At first blush, few people are less like rock stars than writers. Generally speaking, we avoid the spotlight. We don’t have cool outfits, we don’t have groupies, and our tours are waaaay less flashy–and lucrative–than musicians’.
But deep down there’s some connection between writing and rock. Lots of authors have compiled playlists for their books, most noteably on David Gutowski’s Largehearted Boy’s “Book Notes” section. It sounds like a recent trend, but it’s been going on for a while, according to Salon:
Since 2005, in the site’s recurring Book Notes column, authors including Bret Easton Ellis, Sloane Crosley, Karen Russell, Aimee Bender and Meghan O’Rourke have shared soundtracks. Hundreds are archived there; since last month, they’ve been streamable on Spotify.
“Hearing about the music a writer enjoys or envisioned for his characters or book humanizes the author,” Gutowski said. “Writers have often told me that thinking about their book in relation to music recontextualizes the work for them, gives them a fresh vantage into something they wrote years ago.”
Elsewhere, writing inspired a music video when the Decembrists based the video for their song, “Calamity Song,” on David Foster Wallace’s novel Infinite Jest:
Colin Meloy of the Decembrists explains on NPR:
I wrote “Calamity Song” shortly after I’d finished reading David Foster Wallace’s epic Infinite Jest. The book didn’t so much inspire the song itself, but Wallace’s irreverent and brilliant humor definitely wound its way into the thing. And I had this funny idea that a good video for the song would be a re-creation of the Enfield Tennis Academy’s round of Eschaton — basically, a global thermonuclear crisis re-created on a tennis court — that’s played about a third of the way into the book. Thankfully, after having a good many people balk at the idea, I found a kindred spirit in Michael Schur, a man with an even greater enthusiasm for Wallace’s work than my own. With much adoration and respect to this seminal, genius book, this is what we’ve come up with. I can only hope DFW would be proud.
In fact, author Chuck Wendig suggests that if writers act more like rock stars, it just might save publishing:
You put rock stars in front of people, fucked up shit starts to happen. They show up late. They break guitars. They set stuff on fire. They huff paint and throw cymbals and bite the heads off winged creatures.
Authors — c’mon. You can do this at your author appearances. Just go nuts! Fucking freak out. Kick over a book display. Throw your boot at that old lady who shows up at all the author signings and asks inane questions. For God’s sake — tell them to put down the book, it’s time to autograph some tee-tas. After you’re done inking a bunch of boobies — or dicks, who am I to judge? — take the rest of your books near to hand, douse them in lighter fluid, scream “Fuck your mother, [insert name of publishing company here]!” and then set fire to those bad-boys just before passing out on the floor in your own vomit.
Wendig has lots more suggestions, including “Intensely Weird Drug Habits,” “Pimp-Ass Writer Cribs,” and “One Word: Hookers.” (Though one reading by author Alex Pardee got at least a little too rock-star when a fan produced a razor blade at the signing table and began to slice up his own arm.)
What say you, writers of the world? Are you ready to smash your laptop on the podium at your next reading? Come on, it could save publishing…
- Composer Eric Moe tells how David Foster Wallace’s “Tri-Stan: I Sold Sissee Nar to Ecko” inspired a collaboration with the author and led to Tri-Stan, Moe’s a one-woman opera/situation-tragedy musical setting of the story.
- Tyler McMahon discusses his novel How The Mistakes Were Made, in which protagonist Laura Loss comes of age in the 1980s hardcore punk scene.
- Brian Bartels and author-musician Adam Rapp discuss music as character.
- On the blog, Lee Thomas muses on bands and songs inspired by literature; Glass Wave–a band composed of four literary scholars–records songs based on canonical Western literature; and much more in our archives.