative.

2) "Twin Peaks Score" by Angelo Badalamenti
Special Agent Dale Cooper was in part a model for my Detective Sergeant Jonathan Wind and there might be other corollaries between Twin Peaks and And Wind Will Wash Away. The feelings of nostalgia and mystery Badalamenti captures in this score were at a low frequency in the back of my mind through much writing. My hope was to make a world so real that we can see how strange and mysterious it really is.

3) "Snappin' & Trappin'," "Spaghetti Junction," and "Cruisin' In The ATL," by Outkast, Stankonia
I started writing this book in New York not long after this album came out and it was the perfect vehicle to take me back to Atlanta, the sites, the food, the feel, the traffic. These three songs in particular—the first featuring Killer Mike—get at some of what I've always loved of that town. Atlanta transcends and thwarts any preconceived notion of "southern," and the most vital cultural contributions that city has engendered in the last two decades are in Hip Hop.

4) "The Wind" by Cat Stevens (formerly Steven Demetre Georgiou, presently Yousef Islam), Teaser and the Fire Cat
The epigraph from Chapter Four: The Altar of Osiris is from this song, "I listen to the wind, to the wind of my soul. Where I end up, well I think, only God really knows." It sets the tone for that chapter. The protagonist might not be based on me, but his best friend, Lao Benjoseph, is based on my friend Daniel Chameides who passed away in September 2016. The last time I saw him was at the launch party for this book and I read from this chapter. He liked it.

5) "Both Hands" by Ani DiFranco, Ani DiFranco
This song beautifully captures some of the truest tangled difficulties of intimacy. It is a song I learned from my high school girlfriend at maybe the height of her goddess-worshipping riot grrl-ness and this book is lousy with references to all the wonderful stuff I took away from that time. I saw Ani with her in Atlanta during that Living in Clip tour and as a guitar geek at the time I was really blown away by her playing; her overall performance intensity was amazing too. This song seems to often crop up in my head when I write interpersonal or "relationship" scenes like those in this book.

6) "Will My Feet Still Carry Me Home" by Elf Power, A Dream In Sound
My first show at the 40 Watt in Athens was seeing Elf Power and I listened to this album a lot after that show while writing. At the core of this book is loss, but it results in a quest in lieu of mourning. The ambient, wistful, and moody melody of this song fits the journey of the lyrics. The lyrics line up with my book well too, beginning with, "I wished it all away," and eventually, "You, I cannot save."

7) "Moroccan Rock (Pipes of Pain)," Debbie Harry, Cash Cow
Don't get me wrong, I love Debbie Harry and I really enjoy this song, but it smacks a bit of orientalism. There is definitely a good bit of orientalism in New Age spirituality and I've tried to illustrate the range of sincerity from true devotion all the way down to cultural tourism it draws in Chapter Ten where a group of goddess-worshippers meet in ritual.

8) "Straight Down" by The Glands, The Glands
This is another song by an Athens band (RIP Ross Shapiro), and a song that captures lyrically some of the fun weirdness of what the South can offer. It is also a song that accompanied me on my research trips into Atlanta. Atlanta is a driving city. There are neighborhoods to walk, but really getting around you have to drive, and traffic is the bane of all life. Once you bust out of a stand-still-purgatory of auto-complacency across all six lanes on your side of the highway and can taste the sweet freedom of a temporarily open lane for as far as the eye can see, you start this song and for maybe one ecstatic mile you feel like you're living Bodhi's truth from Point Break.

9) "Nightswimming," by R.E.M., Automatic for the People
My favorite R.E.M. album is Fables of the Reconstruction (that's what I'm supposed to say, right), but this song off of Automatic for the People sure hits a sentimental nerve. It was attached to a couple relationships and groups of friends in college and when I got to Athens and was pushing through on this book it took on a new significance. I lived on Grady Street (there is a chapter of And Wind Will Wash Away set there) in an apartment building with a pool infamous for summer late night swimming when the bars let out. Unsubstantiated rumor had it that the R.E.M. song was about this pool. My protagonist grew up on this street and I felt very connected to this place.

10) "Ghost," by Don Chambers, Back in the Woods
Don Chambers is easily my favorite songwriter out of Athens and a good buddy. He played my wedding and the launch of my first book. I was listening to this whole album while writing the book, but this song was perfect for the book trailer. The South isn't all rural, and the gothic feel can also be expressed in urban areas. It is also a song about how to deal with a ghost.

11) "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea," by Neutral Milk Hotel, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
In this novel I called upon a muse of wind. For a book about passions and pursuits as important—and yet ephemeral—as religion and love, wind was the perfect muse. Lines from this song were used in my wedding; my wife was the main reader on the final edit of this book; and from this song we get a sentiment that runs through the whole narrative as it investigates belief: "how strange it is to be anything at all."

12) "Eyes Without Blood," by Diamanda Galas, Cash Cow
By the end of the penultimate chapter you have hopefully experienced something like this Diamanda Galas song makes me feel. I find a great sacredness in her music, one that touches on horror, terror, and awe. With her I feel a deep primal humanity. Conveying that feeling is an artistic goal of mine.

13) "Idiot Wind," by Bob Dylan (formerly Robert Zimmerman), Blood on the Tracks
The epigraph for Chapter Eighteen: Revelation, the final chapter, is from this song, "You're an idiot wind… it's a wonder that you still know how to breath..." It's not that this third person narrator is at odds with his protagonist, but It certainly isn't trying to be an enabler. The lyrical content of this song—the way Dylan makes a loose narrative out of crisp visual descriptions—is quite inspiring and the wind theme it supports has been there with me from the first in writing this book.

Jordan A. Rothacker and And Wind Will Wash Away links:

the author's website

As Is Tough To Be review
Cleaver review
Kirkus review
Cease Cows interview with the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

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