A Guide to Fine Reading - Book Week


Photo by Thomas Duesing.

A book about girl-meets-boy begins when the girl moves across the country to move in with her dad. She starts high school in this new setting and befriends an introverted boy when he saves her life from a van that loses control in the school’s parking lot. The girl can’t help but feel indebted to the boy and the love connection begins. The plot runs deeper when the girl finds out the boy and his family have a dark secret, thus creating a connection that is tested over and over again, at times threatening the young girl’s life. As the reader sits comfortably in their room and learns about the trials and tribulations of these two young folks in love, they have music playing in the background, bringing their connection to the words even deeper.

The words are flowing from the music speakers, “See I never thought that I could walk through fire/ I never thought that I could take the burn/ I never thought I had the strength to take it higher/ until I reach the point of no return.”

The romance in the air is so intense, the reader can’t help but feel they are deeply involved in this fantasy written on the pages.

“And there’s just no turning back/ when your heart’s under attack/ gonna give you everything I have/ it’s my destiny.”

The connection with the reader, the book and the music could not get any stronger as the entire package feels like it was brought down from the heavens.

This might sound like an excellent way to spend an evening, but not all of us are 14 year old girls. Most of us have a more sophisticated palate than to enjoy reading Twilight while listening to Justin Bieber’s “Never Say Never.” However, the combination of music and reading is a duo that can enhance the experience exponentially. Just as it goes with fine dinners and wine, they are both great to enjoy individually, but pick the right combination and you will have an experience hard to forget.

The following are a few suggestions off the menu that will leave the roof of your mouth completely satisfied:

Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises with Miles Davis’ entire album Sketches of Spain.

Much like drinking Cabernet while eating a healthy steak, the book and music go together hand-in-hand. Miles Davis recorded the classic jazz album with elements inspired from Spanish music styles in late 1950’s and early 60’s. The addition of the Spanish-style to jazz creates something that was once strictly American into a beautiful combination of two things that are from different parts of the world. This is exactly the plot line of Hemingway’s first novel. The Sun Also Rises is a fictionalized version of an actual trip he took to Spain with his friends while living as expatriates in Europe. The plot goes into detail of the landscape in Spain and the bullfights the protagonist by the name of Jake Barnes regularly attends. Barnes is an American WWI vet that finds absolute beauty in the countryside and takes in everything Spain has to offer. Sketches of Spain flows as smoothly as Hemmingway’s prose, making it sound like the album was composed specifically as an original score for The Sun Also Rises.

Jack Kerouac’s On the Road with anything recorded by Charlie Parker

Merlot is a sweeter wine that tastes great with white and dark meat, making it a versatile spirit to consume for dinner. The same goes for Kerouac’s On the Road. His words accompany every song in jazz saxaphonist’s catalog. Parker’s music flows as chaotically and logically as the narration in the book making it seem like Kerouac was attempting to create jazz with the use of words. The novel is a fictionalized telling of Kerouac’s road trips throughout the country with his dear friend Neil Cassidy. They hop from one car to another and visit jazz clubs ranging from New York City to San Francisco. The music at these clubs were an inspiration for the book and went on to define a generation. While listening to song’s like Parker’s “I Got Rhythm” and sitting down with On the Road, the reader can accurately visualize the clubs Kerouac and Cassidy were visiting. Beer soaked floors. Cigarette smoke in the air.

Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World with Dan the Automator’s & Del the Funky Homosapien’s Deltron 3030

Many people do not like the taste of red wine and prefers something lighter like Chardonnay. Jazz is also an acquired taste. Completely on the opposite end of the music spectrum from Parker and Davis is the epic concept album Deltron 3030. Taking place in the year 3030, the character Deltron makes his way through a world that is completely unlike anything we know. Similarly Huxley’s Brave New World takes place centuries in the future where women no longer get pregnant as babies are grown in bottles in laboratories. The beats and lyrics of each track in Deltron 3030 take the reader to another place and time, while emphasizing the world created by Huxley.

Chuck Palahniuk’s Invisible Monsters

Some wines are made specifically for dessert and should not be drank during the meal. Some songs should not be listened to while reading. Many people prefer not to read while listening to songs with lyrics because the music will distract their concentration. But that is not to say that songs with lyrics should be thrown out of the picture altogether. If something is well written, the storyline will stay with the reader after they have put down the book. Palahniuk’s Invisible Monsters is one of these books. It tells the story of a previous supermodel that loses her jaw in an unknown accident. She befriends a drag queen in rehab and they go on the road together looking for prescription drugs to steal from showings of houses on the market.

Palahniuk’s dark humor stays with the reader long after they stop looking at the pages and certain songs embody that darkness. Once the book is put down, play these songs to continue the fun:

CSS – “Alala”
The Coathangers – “Stop Stomp Stompin’”
The Horrors – “Sea Within A Sea”
The Soft Pack – “On My Time”
Blank Dogs – “Around the Room”
The Velvet Underground – “Heroin”
Widowspeak – “Harsh Realm”
Crystal Castles – “Air War”
Bobby – “Sore Spores”
Alias – “Watching Water”
Enon – “In This City”
Glasser – “Apply”
Sage Francis – “Mermaids Are Seasluts”

The recipes listed throughout this article are mere suggestions. There are countless books out there waiting to be paired up with just the right music. Try experimenting to see what exactly suits your tastes. Some combinations might come across unacceptably, like drinking Champagne with chocolate cake. But through trial and error, you can create a reading experience that will make all of Napa Valley envious.

Written by Zachary Ehren