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November 13, 2018

Maria Romasco Moore's Playlist for Her Novella "Ghostographs"


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.

Maria Romasco Moore's impressive Ghostographs is difficult to categorize, but easy to praise. The striking novella-in-flash-fiction's connected short stories are paired with photographs that powerfully complement the prose.

Kevin Brockmeier wrote of the book:

"Every so often I'm lucky enough to stumble across a debut by someone I immediately know will become one of my 'everything writers'—a writer, that is to say, whose sensibility is exciting enough and whose work is original enough that I realize I'm on board not only for the book in my hands but for every book that follows. Maria Romasco Moore is such a writer, and GHOSTOGRAPHS is such a book: unique, beautiful, refined, and surprising."

In her own words, here is Maria Romasco Moore's Book Notes music playlist for her novella Ghostographs:

My flash fiction collection, Ghostographs: An Album, is my take on transcribing, as truly as I can, my experience of childhood. Which is to say I made it all up, but the feelings are true.

The stories are all paired with vintage photographs, most from the early 1900s. I thought about making a list of songs from that era, as there are many I love, but the stories themselves aren’t set in that time period so much as they are set in the world of memory.

“The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades is Out to Get Us,” Sufjan Stevens
My friend is gone, he ran away/I can tell you, I love him each day

I have to handle this song gently, like a sharpened knife, or it will cut me. It conjures up such vivid images from my past. A cicada husk in the sunlight. Blood the color of a jolly rancher trickling down a scraped knee. Unsteady stones and a glittering creek.

The title makes me laugh. The lyrics break my heart. I’m not interested in funny things if they aren’t sad or sad things if they aren’t funny. I try to do that with my stories.

“Half Light,” Arcade Fire
You told us that/We were too young/Now the night’s closing in/And in the half light/We run

Children aren’t tame animals. I don’t know why some people think they are.

“Sweet Dreams,” Angel Olsen
Every time I close my eyes/Something small within me dies/Can't say if its dark or bright/But it’s all I’ve ever known

I was always a bit of a baby existentialist. One of my earliest memories is standing by a small, slatted, rainbow table, looking out a window, and realizing that I couldn’t remember anything that had come before that moment. In elementary school, I would sometimes get this feeling that my own consciousness was impossible. Then I would blink very rapidly and my mind would go zooming away from my body until I no longer had any idea who I was and my name sounded to me like a bizarre word in a foreign language.

“Winter,” Tori Amos
Cause things are gonna change so fast/All the white horses have gone ahead

Tori Amos’s Little Earthquakes is one of the first CD’s I ever bought for myself, when I was about ten. The teenage checkout girl at the Target nodded knowingly and said “good choice” and I felt that I had been initiated into a secret club.

“False Knight on the Road,” White Antelope
I think I hear a bell said the knight on the road/It's ringing you to hell said the child as he stood

I listened to a lot of old folk songs when I was a kid. Child ballads. Murder ballads. I read Grimm’s fairy tales while sitting on the floor in my mother’s sunroom. All that child-killing and cannibalism and magic for sure got into my heart.

“My Little Town,” Simon and Garfunkel
And after it rains there's a rainbow/And all of the colors are black

Once I had a cardboard refrigerator box and it was my house in the middle of the living room. I went into the kitchen and helped my mother mix up biscuits and then went back to my house and sat on my porch (the flap at the end of the box) and listened to Simon and Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits while the smell of the buttery dough wafted in from another world.

“Sun in an Empty Room,” The Weakerthans
Know that the things we need to say/Have been said already anyway/By parallelograms of light/On walls that we repainted white

I’ve moved around a lot over the years, sometimes just for the sake of moving, I think. I fell in love with the ritual of packing up, of spackling the holes in the walls, of transformation, death, resurrection.

But at nine when we moved away, I was heartbroken. I remember saying goodbye one by one to all the strange faces I had found in the speckled linoleum of the bathroom floor. Would the new occupants even think to look for them?

“Where in the World Are You,” Great Lake Swimmers
I've been looking in churches and looking in bars/Thought that I saw you in the oncoming cars

A song for games of hide and seek which never end.

“Mistaken for Strangers,” The National
You get mistaken for strangers by your own friends/When you pass them at night/Under the silvery, silvery Citibank lights

A song for the best hiding place of all: growing up.

“Only Skin,” Joanna Newsom
I have washed a thousand spiders down the drain/Spiders’ ghosts hang, soaked and dangling/Silently from all the blooming cherry trees/Tiny nooses, safe from everyone

This song could be a flash fiction collection all on its own. Joanna Newsom is straight up Nabokovian in the way she plays with words. I want to splash around in her songs, these ebullient pools of language. I used to think her voice sounded simultaneously like the voice of a child and the voice of a very old woman. It’s a long song, but it’s absolutely worth it.

Maria Romasco Moore and Ghostographs links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book
excerpt from the book

The Fictional Cafe 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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