Music and literature: two cultural sweethearts that, when paired together, offers a universe of possibility. From the perfect song for a certain book, to the music loved by characters, to the authors’ choices to soundtrack their writing, selecting the perfect record for the perfect book should be a match made in heaven. As a lover of the two, I’ve taken it upon myself to impart some wisdom on the fiction and records I’d urge everyone to enjoy in unison below, so you can get on with doing just that.
A book for selfhood: Look at Me by Jennifer Egan
Listen to: Move in Spectrums by Au Revoir Simone
A hugely ambitious and imaginative novel, Egan takes on ideas of beauty and high fashion on their head, and dissects these supposedly ‘vogue’ ideas into something far more thought-provoking. We meet Charlotte, a New York model, as a disastrous car accident leaves her face with 80 titanium screws holding it together. Her livelihood is now a mask that she hides behind as she walks past old friends, even lovers, who show no sign of recognition. In a particularly horrifying episode, Charlotte confronts a director who wishes to use his artistic license to create incisions on her forehead and cheek using a blade, and nearly convinces her too. Charlotte’s attempt to refigure her own identity as well as the superficial identity of those in her work/social circles, leaves the reader seeing reality from an entirely new perspective – one in which trauma in not necessarily a tragedy. What better record to accompany, then, than Au Revoir Simone’s equally vogue collection.
A book for self-indulgence: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Listen to: Marry Me by St Vincent
The saying ‘be careful what you wish for’ has arguably never been more pertinent in literature than it is in this classic novel. Beauty and indulgence intersect in the most cataclysmic of ways, so an album that transgresses from ‘Paris is Burning’ to ‘All My Stars Are Aligned’ couldn’t make more apt listening. Gray is obsessed with self-image and he seeks to increase his social rank by going to the most fashionable dinner parties and the theatre with the highest class people, not too different to the Instagram butterflies and social cliques we see today. The idea of pleasure for its own sake therefore makes Dorian Gray a fascinating social commentary, and I’d suggest giving St Vincent’s distorted debut a spin as you read.
A book for self-expression: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Listen to: First Mind by Nick Mulvey
What makes this book so authentic is its transferability for any wallflower, past, present or future. As an adult, Perks takes you back to your adolescence. As a child, it glimpses at what lies ahead. As a teenager, it inspires you. And as we are all well aware of, there is no better time to find out who you are and where you belong than as a gawky, introverted teenager. The novels’ three heroes, Charlie, Patrick and Sam, are oddballs that make mixtapes for each other, offer magnetic poetry as gifts, and get stuck in with The Rocky Horror Show. I’d pair it with the intensely gorgeous First Mind.
A book for self-discovery: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Listen to: Stay Gold by First Aid Kit
It’s a canonical horror story, except it’s not. Frankenstein is the tale in which the line between hero and antagonist is obscured, delivering fascinating binaries of science and morality as the elusive silver bullet of humanity. Its generational capacity makes Frankenstein a wondrous match with the earthy tones of First Aid Kit’s album.