New York’s latest literary initiate and Vol. 1 alumnus John Wray, whose third novel Lowboy was published to critical acclaim last month, has provided the New York Times’ Paper Cuts with a playlist of seven songs that helped him write the book. Apparently, his last two novels were written in silence, inside and at a desk — an “office” in all senses of the word. But Wray has always coveted “workspaces,” if only for the romantic idea that loud, unrestrained music aids the creative process. In this scenario, Wray’s workspace, either the F or 6 train line, functions as his Artist’s Studio: the writer’s form of “the bright, high-ceilinged workspace…the Pollack-like mess, the paint- or resin-spattered outfits.” This romantic vision, at one time jealously coveted by Wray, is a likeness in which he never imagined himself a participant. And “offices,” unlike “artist workspaces” are not conducive to loud, unrestrained music. For writers, we usually make those “immortal contributions to our cultural heritage” in tranquil quietude.
Wray has, it seems, found his solution.
Wray’s playlist includes songs mostly dark and ominous, either minimalist or heavy, and usually repetitive so as not to interfere too much with creativity. Included are Sunn O)))’s “Black Wedding,” Left Hand Path’s “Entombed,” as well as a Yo-Yo Ma cello suite. And in true artistic fashion, not all of Wray’s choices are functional — Eric Dolphy’s “Fire Waltz” actually makes his job more difficult. Somehow, though, the song is necessary, if only for its unrestrained, artistic beauty. And with that, we’ve come full circle.