Lately, I’ve been pondering the notion of getting close to a character, which characters are considered iconic, and which ones we can get close to and befriend. What makes us get close to a character? In my last post, I mentioned the bands that Paige loved in The Big Wide Calm, and how that brought me closer to her because we like the same music. What other qualities do you as readers find likable or relatable in characters? Their preferences? Their home life or social life? I guess for me the home life of a character helps me relate to them more. If I’m able to see inside their bedroom, or see inside their heads, see what kind of people they hang out with. The more details, the better, because when I read a book, I want to get sucked into that world and befriend the characters, feel safe with them.
There are some literary characters that are supposed to be at least somewhat relatable but have become so iconic that it’s hard to pull them down from that pedestal, to your level. Holden Caufield comes to mind. He’s supposed to be a young misfit, but that book is so loaded and held up so high that it’s hard to reach him. He’s like a literary rockstar.
What do you think about getting close to characters? How about befriending them? Do you think you can befriend characters or is that a little too nerdy for you?
Lately, with the upcoming release of The Big Wide Calm: A Novel, I’ve been pondering the presence of artistic mediums living in other artistic mediums. I mean, living, breathing, being a presence within the book. In TBWC, Paige is a musician and her musical influences are constantly present in her life: Led Zeppelin, Aimee Mann, Ani DiFranco. That’s one of the reasons why I enjoy the book so much. Knowing the music she loves brings me closer to her, makes her more real, and helps me to even have those “I totally get it” moments in the book which is awesome. Having characters as friends is awesome.
This got me thinking of some other books where music is a huge, living, breathing presence in the book. These are a few I’ve read, and these are fiction pieces. If I got into all the memoirs and biographies this post would be never-ending.
1. The Perks of Being a Wallflower: this one’s a no-brainer. Though YA, this book is incredible. The protagonist, Charlie, loves mix tapes and makes them for his new friends. He especially loves “Asleep” by The Smiths. The Smiths are depressing and amazing and this book is a pretty defining piece of literature, and music is one of Charlie’s closest friends.
2. High Fidelity: another obvious choice. Rob Fleming is constantly making songs and playlists, organizing his record collection and gushing about rare demos. He works in a record store. He is the music geek to end all music geeks.
3. The Exes: a book about a rock group comprised entirely of ex couples. Drama, guitars, enough said.
4. Paint it Black: a (gorgeous but depressing) novel about Josie, a punk rock denizen in LA coping with the death of her artist boyfriend. She loves The Germs, has bleach blonde hair and is trying to build a future for herself.
5. Hairstyles of the Damned: Brian is your typical teen outcast, knee deep in punk rock music. He falls in love with Gretchen, a foul mouth chick who constantly gets into fights. Each chapter heading begins with playlists consisting of punk gems by bands like The Misfits and The Clash.
What other books have music as a presence? Do you think adding in elements like a character’s musical preference makes them more relatable?