In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Craig Nova’s novel Double Solitaire is a compelling work of literary noir.
The New York Times wrote of the book:
“More than refurbished L.A. Noir. The scenes where Farrell visits with the patients [at UCLA Children’s Hospital], canny judges of character and tuning forks for emotional truth, carry devastating weight, and Nova’s smooth prose brings the roiling undercurrents to the surface. He’s fashioned a series character well worth revisiting.”
It is becoming more obvious with each new novel I write that music, or the effect of music, is the real explanation of what I am trying to do as a writer. The specific song I would like to invoke here is Jimmie Dale Gilmore’s version of “Mack the Knife.” I’d also like to warn you that this version can be life altering.
Here’s where the connection is most obvious. This song is used as the soundtrack for the last shot in Jacques Audiard’s A Prophet. When I heard this, I instantly recognized that this song and what it does, a summation of the emotion of the movie, is exactly what a novelist is trying to do all the time. To be precise, the song, and its use in the movie makes for an ache, and it is this ache a writer is constantly trying to produce. The confusing thing is that while a book is made up of words, the ache comes from what is not said. Or the effect that a novelist is looking for is nonverbal. This is the hard thing for a writer to realize. It is the ache of the unsaid, which I try to get into a book, and this unsaid quality is essentially musical. Something you can feel, but can’t put into words. The film version of this ache can be seen in Audiard’s use of Jimmie Dale Gilmore for the sound track in the last shot of A Prophet.
This can be heard on You Tube. Look up Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and there is a clip of the song. The comments of listeners on YouTube, by the way, show just how powerful a piece of music this is. Also, as a matter of amazement, I find it stunning that Audiard (a French film director, or his music associate) would even know that Jimmie Dale Gilmore exists.
Craig Nova is the author of fourteen novels, which have been translated into 10 languages. He has had an Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Harper-Saxton Prize (previous recipients have been James Baldwin and Sylvia Plath), multiple awards from the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and other prizes. His short fiction has appeared in the Paris Review, Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, Men’s Journal, Best American Short Story series, and other publications. As a screenwriter he has worked for Touchstone Pictures (a division of the Walt Disney Company), Amblin Entertainment, and other producers. A film was made in 2018 from his novel, Wetware. Nova is a Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at the University of North Carolina in Hillsborough.