Ancient pagan beliefs, the great Greek epics, and the Bible all inform this extraordinary novel by Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck, which occupied him for more than five difficult years. While fulfilling his dead father’s dream of creating a prosperous farm in California, Joseph Wayne comes to believe that a magnificent tree on the farm embodies his father’s spirit. His brothers and their families share in Joseph’s prosperity, and the farm flourishes—until one brother, frightened by Joseph’s pagan belief, kills the tree, allowing disease and famine to descend on the farm. Set in familiar Steinbeck country, To a God Unknown is a mystical tale, exploring one man’s attempt to control the forces of nature and, ultimately, to understand the ways of God and the forces of the unconscious within.
I tried to populate this playlist with music that was generally within the genre of Gothic Americana. I found that the subject matter and mood of this genre of music fit well with Steinbeck’s work. This genre has a mixture of pagan and Christian with elements of fate thrown in as well that matched the strange mix of worldviews found in To A God Unknown. Additionally, I sought out songs that had strong water imagery, barrenness, and murder/death.
There are a few songs that match particular characters or scenes. For example, “I’ve Rationed Well” is centered around the character Benjy, while “Ritual Fire Dance” is matched with the fiesta and “Song of Time” is paired with the death of Joseph.
This playlist is probably one of my favorites in terms of genre and how the music fits the book. Also the book was fantastic, anyone who loves Steinbeck (or anyone who doesn’t) should definitely take the time to read it!