May 17, 2009

The Sunday Salon - Bookish Songs

The Sunday Salon.comCan't read music? Don't harp on it

Even though I don't talk about it often on this blog, I really love music. I love it about as much as I do books, really. I love the fact that music forces me to feel. Books do too, but they tend to be more far removed. They give us room to pretend the emotions are not really our own, and that can be part of their appeal. But music is rawer, more unforgiving. It doesn't let you hide.

Anyway, I thought I'd combine my two passions today and share with you a couple of bookish songs that I love: these are songs named after, inspired by, or about short stories or novels. You can click the links to listen to them:
  • The Booklovers by The Divine Comedy: Trust the title - this is a song that will make any book lover smile.

  • First Love by Emmy the Great: based on the Samuel Beckett novella of the same title, which I haven't read yet. Have you? My previous experiences with Beckett weren't very successful, but this song makes me want to give this novella a try.

  • Charlotte Sometimes by The Cure: Based on the Penelope Farmer children's novel of the same name, and the reason why I read it.

  • Holland, 1945 by Neutral Milk Hotel - From one of my favourite albums, In an Aeroplane Over the Sea, all of which was inspired by Anne Frank's diary.

  • Ghost World by Aimee Mann - named after Daniel Clowes' wonderful book.

  • A Good Man Is Hard To Find by Sufjan Stevens - You guessed it: Flannery O'Connor.

  • Wrapped Up In Books By Belle and Sebastian - Not based in any particular book, but bookish enough to be included. Plus, I think you'll enjoy the video:

  • Playground Love by Air - this song is part of the soundtrack for The Virgin Suicides, so yes, it's about the movie and not the book. But because this is a perfect adaptation, the song really captures the feel of the book:

What about you? Do you like music? Do you have any bookish songs you'd like to recommend? What are some of your favourite musicians or bands?

Have a great Sunday, everyone.


  1. I can't seem to come up with any bookish songs on the top of my head but I do enjoy listening to music. I find it very relaxing which is a good thing sometimes :)

  2. OMG! I love The Divine Comedy. And so few people seem to have heard of them.

  3. Oh Nymeth, this post is just so freakin' awesome!!!! Of course, I just spent half my morning listening to all these songs/watching these videos when I had planned to be reading something for school tomorrow...but I refuse to call it wasting my time because I enjoyed it ever so much!!! Thank you, my dear!

  4. Great post!!

    I love your taste in music (lol, it's similar to mine). The only group I had never heard of was Divine Comedy and you certainly turned me on to them.

    Your post made me think of the song adaptation to Tennyson's poem Lady of Shalot. Have you heard it? By Loreena McKennitt?

    If not, check it out:

  5. I'm not really a fan of her stuff, but in "These Words" Natasha Bedingfield sings, "Read some Byron, Shelly and Keats / Recited it over a hip-hop beat / I'm having trouble saying what I mean / With dead poets and a drum machine." Not too bad for pop.

  6. This is such a great list... some of my favorite bands are on here.

  7. I love the video of Wrapped Up in Books, especially when she goes to sleep on a stack of books - looks heavenly to me!

  8. I enjoyed listening and watching Emmy the Great, but I think I have fallen in love with Sufjan Stevens. His songs are beautiful. I have just spent a happy twenty minutes on Utube going through his songs. Thank you for sharing - I had never heard of him before, but his music is definitely my type.

  9. I also read Charlotte Sometimes b/c of the Cure song! A good deal of their other music has literary allusion as well (Killing An Arab, The Drowning Man, etc.) which is just another reason I love them so. ;)

    i love music and lately have just not spent anytime discovering anything new. I find that I just listen to the same old artists I love. But it doesn't bother m too is the richest of all recorders trapping our memories, keeping our lives. :) Great post!

  10. Amazing post! I love music, too, but not as into it now as when I was single. Also, I mostly listen to jazz now, as opposed to my grungier days, lol. I guess I've really mellowed. I'm soooooo into blues. I love the old blues masters. Although I will forever love U2, The Cure, The Smiths, Sting, Dave Matthews, Coldplay, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Gin Blossoms, Cranberries, etc, forever. Your fave bands are more obscure and way cooler than my more famous (inauthentic) ones, lol. I also listen to a lot of Jason Mraz and Jack Johnson these days. And my current fave (for over 2 years now) is Ben Harper.

    As for songs about books, I know that U2's Breathe was inspired by a Cormac McCarthy song and has a reference to Joyce's Ulysses. Sting's Don't Stand So Close To Me was inspired by Nabokov's Lolita. The Cure's Killing an Arab was inspired by Albert Camus's The Stranger. Others: Who Wrote Holden Caulfield? by Green Day (The Catcher in the Rye) and Yertle the Turtle by Red Hot Chili Peppers (Dr Seuss).

    Also, I'm guessing that Bush took the title of their band and their first album Sixteen Stone from Conrad's Heart of Darkness. I read both "bush" and "sixteen stone" in the same page. Or could be a coincidence? :D

  11. OMG. This has to be your coolest post ever, Nymeth! You fused two of your passions into a single post.

    This should be a meme! Everybody go write a post that combines music with books. *grin*

  12. Air! I heart them, although I hadn't heard this song yet. Thanks for the introduction. <3

  13. I love all kinds of music!! These sound great!

  14. :D I should make this post into a mix cd! What a cool idea for a post...really enjoyed this :)

  15. "I love the fact that music forces me to feel. Books do too, but they tend to be more far removed. They give us room to pretend the emotions are not really our own, and that can be part of their appeal. But music is rawer, more unforgiving. It doesn't let you hide."

    Truer words were never spoken, Nymeth. Music is wonderful.

  16. I am pretty musically backwards but I did really like Nick Hornby's Songbook, not least because it came with a CD. I love Sandra Boynton's children's books with CDs for the same reason. But they are not songs based on books, rather books about music (in the first case) or accompanied by music (in the second).

  17. ...I didn't know that about Charlotte Sometimes (and I call myself a fan!)... will have to check out the book!

  18. Sam: It definitely is :) I like how I can let my attention wander, unlike with books.

    Lenore: They definitely deserve more attention!

    Debi: lol, sorry for having distracted you :P But I'm very happy that you enjoyed the songs :D

    Christina: I haven't, but I'll definitely give it a listen! I have a love/hate relationship with the poem, and that makes me even more curious about the song :P

    Loren Eaton: I'm not familiar with Natasha Bedingfield, but I like those lines!

    Lu: Only goes to show what great taste you have :D

    Bermudaonion: hehe, I love that bit too :)

    Scrap Girl: I've been a little bit in love with Sufjan for years now! He's just brilliant.

    Amy: Yep, one of many reasons to love them! I haven't been devoting as much time to music as I used to either, and I miss it. "Trapping our memories" true. I love how you worded that.

    Claire: yay, so many recs! Thank you so much :D I didn't know that about Breathe. I do know that The Ground Beneath Her Feet was inspired by the Salman Rushdie novel, which I've been meaning to read. And Dr Seuss! That's just too cool :D

    Dark Orpheus: *blushes* thank you! And yes, it definitely should be a meme! I'd love to see more posts on books and music.

    Renay: They did the whole soundtrack, and it's just brilliant <3

    Staci: Me too! I love many musical genres.

    Chris: I used to make mixes all the time, but I haven't in so long.'re giving me ideas :P

    Amanda: It really is. I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels that way!

    Kristen: Oooh, Songbook! I have the UK edition, which is called 31 Songs. I love it to bits. I'll have to check out Sandra Boynton!

    Miss D: Read it, read it! I think you'll really enjoy it. Boarding schools, time travel, lovely prose. What's not to love?

  19. Hey Nymeth -

    Quick you purchase all of your graphic novels or do you check them out from the library first? I ask because I checked out Persepolis I & II from the library, but wish that I actually purchased it. Alternatively, I purchased Fun Home, but could have done okay with just checking that one out via the library. LOL. Do you have any rhyme or reason to your purchases?

    Hope you had a relaxing Sunday. :)

  20. Christina, I know how you feel. Comics are quite pricey AND they're quick reads, so to be stuck with one you didn't like is really frustrating. Sadly, my library has a total of zero comics and graphic novels. Also zero fantasy books, zero YA, zero of most of what I love to read. So if I want to read them, I have no choice but to buy them. I just place my orders and hope for the best, really :P And for things I don't like, there's always Bookmooch.

  21. I love music too, Nymeth. I do understand what you mean about music forcing you to feel. It's the same way for me too.

    I'm afraid though that I draw a blank when it comes to bookish songs. I enjoyed listening to the samplings you offered though!

    Thank you for sharing. :-)

  22. :O I run into this a day late and no one has mentioned Kate Bush yet? I always thought her Wuthering Heights was the most well-known book-inspired song ever...

    But that said this is the first time I'm hearing all of the songs mentioned. They're all so lovely.

    Karl Jenkins' Requiem (which is a whole cd) has several haiku that have been adapted to musical pieces. That's probably the most prevalent of the kind of bookish songs I have, though. Ones that take poetry texts and put them to music.

    Finnegan's Wake by the Dubliners also has some literary connections, if not with the ballad itself then indirectly with James Joyce's novel of the same name.

    And speaking of Loreena McKennit, there's of course also Prospero's Speech. See? I just have bits of literature put to music (which I'm very happy with).

    These people have a fair few songs based on stories. (Merlin's based on Mary Stewart's Merlin trilogy, for example.)

    Er, sorry. Getting a wee bit distracted here. Anyway, I do really like music. ^-^ I fail at producing it, but that's okay. (Er, usually.) This is such a fun post to think about. ^-^ I wouldn't dare give you any favourites, though. I have something of pretty much everything, except all the languages in the world. In theme with the bookishness, though, I'd mention the Mediaeval Baebes. They take old manuscript texts and then sing them. <- That's two of their songs in one video.


  23. What a great list! I like some songs by Aimee Mann and Neutral Milk Hotel, but I did not know these.

    Next, we need a list of great books about music!

  24. Literary Feline: I'm very happy to hear you enjoyed the songs!

    Music Online: Thanks :D

    Shanra: Ah, Wuthering Heights.. you know, my problem with Kate Bush is that I like her songs, but I can't say the same about her voice, sadly. So my favourite versions are the ones that are covers by other artists, like Tori Amos or Patrick Wolf :P Anyway...thank you so much for all the recommendations! I utterly fail at producing music, too. I tried to learn the piano when I was 12, but the result was misery. Hmm...I played the recorder in middle school. That's it :P

    Rebecca: lol, you read my mind! Already compiling my list for next week's Sunday Salon :P

  25. You would probably love Rushdie's The Ground Beneath Her Feet. I never realized about the song. Wow. Now I can see. The book was definitely music-related. :D

  26. Amanda tells me you're a big Amanda Palmer fan, from the Dresden dolls and what not (Amanda my wife tells me, not Amanda Palmer. That was confusing). Anyway, thought you'd be interested to know, they had a story on All Things Considered this past weekend, that she is working with the drama dept. from her school to make a musical about Anne Frank, based on music from 'On an Aeroplane Over the Sea,' which is apparently one of her favorite albums.

  27. Story is available at...

  28. Mmm. I do know what you mean about her voice. It's really a love-hate affair. I have some, to my ears, really nice covers of my favourite songs by her.

    Mmm. I feel that way about violin. Only I was six rather than twelve. ^-~ So I do know the feeling a bit! Now I just sing in my own spare time. ^-^

    Hope you'll find new favourites in the recommendations! ^-^ (Great books on music? Can I recommend Reel Music? I know I still haven't finished it, but it's a wonderfully accessible book on film music.)

  29. I absolutely love music and very often, I cried when I watched touching movies with touching music... I can't think of any bookish music, though...

  30. What a wonderful post! I don't think I've heard any of these songs. What fun. New music for my iPod :)

    By the way, have you heard of Moxy Fruvous. They have a song called My Baby Loves a Bunch of Authors. It's fantastic. I bet you'd get a kick out of that one :)

  31. Nymeth, I just love it when you post about music! We have similar tastes and I'm having a ball listening to all these songs right now. I needed some new ones for my mp3 player--good timing.

    For bookish songs, I'm not sure if this would count, but I love the soundtrack to Into the Wild by Eddie Vedder. Songs written for a movie that's inspired by a may be a bit of a leap? But it's a great album.

  32. Great post nymeth :O)
    The Wrapped Up In Books is a cute song and video, thanks for sharing!
    I love music too, I agree, it moves you.

  33. Love, love, love this post!! I don't really have any particular bookish songs I love, but alot of the time a song I'm listening to while reading a book will forever remind me of the book.

  34. Claire: I'm sure I'd love it! My library has I just need to find the time.

    Jason: Yes, I know about the play! It sounds so awesome. I heard it's available to watch online as a stream, so as I was telling Claire above, I just need to find the time :P And thanks for the link!

    Shanra, I was looking up Reel Music and it really sounds interesting. Thanks for the reccomendation :D

    Alice: Music can really add to the emotional power of a movie scene, can't it?

    Iliana: I haven't, no, but I shall check it out! I love the title, lol.

    Ali: I grew up with Pearl Jam, and I love them still. I have no idea why I still haven't listened to Eddie's solo album! I need to do something about that asap. Thank you for reminding me of it!

    Naida: I think Belle & Sebastian do cute better than anyone else :D

    Joanne: Thank you :D I'm glad you enjoyed the post. And I love it when things become associated like that.

  35. This is one of the best posts ever!

  36. Wow--I love these connections! To be honest, I don't always pay attention to the connections between music and books. And really, I haven't paid as much attention to music lately as I used to (I used to be ravenous about discovering new music--and one would think with itunes it would be so easy nowadays). Listening to Sufjan Stevens right now and loving it--thanks for the intro.

  37. So now I'm thinking about this. How about Romeo and Juliet by Dire Straights? Too easy, I know, but still a lovely song.

  38. Ladytink: Awww, thank you :D

    Trish: Hooray for loving Sufjan! He's one of my absolute favourites, so it makes me really happy when people discover him. About Romeo and Juliet, I don't think I know that song! I live under a rock, I know :P

  39. I was in a hurry when I left that comment--it is The Dire Straits, not Straights. :P I'm sure you've heard their songs before if you listen to classic rock at all. It's an older song (they also did Sultans of Swing and Money for Nothing). Have you seen the movie Empire Records? If not, you really need to! It's an old 90s movie about a group of people who work in a record store. Anyway, Romeo and Juliet is playing during one of the scenes. The song is a wonderfully romantic classic rock song.

  40. I love that song, Trish. The Indigo Girls have an excellent version of it too. Nymeth, you do not live under a rock (!!!) but it's an old song. You can listen to it here: Romeo and Juliet or the Indigo Girls version (scroll down to the video). I think you'll like it.


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