Twitter Facebook Tumblr Pinterest Instagram

« older | Main Largehearted Boy Page | newer »

March 27, 2018

Rebecca Kauffman's Playlist for Her Novel "The Gunners"

The Gunners

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.

Rebecca Kauffman's novel The Gunners is a compassionate and moving portrait of friendship.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"Kauffman has created vivid and compelling characters struggling with what is in some ways the most universal dilemma: how to grow up. Mikey especially is mature and thoughtful but not at all precious; and the boisterous, hilarious Alice is charming despite her best efforts to behave otherwise. In fluid prose, Kauffman lays bare the lessons of youth and truth. A layered and loving bildungsroman of friendship."

In her own words, here is Rebecca Kauffman's Book Notes music playlist for her novel The Gunners:

"Super Falling Star" – Stereolab
This piece sets the stage for the book. In opening chapters, the reader moves forward and backward in time with protagonist Mikey Callahan as he recalls memories of childhood, receives word of the suicide of one of his dearest childhood friends, and confronts the loss of his eyesight. Lyrics read: The strange setting of our story / Re-Presented: nothing but a super falling star / The landscape was no mystery / The idea of a mind so vain, at the point of infinity. The melody is haunting, dream-like and indistinct, which is reflective of Mikey's state of mind.

"Heroes" – David Bowie
This piece captures the simple joy of creating a bond with another person and experiencing life together. In the book, the 6 main characters (The Gunners) unite as young children and become fast friends. The exuberant pulse of "Heroes" mirrors the adrenaline and high hopes that accompany the early stages of any relationship. It also points to the fleeting nature of these feelings.

"When Someone Great is Gone" – LCD Sound System
Lyrics to this piece read: To tell the truth I saw it coming / The way you were breathing / But nothing can prepare you for it / The voice, on the other end / The worst is all the lovely weather / I'm stunned it's not raining / The coffee isn't even bitter / Because what's the difference? Sally, one of The Gunners, unexpectedly cuts herself off from the others when they are all around sixteen years of age. They are left with no explanation from Sally, who was always the most mysterious of the group. Her sudden departure causes each of the others to privately consider if and why they personally may have been responsible. "When Someone Great is Gone" offers a raw and poetic exploration of loss.

"As We Go Up, We Go Down" – Guided By Voices
Following high school, The Gunners enter into very different life paths, including a music conservatory in New York City, a deeply religious community in the south, and the fast life in L.A. This piece of music represents the universal experience of becoming an adult. It also hints at the strain on friendships as people change and begin to keep secrets from one another.

"The Well" – Smog
This piece represents the isolation that Mikey experiences when all of his friends leave. It points to the psychological exploration he takes on in their absence as he struggles to define and understand himself without them. The opening lines of this piece are spectacular: …I threw a bottle into the woods / And then I felt bad / For the doe paw / And the rabbit paw / So I went looking for the pieces / Of the bottle that I threw. The piece goes on to describe the narrator staring into darkness and trying to understand it. This is the longest song on the playlist because, to me, Mikey's internal journey of confronting darkness within himself is the most essential part of the novel as it is what eventually allows him to connect with others.

"Why" – Meat Puppets
This heart's sole realities / Are the world's trivialities. Even though none of The Gunners have communicated with Sally since high school, all are profoundly affected by news of her suicide. The music here has an unusual lilt and meandering quality which points to the self-reflection that often follows a tragedy, even one in which we had no part.

"Need to Feel Your Love" – Sheer Mag
The love shared between The Gunners is platonic, but holds all the depth and complexity of romance. The five remaining Gunners are brought back together by Sally's suicide, when they are in their early thirties. This piece captures the high energy of that reunion, and their deep need to offer and accept love from one another.

"Round Midnight" – Thelonius Monk
This piece actually occurs in the book, when a character sits down at a piano to provide background music for the others. The group has just processed various painful and uneasy revelations about one another and are now all quietly sitting with their own thoughts. Mikey especially is struggling to make peace with the actions one of the others has just confessed to. Gradually, the music and various other factors soften the room and feelings between them.

"Eggplant" – Michael Franks
This sweet, silly and beautiful love song is perfectly suited to the wedding that the group attends several months after they reunite. Maybe it's the way she grates her cheese / Or just the freckles on her knees / Maybe it's the scallions / Maybe she's Italian / I can't reveal her name, but eggplant is her game. The use of a food item in this lovely little piece is appropriate for moments in the book where the sensual pleasure and comfort derived from food grounds the characters in an experience. This piece also represents acts of service as an essential part of love.

"Flim" – Aphex Twin
To me, this piece holds a sort of un-nameable beauty. With the final chapters of The Gunners, I hoped to achieve something similarly hopeful and humanistic.

Rebecca Kauffman and The Gunners links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

Kirkus review
NPR Books review
Publishers Weekly review

Spine profile of the author

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

submit to reddit