Stuart Murdoch of Belle & Sebastian Dissects His Favorite Books

The Book Club is a new monthly series that explores the literature that inspired some of our favorite musicians. Whether it’s a musical biography that leads them to the tagline of their tour, a collection of poems that incorporate their deepest lyrics, or the novel that kicks off a rock opera, we’ll be back. drill down to the bottom of it so you can add it to the top of your stack of books. This month, we talk to Stuart Murdoch from Belle & Sebastian.

Stuart Murdoch has been a book lover since his early 20s, and his obsession with literature shaped some of his earliest Belle & Sebastian songs. “The writing phase changed my life,” he said by phone. “I feel that with every book I am reading, I have been changed as a person, more than music ever did for me.” Although he described many of his earliest readings as radiographs, by the late ’80s, Murdoch had oriented himself toward what he had heard were “great people” —Jane Austen’s Sensation and sensitivityFranz Kafka, and Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita.

“I cannot think of many books that immerse or describe America in a more wonderful way,” Murdoch said of that last one, noting that Nabokov’s verbosity upgraded his own vocabulary. how is that. He finds the same joy in James Joyce’s Portrait of an artist when he was young– “It’s like a long poem, where your language is dancing as you read.”

Murdoch’s love of literary culture has inspired many Belle & Sebastian titles — including “Wrapped Up in Books,” an entire EP titled Books, “The Book of You,” “Put the Book Back on the.” Shelf,” and lyrical references to Judy Blume, Sylvia Plath and JD Salinger dotted their 10-album disc. Of this month A little bit before, the group’s first record in seven years, was influenced by Murdoch’s Buddhist practice. “The specific book we studied before and while burning the LP is called Eight new steps to happiness [by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso]The song “Sea of ​​Sorrow” was inspired by an allegory in which every hundred years a blind tortoise emerges from the ocean to face any difficulty. .

In addition to the lyric project, Murdoch has also published a memoir The Celestial Café in 2010, wrote and directed the 2014 film God help the girland collaborated with illustrator Pamela Tait on Belle and Sebastian: Lyrics with illustrations. He is also two-thirds of the way through writing a new non-fiction manuscript and tells me that he enjoys the freedom to try new genres of literature: “You can feel it by My way and it’s actually more fun when you write it down together,” he admits. To celebrate A little bit beforeMurdoch outlines the books that changed him, the books he keeps coming back to, and the books Belle and Sebastian both haunt.

SPIN: What is your favorite book recommended to you?
Stuart Murdoch: Back in the 90s, I went through a bad, difficult period that lasted about six years. Me and my best friend Ciara both have the same illness and disease, so we used to have long days together, and we frequented her parents’ house. Her father was a writer from Northern Ireland named Bernard MacLa Poor — he wrote Cal and Sheep and some other books. One day I said to him, “Bernard, you have a wonderful library. Can you recommend a book that will take up my time and help me lose myself? “He gave me Twenty years of adulthood by Maurice O’Sullivan. The film is about a boy growing up on the Blasket Islands, located southwest of the main island of Ireland. It was the turn of the century, from the 19th to the 20th centuries, so you can imagine things being very different in this boy’s life. If I remember, the title comes from a phrase, an Irish rhyme: “Twenty years of growing up, twenty years of blossoming, twenty years of stooping and twenty years of decline.” It describes four life periods.

Glasgow has a notable literary scene, between the Good Press, the Zine Library and the Poetry Club… which local is your favourite?
Mine [favorite] was a young man named Alasdair Grey, who died two years ago. I knew Alasdair and the fact that we were going to collaborate on a music book, then we started doing different things. He is the author of Lanark; some people talk about it as Scottish Ulysses, but there are many biographies. It’s a painting of Glasgow from the ’50s, ’60s, he grew up, a young man trying to move from the theoretical east of the city to the west — which is coming from the working part of the city. street to the more intellectual, middle-class side. So it was a portrait of a young Scotsman. But he is also packing a vision of a darker Glasgow: a vision of hell, Dante-esque, into the bowels of the city. So it’s full of metaphors and dangers. He does it artistically. And he also illustrates – he’s almost as famous in Scotland with his paintings. He painted murals at people’s homes, commissioned. And as his fame grew, people took great pride in the Alasdair Gray murals appearing in certain living rooms.

Your faith and practice in both Christianity and Buddhism are central to your life. What other books make sense to you?
Would you lose interest in me if I spoke the Bible? It was, of course, a controversial book. It includes the Old Testament, it includes Judaism, Christianity continues with the New Testament, there is a lot of interference with Islam. I understand very well that the Bible is man’s interpretation of God’s words, so I am quite comfortable reading it. I filter through the things I don’t like and stick to the ones I do like. I love stories in John, like the wedding at Cana, or the woman at the well, or when Mary Magdalene washed Jesus’ feet with perfume. There are great personal, radical stories. I invested in it.

You used to study physics. Do you still enjoy reading about science?
I did science at University in the mid-’80s. I loved the idea of ​​science and I thought maybe I was a bit wrong. I’m starting to lose interest in all the real work and I’ll be reading literature books rather than doing my physics work. But when a book comes out — something like Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance or The Ethics of Physics-That did it for me. Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance, it’s an engraved volume, a famous book. Some people are younger [readers] may not have heard of it, but I would recommend one to them.

Is there a musical memoir that you love the most?
My hobbies is Edie by Jean Stein. It’s a book about Edie Sedgwick, but there’s more to it: the Factory panorama and Andy Warhol. Going back to the 80s and 90s, reading a book that enlivened the 60s in a direct and colorful way, it jumped off the page. You will get a multifaceted picture of the whole scene that will make something close to the truth. You will find that some storytellers are less believable than others, but you have grasped the whole truth. So that’s a great one, Edie.

Our band — Bob and Stevie in particular and, indeed, all of them, except Sara — devoured autobiographies and biographies about rock music. And it was such a constant talking point in rehearsal that nothing was done. So there’s a new one out [in June 2022] summon Remaining exit phase [by Nick Deurden, about] what happened to pop stars when they stopped selling, when they stopped being famous. Fame is ever-changing and you can only stay at the top for so long. We never really had that experience because it was a marathon, not a sprint for Belle and Sebastian. So that’s why it’s so appealing to us. Some of the stories are really great, from stories like Robbie Williams or Dexy’s Midnight Runner. They interviewed Natalie Merchant from 10,000 Maniacs, Suzanne Vega, and Tanya Donnelly from Belly and Throwing Muses. Of course someone like Tanya Donnelly will always have integrity, but for some, like the Frankie Goes band that went to Hollywood in the ’80s, the downfall is excruciatingly severe. Can you imagine being a top British band for years, and then suddenly you release your next record and nothing happens? It has spurred some of these people to therapy.

What books have you shared with your children about the pandemic?
CS Lewis is the oldest, followed closely by Roald Dahl. Now they’re a little bigger — 5 and 8 — they’re not sitting on my knees that much anymore, they’re sitting on tablets and everything. So I tricked them. We got cozy and I said, “I’ll tell you a story.” And especially, I know the CS Lewis books so well, that I can tell them the story of the book in quite detail, and that puts them to sleep. CS Lewis books were my favorite things when I was a kid. Of the seven Narnia books, my two favorites are His horse and boy and Silver chair. In particular, what do I like about those two? [was they both had] the female characters and I feel they are the strongest characters CS Lewis has written in his children’s books. When you’re young, girls’ company is a good fit – we were very separate growing up. So here are two impressive women in literature, when I was young. Stuart Murdoch of Belle & Sebastian Dissects His Favorite Books

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