Literary Mixtape: The Sisters Brothers


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 homicidal cowboy brothers from Patrick DeWitt’s recent Booker-shortlisted novel, The Sisters Brothers.

Eli and Charlie Sisters are two brothers on a mission — to find and assassinate one Hermann Kermit Warm on behalf of their shady employer, the Commodore. Though quite good at what they do and excellent at working as a team (there is one particular trick they’ve mastered that they keep secret by killing any witnesses), the two brothers in DeWitt’s picaresque novel have very different personalities: Charlie is jollier, but perhaps a killer at heart, whereas Eli is concerned with his horse’s feelings and seems to fall in love with every woman he greets — if only he wasn’t so round about the middle. Or a killer cowboy. Still, it’s share and share alike on the road in the wild wild West, and we think the pair would share an iPod during their adventures, earbuds stretched across their side-by-side horses. Here’s what we think they would travel to California, kill the wicked, and pan for gold to.

Stream the entire mixtape here.

“Don’t Play No Game That I Can’t Win” — Beastie Boys (feat. Santigold)

We think any couple of rough and tumble boys with a sense of humor would have at least one Beastie Boys song on their iPod, and these two, who strike fear into the hearts of scoundrels and good men alike, definitely don’t play any games they don’t win.

“I Wish” — Skee-Lo

Charlie might roll his eyes every time this track comes on, but we think Eli would insist — after all, if he’s the kind of cowboy who goes on a diet to please the imagined wishes of a lady, he’d be the kind of guy to lament his physical shortcomings in old school rap.

“Zero Dark Thirty” — Aesop Rock

Something about this song just sounds like the traveler’s life out in the American West to us, with all its rough insanity. Not that “zero friends minotaur fugly stepchild devote lunch jumped over” would make any sense to either Charlie or Eli, but we bet they’d be faking it.

“Gold Guns Girls” — Metric

This was probably meant to be a love song, but for the Sisters brothers, it would become Eli’s plea to Charlie — is it ever going to be enough?

“Power” — Kanye West

The Sisters brothers are Kanye fans if we’ve ever met them.

“Moonlight Mile” — The Rolling Stones

Charlie and Eli never had a problem with snow (at least not in this novel), but this is still one of the best songs we can think of for riding your horse quietly into the night, across the great plains of America.

“(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” — Blue Oyster Cult

Whether this song would psych Charlie up for killing or assuage Eli’s feelings (or both), we’re not sure, but we have an inkling they’d be into it.

“Psycho Killer” — Talking Heads

We can just picture Eli giggling softly to himself while listening to this song, with cranky old Charlie rolling his eyes and telling him he’d better take their life’s work a little more seriously.

“Hey Joe” — Jimi Hendrix

Who better to soundtrack a hot night than Hendrix? And if this song can be believed, he knows a little something about killing, whether he wants to or not.

“Wanted Dead or Alive” — Bon Jovi

Well, we just couldn’t help ourselves. Cowboy brothers on a death errand!