• 1984" - David Bowie

    From the unrealized musical of Orwell’s novel.

  • Banana Co." - Radiohead

    Apparently this is based on Marquez’ One Hundred Years of Solitude. The lyrics are vague enough to support this claim. 

  • Hallelujah" - Leonard Cohen 

    Based on the biblical story of David and Bathsheba. That’s literature, right?

  • Jocasta" - Noah and the Whale

    Sophocles. Oedipus Rex. Who knew? (Many of you, probably, but I have taken two Literature classes my entire life.)

  • Memory" - the musical, Cats 

    Of course the entire musical is inspired by T.S. Eliot’s cat book. This particular song comes from “Preludes,” and “Rhapsody on a Windy Night.”

  • No Quarter" - Led Zeppelin

    Some say this song is about The Hobbit. Like Banana Co., the lyrics are suitably vauge. 

  • The Tales of Brave Ulysses" - Cream

    The title speaks for itself. 

    How his naked ears were tortured by the sirens singing sweetly
    for the sparkling waves are calling you to kiss their white laced lips.

  • Tom Joad" - Woody Guthrie 

    From Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath.

Please Marry Me

by Charles Baxter

Please marry me. Your mother likes me.
—Line spoken by an unknown woman, in a dream

We are stretched out on a dingy sofa, and I think
I must be barefoot because a woman whom no one knows
Is massaging the ankle of one leg of mine and the instep
Of the other, all this toward morning, and I have that
Occasional epiphany one has while still asleep
That I am floating down a river
Because I am so happy and all the dismal issues
Have been made tractable at last, and so I say to her
That the late symphonies of Gustav Mahler
Are more lucid if you’re sitting close to, and above,
The orchestra, so that you can see the contrapuntal
Lines moving from strings to woodwinds
And then back again, whereupon this woman,
Sitting (I now realize) at my feet, says, in the full
Heat of our dream life, and in that happiness,
“Please marry me. Your mother likes me,”
And so I wake, not laughing, although my mother

Has been dead for over thirty years, but in wonderment
Over what quality this dream-woman must have owned
To have pleased my mother so that she,
My late mother, would have said, despite her ban
On ordinary pleasantries, that she had liked someone,
Anyone, who might have cared for me, and as I lie
In bed I think of the last movement of Mahler’s Ninth
When the melodic lines go quiet for minute after minute
In a prolonged farewell to music and to life,
Which my mother would attend to in her bathrobe
Late at night, the stereo turned up, blended whiskey
In her highball glass mixed with milk as a disguise,
Leaning back, hand over eyes, silent-movie style
Like Norma Desmond listening as Von Stroheim plays
The organ wearing his white gloves. No, it wasn’t
Mahler, it was Schoenberg, Verklärte Nacht,
Moon-drunk music, mad and inconsolable.

I have never read Geoff Dyer, but I stumbled on these 10 tips and laughed, so that’s a good sign. Also: Jonathan Lethem describes him as “our leading master of the undefinable memoir-essay-perambulation on diverse topics: jazz, D. H. Lawrence, photography, travel, drugs, sex, et cetera.” Also a good sign.

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How to organize a bookstore if you’re Italo Calvino

  1. Books You Haven’t Read
  2. Books You Needn’t Read
  3. Books Made for Purposes Other Than Reading
  4. Books Read Even Before You Open Them Since They Belong to the Category of Books Read Before Being Written
  5. Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered
  6. Books You Mean to Read But There Are Others You Must Read First
  7. Books Too Expensive Now and You’ll Wait ‘Til They’re Remaindered
  8. Books ditto When They Come Out in Paperback
  9. Books You Can Borrow from Somebody
  10. Books That Everybody’s Read So It’s As If You Had Read Them, Too
  11. Books You’ve Been Planning to Read for Ages
  12. Books You’ve Been Hunting for Years Without Success
  13. Books Dealing with Something You’re Working on at the Moment
  14. Books You Want to Own So They’ll Be Handy Just in Case
  15. Books You Could Put Aside Maybe to Read This Summer
  16. Books You Need to Go with Other Books on Your Shelves
  17. Books That Fill You with Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified
  18. Books Read Long Ago Which It’s Now Time to Re-read
  19. Books You’ve Always Pretended to Have Read and Now It’s Time to Sit Down and Really Read Them

From If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler

Interview with Chuck Palahniuk


A lot of interviews with you seem to focus on the nihilistic views in your books. Does the focus on this aspect of your writing get tiresome?

Yeah, a little tiresome. Especially when I secretly know my work is very romantic, and ALWAYS about returning a lonely character to community with other people. There’s a BIG difference between “not caring” or being “nihilistic” about a topic and simply not being enrolled by the drama presented by other people. Just because my characters CHOOSE not to react in standard, socially-appropriate ways — that does not mean they don’t care. They just reject ordinary dramas.

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