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January 28, 2019

Steph Post's Playlist for Her Novel "Miraculum"


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.

Steph Post's novelMiraculum impressively melds Southern Gothic and magical realism into an unforgettable feat of storytelling.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"This is a tale brimming with imagination and rich in melancholy as it pits the natural against the supernatural and touches on what it means to be human. Great fare for fans of gothic fiction or simply good storytelling."

In her own words, here is Steph Post's Book Notes music playlist for her novel Miraculum:

Out of all the novels I’ve written (and I’m just now starting on number six), Miraculum is the most closely linked to music for me. If "Stadium Arcadium" pops up on a playlist—even now, three years after writing Miraculum—I’m transported back to the haunted wastes of the "Star Light." Hans Zimmer’s score for Interstellar will forever be intertwined with the complicated relationship between Ruby and Daniel, just as Trevor Morris’ soundtrack for The Pillars of the Earth will always remind me of Hayden.

I’ve been lucky enough to put together a few of these novel playlists now and every time I try to do something a little different. Miraculum is a special book for a host of reasons, and so I’m trusting the reader, and listener, on this one. Interstellar’s soundtrack doesn’t relate to Miraculum because somehow carnivals and space travel made a connection in my head, but rather because while I was writing Miraculum, I discovered the film score and it fit perfectly with a scene I was developing. This playlist, then, is more of a musical odyssey through my experience of constructing and experiencing Miraculum—a window into what I see in my mind when I close my eyes and listen.

"Stadium Arcadium" - Red Hot Chili Peppers
This song embodies the spirit of the Star Light Miraculum itself. I see a place that was once full of dreams, now made desolate by the harsh realities of the secrets exposed behind the curtain. I see a lonely midway, windswept, wanting someone with a little bit of hope to find the beauty it still harbors.

"Coward" - Hanz Zimmer (Interstellar)
There is no way I can hear this piece without seeing Daniel and Ruby facing off. I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, but let’s just say that two of the biggest scenes in the book between them were written with my headphones in and "Coward" on repeat. All I can see are hands and eyes and stars and so much tension.

"Tom Builder’s Inspiration" - Trevor Morris (The Pillars of the Earth)
Every time I hear this piece, I think of Hayden, sitting underneath the big top, sketching. In some ways, Hayden is an outsider to the carnival world—like us—and so he’s able to convey a sense of awe and wonder in a more honest way than our resident stranger, Daniel. I see the light filtering through the tent flaps, dust motes in the sunlight, Hayden’s face uplifted, trying to capture some of the grandeur with paper and charcoal.

"Promontory" - Trevor Jones (The Last of the Mohicans)
I’m a huge fan of film scores, if you hadn’t noticed, and for the most part this is the only type of music that I can listen to while writing (though I’ve also gotten into videogame scores as of late). If "Coward" is the anthem for Ruby and Daniel, then "Promontory" is the theme song for Ruby’s relationship with Hayden. Their dueling senses of pride, in particular, are wrapped up in this piece. I wouldn’t say it relates to one scene, but rather to the entire rollercoaster between them.

Nocturnes, Op. 9: No. 1 in B-Flat Minor - Frederic Chopin
This piece is actually referenced in Miraculum, as Daniel listens to it while sitting alone in his wagon, contemplating a hard choice. It’s the only time we catch Daniel absolutely by himself and see him without any pretense at all, so I think it stands for the best representation of his true self. I see him sitting with the gramophone behind his head, eyes closed, trying to decide about Ruby.

"Astronomic Club" - Air
Georges Melies’ famous silent film Le Voyage Dans la Lune (A Trip to the Moon), while only briefly mentioned in Miraculum, signals a turning point in the game between Daniel and Ruby. In one scene, Daniel expounds upon his love for Melies’ films and in doing research for the book, I discovered a version of Le Voyage Dans la Lune recently scored by the French band Air to be shown at the Cannes film festival. Air was already one of my favorite bands and this ‘collaboration’ of sorts is brilliant. Air produced an entire album to accompany the film, but just hearing the openings notes of "Astronomic Club" makes me see Daniel’s hands, waving about excitedly in the dark as he talks about his love for Melies.

"Whispering Grass" - The Ink Spots
So, it might seem like this playlist is dominated by Daniel, but he is a larger-than-life character, so it couldn’t really be any other way. In the very early stages of planning out Miraculum, I heard this song and immediately thought of Daniel, driving along, causing havoc and destruction with a smile on his face. The scene I played out in my head eventually was reduced to only a side note in Miraculum, but I still see Daniel behind the wheel of his Model A as he drives away from the carnival, Whispering Grass playing in the background.

"The Joke" - Brandi Carlile
If we started with the Starlight, it’s only fitting to end with the centrifugal force of the carnival itself, Ruby. I only just recently discovered this song and, to be honest, it’s one of those pieces that just stabs me in the heart every time I hear it. Definitely not for casual listening. But three years after creating Ruby’s character, I finally found the song that defines her in a way no other has. For all the supernatural elements in Miraculum, it’s really just the story of a woman who has been tossed aside by the world and yet who keeps getting up from the dust, keeps coming back to stand tall, determined to show the world that the joke’s really on them.

Steph Post and Miraculum links:

the author's website

Booklist review
Kirkus review
Library Journal review
Wilmington Star News review

Book Riot interview with the author
Clea Simon interview with the author
The Coil interview with the author
Entertainment Weekly profile of the author
The Rumpus interview with the author
Tampa Bay Times profile of the author
Writer's Bone interview with the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

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Largehearted Boy List of Online "Best Books of 2018" Lists

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

Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists

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