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June 19, 2018

Philip Hoare's Playlist for His Book "RISINGTIDEFALLINGSTAR"


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.

Philip Hoare's moving and eloquent meditation on the sea, RISINGTIDEFALLINGSTAR, defies literary categorization.

The Guardian wrote of the book:

"This is a book that is at once nature writing, memoir, literary criticism, travelogue and elegy. Like Sebald, the glue that binds it together is the narrative voice, a lonely, antique, erudite voice that speaks in long sentences studded with semi-colons; something liquid, tidal about the surge and flow of the words."

In his own words, here is Philip Hoare's Book Notes music playlist for his book RISINGTIDEFALLINGSTAR:


What seest thou else / In the dark backward and abysm of time?

Prospero, The Tempest


January 11, 2016. A terrific storm blew over the Cape yesterday. This beach house rocked with the wind. The sea surged under its bulkhead. The timbers shook fit to spring their nails. But I still dove in the water, as I do every day of the year. It's the only earthly power to which I yield.

Disturbed by the hangover of the storm, I wake at 2 am. For some reason, I check my email, not something I usually do at that ungodly hour. My sister, back in England, told me the news. He's gone. I came here, to the end of America, to write about him. Now he's deserted me.

I go out to walk, under the black sky. I feel homesick. For him. Then I realise he's lying just down there, along this same coast, awaiting his transfer. I take a photograph of an Exit sign through the window of the church that looks onto the beach. In the slow shutter release, the red light smears off into the night.

At daylight, I walk with Dennis and Dory the dog, out to the icy dunes. I break away. Dory follows me down to the shore. She stands there as I write his name in the sand. The waves wash it away. I sing a couple of lines. Then I take off all my clothes and swim like a dolphin. Just for one day.

"John I'm Only Dancing"

January 12, 2016. At the beginning of that month, I'd come back to Cape Cod to finish my book. Dennis and I drove down to New Bedford, to read at the Moby-Dick Marathon. On the way I told Dennis why the starman was responsible for the way I am. The book was going to be another love letter to him. Pulling some strings, I'd managed to have my previous book delivered to his home. This time I hoped to deliver the new one in person. I'd waited a long time.

I realise, after 18 years of coming to the Cape, of being with its whales and its birds, its water and its otherness, all held out into the Atlantic like a sacrifice, that this was where I was meant to end up. Where it all ran out. It's taken me this long to work it out.

For years I'd stopped listening to music.

One: because I lived through punk, worked at Rough Trade, ran my own label and managed bands. I used to know what was hip before it was hip because we were making it hip. Now I couldn't bear not having that sense of premonition.

Two: because a punishing Morrissey gig (aren't they all? he once came to a talk I gave and sat at the back laughing inappropriately loudly at my jokes), left me with tinnitus: the sea, permanently in my ear, like the sound you hear in a shell. It never leaves me. It's why I swim in the ocean; it's the only place I can't hear it.

But in my Cape loft that week, after the news, I wake up every morning, weep, then dance. I watch Mick Rock's video on repeat. It seems more like a séance. The blackness around him. The anchor on his cheek. The way he talks to me.

"Life on Mars"

May 12, 1974. The picture on my bedroom wall, pulled from a girls' magazine, the staple holes still ragged in it. He pirouettes in sky blue, eyes shaded the same heavenly colour. He's bleached white out of nothingness. His tie is silver foil and spun gold. He's screen-printed onto celluloid, an analogue angel in platform boots. He mimes the piano with his fingers, then laughs as he walks away.

June 25, 2000. In a muddy field in England, I watch him ripple his fingers from Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads. It's a godawful small affair. His hair is long and mousey-blond. He looks like a self-portrait by Albrecht Dürer. I didn't know I was saying goodbye. The whole thing was one long brilliant joke.

"Ashes to Ashes"

27 April, 2012. I'm working on a catalogue essay for an exhibition of his work at the V&A Museum in London. The curator takes me down into the basement where the conservation work was going on, and opens a long plywood container with a domed lid. It looks like a casket. Inside is the pierrot costume he wore. Rigid yet fragile, stuck over with beads and sequins, it almost trembles as I look at it. The white stockings lie in one corner, still grubby with the nuclear beach he'd walked on. The costume is stiff on his legend, hollow, like the shell that a butterfly leaves behind. I reach out to touch it, but I can't make that connection. He'd already gone. I was still waiting. Too soon, too late.

"Station to Station"

May 6, 1976. My last year at school. We wait for the suburban train. I get out the other end and walk into a yawning black cavern. I didn't know it had been a swimming pool in the 1930s. It aches with another darkness: initiate, intimate, violently beautiful. The razored-eye screen lifts and there he is, standing on the stage, just me and him. Sleek, monochrome, anchored by banks of fluorescent strips. A relentless engine of arrogance. He quotes from The Tempest, this Prospero, overlooking the ocean, dredging sound. I'm lost in his circle.

January 12, 1977. The Roxy Club in Covent Garden. (The building is now a Speedo store). The streets still look like bombsites. In the queue outside, a boy in a biker jacket with bleached blond hair asks me for a light. I enter the cellar, knowing I'm doing wrong. There are his children, on stage. No going back now.


July 6, 1972. Power cuts, miners' strikes. The dead go unburied. The world's dark and bright. I walk the secure, empty streets of suburbia, knowing I'll never escape. By day I wear a brown school blazer. At night I stand in front of my bedroom mirror. He points through the screen and picks on me. A glittering panther, pawing at a guitar, scary and shock-headed. It all begins, back then, just now. The storm, the transformation, the sea that raged no more.

May 16, 2018. This morning, before dawn, the beach at Provincetown is empty. The tide is out. But it will return.



the author's website
the author's Wikipedia entry

Financial Times review
Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review

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