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September 11, 2017

Book Notes - Tayari Jones "Atlanta Noir"

Atlanta Noir

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.

Atlanta Noir, edited by Tayari Jones, goes beyond gumshoes and gets Southern gothic in this compelling collection of dark stories.

The New York Journal of Books wrote of the book:

"Once again, Akashic shows us why it is king of noir and especially anthologies with such high-quality writers and storytellers. We've waited long for this beautiful collection of all things dark and murderous, but the wait was well worth it. Atlanta Noir could well turn out to be Akashic’s best work to date."

In her own words, here is Tayari Jones's Book Notes music playlist for the anthology Atlanta Noir:

Atlanta Noir is southern noir. Where traditional noir is features detectives and bombhells, ours is about secrets and loyalty and the doublecrosses that happen when these two things collide. You may call it Southern Gothic, but we just call it everyday life.

To create this playlist, I asked the authors to soundtrack their stories, which pull back the kudzu to show what festers beneath. The result is a roster of songs as diverse and charmingly disturbing as the book itself. Have some fun with it. Put your feet up, spike your sweet tea with a slug of bourbon, enjoy to these tunes, but watch your back.

1. “ATLiens” by Outkast. Welcome to the new Atlanta, the dirty south, and the embodiment of a proudly regional funk that is entirely our own.

2. "I Ain't Mad at Cha" by 2Pac. The lyrics about a man with a shady past trying to change the course of his life speaks to the struggle of the Payne, the main character of Brandon Massey’s story, “The Prisoner.” Payne wants a fresh start, a new life, but it’s never as easy as it seems.

3. “His Eye is On The Sparrow” by Lauren Hill. This updated version of the gospel classic reminds us that grace is still here for all of us. Daniel Black’s “Come Ye Disconsolate” follows an unhappy man who finds redemption on the meanest streets of Atlanta.

4. “Murder By Numbers” by The Police. Jennifer Harlow’s story “The Bubble” shows that bad neighborhoods sometimes are gated communities. When you’re rich and white, murder can be easy as 1-2-3.

5. "Hope There's Someone" by Anthony and the Johnsons brings to mind the lonely women in those small apartments, especially the line about the awful middle place between life and nowhere. Jim Grimsley’s “Four In The Morning At The New Place” captures the melancholy behind the vibrant counter-culture of Little Five Points.

6. “Don’t Cry No More” by Bobby Blue Bland. Sometimes the blues can make you feel good. In “The Fuck Out” by John Holman, the jaunty romance matches Blur’s upbeat mood at the start of the story. He’s home from jail after several months, it’s spring time, he feels free—for now.

7. "No Expectations" by The Rolling Stones. Dallas Hudgen’s “Terceria” exposes the flaws marring Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, the jewel of the city. The lyric, “So take me to the airport and put me on a plane. I've got no expectations to pass through here again." tells it all.

8. “Miss Otis Regrets” by Bette Midler. This is an upbeat version of a morbid tale, just as Tony Grooms tells a disturbing story, “Selah”, with wicked humor.

9. “Mainstream” by Goodie Mob. Kenji Jasper’s tale of drugs, sex, and revenge is called “A Moment of Clarity in the Waffle House.” Goodie Mob is as southern as the 4 am fare served up at that establishment. And Atlanta rapper T-Mo and Khujo laments how hard it is to do right, when the world is doing wrong.

10. "Crazy Mary," by Victoria Williams. Reading Sheri Josphe’s “Kill Joy” you know somebody’s crazy, but who? What happens when your crazy neighbor makes you crazier than she is? And whose fault is it when somebody ends up dead?

11. “No More Drama,” Alesia Parker’s “Ma’am” is about a woman who wants nothing more than to be the first lady of Atlanta. But a mysterious letter reveals violence and melodrama that makes her consider walking away from it all.

12. “Stuck In The Past” by Aimee Mann. This song captures the state of mind of the grieving father in Davis James Poissant’s “Comet”. And the nifty cosmic imagery captures the son’s energy as well.

13. “911 is a Joke” by Public Enemy. Tananarive Due sets her story during one of our famous Atlanta “snowstorms”. And as we well know, when there are more than three inches on the ground, you’re on your own.

14. “At Last,” by Etta James. This message of this oldie-but-goodie is evident in the title, but Gillian Royes take on heartache and longing requires a classic.

15. “Georgia On My Mind,” by Ray Charles. Because, well, it is.

Tayari Jones and Atlanta Noir links:

the editor's website

Arts ATL review
Kirkus review
New York Journal of Books review
Publishers Weekly review

WABE interview with two of the contributors

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)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

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