And I use the phrase "aspiring book critics" lightly, because â€“ well, you know. Being a book critic was a questionable calling 20 years ago. These days, you might as well go into typewriter repair. (I kid! Some of my best friends... repair typewriters.)
Anyway, over at Paper Cuts, The New York Times' books blog, contributor Liesl Schillinger â€“ a prolific and formidable critic â€“ has been kind enough to run through the soundtrack to her writing life.
"I kickstart my process by listening to music that calls up the bookâ€™s mood," Schillinger writes. A playlist of loud and buoyant tunes is the fallback, "but for books that hearken back to a pre-Buddy Holly age, Iâ€™ve needed to make separate playlists," she adds. "A surprising number of the titles I read have to do with femmes fatales, the Jazz Age and the run-up to World War II."
As Valerie Merians notes over at Moby Lives â€“ the blog of estimable publisher Melville House â€“ Schillinger's taste is extremely diverse. She's got everything in there from Marlene Dietrich to Dr. Dog and some early Kinks, along with a bit of vintage jazz thrown in for good measure. I'm not sure where Liesl is digging these gems up, but I'm pretty sure she's made at least one trip to her local flea market.
My favorite? "All That She Wants," performed by faded pop stars Ace of Base. Schillinger says she sometimes plays the song when she's reviewing Russian-themed books. Here's her extremely erudite explanation (my block-quote button seems to be broken, so I'm going for italics):
In the Yeltsin era, this Swedish pop song rocked the dance club 011 (the number is the phone code for Belgrade), a popular boĂ®te on Moscowâ€™s Garden Ring road (Sadovoye Koltso), run by handsome young Serbs who had fled east, not wanting to get caught up in the Yugoslav war. At 011, they checked guns as well as coats at the garderob (cloakroom). â€śAll That She Wantsâ€ť brings my Moscow back to life, and reminds me of my British-Venezuelan roommate, who shared my tiny apartment in an apple grove on the edge of the city, commuted with me to the Russian magazine where we worked by day and coaxed me every night to hurry to the Sholkovsky Shosse highway and hail a car to take us to the dance clubs.