Monday, November 21, 2005

Good Ideas: Books with a Soundtrack

Remember those books that came with a little colored vinyl 7-inch in the back flap? Remember that little bell that would chime when it was time to turn the page? I loved that little bell. And I loved all the sounds and music that went with the words. I used to hang in my room and listen / read
Peter Pan and The Rescuers over and over again. I had a little orange fisher-price record player. The world of the book filled up that little room; the walls fell away.

This item from Gawker has me wondering why more books for grown-ups don't come with soundtracks. In case you haven't heard, besides being an author himself, 50 cent has launched an imprint for gangsta fiction. Some of the books are supposed to come out with an accompanying CD. Pretty hip, right? This reminds me of a feature over at Bookslut a few months ago about the rock novel. Soundtracks and stories just seem to go together. Just look at how many people buy the soundtracks for their favorite movies. Garden State anyone? Almost Famous? Lost in Translation? (mind you, I'm not saying I liked any of these movies-- just that the people who did seemed to also like the soundtrack). Anyway, I know we have books on tape, and that's great for car rides, but I like the idea of cd you can listen to while you read.

I'm not saying every book should come with a CD. Some books are best read in silence. But I have to admit, now that I'm writing this teen novel, I have this little dream of including a soundtrack. I hear the songs in my head when I write, and I'm including lyrics as I go along. Here's who is on my soundtrack so far: Bikini Kill, Tribe Called Quest, Sonic Youth, The Sex Pistols, Sebadoh, Heavenly, Missy, The Smiths, Jawbreaker, the Clash, Minor Threat, and Bratmobile. That's just who is mentioned in the book so far -- I'm sure that there will be more. The genre of teen fiction especially seems to go well with music. For so many teens, music is an elixir to the tedium of school, home, etc. Why not include that with the book?

As a thought experiment, who would you put on the soundtrack for your book? Have you ever read a book that you wished had come with a soundtrack? Have you ever made a soundtrack to go with a book?


Lizzie said...

I loved that little bell, too! Little bell pride!

I just read Fingersmith by Sarah Waters and wished it had a soundtrack. Not necessarily a historically accurate one--I was imagining, like, Shudder to Think.

Jenny said...

I used to read/listen to Peter and the Wolf almost everyday when I was little. I loved how the clumsy duck was an oboe and the little bird was a flute.

juniper pearl said...

awww, i had that same record player! my favorite was the pokey little puppy, but i also had a stack of records with songs from various disney movies that i practically melted, i played them so often.

you know what else i loved? i had a bunch of ring-bound books with a tiny lp disc on each page, and they came with this handheld gadget that you placed over the disc to play it. it would narrate the page with all the characters' voices (my favorite was the muppets, and i still have it, right here in my bedroom) and whatever music and sound effects were called for. i liked these better, actually, because they let me move along at my own pace or play especially entertaining pages over again.

the soundtrack to my book is pretty low-key, because it's a solemn tale. some sufjan stevens, some innocence mission, maybe suzanne vega, iron and wine, califone… the soundtrack to my life, on the other end, is all the hell over the place.

i liked garden state and lost in translation, but i didn't buy either of their soundtracks, because the one for garden state was more or less identical to the contents of my stereo at the time, and all i needed from lost in translation was peaches. mmmm, peaches.

mzn said...

I forgot all about those 7 inch discs. Thanks for the flood of memories.

I liked both Lost in Translation and Almost Famous lots but was rather indifferent about their pop songs, though the scenes in which characters sing are important and they work well in both films. I thought Garden State was pretentious drivel unworthy of The Shins. And there are great songs in Vanilla Sky but the movie is idiotic.

Nick Hornby's books seem perfectly suited to accompaniment. It could be because the movies adapted from them rely heavily on pop music.

Maybe the future will be podcasts in which the music and reading is layered, textured, interwoven. Kind of like This American Life. Hmm?

Michalle said...

I totally want The Floating Circus to have a soundtrack (if it's ever published). There's at least five songs specifically mentioned in the book.

femme feral said...

I'd love to hear a sound collage of those old 7-inches. All glitched up and and smeared together. Oh no. I feel an e-bay urge coming on!