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August 13, 2018

Nicole Rivas's Playlist for Her Flash Fiction Collection "A Bright and Pleading Dagger"

A Bright and Pleading Dagger

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.

Nicole Rivas's chapbook A Bright and Pleading Dagger is a testament to the power of flash fiction.

Rigoberto Gonzalez wrote of the book:

"For their thought-provoking denouements and skillful use of compression, the stories of Nicole Rivas beg comparisons to the celebrated stories of the surrealist painter Leonora Carrington. For their arresting strangeness, readers of Latin American literature will recall the stories of Clarice Lispector. But for their edginess and fearless wit, a more contemporary sister is Carmen Maria Machado. Yet Rivas will thrive on her own terms. A Bright and Pleading Dagger is truly a compelling and unforgettable journey into the dark but poignant experiences of women."

In her own words, here is Nicole Rivas's Book Notes music playlist for her flash fiction collection A Bright and Pleading Dagger:

I’ve heard the sentiment that the writing we do, the art we make, reveals just as much about ourselves--and our obsessions--as it reveals the interiority of the characters and worlds we create. More and more, I find this to be true. And how fun--obsessions are fascinating, especially if they’re not our own. Though I rarely set out to write around a certain theme or express a known-obsession, many of the stories in A Bright and Pleading Dagger share an interest in women and girls who are going through a profound life difficulty, whether it’s the feeling of artistic failure, social inadequacy, or engulfment by the complexities of sexuality and love. Women on the cusp of birth or death, women always at a crossroads. The following playlist contains songs and artists I’ve obsessed over throughout the years--often while at my own crossroads--and that inform their paired stories in some way or another:

Mirah - “Light the Match” ("Death of an Ortolan")
In “Death of an Ortolan,” a first few dates aren’t as conventional as one young woman expects, and she turns out to surprise even herself. Mirah’s accordion-laden song delights in the intensity underlining the most fiery and subversive of pairings.

Franz Lizst - “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2” (Piano Version) ("Gretel's Escape")
In this brief fairytale reimagining, Gretel runs away from Hansel, seeking to break away from her written fate and an unwanted relationship. Just as she runs away toward predictability, Lizst’s hypnotic and nostalogic masterpiece simultaneously feels like a rollercoaster escape and a dreadful sentencing.

Beat Happening - "That Girl" ("Crush")
Nothing says ‘middle-school romance’ to me quite like clammy hands, bad microwaveable food, strange body odor, and the stabbing joy of firsts. As Calvin Johnston bellows in “That Girl,” “There’s a new girl in this town. She’s been a lot of places, worn a lot of crowns. I wanna touch her hair and tell her she is fine.” Easier said than done.

The Melvins - "Going Blind" ("The Staring Contest")
We’ve all heard the saying that eyes are the windows to the soul, but only some of us believe it. In “The Staring Contest,” speed dating is reimagined as a romanticized staring contest between a young woman and a much older man. The Melvins provide a sludgy, sardonic soundtrack to this unconventional affair.

Django Reinhardt - "I've Found a New Baby" ("The Woman on the Bus")
As the protagonist of “The Woman on the Bus” ensues in a physical and emotional struggle with her beau in a New Orleans café, this iconic tune plays in the background. I appreciate that Django Reinhardt’s full band version is both gaudy and beautiful, flippant and sincere, perhaps much like the throws of a new and enigmatic love.

Bikini Kill - "Feels Blind" ("Thirst")
This is one of my favorite Bikini Kill songs--it’s quiet, loud, morose, and angry, all in the span of a few minutes. Kathleen Hannah sings, “As a woman as I was told to I was being hungry. Yeah, women are well-acquainted with thirst. Oh, I could eat just about anything. We might even eat your hate up like love.” By the end of “Thirst,” our narrator seems to be able to well-relate.

The Mountain Goats - "Up the Wolves" ("A Bright and Pleading Dagger")
John Darnielle’s lyrics are well-known for their poetic bite and personal relevance, and “Up the Wolves” is no different. In “A Bright and Pleading Dagger,” two teenage girls share a traumatic experience at the hands of two men who offer them a ride home, and Darnielle seems to get to the core of the narrator’s heart when he sings, “There’s bound to be a ghost at the back of your closet, no matter where you live. There’ll always be a few things, maybe several things, that you’re gonna find really difficult to forgive.”

Nicole Rivas and A Bright and Pleading Dagger links:

the author's website
video trailer for the book

Roo Black review

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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