Music and the novel

bookshow“Music is a powerful influence, affecting us emotionally, physically, mentally ……”

In this program, aired on The Radio National’s Book Show on 14th October, the role of music in the novel is discussed in a 15 minute conversation. The guest presenter was Dr Alan Dilnot. He is the Senior Lecturer in English at Monash University, specialising in 19 Century fiction and he was speaking with Fiona Croall.

Many writers employ music in their novels as a way of communicating emotions beyond words, or to encourage consistency in character, tone, and language. Music in fiction can create the mood of a time, like John Updike’s Rabbit Run, set in the late 1950s, or it can influence the structure of a novel like James Joyce’s Ulysses.

Music has also played a major role in British literature, with Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, George Eliot and Ian McEwan among the writers who have used music in their work.

It was another interesting Book Show discussion, one that made me start to think about something I had previously overlooked. I must go back to some of these novels and look at hem with new eyes..

I also downloaded 2 other programs this week:

  • The Australian Long Story (12min). (Guest: Mandy Sayer, Editor of The Australian Long Story (Penguin). Author of eight books including Mood Indigo and Velocity. Mandy also holds a Doctorate in the short story and is currently a Scholar in Writing at the University of Technology in Sydney.)  In this program they try to define what a long story is – as opposed to a “short story” and a “novella”. Also discussed is a new collection of Australian long stories (Penguin) from some of Australia’s well known authors. I have been talking about writing with some of our students lately. There are quite a few who regularly write stories and some are very keen on becoming authors in the future and I hope to play this discussion to them when we get together next. 
  •  Children’s picture books.(12min) (Guest: Neal Porter, American publisher and editorial director, Roaring Brooks Press)

Nine years ago, Neil decided to focus exclusively on children’s books and set up his own publishing house for high-quality literature for young readers of all ages. Many of the authors and illustrators in his stable are Australian, including Margaret Wild, Ron Brooks, Gregory Rogers and Stephen Michael King. In this discussion he explained why he regards the Australian picture books so highly.

I have found many of the short discussion so interesting and the few that I have used with students have been great discussion starters.


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