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June 28, 2018

Sergio De La Pava's Playlist for His Novel "Lost Empress"

Lost Empress

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.

Sergio De La Pava brilliantly takes on privilege, class, and race in his maximalist epic Lost Empress.

The Economist wrote of the book:

"The book oscillates between hilarious surrealism and shocking reality. As in his first novel, A Naked Singularity, Mr de la Pava (a public defender) deploys his expertise in a maximalist form reminiscent of Thomas Pynchon and David Foster Wallace . . . . With messianic fervour, he conjures up marginalised voices and the horrors of mass incarceration, against a backbeat of sporting thrills and that apocalyptic crescendo."


In his own words, here is Sergio De La Pava's Book Notes music playlist for his novel Lost Empress:



Run the Jewels: Close Your Eyes
“Bout to turn this motherfucker up like Rikers Island, bruh.” An island constructed out of garbage to forcibly enclose those of our brothers and sisters we wish to forget ever existed; souls then lost to us like a blank, save for those many moments when the island’s generational malice bubbles over sensationally (see, Browder, Ballard, Murdough etc.).

Beethoven: Moonlight Sonata
But only the Second movement, which exists in a kind of in-between state. In between the cosmic terror, there I said it, of the First and the unconvincing catharsis of the Third. Maybe our universe is this kind of inchoate landscape where intention and analytic evolution signify more than results, and it would be pretty to think so but still we don’t.

Bob Dylan: A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall
Good enough to almost make you forgive him for taking the Nobel that rightly belonged to Joni. That said, if you’re at Rikers Island, you’ll want your own poets.

Public Enemy: Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos
Chuck D is “in the justice” and charged with breaking him out is Flavor Flav, who would not be my first choice, although you would think he’d at least be on time.

Carlos Vives: La Gota Fria
This is a Colombian vallenato, one of the foundational ones. Vives and company stay faithful to the acerbic 1938 lyrics while brilliantly updating the instrumental backdrop. And what lyrics! Described at length is a kind of rap battle before these were a thing where the first-person narrator pulls no punches in eviscerating his opponent in what, accordion?

Girltalk: All Day
The sheer innovation of this thing. It’s as if Gillis has ingested all of humanity’s melodious confections and transmuted them into a schizophrenic but coherent whole that is like our one true seventy-minute song.

Daniel Johnston: True Love Will Find You in the End
Not sure the sentiment expressed in this song is true. Worse than that, I suspect strongly that it isn’t. This is skillful singing but not in any easily classifiable sense. The whole thing is strange, like so much of this artist’s work, but strange here is good.

Prince: 7
If I am yours now and you are mine and neither feels like ownership but more like consubstantiation then what are Space and Time in comparison? Can they stand in the way of Love?

Radiohead: Paranoid Android
If the weak needed rainfall’s softening impact to resist the powerful what sounds could we rely on to inspire the deluge? Yorke’s incantation from 3:33 onward may be our best bet but, truthfully, it’s looking pretty one-sided at the moment.


Sergio De La Pava and Lost Empress links:

the author's website

Economist review
Kirkus review
New Yorker review
Publishers Weekly review
Quarterly Conversation review

Largehearted Boy playlist by the author for Personae


also at Largehearted Boy:

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my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

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