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July 9, 2018

Mikkel Rosengaard's Playlist for His Novel "The Invention of Ana"

The Invention of Ana

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.

Mikkel Rosengaard’s novel The Invention of Ana is one of the year's most impressive debuts.

The New York Times wrote of the book:

"Mikkel Rosengaard’s intriguing first novel abounds with stories, layering one over another until we’re not sure who’s doing the telling (...) Ana reminds us that stories complicate one another, and sometimes add up to mysteries. A mystery might be fun to explore, like the human experience of time. But other mysteries pose a danger: Those who learn of them enter a night unlit even by stars."

In his own words, here is Mikkel Rosengaard's Book Notes music playlist for his novel The Invention of Ana:

Bob Moses - Too Close for Comfort
The Invention of Ana opens on a spring evening on a Brooklyn rooftop, and it was on a Brooklyn rooftop in 2012 that I heard Bob Moses play one of their very first sets. Bob Moses reminds of Brooklyn in so many ways. First, there's the name, a nod to Brooklyn city-planner overlord Robert Moses, the authoritarian power broker behind the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, and hundreds of the borough's housing projects. Second, there are all the magical nights I spent at the now legendary Marcy Hotel, which was never a hotel but a private apartment cum clandestine after-hours club nestled between two noisy branches of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, a venue where Bob Moses were regulars. After gigs at the commercial clubs in Manhattan, major DJs like Deniz Kurtel and Soul Clap would travel to the Marcy to play after-hours set in the wood-paneled backroom where the sweat and the drugs flowed freely, and where everyone seemed to kneow each other from Blkmarket, GHE20G0TH1K, Resolute, or one of the other Bushwick warehouse parties. That sensation from the Marcy: of being young and impressionable and arrived in a new and strange place, of not being fixed in your form, open to being seduced or manipulated by that great big maniacal city, that is a sensation I'm trying to write around in The Invention of Ana.

Kate Bush - Cloudbusting
At the center of The Invention of Ana is the intimate relationship between Ana and her mathematician father, Ciprian, as he tries to enchant Ana with the magic of mathematics and keep his own dreams alive after being purged from the mathematical insitute at the University of Bucharest. Kate Bush' Cloudbursting explores a similar intimate relationship between the outcast psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich and his young son, Peter, as they built cloudbusting machines, orgone boxes, and got lost in a world entirely of their own.

Christian Löffler - Live Sketch for Vivaldi
The Invention of Ana is a novel about storytelling. The protagonist, Ana, tells a naïve intern the story of how she came to live her sister's life. A story Ana's mother has told to Ana, who recounts it to the intern, who retells it to the reader—like a chain of storytelling. We humans tell stories to weave meaning out of the chaos that make up our lives. And as we try and understand each other, and sift through the complex webs of stories that constitute a life, we tend to mix irony with sincerity, sarcasm with sadness, the profane with the sacred, to express the full scale of human emotions. In this track, Christian Löffler is remixing Max Richter who is recompositioning Vivaldi, mixing together baroque and modernist and post-modernist forms of expression. The way a story or a piece of music is warped and contorted as it changes hands and is retold and imbued with the feelings and expressions of each new interpreter is something I am very interested in.

Kliche: Masselinjen (1980)
Kliché was a new wave band that revolutionized the Danish music scene in the 1970's and 1980's, a kind of folksy version of Kraftwerk. Over almost ten minutes, Masselinjen semi-ironically loops a refrain from Mao Zedong's 1945 text On Coalition Government: "The people and the people alone / are the motive force / in the making of world history". A slogan like that fits well with The Invention of Ana, as large parts of the novel takes place in 1970s and 1980s Romania during the pseudo-communist Ceausescu regime. Autocratic regimes almost always rely on a hysterical form of storytelling to prop up their government and I was very interested in the often surreal narratives Ceaușescu created about Romania. For example, the regime believed a strong Romania should hold 30 million inhabitants, not the 23 million living there at the time, and so they instigated a baby-making campaign: outlawing abortion, celebrating fertile women as Mothers of the Nation—awarding mothers a washing machine after their fifth birth and a Dacia car after their tenth—and even introducing a tax on childlessness, where any childless married couple over the age of 25 years old had to pay a tax penalty. With The Invention of Ana I was interested in exploring how one’s own life narrative life clashes with larger, overpowering official narratives of a political regime. In a liberal democracy everything can be renegotiated: you decide when and if you have a baby, and if you lose your job, you can get always another one. But in an autocratic regime like Ceaușescu's, reality is less malleable. It takes a stronger storyteller to break out of the mold.

Janet Jackson: What have you done for me lately?
Only one song is mentioned in the novel: After Ana's best friend gets a scholarship to study in Paris, Ana walks through her grimy Bucharest neighborhood listening to Janet Jackson's 1986 hit song, wondering what her hometown has ever done for anybody.

Pachanga Boys: Time
The Invention of Ana explores how storytelling and narratives can warp physical reality. Time, being such a fluid and little-understood phenomenon, is especially suspect to the power of story-telling. How we talk about time shapes we way we experience it. Most westerners intuitively think of time much like a river: something flowing from the past through the present into the future. In languages like Aymara or Malagasy, however, speakers tend to think of time more like a wind that blows from the future through the present into the past. In those languages, we humans are standing still in the present with our eyes fixed on the past, with the future blowing relentlessly against our backs. And for some physicists, time is neither a flow or a wind but a dimension much like a landscape. In the same way that China still exists while you and your consciousness are in United States, December 1927 still exists while your consciousness is in May 2018. According to this idea of the block universe, all moments exist simultaneously on the plane of time: your birth, your first kiss, last Saturday’s party and Sunday’s hangover too. All of it exists at once, and the sense that the present is somehow more real and alive than the past is just a trick of the consciousness, our limited minds trying to make sense of it all. Here, the German-Mexican duo Pachanga Boys explore similar themes in a gorgeous 15-minute track fit for early morning dance floors.

Saâda Bonaire - You Could Be More as You Are
Part of The Invention of Ana takes part in Morocco in 1981 where Ana's mother gets a job as a teacher for a mathematical exchange program, and Ana's dad gets carried away by Orientalist dreaming. In 1984, the German pop-duo Saâda Bonaire released an album of pseudo-oriental disco-funk tracks, toying with the Western fascination of the Middle East. In an Orientalist extravaganza, Saâda Bonaire dressed in Bedouin clothes and mixed reggae with overdubbed Kurdish folk music on tracks like You Could Be More as You Are and More Women making for a strange mix of German electro pop and the musical tropes an imagined Middle East—cultural appropriation at its weirdest best. If my writing could one day come close to sounding as funky and weird and mutated as Saâda Bonaire I'd be a very happy writer.

Arthur Russell: That's Us / Wild Combination
Much of The Invention of Ana is set in the Brooklyn art world. As an art writer, I often spend time with the artists, curators and art dealers, and if there is one artist that seems to unite the studios and exhibition spaces of Brooklyn over the last few years it's Arthur Russell. Perhaps because Russell lived an artist's life in the East Village, often playing at art venue The Kitchen, before dying of AIDS in 1992. Or perhaps because his songs somehow fits the spirit of the time: honest and mellow, self-conscious without being ironic, emotional without wallowing in pathos and self-pity.

Kollektiv Turmstrasse - Schwindelig
I rarely listen to music while I write, but when I do I often turn to mixes by Kollektiv Turmstrasse. The Hamburg-based duo create tracks according to what they call the 100 loop rule: if a part of a musical arrangement still doesn't annoy them after listening to it 100 times, it deserves a place in their track. That kind of pedantic perfectionism creates a smooth, dreamy, lyric-less sound that will suck you into the world you are conjuring on the page.

Justus Köhncke - So Weit Wie Noch Nie
And finally, just because it always makes me happy in all its Sound of Cologne silliness, makes me pick up the writing again on days when all sentences seem stuck, Justus Köhncke's remix of Jürgen Paape's So Weit Wie Noch Wie.

Mikkel Rosengaard and The Invention of Ana links:

the author's website

Kirkus review
New York Times review
Open Letters Review review
Publishers Weekly review

also at Largehearted Boy:

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Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
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my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

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