DECEMBER MIX by Curbside Splendor
If you enjoy reading Electric Literature, join our mailing list! We’ll send you the best of EL each week, and you’ll be the first to know about upcoming submissions periods and virtual events.
CURBSIDE’S SPLENDOROUS DECEMBER SONGS
One of the things I love most about being Editor-in-Chief of Curbside Splendor is working with all of the amazing and unique authors. The range of personalities and aesthetics is crazy and delicious. So when I was asked to put together a Holiday Mix featuring my authors I kept envisioning what it would be like if I had them all over to my mom’s house for a big holiday meal. All these weird questions began bubbling up in my mind like: Who would show up drunk? Which one would bring a tiny bowl of salad? What author would say something really earnest and make my mom cry? Would any of them flake out altogether? Who would blend into the wallpaper and who would hog all the attention? And would any of them play metal? So I opted to make answering these and many other pressing questions the challenge of my mix.
The following tracks are songs that I feel would define the vibe each of my authors would roll with as they sat around the monstrous dining room table at my old homeplace in West Virginia, eating ham and roast beef and mashed potatoes and candied yams and stuffing and a world of casseroles.
1. Franki Elliot, Piano Rats & Kiss As Many Women As You Can — “Good Feeling” by Violent Femmes because Franki would be really sad about being there in that moment and knowing it would be ending soon and not wanting it to end soon but also wanting it to end soon because it’s sad in that moment.
2. Michael Czyzniejewski, Chicago Stories & I Will Love You For The Rest of My Life: Break-Up Stories — “Shady Lane” by Pavement, because Czyz would be both charming and ironic and would undoubtedly note how my parents live in a somewhat idyllic old Victorian house and everybody wants one of those.
3. Amber Sparks, May We Shed These Human Bodies & The Desert Places (co-authored with Robert Kloss) — “White Chalk” by PJ Harvey because Amber would know the history of the labor movements in Southern WV and all the bloodshed during the mine wars and would radiate some sort of awareness of how horrible things are for coal miners (plus Robert Kloss would be really into the story of Syd Hatfield and think this song speaks to that somehow).
4. James Greer, Everything Flows — “Everything Flows” by Teenage Fanclub because, well, it just makes sense and is also unexpected due to its obviousness and that’s exactly the sort of thing James would say once he’s drained his third pint of beer and is beginning to feel more comfortable — that the obvious is so often the most unexpected thing and this is what makes it deceptive and gorgeous.
5. Joseph Bates, Tomorrowland — “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby because Jody’s a sentimental type even if he does look like a hero from a spaghetti western and would be earnestly moved by the whole event, especially my mother’s Christmas tapes which she has played every year since the late ’80s and which have a tape hiss he’d aptly note makes them all that much more gorgeous and decayed.
6. Chris L. Terry, Zero Fade — Craig Mack “Flava In Ya Ear” because Chris is one of the warmest dudes I know and he’d use old school Hip Hop to lure my junky brother out of his benzo-laced stupor and get him goofing and telling stories about the days when all the girls in the trailer park called him the cheeseburger pimp.
7. Samantha Irby, Meaty — Trans-Siberian Orchestra “Carol of the Bells” because Sam would totally light up the room and immediately be the apple of my mother’s eye, the two of them chatting idly about recipes for squash and the unique pains of neuropathy, and, being on the level with her, Sam would sense that my mother really wanted to have little bit of of amaretto in her coffee and she’d enable that and my mother would tell the story of how nice Samantha Irby is for the next decade.
8. Ben Tanzer, Lost in Space — “Rocket Man” by William Shatner because Ben wouldn’t believe my dad’s never heard this amazing cover and would play the Youtube clip for him and my dad would love it and tell a corny Star Trek joke and it would be like old home week.
9. Tom Williams, Don’t Start Me Talkin’ — “Nine Below Zero” by Sonny Boy Williamson II because Tom would bask in the warmth of the crowd gathered around the table eating and laughing and know that it could only be truly appreciated in direct contrast to the cold, constant rejection from the world outside.
10. Bill Hillmann, The Old Neighborhood — “My Bucket’s Got a Hole In It” by Hank Williams because Bill would instantly bond with my Pawpaw as they are both self-made men and complete extroverts and they’d start swapping raunchy jokes and telling tall tales about jobs they’ve worked and women they’ve known and Pawpaw would take him into the family room and whip out his acoustic guitar and make Bill listen to him while he sings his favorite Hank song.
11. Tim Kinsella, Let Go and Go On and On — “Little League” by Cap’n Jazz because Tim would feel awkward in the packed room and slip outside to smoke and he’d notice the little league baseball field in the park across from my parents’ house and this song would flash across his brain-pan as he ponders the best way to leave without anyone noticing.
12. Megan Stielstra, Once I Was Cool — “Three Days” by Jane’s Addiction because Megan would get me talking about my past and we’d somehow stumble onto the topic of bands we love and Jane’s Addiction would come up and I’d tell her the story of how I was driving drunk when I was twenty and totaled my Toyota truck while this song was blasting and I was lucky to have lived and she’d listen and then reply with a story of her own marking time, making me feel heard and understood.
13. Lauren Becker, If I Would Leave Myself Behind — “Last Christmas” by Wham! because Lauren is still thinking back to that year with him before he started making the scones she likes, before she knew he still loved her, before she could hurt him — and these thoughts occupy her as she idly pokes at her plate, the conversation swirling around her.
14. Marvin Tate, The Amazing Mister Orange — “White Christmas” by The Drifters because my mother would learn that Marvin is a singer in a soul band and would tell him all about dancing to her James Brown records when she was in high school when her mother wasn’t home and Marvin would smile and make her feel loved and bust out a few verses of this song all a capella and in the style of The Drifters and my mother would blush and get flustered and ask if we are ready for dessert.
15. Ryan Kenealy, Animals In Peril — “Mele Kalikimaka” by Bing Crosby because Ryan has an old soul and would realize immediately that my grandmother secretly loves jazzy songs that my Pawpaw never plays and he’d put this song on and get her to dance around the room for a little bit while we all laugh and cheer and my grandmother forgets she’s 93 for a few beautiful moments.
16. Dmitry Samarov, Where To? — “Candy” by Morphine because this song would get stuck in his head when Dmitry is sketching still lifes of all of the candy my mother makes for the holidays and he’d eat a few too many chocolate-covered peanut butter balls and laugh a dry laugh at his own gluttony.
17. Susan Hope Lanier, The Game We Play — “Crazy” by Patsy Cline because my Pawpaw would ask her if she knows any Patsy Cline songs and she’d admit that she does in fact know one and it’s this one and he’d make her promise to sing it with him after supper and she’d spend the rest of the meal nervously wondering if he is serious.
18. Erika Wurth, Crazy Horse’s Girlfriend — “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” by Frank Sinatra because like all of the fire-breathing, shit-talking, hard-as-nails people I know, Erika is the most sentimental softy out there and this song would come on one of my mother’s Christmas tapes and she’d have to stop herself from crying by busting into the conversation between my Pawpaw and Bill Hillmann to tell the dirtiest joke she knows, one so hardcore it leaves even the two of them afraid to laugh.
19. James Tadd Adcox, Does Not Love — “No Children” by The Mountain Goats because Tadd would find his thoughts drifting perversely to a holiday meal in a world much different than this one and he’d smile and when my wife Diddle asks him what’s so funny he’d say, ‘Oh nothing, just thinking about love.’
20. Brian Costello, Losing in Gainesville — “Santa Baby” by Eartha Kitt because Brian can’t help himself from rising to the occasion after imbibing a little too much of my mother’s amaretto and delivering a slithery rendition of this infamous number, a decision he’d immediately regret.
21. W. Todd Kaneko, Dead Wrestler Elegies — “Silent Night”by Pro Wrestling Noah because, much to Todd’s dismay, there is nothing on YouTube when you search for professional wrestlers singing Christmas carols except for this mess and this really bums him out because he has been hoping to mention a cover of a holiday classic sung by a notorious wrestler as a conversation starter during dessert.
— Jacob S. Knabb is Editor-in-Chief of Curbside Splendor and teaches in the English Department at Lake Forest College, where he resides with his gorgeous wife, his fat and sassy baby, and his two chihuahuas.