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Story: My New Best Fried in Exile

Song: “Lady Shoes” by The Jesus Lizard

This is a story about friendships, communities, and the sometimes awful things we ignore to be a part of them. I can’t really picture Randy listening to Lady Shoes, at least not wilfully—he’s more of a classic rock sort of dude. But even though the lyrics are apparently based on a dream, they nevertheless make me think of him, probably because of the long shadows of profanity and perversion they cast across otherwise tranquil settings, like the family home or a maternity ward. “Look what I done”? Yes, look indeed.

Story: An improved Map of the World

Song: “Piano Quintet” by Alfred Schnittke

This story’s about the interplay between grief and violence, and also the perseverance of those two forces in our minds and bodies. Enter this creepy piece of music, no doubt a gramophone favourite of my high-minded narrator. It’s got a build-and-release motif that first establishes itself around the 3:30 mark, when a single, almost tinny piano note begins to lift the composition out of its melancholic mud. But this is no seraphic elevation. It’s more like fury rising out of depression. We get variations on this throughout the tune, and while this particular story doesn’t actually end on the gloomiest of notes, the song totally does.

Story: Even Still (Read it at The Puritan)

Song: “RV” by Faith No More

I listen to this song and can’t help but picture Roger (except, of course, his kid is dead, so the outro no longer applies). I picture him scratching his ass and detesting immigrants and failing utterly to understand how he became such an isolated old man. RV’s a great song, a total classic, with an unforgettable juxtaposition between cynical lyrics and hopeful instrumentation.

Story: Rag

Song: “Trapped Under Ice” by Metallica

This story’s about class paralysis and some of the nasty trappings that come with it: dirty drugs, rampant bigotry, steady betrayals, and the angry futility of aspiring for more. Trapped Under Ice seems like a great fit for Nick’s mean-spirited inertia. To me, Hamilton, Ontario, is all gnarly thrash-metal aesthetics, and it’s easy to imagine Nick singing along, particularly with the first verse and the chorus, while he drives the work-van up the mountain for another day of window-washing and gutter-cleaning.

Story: These Rats Have a Job to Do

Song: “You’re Crazy” by Guns N Roses

Creepy Joey digs the Roses. He’s even got a t-shirt. But this tune actually makes me think more about Beverly. Poor Bev, who just wants to grow up, and who thinks growing up means being in love. I imagine the chorus of this song humming away in her subconscious, too faint for her to hear at such a young age, but there just the same.

Story: Burger Life Fitness

Song: “Back to the Motor League” by Propagandhi

This, without question, is Trevor’s anthem. Trevor who revolts against the workplace while Wally comes to terms with the most deflating of ambitions. I was going to assign him a Gang of Four tune, but I figured post-punk isn’t really Trevor’s bag—too subtle. Not so this Propagandhi song. It’s a tier-ten punk-rock cannon-blast, complete with sorta-cheesy-but-kinda-cool fuck-the-system lyrics, which hit their peak during the chorus: “Fuck off. Who cares?” Good luck out there, Trev (which, like, he’ll need because serial killers murder him in an unpublished story).


Story: Dream of a Better Self (Read it here)

Song: “Marquee Moon” by Television

A weird song for a weird story. I’m not really sure what it’s about, but I love the way it’s built, from that trilling guitar riff to the oddly uplifting chorus, not to mention the jangly instrumental section with its stutter-step climax and the first-verse wraparound that brings the song to its close (relying again on that guitar riff to pull it off).  It’s also that first verse that offers a more direct—albeit still abstract—connection to this story: the lyrics about darkness doubling and lightning striking itself. The last image in particular is every bit the stuff of doppelgangers.


Story: Hippos

Song: “Night of Your Ascension” by Wrekmeister Harmonies

This is a huge tune. Just mega. It’s about a 16th century Italian prince and composer named Don Carlo Gesualdo, who, aside from making massively influential music, also killed his wife and her lover. At 32 minutes long, it starts with a reimagining of Gesualdo’s music, which was of the choral variety. It’s all very pretty and soothing, which is maybe how Gesualdo felt when immersed in his creativity. But then a frightening infection of black metal overtakes the song, which must be Gesualdo’s cue to get right murderous. On the surface, Hippos has nothing to do with this tune. But if I force it—and I intend to—then I can see a shared narrative pattern, because Hippos is partly the story of a man who abandons his vocation to seriously harm a woman. But mainly the point is you should listen to Wrekmeister’s music because he’s a genius.

Story: Behind Both Sides of a Door

Song: “Thank God We’re Not A Nigerians” by FOKN Bois

Cass would be playing this tune in his car while driving Wallace aimlessly around Accra. Ghana’s got a relationship with Nigeria not unlike Canada does with the U.S., and this tongue-and-cheek roast of their regional neighbours was pretty popular while I was there (they also rip on Liberians, but all in good fun).

Story: Shadowboxing

Song: “Death Comes Ripping” by The Misfits

Fuckin’ right it does. This story’s about a West-versus-East notion of mortality. Sometimes, I think a lot of people in the developed world are pretty blind to death. Other times, I think it's more a coming-of-age thing. Westerners do get it; they just take longer. In developing countries, the frailty of life is writ large. The surroundings are literally smashed, gaping holes all over the place. Life expectancies are lower. People seem a touch more reckless, which is maybe because they're a touch less fearful. They know what's coming. They’ve made peace with it. Religion is such a mad obsession in these places too, likely because of the afterlife it promises. So this story’s about a guy who gets a cancer diagnosis while volunteering abroad, cannot believe he's due for death, and when he encounters a sickly person, he revolts. He refuses to form allegiance. He instead goes to cheat in a fight with someone he's known for a long time, someone who once bullied him, because he wants to reclaim a lost portion of his life. So why this tune? Because death comes ripping, man. Doesn’t matter where you are.

Story: Way Down the Mercy Hole

Song: “Black Tears” by Witch

Zamrock, man. The 70s were good to Zambian music. People were riffing on all that LSD-drenched psychedelia coming out of the West, and Witch were one of the genre’s most popular groups (their name stands for We Intend to Cause Havoc). And yet, like all their peers, they lost their place in the public imagination when economic woes and heavy-handed government marked the close of the decade. Apparently, it was the curfews that killed the music. Still, the stuff’s been enjoying a bit of resurgence, and I figure someone would’ve played this tune during the party Elijah throws at the end of this story.

Story: The Black Dogs are Death

Song: “The Trial” by Pink Floyd

Love this song. Love the characters. Love the way the music snaps to their personalities. And I love the way it caps off a classic album, in particular the judge’s verdict and the subsequent collapse of the wall. The guy in Black Dogs is no Pink, but the two of them have a similar plight (locked in states of emotional turmoil not entirely of their own making, but certainly maintained by their attitudes) and they also enjoy similar liberations (the willingness to return to a vulnerable state). Tear it down, baby.

Buy the book:

House of Anansi | Indigo | Amazon

Read from the collection:



Paul Carlucci Soundtracks his new Story collection, “A plea for constant motion.”
“Turn the lights 
down low and close 
the door”

“Paul Carlucci’s A Plea for Constant Motion is a visceral, vibrant, take-no-prisoners collection. Its characters keep talking in your head even after you put the stories down, coming back when you least expect it. Bright like nightmares, yet gauzy like half-remembered dreams — a unique touch.”

—Russell Wangersky, author of The Path of Most Resistance