In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Amy P. Knight's novel Lost, Almost is a stunning debut.
Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:
"Through spare and precise language, Knight’s debut novel follows three generations of the Brooks family as they are both nurtured and impeded by their physicist patriarch…Knight avoids easy conclusions and balances this intergenerational story with levity, honesty, and just the right measure of heartbreak."
The Temptation of Adam, Josh Ritter
In writing this book, I had to think a lot about the anxiety that comes with the ability to abruptly end the world. Sometimes it's almost crippling, but other times, it yields very different emotions. This song is a great example of what, besides despair, we can take from thoughts that it might all be coming to an end.
Never Ending Math Equation, Modest Mouse
Early in the book, a near-impossible math equation arises and puts some of our heroes to the test. I imagine this song playing in the background while they sweat it out.
Loner Phase, Cold War Kids
To me this song is about being in the grip of a powerful personality. It's not quite like idolizing someone, but rather, realizing that you have a tendency to do so, and that it isn't reciprocated. Maybe it's romantic love in the song, but it works just as well for any sort of relationship… family, colleagues, neighbors…
I Saw Her Standing There, The Beatles
The song came around a decade too late for the scene in the book, but it captured a feeling as old as time. She was just seventeen. You know what I mean.
Helplessly Hoping, Crosby, Stills & Nash
Helplessness might just be the most painful human feeling.
This is the only song on the list that actually makes an appearance in the book. Curtis and Melanie listen to it as love-struck teenagers, and I chose it mainly because it seemed like the kind of sweet song of the right era that they'd have liked. But I think it has a deeper resonance with the logic of the book's emotions. Stephen Stills wrote this song about a break-up with Judy Collins, who was struggling with her own formidable demons at the time. Like Judy, the people in this book are trapped by something extraordinarily difficult, and people outside that orbit—Celine, Charlotte, to some extent Melanie—often want to help, but what can they do in the face of overwhelming force? Not to mention the attempt to express love in the language of numbers.
Nuclear, Ryan Adams
In creating this playlist I've been struck by how very many songs out there use nuclear explosions as a metaphor. You could say that makes it unoriginal, but I think instead it's just so spot-on for some situations that it recurs again and again. This is one of my favorite songs to use it. It's a love song of sorts, but I think that would be lost on many of my characters. They exist in the literal half, not the metaphorical half, of these songs.
I'm Bored, Iggy Pop
As a child, Melanie suffers from boredom because she doesn't have a dramatic, demanding family like the Brooks family. This song perfectly captures that don't-know-what-to-do-with-myself feeling, not just in saying so, but also in its tone, the way it plays with words, its sound.
Nuclear Love, The Kinks
Sometimes, when you're obsessed with something, other things exist only through that lens. In the world of this book, there's a kind of shared obsession with nuclear physics. Everything—even love—becomes about physics. In that spirit, "If you should find that your love's like an atom and it's spinning apart. . ."
Silver Coin, Angus & Julia Stone
I first thought of this song because of the title—silver coins play a significant role in the book—but ultimately I think this is Curtis's song, about not having the strength to say what really needs to be said to hold onto someone. In the song it's an internal struggle—just the courage to say you love someone—and in the book it's a struggle that's both internal and external, against powerful forces. In both cases, the pulsing beat of this song, and the strings in the background, have a lot to say about wishing you had been a stronger person.
Mother, Pink Floyd
This song has a profoundly dark view of the world – a view I think might be shared by the disgraced scientist Diego Salerno toward the end of the book. Diego ultimately doesn't allow himself to be protected—perhaps a better outcome for him than what we hear in the song. But perhaps not.
Province, TV on the Radio
"Love is the province of the brave." I think of Curtis Brooks when I hear this song. He tries to very hard to be brave, but bless him, he just can't do it. I think the song itself is hopeful in a sense—it recognizes the deep challenges of love but comes out on the side of doing it anyway—but when I think about it in this context it feels incredibly sad.
The Calculation, Regina Spektor
It's so tempting to think you can chart everything out. Use logic to figure out exactly how life would most make sense, and put that into practice. Maybe that is possible, but it can't possibly be worth the cost that would have—ignoring feelings, which can't be calculated. There are characters in the book who make—or almost make—that mistake. I'd like to play this song for them and see what they make of it.
Dinner at Eight, Rufus Wainwright
Father/son drama figures in this book on multiple axes. There is no more gorgeous song about strife between a father and son than this Rufus tear-jerker.
My Mathematical Mind, Spoon
I see this as a song about overthinking everything, especially where relationships are concerned. There's a liberation that comes with this song. It's in the lyrics – "I'm gonna stop riding the brakes"—but it's also in the music. It has a very regimented sound in the waltz piano that runs underneath throughout. The sound breaks free a bit with the guitars as the song progresses. Still, that driving piano logic is always under there. There's no escaping it.
Emotions and Math, Margaret Glaspy
If this book had a subtitle, "Emotions and Math" might just be it.
Amy P. Knight and Lost, Almost links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
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
100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
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)
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