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Lyrical literature
"Make music, and let the magic come when it will ... "
-from "War for the Oaks"

by Torild Homstad

I have my favorite housecleaning music: Carly Simon's "You're So Vain"-music with a bit of an edge to it. Classical music is best suited to grading papers-Grieg, maybe, and I like listening to something both mellow and upbeat like Café Accordion Orchestra when I'm in the kitchen. But I prefer silence when I'm reading. There the music is in the text, and magic in the music, in some books, literally.

Recently I reread a favorite novel from a number of years ago. In "War for the Oaks" by Emma Bull, a young Minneapolis rock musician, Eddi McCandry, is drafted into the war between the Good Faerie and the Evil Faerie folk. Because she is a mortal and "she makes music, the kind that moves heart and body," Eddi is considered a potential tie-breaker in their fight. Believe me, after participating in my imagination in the battles between the noble Seelie Court and the evil Unseelie Court, I will never look at Minnehaha Falls or the Como Park Conservatory in the same way again!

The music scene in Minneapolis in the 1980s is portrayed realistically in Eddi's efforts to form a rock band, and it is music that connects the real world and the world of Faerie. "All poets..., all the bards and artists, all the musicians who truly take the music into their hearts ... all straddle the border of Faerie, and they see into both worlds," says Eddi's Faerie guide, the Phouka. "Not dependably into either, perhaps, but that uncertainty keeps them honest and at a distance." it is with the power of music that Eddi duels the Queen of Air and Darkness for the fate of the Good Faeries and the soul of Minneapolis.

In the real world, it is making music together that binds the band members to each other in trust and loyalty, and it is with the power of music that Eddi duels the Queen of Air and Darkness for the fate of the Good Faeries and the soul of Minneapolis.

Music can be a powerful theme in literature and often runs like a red thread through a novel, serving as a cultural marker and bringing with it associations with a certain time period, place, age or class. Who doesn't have vivid impressions of the 1960s linked to a Beatles tune, whether hearing it on the radio or seeing it on the page? Or perhaps memories of childhood winters connected with certain holiday songs?

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For every reader, the associations might be different, but they enrich the reading. And sometimes the music is in the text itself, lyrics laid down like tracks in the recording studio, and offering the greatest pleasure in being read aloud.

Torild Homstad lives in Northfield, Minn., and is a visiting assistant professor of Norwegian at St. Olaf College. She administers the North American admissions office of the University of Oslo International Summer School.

Torild Homstad recommends these books by women authors with musical themes:

Song of the Lark by Willa Cather
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
Oh My Stars by Lorna Landvik
I Think I Love You by Allison Pearson
A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

What's on your bookshelf?
Send us 450 words about your booklife, plus your list of five related books by women authors. editor@womenspress.com

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