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September 6, 2017

Book Notes - KL Pereira "A Dream Between Two Rivers"

A Dream Between Two Rivers

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.

KL Pereira's short fiction collection A Dream Between Two Rivers is a brilliant melding of fairy tales, folk tales, and myth.

Porochista Khakpour wrote of the book:

"The ghosts of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jose Donoso, Leonora Carrington, and Octavia Butler haunt this potent collection by an author of boundless imaginative gifts. "


In her own words, here is KL Pereira's Book Notes music playlist for her short fiction collection A Dream Between Two Rivers:


While it's difficult for me to write in anything but total silence, I've always crafted mix tapes (and then, playlists) for my characters, stories, and novels. Music helps me understand, even articulate the feelings that are locked inside my ideas and concepts. Once I have that understanding, once I've really realized and listened to the emotional truth of my work through music, it's like a door opens and invites me inside the world that I'm creating.

Crafting my short story collection, A Dream Between Two Rivers, wasn't really that much different from creating a mix tape. The book has two sections, and in some ways, each section or "side" is a record of ways that I felt, my obsessions and dreams over the course of creating the book. It's also, of course, a catalogue of the darkness, the loneliness, and the yearning that my characters feel. Below you'll find songs that gave me insights into their lives, specific melodies that illuminated their stories for me, beats that underscored their darkest and brightest moments. I've tried to share these moments, and like doorways, into the stories themselves, I invite you to come inside.


The Loneliness

(SIDE A)

"The Dark Valley of Your Lungs" | Siboney by Connie Francis
At the lavandería you read in a magazine about Connie Francis, how she learned her songs phonetically, mouthing languages she didn't know, echoing the longing in the hearts of those without a home. When everyone is at midnight mass, you play Abuela's records in the dark. You press your palms to your throat, your chest. You move your lips, make the song dance on them without your tongue, mimic the sounds of longing until the sun comes up. Abuela returns to a warm turntable, empty 7up cans, the ghost of your song fogging the bathroom mirror.

"The Children's House" | Night Reconnaissance by The Dresden Dolls
We love the dark, what happens when the lights go out around our neighborhood, our tiny bodies illuminated only by stars. Night is the perfect time for collecting: gnomes and flamingos are plentiful, and though our basement and attic burst with so many of their technicolor bodies already, we can't resist. Why do grown-ups love them so? Do they appeal to their sense of color and whimsy? Or are they the odd constants of suburbanity, the only monsters Maple Street U.S.A. can conceive of? To us, they are bright reminders of alien adventures, stories we will tell our own parents one day.

"Hansel and Gretel" | Devil in You by The Watson Twins
Hansel's sister led him to the edge of town. It was like a race they'd been running their whole lives, knees pressed to concrete, cheeks sticky with sweat, ready to run. They'd been running so long. And Gretel always beat him, always got there first, out-smarted the witch. But did she win? Hansel asked himself over and over and over, seeing the blood on his sister's hands. Did she win?

"Postcards From the Underworld" | Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division
It's the love that's supposed to be unconditional that's always the hardest. Demeter can't understand it. How can you birth a child, especially a girl, in the very image of you, and from the moment she slides from your legs, want to both lock her back up inside you and push her away? How can you choose your lovers, your arts, over her, again and again, while at the same time lamenting her absence? Do you feel relief after she is gone? Do you tell others that she was taken so people will pity you? So you can pity yourself? And why, why is loving the image of yourself so hard?

"Searching" | Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd
Mateo's daughter picks up the arm and resets the needle. The grooves in the vinyl are worn and the needle dull and the song skipping. How many times has she listened to this song? It helps her try and believe that she and her father are both out there, missing each other at the same time. But maybe the real story, the truer story, is that they are missing the same thing, that they have the same hole inside that can never be filled, even by each other. There's a Grand Canyon of difference between these two things, but bridging it is unfathomable. Can you string a tightrope over a gulf that big? If anything can do it, she thinks, this song can.


The Devouring

(SIDE B)

"Thick as Skin" | I Put A Spell on You by Nina Simone
The ingredients are not hard to come by, and anyway, that's not the most important part of any curse; it's the will that makes a spell work. I've wanted you for so long, I almost thought I'd never get you. But then of course, I remembered the stories and read the books and found the spell and danced under a full moon naked...of course I'm not going to tell you how I did it! And risk you finding the counter-curse? Obsession is one thing, loneliness another. I survived one for ages, don't intend to endure the other. And it's love, darling, truly, truly, true love. What makes a love spell a success? When it fools both practitioner and subject.

"Transformations" | I Put A Spell on You by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
What can make a spell go bad? Al knows now, of course. It all lies in intent, tone, even if the words are pure. Of course, there are no pure words anymore. They've all been sullied by use in evil spells. Al would never have dreamed any of this could have happened but then of course, Al doesn't dream anymore. There are only nightmares, day or night. If Al could deliver a caution, it would be: Even if grief gnaws your fingers and your spleen, do not craft a spell with malice, fear, or longing in your heart. If anything in you questions what the state of your soul will be after the spell, do not do it. Pour the moon water down the drain, throw the fenugreek in a neighbor's garden, burn the plants. Become friends with your grief. Sit with it in afternoons and offer it tea. Do not wish it away.

"The Scent of Love" | Where the Wild Roses Grow by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Elizabeth was always happiest when she was allowed to play in the graveyard. She loved to read the inscriptions on tombstones (Passed on to the arms of angels! At eternal rest in the bosom of the Lord!) and steal the freshest flowers, one flower from each grave, and at the end, a bouquet of someone else's grief would fill her arms. When she was very young, she tried to pick the wild roses that grew along the high fence, but after cutting herself to ribbons on their green thorns, she went after easier catch. Not that the stolen blooms were perfect. While they sat in pride of place at the center of the dinning room table, scores of ants trailed from the vase, scurrying for the plates. As Elizabeth giggled and squished their tiny, black bodies with the butt of her knife, her mother shook her head and thought that she'd rather see the girl's blood on her table.

"How to Bring Your Dead Lover Back" | Never Tear Us Apart by INXS
Everyone says that their stories are about true love, compulsion, caution, but take out the tragic mothers and emo musician/king of the underworld boyfriends, and Persephone and Eurydice are just fine. Most people don't believe it. What happens if we subtract dark men and lamenting crones from our narratives? Can young women really live their lives as the heros of their own stories, rescuing no one but themselves (and maybe each other)? Sometimes Persephone and Eurydice laugh about it as they sip whiskey-laced sweet tea, and swing from their hammock. Their house is full of cats and other wild creatures who come and go as they please and don't follow Aristotle's rules of a satisfying (read: heteronormative) narrative. Here, they're allowed to create their own destiny. And no one really needs saving anymore.


KL Pereira and A Dream Between Two Rivers links:

the author's website


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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