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Friday High Five: Songs about books, rock and roll pauses, and there’s a rap for that

Read Thursday, 7 Aug 2014

Our Words & music series has lately had us thinking more about the nexus between writers, words and music. So, in today’s Friday High Five, we’re bringing you a literary song book of sorts.

Paperback writer

There’s no shortage of songs about the joys of reading and writing. For many, Broadcast’s ‘The Book Lovers’ might be the quintessential bibliophile’s anthem. (It famously appeared on the soundtrack to Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, though it was never heard in the film itself.)

Then there’s Gordon Lightfoot’s ‘If You Could Read My Mind’ (ahem), Vampire Weekend’s ‘Oxford Comma’, ‘The Book of Love’ by The Magnetic Fields, and ‘Write About Love’ by Belle & Sebastian.

Other examples include the shimmering hypnotism of The Books’ ‘Read, Eat, Sleep’ and Nat King Cole’s bittersweet take on writing for pleasure in ‘I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter’. And we couldn’t go past Ed Hall’s ‘Reading’, which offers: ‘Reading! It makes you think! Reading! It makes you talk!’ Can’t argue with that.

Songs about literature

You won’t win any awards for figuring out that Kate Bush’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ was based on Emily Brontë’s book by the same name. But did you know that Nirvana’s ‘Scentless Apprentice’ was inspired by Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, by Patrick Süskind? Or that the early 1980s hit ‘Whip It’ was Devo’s answer to Thomas Pynchon?

The message

Even Sesame Street is on board with ‘there’s an app for that’. But, hailing from a different street in New York City, Flocabulary is producing short hip hop lessons on subjects like math, science, classic literature and writing techniques. It’s a paid service, but a handful have made their way to YouTube.

So –paying tribute to librarians? An introduction to figurative language? There’s a rap for that.

Cover version

Buzzfeed’s Daniel Dalton asks (then answers): If Pop Songs Were Works Of Fiction, what would they look like?

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Great Rock and Roll Pauses

Jennifer Egan’s much discussed experimental chapter ‘Great Rock and Roll Pauses’, from her Pulitzer-winning novel A Visit from the Goon Squad, sits quietly (and ever poignantly) on the author’s website.

Back in 2011, she spoke to CBC Radio’s Definitely Not the Opera about that infamous chapter –and how it drew together a Semisonic song, the timed structure of writing for PowerPoint, and ‘Clearmountain pauses’.

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