Category Archives: hypothetical


Books and lyrics

Driving in to work today, I was listening to Spotify and thinking about books.  I’m currently obsessed with the song “Ugly Heart” by G.R.L. and I was thinking it could be the basis for an angstsy teen novel.  One thing leads to another in my often labyrinthine thought process and I soon found myself trying to list in my head songs I love that are based on books, poems, or other literary works.

Some obvious ones came to mind—“Calypso” by Suzanne Vega, “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen, “Romeo and Juliet” by Dire Straits, “Wuthering Heights” by Kate Bush, “Moon over Bourbon Street” by Sting.  All of these have been longtime favorites because of the dimension they add to the fictional works they, well, ripped off.  (Isn’t all creation  stealing, really?  Or at least borrowing heavily?)


As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I love the marriage of music and literature and I often find myself making musical pairings in my mind: Paolo Nutini riffing on The Fault in Our Stars?  Fun. taking a crack at Atonement?  Adele reinterpreting Bel Canto?  Jay-Z channeling Tennyson?  You get my drift.

What is your favorite song based on a book?   And what book would you like to see become a hit song?

If You Had to Choose

Very recently, I had to play that desert island game—you know the one where you’re stranded on a desert island and have to choose what to bring? It’s all pretend, of course. Just a quick little skip through Imagination Town, a vacation in make believe. Except I was forced to make my desert island choices for real. I’ll explain.

No, I wasn’t stranded on a desert island. Quite the opposite actually: I moved to Manhattan. Granted, moving into a tiny apartment in Manhattan isn’t on the same level, hardship-wise, but coming from a spacious place in the suburbs certainly made things difficult, especially when it came to choosing what books to bring.

Smaller room = less shelf space = the fewer books I can bring. It’s that simple; yet, you find yourself considering some difficult choices. Do you bring that book you’ve read dozens of times with the hundreds of dog-eared pages and even greater number of coffee stains? Or do you bring leave those behind, as painful as that is, to make room for those new books you recently acquired (say at BEA, maybe) and haven’t had the chance to read yet?

In the end, I cheated. One conference call with my soon-to-be roommates, and we worked out a way to put together a respectable library. John brings the Hemingway, while Ryan is in charge of all non-fiction. We managed to make room for everything, from the favorites like Infinite Jest right down to your political thrillers, such as a couple of Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp books. Oh yeah, and we have Kindles too…

What would you bring?


Literary playlists

Books and music always seem to go together—they’re sold in the same stores, have similar cult followings (and the traditionalists have similar aversions to new technologies), and require a certain amount of alone time to enjoy properly, while still benefiting greatly from being shared with others. Why, then, are they not more frequently paired up in the same entity?

The other day, I came across this post from Picador USA. Picador has made up Spotify playlists for some favorite books, putting together soundtracks that seem appropriate for each. This particular one is for Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot, which I haven’t read, but desperately want to (Brenna, you did say you’d let me borrow yours…). I can’t confirm, then, if these are the perfect tunes for this book or not, but the idea is still one that I adore.

Immediately, I started thinking of all of the books I’ve read, which was a bit of a problem, because that’s a lot of thinking to do. Unable to pick the perfect book to come up with a soundtrack for, I considered the venture hopeless. I realized, though, that the book doesn’t have to be perfect, nor does it have to be venerable or complex. So, I settled on the first book I ever remember loving, which I’m told is the first book I read all on my own. I give you, Cookie Monster and the Cookie Tree, by David Korr and published by Golden Books in 1977.

In case you are unfamiliar with the plot of this seminal work of literature, let me break it down for you. It’s about a very selfish, not very bright witch, who is also the proud owner of a cookie tree—yes, a tree that bears cookies. Of course, Cookie Monster himself is also pretty selfish—when it comes to cookies, that is. When the little witch sees him trundling down the path towards her, she knows that if she doesn’t do something fast, he’ll eat all of her precious cookies. So, she casts a spell on the tree so that it will refuse to give a cookie to anyone who will not share it with someone else. Cookie Monster pleads and pleads with all of his friends on Sesame Street, but no one believes that he would ever actually share a cookie. Back at the tree, the witch is having similar problems—it seems her spell has backfired and the tree won’t give her any cookies either! Disastrous! Cookie and Witch agree to share the cookies with each other, which is the sensible solution—though nothing can stop Cookie Monster’s voracious frenzy when it comes to cookie eating!

Looking back over the pages of these book, it wasn’t hard at all to come up with some choice songs to accompany (some are based solely on title, others are the sentiment of the song, but they are all songs that I love):

Another Sunny Day – Belle & Sebastian

I Put A Spell On You – Nina Simone

All the Wine – The National

Fist City – Loretta Lynn

Go Your Own Way – Fleetwood Mac

Monster Ballads – Josh Ritter

Troubbble – Stephen Malkmus

No One Will Ever Love You – The Magnetic Fields

Rebellion (Lies) – Arcade Fire

1, 2, 3, 4 – Feist

I’m Gonna Make It Better – She & Him

Tables & Chairs – Andrew Bird

Folding Chair – Regina Spektor

Still Rock & Roll to Me – Billy Joel

I promise, it works! What are some of your favorite or first books? Could you come up with a playlist or a band to do the soundtrack for any of them?


Magical things are afoot.

In case you weren’t aware (and I wasn’t until just yesterday), we’re going to have a blue moon tonight. There are actually a couple of definitions about what a blue moon really is, but the most commonly accepted refers to the rare occurrence when there are two full moons in on month. So rare that the next one won’t happen until 2018!

Full moons are, of course, already overloaded with folklore and superstition—crime rates going up, babies being born, accidents and, obviously, werewolves. But what about a blue moon? Being a vaguely superstitious kind of person, I had to do some poking around and supposedly any plans you make under a blue moon are fated to come true. Sowing the seeds of long-term goals during a blue moon are meant to be particularly fruitful, though erratic.

Regardless, there’s a reason people use the phrase “once in a blue moon,” and I think that tonight is the perfect time to set some goals for yourself, creativity and writing-wise. Even if it is all just superstition, sitting down and actually coming up with a comprehensive, achievable scenario for your book’s progress towards completion, can only help,  right? Real or imagined, use the rarity of tonight’s occurrence to make some concrete plans and maybe, just maybe, you’ll be rewarded tenfold.


Zombie authors

For the second week in a row, I’m late with my blog post. I’d blame an overabundance of candy corn, but anyone who knows me well would point out that surely I was waiting for the day after Halloween 50%-off candy sale to really go sugar crazy. Too true.

In any case, in honor of Halloween, I have a question for the audience: if you had to reanimate one dead author so they could write just one more book, who would it be?

I’m having trouble with the question myself. It’s easy to say someone like Kurt Vonnegut, but his output was getting a little weak at the end there, so maybe zombie Vonnegut wouldn’t have a ton left to say.

So what about a Bronte sister? Anne and Emily were 30 when they died, so it seems possible there’s some great work that could have come there, but how sad would it be if it turned out Wuthering Heights was a fluke and Emily was a one-hit wonder. Seems like a wasted reanimation.

For now, I’ll pick George Orwell. It’s been 60+ years since he passed away, but who wouldn’t want to know what the writer of 1984 thought of where we ended up. Sure, his next book might be a smug, “I told you so,” but even then…I’d take it.

Any other suggestions?