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November 2, 2018

Idra Novey's Playlist for Her Novel "Those Who Knew"

Those Who Knew

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.

Idra Novey's brilliant novel Those Who Knew is timeless and haunting, and one of my favorite books of the year.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"Propulsive . . . Novey’s storytelling is taut and her diction sharp . . . The book [has a] striking sense of momentum. Add in a slight and intriguing sense of the supernatural, and the result is a provocative novel that has the feel of a thriller."


In her own words, here is Idra Novey's Book Notes music playlist for her novel Those Who Knew:



Aretha Franklin, "Respect"
I listened to an interview with Aretha Franklin just before drafting the moment in Those Who Knew when two female characters slip on some fake beards and invent a revolution. I had been relishing the idea of writing this scene for some time, and wanted to convey how essential joy and camaraderie can be to avoiding the trap of resignation. While trying to figure out why I kept fixating on the intimacy of this scene, I listened to an extraordinary interview with Aretha Franklin about the day she came up with the refrain for "Respect." It was while dancing around with her sister in the living room, enjoying each other’s voices and company, unseen by anyone else.

Silvio Rodriguez, "Playa Giron"
In 1961, Playa Giron was the beach where over a thousand armed Cuban exiles landed during the Bay of Pigs invasion, an attack sponsored by the CIA as an attempt to overthrow Castro. Rodriquez dedicated this song to the fishermen who worked with him on a boat at Playa Giron. I thought often about this soulful song while writing Those Who Knew, and how powerfully this song addresses the legacy of U.S. interventions, so few of which students in the U.S. ever learn about at school.

Beautiful Chorus, "Human Nature"
When life gets frenzied, I highly recommend the restorative, resonant songs of Beautiful Chorus. Especially in the morning, the harmony of the voices in Beautiful Chorus makes for glorious company.

Etta Baker with TajMahal, "Railroad Bill"
Etta Baker played guitar into her nineties and the finger-picking badassery in this duo with TajMahal is a welcome reminder that the second half of life may very well lead to the most passionate art of your lifetime. In the writing world, there are a number of rewards for novelists under a certain age, but few for those who first publish a novel after age 35, as Toni Morrison did, and Marilynne Robinson and Alice Munroe. For anyone coming to fiction mid-life, when the age-based forms of recognition in this country are no longer an option, I highly recommend the fingerpicking wizardry of Etta Baker in her nineties playing with TajMahal.

Ani DiFranco, "Napoleon"
This song has such a satisfying refrain about the power grabbing that is human history. The rest of the lyrics are great, too, but especially: “Everyone is a fucking Napoleon.”

Cat Power, "Ruin"
“What are we doing? We’re sitting on a ruin…” The lyrics of this song have felt increasingly prophetic as the twenty-first century continues. There is a powerful momentum to this song, too, that is contagious. After listening to it, that question “what are we doing” really stays with you.

Valerie June, "Shakedown"
I turned to the songs of Valerie June while working on my first novel and again while writing Those Who Knew. June’s lyrics are so sharp and her vocal range is phenomenal. I could listen to "Shakedown" all day. In fact, many days I do.


Idra Novey and Those Who Knew links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

BookPage review
Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review

Largehearted Boy playlist by the author for her novel Ways To Disappear


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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