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October 16, 2018

Laird Hunt's Playlist for His Novel "In the House in the Dark of the Woods"

In the House in the Dark of the Woods

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.

Laird Hunt's new novel In the House in the Dark of the Woods is a truly haunting work of literary horror.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"Hunt's accomplished prose creates the atmosphere of possibility and danger that lurks in the best fairy tales, where anything can happen but everything has a cost. Highly recommended for fans of that amorphous border between fantasy, horror, and literary fiction as found in the work of Kelly Link, in Joy Williams' The Changeling (1978), or in Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber (1979)."

In his own words, here is Laird Hunt's Book Notes music playlist for his novel In the House in the Dark of the Woods:

“Chant avec cithare”
Burundi: Musiques traditionelles
François Muduga

There is a scene in the novel where an old woman shoves a young woman into a well she can’t climb back up out of. This is the music I hear when I think of that moment. One moment the zither is soft and caressing, the next it’s ready to slap and cut…

“And Still They Move”
Never Were the Way She Was
Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld

I listened to this and thought somehow I had been caught inside a tree, something ancient — a bristlecone pine, or a redwood, or an alpine larch — and was moving around and around its rings but could never reach the center. And this was fine.

Track 4
Ghost Opera, for String Quartet and Pipa, with Stone, Water, Paper and Metal
Tan Dun
Kronos Quartet

The great Spanish artist Francisco Goya made drawings of witches. They float, they fly, they dance, they fight, they steal children, they exude dark delight. Tan Dun’s Ghost Opera is music for those fierce, frightening, feather-footed women.

“Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)”
The Woodstock Experience
Janis Joplin

The 30 seconds between 2:20 and 2:50 of this track are as close to an embodiment of Federico Garcia Lorca’s concept of the Duende (that enervating demon of inspiration that bites and wounds and beats down rather than lifting up in the balm of encouraging embrace). There is a room under the floorboards of the house in the dark of the woods. Those 30 seconds by Janis Joplin live there.

“Aini Ya Aini”
The Best of Oum Kalsoum
Oum Kalsoum

This song lasts a little over 5 minutes but it feels epic, like all the world’s time were packed into it. Over the course of her 50-year career, Kalsoum (often transliterated as Kulthum) repeatedly managed the great trick of making every moment in her songs count without turning her lines into lead. She is simultaneously weighty and effervescent. This kind of balance is what I have strived for in all my novels set in the past, but in this one in particular.

“With the Dark Hug of Time”
Never Were the Way She Was
Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld

Once upon a time there was and there wasn’t a world there was only one way to get out of. This cut, for me, is about that.

Hildur Gudnadottir

I bought this album when I was in Marfa, Texas, mainly working on edits of a novel set in and around the Civil War, but also starting to dig a little into what was then just the start of a story about spooky stuff going on in an East Coast woods 300 or so years ago. I’m not ashamed to admit that I willfully misinterpreted the title of the album, which in Icelandic apparently means “together”, as Samhain, scary night, night when you better stay inside, night when the dark half starts. I keep waiting for the spooky movie that puts Gudnadottir’s music to work. Maybe Lenny Abrahamson (of Room and The Little Stranger fame) needs to make it. Whenever I started to slip off track with Goody’s story, all I needed to do was play “Torrek” and I was right back.

“Neon Angels on the Road to Ruin” (Live in Japan)
The Mercury Albums
The Runaways

Fierce vocals, fierce guitar, fierce drums, fierce women. You wouldn’t want to stand in the way of this storm if it was blowing toward you. If you want more storm, try the first 20 seconds of “Queens of Noise”…

“Organs Lost at Sea”
Kiri No Oto
Lawrence English

What scares you? Here’s what scares me: a trail through a woods that grows smaller and smaller until there is no trail at all. Could be in Colonial New England or in a David Lynch movie or in a fairy tale, one of the darker ones, set down by the Brothers Grimm… Playing in the background of my nightmare is “Organs Lost at Sea.”

Laird Hunt and In the House in the Dark of the Woods links:

the author's website

Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review

Largehearted Boy playlist by the author for The Evening Road
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for The Exquisite
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Kind One
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Neverhome
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Ray of the Star

also at Largehearted Boy:

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my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

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