Cat Stevens is the balm of Gilead. That is a thought Graham Oliver, one of Noble / Gas Qtrly’s readers, likely had while curating a mixtape for Hal Incandenza, protagonist of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. Oliver, who is the human manifestation of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, considers mixtapes “as intimate as a handwritten letter,” and so explains the impetus behind his project:
The people in my life for whom a mixtape is a practical gift are becoming more and more limited . . . So I make my playlists on iTunes and every now and then I’ll burn one to a CD and mail it out to someone who I think might listen to it, but I try not to ask. I don’t want to imagine my little mixtape abandoned, because a lot of love goes into them. I have to imagine how the person is going to listen to it: in the background while working, while driving, or maybe while doing the dishes? Or could it be one of those people who listens to music with their full attention, eyes fixed into the vague distance? . . . The songs have to have some sort of cohesion and transition, and I typically want the album to have some sort of plot, climax, resolution.
Could this be the beginning of literature’s wildly overdue response to the Now That’s What I Call Music! empire?
Read the rest of “Songs for Hal” at Full Stop.