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October 17, 2019

Cathy Ulrich's Playlist for Her Short Story Collection "Ghosts of You"

Ghosts of You

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.

Cathy Ulrich's collection Ghosts of You is filled with inventively written and engaging stories.

BuzzFeed wrote of the book:

"In her debut flash fiction collection, Ulrich focuses on the bodies of murdered women, rendering each story with a crystalline focus on how women often bear the brunt of violence and calling into question the common narratives around this fact. Each story starts with the same line, which by the end has the effect of an incantation. The reality of misogyny can make for rough reading, even in fiction, but the short form and Ulrich’s skill at avoiding the sensational make it worth it."

In her own words, here is Cathy Ulrich's Book Notes music playlist for her short story collection Ghosts of You:

This is a book about murdered women. This is what I tell people when they say, oh, you have a book? What’s it about?

Murdered women.

I might talk about fridging, about plot points, about erasure. I might talk about how women’s deaths are so often used to set the plot in motion.

But really, when someone asks what’s your book about? I say: murdered women.

I am always listening to music. Especially when I write. I’ll sit in the break room at work with its gaudy tablecloth and creaking ancient chairs and put my headphones on and pretend I can’t hear the ringing phone that my coworkers aren’t answering.

Each of the stories in this book has a piece of music in them. Here’s a list of some:

Girl – Timecop1983 (feat. Seawaves) (Story: Being the Murdered Moll)

I can always get lost in this song and its crescendoing retro keyboard chords, its love story of a couple on the run from the law. When I wrote this story, I was in love with someone. I’d say to them, let’s rob a bank instead of I love you. I think the girl in this song said it too. Like the girl in the story.

Laura Palmer’s Prom – You Say Party! We Say Die! (Story: Being the Murdered Girl)

This was the first story that I wrote in this series, when it wasn’t even a series at all. I think the girl in it looks like Laura Palmer, or maybe she even is Laura Palmer. I wonder if she would have gone to her prom.

Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend – Marilyn Monroe (Story: Being the Murdered Actress)

I like Marilyn’s voice in this, the wispiness of it. I like how it feels like it’s okay to call her Marilyn, like we’re friends, like I know her. It wasn’t really her name, of course. I think the actress in this story has a made-up name too. I think, if she sang this song, she would have struggled to hit the high notes, to wear that smile.

Gunshot – Lykke Li (Story: Being the Murdered Lover)

The lover in this story is thought of by most of the characters as a greedy thing, only sleeping with the rich man for his gifts, but I think she really loved him. I imagine her waiting for his calls, his texts, alone in her room, dancing barefoot to this song, feeling the passion in this song, thinking of the touch of her lover’s mouth on hers.

Hold Yr Terror Close – The Go! Team (Story: Being the Murdered Classmate)

I remember a couple of years ago, my daughter and her classmates were sure there was a pack of murderous clowns roaming the country. It was a children’s rumor that spread all over. It’s easier for them to do that now than when I was a child, but we had them too, these monsters that were coming for us. This story is about one of those children’s rumors. The song is about walking home in the dark, and it brings up that feeling for me, that bottom-of-the-stomach terror that these monsters evoke.

Why Don’t You Do Right – Peggy Lee (Story: Being the Murdered Chanteuse)

When I worked at the local newspaper, I once input an obituary for a man who had dated Peggy Lee in high school. No one believed him until she saw him at, I think it was, a football game she performed at halftime for, shouted his name and ran over and hugged him. Since then, she’s been one of my favorite songstresses, has felt like she is connected to me somehow. I can see the chanteuse in this story singing this song, can’t you? And maybe following it up with some Aretha Franklin.

The Moon Hangs in the Sky Like Nothing Hangs in the Sky – Yohuna (Story: Being the Murdered Indian)

There’s a moment in this story, where the victim’s family attends her father’s funeral and her uncle stops in the parking lot and breaks down, not because his brother is dead, but because his niece still can’t be found. The moon is in the blue sky then, the moon is a witness. This song is like that moment.

Origins – Tennis (Story: Being the Murdered Wife)

I was thinking of Joan Vollmer when I wrote this. I was thinking how she was a talent in her own right, a person in her own right, until she was killed by her husband. How he became famous and admired. How she became an appendix in his story. I like the line in this song, have you confused your power with mine?

Polaroid smmr – Detective Deckard (Story: Being the Murdered Blonde)

For this story, I was thinking of how it’s easy for murders to be ignored until it is a beautiful woman, a perfect victim, a perfect woman. This song, for me, feels like being in love with someone perfect like that. And I love the sound of rainfall at the end, and those soaring, sad vocals.

Cathy Ulrich and Ghosts of You links:

The Bookends Review review
Heavy Feather Review review
Independent Book Review review

Entropy interview with the author
Rhythm Bone interview with the author
The Rumpus interview with the author
Vol. 1 Brooklyn interview with the author

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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Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
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weekly music release lists

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