Book Notes – Chloe Caldwell "I’ll Tell You in Person"
Posted on 11 October 2016
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Chloe Caldwell’s I’ll Tell You in Person is an intense collection of essays that astonishes with its self-awareness and keen storytelling.
Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:
“She [Chloe] perfectly captures what it’s like to try to navigate your way through the traumatic first decade of adulthood.”
My book I’ll Tell You in Person is drenched in music. I grew up in a musical family and when I was eleven my father switched his career from carpenter to entrepreneur and opened a music shop, full of eclectic instruments and offering lessons. My brother was—is—one of those people who could pick up an instrument and play any song on it. But me! I played the radio real well. ITYIP is sort of an anti-coming-of adulthood essay collection, and here’s it’s mix tape, which is truly all over the place, maybe those assholes who say they like “everything” when you ask them what kind of music they like, will love it. I doubt it though.
1. In Real Life: “Spaceship” by Kanye West
Yes I am opening this playlist by comparing myself to Kanye West but I can back it up. My first job out of high school was working at The Gap (okay, the outlet) and having no clue what to do with my life. I folded jeans, smoked cigarettes, and drove all the way to Mass from New York to do it. I stole clothes sometimes (okay, often) I ran out of gas on the Mass Pike, I folded jeans all day, I took up smoking Parliament Lights because then my managers let me have more breaks because they were (obese) smokers. I was dating a pizza delivery boy at the time and we both thought this song said EVERYTHING about our lives.
In the mall ’til 12 when my schedule headset nine
Puttin’ them pants shelves
Waitin’ patiently I ask myself
Where I want to go, where I want to be
So I stole, wasn’t my fault
Yeah I stole, never got caught
2. “Prime Meats”: “Malibu” by Hole
In “Prime Meats,” my friend Ana and I always fall asleep to Celebrity Skin. We slept in her bed on Troutman Street in Bushwick. “Malibu” is still my favorite Hole song—great for karaoke, too.
3. Yodels: “The Swimming Song” by Loudon Wainwright
The Wainwright family was big in my family but we all liked different ones—I loved Martha, my dad loved Loudon, my mom Loved Rufus, my brother was partial to all of them.
4. “Hungry Ghost”: “Money, Power, Glory” by Lana Del Ray
In “Hungry Ghost”, I explore what it means to be one: craving fame, success, pleasure of all sorts. This essay was originally called “The Celebrity,” then called “Money, Power Glory,” as I was listening to it all the time as I edited, and finally “Hungry Ghost.” I vividly remember sitting on an impeccable day in May at the table at my mom’s house, on and off the phone with my agent about who we were selling this book too, pacing around te yard, and listening to this song repeatedly, which is why it ends up quoted in the essay.
(Runners up: “The Hungry Ghost” by Cure, and “Hungry Is The Ghost” by Marisa Nadler)
5. Soul Killer” “My Drug Buddy” by The Lemonheads
“Soul Killer” is one of the two essays in the book that does not mention a song. This song’s a classic. A dude friend sent it to me in 2012 after we spent the night drinking and taking morphine. He and I tried to date later, but most guys want a girlfriend, not a drug buddy, so it didn’t work out. The lyric: I’m too much with myself, I wanna be someone else, is basically the short hand the decade of me twenties, and also the short hand of I’ll Tell You in Person, if you don’t wanna read the whole book.
6. The Music & The Boys: “The Zephyr Song” by Red Hot Chili Peppers
I’m not sorry—this song is fucking good in a really simple way, and it’s so early 2000’s, like wintergreen Altoids. In fact, I recommend pairing the two together for the ultimate experience of the song.
7. Failing Singing: “Judy’s Turn To Cry” by Leslie Gore
Somehow the chords in this song release serotonin in my brain. Am I alone? This song was on a cassette I had as a kid, a mix of the girl groups of the sixties, and made me want to be a singer. I loved how this song was a point of view switch from Gore’s “It’s My Party.” In a past life, I must have been a singer in one of those groups. Or maybe in the afterlife I will be. Something to look forward to.
8. Sisterless: “Watch me whip/Watch me Nay Nay”
I couldn’t think of a song for this essay, so I’ve chosen a song fro a deleted scene. There was a part where the girl I babysit in the essay, and I, were watching dogs in kilts dance to this song. We were in the kitchen making cookies. Is that what sisters do?
9. The Girls of My Youth: “Mambo No. 5”
Forgive me for killing this semi-good playlist with Lou Bega, (well actually, it’s heading South after that last inclusion) but much of this book takes place in the late nineties and this song was fucking good. I feel so awful for my dad wo drove me to school in the mornings while my BFF and I sang every word to this. Sorry, dad.
10. Laziest Coming Out Story You’ve Ever Heard: “In Or Out” by Ani DiFranco
This essay isn’t about figuring out your sexuality, it’s more about not figuring out your sexuality. “In Or Out” is a fucking brilliant song about sexual fluidity.
guess there’s something wrong with me
guess I don’t fit in
no one wants to touch it
no one knows where to begin
I’ve got more than one membership
to more than one club
somedays the line I walk
turns out to be straight
other days the line tends to
10. Maggie & Me: A Love Story: “The Book of Love” by Stephin Merritt
Maggie Estep and Stephin Merritt go way back—they shared an apartment building in the nineties in the East Village. Maggie blasted this song during the yoga classes she taught, and when she died, Stephin played it at her memorial. This past summer I saw Stephin who was alone at Back Bar in Hudson, reading Vonnegut, and since I was three margaritas in, I approached him, trying to find someone to grieve Maggie with, but we ended up talking about the rent cost of NYC vs. Hudson. Other songs Maggie played during yoga are the runners up: “Dancing Barefoot” by Patti Smith and “White Winter Hymnal” by Fleet Foxes.
11. Berlin 2009: “Metro” by Berlin
I forgot to mention this song in my essay but it’s in Berlin I discovered it. Maybe it came on at a club or in a store, or maybe someone rec’d it, I don’t know. But I heard it somewhere and then looked it up and put it on my iPod.
I remember searching for the perfect words/I was hoping you might change your mind
I remember hating you for loving me/riding on the Metro.
I found many ways to obsess over those line, and try to relate it to all my relationships. As one does! Or: As a self-indulgent 23 year old lost and lonely in Berlin, does!
Chloe Caldwell and I’ll Tell You in Person links:
Brooklyn Magazine interview with the author
Electric Literature interview with the author
Out Magazine interview with the author
PANK interview with the aithor
Powell’s Books interview with the author
Village Voice review
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
Word Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)
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