Archive for the ‘Nikolai Gogol’ Category

gogolSOUNDTRACK: ANDY WILLIAMS-Merry Christmas (1965).

awxmasMan, I love some Andy Williams at Christmastime.  I don’t really know much about him at other times of the year and I imagine that I would never listen to him, but he is one of the voices of Christmas. I like his voice so much even if I don’t love all the songs on this record.

His “Sleigh Ride” is the essential version–boppy and fun–you can imagine zipping along on a sleigh with jingle bells bouncing along.

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is a bit slow, but “Winter Wonderland” sounds great.  His “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” is fun–he can really belt out those notes and “Silver Bells” is also a highlight.

The choice of “My Favorite Things” (from The Sound of Music) is unexpected, as it has nothing to do with Christmas, but his rendition is wonderful.  “Christmas Holiday” is a song I don’t know but Williams belts it out as well.  “Do You Hear What I Hear” is also great.

“Some Children See Him” is a fascinating song that I haven’t heard too much (although Rivers Cuomo does a cover of it(!)).  It’s all about how children from different countries see Jesus a different way (a rather progressive idea).

“Little Altar Boy” is a slow and somewhat ponderous song that I’m unfamiliar with.  The final two songs “Mary’s Little Boy Child” and “The Bells of St. Mary” are pretty but not fun (as you would assume from the titles).

So I love about half the disc and like most of the rest.  Williams has an earlier Christmas album as well.  I think I’d like to pick and choose between the two discs for a great Williams collection.

[READ: December 23, 2014] The Night Before Christmas

I had intended to read all Dickens stories this week.  And then my latest New Directions Pearl arrived and it was this one: The Night Before Christmas (also translated as Christmas Eve) by Nikolai Gogol.  Well, that put a change in my plans.

I don’t know much about Gogol, although apparently he wrote only short stories (no novels).  My book has a quote from Dostoevsky that says, “We all came out of Gogol’s overcoat.”  So imagine my surprise when this night before Christmas is actually about witches and the devil and affairs with beautiful women!

The story is set in Dikanka, Ukraine.  It is Christmas Eve and, according to legend, that is the night in which the devil is free to perform tricks and torment people.  Before the devil comes, we see a witch flying around the sky collecting stars.  The devil decides that he is going to steal the moon–this will make it very dark so he can create even more mischief.  The moon proves to be very hot, and he winds up juggling it a few times until he gets it into his pocket.

The devil decides to get back at Vakula, the village blacksmith.  In addition to being the blacksmith, he is also an artist and he has painted some really cruel pictures of the devil on the side of the church.  And the devil is pretty miffed about this.  So he sets an elaborate plan in motion. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THERAPY?-Lonely, Cryin’ Only [single] (1998).

I have a few Therapy? singles, but I wanted to mention this one specifically because it has two “new” recordings on it.  The first is of “Diane” the Hüsker Dü song that they first recorded on Infernal Love.  The second is of “Teethgrinder” their first “hit” off of Nurse.

I’m always intrigued when bands reinterpret their own songs, but I have to say that these two remakes are disappointing.  “Diane” is slowed down quite a lot and is very very crisp.  But it rather removes some of the creepiness of the original (and it’s a very creepy song).

As for “Teethgrinder,” the original of that song is stellar.  Any changes can only be for the worst.  And that’s the case here.  There’s so many great, weird sounds from the original (and those sounds make it wonderful) that without them, the song is fine, but nothing awesome.

Fortunately these tracks are b-sides and not really official or anything.

[READ: May 4, 2010] The Review of Contemporary Fiction

This is my first exposure to this journal.  The only reason I bought it was for the main (and only) title in the book–Damion Searls’ ; Or The Whale (which I’m reading now and will review shortly).

The rest of the journal contains Book Reviews and ads for forthcoming publications.  Since I didn’t plan to talk about that back matter in ; Or The Whale, I ‘ll do it here.

There are 22 book reviews in the back of this journal (which itself is 368 pages and only costs $8.00!).  Each book is not quite an academic book, but certainly not popular fiction or non-fiction.  There are a lot of French writers (either in translation, or of books about them).  There’s also some reviews of books that were long out of print (Robert Walser’s The Tanners and two works by Breyten Breytenbach).

The one surprise is the inclusion of a sort of meta-science fiction title by Christopher Miller called The Cardboard Universe.  It’s an encyclopedic guide to a sci-fi author whose initials are PKD. (Phoebus K. Dank–although Dank does have a fictional character called Phillip K. Dick).  It sounds great and yet it is an encyclopedic-style book of over 500 pages.  I’m just not sure if I’m up for it.

I’ll probably never read any of the books reviewed (I barely have time for the stuff I really want to read), but they all sounded interesting in one way or another.   For the entire list of books reviewed and more info on the journal, click here.

After the Book Reviews, there’s a Books Received list.  I assume this is all of the books that they were asked to review.  I wonder if they’ll review all of them?   The only author I recognized in the list was A.S. Byatt.

There’s then a few ads for like-minded publications: n+1, Chicago Review, Trickhouse, which looks fascinating, and Absinthe (new European writing).  There’s also a listing for new books from University of Delaware Press about Don DeLillo’s Underworld, Thomas Pynchons’ Mason & Dixon and William Gass’s The Tunnel (which I really ought to read as that book was a mystery to me).  There’s even critics I recognize in these essays!

The final pages are ads for forthcoming books from Dalkey Archive Press (the publishers of The Review of Contemporay Fiction).  I know Dalkey for a few obscure titles (mostly from Flann O’Brien, but others as well).  The books in this list are from the Dalkey Archive Scholarly Series and include titles like Phantasms of Matter in Gogol (and Gombrowicz); Reading Games: An Aesthetics of Play in Flann O’Brien, Samuel Beckett, and Georges Perec (which I admit sounds really interesting, but which I will likely never read).  The final title in the list is called Don’t Ever Get Famous: Essays on New York Writing after the New York School.  I’m curious about this one.  The book blurb mentions a number of writers that I’ve never heard of, so I can’t decide how to take that title.  I only wish the blurb explained it.

If I were more studious, if I worked in academics, if I didn’t read so many other things, I would definitely subscribe to this journal.  But as it stands, I’ll be just getting just this one (and maybe an occasional other one if the mood strikes me).

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