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July 23, 2018

Tamara Shopsin's Playlist for Her Memoir "Arbitrary Stupid Goal"

Arbitrary Stupid Goal

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.

Tamara Shopsin's Arbitrary Stupid Goal is an essential book about New York City and what has made the city special for years as well as a nuanced and surprising memoir of family.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"[Shopsin] weaves a marvelous patchwork quilt of stories about a Manhattan that doesn’t exist anymore . . [Arbitrary Stupid Goal is] an artistic ode to a way of life that people now living in New York City might never experience."


In her own words, here is Tamara Shopsin's Book Notes music playlist for her memoir Arbitrary Stupid Goal:



Arbitrary Stupid Goal is a memoir about New York City, the small restaurant my family runs, and a philosophy of life.

"The Cult Song" – Shannon and the Clams
A lot of the book was written when I was living in San Franciso on a fellowship with a non-profit tech company. The fellowship felt like a cult. A benign cult, that was trying to make open source software for government. But, we had "off-sites" with human spectrograms and stand-up meetings. I would listen to this song and think I need to go home to NYC.

"L.A." – The Fall
The book is about NYC, specifically in the time when shitting on Los Angeles was something every true New Yorker did. There are max ten words in this song, but it is a psychic representation of what New Yorkers hated about LA. For the record: I love LA. (the song and the city)

"Doctor Who Theme Tune (original)" - Delia Derbyshire & Ron Grainer
There is a lot of time travel in the book. I have not seen Dr. Who, but I’m a huge fan of Delia Derbyshire.

"Uptown Top Ranking" – Althea & Donna
I still cook every weekend at the restaurant with my brother Zack. There are a few scenes of us cooking in the book. Once when the restaurant was slow (I hate it when we are slow), I asked out of the blue if we could switch to dub music, and then we got bum rushed with business. So now I always want dub, it is a good luck thing and this song is the most magic of all.

"Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries" – Rudy Vallee
Music always plays in my family's restaurant. Most of it used to come from a radio show called The Big Broadcast, hosted by the wonderful Rich Conaty. This song is mentioned in the book toward the end.

"Let's Get Drunk and Truck" – Lil Johnson
he other music on heavy rotation at our restaurant was The Copulatin' Blues, a compilation of sexually suggestive songs like "Don’t you put your hot dog in my mouth." This song more than any other brings out memories of growing up in the restaurant.

"Cool" – Pylon
Everyone gets stuck in writing and life. This song is my first defense.


Tamara Shopsin and Arbitrary Stupid Goal links:

the author's website

Kirkus review
NPR Books review
Publishers Weekly review

The Creative Independent interview with the author
Interview Magazine interview with the author
Los Angeles Review of Books interview with the author
New York Times profile of the author
New Yorker profile of the author
Vogue profile of the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

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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

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