Thursday August 27th, 2009

Music Inspired by Books

Over at Paper Cuts, I participate in their Living With Music feature. My playlist is made up of songs about writer and books. I start with “Lovecraft in Brooklyn” by the Mountain Goats:

The horror writer H. P. Lovecraft moved to Brooklyn in 1924. Soon after, broke and alone (his fairly new bride had fled the city to find work in the Midwest), Lovecraft became even more than usually hateful and paranoid about the people around him. In his story “The Horror at Red Hook,” he describes the neighborhood where he lived as “a maze of hybrid squalor” and “the polyglot abyss of New York’s underworld” and “a babel of sound and filth.” He didn’t like it there.

And as you can probably tell, his complaints were of a distinctly racist variety. (If you need it clinched, read the whole story. A Grand Wizard might find the floridly demeaning descriptions of immigrants a bit much.) This song’s style complements its substance. It sounds paranoid, both musically and vocally. It begins with a lyric any New Yorker can identify with: “It’s gonna be too hot to breathe today / But everybody is out here on the streets.” Toward the end, the agitated narrator goes to a pawn shop to look for a switchblade: “Someday something’s coming / From way out beyond the stars / To kill us while we stand here / It will store our brains in mason jars / And then the girl behind the counter / She asks me how I feel today / I feel like Lovecraft in Brooklyn.”

The rest is here. And you can listen to the Mountain Goats performing the song here, or the Aesop Rock remix here.