I got pleasantly distracted while Christmas shopping last week. Scrambling for a last minute present, I ducked into our public library's bookstore. It's a great little shop - a year round Friends of the Library book sale, with discarded books, videos, cassettes, and CD's from the library's collection going for fifty cents to a couple of bucks. They have other things, too, newer items, especially at Christmas time. Things like stuffed Cats-in-the-Hat and Grinches, and such.
One of those newer items was the CD, Music Inspired by Literature a compilation of songs by various artists. At first sight I passed it over, thinking it sounded, well - lame. Then I remembered that I was shopping for other people, not for myself, and thinking that my brother the English Lit major might like it, I gave it a second look. There were songs by Springsteen, Aimee Mann, Suzanne Vega, and that guy from the Doors. Heck, maybe I’d like it, too. Then, I saw that proceeds from the sales would benefit literacy programs. Inner argument over. I bought two.
I don’t regret it. The disc is a collection of gems: Ray Manzarek’s "He Can’t Come Today," inspired by Waiting for Godot, Springsteen's "The Ghost of Tom Joad," inspired by The Grapes of Wrath (and Woody Guthrie), and Grace Slick's "Rejoyce" inspired by James Joyce's Ulysses. The established artists aren't the stars of this CD, however. The most brilliant of the gems are by the lesser known artists.
There's the funky rag-timey "Evil Night Together" by Jill Tracy, inspired by Luc Sante's look at the underworld of nineteenth century New York, Low Life. It's a song that made the Lemony Snicket fans in my family exclaim, in a complimentary sort of way, "Oooo, she’s weird." Indeed, weird is her forte. There's a song by Scarth Locke based on the Shel Silverstein poem, "Bunking Bronco," that's bursting with same energy and enthusiasm as the poem.