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February 28, 2018

Book Notes - Vincent Chu "Like A Champion"

Like A Champion

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.

Vincent Chu's collection Like A Champion mines the everyday to expose the complex and often funny underpinnings of our world.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"Chu finds ways to turn the everyday into the revelatory... He covers a host of relationships - familial, romantic, occupational - and, in doing so, showcases the complexities of the characters on display. Chu's stories are solidly realistic in their scope, exploring everyday issues with charm and empathy - and occasional moments of unexpected humor."

In his own words, here is Vincent Chu's Book Notes music playlist for his short story collection Like A Champion:

It wasn't until late in piecing together Like A Champion that I made the somewhat obvious observation that arranging this short story collection was similar to arranging songs on an album. There were 18 stories. Each was different but had to fit a larger theme. Content and subject matter were important, but so were tone and feeling. Order played a big part. You had to oscillate between the positive and negative, highs and lows, satisfying and uncertain. Like A Champion is a celebration of underdogs and longshots, but there is a lot of sadness, failure and disappointment before getting there that needs to be addressed along the way. While this list below would perhaps be kind of weird as Like a Champion the album, I think it's pretty fitting as Like A Champion the playlist.

Fred from Finance - "Mad World" Tears for Fears
The perfect soundtrack for a man on the verge of a cosmic breakdown on his last day of work. You can almost hear the drums plodding along to the beeps of an office printer.

Boom Town - "Hate Me Now" Nas ft. Puff Daddy
Boxing takes attitude and a me-against-the-world mentality. Even if it's the beginner's course Tuesday evenings from 7-8:30pm.

Ambrosia - "Everything's Gonna Be Alright" Bob Marley
Having the most unpopular dish at a potluck will make any couple need a little reassurance. Also, goes well with barbecues.

Squirrels - "It Was a Good Day" Ice Cube
An essential celebratory song for everyday victories, and this being a basketball story, "Messed around and got a triple double."

Like a Norwegian - "I Want to Know What Love Is" Foreigner
A single man on a cruise ship in need of knowing what love is. Cruise ships are known for playing a lot of bad songs, but this is not necessarily one of them.

Recent Conversations - "Passionfruit" Drake
Any exploration of love in the internet age starts and ends with Drake.

Overseas Club - "Outside" Staind
While post-grunge rock may not have survived the 2000s, this song has aged well and is appropriate for any examination of being on the outside looking in, in this case, an expat teacher struggling to fit in with her new colleagues.

Gory Special - "Super Thug" Noreaga
A semi-autobiographical tale of backyard wrestling circa the late 90s. This song, which had just come out, was my friend's entrance music. Not to mention, Neptunes.

Bathroom Break - "Everything is Everything" Lauryn Hill
The perfect soundtrack for a drunken self-examination of race, gender and identity while staring into the mirror inside a bathroom at a house party.

Star of the World - "Hurt" Johnny Cash
An older gentleman struggles to come to terms with a world that has passed him by. The Man in Black captures that pain beautifully.

The Long Weekend - "With a Little Help from My Friends" Joe Cocker
This is the collection's Wonder Years story, a kid making tough decisions while trying to find his moral compass. As soon as this song comes on, I can already hear, "Shut up, butthead."

Hansaring - "Barfuss Am Klavier" AnnenMayKantereit
A boy and girl on a train in Germany. My German isn't good enough to understand all of AnnenMayKantereit's lyrics, but I'm fairly positive it's something beautiful.

The Tenderloin - "In the Air Tonight" Phil Collins
Roaming a dark and dangerous city at night, a man sees something that troubles him deeply. Cue the rain when the drums hit.

Be Sweet and Loving - "Only One" Kanye West ft. Paul McCartney
This song and video of parenthood are so touching, even though on paper you might not expect that. In the story, just replace Kanye with a worrisome mom.

Park with Pops - "Fast Car" Tracy Chapman
Cars, class and small-town blues. Maybe together we can get somewhere.

Rhubarb Pie - "Still" Geto Boys
Any story of a disgruntled worker bee falls from the Office Space family tree, and the scene with the printer in the field will never get old, even if one day robots take all of our jobs.

Like a Champion - "Didn't I Blow Your Mind" The Delfonics
A struggling toy store owner wants one simple thing before everything goes under, to blow your mind. Plus, the man sells collectibles, he can appreciate the classics.

Pigs and Stock Boys - "Return of the Mack" Mark Morrison
The ultimate roll-the-credits song.

Vincent Chu and Like A Champion links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

Kirkus review

Forth interview with the author
Voices profile of the author

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

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)
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Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists

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