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February 19, 2018

Book Notes - Cheston Knapp "Up Up, Down Down"

Up Up, Down Down

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 Jesmyn Ward, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, Lauren Groff, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

The essays in Cheston Knapp's collection Up Up, Down Down are funny, sharp, and smart explorations of identity.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"Takes a firmly tongue-in-cheek approach to the existential crises of male maturity for the millennial generation… Knapp's philosophizing is kept lively by exuberant and sometimes acerbically funny descriptions… This intelligent take on coming-of-age deserves to be widely read, if only for its effortless-seeming form and its expression of how style and content are irrevocably intertwined."

In his own words, here is Cheston Knapp's Book Notes music playlist for his essay collection Up Up, Down Down:

I'm on this fine site today to promote a book of my word noodlings by the title of Up Up, Down Down. For lack of a better term these noodlings have been called "essays." And in a sick taxonomical joke, so too is this jazzy listicle called an "essay." Anyhoo, I rarely listened to music when I was writing this book—it's hard enough for me to hear through the rampant static in my head—but when I did, it was often wordless ditties, like stuff by Max Richter and John Fahey and Bill Evans. But for this thingamabob here I'll go ahead and give you a little précis of each piece and then a song or two that might capture its spirit. I've also given myself the extra challenge of creating the least listener-friendly playlist in the history of playlists.

Faces of Pain
This piece is made up of two parallel tracks. It's half a profile of an independent professional wrestling promotion in Portland and half a wimpy-ish, Sad Boi excavation of my past hurts, my pain. In emoji you'd spell this thing [flexed biceps] [sad-so-sad-cryface-waaaa-sniffles-waaaa]. So for the first half, let's go with Action Bronson's "Barry Horowitz," which so perfectly captures the kabuki-like aggression and swagger of the wrestlers I hung out with. Just a bunch of juiced-up fun. And for the weepy-whiny half, I'd probably say Kirk Van Houten's 'Can I Borrow a Feeling?," which contains the timeless phrase "glove of love." But that's not a real song, so I'll say 'Feelings," by Morris Albert.

Not the city, but the drinking game. I was briefly part of a fraternity and we played this game, which sometimes goes by beer pong. There's an anecdote from my experience in the house that didn't make the cut. We had this tradition, which must've started back in the eighties, where at every party we threw, there would come a time when Blondie's "The Tide is High" started to play over the speakers. At this the brothers would gather in two rows on the dance floor and grasp their arms together, creating what I'll call an arm-hammock. Then, one by one, brothers would summit a four-foot platform by the wall, drop their pants to their ankles, and leap into the arm-hammock. They'd then replace a brother in line so he could do the same. And in case you're curious, this didn't make it into the piece because it wasn't fratty enough…

Learning Curves
This one's about Jules Renard's journal and about keeping a journal myself, and falling in love. So, hmm, let's go with pretty much anything by Serge Gainsbourg, who surely ranks among the most improbably sexy humans of all time. But forced to pick just one, I'd say "Je Taime,…Moi Non Plus."

Far from Me
Here we have a little number about Roger Federer, David Foster Wallace, and the anxiety of influence. I'm thinking of two songs for this one. The first is a recording of Chicago's "Hard to Say I'm Sorry" that Roger did with Tommy Haas, Novak Djokovic, and Grigor Dimitrov. I don't think that's on Spotify, though, so I'm picking a song by the band Tennis, "Origins." And then for the influence side it'd have to be Queen's "Under Pressure." RIP Bowie. RIP Freddie Mercury.

Mysteries We Live With
UFOs! The paranormal! So it's gotta be Blink 182's "Aliens Exist." I think I'm late to the knowledge that Tom DeLonge has devoted himself to proving that, yes, aliens exist. Oh, but it's also about having grown up in the church, so for that let's say Jars of Clay's "Flood." Have these two songs ever been played together?

Neighborhood Watch
This one's about my neighbor Peter, who was murdered in his house by a man he was letting stay with him. He was, without a doubt, the life of the neighborhood. He'd always ride around on his bike with a boom box in his handlebar basket. Typically he'd be playing The Beatles or The Grateful Dead, but sometimes classical stuff, too. I'm including Aaron Copland's "Appalachian Spring" here because it was one of his favorites.

Something's Gotta Stick
Skateboarding and nostalgia, an adult portion of both. I skated growing up, but I was also a Sad Boi then, too, the saddest of all Sad Bois, so this has to be some emo from the late 90s. The options are endless! I'll go with "Holiday," by The Get Up Kids, mostly for the line "Remembering's not helping you yet."

Cheston Knapp and Up Up, Down Down links:

the author's website

Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review

Creative Nonfiction interview with the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

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my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

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