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February 27, 2018

Book Notes - Del Samatar "Monster Portraits"

Monster Portraits

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.

Del Samatar and‎ Sofia Samatar's Monster Portraits is the rare illustrated book where the text and images not only complement each other, they magnify their respective power.

The New York Times wrote of the book:

"Reading this was like wandering out of a dream and into an awareness of something with claws sitting on my chest."


In his own words, here is Del Samatar's Book Notes music playlist for his book Monster Portraits:


In putting together a soundtrack for Monster Portraits I had to resist the urge to resort to my favorite songs of the day.

Growing up in northern New Jersey has left me immersed in and inspired by "hood culture."

Hip Hop and both Dancehall and Roots Reggae are my favorite forms of music.

Even as friends in my age group begin to criticize "trap music" and "mumble rap," I find myself delighted by even the most recent evolutions of the genre. But no matter how much I love 21Savage, Kodak Black, or Tekashi69 they just don't feel right for Monster Portraits. These artists and their contemporaries have all the flavored ingredients and sauce to represent the monsters that I draw, including the underlying, ever present threat of violence.

But the music is all too familiar to me, and for Monster Portraits everything must be foreign and exotic. It's about delving into the unknown in search of monsters, not scanning the familiar for the monsters we know and love.

So I had to search my music library for something a little less familiar. I knew exactly what I was looking for, though I couldn't remember it by name.

It was a collection of Indian chants that I would listen to only when playing the action role-playing video game, The Elder Scrolls Oblivion. It was the perfect soundtrack for exploring the unknown lands of Cyrodiil and I knew it would be perfect for Monster Portraits as well.

The album I was searching for is Ravi Shankar's Chants of India produced by George Harrison. As I listen to its sixteen tracks for the first time in years I find it to be just as I remembered; incredibly beautiful, totally foreign, slightly ominous and the perfect companion to Monster Portraits.


Del Samatar and‎ Sofia SamatarMonster Portraits links:

Sofia Samatar's website
excerpt from the book

Booklist review
Third Coast Review review

Literary Hub interview with Sofia Samatar
Whurk interview with Sofia Samatar


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

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

Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists


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