Literary Mixtape: Faust


If you’ve ever wondered what your favorite literary characters might be listening to while they save the world/contemplate existence/get into trouble, or hallucinated a soundtrack to go along with your favorite novels, well, us too. But wonder no more! Here, we sneak a look at the hypothetical iPods of some of literature’s most interesting characters. What would be on the personal playlists of Holden Caulfield or Elizabeth Bennett, Huck Finn or Harry Potter, Tintin or Humbert Humbert? Something revealing, we bet. Or at least something danceable. Read on for a cozy reading soundtrack, character study, or yet another way to emulate your favorite literary hero. This week: the most famous scholar of German legend and literature, Faust.

The legend of Faust has been told more than once in the literary canon, from the first chapbook published in 1587 to Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus to Goethe’s 1808 Faust to Thomas Mann’s 1947 Doctor Faustus, and a million reinterpretations, films, operas, poems and the like in between. In the legend, Faust is a brilliant academic attempting to learn everything there is to learn in the world, resorting to magic to attain ultimate knowledge. Mephistopheles appears, and makes a deal with Faust — that he will give him whatever he wants, all the power and knowledge in the world, for 24 years only, and then Faust must serve the Devil in hell for eternity. We think Faust would like bombastic, dramatic music to go along with his sense of his own importance, and probably some music about the Devil tucked in there, too, as a self-congratulatory measure. Here’s what we think Faust would study, seduce, and make that deal to.

Stream the mixtape here.

“The Devil Went Down to Georgia” — The Charlie Daniels Band

Faust’s own deal with the devil wasn’t quite so musical or upbeat, it’s true, but we still think he’d appreciate the commiseration.

“All the Pleasures of the World” — The Crayon Fields

A love song to pleasure and adventure, and to the one who makes it all possible: “All the pleasures of the world, you bring me so close to them all/ Adventures of the world you, bring me so close to them all…” We can imagine Faust loving this track in the first flush of his deal, excited about what the new world will bring.

“The Day Before You Came” — The Real Tuesday Weld

Though the Real Tuesday Weld is probably singing this song, a dreary whisperfest about a life of apathy and dull repetition interrupted by a mysterious figure, to a girl, Faust wouldn’t be able to help thinking of his buddy Mephistopheles.

“The Tower of Learning” — Rufus Wainwright

Catharsis for the depressed academic in all of us.

“Getting the Done Job” — The Books

A certified hyper-intelligent scholar like Faust would probably appreciate the noise collages of The Books, whether because he could analyze them to death or because they would allow him a break from all that narrative thought. We think he’d also like the song “Read, Eat, Sleep.”

“The Day the Devil” — Laurie Anderson

We think Faust would like the strange, dramatic genius of Laurie Anderson, not least when she’s singing about the devil descending on an American shopping mall. Because “the day the Devil comes to getcha, he’s right on time…”

“Heaven & Hell” — Black Sabbath

We think Faust would like the stark, powerful drama of Black Sabbath — it’d make him feel like a manly man when he was hanging out with all his books. Though Goethe lets Faust be redeemed, in the early tales, he always ends up in hell.

“Tribute” — Tenacious D

Another deal-with-the-devil track, we think Faust would secretly be into Jack Black’s grandstanding and weirdness — hey, it’s something different, at least.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” — Queen

Though opinions as to what this song is really about are mixed, we think Faust would dig the mock-opera glamour of it all, not to mention the plight of the vocalist. “Too late, my time has come/ Send shivers down my spine, body’s aching all the time/ Goodbye everybody, I’ve got to go/ Got to leave you all behind and face the truth…”

“All These Things That I’ve Done” — The Killers

We think Faust would love this song of man-angst and dreams of greatness. It might even inspire him to try a little black eyeliner when he hits the clubs to seduce young damsels.