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February 21, 2017

Book Notes - Cara Hoffman "Running"


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.

Cara Hoffman's Running is a starkly lyrical and unforgettable novel from a master storyteller.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"Hoffman is fearless and trusting of her readers, and her precise prose captures the novel's many settings—Greece, Washington State, New York City—and her characters' feelings and actions, vividly."

In her own words, here is Cara Hoffman's Book Notes music playlist for her novel Running:

While working on Running, (and while working as a runner in Athens in the late 80s) I listened to The Smiths, Sean Macgowan, Blixa Bargeld, Mick Harvey, David Bowie, Nick Cave, Crime and the City Solution, a lot of IRA songs and Greek folk music. I think the ideal playlist to accompany this novel would simply be the David Bowie album Low played on constant repeat and you would need to stand up every several chapters, and shout along with the song Be My Wife. But for the sake of variety and historical accuracy I offer you the following. Please play it loud and pour yourself a drink.

All Must be Love - Crime and the City Solution
This is from the 1988 album Shine. I love the grit and longing of this song and the dark sexy intelligence of their music, it captures that era in Europe particularly well. I was a fan of The Birthday Party, but a lot of good came from their break up. Like Crime, and like The Bad Seeds.

Disorder – Joy Division
From their first album. They're from Salford, like the character Milo in Running. I love Ian Curtis's voice, the ring of his Mancunian accent. Like a lot of the music on this list, this is a song I remember hearing in bars.

Ask – The Smiths
This song is just good advice for everyone. Tender and funny.

Soul Desert - Blixa Bargeld
I loved Einstürzende Neubauten as a kid, and am fan of Blixa's Bargeld's solo work for its subtlety and restraint. He doesn't exactly scream in this song—but the scream is always there, barely audible beneath the surface.

5/4 - 3 teens kill 4
Hard to find any work by 3 teens kill 4, the band the artist David Wojnarowicz's played in during the 80s. This song is a slow burn collage of sound, similar to VU's Murder Mystery, but far more spare. Wojnarowicz speaks, sings and chants over hypnotic beats, samples, and simple guitar rifs. His voice is beautiful, low and rich.

USA –The Pogues
I felt for a long time this was my theme song. And it gets to the heart of the novel. “When I was young I chewed the leaves, when I was older I drank with thieves.” And the bleak lines “I found the things for which I prayed and came back home to the USA with a heart of stone, and now I know…” It has those driving drums from traditional Irish music, and Shane Macgowan's forthright snarl, and the story is about love and loneliness and about how, as Jasper Lethe put, “there's no way out.”

Sweet Thing/Candidate – David Bowie
This song from Diamond Dogs, has been one of my favorites since I was a teenager. The harmonies are unreal. (Bowie singing with Bowie singing with Bowie, that elegant open throated howl.) And these final lines are like a relentless anthem of cruising. Well on the street where you live I could not hold up my head for I put all I have in another bed, in the back of a car, in a cellar like a church with the door ajar, well I guess we must be looking for a different kind but we can't stop trying til we break up our mind, til the sun drips blood on the seedy young knights who press you to the ground while shaking in fright.

The Rocky Road to Dublin – The Pogues
I grew up on Irish music and listening to it still affects me deeply. The traditional lyrics are lovely, cutting thorns and bogs and rabbits and drinking and working and wandering, Shane McGowan's voice can make any song do what it's supposed to do. Sad, funny, hardboiled, clever, these are nursery songs to me.

From Her to Eternity – Nick Cave
A classic, people know mostly from Nick Cave's cameo in wings of desire. “One more song, and I'm not going to tell you about a girl, I'm not going to tell you about a girl.” I doubt there's a playlist I've made that doesn't have Nick Cave on it. I missed seeing him in Athens in 1990 when I was broke and working at a hotel. I saw him play four years ago, with my best friend (who had also worked as a runner back in the day.) It almost made up for missing him in Athens, and possibly made up for every other bad thing that happened in the years between those shows.

Come out ye Black and Tans – Wolfe Tones
This is a traditional IRA song. Brutal, sarcastic, rousing, historically accurate. Runners sing this in Drink's Time in the novel. More lullaby music. When I was a kid I was in love with a boy who had a poster of Bobby Sands in his bedroom. He was an altar boy and his parents were alcoholics, his father had a plaque with his name on it at the bar where he spent his time. They sent him to Belfast for marching season when he was thirteen. This is something maybe people who grew up in places like I did can understand. They can understand why a person would want to go to the other end of the world and not come back.

Cara Hoffman and Running links:

the author's website
Wikipedia entry for the author

Booklist review
Kirkus Reviews review
Publishers Weekly review

Largehearted Boy playlist by the author for Running
Salon interview with the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

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List of Online "Best Books of 2016" Lists

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

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
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