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January 9, 2018

Book Notes - Colin Winnette "The Job of the Wasp"

The Job of the Wasp

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.

Colin Winnette's The Job of the Wasp is an unforgettable and unique Gothic horror novel.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"Winnette has conjured a profoundly unsettling story from the murky depths of his imagination; once it clicks, giggles, and slithers into your mind, it's nearly impossible to dislodge."

In his own words, here is Colin Winnette 's Book Notes music playlist for his novel The Job of the Wasp:

I had a problem writing this book, in that the feeling the entire time was that I couldn’t write fast enough to keep up with the voice. A lot of times, it’s the other way, but this narrator had so much to say and only so much time to say it, so I sped along and did all I could to keep pace. So, while I normally spend a lot of time fussing with the music, adjusting my chair, or de-furring our foolishly velvety couch, this time I didn’t do much outside of typing, talking to myself, spinning my hands in the air, drinking from a plastic measuring pitcher of water, and taking ibuprofen when the headaches came. I got a lot of those while writing this book. That doesn’t typically happen either. It’s possible something was very wrong with me at the time.

1. Arvo Pärt – Silentium: Senza moto

The first time I listened to this I was driving up a mountain through a snowstorm to a town called Wolf Creek, where I planned to camp. The whole thing was a bad idea, but I survived, and learned that not every dangerous thing leaves you with a cool story to tell.

2. Steve Jablonsky – Freddy’s Coming For You

I feel like so many writers have very cool taste in music, and provide recommendations that can really just open your eyes to everything out there that you’re missing. Me, I spend a lot of time listening to things like this creepy haunted house-like track from the 2010 reboot of Nightmare on Elm Street. While the remake isn’t even in the same league as the original film, the old soundtrack doesn’t get under my skin in the same way. It’s got cool synths and stuff. I bet people own it on vinyl. Anyway, what a horrific and terrifying movie. Real talk? I’m in a dark bar now, very red and green in its color palette, and I’m listening to this song to make sure it’s the right one, and the bar music cut out the moment I put it on. Everyone is sitting very quietly, almost like it’s a dream I’m about to start seeing as such. I’m just sitting here in a safe place, feeling scared. It’s that moment when you realize you were wrong in what you thought was happening. The world isn’t at all what it seemed to be only moments before. And everything is about to take a turn for the worse.

3. The Vaccines – Somebody Else’s Child

When this book was announced, they categorized it as horror, which is a genre it owes a great deal to. Writing it, though, I mostly felt kind of melancholy and excited and like everything is funny if you look at it in the most desperately accepting way. I guess The Vaccines were lauded as yet another return to guitar rock at some point. Because of algorithm-based music selection, I wind up listening to stuff like this. Stuff I don’t necessarily like, but hooks into something I’m feeding on. Like, I don’t care about this song at all. I only know I put it on a lot while I was writing this book and it brought me consistently back to a certain tone, a lonely feeling that had a self-centered kind of generosity behind it that reminded me of a part of the narrator that I couldn’t deny. This way of being open to other people out of the belief that they might help you fix the problems you’re having. Anyway, the song was tonally right in some way, or had the right blend of ignorability and longing. Thanks, GooglePlay.

4. Screamin’ Joe Neal – Don’t Quit Me Baby

How about that intro? Didn’t listen to it yet? Just listen to it! Remember when emo wasn’t about proving just how bad you felt, but about, well, begging? Honestly, every part of this song is so good.

5. The Mighty Sparrow – Teresa

This playlist started out so stormy and brooding, I figure we can maybe have some fun for a bit. Let’s call this the palette cleanser. It’s a really good jam, is all. This is the kind of feeling the boys in the orphanage of a href="">The Job of the Wasp never really get to have.

6. Big Thief – Mary

Here’s a good band doing a great job. I will see them live someday, and that’s saying something because I’m becoming an old man. Going to concerts is a complicated thing when you get older. Remember when it was just a matter of going?! Now it’s a matter of feeling like going, then making it happen on top of the feeling. Anyway, I listened to this album a lot while writing this book and continue to.

7. Andy Shauf – My Dear Helen

I’m a sucker for the villain’s lament. Even more so for stories about misunderstandings with tragic consequences. This song dovetails with another Andy Shauf song called “Jerry Was a Clerk,” and together they tell a difficult and painful story, about youth, ambition, isolation, old age, and loss, and the way our lives can kind of feel like a trap set up by someone else, one that we’re just wandering into despite all intentions to the contrary. I can’t write to this song because the story is so compelling and the mounting doom and dread eats away at me. In another song on this album, The Bearer of Bad News, the titular character from the song “Wendell Walker” asks, “My God, what have I done?” That question resonates throughout this song as well, along with questions around culpability. When does something become specifically my fault, versus the result of circumstances beyond my control? When did things go wrong? Honestly, those themes are legible in a lot of Shauf’s stuff. Which is probably part of why I like him so much. These are definitely questions the narrator of a href="">The Job of the Wasp has rattling around in the back of his brain, even if he can’t get himself to admit it.

8. Adele – First Love

Why not open with Arvo Pärt and end with Adele? It’s a playlist, not a soundtrack, right? It’s an unpopular opinion, but this is probably my favorite Adele song. I don’t need the baroque fireworks of “Hello” or “Rolling in the Deep”. Just Adele and that little keyboard plunking away. It just digs into me. I think I have extremely uncool taste in music. I just try to stick with what works, especially when it’s music I’m listening to in a writing-adjacent way. I get to be as embarrassing as I want in my office (and here on the Largehearted Boy website). I’m not saying liking Adele is embarrassing, but the number of times I’ve listened to this particular song… might qualify.

Bonus Song: Tegan and Sara – “Call It Off (Live)”

Another song that’s been on my writing playlist for maybe three years. Why? I can’t exactly say. I just like the way they sing together on this song. Or the way they almost sing together. It’s almost like they’re giving two performances that fell beautiful into synch, rather than singing tight harmonies, or one doing backup for the other. There’s an openness to this song, but also this fragility. That’s the narrator of a href="">The Job of the Wasp to a tee. Any strength he might try to demonstrate is defensive. In a lot of ways he’s an open wound, no pun intended. But knowing the trouble that will get him into, he tries to hide that fact, thereby creating all new types of trouble he gets into. Poor little guy.

Colin Winnette and The Job of the Wasp links:

the author's website

Publishers Weekly review
San Francisco Chronicle review

Largehearted Boy Book Notes playlist by the author for Haints Stay

also at Largehearted Boy:

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