DYING ON HALLOWEEN – With words, music, and moving images

Last year I posted a Halloween-inspired Book spine poetry and a playlist in which each tune was accompanied by a reading item (and in one case, a film).

This year I’m doing the reverse: I’ll start from a literary source – a poem, a novel, or an essay – and will create a dialogue with a song and a film. With added bonus tracks. Remember, it’s a ‘dialogue,’  an exchange in which  the ‘title track’ is not necessarily a mirror for similarities but rather an inspiration for thematic variations and motivations. I have relied on irony in one stance.

Whilst last year the subjects were varied, from zombies to witches and cemeteries, this time the topic is one: death. In seven forms. Like a reversed creation.

the-seventh-seal-chess-gamefrom Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal (1958)

1. Death by self – Sylvia Plath, Lady Lazarus (1965)with Seems so long ago, Nancy (1969) by Leonard Cohen and Interiors (1978) by Woody Allen.

For the geek-at-heart: Sylvia Plath reads “Lady Lazarus.”

For those with a dead heart: Stars, “Dead Hearts” (from the album The Five Ghosts, 2010). – I much enjoyed their concert about a year ago at the Blue Note, here, in Columbia, MO.

2. Death by water – Samuel T. Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1798), with Bob Dylan’s When The Ship Comes in (1964) and Krzysztof Kieslowski’s DecalogueEpisode 1 (1988).

For the geek-at-heart: Richard Burton reads “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”

For those with a metal heart: Iron Maiden’s version!

3. Death by husband – Barry Holden,” from Edgard Lee Master’s Spoon River Anthology (1916), with Johnny Cash’s Delia’s Gone (1962) and Bryan Forbes’s The Stepford Wives (1975).  

For the geek-at-heart: Italian songwriter Fabrizio De André took inspiration from the Spoon River Anthology for his 1971 concept album Non al denaro non all’amore né al cielo (Not to Money, Not to Love, Nor to Heaven). When poetry gives birth to even higher poetry. My favorite poetical rewrite: “Un medico” (based on #49, Dr. Siegfried Iseman).

For those who had a heartbeat at Johnny Cash’s rhythm: Violent Femmes, “County Death Song.” Listen while watching Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980), or just this scene.

4. Death by wife – Virginie Despentes, Baise-moi (1999), with Nick Cave’s Henry Lee (1995) and Luchino Visconti’s Ossessione (1942). I know that the two characters in Baise-moi are not ‘wives’ but there’s not another book quite like it. Powerfully disturbing. With an eponymous film adapted from it.

For the geek-at-heart: The science of deadly mates – female spiders.

For the revengeful heart: Quentin Tarantino, Kill Bill – Vol.1 (2003).

5. Death by boredom – James Joyce, Ulysses (1922), with Cat Stevens’ Morning Has Broken and Andy Warhol’s Empire (1964). 

For the geek-at-heart: Science says you really can be bored to death.

For those with a bored heart: The National, “Fake Empire” (from the album Boxer, 2007).

6. Nomadic death – William Faulkner, As I lay dying (1930), with The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005) by Tommy Lee Jones and Verdi’s Requiem-Dies Irae (1874) – because when bodies can’t find a (peaceful) burial you need to sing them a requiem. Click here for a guided reading of Faulkner’s novel and here for a review of Jones’ film.

For the geek-at-heart: William Faulkner reads from “As I lay dying.”

For those with an LGBTQ heart: Elena Stancanelli, Benzina  (1998), adapted for the screen by Monica Stambrini (2001). Two lesbian teenagers on the run with the dead body of one’s mother in the trunk. Unfortunately, the book has no English translation (the film, instead, was released in the USA as Gasoline). You can read about the film here.

7. Godless death – Christopher Hitchens, Mortality (2010), with Dear God by XTC and Religulous (2008) by Bill Maher.

For the geek-at-heart: listen to Richard Dawkins.

For the apocalyptic heart: “Chosen,” final episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.


cemeteryman6from Michele Soavi’s Dellamorte Dellamore (aka Cemetery Man, 1994)


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