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Archive for the ‘Books about writers’ Category

june8SOUNDTRACK: KAWABATA MAKOTO [河端一]-Mizu Naranu Ao Ni Sae [水ならぬ青にさへ] (1998).

a1335809529_16Recently, Kawabata Makoto [河端一], mastermind behind Acid Mothers Temple, revealed a new bandcamp site for some newer solo recordings.

 This album is more along the lines of what you might expect from Kawabata Makoto: electric guitar solos from 1998.

Dazzling music for the temporal world, overflowing with a sense of pellucidity totally different from his work with Musica Transonic.

The album has two songs.

The first is “Mai Sagarisi Negai [舞い下がりし願ひ] (16:38). .   It is loops of guitar noises and feedback.  It’s not a lot of guitar “playing” but more like guitar experimenting.

“Amou No Shibuki [天生の水沫] (17:59) is different.  It features ringing, chiming guitars and sounds like he has something metallic resting on the strings to keep everything vibrating.  This one is more spacey.

[READ: June 13, 2020] “Pursuit as Happiness”

I haven’t read a ton of Ernest Hemingway.  Honestly, his stories of hunting and boxing and whatever other masculine things he was up to while somehow also being a sissy writer never appealed to me.

This is the story of the pursuit, capture and slaughter of marlins.  Now frankly, I think a marlin is about the coolest thing in the ocean.  And while it may be very manly to wrestle one in with just a fishing line, it sure seems like a waste of a beautiful fish.

So Ernest (for the narrator’s name is Ernest Hemingway) and the captain of the boat he was on fished off of Cuba for a month.  They caught twenty-five but that wasn’t enough, so they went back for more. (more…)

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june8SOUNDTRACK: KAWABATA MAKOTO [河端一]–Gesseki No Sho [月跡の焦] (1998).

a2609153540_16Recently, Kawabata Makoto [河端一], mastermind behind Acid Mothers Temple, revealed a new bandcamp site for some newer solo recordings.

This is Kawabata Makoto’s 1st Sarangi solo album.  The sarangi is  a bowed Indian instrument.

Esoteric acoustic works that conceal a sense of magic and chaos akin to that of Toho Sara.

1.Kimi Ga Chi O Mote 君が血を持て (21:06)  is a lengthy improv piece of high bowed notes– a lot of scratchy sounds or as my daughter put it, is that someone screaming?

2.Kusa Shinobu 草しのぶ (18:21) is more percussive, with him apparently banging on the sarangi to produce chords.  It’s a cool effect.  After about 3 minutes, he starts plucking the strings and then the bowing begins.  There’s moments of scratching and scraping as he explores all aspects of this instrument.

[READ: June 9, 2020] “Brooklyn”

This issue of the New Yorker has four one-page essays called “Close Encounters.”  Since I like all of the authors, I was looking forward to reading them all.

I have really enjoyed Moshfegh’s stories.  But there is very little that is less interesting than reading about somebody drinking a lot.

In 2006, evidently Moshfegh was a chronic alcoholic.  She went out with friends and drank.  She found their company lacking (as I am sure they felt about her as well) so she went out and drank some more. (more…)

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june8SOUNDTRACK: KAWABATA MAKOTO [河端一]–Lost Milky Way in The Metaphysical Space (2013).

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Recently, Kawabata Makoto [河端一], mastermind behind Acid Mothers Temple, revealed a new bandcamp site for some newer solo recordings.

This album features his voice and his glissando guitar.  It has two songs.

“Old Letters From Andromeda” (21:04)  sounds like metallic outer space filled with slowly moving metallic whale sounds.  At 6 minutes a lovely acoustic guitar melody comes in and there’s gently crooned ahhhs as well.  Around 12 minutes a lead solo lays over the top.  It’s all quite lovely.

“Lost Milky Way” (18:36) features squeaking, squealing feedback behind a lovely acoustic guitar melody.  Pretty much the entire song is made up of this delicate acoustic guitar pattern. The backing soaring sounds change and modify throughout.  Sometimes, it is tinny.  Sometimes trippy.  Sometimes menacing.  –

This release is quite fetching.

[READ: June 9, 2020] “You Miss It When It’s Gone”

This issue of the New Yorker has four one page essays called “Close Encounters.”  Since I like all of the authors, I was looking forward to reading them all.

This essay is about the current Coronavirus crisis and how it has impacted socializing.  Not by thinking about the now but by remembering the then.

Washington mentions various ways that customers at gay bars get close to each other.  Often it is simply very crowded, with everyone being “a blob of gas and air.”  But there are also details. (more…)

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june8SOUNDTRACK: KAWABATA MAKOTO [河端一]–Sunday Morning (1978-83).

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Recently, Kawabata Makoto [河端一], mastermind behind Acid Mothers Temple, revealed a new bandcamp site for some newer solo recordings.

This is Kawabata’s first musique concrète works. He played 2 cassette decks, a half-broken radio cassette-corder, tapes of field recordings and something else and a synthesizer.

This album has been reissued on CD-R as a part of “Kawabata Makoto’s Early Works 1978-1983 : Learning From The Past – R.E.P. Reissue Series vol.1” (11CD-Rs + 1 CD) box set in 2012.

There are two parts.  Part 1 is 24 min.  It sounds like short wave radio with lots of static. It’s a very mechanical, earthy sound which by the middle feels like a vacuum cleaner.  This one was particularly headache inducing.

Part 2 is 21 minutes long and feels a bit more musical with tape sounds and synthesizers but all under a gauze of hiss and static. There are musical notes –ringing harp-like notes buried beneath the fuzz–and echoing vocals.  At around 18 minutes the piece slows down with thumping “drums” that slow the pace.

These first two releases are very abstract.

[READ: June 9, 2020] “Breaking Stride”

This issue of the New Yorker has four one page essays called “Close Encounters.”  Since I like all of the authors, I was looking forward to reading them all.

This piece is fascinating to me because of two things.  The first is that Matthew Klam and his oldest friend managed to stay reasonably good friends for all of their lives.   And second because both of them went on to be creative.

In 1978 Matthew and David were in eighth grade.  They are not particularly popular but they both love Steve martin’s Let’s Get Small (this is right out of Freaks and Geeks). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LANG LANG-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #11 (April 17, 2020).

Lang Lang is a superstar pianist whom I have never heard of.  But I agree with the blurb that it’s neat to see a fantastic pianist playing at home.  He seems relaxed and loose.  And the camera angle allows us to see his fingers (and his whole swaying body) pretty clearly.

Here’s something unique: a chance to eavesdrop on the superstar pianist Lang Lang at home.

The 37-year-old pianist, who typically plays sold-out shows to thousands, says he’s taking his recent solitary time to learn new repertoire at home in Shanghai, China. And home is where he thinks we should all be.

He opens with Chopin’s calming “Nocturne No. 20 in C-sharp minor.”  I loved watching him slowly and deliberately play that last note.  It seems like he holds his finger above it for minutes, but it fits in perfectly.

Lang Lang’s latest passion is Bach – specifically the Goldberg Variations, a 75-minute-long cycle of immense complexity grounded in the composer’s durable beauty. Lang Lang offers the “18th and 19th variations,” pieces that in turn represent the strength of logic and the joy of the dance. It’s music, Lang Lang says, that “always brings me to play in another level of artistic thinking.”

These pieces are just magical.  Even if I don;t know them well, I can tell pretty immediately that they are Bach.  Lang Lang’s fluidity is wonderful, as is the way his whole body seems to be absorbing the music as he plays.

[READ: April 11, 2020]: Carnet de Voyage

From March 5 thru May 14, 2004 Craig Thompson was on an international book tour celebrating the success of his (fantastic) book Blankets.

This journal was his visual diary (no cameras were used, only his memory) of his trip.  His editors thought it would be interesting for him to document his trip (and it is).

He flies into Paris then a 2 hour plane trip to Lyon.  He draws pictures of where he has been and the people he has met (and some of their fascinating stories).  There’s some wonderful sketches of rooftops from hotel windows.

He does interviews for radio and magazines. He laughs that one of the photos shoots was in the streets of Paris, where he is all dressed up.  But really he’s a county bumpkin from Wisconsin. The drawing of himself as a glamorous guy and his bumpkin alter ego together is pretty hilarious.

On March 15 he left for Marrakesh, Morocco and this exotic location rally sets the stage for most of his artwork and what is sort of the only “plot” in the book.

He had also just broken up with his girlfriend which weighs on his mind quite a lot on the tour. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BOB WEIR AND WOLF BROS.-Tiny Desk Concert #953 (March 2, 2020).

Bob Weir is, obviously, a founding member of Grateful Dead.

This set goes on much longer than a typical one (and they’re not rappers or R&B singers).  I got a kick out of this comment in the blurb:

When I produce a Tiny Desk Concert, one of my most important jobs is to make sure they run on time and that the performance sticks to our set time limit (roughly 15-minutes). So when Bob Weir and Wolf Bros achieved lift-off during a pre-show sound-check, it was my unthinkable responsibility to tell the guy who practically invented the jam band to… stop jamming.

It also fell to me to keep looking at my watch during the performance, even as I realized that my favorite “Dark Star” jams alone lasted well beyond our fifteen-minute performance window.

I’ve never been a big fan of the Dead (despite how much I enjoy jam bands).  Their music is a bit too slow for my tastes.  But in the right mood (like a rainy Sunday), they can be right on.

These songs are slow and expansive and allow for a lot of jamming.  There’s not a lot of opportunity for jamming here as this is just a trio, but Weir is very comfortable stretching things out.

The trio make an interesting look with drummer Jay Lane in a tie-dyed shirt and upright bassist Don Was in all black.  Weir stand between them in a gray T-shirt and his gray hair.

The first song

“Only a River,” from Weir’s 2016 solo album Blue Mountain, feels like a memorial to Jerry Garcia, with a reference to the Shenandoah River, a body of water Garcia famously made reference to on the song, “A Shenandoah Lullaby.” Weir turns the chorus into a mantra and seems to evoke the spirit of his fallen bandmate.

This song references the melody of “Shenandoah” pretty directly n the middle, but the “hey hey hey” let’s you know that this is a very different song.

Before the second song, he says they just got clearance to play it.  I didn’t realize that “When I Paint My Masterpiece” was a Bob Dylan song, but I guess maybe I should have.

And what would a Grateful Dead-related performance be without a Bob Dylan song? The intimacy of the Tiny Desk turns Weir into a sage Master Storyteller during a version of “When I Paint My Masterpiece” with its reference to Botticelli and a lonely Roman hotel room.

The set really comes to life when special guest, Mikaela Davis comes out to play harp.

The harp is always a magical-sounding instrument and amid the quietness of this trio, it really shines.  Davis basically takes the lead on “Bird Song” including bending strings (I’ve never seen a harpist do that before).

Midway through the song, Weir waves his hand and allows Davis to take a solo while Weir puts down his acoustic guitar.

When Weir switches to electric guitar midway during “Bird Song,” I looked at my watch because I knew we were in for some time travel. And the band didn’t disappoint as the rhythmic interplay between Weir and Davis showed off his singular rhythm guitar style, honed from more than thirty years of playing alongside one the most idiosyncratic lead guitarists in modern music.

Davis does some more note bending in her solo, which is so interesting.  When Weir joins in, their music melds really beautifully.

They jam the song out for 8 minutes and as the music fades Bob says, I’m pretty sure we’re over our time limit.

He says they were slated for 20 minutes and they’re at forty now (sadly we only get to see 26 minutes).  Someone shouts “keep going” and they do one more.

They play “Ripple” Grateful Dead’s fifty-year-old sing-along from their album American Beauty.  It demonstrates

the song’s celebration of hope and optimism, found in the spirit of all of the band’s music. Bob Weir continues to evoke that spirit every time he picks up a guitar; and as we all sang along at the end, we evoked that spirit too: “Let there be songs, to fill the air.”

I suppose it’s never too late to start enjoying a band, right?

[READ: March 25, 2020] “In the Cards”

This is exactly the kind of story I don’t like.  It seemed to go nowhere and in an oblique fashion. Plus the narrator was really hard to relate to.

The point of the story seems to be the last line: “You’re crazy when you’re a good writer.”

It starts with a discussion of playing cards and moves on to tarot cards.  Her friend Michel gave her a deck and she felt ill at ease just reading the directions.  But what most disturbed her was the image of The Fool.

The narrator says she is unfamiliar with playing cards and yet later she says when she was a child they played Mistigri which is a card game.  So go figure.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DANIEL NORGREN-Tiny Desk Concert #929 (January 3, 2020).

download (19)I feel like I’ve heard of Daniel Norgren, but I really don’t know anything about him.  In fact, when I first started playing this Tiny Desk Concert I was surprised at the kind of music this Swedish musician played because it was steeped in American roots music.

Daniel Norgren has been self-releasing his analog recordings for nearly a dozen years. At the Tiny Desk, he and his band sampled music from three different records.

For the first song, “Putting My Tomorrows Behind,” Norgren plays piano.  There’s a slow, simple drum beat from Erik Berntsson.  And when the chorus comes along, all four sing with gorgeous harmonies.  There’s a pretty bluesy guitar solo from Andreas Filipsson.

Throughout the five minutes of this slow song, it feels like a piece of working-class Americana:

I hear myself saying, I’m doing fine
My life is a walk through the pines
But I’m sick and I’m tired, spending my time
Putting my tomorrows behind

The sky is big and white and I’m locked inside
Working all day with a frown
I guess I’m just a coward who would need to get fired
And banished from this town

For “Everything You Know Melts Away Like Snow” Norgren switches from piano to guitar.  This simple song runs 6 minutes with minimal lyrics.  But it has some lovely backing vocals and an interesting lead vocal melody that seems to go nicely with the guitar lines that are picked out.  As he played,

the bluesy Swedish musician kept his eyes tightly shut, as he seemed to tap into old souls to help conjure his tunes.  His body sway[ed] and writhe[d] as he and his band create[d] a dream state calming enough to slow the day’s hectic pace to a crawl.

Norgen takes the guitar solo on this song (mostly on the lower strings–a very bluesy kind of solo).  You’d swear this song came from an American band from the sixties.

You can’t really hear his Swedish accent (you can hear a fraction of it when he sings) until he introduces the band.  I also like that Anders Grahn plays the upright bass as Norgren is talking, giving everything they do a musical feel.

“Moonshine Got Me” is the oldest song he plays–it dates back to his 2011 EP Black Vultures.  The title sounds like Americana but the song also is not about “moonshine,” the liquor, it is about the actual moon shining. It’s over ten minutes long and opens with beautiful intertwining guitars–both he and Filipsson play different lines that feel like leads but which keep the melody perfectly.  His voice is the most aching on this song.

There’s a lengthy slow jamming middle section, in which both Andreas and Daniel take solos.  As the song slows, Daniel moves back to the piano and picks out a quiet melody to bring the song to a close.

[READ: January 6, 2020] “Linda Boström Knausgård’s Post-“Struggle” IKEA Trip

I don’t usually write about short pieces like this.  But this is about an author who I’ve recently read and whose new book I am quite interested in.  Plus, Linda Boström Knausgård is the ex-wife of Karl Ove Knausgård and she was written about so much in those books that I feel like I know her (fairly or unfairly).

This piece is, indeed, about Linda Boström Knausgård in an IKEA.  She is in New York for a book tour for her new novel Welcome to America.

It’s odd to feel you know things about a person when you have never met them and your only exposure to them is from someone else’s point of view.  There’s not a lot that Linda Boström Knausgård can do to get away from what we “know” about her.   But this little story does show her to be a bit more upbeat than the way she was left off in the novels.

It also made me laugh that the author of the piece felt the need to explain IKEA as “a notional store from Sweden.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: WEYES BLOOD–Tiny Desk Concert #923 (December 11, 2019).

The new Weyes Blood album has been on many people’s best of the of year lists. I hadn’t heard any of it but I’d read that it was lovely.

When I first listened to this Tiny Desk Concert, I really didn’t think much of it–couldn’t imagine what made this simple folk music so special.

But on a second (and third and fourth) listen, I heard a lot of the components that made it quite a beautiful set.

Nataile Mering sings and plays acoustic guitar.  Her voice reminds me a lot of Aimee Mann.

The blurb says that this set is

simple and restrained — a strummed guitar, two-part harmonies, a brushed beat — but still managed to re-create the majesty and wonder of the band’s latest release, Titanic Rising, one of 2019’s loftiest and most layered albums.

The music here is simple and straightforward–“rooted in ’70s folk-pop traditions, with mystical themes of rambling on to find meaning and purpose.”

“Andromeda,” an astral ode to love, set the tone with the acoustic guitar.  After a minute and a half there is a really cool otherworldly-sounding guitar solo from Stephen Heath.  It is just a slide on an electric guitar but it sounds very cool amid the folky quiet.  There is a very traditional organ sound from Walt McClements  filling in the spaces, but I think what really makes the song transcend folk are the fantastic backing vocals from bassist Eliana Athayde.  Whether it’s oohs and ahhs or harmonies, her contributions are monumental.

“Wild Time” is next and Athayde’s oohs are there supporting Mering’s gentle leads.  Like the previous song the acoustic guitar sets the pace with the keys filling in the gas and Andres Renteria’s drums keeping pace.  This time the standout sound from Heath’s guitar is a buzzing e-bow–an otherworldly insect buzzing around the song.  Near the end, Heath turns that buzz into a proper guitar solo and there’s a brief moment where I think Althayde and Mering are singing different lines at the same time.  The end of the song rings of early Pink Floyd with the piano sound and Heaths now noisy scratchy e-bow filed soloing.

The final song, “Picture Me Better,” is “a heartbreaking remembrance of a friend who died by suicide while Mering was working on the album.”  It’s the quietest song of the bunch.  Renteria leaves and it’s just acoustic guitar and keys with gentle electric guitar notes and Mering’s voice.  This time Athayde’s backing vocals add an otherworldly quality as we get lost in this song of loss and yearning.

It’s quite a lovely set, and if this is stripped down, I do wonder what a full-on, layered album must sound like.

[READ: December 16, 2019] “Sevastopol”

This was a story about writing stories.

The narrator, Nadia, receives a postcard from Klaus.  The postcard is of Sevastopol, although Klaus has never been there–he probably got it from a site like easterneuropeanjunk.com.

Klaus had rented a theater space in São Paulo (the story was written in Portuguese and translated by Zoë Perry) and called Nadia to insist that she come and help him fix it up.

They had met at the museum where she works.  He led a drama workshop and since staff could take classes for free she decided to check it out.  Klaus had directed a play which ran in a local theater.  Nadia hadn’t seen it, but her friend said it was awful.  Nevertheless, Nadia liked Klaus. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PEARL JAM-“I Believe in Miracles” (2003).

On December 2, Pearl Jam announced that their fan club holiday singles will be released to streaming services.  Their first holiday single was released back in 1991.  It was “Let Me Sleep (Christmas Time).” They are rolling out the songs one at a time under the banner 12 Days of Pearl Jam.

These releases are coming out as a daily surprise.

Recorded in Santa Barbara California on October 28, 2003 this is a song that the band has played many times live.  I actually forget that its a Ramones song because of how un-Ramones their version is.

They do play it loud and rocking, but this version is a quieter, acoustic version. It’s also kind of slow so you can hear all the words.

There’s two lengthy acoustic guitar solos (very different from the Ramones) as well.  And of course, Eddie sounds nothing like Joey Ramone.

Despite the different style of play, this cover is quite faithful to the original.  But this acoustic version is particularly cool and the crowd is really into it.

[READ: December 11, 2019] “The Wild Man of Mississippi”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fourth time reading the Calendar.  I didn’t know about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh), but each year since has been very enjoyable.  Here’s what they say this year

The Short Story Advent Calendar is back! And to celebrate its fifth anniversary, we’ve decided to make the festivities even more festive, with five different coloured editions to help you ring in the holiday season.

No matter which colour you choose, the insides are the same: it’s another collection of expertly curated, individually bound short stories from some of the best writers in North America and beyond.

(This is a collection of literary, non-religious short stories for adults. For more information, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.)

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check back here to read an exclusive interview with the author.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

I’m pairing music this year with some Christmas songs that I have come across this year.

I know Jack Pendarvis exclusively from McSweeney’s issues–particularly from the Letters columns–and The Believer.

I’m a little sad to say that overall my impression of his writing is not great.  I wrote this a long while back:

Pendarvis writes my least favorite piece in The Believer.  His monthly column Musin’s & Thinkin’s is a faux hillbilly column that is purposefully absurd and in my mind really really forced.

However, I did enjoy some of his short stories, which seem to be, not exactly parodies, but anachronistic tales that play around with the expectations of formula.

This story continues in that vein.

The titular Wild Man of Mississippi is an author and he is very much aware of his persona as The Wild Man of Mississippi.

As the story starts he is heading to near the Canadian border to read to a college class.  He couldn’t fit into his peacoat and had his tailor move the buttons: “an identifying feature of peacoats seemed to be the faraway buttons.  Well, fuck that.”

The tailor was late and thanked him for his patience.  How presumptuous to think he had patience.  After several other small indignities, he is booked on American Airlines–not his first choice. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PEARL JAM-“Angel” (1993).

On December 2, Pearl Jam announced that their fan club holiday singles will be released to streaming services.  Their first holiday single was released back in 1991.  It was “Let Me Sleep (Christmas Time).” They are rolling out the songs one at a time under the banner 12 Days of Pearl Jam.

These releases are coming out as a daily surprise.

This song goes back to 1993 and has the logo from Vs.

It’s not a Christmas song (not every year end 7″ was Christmas themed).  Rather this sounds like an outtake from Vitalogy more than Vs.  Interestingly, they played it at the Fenway Park show that S. and I went to in 2016 (August 7), although I obviously didn’t know it.  I’m secretly impressed that I was there when they played this song–only  the sixth time they’ve ever played it.

It’s a quiet acoustic guitar-based song.  The chords sound a little off–a little unsettled.

The song opens with the first section, the “like an angel” section.  When the second part comes next, a second guitar is added in along with some backing vocals, (especially on the word “tortured”) giving the song an eerier harmony.  The guitar on this part is consistent until the 80 second mark when it suddenly shifts to a pretty melody.

There’s upbeat chords with some lovely backing vocals as Eddie sings lyrics he can’t seem to get out fast enough and some surprisingly high notes.

It’s certainly an oddball song–three minutes with no chorus and some certainly odd chords.  But the sentiment is quite nice.

[READ: December 5, 2019] “Acknowledgements”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fourth time reading the Calendar.  I didn’t know about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh), but each year since has been very enjoyable.  Here’s what they say this year

The Short Story Advent Calendar is back! And to celebrate its fifth anniversary, we’ve decided to make the festivities even more festive, with five different coloured editions to help you ring in the holiday season.

No matter which colour you choose, the insides are the same: it’s another collection of expertly curated, individually bound short stories from some of the best writers in North America and beyond.

(This is a collection of literary, non-religious short stories for adults. For more information, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.)

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check back here to read an exclusive interview with the author.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

I’m pairing music this year with some Christmas songs that I have come across this year.

This story was fantastic.  I loved everything about it–tone, content, style, humor.  This had it all.

It is about a young writer who named his writer-protagonists after himself and wrote about how underappreciated he was as a writer.  The acknowledgements that the title refers to are in his debut novel which was just published.  It is called The Canon According to D. M. Murphy by D. M. Murphy.

But before getting to the people who impacted this novel, he gives us some extensive background about himself–birthday, birth method, etc.  He reveals his name is Daniel Manitou Murphy.  He liked the “Manitou” part although why his parents would name him after the islands in Lake Michigan (whose legend is that they were the Great Spirit’s memorial to her dead cubs) was always confusing to him.  He thought about going by D. Manitou, but he feared that it would be seen as appropriation.  And then of course there are the awkward years: “I had somewhere entered that phase of bourgeoisie adulthood in which one uses brunch as a verb.” (more…)

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