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Music & Novels

Often writing can be the hardest when you have no inspiration, and we all look to different sources. Some writers like to read, some listen to music, some may try interpretive dance to free the mind with the body, but many greats have concluded that to produce great literature, one must consume it. Here, we’ve combined two sources of inspiration, music and novels. Check out the list below to get those juices flowing! 

1. Fever- Peggy Lee + Cleopatra and Frankenstein- Coco Mellors 

“Never know how much I love you / Never know how much I care / When you put your arms around me / I get a fever that’s so hard to bear” 

Peggy Lee’s Fever is a thickly sweet classic, a timeless love song from 1958 about love and fever and the burn that they come with. In the song, she sings to a nameless lover about the fever in their kisses, and the unbearable heat of love that “everybody’s got.” In Cleopatra and Frankenstein, Coco Mellors writes about the whirlwind relationship between young painter Cleo and the older, wealthy Frank in 2006 New York City. Their subsequent marriage on a whim has consequences that spiral out to each of their individual relationships with friends, family, and coworkers, and the story of their relationship is recounted through the eyes of those various characters, whose lives shift and splinter in dramatic ways. Frank and Cleo’s love has that timeless je ne sais quoi that Peggy Lee sings so plaintively about, but, like a fever, it leaves burns. 

2. Crying, Laughing, Loving, Lying- Labi Siffre + Games and Rituals: Stories- Katherine Heiny 

“Laughing sometimes does / somebody some good somehow / That’s why I’m laughing now / That’s why I’m laughing now” 

Crying, Laughing, Loving, Lying is Labi Siffre’s ode to life and all the messy little things that make it so beautiful. It’s simple and sweet and set to a gorgeous little melody on acoustic guitar that begs a listen on repeat. In Games and Rituals: Stories, Katheine Heiny has put together a collection of short stories about the beautiful, bumbling mundanity of everyday life and all the lessons we can learn from human connection. Ranging from a tentative love story between two instructors at a DMV to a toothbrush game that might end a relationship, every piece is sweet but not saccharine, light with a sense of fullness, and leaves one satisfied and wanting to read it all over again. 

3. Simulation Swarm- Big Thief + Bright Dead Things- Ada Limón 

“Swallows in the windless field / Very thin, with your mother / Tall as a pale green tree / Very wild, bright as winter” 

In Simulation Swarm, Big Thief stays consistent with the light melancholy so intrinsic to their albums. It’s crisp and cryptic, with depth-filled acoustic strumming and a

breathtakingly minimalist drum pattern, and the lyrics shimmer against their bass melody. The sound brings to mind nature, open forests and isolated streams, and the lyrics are almost eerie, charged as they are with violent intimations such as “crystal blood like a dream true / A ripple in the wound and wake.” Ada Limón’s work is much the same. Her poetry collection Bright Dead Things is about holding tightly to beauty in the face of destruction, toeing the line between life and death and all the beauty and sorrow they entail. The collection is split into parts, with first centering on her move from New York City to rural Kentucky, subsequently losing a beloved parent, aging past the tremulousness of youth, and falling in love. Limón’s prose at once bites and soothes, trying to make sense of the ache of belonging against a backdrop of rolling fields. 

4. Time to Pretend- MGMT + American Psycho- Bret Easton Ellis 

“I’m feeling rough, I’m feeling raw, / I’m in the prime of my life / Let’s make some music, make some / money, find some models for wives” 

In Time to Pretend, MGMT encapsulates the high-money, high-stakes life; the sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll of it all. It’s an 80’s pop admission to the dark side of the high life and the secrets of the ultra-wealthy, but everything, the “cocaine,” the “heroin,” even the “vomit” is blasted through with enough synth to make it sound glamorous enough to envy. In the end, however, there is an admission: “we're fated to pretend.” Suddenly, everything comes crashing down; the high has worn off, the music almost garish. In American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis explores the same themes in his twisted odyssey of protagonist-villain Patrick Bateman, a wealthy businessman raking in money, racking up lines, and ramping up his body count in 80’s New York City. Much like the song, Bateman’s life spirals dramatically downwards as he shifts from meticulously describing his massive record collection to meticulously describing his murders. He devolves from wealthy Wall Street broker to savage, heartless monster, and we’re left to wonder if there ever was a transformation in the first place. Warning: the book is very graphic, so keep that in mind, but it serves a masterclass in character study and the art of obsession. 

5. Canopée- Polo & Pan + Bliss Montage- Ling Ma 

“Jungle sauvage ouvre tes bras / Il en faut peu pour toi et moi / Prenons racine dans les bois / Enfants naïfs ou hors-la-loi” 

Wild jungle open your arms / You and I don't need much / We'll take root in the woods / Like naïve or outlawed children 

Canopée, released by Parisian house-electronic duo Polo & Pan, has an upbeat, discotheque, tropical sound overlayed with the breathy recountment of a couple living together in the “jungle sauvage.” The lyrics and melody are playful, ricocheting off each other’s distinct sound, but tip over often into something vaguely unsettling. Ling Ma’s Bliss Montage has the same feeling. Her award-winning collection delivers a fantastic

amalgamation of surreal, fantastical short stories, each surprising and witty in their own unique way. One after another, her stories deliver shocking blows, like pounding beats in a discotheque. From a drug that makes you invisible to a woman living with all 100 of her ex-boyfriends, each piece is weirdly wonderful, uncomfortable in its insistence to be inscrutable, and moving so fast, you have to hold your breath to keep up with the rhythm.

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