Here at Flavorwire of late, we’ve been looking at what some of our favorite creative types have appreciated in the work of their peers — our favorite actors’ favorite actors, etc. We do like a bit of genre cross-pollination, though, so we thought we’d extend the remit of the idea across genre lines, starting with some of our favorite authors discussing the work of the musicians who inspire, excite, or just generally impress them.
David Foster Wallace: R.E.M.
David Lipsky, who wrote the recent memoir Travels With David Foster Wallace, conducted a sort of pseudo-AMA with the Wallace-I mailing list on the book’s release. One of the questions dealt with Wallace’s tastes in music, which Lipsky described as follows: “[Wallace’s] music tastes were pretty eclectic. He loved the R.E.M. song ‘Strange Currencies’ (‘I mean, I will find one or two songs — I listened to ‘Strange Currencies’ over and over again all summer’). He knew the music he liked very well — the way Nabokov could track certain themes and lines across a centuries’ novels — so well he could hear where they were being picked up by other artists. On the other hand, he says, ‘I have the musical tastes of a thirteen year old girl.’ He listened to Nirvana while writing Infinite Jest; and also to ‘this woman named Enya, who’s Scottish.'” (Wallace did not, however, care for AC/DC.)
Thomas Pynchon: Lotion
The story of Thomas Pynchon’s favorite band is one of the more bizarre this feature has to offer. The famously reclusive author apparently took a fancy to the music of unheralded New York band Lotion after he was given their album Nobody’s Cool by his accountant, and agreed to write some liner notes for it. The band milked the story for all it was worth, claiming he became their biggest fan and turned up to their shows in a Godzilla t-shirt. They’ve since said this story was a hoax — but the thing is, apparently Pynchon really did write the liner notes in question, and also turned unannounced up to several of the band’s shows. Pynchon himself, of course, is not talking about it, so really only he and the band know exactly what transpired.
Haruki Murakami: The Beach Boys
Conveniently, Murakami fan blog Haruki Murakami Stuff spent a decent portion of last year rounding up the author’s favorite songs, as revealed in various books and essays (not all of which have been translated into English.) The archive is here — there’s a decent selection of artists on show, but The Beach Boys/Brian Wilson and also Bruce Springsteen are particularly prominent.
Margaret Atwood: The Arrogant Worms
Atwood’s been using her substantial clout of late to help set up something called Fanado, which bills itself as an “online event space” for indie bands in her native Canada to interact with their fans and ideally make money from doing so. In an interview for CBC Music, she spoke about some of her favorite Canadian music: “I’m kind of keen on a group called the Arrogant Worms. When I’m explaining Canada to people who aren’t Canadian, I always start with their song, ‘Canada’s Really Big.’ Joni Mitchell, of course. And a lot of music from Nova Scotia. And there’s Feist, indeed.” Indeed.
Gabriel García Márquez: The Beatles
The venerable Colombian maestro spoke about his love of music in Heriberto Fiorillo’s documentary film La cueva itinerante o García Márquez y su grupo de Barranquilla. It turns out that he particularly likes the Beatles: “I have more records than books. I discovered the miracle that everything that sounds is music, cars in the street, horns, voices… everything. Music is everything that sounds. I am a confirmed music lover, I always have my slogan: the only thing better than music is talking about music. I continue to believe that this is the absolute truth. I have heard as much music as I have been able to obtain. In New York discotheques I have bought Caribbean records that cannot be found anywhere. When I was writing One Hundred Years of Solitude in Mexico, I wore out Beatles’ records, which I listened to in order to stimulate myself.”
Stephen King: LCD Soundsystem
King is another author who’s spoken extensively about his love of music. He wrote a column for Entertainment Weekly about music and pop culture throughout the 2000s, and also did an extensive interview with county singer Steve Earle in 2005 where he spoke about his all-time favorite songs. He’s partial to country music and rock ‘n’ roll: favorites include Ryan Adams, Wilco, Alison Krauss, and Bob Dylan. In a more unexpected twist, he apparently also likes LCD Soundsystem: “If this is where disco went when it died, then it was very good and went to heaven.”
J.K. Rowling: The Smiths
Seriously, what is it with writers and The Beatles? Y’all know there’s been four decades of music since they broke up, yeah? Anyway, J.K. Rowling is another paid-up fan — she told Stephen Fry in a Q&A at the Royal Albert Hall, “The Beatles were my favourite group and I just said to someone when I got on that this is the nearest I’ll ever get to being a Beatle hearing you all [the audience] shouting. It was very nice. I see myself as the George Harrison.” (In fairness, she also likes The Smiths: “I think the Smiths were the only group whose falling apart really affected me personally. Very sad.”)
Dave Eggers: Various indie bands
Eggers curated a list of his favorite albums for Dusted a couple of years back, which you can see in full here. It’s an interesting selection — he clearly has pretty eclectic tastes, encompassing country (The Jayhawks), world music (Youssou N’Dour), and relatively obscure San Francisco bands like Stacey Twigg and The Velveteen. (Also, his favorite Sonic Youth song is apparently “Tuff Gnarl,” an… adventurous choice.)
Doris Lessing: Phillip Glass
Lessing clearly has a fan in the great avant-garde composer — he has based two operas on her work, for both of which she has contributed the libretto. His opera based on her book The Making of the Representative for Planet 8 premiered in 1988, and The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four and Five in 1997. This means it’s well past time for another one!
Vladimir Nabokov: No fun, ever
Cheerful as ever, Nabokov once described music thus: “Music, I regret to say, affects me merely as an arbitrary succession of more or less irritating sounds,” which doesn’t at all make us want to give the insufferable old windbag a wet willy.