'Life Goes On' For Author Benjamin Alire Saenz

Author Benjamin Alire Saenz's teen-lit novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe won big at this year's American Library Association awards. For Tell Me More's 'In Your Ear' series, he shares the songs that inspire him.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Now it's time for the occasional feature we call "In Your Ear," that's where some of our guests tell us about the songs that keep them going. Writer Benjamin Alire Saenz's novel "Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe" was a big winner at this year's American Library Association awards. When he spoke to us about the honor earlier this year, we also asked him about the music that inspires him in his career and his life.

ALIRE SAENZ: My name is Benjamin Alire Saenz and this is what's playing in my ear. Joni Mitchell's latest version of "A Case of You."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "A CASE OF YOU")

JONI MITCHELL: (Singing) Just before our love got lost you said, I am as constant as a northern star. And I said, constantly in the darkness. Where's that at? If you want me I'll be in the bar...

SAENZ: And I am always singing that to myself. Oh, I could drink a case of you. And still be on my feet. I'd still be on my feet. I love Joni Mitchell.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "A CASE OF YOU")

MITCHELL: (Singing) ...Oh, you're in my blood like holy wine. You taste so bitter but you taste so sweet. I could drink a case of you. Still I'd be on my feet. Still I'd be on my feet. I'd still be on my feet.

SAENZ: Another song that's playing in my head is Adele's "Set Fire to the Rain."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SET FIRE TO THE RAIN")

ADELE: (Singing) I let it fall, my heart, and as it fell, you rose to claim it. It was dark and I was over until you kissed my lips and you saved me...

SAENZ: And it's just such an odd phrasing and I don't really, sometimes, get the song. But I really - I really love it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SET FIRE TO THE RAIN")

ADELE: (Singing) ...But there's a side to you that I never knew, never knew. All the things that you'd say, they were never true, never true. And the games that you'd play, you would always win, always win. But I set fire to the rain, watched it pour as I touched your face. Well, it burned while I cried 'cause I heard it screaming out your name, your name...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "OB-LA-DI, OB-LA-DA")

SAENZ: Another song that's playing in my head is "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" by the Beatles. The weirdest song I've ever heard and I'm walking down the street sometimes and I'm just singing that kind of nonsensical, wonderful song from their "The White Album," which is, I think, they're most interesting album.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "OB-LA-DI, OB-LA-DA")

THE BEATLES: (Singing) ...Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da life goes on brah. La la how the life goes on...

SAENZ: And I just sing, "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da life goes on." And it's a happy song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "OB-LA-DI, OB-LA-DA")

BEATLES: (Singing) ...La la how the life goes on...

MARTIN: That was author Benjamin Alire Saenz telling us what's playing in his ear. To hear our previous conversation, you can go to NPR.org, click on the programs tab and then Tell Me More. And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin and you've been listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "OB-LA-DI, OB-LA-DA")

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