Okay, so I’m sure a good few of you would never think to pair up music with reading. If it’s a good book, then all of your attention is devoted to it, and vice versa. However, the pairing of music and literature offers a universe of possibilities, and I say, give it a chance.
The trick is choosing the right music for the right book (and being the right mood). For instance: A romance novel, paired with some Lana Del Rey and a forlorn mood…and BAM! When the ingredients are just right, the results are brilliant.
Here are five books paired with music to get you started with:
1. “House of Leaves” by Mark Z.Danielewski paired with “Ramalama (Bang Bang)” by Roisin Murphy
If you want to break your mind into tiny, little, mostly mad pieces, I recommend pairing “House of Leaves” with “Ramalama.” This novel is a dizzying tale of disorientation, adventure and the unfamiliar. It dives into the public psyche of our wants and our fears, but what it is most famous for the carnival-funhouse way it’s written.
This song completes the experience. Just as up and down and sideways as the story, some find the tune difficult to digest. I, however, think it is genius…like a funhouse.
2. “Cat’s Cradle” by Kurt Vonnegut paired with “Mad World” by Michael Andrews Ft. Gary Jules
Look, you’re going to cry when you read this novel. You’ll need sad songs to make it feel like a tragic scene in a movie.
“Cat’s Cradle” makes us rethink what we’ve always assumed to be right. “Mad World” is the perfect pairing (it’s even in the title).
The novel is a satire, so you’d have to have a fair amount of knowledge to enjoy the pairing of the two. I guess either you get it, or you don’t. As Mr. V would say… so it goes.
3. “A Clockwork Orange” by Anthony Burgess paired with “Fidelio op.72” by Ludwig Van Beethoven
The protagonist of this novel, Alex the Droog, is a Beethoven fan — referring to him as “Ludwig Van.” Beethoven’s music gives him great pleasure and puts him in a state of ecstasy.
He and members of his gang commit various crimes involving extreme violence. A behavioral scientist develops the treatment to rehabilitate criminals. The treatment uses forced audio and visual stimulation to condition the subjects out of their undesirable behavior.
The treatment given to Alex, by coincidence includes Beethoven’s music. The result is that any time Alex has a violent thought or hears Beethoven’s music; he experiences debilitating pain and becomes violently ill. It is only right to listen to Beethoven while reading this novel if you want the full experience.
Burgess described the use of the phrase in titling his book by saying, “I mean it to stand for the application of a mechanistic morality to a living organism oozing with juice and sweetness.”
4. “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath paired with the album “The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me” by Brand New
Disbursing and intriguing, “The Bell Jar” was my favorite book in high school. The title is the metaphor Plath uses to describe depression itself — a bell jar that can drop down on you wherever you are or could be with you at all times, shutting you off from the world.
Everything looks alright, but nothing is. You can’t reach beyond the wall (a wall no one else can even see).
This album fits perfectly because it exemplifies all those feelings of rage, sadness and helplessness. With the music to accompany the ride, be prepared to be engulfed in this novel (warning: you may not be able to come out).
5. “Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov paired with “I Put a Spell On You” by Nina Simone
“Lolita” is a charming portrait of evil. Therefore, pairing it with Nina Simone’s classic tune, ‘I Put a Spell on You’ is a no-brainer.
Only Nabokov could dare tell a love story from the mind of a pedophile, but that’s what makes it a masterpiece. Good art makes us empathize with people we don’t want it. It makes us root for characters we hate.
“Lolita” certainly does that. This might be the best book and music pairing yet. (That’s why I saved it for last.)
Maybe you’re not yet sold on the idea of pairing music and books— that’s fine. At least you’ll walk away from reading this post with the idea notion in your head, and a hell of a suggestion list for your next read or eargasm.