Archive for the ‘Deafness’ Category

[LISTENED TO: Summer 2021] How the Multiverse Got Its Revenge

The only thing better than finishing an awesome book is discovering that there’s a sequel and the quality and integrity of the sequel is just as strong as the original story.

Everything from the first story is in place here: the characters, the narrator, the tone, and, delightfully, Nicole Poole to read it.

Obviously, there are massive spoilers in this book for the first story.  So make sure you read that one first.

But to sum up, Rory successfully avoid an arranged marriage (while not upsetting her arranged husband).  She is able to shut down a coup on Urse and ultimately kick-starts a revolution.  Not bad for an under age Princess.

But she is done with being a Princess.  She rescinds her life and goes off to become a space pirate.  She has taken her former royal bodyguards, Thorsdottir and Zhang (so yes, there’s even more time given to these two great characters!) with her.  They pledge to protect Rory so they guess they just go with her?  And Jaed has come along with them too, mostly because he has nowhere else to go (literally) and he crushes on Rory, too.

So Rory’s team aren’t so much space pirates as do-gooders.  They are more like salvagers who might intercept smugglers (this is the equivalent of her telling her mom she’s going to follow Phish and make jewelry).

And for all concerned, Grytt is still in the story although as it starts, she is on Lanscott farming sheep (!) with Rory’s former betrothed Ivar (!!) former crow prince of the Free Worlds of Tadesh {No they are not “together” Grytt is mostly just minding the poor boy while she is “relaxing”).  Grytt by the way needed more implants after the last book and is probably 3/5 mecha to human.  Which she seems to prefer, honestly. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: Summer 2021] How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse

This book title appealed to me immediately.  And I loved it.  The story is convoluted in the best way and Nicole Poole is an excellent reader.

The one bad thing about an audio book as opposed to reading the book yourself is that you don’t get to see how certain words are spelled (although it saves all the trouble of trying to figure out how to pronounce them).

The book is set in a futuristic world where space travel is common and war is far more common.

Rory was born into the Thorne family as something of a surprise.  There hadn’t been a female offspring in the Thorne family for ten generations.  The name Rory was reserved for first born males.  But it was determined that the name was gender-neutral enough that the girl could also have the name, no matter how unsettled it made people.

Then Eason sets about establishing this world–with great detail and thoroughness.  Some of which I’ll try to capture. The story is set on the Thorne Consortium, the planet where Rory’s father is King.

Rory’s mother is the Consort.  She was from Kreshti, “a small independent and allied planet on which skill with combat training was considered both a plain necessity.”

Incidentally, the narrator is telling the story as a history lesson and she is far from neutral.

They are both served by the Vizier, a man gifted in arithmancy and scholarship.  “Finding quaint, forgotten, and neglected customs was his second favorite pastime in the multiverse. Explaining to others the relevance of those ancient customs was the first.”

The Vizier discovered that it was customary to invite the faeries to bestow blessings on each new born girl.  The King is annoyed by this–it never happened for any of the boys (and they had invented void-flight with no magic needed). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKJUSTIN BEIBER-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #182 (March 17, 2021).

When Taylor Swift did a Tiny Desk Concert it was HUGE news–the biggest pop star in the world at the Tiny Desk?

I assume at one point Justin Beiber would have made a similar big deal (even if this one is a home show and just a stream like any other). I didn’t even know he was still making music.  So imagine my surprise to hear that the album that these songs come from went to number 1 and that he is the youngest artist to have 8 number one records.  Who is buying Justin Beiber records?   I have no idea.

Especially now that he’s all tattooed up and sleazy looking.

Of course, it’s very likely that I don’t know anything he has done, because I really didn’t know what he sounded like.  He plays four songs here.

“Holy,” another song from Justice, opens this set without the presence of guest Chance the Rapper.

“Holy” is a slow acoustic song (the acoustic guitar from Julian McGuire sounds great).  His musicians are from We the Band.  This is a catchy pop song for sure–the holy holy holy, hold me hold me hold me part is a nice touch.  I like the addition of the record scotching from DJ Tay James in the middle.

But why is he always grabbing his crotch?  Especially the way he grabs it, like he has to pee.  It’s really disconcerting and seems like an unconscious reflex at his point.  It looks particularly weird with his big baggy clothes on.

For “Peaches” he heads over to the keyboard.  Julian McGuire picks up the electric guitar and shows how good he is.  The opening piano melody is slow and pretty.  I really like this song except that the lyrics are so unnecessarily crass.  Why have such a pretty song and yet have your call and response lyrics be so rude

I got my peaches out in Georgia (oh, yeah, shit)
I get my weed from California (that’s that shit)
I took my chick up to the North, yeah (badass bitch)
I get my light right from the source, yeah (yeah, that’s it)

And good lord he repeats the chorus so many times.

Bieber plays the slow piano solo as the scotching begins and then keyboardists O’Neil “Doctor O” Palmer takes over and plays a really groovy melody as the outro to the song.

“Peaches” will exist in a significantly different form when Bieber drops his new album, Justice, on Friday — the track will feature guest vocals from GIVEŌN and Daniel Caesar

For “Hold On” he moves away from the keys.  I prefer him standing in front of the keys because he looks so awkward when he’s just standing there, hunched over and crouching.

The song has pretty echoing electric guitar (Mcguire again).  This song starts out quietly but when it kicks in, what a super catchy song!   It’s got a killer bass sound from Harv and is just  full on bouncer.  This should be huge.   In the middle of the song the band take a verse or two to totally rock out with crashing drums from Robert Taylor as well as ripping guitars and bass.

“Anyone” ends the set as a big old ballad with satisfyingly quiet synths and backing vocals.  This is a really pretty song, but it would work so much better if he didn’t look so scuzzy.  But once again the band totally rocks the end–a big jam that is really awesome once JB stops singing,  McGuire get a ripping solo and the band turns the song into a funk jam with some cool bass and drums and the samples kicking in.

[READ: March 31, 2021] “Seventy-Two Virgins”

Comedy pieces are often funny when they are timely.  I’m not sure what was going on in 2007 that Steve Martin wanted to make a joke about Muslim martyrs enjoying 72 Virgins.  I do recall hearing about that closer to 9/11, but maybe something else new had happened?

I’m not willing to look this up.  How does one even searching for 72 virgins?  But the context is that it was widely believed that Muslim ‘martyrs’ enjoyed rich sensual rewards on reaching paradise.

So without having 72 virgins in the zeitgeist, what’s it like to read this?

Well, this is basically a kind of play with every virgin getting a line.


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SOUNDTRACKADITYA PRAKASH ENSEMBLE-GlobalFEST Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #135 (January 13, 2021).

Aditya Prakash EnsembleGlobalFEST is an annual event, held in New York City, in which bands from all over the world have an opportunity to showcase their music to an American audience.  I’ve never been, and it sounds a little exhausting, but it also sounds really fun.

The Tiny Desk is teaming up with globalFEST this year for a thrilling virtual music festival: Tiny Desk Meets globalFEST. The online fest includes four nights of concerts featuring 16 bands from all over the world. 

Given the pandemic’s challenges and the hardening of international borders, NPR Music and globalFEST is moving from the nightclub to your screen of choice and sharing this festival with the world. Each night, we’ll present four artists in intimate settings (often behind desks donning globes), and it’s all hosted by African superstar Angélique Kidjo, who performed at the inaugural edition of globalFEST in 2004.

The second band on the third night is the Aditya Prakash Ensemble.

Performing from their home base in Los Angeles, Aditya Prakash Ensemble highlights songs borne from South India’s Carnatic tradition. Prakash uses his voice as an instrument to tell powerful, emotive stories — which he reimagines in a fresh, dynamic way. Aditya Prakash Ensemble’s modern take on traditional music mixes in jazz and hip-hop and features a diverse L.A. ensemble.

The Ensemble is a quintet.  With Julian Le on piano, Owen Clapp on Bass, Brijesh Pandya on drums and Jonah Levine on trombone and guitar.

As “Greenwood” starts, I can’t quite tell if he’s actually singing words (in Hindi or some other language) or if he is just making sounds and melodies.  It sounds great either way.  He sings a melody and then the upright bass joins in along with the trombone.  He displays a more traditional singing and then Le plays a jumping piano solo which is followed by a trombone solo.  The ending is great as he sings along to the fast melody.

“Vasheebava” is a song about seduction.  Levine plays the guitar on this song.  It starts with gentle effects on the cymbals (he rubs his fingers on them).  Prakash sings in a more traditional Indian style and Levine adds a really nice guitar solo.

“Payoji” is a traditional devotional song and Prakash sings in a very traditional style.  But musically it’s almost a kind of pop jazz.  It’s very catchy with a nice trombone solo.

This conflation of Indian music with jazz is really cool.

[READ: January 11, 2021] Fearless.

“If one man can destroy everything, why can’t one girl change it?”-Malala Yousafzai

This book begins with this wonderful sentiment:

Not long ago, a wave of exciting books uncovered stories of women through history, known and unknown, for young dreamers around the world.  Women who had been warriors, artists and scientists.  Women like Ada Lovelace, Joan of Arc and Frida Kahlo, whose stories changed the narrative for girls everywhere. Readers around us were thrilled to discover this treasure trove. But there was something missing. They rarely saw women of color and even fewer South Asian women in the works they were reading.

It’s a great impetus for this book which opens with a timeline of Pakistani accomplishments (and setbacks) for women.  The timeline is chronological in order of the birth years of the woman in the book.  Interspersed with their births are important events and the year they happened.

Like in 1940 when women mobilized and were arrested or in 1943 when the Women’s National Guard was formed. In 1948, a law passed recognizing women’s right to inherit property.  In 1950, the Democratic Women’s Association formed to demand equal pay for equal work (it doesn’t say if it was successful).

In 1973 the Constitution declared there could be no discetrmaton on the basis of race, religion, caste or sex.

But in a setback in 1979, the Hudood Ordinance passed which conflated adultery with rape, making it near impossible to prove the latter–and the punishment was often death.

And yet for all of the explicit sexism in Pakistan, the country accomplished something that America has been unable to do–elect a woman as leader. In 1988 Benazir Bhutto became the first female Prime Minister of Pakistan.

The woman in this book are given a one-page biography and a cool drawing (illustrations by Aziza Ahmad).  They range from the 16th century to today.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BORIS-tears e.p. (2019).

Boris tends toward being a very heavy band.  Their two recently albums D.E.A.R. and NO are some intense heavy metal.  They also do a lot of noise and heavy drone.  But they are not afraid of melody.  And they are not at all afraid to make pretty, dancey music.

There are five songs.  The first song “どうしてもあなたをゆるせない (doushitemoanataoyurusenai)” is on the disc twice.  The first version of this song is a remix by Narasaki under his name “Sadesper.”  It opens with a grooving bass line and some pretty guitars.  The drums are metronomic and there’s a sprinkling of keys.  I’m not sure who sings, but there’s a lot of falsetto. I love how just before the chorus there’s some orchestra hits.  It’s pretty much a full on dance song and it suits them perfectly.  You’d never guess it was Boris, but it makes sense once you realize it.  It even ends with a nifty guitar solo that sadly fades out.

“u fu fu” opens with a fast simple guitar chugging riff.  After a good ol’ “Whoo!” from Atsuo, the song pulses forward on the insistent grunted  “ooh ah” that works as a foundation to the song.  There’s a lots of great backing vocals in each ear. With about a minute to go, the bass takes over with a fast, heavy rumble before the harmonizing vocals kick in.

Up next is a fantastic cover of a Coaltar of the Deepers song “To the Beach.”  I didn’t know Coaltar of the Deepers before this release, but I have listened to them a bunch since and they are a terrific Japanese band unknown in the States.  I’m not sure how much this differs from the original , but this version is fantastic–slow and moody with lots of build and release.  The song starts with a pretty guitar melody and then a series of crashing chords and cymbals while Wata’s guitar soars.  The verses are slow with a whispered vocal.  But the choruses resume the crashing chords to punctuate things perfectly.  In the middle of the song as the vocals overlap and blend, it sounds magnificent.

“Peaches” comes next, it’s a 2 minute song sung by Wata.  A pulsing bass line propels the song forward as Wata chants the the word “peaches” over and over with an occasional “la la la” fleshes things out.  A repeating piano is added for a bit and then a shift to a kind o funky bass line that leads to the end of the songs.  It’s only two minutes long and kind of goofy but I wish it was longer.

The disc ends with an instrumental version of “どうしてもあなたをゆるせない.”  The song is so catchy and wonderful that hearing it a second time in the EP is a great thing.  It’s one of the few instrumentals that I think might sound better than the original because you can really hear what the musicians are doing–and its some great stuff.

[READ: October 29, 2020] The Ten Loves of Nishino

I have a stack of books waist high next to my desk which I intend to read.  And yet, I continue to find new (to me) books that I jump in and read first.  This book was recommended by the most recent Tiny Desk Contest winner Linda Diaz.  Why on earth would I read a book recommended by a person I’d never heard of before?  She said it was her favorite book ever (which seems weird since it only came out in English last year, but whatever).  It was also pretty short.  So I decided to check it out.

I have enjoyed many of the Japanese writers that I’ve read, so I was intrigued to read a contemporary female author (this book was translated by Allison Markin Powell).

So this book is written in ten chapters–each one written by a lover of Nishino, an enigmatic figure whom we only learn about from the women writing about him.

There is something strangely seductive about Nishino that these women find hard to resist.  He is aloof and puzzling, but that seems to make women want him even more.  But he is perpetually with women (more than these ten, it would appear). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GUSTER-Lost and Gone Forever Live (2014).

In 2014, Guster released three CDs of them playing their early CDs live in their entirety (excluding for some reason their second disc Goldfly).  This is their third CD ‘Lost and Gone Forever’ recorded live in concert, ten years after its release.

I’m not sure why they don’t say what show it is from, unless they picked the best recordings from a tour?  He does mention Boston at one point, but not sure if the whole show was recorded there.

As with the other two releases, the sound is great.  On “Barrel of a Gun” you can really hear the bongos.

There are a few more guests, which again, makes me think it’s different shows.  Ryan says “We’re inviting a bunch of people to help with instrumentation. Donnie and Amy are going to play strings” [on “Either Way”].  And later, “Fa Fa” has an amazing horn section.

For “All the Way Up to Heaven,” Ryan introduces, “Alright snow kitty bring up the children. It’s 10 o’clock.  It’s late.  Did you teach them the big rock move at the end?  That’s the most important part of the song.”

Like the other discs, they thank everyone for coming out and supporting this album.  He talks about how when they first started playing in 1991 they were all skinnier and had more hair.  They had no idea that so many years later they would still be together and be selling out shows.  “It’s a humbling experience.”

Incidentally when they announced this tenth anniversary tour, they made a video announcement.

[READ: May 31, 2018] “Silver Tiger”

This story involves realism and magical realism.

The narrator Ah Yang, is an adult looking back on his childhood when he lived with Deaf Granny.  He was sent to her early and only rarely saw his parents.

He first saw the titular Silver Tiger near a well pond by Deaf Granny’s house.   Well ponds are an ancient water storage system in China.  They are shaped like pools but are the depth of wells.  It was always off-limits to him  Deaf Granny feared that if he fell in there’d be no saving him (not unreasonable).  But that’s all he wanted to do after he first saw it.

It became even more enticing when a local boy found a turtle in a neighbor’s well pond.  Oh how the narrator wanted his own turtle. (more…)

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 SOUNDTRACK: NICK GRANT-Tiny Desk Concert #625 (June 2, 2017).

I had never heard of Nick Grant either.  And I wasn’t that impressed on an initial listen.  However, it says he’s got a bit of a flu, so kudos to him for pushing on.

In general, though, low-key rap shows are kind of weird.  They are mostly about hype, but its hard to hype a few dozen people.  But Grant is certainly game.

[Grant hails ]from a region where rap’s young guns and lil innovators tend to defy tradition, the South Carolina-by-way-of-Atlanta native proves being a purist is not just for the old heads.

Being cut from a vintage cloth has kept him in good company. He groomed himself on high school freestyle battles before working his way up to become the first signee to Culture Republic.  He’s a sly reminder that, contrary to popular opinion, the South still has a mouthful to say — and it doesn’t always have to be yelled, gurgled or Auto-Tuned to death. Sometimes it can be conveyed coolly, from a seated position, while backed by Washington D.C.’s soul garage band Black Alley, and still cut through all the noise.

I really like the live band, Black Alley.  The percussionist (Walter Clark) is particularly interesting with his congas and an electronic “plate” that plays all kinds of effects.  The bass (Joshua Cameron) is also great and the guitarist (Andrew White) plays a lot of interesting sounds.  I also like how muscular th keyboardist is playing simple chords.  And the drummer is pretty bad ass too.

The first song “Return of the Cool” (feat. B. Hess–not sure what the B. Hess is all about, I think he’s sampled in the chorus).  And that chorus is especially weird because the other singer is recorded and Grant is sort of quietly over the top of it.  It’s the smallness of the audience that makes the whole “hands side to side” part seem kind of weird.  Although it’s funny when he says, “you ain’t got your hands up.”  When it’s over he says “Give yourselves a round of applause.”  Before the next song starts he says “flu is killing me.”

It’s also strange to me in a lot of hip hop that the rappers feel the need to state who they are and where they are and sometimes when they are.  It’s been going on for decades now, but it’s odd .  So when he says “Nick Grant.  Tiny Desk.  NPR.”  it’s just what you do.  About the second song “Drug Lord Couture” he says that “street life wasn’t for me but I was fascinated with the fashion and the material things that came with being a drug dealer being in the streets.”  He says, “it wasn’t for me I found out quickly.”

He introduces the final song, “Luxury Vintage Rap” by saying that you “must be strong, have a lyrical ability to be #1.”  This song is faster with some good lyrics: “I don’t believe the devil would come as a snake / why would he come as something you would actually hate?”   There’s a cool dark end section with a funky riff.  His lyrics turn rather explicit with the startling line “sugar on a clit / that’s a sweet lick.”  As the songs sort of ends, he tells everyone, “Don’t stop.  Keep (the arm waving) going.

Grant won me over by the end.  And as the screen goes to black you can hear him saw, “Flawless….  Flawless any questions?”

[READ: April 22, 2017] “Deaf and Blind”

Vapnyar had a story in this same issue one year and a day ago.

This is the story of a young woman’s mother and her mother’s friend.  The friend was named Olga.  Olga and her mother had met at a fertility clinic.  The narrator’s mother had a child (obviously) while Olga did not.

But they bonded over their collective unhappiness. Olga said her husband loved her like crazy but that she never felt much for him–she always wanted to love someone with every fiber of her being.  The narrator’s mother was just the opposite: she loved her husband but was fairly sure he didn’t love her back.  She hoped a child would bring her husband back.

It didn’t.  And Olga didn’t get pregnant either. (more…)

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deafoSOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Centennial Secondary School, Toronto, ON, (November 30, 2000).

martin-anthonyYes, the Rheostatics played a show at a high school.  What I love about this show is that the Centennial Secondary School’s band plays along with them.

Why?  because the School band had recorded a version of The Story of Harmelodia and the Rheos came to play with them.  It is amazing what a few extra instruments (and voices) can do to a song.  This show is utterly unique in the Rheos’ live catalog.  And that is apparent right during the first song, “Saskatchewan,” when the school choir joins in on the “Home Caroline Home” refrain–it sounds amazing!

The next surprise comes during the next song, when the school’s horn section plays the riff of “Soul Glue” (and there’s a sax solo too).  The surprises get bigger when they play “Rain Rain Rain” and the band plays the opening drum/handclap melody (that’s never really done live).  They play “Claire” which gets a great treatment from the choir.  This is the first song where I wish the choir was louder–perhaps Tim is too loud on the song?  I wish you could hear the kids doing the “Ba Ba”s more.  Although overall the volume of the band and the choir is just right.

The final huge surprise comes when they play “Shaved Head” and there is flute accompaniment–it sounds tremendous, bringing a totally different feel to the song.

From that point on, they play a bunch of Harmelodia songs.  And they let the school band really shine–there’s guitar solos from the kids, there’s vocals from Tim Crawford on “Monkeybird” (and he holds a note for 25 seconds!).  Lauren Moorehouse sings lead on “Loving Arms,” and Janine Plott (I don’t know how to spell any of these kids’ names, sorry guys), sings on “Home Again.”

There’s a fun addition of accordion on “What’s Going On?” and more flute on “Take Me in Your Hand.”  The final song, “Legal Age Life,” brings back all the kids for various solos–guitar, sax and the like.  It’s a super fun night.

The more I thought about this the more emotional I got about it.  How cool to have a high school band do a version of your record.  how cool to then be the band that shows up to play with these kids.  And imagine if you were in the school band and really liked the Rheostatics ahead of time, and here they are playing with you.  What a cool night.

[READ: March 11, 2015] El Deafo

Sarah brought this home and then Clark read it and now I read it (Tabby, who is reading like a fiend will likely read it next year).  And we all really enjoyed it.

It is the true(ish) story of Cece Bell who is El Deafo!  Okay, she is actually a woman who lost the majority of he hearing at age 4 (circa 1976) from spinal meningitis (which is really scary).

She could hear sounds (if they were loud enough) but couldn’t really understand words.  The doctors outfitted her with a box with cords (that fit into her ears) and after adjusting the knobs, she is able to hear.  Which is pretty awesome (but she is very self-conscious about those cords).

And indeed being self-conscious is one of the main themes of the book.  I assume that anyone wearing this strange contraption would feel awkward and ungainly (especially in the mid 1970s).  But Cece was extremely anxious about it.  She believed that everyone was staring at her.  And they probably were, although more out of curiosity than malice, I’d imagine. (more…)

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mccarthySOUNDTRACK: PHISH-Undermind (2004).

undermindAs I understand it, Phish fans didn’t like Undermind that much and yet I really liked it and still do.  Indeed, “Undermind” is one of my favorite new Phish songs, it’s clever and boppy and just really catchy.  The album has very Beatles vibe to it—a kind of echoey feel on all the songs.  And I have recently read that people interpret the cover design to be a nod to Let It Be (there are other connections made but I’m not going to go too deeply into that).

“Scents and Subtle Sounds” opens the album.  This is a brief intro–the full songs, which sounds different appears later on the disc (it’s 97 second here)).  It leads into “Undermind” which has a loose, slightly funky sound—one of their more fun songs on recent albums.  The album version has some big fat organ sounds on it which make it even cooler.

“The Connection” is another great poppy song—gorgeous harmonies and wonderful melody, and indeed it was their first real hit.  “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing” is another great song, great backing vocals, an excellent melody and great alternating verse vocals from Mike.  It also has a great middle guitar section—it’s long and wild and reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix’ solos.  “Army of One” is sung by Page.  It is a big soaring song and it’s got a very upbeat sound.  “Crowd Control” is a very Beatleseque song.

“Maggie’s Revenge” is a noisy instrumental, with Trey’s guitars making all kind of squealing noise.  It’s weird and quite refreshing from Phish’s more recent fair.  “Nothing” picks up with the open and poppy sounds of earlier records and has more great harmonies.  It seems to fade out in the middle though—a song that could have been longer!  “Two Versions of Me” is another mid tempo song with great harmonies and  great chorus.  “Access Me” is a brief poppy song that feels a bit like filler, although it has a cool and interesting coda.  “Scents and Subtle Sounds” resumes

“Tomorrow’s Song” has a very African feel to it.  It is a simple repetitive rhythm that lasts for about 3 minutes before it fades out just like it faded in.  “Secret Smile” is a very pretty piano ballad.  It’s a little heavy handed with the strings, and at nearly 7 minutes it’s too long (especially the long coda), but the melody is certainly nice.  The album ends with “Grind,” a barbershop quartet track which shows just what kind of great harmonies they cool do.

Although it’s a mature sound, there’s enough weird stuff to let them show their funky side too.  The CD comes with a DVD called “Specimens of Beauty.”

[READ: October 8, 2013] C

I received a prepub version of this book back in 2010.  The cover and title were weird and I thought I’d like to read it.  And it sat on my shelf for two years.

And then Borders closed (bummer, their chai tea was the best!) and I saw a hardcover copy of the book for $1 so I bought it (I’m enough of a geek to want to see how prepubs and final copies are different.  In this case, the books appear identical except that in the last two dozen or so pages, there’s a section with ellipses.  In the prepub, they are single spaced but in the final book they are double spaced which throws off the line spacing.  So by the end of the book, the lines are about three lines different.  Fascinating huh?).

Anyhow, what on earth is a book called C about?

Well, it is a Bildungsroman or coming-of-age story.  By definition these stories focus on the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist from youth to adulthood.  Our protagonist is Serge Carrefax, even though he is not the first person we meet.  That would be a doctor delivering materials to Serge’s father, Mr. Simeon Carrefax.  Mr Carrefax runs a school for the deaf in which he tells children to stop using sign language and to start speaking properly.  And he has had considerable success with the children, each of whom acting in a play every year.  (The book, by the way, is set in the late 1800s).  His mother is a silkworm farmer, and much of their money comes from this job.

But the main person in Serge’s life is his sister Sophie.  Sophie is a deviously clever girl who is alternately mean to Serge (as only older sisters can be) and then encouraging him to play with her.  She is mad for science and is constantly experimenting with her chemistry set (leading to more than one explosion in the house).  The early sections of the book show Sophie and Serge’s education.  And when Sophie goes off to school, Serge is lost, especially when she returns from school but keeps telling him to leave her alone.  And then one day, Serge discovers her dead in her “lab” and experiment in progress. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: May 13, 2013] Musicophilia


My sister-in-law Karen got me this audio book for Christmas.  I had never read any Oliver Sacks before although I have always been amused/intrigued by his stuff (The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat is such a great title).  So this book, as one might guess, is all about how music impacts our lives.  Music is more than just an enjoyable set of melodies, it is a more primordial form of communication.  The key thing for any fan of music to know about this book is that about 97% of the music he talks about is classical.  Which is fine, but you’re not going to get any kind of insight into rock.  The reason for this is twofold.  One–he likes classical (and doesn’t seem to like rock–although he did take one of his patients to a Grateful Dead show) and two–he wants to talk more about music and not so much about lyrics (although again, that’s not entirely true).

I have to admit that while I enjoyed the stories in the book and will certainly talk about it a lot, I found the book a little overwhelming–it was exhaustive and exhausting.  Sacks really tries to cover ever aspect of music (and many I never would have guessed) and so I found the nine hours of story a bit tiring by the end.

Part of that may also have been John Lee, the reader, who spoke very clearly and a little slowly and gave the book something of a lecture-feel.  Which was fine for much of the book, although again, it was a little exhausting sometimes.

The thing that is most exhausting about the book is that virtually every person he talks to or about has had some kind of trauma which makes their appreciation of music different from the norm.  If you are in any way a hypochondriac, this book will make you go insane  I’m not, but even I found myself worrying about having a stroke at any second or experiencing some kind of weird brain thing where I no longer like music or god forbid get some kind of long term amnesia.  Jesus, I was getting a little spooked by the end. (more…)

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