Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Singing the Song of the Free Range Reader

I can't remember which of you loooovely bloggy peeps mentioned it, but someone referred to reading what you want, when you want without obligation as "free range" reading. I've been thinking about this particular term for a while now, and I've decided I love it. I thrive as a free range reader.

As I've been percolating on my reading, I've also begun to think a little about what draws me to different books. And I'm thinking very specifically. It sort of reminds me of my own proclivities in music. I'm a VERY eclectic listener. If you were to romp through my Spotify playlist you would see the following and MANY more: 30 Seconds to Mars, Bruce Springsteen, Marc Cohn, Eurythmics, Florence + the Machine, Jake Owen, Miranda Lambert, Aaron Copeland (classical), Samuel Barber (classical), Jay Z, John Legend, Lauryn Hill, Oasis, The Dixie Chicks.

I'm attracted to different types of musics for varied reasons, some of them being voice quality, instrumentation, lyrics, beat, a certain "mood" a song evokes. Likewise, I like books for a deluge of reasons that appeal directly to my mood. As I was looking at a list of books I've read over the last three years or so, I could make some direct comparisons in the qualities I like in music and the qualities that appeal to me in a gripping novel.

Miranda Lambert is one of the best lyricists in country music. Her music and lyrics are fresh and she has a decidedly quirky, lovely twang and vocal delivery. One of my favorite songs of hers is "The House That Built Me."
I thought if I could touch this place or feel itThis brokenness inside me might start healingOut here it's like I'm someone elseI thought that maybe I could find myselfIf I could just come in, I swear I'll leaveWon't take nothing but a memoryFrom the house that built me
In comparison to my reading, there's a wonderful connection with Alice Hoffman's book The Red Garden. There's the same sense of a warm, down home atmosphere and the creativity (in plot and analogy) that I adore in Hoffman's writing sync up nicely with what I admire in Miranda Lambert's lyrics.

There are other books that I get sucked into because they have a relentless pace to them. They're compelling from page one with a great story, good writing, and a level of interest that I may not at first be able to explain, but that becomes almost entrancing. A music/book pairing here would be Jay Z and Kanye West's "No Church in the Wild" with Justin Cronin's The Passage. You may recognize this song from the new Great Gatsby trailer. Without a doubt, the most intense book I've read in the last few years is The Passage. It's a great book with a winning combination of good writing, a breakneck pace, and interesting characters. Likewise, I'm totally taken with "No Church in the Wild." It's a driving beat, I love Jay Z and Kanye's voices, and the lyrics are clever and edgy.

Drug dealer chic
I'm wondering if a thug's prayers reach
Is Pious pious cause God loves pious?
Socrates asked whose bias do yall seek
All for Plato, screech
I'm out here balling, I know yall hear my sneaks
Jesus was a carpenter, Yeezy laid beats
Hova flowed the Holy Ghost
Get the hell up out your seats

Last, but certainly not lease -- I fell in love with Florence + the Machine's "Breath of Life." This song is included on the Snow White and the Huntsman soundtrack, but I think it also fits one of my favorite books of the year: Wicked by Gregory Maguire. I love the song because it's atmospheric and almost "heavy" in the way it can wrap me up (especially if I'm listening with headphones). Likewise, I was completely taken with Wicked because it's far darker, more political, and more intense than I'd ever expected. Elphaba is a troubled character with a troubled past and she fights through a great deal of political intrigue and hardship. The intensity, the beauty of the lyrics, and the dark atmosphere seem a good fit for this song. 

To get a dream of life again
A little vision of the start at the end
But all the choirs in my head sang,
No oh oh
But I needed one more touch
Another taste of heavenly rush
And I believe, I believe it
So oh oh oh
Who's side am I on?
Who's side am I?
Who's side am I on?
Who's side am I?

I’ve written a lot here lately about judgement in reading. People judge others’ reading (and some people judge their own) choices based on genre, literary merit (or a perceived lack). I’ve never once felt any need to justify my eclectic musical choices, and I choose music based on a very basic need in the moment. Mood dictates all in my musical choices, and it's been great to let that same sort of basic need lead me in my reading. There's never been a time in my life that I agonized over the right music. Why agonize over book choices? Read what fits the need.

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