A Playlist for “The Lonely Young & the Lonely Old”

Here are only some of the songs and pieces of music that meant the most to me when writing the stories for The Lonely Young & the Lonely Old:

While I only saw it after many of the stories were finished, the documentary Kurt Cobain: About a Son captures what I hoped to do with my lonely people: Kurt Cobain narrates a fragmented telling of his life that is less a story than a compelling voice, & less as a rock star than the sound of anybody crying out to be heard; & the last few minutes of the documentary, as well as its soundtrack, feels like the book in miniature:

The first story takes its title from Clint Mansell’s “Holy Dread!” — & indeed the first draft was written to it playing on repeat:

The high school story “Alone” mentions a 3:23 song you listen to on repeat; this is it, a favorite from high school, & again the soundtrack to writing the story:

The closing novella, “Bearing the Names of Many,” takes it title from Blind Willie McTell’s “Climbing High Mountains”; & McTell & other blues have been astounding hints at loneliness & corresponding uplift:

In the story “Games Old Men Play,” a widower becomes an unlikely fan of opera in his old age, because of his late wife’s connection to it; & he ends up seeking out a woman who also took out Wagner’s “Tristan and Isolde” from the library:

Many of the stories are about being on the road, whether in seeking out highways and rest stops for other lonely people, or up to wandering America after nuclear war; here are a few of those wandering songs, including some astounding Sephardic music:

Many of my lonely people–especially the young woman in “Don’t Think I Don’t Know”–are desperately seeking romantic love; here are some lonely & mournful love songs:

“Bearing the Names of Many”–& the book as a whole–ends with the description of an impromptu concert where all of our suffering, but also our generosity & meaning, is summed up. This is the song that I mean:

A scattering of songs, including those used in the readings for some stories: