Once again, I am inspired by Rory at Fourth Street Review. She mixes it up this time by taking one album and picking a whole bunch of books that fit the theme. I’m doing my usual thing: one book, one song.
The Book: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
The Song: We Are Shadows by Leaves
Now comes the darkening sky and a cold wind that passes right through you, as though you are not there, it passes through you as though it does not care whether you are alive or dead, for you will be gone and the wind will still be there.
This book snuck up on me. I was skeptical from the get go; there was too much hype. I still think it’s overrated, but by the end, the overwrought quality of the writing fell away and it became as spare and beautiful as I heard it was.
I resisted the urge to pair Burial Rites with Bjork. I’ve already used a Bjork song for one of these posts, for one thing, and it’s just too obvious. So I sought out the music of the one other Icelandic band I know – Leaves. Like most North Americans, I discovered Leaves when their song Breathe was featured on The O.C. Leaves have put out a few albums since then, and We Are Shadows from their 2009 album of the same name is absolutely perfect. Agnes has been a shadow her entire life.
Hold my hand
as we let go
and northern lights
will fill the skies
Until the morning glows
Weʼre shadows, me and you.
The Book: Infidelity by Stacey May Fowles
The Song: Habits by Tove Lo
This song isn’t a great fit for the plot. The book is about a woman in a stable but boring relationship who knows she isn’t cut out for the straight and narrow, so she has an affair with a married writer who is all kinds of wrong for her. The song is about a heartbroken woman who’s trying to fuck the pain away. The common thread is recklessness. And sordidness: there’s a great passage in Infidelity about how you begin an affair in fancy hotel rooms and work your way down, till you’re alone in a seedy motel. And Tove Lo is super sordid:
Pick up daddies at the playground
How I spend my day time
Loosen up the frown,
Make them feel alive
Oh, make it fast and greasy
I’m numb and way too easy
I admit, this is another one of those songs I love to sing in the car. Usually alone, sometimes accompanied by my two year old who loves to sing the “ooh ooh ooh ooh” part.
In writing this, I remembered that I don’t own Infidelity. I will probably change that. My last “affair” was much lower stakes than this, seeing as there were no marriages or kids involved, but Fowles gets that sickly sweet feeling just right.
I was inspired to do a third soundtrack (check out Part I and Part II) by Rory at Fourth Street Review. Her literary mixtapes immerse the reader in one book through a whole album’s worth of great music. Check out her latest Literary Mixtape for Bonfire of the Vanities, which is such a great book and one that I will never ruin by watching the movie.
My approach is different. I like to pair one song with one book. As it happens, these are all books I’ve read but have yet to review. Hopefully this will hold you over till I get it together.
The Book: The Monk by Matthew Lewis
The Song: Take Me To Church by Hozier
She sealed his lips with a wanton kiss; ‘Though I forgive your breaking your vows to heaven, I expect you to keep your vows to me.
This is a perfect pairing because both author and singer are super young guys who need to calm down a bit. Matthew Lewis was nineteen when he wrote The Monk in 1796. It is one of the craziest, Gothic-iest books I’ve every read, and I read a lot of crazy Gothic books. Hozier is a 24 year old Irish singer in heavy rotation on CBC Radio 2 and his song Take Me To Church is super overwrought, in a good way:
If the Heavens ever did speak
She is the last true mouthpiece
Every Sunday’s getting more bleak
A fresh poison each week
‘We were born sick,’ you heard them say it
My church offers no absolutes
She tells me ‘worship in the bedroom’
The only heaven I’ll be sent to
Is when I’m alone with you
I was born sick, but I love it
Command me to be well
Amen. Amen. Amen
They both strike me as that one guy you dated in high school who was super intense and complicated and listened to a lot of NIN (or whatever decade-appropriate band you want to insert there.) And both apparently have some issues with religion.
I am always late to the party. I didn’t figure out that Twitter was good for more than traffic updates till 2011. I still haven’t watched the last season of Breaking Bad. And I almost never read “it” books when they are first published.
Time was on my side with MaddAddam, the finale in the series of the same name. Reading in Winter hosted a read-along in August, which gave me just enough time to squeeze in The Year of the Flood before MaddAddam hit the streets. I was on the Kobo bookstore before I got out of bed on August 27th, and was finished five days later.
FINALLY, I could talk about the book-flavour-of-the-week! Except, I didn’t. The amount of press for this novel was huge, and I found myself overwhelmed with reviews and interviews and career retrospectives – I was speechless. What could I possibly say that wasn’t already being said and written and tweeted?
I couldn’t take the pressure of reviewing such a high profile book. Maybe I’ll get around to a proper review of MaddAddam later. Till then, here’s a reading soundtrack. Continue reading
A Reading Soundtrack was one of my favourite posts to write ever, and I got some good feedback from my readers. I even introduced an American reader to a relatively obscure Canadian band, Wake Owl. I feel like the CRTC owes me some money for pushing the CanCon!
The Book: The Paradise Engine by Rebecca Campbell (my review)
The Song: Of Space and Time by City and Colour Continue reading
Not that I actually listen to music while reading (who does that?) but I love finding and imagining connections between songs and books. Here are some soundtrack suggestions for my recent reads.
The Book: The Magic of Saida by M.G. Vassanji
The Song: Fatima by K’Naan
Anyone who listens to CBC Radio 2 probably got their fill of K’Naan during the last World Cup, but he’s got other incredible songs. I was singing this in the car (pity my children) when it hit me, just how closely the narratives of these two works match up. We have – childhood love, Arabic and Swahili languages, children displaced by the whims of adults, adults displaced by the whims of government, and a man who goes to North America, leaving the girl behind in Africa, probably in harm’s way. The book and the song are both romantic and tragic.
I fell in love with my neighbors daughter
I wanted to protect and support her
Never mind I’m just 12 and a quarter
I had dreams beyond our border.
The Book: The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje
The Song: Wild Country by Wake Owl
I’m in love with this song. I’m in love with this book. Both are just dreamy, in the “I wanna stare at you all day” sense, and in terms of the style and imagery. To me, both are about memory and fate, and how lives and hearts becomes intertwined.
What will become of the truth when we keep it in
things we don’t remember when they ask us when
we did the things that we learned we shouldn’t do again
what wasn’t learned from mistakes, we will make them
The Book: Frances and Bernard by Carlene Bauer
The Songs: Madness by Muse
This book devastated me. The kind of whirlwind romance that would take place over weeks or months today plays out over years, in letters between two writers. Love is shown to be beautiful, infuriating, and ultimately destructive. This is romance for grown ups. As for the song, my three year old says “It’s the song you like, mama” when this plays on the radio. Again, pity the children’s poor ears, because I belt this one out like nobody’s business.
Come to me
Just in a dream.
Come on and rescue me.
Yes I know, I can be wrong,
Maybe I’m too headstrong.
Our love is madness.
The Book: Moby Dick by Herman Melville
The Song: People Got A Lotta Nerve by Neko Case
The awesome power of nature and man’s unwillingness to acknowledge it as such. I just started Moby Dick, but I think this might play into it…
They call them “killer” whales
But you seem surprised
When it pinned you down to the bottom of the tank
Where you can’t turn around
It took half your leg, and both your lungs
And I craved I ate hearts of sharks
I know you know, that I’m a man, man, man
Man, man, man eater
But still you’re surprised-prised-prised when I eat ya