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May 30, 2017

Book Notes - Courtney Maum "Touch"


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.

Courtney Maum's Touch is a smart, funny, and insightful novel about our culture of connectedness.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"...Maum’s incisive, charming, and funny novel ebulliently champions the healing powers of touch, the living world, and love in all its crazy risks, surprises, and sustaining radiance."

In her own words, here is Courtney Maum's Book Notes music playlist for her novel Touch:

I don't listen to music while I write or edit. In fact, I work in totalitarian silence—my husband jokes that he wants to get a "Beware: Angry Dog" song for my closed door when I'm writing because I get prickly when I'm interrupted from something I'm really focused on. But when I'm away from my desk, music is a really important outlet for me, and definitely part of the creative writing and revising process. If I'm listening to music, it's either because I'm driving alone, which is when I tend to get some of my best creative thinking done, or because I'm doing some kind of physical activity—either running, or dancing in my living room, celebrating a good writing day or just trying to shake off some stress. This might be an uneven playlist because I listen to some pretty cheesy music when I run!

Octet "Blind Repetition"
This is a song I listened to a lot in 2004 when I still lived in Paris, and I sort of re-discovered it this past year and listened to it all the time when I was driving. It starts with these sputtering RJD2, computer-booting-up type sounds laid under this minor arpeggio that sounds naïve and simple, but then the main melody kicks in, and it is so sad and filled with such yearning—whenever I hear this song, I think of a closed-up person's desire to connect, to be someone who can make emotional connections. It reminded me of what I was going for with Touch's main character, Sloane, a futurist who is really famous, and completely on top of everything "game changing" that's happening in the tech world, but she's also completely alone.

Ratatat "Abrasive"
Oh, how I love this song! I've been a huge fan of Ratatat since the early 2000s. (They have the best live shows, full stop.) This particular song has such control to it, it's almost Bach-ian, but you can just feel the joy and excitement yearning to break through, which of course, it does. This is the song I heard in my head when my main character decided to go rogue.

The Killers "Human"
I'm pretty old fashioned with the way I listen to music. I've never downloaded a single song to my iPhone. I still use my 2005 iPod, especially when I run. But because my ancient iPod isn't compatible with my computer, I can't put new music on it. So I listen to Pandora sometimes, the free version with the annoying ads. I'm in a beginner's polo league that plays on Wednesday nights, and The Killers was the Pandora station I'd listen en route to my coached games. "Human" would always come on, and the line "When the call came down the line" always got me excited—I'd picture myself being "on the line," which in polo, means you're the next one in line for the ball, in case your teammate misses it. This song always gets me psyched up for my matches, and it kind of bled into my writing process, too, over the last year. It became a rallying song.

Justin Bieber "What Do You Mean"
I got into this song because of the viral "DavidMooreTV" hoverboard video that starts with this guy reading a disappointing text and then he's joined by an entourage of other dudes on hoverboards to dance it out. It's a super complicated choreography that was filmed in just one take and I just think it's fresh and funny and inspiring, and also kind of nuts to think how much work went into getting it just right. Something about the beat of this song makes it the perfect song to run to, and I have these really positive, Pavlovian-type responses to it because I always imagine the video when this song comes on.

Drake "0 to 100 / The Catch Up"
If there is a song that better encapsulates the feeling of having had a really kick-ass writing day, than I don't know what that song is.

Madonna "Bitch I'm Madonna"
Okay, maybe I do know what that song is. It's this one.

Selena Gomez "Same Old Love"
We've all been stuck in relationship ruts. Sometimes, the rut goes really deep. I liked listening to this song while writing Touch because it called up the way the main character, Sloane, was feeling about her life partner, who announces that he doesn't want to have sex with her any more. She's been in this loveless relationship for a decade, and she's finally, truly, sick of it.

Dory Previn "Going Home"
I don't think I've ever got through a listen without crying. Dory Previn was the bad-ass, trenchant Joni Mitchell of her generation, but she never reached Joni's fame. In my book, she's unmatched as a lyricist, and this song, about a lonely woman trying to make a one-night-stand comfortable in her ratty home, is so human, and so heartbreaking, and just so real and lovely. It's an anthem about the need for kindness and human contact.

Migos "T-Shirt"
While I was revising Touch, I watched a lot of "Atlanta," the show about up-and-coming rappers in Atlanta created by Donald Glover. That's how I discovered Migos. I listened to "T-Shirt" obsessively—dancing around the living room with our little toddler. The staccato in it is thrilling; it's a totally hypnotic song.

Courtney Maum and Touch links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

Booklist review
BookPage review
Kirkus Reviews review
Publishers Weekly review

Electric Literature essay by the author
The Millions interview with the author

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)
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