The 10 Best Things From 2011 To Listen To While Writing, According To Actual Authors


Reports from the holiday-party front indicate that 2011 was another long and lonely year for the fiction writers and memoirists of New York, who were kept company at home all day long mainly by various “internet friends” and related applications, as well as their favorite songs/albums/radio shows. Below is a totally non-scientific list of 2011’s Top 10 pieces of music for writing, as supplied by the authors of recent books.

10. Alina Simone (You Must Go and Win)” “‘See Me’ by She Keeps Bees: It’s like eating a PJ Harvey and Cat Power Fruit Roll-Up.”

9. Said Sayrafiezadeh (When Skateboards Will Be Free): “Bob Seger’s Ultimate Hits: Rock and Roll Never Forgets. Specifically, ‘Against the Wind’ and ‘Fire Lake.’ I put my headphones on, even though I’m in my apartment, and the white, working-class tempo acts as an amphetamine.”

8. Ned Vizzini (It’s Kind of a Funny Story): “This year I learned to write to William Berger’s ‘My Castle of Quiet’ radio show on WFMU. I put it on low and get work done over the latest apocalyptic black metal.”

7. Nick Mamatas (Sensation; Under My Roof): “Lids Junky’s Turkey Mix—extremely dirty/grimy dubstep. The riff on Skrillex’s ‘Kill Everybody’ is worth the price alone. Though I can only recommend it as music to write to for people who like to mix Lovecraftiana and experimental fiction and sci-fi and noir.”

6. Emily Gould (And The Heart Says Whatever): “The reissue of Gish. I know that’s really pushing it for ‘came out this year,’ but it’s so perfect when you want to create a fortress of sound around your ideas.”

5. Dave Bry (Public Apology): “‘New Years,’ from Tom Waits’ Bad As Me. His music is always my favorite music to write to, because it makes you feel like you’re drinking whiskey in a smoky bar down by the docks, watching sailors and stevedores dance with pickpocket prostitutes at four o’clock in the morning—even when you’re actually at home drinking coffee at two o’clock in the afternoon, staring at your computer screen, wearing your socks.”

4. Steve Almond (God Bless America; Candy Freak): “‘Love Is Not Enough’ by the Wealthy West. It’s like the theme song of every single literary relationship on earth. In three minutes.”

3. Justin Taylor (Everything Here is the Best Thing Ever; The Gospel of Anarchy): “C’mon by Low, and especially the song ‘Nothing But Heart,’ which has this liturgical force that gets under my skin in the best way possible. I try to listen to it at least once a day, and will keep doing this until I either understand what it’s trying to tell me or wear out my interest in it.”

2. Lev Grossman (The Magician King): “‘Santa Fe’ by Beirut. Like all good writing music, it’s beautiful and unintrusive and slightly repetitive, but on top of that the singer sounds so sympathetic—it’s like he’s saying, ‘what you’re writing is idiotic, but I forgive you, and who knows, maybe if you rewrite it thirty or forty more times it might start to mean something.'”

1. Elissa Schappell (Building Blueprints for Better Girls; Use Me): “Last spring, held hostage by page proofs of my new book, the pages soaked with tears, my grown-up riot grrrl role models, Wild Flag, inspired me to not only to get up and throw myself around the room, but remember why I do what I do on their song ‘Romance’: ‘We dance to free ourselves from the room/ we love the sound, the sound is what found us/ the sound is the blood between me and you.'”