Yesterday I was having one of the few unalloyed pleasures of my job, where I was asked to read a book merely for another opinion. We were beyond the yea-or-nay stage of reviewing it--the reviewer and Martha agreed it was really good--and I was just reading it to Keep Up.
See, the problem with being a professional reviewer is that you know that following even the most pleasurable read is a deadline. You have to 'splain yourself, Lucy. It's going to turn into work. And I'm in the camp that believes it's harder to review a book you love than it is one you don't. So the more you love something, the greater the challenge rises (is it because I was reading on a Sunday morning that I'm starting to feel like a Unitarian minister?).
All of this is just preamble to the fact that I like to listen to music when I read "for fun." (Never when I'm reading to review, or when I'm writing.) A psychologist I know says that we never actually do listen and read at the same time, more like one activity takes over during lapses in the other, but I like the landscape the music puts me in. Call me crazy, but I sometimes put music on when I'm going out, ostensibly for Buster's enjoyment but really because I secretly believes it means the house will be a better place for the experience--back from vacation, so to speak,*--when I return.
Dork alert: I try to program music that goes with my book. I have, for example, a cd of music Jane Austen liked that's good for when I'm reading her. Villa-Lobos for magical realism. Elgar for epics of Empire. Tense mysteries get tense music. Spy stories set amidst neo-Nazis in the Antarctic--you'd be surprised how much music the cold continent has inspired.
I had read a bit of my assigned-but-no-strings book already, and I remembered that it had lots of eccentric characters, an elliptical narration, and not much of a plot--in other words, it was Canadian. So I cranked up the Gavin Bryars only to realize the novel was in fact set in Australia, and that Bryars himself is only marginally Canadian, so my theory of geographical affinity went completely to pot. So As African American mezzo Shirley Verrett said, upon walking down the hall of a music school and hearing what she thought was a black singer singing spirituals "like she was from deepest Mississippi" only to open the practice room door to see a Korean girl going phonetically through "Deep River," "there goes that."
Having now finished the book, Judith Clarke's One Whole and Perfect Day (Front Street), I see that I should have gone with Mozart. Bee-yoo-ti-ful counterpoint, and it's a book about happiness.
*(For an entertaining take on this very notion, look for The House Takes a Vacation, a picture book by Jacqueline Davies and Lee White, published this month by Marshall Cavendish.)