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March 29, 2019

Seth Fried's Playlist for His Novel "The Municipalists"

The Municipalists

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.

Seth Fried's debut novel The Municipalists is a literary thriller both comic and wonderfully weird.

Library Journal wrote of the book:

"Fried’s debut explores issues likely to affect everyone—and pokes predatory capitalism with a sharp stick, attracting readers of darkly absurd science à la Philip K. Dick, Charlie Jane Anders, and Warren Ellis."

In his own words, here is Seth Fried's Book Notes music playlist for his debut novel The Municipalists:

The Book

“Welcome to Lunar Industries” by Clint Mansell// “Gut Feeling” by Devo // “FloriDada” by Animal Collective

The Municipalists is an adventure novel about cities and friendship that explores our responsibilities to one another both every day and in a larger, socio-political context. As the book opens, you’re introduced to Henry Thompson, an agent at the United States Municipal Survey. Thompson is a passionate but anti-social bureaucrat who sees the agency’s mission of improving the infrastructure of cities as being of life and death importance (“Welcome to Lunar Industries” by Clint Mansell). After a terrorist attack on the great American city of Metropolis, Thompson is sent to investigate. His partner is an AI projection of the agency’s supercomputer, OWEN, who quickly reveals himself to be vain and a bit of day-drinker (“Gut Feeling” by Devo). The two disapprove of each other and their disorganized efforts to investigate the attack quickly result in them being pulled into a deeper and even more dangerous plot (“FloriDada” by Animal Collective).

Henry Thompson

“Till My Head Falls Off” by They Might Be Giants//“The Journey” by Tangerine Dream

At one point in the novel a character describes Henry as “the biggest milquetoast bean sorter in the history of the United States Municipal Survey” and it’s clear that his relentless attitude toward his work has made him an outsider at the agency he loves (“Till My Head Falls Off” by They Might Be Giants). But his passion for his work stems from a childhood trauma that he has spent his entire life trying to address by making the world a safer place (“The Journey” by Tangerine Dream).


“I’m So Green” by Can // “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” by Paul Simon // “Mongrel” by Alex Cameron)

With his over-the-top confidence and insistence on enjoying himself, in a lot of ways OWEN is more alive than his flesh-and-blood partner (“I’m So Green” by Can). But his puckish exuberance and surprising naivete in certain situations make it a little difficult to know whether he’s actually devoted to the task at hand or if he’s just excited to be out in the world and making trouble (“Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” by Paul Simon). And yet, as a machine, OWEN has a poetic distance from the human activity driving the plot and is able to regard it all with a cool, wry wisdom (“Mongrel” by Alex Cameron).

Sarah Laury

“Officer” by Operation Ivy // “Daredevil” by Fiona Apple // “Your Best American Girl” by Mitski

Sarah Laury is the adopted daughter of the mayor of Metropolis. She’s also an Olympic gold medalist, musician, philanthropist and a radical political activist (“Officer” by Operation Ivy) who disappeared shortly before the first attack on Metropolis. Laury is both brilliant and angry (“Daredevil” by Fiona Apple). Her status as a public figure has forced her to deal with the disturbing way our culture tends to treat young women in the public eye, and so behind her anger there’s more than a little disgust with the status quo as well as an authentic sadness and a longing for the world to be a better place (“Your Best American Girl” by Mitski).

Terrence Kirklin

“The Breakaway” by Dan Deacon // “Yr City’s A Sucker” by LCD Soundsystem”

The agency’s station chief in Metropolis, Terrence Kirklin is a brooding genius who has been helping the city of Metropolis run at peak efficiency for two decades (“The Breakaway” by Dan Deacon). After years of frustration and chafing under the agency’s existing leadership, Kirklin seems ready to apply his expertise and intensity to a more radical mission (“Yr City’s A Sucker” by LCD Soundsystem”).

Seth Fried and The Municipalists links:

the author's website

Booklist review
Kirkus reviews
Library Journal review
Vol. 1 Brooklyn review
Wall Street Journal review

Largehearted Boy playlist by the author for The Great Frustration

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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