While I don’t visit Largehearted Boy’s site as often as I did a few years ago, I’m not ashamed to concede that one of the primary reasons I would publish a novel is so that I could cook up a submission to his long-running Book Notes series, where authors create and discuss a playlist that relates to their book. Flush with deep-seated opinions and a propensity for making lists, I would hazard a guess that most writers gladly volunteer for this assignment, with little or no arm-twisting from their agents or publicists, even if they were told in advance that it would have absolutely no impact on sales. Many would do it even if they were guaranteed a dip in sales.
After reading Evan Dara’s Flee for the first time, back in the summer of 2013, I started drafting a playlist for the book, since I was pretty sure that the author wouldn’t. But instead of pulling from the far reaches of my iTunes library, I employed more of a Paul Thomas Anderson approach, seeking a singular singer who could sound the book’s themes of dislocation and dissolution, animating the inanimate while reflecting light into the crumpled dark. The best artist for the job was John K. Samson and the Weakerthans, a delegation of Winnipeg’s finest emissaries.
This is a revised version of that original soundtrack, which includes a couple of additions made after a recent re-reading.
1. Theme for Flee: “Left and Leaving” – “My city’s still breathing but barely it’s true/through buildings gone missing like teeth”
2. “Everything Must Go!” – page 22. “the cordless razor that my father bought when I turned 17, a puke-green sofa and the outline to a complicated dream of dignity.”
3. “Night Windows” (for Marcus) – page 46. “But you’re not coming home again, and I won’t ever get to say, ‘Remember how… I’m sorry that… I miss the way… Could we…'”
4. “Aside” – “Armed with every previous failure, and amateur cartography, I breathe in deep before I spread these maps out on my bedroom floor. Leaving. Wave goodbye/ Losing, but I’ll try, with the last ways left, to remember. Sing my imperfect offering.”
5. “Pamphleteer” (for Ian) – “I walk this room in time to the beat of the Gestetner, contemplate my next communique. The rhetoric and treason of saying that I’ll miss you. Of saying ‘Hey, well maybe you should stay.’ Sing ‘Oh what force on earth could be weaker than the feeble strength of one’ like me remembering the way it could have been.”
6. “Letter of Resignation” – “Farewell to piles of bills, unpaid utilities. All rolled up and unfurled like a flag. Wake up and pack your bag. To whom it may concern…So she sits there with her luggage at her side. (yours sincerely yours) leaving empty stations, leaving empty lives.”
7. “Utilities” (for Rick Pasternak) –
“Seems the most I
Have to offer
Doesn’t offer much
Make it something
Somebody could use”
8. “None of the Above” (for Carol and Rick) – “warm coffee tastes like soap. I trace you outline in spilled sugar, killing time and killing hope. This brand new strip mall chews on farmland as we fish for someone to blame. But we communicate in questions, and all our answers sound the same.”
9. “My Favorite Chords” (for Marcus) – “Hey, I found the safest place to keep all our tenderness/Keep all those bad ideas, keep all our hope/It’s here in the smallest bones, the feet and the inner ear/It’s such an enormous thing to walk, to listen”
10. “Time’s Arrow” (for the upstakers of Anderburg) – “All the streets lie down, deserted in the darkest part of night, to lead you through the evening to the light. Pulled along in the tender grip of watches and ellipses. Small request. Could we please turn around?”
11. “Sun in an Empty Room” (for Ezra and the upstakers) – “Now that the furniture’s returning to its Goodwill home, with dishes in last week’s papers—rumours and elections, crosswords, an unending war—that blacken our fingers, smear their prints on every door pulled shut. Now that the last month’s rent is scheming with the damage deposit, take this moment to decide if we meant it, if we tried, or felt around for far too much from things that accidentally touched.”
12. “Heart of the Continent” (for the upstakers) –
“There’s a billboard by the highway
That says ‘Welcome to;’
But no sign to show you when you go away.”
13. “Taps Reversed” (for Carol) –
“The calendar requests a meeting to discuss the time we waste,
when would be good for you? And the sidewalk cracks spell the
way back home in one uninterrupted palindrome. The old house
keeps all of our receipts in envelopes secured with rubber
14. “[past due]” – “And darkness comes too early, you won’t find the many things you owe these latest dead: a borrowed book, that cheque you didn’t sign. The tools to be believed with, beloved. Give what you can: to keep, to comfort this plain fear you can’t extinguish or dismiss.”
15. Paul Kelly, “Everything’s Turning to White” – page 217. This is more of a bonus cut for close readers, but Marcus has a particular fondness for the actress Laura Linney, an object of desire “in just about everything except Jindabyne.” Jindabyne is an Australian adaptation of the Raymond Carver story, “So Much Water So Close to Home,” which features the music of Kelly, who originally penned this back in the late 1980s.
16. Epilogue: James McMurtry, “I’m Not From Here” –
“Onto some bright future somewhere
Down the road to points unknown
Sending post cards when they get there
Wherever it is they think they’re goin'”
Down the road, I’ll share a playlist of music featured in the book itself, heavily drawn from Chapter X.