Hush Hush: the mixtape
Tapes on Books collects unofficial soundtracks to classics like The Catcher in the Rye, Fahrenheit 451, and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, sampling artists as diverse as Devo, James Brown, and Radiohead along the way.
But who says new books can’t be included? In honor of this month’s publication of Hush Hush, I’d like to present my own soundtrack to Steven Barthelme’s brilliant collection of short stories, along with the passages that inspired my selections. Put on your headphones and enjoy:
There are two kinds of freaks. Freaks who pretend to be normal and freaks who pretend to be freaks. I pretend to be a normal child, but I’m not very good at it. Christiane pretends to be a freak and she is very good at it. You should see her singing “Satisfaction.”
Jesus comes over to me when I’m out on a chaise beside one of the pools; he’s holding a fat red book in one hand and in the other, two lemonade cans from the vending machine. He hands me one. Frigid. All around us, people are getting to their feet. Music is playing somewhere.
“A hat?” I say. “You’re never in a hat in the pictures.”
“I’m two thousand years old,” Jesus says, and pats the leather hat. “I’ll wear a hat if I feel like it.” He gives a droll smile. “I have you down here for loathing and envy,” he says, looking up from the red ledger. “You must forgive him.”
“There’s nothing to forgive,” I say, and take a drink. It’s Handel, the music.
He’d been told about the party by a woman named Liz, an attractive half-Japanese woman who he had met once ten years earlier. It happened that she worked at the branch library where he had spent a long afternoon reading some hopeless career-change book with an embarrassingly silly name. The ten minutes talking to her was so pleasant to him that even though he usually hated and feared parties, he had decided to go. He had considered offering to take her, but decided against it, unsure of what her casual “You should come” might have meant. So he went back to the motel and thought about her and waited for nine o’clock.
I had been gambling for more than 36 hours, begged off work the next day, called my wife and told her I wouldn’t be back until tomorrow, hadn’t slept and hadn’t eaten and was about out of money when Richie called me and told me he was coming to meet me at the casino.
—from “That Story about Freddy Hylo”
This is what it’ll be like. Twenty-five years of waiting wasted. This is it. What is it like? Standing in my kitchen. I will punch the rewind and play the message again. “…at 5:55 a.m.,” my brother says. “I didn’t know this was going to be this way,” he says. It’s over, I will think.
On the plane the gin happy flight attendants had had a hard time persuading anyone to sing Auld Lang Syne, but then finally, when they offered a free flight as well as the bottle of champagne, a little bald guy in a red coat got up, took the microphone, stood in the aisle posing like a 50′s crooner, steadying himself with one hand on the back of a seat. The little guy had a very beautiful voice, and by the time he was finishing up the whole plane was singing, just as the seatbelt lights went on for the descent into Logan.
“In olden times this blues guy, Jimmy Reed, I think he lived in Dallas — He played harmonica and guitar and he had this trashy blues voice, we played him on the radio. A song called `Hush Hush.’ It was about noise. How there was too much noise. Sort of wonderful.”
—from “Hush Hush”
By the time we got onto the freeway into the city it was just after dark, the lights from strip centers on either side of the six-lane road creating a false twilight. Lightning flashed along the horizon, a distant thunderstorm.
—from “Down the Garden Path”
Hush Hush is available for pre-order now.
Christopher King is the Art Director of Melville House.