Maria Popova’s Literary Jukebox is not a blog. It doesn’t offer you any information, or original content, or even services. It falls into that sub-category of online offerings that is less functional than economical: it recycles existing material and simply ‘shares’ it with you. Popova’s personal designator for this activity is “curator of interestingness” – which is good, and her Literary Jukebox takes this premise, one shared by Instagrammers the internet over, and carves something interesting, and yes, I would say original, out of existing materials.
The Jukebox is a side project for the ‘curator’s’ website, brainpickings.com (sounds more gruesome than it is), which similarly cherry-picks those things Popova thinks so interesting she wants to give them a bigger audience. The Jukebox doesn’t promise you much, but it delivers exactly that much – it gives you a few moments of pure, simple enjoyment. (I dare you not to smile.) It consists of this: every day Popova picks a quote from a favourite book and matches it with a thematically coherent song. That’s it. And it’s great.
As I write this, the quote is from Anaïs Nin’s Diary of Anais Nin, Vol. 5 1947-1955: “Maturity is first the shedding of what you are not, and then the balancing of what you are in relation to the human being you love, and allowing the selves of that person which are not related to you to exist independently, outside of the relationship.”
And the song, Paulo Nutini’s ‘Growing up Beside You’. Which doesn’t sound like a perfect combination, but when you read the quote as the song plays (instruction: always click play on the song before you even scroll down to see what the song is, and to read the quote. So much better), but with the soundtrack of Nutini, Nin’s spare words become even more poetic, musical almost; and in the presence of such poetry, Nutini’s voice sounds raw, his music bittersweet and intoxicating. You don’t expect it to work, but both ingredients taste even better put together.
Tomorrow the sandwich will be made of Charles Dickens and Billie Holiday. Dickens, from Great Expectations, “Take nothing on its looks; take everything on evidence. There’s no better rule.” and Holiday’s ‘Foolin Myself’. This one, more incongruous, is even better.