Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Music and the food of love

I've taken to listening to the radio on headphones at work... the most delightfully decadent activity you're actually allowed to do on company time. I mostly listen to WRTI, the classical music station out of Temple U in Philly. I'd tried listening to regular NPR, but I get too distracted by talk radio. And this is a really wonderful station that plays all the chestnuts along with some more unconventional choices and ocassionally ambitious pieces (Mahler's entire Resurrection symphony, selections by Charles Ives, etc.)

I love almost everything, especially the opera (a huge interest of mine). But the pieces I'm finding most enjoyable are the Romantic piano pieces by Schumann and Liszt and Chopin. Which sets me to thinking... what story could I write that would fit with this music? I'd want to set it during the time the music is from, but the mood of the piece is just as important as the era. My interest in all that emotive piano stuff tells me I should think about working on some Victorian-set books, moving out of the Regency, with lots of big feelings! and grand pronouncements! And I'm dying to use Gilbert and Sullivan in a farce-y contemporary. Those sublimely ridiculous plots would be the perfect complement to the more fantastical coincidences and quirks of current rom-coms.

It's amazing when you stop to think about the elements that go into writing a good book, the little details that make a story sing. And music is one of them. I've only read a few Jennifer Crusies (Kate's the resident expert, so I defer to her greater knowledge) but I was struck in both with how much she integrated music into her stories. The '60s girl-group juke box in Faking It and the Elvis songs in Bet Me. They added so much to the mood and feel of both books. And you could really tell that she immersed herself in that music while writing.

So, following my critique partner's poll-blazing lead, here's a question for the fans:
Which books do you remember that used songs in an interesting way? Or is there a favorite novel or two that reminds you of a certain song? A song that reminds you of a favorite novel?