Reading in the name of

I’ve been rather overtaken by events here, as they say in all the best News circles. As at least one other author has also posted a playlist on Spotify. Jeremy Duns seems to think other authors have also posted play lists, but I haven’t seen them and I did see Luke Preston’s first. And it’s still an ace idea.

Now here’s an interesting idea.

One that maybe coalesces something we’ve many of us have dabbled with in one way or another previously. I know I have.

Dark City Blue

Like making Mix-Tapes for people. When there were tapes to mix of course. MP3 Mix Data-Sticks doesn’t quite have the same ring, does it?

I’m currently enjoying very much the reading of Dark City Blue (left) – a, shall we say, ‘hard-hitting’, ‘take no prisoners’, barely house-trained kind of a novel, by Luke Preston.

Then, after following him on Twitter, as you do, he recently posted this:

Luke Preston Tweet

Now, when I read, I like reading in silence. But it’s neither a demand or a requirement for me enjoy reading a book. Nor is it always possible. Wife, kids, dog, cat (except not the kids, dog or cat in our household). Though, where silence in the background isn’t possible, I do like to choose my own background ‘noise.’ I’m not interested in someone else choosing it for me. Like having some pea-brained DJ on the radio, or the tv running in the background.

But I’m open to persuasion, as the great Joan Armatrading once so succinctly put it.

Some authors have gone so far as to have trailers for their books filmed. Giles Kristian for one springs to mind. Ben Kane has recorded some videos where he talks about the areas in Italy, etc, where his books are set, filmed often while he is out ‘in the field’, researching for his novels. That’s fine. But I’m finding that, apart from placing in my mind someone else’s idea of how the characters and settings should look – you know how it is when someone makes a film of your favourite book, yes? – it is difficult to watch a film and read a book at the same time. Maybe it’s just me?

And you can see a trailer on Vimeo for Dark City Blue here.

Whilst it is hard to ignore, or at least not take so much notice of television (though I still find it easier to filter out Danish language programmes than English), music playing in the background, or headphones, is not easier to ignore, just easier to compliment the reading experience, shall we say? I can play my own music, listen without listening, read without listening, but still notice and even enjoy what is playing. I’m sure you know the feeling.

So the compliment the reading experience bit, eh? What about the idea that a playlist could be found to compliment the reading experience for a particular book? Well, that is exactly what Luke Preston has done here.

DCB Spotify Playlist

I know – and indeed own – many of the songs here and I would certainly agree that they do reflect the tone of the book. It is a loud, brash, sweary, hold nothing back book. The Rage Against The Machine track for starters tells you where we’re at here. If you don’t know exactly what I’m talking about here, you should.

I think it’s a really good idea, with a lot of possibilities. I think Luke here has chosen the tracks mainly for their style first over lyrical content, but of course the two often go hand in hand. Clearly, a Kraftwerk track called Rustic Peace and Tranquility*, isn’t going to cut the mustard here. Though, for some of the scenes where the car is cruising and searching the city streets at night, even Kraftwerk’s Neon Lights, might well fit the bill. And for a novel set now, or soon to be but hopefully not now, in a harsh urban town that may be here – maybe the USA, could well be Australia – you might well expect some reasonably unreasonable Rap to be thumping away inside your Skullkandy? But, why? Why not illustrate by juxtaposing? Remember the film Platoon? Didn’t they run Samuel Barber‘s Adagio for Strings (Opus 11a) while the soldiers burnt, killed and walked away from a Vietnamese village? Not what you’d have expected before seeing the film, at the very least. But it works. I think it illustrates the myriad possibilities of such an idea, above and beyond just going for titles that fit like Cop Shoot Cop, by Spiritualized. Too easy that.

As an update: Jeremy Duns says thusly about his playlist for the Paul Dark Novels “’60’s psychedelia, afrobeat, rock, soul, jazz, more” playlist:

Paul Dark Spotify

“Gave me a few ideas for the current book, too…I’ve seen a few people do it. Thought I’d give it a go…this is culled from several much longer personal playlists I made for all three novels”

You see, his book Free Agent, took place at least in part – well, a big part really – in Africa, in Nigeria. So, having Fela Kuti (whom I remember from my listening to World Music days ‘some ragged but right Jit…’ as (‘DJ’) Andy Kershaw was want to say before he went doo-lally. And I knew Jit comes from Zimbabwe…well, you get the picture anyway.

But the really interesting thing for me is, that this comes (direct) from the author. The book is their baby after all. Free AgentI could do a playlist for Jeremy Duns’ Free Agent, but it would come from my ideas and be based on my experiences, not his. For Nigeria, I might include a Wings track from Band On The Run, for example. He might block me on Twitter for that. So it is interesting to have the playlist put together by the author to show us what they think compliments, even develops the themes of their novel. It could in some places include songs that inspired the writing of the story. As both Jeremy Duns and Luke Preston say theirs’ did (and still do, as far I can see). I mean, you’re not going to be writing It is a truth universally acknowledged … After listening to Rage Against The Machine’s Killing In The Name Of, now are you? Were I writing (were I able to write, that is) listening to Killing In The Name Of, my publisher would be getting an ink-spattered, crumpled, more than slightly distressed single sheet of A4 paper instead of what they expected. Good writers, like Mr Duns and Mr Preston here, are able to be inspired, control the song’s rage and get it down on paper. As they have here.

Obviously, unless you’re a very fast reader, the playlist is going to be over before you’re finished with the book. But I was wondering, couldn’t the book be made ‘interactive’? In that where the author had thought a song (from the playlist) would compliment or increase the enjoyment of a particular scene – providing it is long enough, but then that would also have to be taken into account when writing the scene or choosing the music – a ‘Play track X now’ button could be placed somewhere reasonably unobtrusive at the start of the relevant passage(s) and you could choose if you wanted to play it or not. Obviously by playing the track, you would be getting the full, author-approved enjoyment from the book.

Or if at some point, probably at night, the text said ‘and Led Zeppelin was blaring from the car radio’, you could touch a button and WHAT A WHOLE LOTTA LOVE!!! , etc.

I don’t know what the legal ramifications of official tie-ins would be. Probably the arcane record industry – especially the Danish version – would throw up more roadblocks than in a Luke Preston novel, but I could – in an ideal world – see the possibilities for tie-ins. Buy the book, enjoy the book? Now get the Official Soundtrack and all. Idea?
Yet to reach its full potential I feel.

*Kraftwerk haven’t done a track called Peace and Tranquility – relax.

3 thoughts on “Reading in the name of

  1. Hi Luke.
    I agree totally.
    And as soon as I have Spotify figured out, I have a playlist for reading a post about reading about books with playlists, almost ready 😉


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