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May 9, 2018

Rita Bullwinkel's Playlist for Her Story Collection "Belly Up"

Belly Up

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.

Rita Bullwinkel's short story collection Belly Up is a marvelous debut from a writer to watch.

Deb Olin Unferth wrote of the book:

"Bullwinkel's delightful, passionate stories of disturbance and worried words have the best kind of frenetic energy.""


In her own words, here is Rita Bullwinkel's Book Notes music playlist for her short story collection Belly Up:



I think of the stories of Belly Up as being after the same thing, but in different clothing. They have a wide variety of appearance on the page; some are short, and some are very long, and some use correct grammar, while others purposefully leave out parts of speech. One of the things that unites the collection, and that I've tried to emulate in this playlist, is a sense of haunting and outside of body-ness. Music is generally excellent at making one forget that they have a human form, which is a feeling I tried to get at in the first story in the collection, "Harp."

I love listening to music, though never while writing. While writing I only listen to silence or to my very fancy white noise machine (I recently bought an extremely expensive and effective one that is mainly marketed towards lawyers for use while speaking confidentially to their clients while they are in jail).

The expensive white noise machine is especially good at canceling out the sound of Bach being played on the violin in my living room, which is, perhaps, the default sound of my lived existence. My long time lover is classically trained violinist, and is in a constant state of battle with Bach pieces.

For whatever reason, I have always dated and surrounded myself with musicians. I've been dragged on countless tours, often sitting backstage, by myself, at large international music festivals. Because of this, when I reached for music to make this playlist I reached first for music written by friends, or music I've come upon because the person I am living with has toured with the band, and I liked the live set, and the way the music made me feel.

Belly Up is a baroque, genre-conflicted book, and so I haven't limited myself here to picking songs that would all be good for the same event. Lion Babe's "Rockets" shares the book's obsession with food and its consumption when the lyrics so eloquently mention "I'm like buttah on a lobstah" and "we eat fishes with the pasta." The sad and unwanted dog depicted in Arthur Russell's masterpiece "Eli" is, in my wildest dreams, a sister story to Belly Up's "Concerned Humans," which chronicles the emotional conflict of a snake who wishes it was a pear. And Ibeyi's "River" captures a sense of the undead that I pray some of the stories in Belly Up relate to. All of these songs make me feel like I am other than myself, and more than myself, at the same time, which is the feeling I always desire when reading. I can only hope that some of the feelings these songs incite are present in the book.

"River" by Ibeyi

"Hungry Ghost" by Hurray For The Riff Raff

"Eli" by Arthur Russell

"Rockets" by Lion Babe

"I Want a House" by Twin Sister

"Death Song" by Robbie Basho

"Miranda" by Angel Olsen

"A-Z of Music" by various artists including Will Epstein and Doug Poole

"This Is How We Walk On The Moon" by Arthur Russell

"Just A Cloud" by Lusine

"Dans Mon Quartier" by Riff Cohen


Rita Bullwinkel and Belly Up links:

the author's website

Kirkus review
Los Angeles Review of Books review
New Republic review

Hazlitt interview with the author
San Jose Mercury News profile of the author
Tin House interview with 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


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