Archive for the ‘Bret Easton Ellis’ Category

  karlove5SOUNDTRACK: RAGA ROCKERS-“Slakt” [“Slaughter”] (1988), “Hun er Fri” [“She is Free”] (1988) and “Noen å hate” [“Someone to hate”] (1990).

ragaKarl Ove mentions many bands in his books.  Raga Rockers appeared twice in this one.  I can’t find a ton about them online, because they never really made it beyond Norway, but the Google translated version of their website says:

Raga Rockers is an ingenious rock ‘n roll band that has existed since 1982.

Today the band consists of: Michael Krohn (vocals, lyrics), Hugo Alvar Stein (keyboards / guitar), Eivind Staxrud (guitar), Arne Sæther (keys), Livio Aiello (bass) and Jan Kristiansen (drums).

The band came out of the punk community in the early eighties, but became such a “poppy” large parts of the Norwegian people have founded acquaintance with them.  Songs like “She is free” and “Someone to hate” is almost singalong classics! Their greatest triumph came perhaps in 1999 when they played for thousands of ecstatic Norwegians at the yellow stage at Roskilde Festival. (Reviews of the show by Dagbladet (which Karl Ove wrote for) and Dagsavisen–both are in English.

Despite their punk roots and the rather violent song titles, the songs are almost poppy–heavy guitars but simple chords and a singer who doesn’t sound angry at all.  In fact, if I didn’t read about their punk roots, I’d swear these songs are kinda goofy.

“Slakt” is a simple song, opening with a 4/4 drum and splashes of guitar.  The middle is a bluesy riff with a chorus of “ah ha ha”  The lead singer’s voice is mostly kind of deep–not quite what I expected from the heavy guitars.

“Hun Er Fri” is quite different from the others songs.  It’s only 90 seconds long and features a piano.  The chords are still simple the piano may be playing single notes in fact).  The lyrics are pretty much nonstop and kind of fast.  It seems like a silly pop trifle and I can see why it’s popular among their fans.  The first time I listened to it, I was surprised it ended when it did.  This bootleg live version is certainly fun.

rocknrollThese two songs came from their 1988 album Forbudte følelser [Prohibited feelings]

“Noen å hate” has a bit more of a metal sound, but is essentially the same kind of heavy rock with simple chord progressions.  There’s a good solo at the end.  A black metal band called Vreid has done a cover of this song (which really only sounds different because the Vreid singer is more growly).

This song comes from their 1990 album Rock n’ Roll Party.

And yes, they are still around.  They took a hiatus in the 2000s but came back with three albums 2007’s Übermensch, 2010’s Shit Happens and 2013’s Faktor X.

[READ: May 1, 2016] My Struggle Book Five

karlove 5ukI realized as I read this fifth book that I should have been keeping a vague sense of the timeline of these books.  Specifically, because he opens this book with this: “The fourteen years I lived in Bergen from 1988 to 2002 are long gone.”  So if he was born in 1968, this book covers roughly ages 19-33.

So my general outline for the other volumes:
Book Five: 1988-2002 (19-33)
Book Four: 1987 (18)
Book Three: 1968-1981  (1-13)
Book Two: 2008 (40) (with flashbacks to meeting his second wife in 2003 or so)
Book One: 2008 (40) (with flashbacks to his father’s death in 1998 or so)

What era could Book Six possibly be about?

We’ll find out next year in what is said to be the 1,200 page final volume.

So as I mentioned above, Karl Ove talks about the fourteen years he lived in Bergen.  And it made me laugh that he says:

The fourteen years I lived in Bergen, from 1988 to 2002, are long gone, no traces of them are left, other than as incidents a few people might remember, a flash of recollection here, a flash of recollection there, and of course whatever exists in my own memory of that time.  But there is surprisingly little.

And then he proceeds to write 600+ pages about that time. (more…)

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houseSOUNDTRACK: LAURA VEIRS-Tiny Desk Concert #49 (March 1, 2010).

lauraI have decided to contradict myself.  I simply cannot keep up with the regular release of Tiny Desk Concerts (sometimes 3 a week), so I’m going to focus on these older recordings for a while and occasionally devote a week or two to new ones.  we’ll see how that works out.

I only know Laura Veirs’ name, but not really anything she’s done.  So I wasn’t really sure what her “solo” work would sound like.  Well, she has a delightful voice and she writes really pretty songs.

She also offers one of the most dramatic screw ups I’ve seen in a live performance. She opens her song “Carol Kaye” with this lovely melody–just her and her guitar.  And then after about a minute, her band comes in with a beautiful harmony–in the wrong key!  The introduction of their voices is so dramatic (to go from her gentle voice to this huge chorus) was really amazing.  So much so that I didn’t quite realize they were in the wrong key at first.  Turns out that Laura put her capo on the wrong fret and it wasn’t until the keyboardist played the right note that they all sounded off.  And his mouth drops opens as he stares at Laura.  She laughs and says “you looked like this terrified Muppet.”

They play the song again, this time perfectly–and the harmonies are truly lovely.  As is the violin that swirls throughout the song.

“When You Give Your Heart” is another lovely song in which Viers’ voice and the violin play the same lilting melody.

“Sun is King” has some more lovely (that’s the word to describe her, clearly) harmonies–she has picked a tremendous backing band.  And they sound great in this small setting.

It’s hard to believe that the whole set (miscue and all) is only ten minutes long.

[READ: May 1, 2015] House of Leaves

I read this book when it came out in 2000.  I had the “2 Color” edition which the t.p,. verso explains has as features: “either house appears in blue or struck passages and the word minotaur appear in red (I had the blue version).  No Braille.  Color or black & white plates.”

The Full Color edition (which is the same price, amazingly) differs in this way:

  • The word house in blue, minotaur and all struck passages in red
  • The only struck line in Chapter XXI appears in purple
  • XXXXXX and color plates

So basically the full color edition isn’t really that big a deal although the three or four full color plates are much nicer.

Why do I have both?  Well, I bought the two color when it came out and then I won a free book at the library and there was this full color edition, so I brought it home.  I was amused to find that the previous owner had deciphered a clue in the back of the book (the first letters of sentences spell out a secret message).  She (it looks like woman’s handwriting) wrote out the secret message, which I appreciated as I didn’t feel like figuring it out.


This book had a huge impact on me when I read it.  Although I forgot a lot of the details, the overwhelming effect of the book has stayed with me an I never forgot the central conceit of a house that opened secret passages and expanded or contracted at will.  For, make no mistake about all of the accolades, this is a horror story.  One accolade, from Bret Easton Ellis: “One can imagine Thomas Pynchon, J.G. Ballard. Stephen King and David Foster Wallace bowing at Danielewski’s feet, choking with astonishment, surprise, laughter awe.” [Ellis will not be bowing apparently, and actually I can’t imagine Pynchon bowing before anyone].  It’s a very cool horror story with all kind of textual experimentation and twists and turns, but it’s still a pretty damned scary story.

The experiments are many and varied and they begin right from the start, as the title page lists Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves by Zampanò with an introduction and notes by Johnny Truant. The forward from the editors notes: “The first edition of House of Leaves was privately distributed and did not contain Chapter 21, Appendix II, Appendix III or the index.

This is all nonsense of course. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BOOKWORM-Jeffrey Eugenidies: The Marriage Plot (December 1, 2011) (2011).

Since “Just Kids” mentions  Eugenides’ book, and since Eugenides happened to appear on Bookworm at around the same time as I read this article, it seemed like a good pairing.

Obviously, from the title of the episode you can tell that this is all about Eugenides’ new book, The Marriage Plot.  Michael Silverblatt raves about this book like no other book I have heard (granted I haven’t listened to all that many episodes of Bookworm, but still).  In fact while listening to this episode, I put The Marriage Plot on hold at the library.  I always planned to read it but figured I’d just get around to it some day.  Now I feel more of a sense of urgency.

They talk at length about the state of marriage in the 21st century.  Not as in its decline but in how it differs so much from classic literature in which women had to get married by 21 or risk spinsterhood.  Eugenides set out to write a book about people getting married without having the trappings of classical literature.

It sounds wonderful.

The reason I mention this interview at all is because in the article below, Hughes talks about contemporaries of DFW using DFW as the basis for a character in their books.  So, in Franzen’s Freedom, there is character who is very much like DFW (I haven’t read Freedom yet so I can’t say). 

And in The Marriage Plot, there is a character who resembles DFW.  When I read the excerpt of this story in The New Yorker, I had to admit he did seem an awful lot like DFW–a tobacco chewing, bandanna wearing philosopher.  Eugenides had been mum about it for a while, but now, under the gentle nudging of Michael Silverblatt, he comes clean. 

He admits that there are some characteristics of DFW in the character.  However, he says that he didn’t know DFW all that well and the character has been kicking around since he went to college (long before he knew DFW).  Tobacco chewing was rampant at Brown in the 80s apparently.  But it’s a nice revelation and it ties in very well with the article.

You can listen to the show at KCRW.

[READ: December 7, 2011] “Just Kids

I have always grouped together certain authors in my head.  When there were a bunch of Jonathans publishing, I kind of lumped them together.  I think of Mark Leyner and Bret Easton Ellis in the same breath.  It’s fairly common, I suppose.  But I never really thought of David Foster Wallace in terms of a group of authors.  He seems so solitary that it’s funny to even think of him as having friends.   But according to Hughes, many of today’s established authors prove to have been a part of a kind of nebulous writer’s circle.  A kind of 1990’s update of Dorothy Parker’s vicious circle.  But more insecure.

The article bookends with Jeffrey Eugenides.  In 1983 he and Rick Moody drove to San Francisco with the intent of being writers.  Five years later with no written works, Eugenides moved to Brooklyn, alone.  In that same summer, Jonathan Franzen was in Queens, also feeling alone (even though he was married–unhappily) and desperate for friends and peers.  And then Franzen got a fan letter from David Foster Wallace (that’s after he had written Broom of the System, but before Girl with Curious Hair) praising The Twenty-Seventh City

Franzen and DFW became friends.  To this friendship was added William T. Vollman, and David Means, also Mary Karr (whom DFW dated) and Mark Costello (who co-wrote Signifying Rappers with DFW).  Later they would connect with Eugenides, Rick Moody and Donald Antrim.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RAPEMAN-Two Nuns an a Pack Mule (1989).

One of Steve Albini’s many groups, Rapeman made one album and an EP (both are included on the CD).  Probably the most striking thing about this CD is Albini’s guitar which is so sharp it practically hurts (and when your guitar is more notable than the lyrics from a band named Rapeman, you know that sound is pretty striking).  [You can hear hints of this sound on Nirvana’s In Utero (which Albini produced), particularly the screamy parts of “Scentless Apprentice”.  The template is the same, although Nirvana’s drums are much much bigger. And, of course, Albini leaves the sonic edge really sharp for himself].

Although the guitar is what really stands out on this disc, the album would be far less interesting if the rhythm section wasn’t so strong.  The bass is mixed really well, running lines that are never in concert with the guitar lines but which blend nicely and provide some needed low end.  And the drums are sharp and punctuate the noise perfectly.

The opening of “Monobrow” is squeaks and feedback (I wonder if you could even write the music for it).  When the rhythm kick in, it gives a herky jerky momentum.  There’s an interesting twist on a song like “Trouser Minnow” which is written from a woman’s perspective (and yet she’s not an exemplary woman either) so you can read it a couple of ways.  Of course, the opener, “Steak and Black Onions” is unequivocal: “Why don’t you snuff it man, you plant-eating pussy.”

But there’s definitely a sense of humor to all of this.  In “Up beat” Albini gets angry and suggests that he’d beat a guy up.  It ends, “I suppose I’m not too threatening presently.  But wait till I start Nautilus.”  There’s also something funny (I think) about them covering ZZ Top’s “Just Got Paid.”  Funny or not, this version rocks like no one’s business, and it shows that Albini can actually play the guitar, not just make noise.

The Budd EP was recorded live.  I love the description of the review here.  It sounds less screechy (and more bass heavy), but no less menacing.

[READ: September, 16, 2010] The Wasp Factory

I bought this book many many years ago (I found a card in the pages from when I used to live in Brighton, MA (circa 1992) as a “bookmark.”  But I think that the bookmark must have been not a real placeholder as nothing in the book was familiar, I just knew that it was supposed to be a dark, disturbing book.

And so it is.

The story concerns Frank, a 16-year-old who lives on an island outside of Scotland (my knowledge of Scottish geography is awful, so I don’t know exactly what he meant by an island, but suffice it to say that Frank’s family is isolated where they live).  Frank is a disturbed individual.  As the story opens, we learn that death and carnage follow Frank everywhere.  In fact, Frank admits responsibility for three of these deaths. (more…)

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I’ve recently discovered the awesomeness of Austin City Limits.  And in the two or so years that I’ve been watching, I’ve seen some great live shows (even is most bands are reduced to 30 minutes).  This re-broadcast of The Decemberists, however, just blew me away.

The concert comes from The Crane Wife tour, and it is just a wonderful exploration of this fantastic CD.  I’ve liked the Decemberists for years, and have listened to all of their discs multiple times, but there was something about this recording, in particular the wailing guitar work of Colin Meloy (seeing him lying on the floor making crazed feedback was pretty impressive), and the amazing solo work of Chris Funk that gave me even more respect for this wonderful album and the band.

It is highly recommended. For more info see here.

[READ: January 14, 2010] 100 Page Tribute to David Foster Wallace

I was able to order a copy of this journal directly from The University of Arizona and received it not too long ago.  It is a two part issue (55/56) that is chock full of all kinds of things, including this 100 page tribute to DFW.  I intend to read the whole thing, or at least more than just the DFW stuff, but as I don’t see that happening too soon, I wanted to address this tribute section directly.

DFW received his MFA from UA and he was also an editor at Sonora Review.  He also published “/Solomon Silverfish/” there shortly after getting his MFA.  So the tributes make sense from this publication.  All of the tributes here come from varied people and are all either interesting or moving to the Wallace fan. (more…)

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reviewSOUNDTRACK: FIONA APPLE-When the Pawn… (1999).

when the pawnI learned about Fiona Apple from CMJ New Music Monthly before her debut came out.  I was convinced she was just another pretty thing with little talent. But then I heard “Shadowboxer” and I was really impressed by the depth of her voice.  When I got the album, I was pretty much blown away.

When When the Pawn came out it was mocked for its absurdly long title.  (Even Janine Garofalo got in on the mocking, for which, shame on her because even if Fiona made some bad decisions, she was still a young woman who was fighting for the causes of good).

But looking beyond the title, For When the Pawn, shows Fiona’s voice getting stronger and more subtle, and her songwriting is truly amazing.  She used the assistance of Jon Brion, multi-instrumentalist and all around dabbler in fun sounds.  And he creates a soundscape of weird instruments, crazy sounds and an enveloping sounds that keep the album an item unto itself.

I haven’t listened to the disc in quite a while, but playing it again, i was impressed by the audacity of some of the musical choices, especially for a “pretty young thing” with a successful (and disturbing) video on the charts (“Criminal“).

The crazy noises that start off the disc (carnival-like keyboards, electronic squeals) sound a mile away from the jazzy sounds of “Shadowboxer” but Fiona’s voice comes in and you know that she’s still her, and her voice sounds even richer.  There’s a wild disconnect on “To Your Love” with the delicate vibes (!) that fill the bridge and the rough sounds in the chorus (not to mention the crazy wordplay: “My derring-do allows me to dance the rigadoon Around you But by the time I’m close to you, I lose my desideratum and now you”‘).  And then “Limp,” an amazing musical concoction:  more delicate jazzy openings followed by a raucous chorus with the wonderful put down: “So call me crazy, hold me down / Make me cry; get off now, baby- / It wont be long till you’ll be / Lying limp in your own hand.”

And that’s just the first three songs.  The rest of the disc sways between mellow jazzy numbers, beautiful ballads, and rocking scorchers, but it is always fueled by a dissonance that counters Apple’s voice perfectly.

Another can’t miss track is “Fast as You Can,” a wonderfully propelled track that bounces along jauntily until it hits an amazingly fast syncopated chorus.  And the production is so clean, the drum clap before the bridge is striking.  The disc ends with a couple of delicate songs.  “Get Gone” is  delightful jazzy song (complete with brushed drums).  It remains pretty mellow until Fiona breaks from a pause with a brutal “fucking go!”  And finally, the delicate ending of “I Know” brings the disc to a close.

Ten years later, this disc is still a gem.  One can only hope it gets rediscovered so a new legion of fans can enjoy its masterful music.  And for the full title of the disc, check the bottom the post….

[READ: October 16, 2009] “Fictional Futures and the Conspicuously Young”

This article opens with a note that Evan Martin found this article but noticed that it wasn’t online.  It was mentioned in Steven Moore’s essay “The First Draft Version of Infinite Jest.”  So he retyped it and it is now hosted on theknowe.net.  Here’s the write-up & link from The Howling Fantods:

“Fictional Futures and the Conspicuously Young”. The Review of Contemporary Fiction Vol. 8, No. 3, 1988. [NOTES: Read it here.]

This is a fascinating article in which DFW looks at the state of fiction circa 1987.  Specifically, he is responding to criticisms that the popular authors of the day, collectively Conspicuously Young, all fall into three very basic and uninspired cliche-filled boxes:

  • Neiman-Marcus Nihilism
  • Catatonic Realism
  • Workshop Hermeticism (more…)

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believerA few years ago I was visiting my friend Roman.  He asked me if I read The Believer.  I told him I hadn’t heard of it.  He silently reproved me, knowing that it would be right up my alley and being quite displeased that I wasn’t keeping up with the hip.  I was very impressed with what I saw.

The Believer is put out through McSweeney’s.  It seems to have filled in for the non-fiction niche that McSweeney’s slowly removed from its pages.

And since then, I have become a devoted follower.  At some point (probably around issue ten or eleven) I decided that I was going to read every word in every issue.  And so, (this was pre-kids) when I went to an ALA conference with Sarah, I spent a lot of the down time reading all of the back issues’ articles that I hadn’t read.

Since then, I have read every issue cover to cover.  The thing that I love about the magazine (in addition to all of the stuff that I would normally like about it) is that every article is so well written that even if I don’t care about the subject, I know I’ll be interested for the duration of the piece.  Whether or not I will go on to read anything else about the person or topic is neither here nor there, but when I’m in the moment I’m really hooked. (more…)

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Yesterday, I engaged in a discussion about the term Torture Porn. In a recent review (see The Translation of Father Torturo below) I used the phrase and then retracted it. Torture Porn is a phrase that I’ve been reading about a lot lately with regard to a new spate of horror films. So, why do I retract the observation about the book, which was quite violent and included scenes of torture? The torture porn genre of film seems to be about pushing the envelope for what you can do in a film. This has always been true of movies, in which filmmakers must make everything bigger and better. Whether the jokes are funnier or grosser, whether the explosions are bigger and louder or whether the horror move is scarier or grosser (the other kind of gross). Torture Porn is a lazy phrase. It’s a quick way to apply a label to something complex. I admit it was lazy of me to throw out the term for the book, and there’s really no excuse for laziness, except for being lazy. When the Friday the 13th movies started multiplying, each sequel needed to outdo its predecessor with something even more disgusting (remember the 3D one that had the popping eyeball?). (more…)

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