A great book is a living thing, filled to the brim with heart and humanity, capable of moving the stoniest of souls to laughter and tears. Pair such a book with a compatible piece of terrific music, and you have yourself a recipe for beauty distilled in its purest form.

 

Check out MUI PR Blog’s summer book recommendations, each paired with a piece of music that travels similar transcendental wavelengths.

 

Infinte Jest

“Infinite Jest,” by David Foster Wallace

“Infinite Jest,” by David Foster Wallace

Be honest, you knew your correspondent was going here, what with his love of all things grandiose and pretentious. “Infinite Jest” is many things – an existential black comedy, a scathing commentary on America’s soul-deadening search for pleasure, a head-and-heartrendingly detailed exploration of addiction and depression – but what makes David Foster Wallace’s magnum opus so enduringly unforgettable is the author’s astonishing capacity for empathy and compassion. “Jest’s” thousands of bewildering pages teem with characters rendered in all their depravity and glory, remarkably alive and unforgettably human. Summarizing the plot is like translating “The Art Of War” into Esperanto. Suffice it to say, “Infinite Jest” includes irradiated hamsters, devious and legless Quebecois assassins and an unforgettably hilarious tennis-as-nuclear-Armageddon sequence that beggars easy description. Interested yet?

Pair it with…

Bitches Brew

Miles Davis – “Bitches’ Brew”

Miles Davis – “Bitches’ Brew”

In a genre defined by limitless creativity, Miles Davis’s astounding “Bitches’ Brew” is some kind of nutso miracle. “Bitches’ Brew” is nearly 100 minutes of gloriously chaotic experimental jazz, inviting and alienating in equal measures. Davis, immortal savant that he is, leaps along austere and heady heights shot through with a groundswell of comforting warmth. It may not be the “Infinite Jest” of jazz, but it comes pretty damn close.

 

 

Let The Great World Spin

“Let The Great World Spin,” by Colum McCann

“Let The Great World Spin,” by Colum McCann

Colum McCann’s luminous work of love, loss, and symbiosis is about as enchanting as they come. Nominally a story of Phillippe Petit’s record-setting 1974 tightrope walk between New York City’s Twin Towers, McCann weaves his character’s lives together in twists and arcs, creating a story of vibrant colors, singular melancholy and unexpected joy. “Let The Great World Spin” is a love song and a swan song, seamlessly linking the glorious grit and grime of the world to the mystery of eternity.

 

Pair it with…

Modern Vampires Of The City

Vampire Weekend – “Modern Vampires of the City”

Vampire Weekend – “Modern Vampires of the City”

The parallels between McCann’s novel and Vampire Weekend’s third album start with a magnetic attraction to New York City, but they certainly don’t end there. “Modern Vampires of the City” is an ode to higher things woven in complicated tapestries, with Vampire Weekend’s plethora of musical influences happily complementing Ezra Koenig’s clever, resonant and melancholy meditations on life, death, and God in a changing city and a changing world.

 

 

 

 

Gilead

“Gilead,” by Marilynne Robinson

“Gilead,” by Marilynne Robinson

There are deep waters in “Gilead,” Marilynne Robinson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning tale of a small-town minister’s reflections from the brink of eternity. Tracing the outlines of Rev. John Ames through Ames’ letters to his young son, Robinson ponders life’s most daunting questions with wisdom leavened by a wry wit, undergirded with calm grace and lasting wonder. Robinson’s writing is hypnotic and transcendent, emotive poetry for a dying age.

 


Pair it with…

Songs of Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen – “Songs of Leonard Cohen”

Leonard Cohen – “Songs of Leonard Cohen”

Leonard Cohen, the troubadour of the divine who penned the ubiquitous and wonderous “Hallelujah,” released his first album to the world in 1967. On his debut, Cohen weaves poignant poetry through the finger-plucked chords of meditative, Dylan-esque folk music. He shares Robinson’s sense of celestial awe but keeps his fingers in the dust, crooning tales of grimy human lust made radiant by higher emotions. His taste for the rough, sooty edges of life dovetails nicely with Robinson’s humorous, homespun observations.

 

 

Freedom

“Freedom,” by Jonathan Franzen

“Freedom,” by Jonathan Franzen

Jonathan Franzen may be going into the future kicking and screaming, but he sure does know how to capture the hectic desperation of modern existence. “Freedom” is a viciously funny, intrusively personal tale of one American family’s travails across the ‘Aughts, packed full of culture and politics and existential malaise. Franzen’s prose is compulsively readable, his characters vividly real and uncomfortably familiar. “Freedom” packs a wallop.

 

Pair it with…

Achtung Baby

U2 – “Achtung Baby”

U2 – “Achtung Baby”

In some sense, this album is a less than perfect fit for Franzen’s opus. After all, Achtung Baby dropped in the bowels of the ‘90s, and “Freedom” is nothing if not proud of its modernity. “Baby” strikes some of the same notes, though, girding itself in irony and pop-culture references while channeling a bass pulse of sincerity to hold the whole thing together. With “Achtung Baby,” Bono & Co. crafted a record intimately suited to its era. To top it off, Franzen even gives it a direct mention in the pages of “Freedom.” How’s that for symmetry?

 

 

Got any book and music pairing you’d like to share? Start the conversation in the comments below or connect with me on Twitter @aa_murph