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March 14, 2018

Book Notes - Lynne Tillman "Men and Apparitions"

Men and Apparitions

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.

Lynne Tillman's novel Men and Apparitions once again proves her one of our most innovative and masterful storytellers.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"With callouts to a mind-revving roster of photographers, writers, filmmakers, intellectuals, and media magnets, erudite, discerning, and everdaring Tillman has forged a mischievous conflation of criticism and fiction. Incantatory, maddening, brilliant, zestful, compassionate, and timely, Tillman’s portrait of a floundering academic trying to make sense of a digitized world of churning, contradictory messages reveals the perpetual interplay between past and present, the personal and the cultural, image and life."

In her own words, here is Lynne Tillman's Book Notes music playlist for her novel Men and Apparitions:

Men and Apparitions switches gears a lot, throughout the novel, from expository to narrative, it’s introspective, speculative, declarative, there’s fantasy, reason, irrationality, from beginning to end; but the voice remains its protagonist’s, Ezekiel Hooper Stark. If you read it, you’ll see what I mean about changes.

In jazz, there’s a concept “playing over the changes,” jazz musicians sometimes play over the changes, improvising, and, as many times as David (Hofstra, my bass player spouse) explains it to me, I don’t think I really get it. It’s abstract, always. I have some idea, but I’m probably wrong. No matter, let me say I wrote Men and Apparitions as if playing over the changes that weren’t music, necessarily.

In no order, I listened to Solange Knowles, Al Green, Tammy Tyrelle and Marvin Gaye, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Bernstein’s Candide, Tony Kushner’s Caroline, or Change, The Fortress of Solitude musical, Miles Davis's You’re Under Arrest, The Threepenny Opera, Virginia Woolf talking on BBC, her only recording, Oscar Peterson’s West Side Story, Ray Charles, Galaxie 500, Jan Johansson, Aaron Copland, The Good Thief, John Cage talking.

Finding the right music....Isn’t the right music a weird concept? What is it right for? I can’t say I ever did find it. Maybe it would always be impossible for me, or I’d have to write the score to fit this novel, but I’m incapable of that. And besides my novel is my score, and rhythm is essential to every sentence I write.

Also, maybe I’m lazy, but I didn’t want to take time to think about what music I needed to write with or for or against. I like show tunes and movie soundtracks, because they have themes, which coalesce around musical ideas and repeat, that repetitiveness is helpful, and why I also like Baroque music, because it seems logical, with a necessity to its movements. Right, I listen to soundtracks, but they can also be a blur of chords, voices. A blur. Oh, I did listen to Blur. In solitude, I listened to the radio, and those modulated voices droning on and on, and I wouldn’t hear them, I mean, I’d hear something but not words. If anyone started talking about a book or a movie or any narrative, I couldn’t listen at all, I turned it off. Sometimes I couldn’t avoid becoming interested, especially if they were discussing spies and spying and certain crimes.

David cannot not listen. His ears are attuned to sound. Sounds. All sounds distract or attract him. I can be oblivious.

On the Internet, radio, TV, sounds would come along, move from hissing, white noise, whispers, booming voices, stadium shouting. I like hearing baseball games, I like announvers’ voices, I like enthusiasm. Wordless shouts. I like hearing David down the hall playing bass. I like 1010 WINS, weather reports. Street sounds can be OK, depending on what kind.

Basically, I didn’t want to have to stop and choose music or anything to listen to, to do something that distracted me from writing. Doing that seemed an imposition and an interruption to my concentration.

Concentration, I want to say, has sound. That’s weird, but when I’m thinking, I feel that I hear myself thinking. Thinking makes noise. Solving a problem in writing can be very hard, and I had obstacles along the way. How to write this THING.

I listened to Dylan a few times. Especially Time Out of Mind, but Dylan is always sad. I listened to Performance a few times. Singers Badomi de Cesare. Nora York. Rachelle Garniez. I always like listening to The Tapper Brothers talking about cars. Even if I didn’t hear what they said, I heard them laughing, and laughter helped me keep going. Comedy saved some of my days.

Men and Apparitions took me over. I tried to hear it, mostly that’s what I did.

Lynne Tillman and Men and Apparitions links:

the author's Wikipedia entry
excerpt from the book

Publishers Weekly review

The Believer interview with the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes playlist by the author for American Genius

also at Largehearted Boy:

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my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

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