“A magical and penetrating collection of strange, mundane, traumatized and ecstatic people who are all named Paul. Its simple sentences are little atoms of wonder.”

    —Heather O’Neill, author of The Girl Who Was Saturday Night and Daydreams of Angels

Moments of moodiness, which I channel into my music listening, are also often my starting points for stories – I begin with feeling, most commonly alienation or frustration or loneliness. The composition of a story is something inherently musical to me – the way a song builds up to a chorus and then eases back into verses until concluding with something that pulls all the disparate parts together. Many of these songs appeared on a series of playlists I made for myself called Feelingzzz. The feeling (or the many Feelingzzz) you get from listening to these songs back-to-back will definitely be uniquely Pauls.

Click the song titles to hear the tracks.

Story: Paul

Song: “Jim Cain” by Bill Callahan

“And he rubs his eyes again. And drinks more whiskey and listens to a song that he stumbled across on the Internet with sad, quiet guitars and a violin that whines in the background.” – “Paul”

The song in “Paul” is really an amalgam of a bunch of songs I listen to on the YouTube channel Southern Souls combined with music I’ve dreamt up in my head (which will never be given life due to my failure to be a musician). The song is described three times: Once by fifteen-year-old Paul to his admirer, once by the girl as any song with quiet guitars and violins, and once by PhD Paul. I think Bill Callahan’s “Jim Cain” is a song that’s representative of what the Pauls might have stumbled across on the Internet.

Story: Claire’s Fine

Song: “Trees, Leaves, Forest” by Dan Mangan

To me, this song is about grief, about existence, about grappling with life and death and your place in the world. I think that’s also what “Claire’s Fine” is about. “I know there is hope, but I can’t look for it”: I think this line speaks to most of the stories in the book, which discuss the role of hope/lack of hope/desire for hope.

Story: We Want Impossible Things (Read it at Joyland)

Song: “Me and You Shoes” by Michael Andrews

I originally came across this song as part of the score for Me and You and Everyone We Know, a film by Miranda July. I am obsessed with this soundtrack. The slightly off-kilter piano of this track along with the violin that moans and whines in the background perfectly capture the emotional story of “We Want Impossible Things.”

Story: Breakfast Curry

Song: “Can’t We Just Listen to the Silence” by Explosions in the Sky & David Wingo

“Breakfast Curry” is a quiet story to me, even though some miraculous things happen along the way. This is another instrumental track, and the rise and fall of the music produces a sadness that also feels like an opening up, which is what “Breakfast Curry” is all about.

Story: Multicoloured Lights

Song: “Stop Thinking” by Pea Sized

The lyrics of “Stop Thinking” and the hypnotic music remind me of Paulina being trapped in the staircase, both in the moment and then in her mind afterwards. “I know you’re trapped/’cause I’ve been there before” – Pea Sized.

Story: Wishweeds 

Song: “The Power” by Army Girls

In “The Power,” the lyrics almost create a dialogue between two voices, one who wants to be accepted by the person who holds power and one who rails against this power. Jill, the fifteen-year-old protagonist of “Wishweeds,” also has this split in her, which is revealed mostly through her imagination and play.

Story: And We Spin Like Records (And We Climb Like Trees)

Song: “KC Accidental” by Broken Social Scene

Sometimes stories begin as an exercise. “Wishweeds” was like that in that I wrote it in response to a postcard image for a flash fiction contest run by Geist. It didn’t really become anything, so I went on to expand it by about a thousand words, which is the version in Pauls. “And We Spin Like Records” started in a similar way, as I began writing the story as a response to the song “KC Accidental” for a contest Broken Social Scene was running. After the contest was over, I decided I really liked the story as a stand-alone piece and edited it into what it is now. I think “KC Accidental” still captures a lot of the story, the feeling of climbing up and up and then jumping down, the energy that’s in Katrina, and jarring incident at the end of the story.

Story: Below the Spoon-Tree

Song: “Positive Bondar” by Northern Primitive

Northern Primitive is a band based out of Welland. They are noisy and heartfelt. This song captures the atmosphere and shifts in “Below the Spoon-Tree,” ending in chaos.

Story: The Letters

Song: “Fools are a Long Time Coming” by Fred Neil

I picked this song because it seemed like something the protagonist might pick. The title says it all.

Story: Degenerate 

Song: “I Want Wind to Blow” by Microphones

Almost every song from The Glow Pt. 2 could fit “Degenerate” in some shape or form. I went through a period of time where all I would listen to was Microphones… I’d be in my basement apartment, dancing around like Kayla from “Degenerate”, thinking about the people in my life and wondering what would become of all of us as the guitars crunched slightly out of sync. Aside from the instrumentation, the lyrics speak of a storm, and in “Degenerate” an ice storm sets into Toronto, bringing along a wind with it that’s determined to mess up the lives of our characters. The marching and repetitive beat and lick at the end of the song remind me of the three girls walking at the end of the story.


Purchase PAULS from:

Book Thug | Indigo | Amazon | IndieBound

Read a story by Jess Taylor here at Little Fiction:



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with sad, 
quiet guitars 
& a violin 
that whines 
in the background
a story-by-story playlist 
for jess taylor’s debut collection