Last spring when Algonquin asked author Ed Tarkington for suggestions about trinkets to give booksellers and the media with their advance copies of his debut novel, Only Love Can Break Your Heart, the Nashvillian suggested a 45-rpm. Not only does he have a big collection of vinyl, but his coming-of-age novel is shot-through with ‘70s rock-n-roll.
Coming up with the idea may have been easy, but finding music, at least initially, not so much. “I was thinking of [the 45] as more of a paperweight,” said Tarkington, who is a distant relation of playwright and novelist Booth Tarkington. He worried that getting rights to the title song--written by Neil Young and released in 1970--would be expensive. So he was game, when his wife suggested he reach out to her friend's husband, Nashville musician Will Hoge.
Although the two men had often talked about the similarities between writing fiction and writing songs, or what Tarkington calls “the sublime ridiculousness of making stuff up and hoping people will pay for it,” he still felt uneasy. Hoge just released his tenth album, Small Town Dreams, and was nominated for a Grammy for his song “Even If It Breaks Your Heart.” In the end Tarkington was blunt. He asked: “I would like to exploit your fame and talent for my benefit.” Hoge agreed.
“[Hoge] was excited to get his music in front of an audience that hasn’t heard him before,” Tarkington explained. That their writing comes out of a similar impulse helped, as well. “We’re both trying to write things that are true and heartfelt and trying to reach people where they are.”
Hoge wrote two new songs for the 45, “Through Missing You,” which he has already performed before audiences, and “Some Things You Can Just Throw Away.” Both will be released digitally today on the book’s January 5 publication date. Hoge also plans to appear with Tarkington at Parnassus Books in Nashville, the novelist’s first stop on a 15-city tour.
“We’re thrilled to be able to launch Only Love Can Break Your Heart here at Parnassus,” said co-owner Karen Hayes. “Ed is a fixture on our local literary scene. The fact that he’s friends with another beloved local artist is a bonus. In so many ways this is such a ‘Nashville’ event, and we’re really looking forward to it.”
Non-Nashvillians have also been enthusiastic about Tarkington’s debut, which was one of ten adult American Booksellers Association Indies Introduce selections for Winter/Spring 2016. “This is, without a doubt, my favorite debut this spring,” wrote Shirley Wells at Watermark Books & Café in Wichita, Kans., who called the book a "tale of heartbreak, betrayal, and timeless love.”
Algonquin, which made 500 promotional records to send along with the book, is already receiving some fan mail from booksellers who, if nothing else, appreciate the effort. As one bookseller wrote: “Vinyl—yass! Just want to say that Algonquin has the hippest, coolest, and most relevant promotions that I’ve seen in my 20 years of experience in the bookselling biz.”