I am SO excited to be participating in the Harper Summer Tour! True Letters from a Fictional Life is actually the book that I requested when signing up for the tour, and I’m so glad I’m hosting that book and Kenneth on the blog today. I’ve got a really fun guest post from Kenny – a playlist that complements his book – coming up, but first let me tell you a bit about True Letters from a Fictional Life. And make sure you stick around for the end of the post because there are not 1, not 2, but THREE amazing giveaways for you to enter!
ABOUT THE BOOK
TRUE LETTERS FROM A FICTIONAL LIFE
by Kenneth Logan
June 7, 2016 // HarperTeen
If you asked anyone in his small Vermont town, they’d tell you the facts: James Liddell, star athlete, decent student and sort-of boyfriend to cute, peppy Theresa, is a happy, funny, carefree guy.
But whenever James sits down at his desk to write, he tells a different story. As he fills his drawers with letters to the people in his world–letters he never intends to send–he spills the truth: he’s trying hard, but he just isn’t into Theresa. It’s a boy who lingers in his thoughts.
He feels trapped by his parents, his teammates, and the lies they’ve helped him tell, and he has no idea how to escape. Is he destined to live a life of fiction?
THE GUEST POST
First, thanks Stefani, for inviting me to guest post on Caught Read Handed. I’m thrilled to do it. I decided to put together a list of songs that somehow complement True Letters from a Fictional Life. A couple of them remind me of places in the story, others recall particular characters and their relationships, and a few just conjure moods like the ones I tried to establish in the book. I steer clear of talking about the story’s plot, so there are no spoilers. Enjoy.
This band’s from Athens, Georgia, and their frontman, Theo Hilton, sings unapologetically sentimental lyrics about his friendships and crushes. A couple of the band’s fantastic horn players also played with Neutral Milk Hotel. When I was living in San Francisco and writing the first draft of True Letters, I listened to Ruth on repeat. Some of the songs remind me of Neil Young’s quieter, off-key, introspective tunes, and others recall early singles from The Who, recorded when Keith Moon was still brutalizing drum sets. I don’t know whether Nana Grizol has a big following anywhere, but this album’s one of my favorites for sure. Inspiring stuff, especially the tracks “Cynicism,” “Galaxies,” and “Sands.”
In a 1973 Rolling Stone interview, Bowie explained to William S. Burroughs that the starman in this song is not actually Ziggy Stardust himself, but Ziggy’s emissary to planet Earth. I don’t think anyone really knows what the hell Bowie was talking about, but I like this tune a ton, so it makes this list for that reason alone. And a couple of others: (1) Bowie spent his career jolting us out of complacency and compelling us to imagine worlds different from the one we inhabit, maybe better ones, and (2) the kids in True Letters stare up at the night sky a lot, as I did when I lived in Vermont. Stargazing never feels like wasted time.
I can’t think of another song that captures the pain and helplessness and sadness of heartbreak better than this one does. Evidently, Thom Yorke has claimed the song is “about sex in the morning.” That’s not what comes to mind for me, but I guess his explanation’s not incompatible with my own reading. I’m not sure which version of this tune I like better: the original or Gillian Welch and David Rawlings’s stunning acoustic cover.
True Letters begins just before mud season, those indecisive weeks between winter and spring in northern New England. Even though the top inches of earth melt as the days warm up, the ground deep down stays frozen. When the snow changes to sleet and rain, thousands of miles of unpaved road turn to mud. It’s a thrilling time—spring’s almost arrived—but it can be frustrating and exhausting. Even little kids scowl when it snows in late April.
Mick Jagger and Mick Taylor wrote this tune while the band was recording Goats Head Soup in Jamaica. As the music reviewer Bill Janovitz comments, despite the tropical heat, they managed to capture the feeling of winter way up north pretty brilliantly.
I remember precisely where I was when I first heard “What is the Light.” I’d recently moved to San Francisco, and I was trying to make an illegal left turn onto 30th Street. When the drums kicked in, I nearly pulled the car over. I’m not going to pretend I understand any of Wayne Coyne’s lyrics, but for me they raise questions about why we think and feel the way we do, questions that James, the protagonist of True Letters, kicks around, too. Sometimes it feels like scientific explanations of human emotions and behavior fall far short of making sense of our experiences. We might never be satisfied with answers to Big Questions, but at least we have songs like this one as the soundtrack to our confusion.
James’s ten-year-old brother Rex pops in and out of the story. I think he ended up in the book because I really enjoyed being his age. I’m not sure what “Bag of Hammers” is actually about—maybe it’s about trying to hold a relationship together, the opposite of being a carefree kid—but there’s a cheerful bounce to it that I’ve always loved. The music reminds me of Rex, even if the lyrics are irrelevant to him. It’s been a while since I listened to this one, and I’m glad I dug it up.
There were some aspects of teaching high school that I really loved, but chaperoning dances was not one of them. I do have one beautiful memory from one of those painful Friday nights, though: Dozens of kids were barely bouncing to deafening hip-hop, when suddenly the DJ put on “Build Me Up Buttercup.” The song was like sunlight pouring through the high windows. For two minutes and fifty-nine seconds, every kid was smiling and dancing without any worry. No one was trying to be cool. Everyone was having fun. Magic. And then the thumping bass returned, and everyone’s feet stopped.
There is a high school dance in the story, incidentally, and some of the kids even know how to dance. Not James.
Even though he’s a pretty good writer, James isn’t all that articulate when it comes to talking about his emotions. I’ve always imagined that this song’s about a guy rehearsing what he wants to say to the girl or boy he likes, and he just can’t settle on the right combination of words. Somehow he keeps coming back to the phrase “old paint is peeling.” Some people do that to our brains.
Another one about lovers and heartbreak—hmm—but really I’m including this song because my head drifts back to Vermont and my friends up there every time I listen to Isakov. Even though he’s from Colorado. He and his band played at the Bowery Ballroom in New York last April, and it was the best show I’ve seen in years. Go see him if you get the chance. He doesn’t have any tour dates listed until August and September. (Hey, Delia Kloh. He’s playing at Red Rocks. I’ve never been. Let’s talk, darlin’.)
I’m thinking hard, but I can’t come up with a good reason to include this song here other than the fact that this band is phenomenal. They’re based in Brooklyn, so maybe we’re neighbors! I’ve never seen them play, but they’re top of my list. I think they’re touring out in the big square states in March and April. Here are the dates. And holy smokes! I’m glad I checked those dates for you because they happen to be playing just down the street from me next weekend. Walking distance. Tickets purchased. This post ends on an exciting note for at least one of us. Phew.
Thanks for reading.
Kenneth Logan would prefer to forget his own high school experiences, so it’s anyone’s guess why he chose to (1) teach high school English and (2) write a novel about seventeen-year-olds. He wrote his book at a colleague’s suggestion: “This is the book you should write.” He’s in a doctoral program at New York University, where he studies language and literacy development. He lives in Brooklyn but enjoys escaping on outdoor adventures, especially in Vermont.
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THE AMAZING GIVEAWAYS
#1 – A Harper Teen Summer 2016 Catalog prizepack of 45 books*
*Titles not included: The Crown by Kiera Cass, Escape from Asylum by Madeline Roux, Sing by Vivi Greene, The Countdown by Kimberly Derting, & United As One by Pittacus Lore
In addition to the one massive prize winner, we will also have 4 winners who will be able to select 3 titles they want from the Summer 2016 Catalog.
#2 – 5 Finished Copies from the Harper Teen Winter 2016 Catalog
5 books are: Front Lines by Michael Grant, Revenge & the Wild by Michelle Modesto, The Lifeboat Clique by Kathy Parks, Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin, & The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig
How to enter:
Collect the daily word from each blog stop during the Harper Summer 2016 Tour (a total of 50). Once you’ve collected them all, email the complete saying to: HarperTeenTour@gmail.com
1.) Winner must have a valid US mailing address to receive the prize
2.) Winner must be over 13
3.) Only one (1) entry per person for Prize #2 – duplicates will be deleted.
4.) Only a completed phrase will be accepted as an entry – do not email each word/phrase daily. Wait until you have the complete saying and then email in.
5.) All email submissions must be received by 11:59 PM EST 3/31/2016.
6.) Winners will be selected 4/1/2016 and will have 48 hours to claim their prize before another is selected.
7.) Participating blogs and bloggers are not responsible for unsent, damaged, and/or stolen prizes offered by the publisher.
My keyword for the giveaway is READS.
#3 – Win a pre-order of True Letters from a Fictional Life!
This giveaway will run until April 11 at midnight CST. US Only.
Last but not least, there will be a Facebook Chat with some really awesome authors, and you’ll have the chance to win even more books and goodies! The chat is on March 16 @ 8 p.m. EST. The participating authors are Julie Eshbaugh (IVORY & BONE), Lindsey Klingele (THE MARKED GIRL), Paula Stokes (GIRL AGAINST THE UNIVERSE), and Michelle Andreani & Mindi Scott (THE WAY BACK TO YOU). Check out the event on Facebook for more info.