So. The order of the day is Books I’d Give a Theme Song To. This presents me with some difficulty; typically, a book’s plot or themes are more complex than any given song, and as such the song can’t necessarily represent the entirety of the book thematically…at least, not many songs I know. Have we mentioned I don’t deal well with instrumental music? I really have difficulty with musical comprehension without lyrics to grab hold of.
One way to circumvent both obstacles is to find a wordladen song for a not-very-wordy book: Smitten by Rachel Hale. One of my brothers, knowing my love for kittens, gave it to me. It’s not very involved (kittens accompany a variety of proverbs and other aphorisms), but I know the perfect song for it.
Then again, perhaps I can think of a couple stories encapsulated in song. It’s been a while since I’ve read The Great Gatsby, but given what I recall of “the Trimalchio of West Egg,” either Richard Cory or If I Had it All would be apt. Or, while rereading Brideshead Revisited, it would be appropriate to listen to Running Against the Sunset, This is the Time, or the outro (the last 3 minutes) of Broken Line.
But generally it’s much easier to think of a character I’d give a theme song to – or even a soundtrack!
For example, since my adolescence involved a lot of Harry Potter and a good deal of Billy Joel, certain of his songs inevitably bring Sirius Black to mind. The man who enchanted an ordinary motorbike to fly would most certainly sing You May Be Right to whatever witch caught his fancy. On reaching the English/wizarding drinking age (whichever comes first), he would indubitably act like a Big Shot. And when his friends demand to know why he did such stupid things, his defense would sound an awful lot like I Go to Extremes.
Then the bomb hits. Then they are all betrayed; then James and Lily die at Voldemort’s hand, Harry is entrusted to his relatives, and Sirius is led off to Azkaban. It’s a completely different situation from the Vietnam War, and yet the tone of Goodnight Saigon strikes me as fitting. Going crazy. People getting killed around you. Holding on to the few you can trust, and leaving more of your childhood behind with every day. And when Sirius escapes, attempts to clear his name, rejoins the Order, and goes down in battle against Bellatrix Lestrange, I think the playlist goes from An Innocent Man to Honesty to Only the Good Die Young.
But Sirius isn’t the only one with a playlist. More often than not, Dave Matthews Band’s tunes make me think of Severus Snape. Given his years of love and admiration for Lily Evans, I am certain he would Sleep to Dream Her. When the Dark Lord killed her on account of Snape’s reports of The Prophecy, he mourned that Grace is Gone. From that moment, he was once more Captain of his own will rather than Voldemort. He goes on living, turning against one master to serve another by brewing potions, not mutiny. This, in some wise, serves as his penance: the unending certainty that you Pay for What You Get, and his payment is to watch over the Chosen One. Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows play out to the tune of Cry Freedom, I Did It, and What You Are.
The last of my somewhat lengthy list is not from Harry Potter and may be a bit of a cheat, I fear. “Prelude/Angry Young Man” brings Mr. Stephen Mayfield to mind, though he is not always angry and certainly not boring. But unfortunately for most of you, Mr. Stephen Mayfield hails from the pages of Radicals and Royalists, a book which my friend Emily is working to publish and which I have gotten to read by virtue of having edited it. So read a bit of it here, if’n you like, and I shall let you know when you can learn more of this particular character!