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June 26, 2018

Joanna Luloff's Playlist for Her Novel "Remind Me Again What Happened"

Remind Me Again What Happened

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, Lauren Groff, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Joanna Luloff's novel Remind Me Again What Happened of is an unforgettable exploration of memory, identity, love, and friendship.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"A novel of sonorous character study, showing both the limits and allure of truly knowing another person—and oneself."

In her own words, here is Joanna Luloff's Book Notes music playlist for her novel Remind Me Again What Happened:

At its center, my novel is an investigation of memory, its ties to identity, sense of home and belonging, and the fragmentation and fractures that come when we lose it. When Claire suffers memory loss, she, her husband Charlie, and best friend Rachel, become detectives of their own past. Rachel hunts down all of Claire’s favorite foods to help trigger her lost history, believing that sensory memories might help rebuild Claire’s ties to the past. I imagine that a lot of this detective work also centers around music. The two friends spend a lot of time digging through storage boxes, one or two of which must hold CDs from their graduate school days as well as the albums Claire might have saved from her parents’ collections and her high school and college years. Here is a list of songs I imagine playing in the background in the homes of my characters—from childhood through graduate school and, eventually, in Charlie’s home after Claire returns from the hospital.

Claire, Charlie, and Rachel lived in Boston during graduate school in the late 90s into the early 2000s. I picture them spending the very little money they had on music – sifting through the stacks at Other Music in Cambridge and going to shows at The Paradise, The Middle East, and T.T.’s. Here are some songs I associate with this time in their lives.

Blonde Redhead’s Loved Despite of Great Faults: a love song from the band’s album Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons. The song keeps asking “where do we go from here” and speaks to the fears and hiding and intimacy shared between the speaker and the “you.” It’s also a song about memory and nostalgia and the desire to travel over shared territory, to be reminded of the past.

Goldfrapp’s Human: this song’s twists and turns seem to move from sweetness to anger and accusation. I think Goldfrapp’s shifting cadences and pulsing emotion would appeal to Rachel.

Ms. John Soda’s Misco: this is song that engages with the desire for stopped time and stasis. When Claire returns home, both Charlie and Rachel reminisce about the home and family they once shared. This song’s refrain: “It's not here to stay/'Cause he is stopping you/But we are going home/To keep the stop in time” makes me think of their longing for a past that can no longer be. The static-like distortion to the music also sounds to me like hiccups or a skipping record that can’t quite move forward.

Zero 7’s In The Waiting Line: Though Claire would have listened to this song long before she loses her memories, the lyrics speak to her skepticism and frustration around Rachel and Charlie’s version of their shared history as well as their distrust of her version. Claire’s restless energy echoes the song’s frustration about being stuck in a waiting line.

Luna’s California (All the Way): Technically, Luna’s Bewitched album came out a bit before Claire, Rachel, and Charlie would have lived together, but Luna played The Middle East throughout the late 90s and early 2000s. This song is all about regret and questioning the distance between the past and the present. For Charlie, particularly, the lines: “Why has my sympathy now turned to malice?” and “Why can’t we smile like we used to” would resonate with his shifting feelings toward Claire.

Broadcast’s Long Was the Year: The idea of the past staying in the past (or not) juxtaposed with a longing for a loved one’s commitment to staying is also evident this song. I can imagine the central question in this song -- “Will you stay now that you’re back?” – being asked by every character in the novel.

Both Rachel and Claire tease Charlie’s for his preference for electronic and dissonant music, so these next selections are in honor of Charlie’s musical taste despite what Rachel and Claire might think of it.

Mum’s We Have a Map of the Piano
Boards of Canada’s Turquoise Hexagon Sun
Four Tet’s Everything is Alright

On the happier days of summer, afternoons spent at Fenway park or just wandering through the city, I imagine Claire, Charlie, and Rachel listening to Belle and Sebastian’s album The Boy With The Arab Strap, specifically the song A Summer Wasting.

And, (almost) last, here are some songs that I imagine have been unearthed from Claire’s saved cassettes and records from her childhood home.

From her parents’ record collection: Jim Croce’s I’ll Have to Say I Love You in a Song, Carole King’s I Feel the Earth Move, Bob Dylan’s Isis, and Simon and Garfunkel’s Homeward Bound.

From her angsty teenage years and college: Sinead O’Conner’s Troy, The Smiths’ Cemetey Gates, The Cure’s Lovesong, The Pixies’ Cactus, Mazzy Star’s Be My Angel.

I’ll close out the playlist with a more contemporary song by Camera Obscura – Troublemaker. Even their most melancholic songs have a playful, bright energy, an almost teasing promise that even when things are at their worst, we might all be able to laugh about our hurt. There’s a lot of distrust and injury in this song—secrets long kept, a long-awaited return that crushes rather than reignites hope—but there is also resilience and a refusal to quit. All of the characters in this song cause trouble for one another, but I like to think that troublemakers aren’t only out to harm. They are often tricksters that encourage “fires on hot days;” the upheavals they cause are often for the good even if you don’t always realize it in the moment.

Joanna Luloff and Remind Me Again What Happened links:

the author's website

Kirkus review

Largehearted Boy playlist by the author for The Beach at Galle Road

also at Largehearted Boy:

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