Archive for the ‘Stereolab’ Category

[ATTENDED: October 7, 2022] Stereolab

I saw Stereolab for the first time back in 2019 (after they had been away from Philly for 11 years).  I was a fan since the early 90s but had never seen them.

I really enjoyed the previous show–it was everything I wanted.  When they announced a new 2022 tour I wasn’t sure if I needed to go.  But I figured, why not?

Like last time, the Groop’s was set up in a half circle with Tim Gane on guitar to my far left and Lætitia Sadier singing, playing keys and guitars on my far right.  In the middle from left to right was drummer Andy Ramsay, keyboardist Joe Watson (with a giant Fender Rhodes), and bassist Xavier Muñoz Guimera.

As I mentioned for Fievel is Glaque, the crowd was really annoying.  I’m not sure what half of these people were doing here.   Do drunken college girls in 2022 like Stereolab?  Are they all over TikTok?  (No, apparently).

Of course, I felt like a poser myself because I didn’t know most of the songs.  Stereolab has put out a ton of records and even more compilations of one-off singles.  And, like last time they played three songs from one of these compilations (which I haven’t listened to in forever).

Last time, they played the bulk of their songs from their albums that came out in the 1990s, with a few from the 2000s sprinkled in. This time it was a lot more “recent” stuff.  I was sure they’d throw in a few songs I knew, but it wasn’t until “The Free Design” that I recognized a song.  They playe da few thigs from Dots and Loops, and usually a hugely long song would have me really excited, but I didn’t recognize “Refractions in the Plastic Pulse” which runs 17 minutes on the record (I feel like I should have been super excited for this song but I really wasn’t).

And then the set jumped between rare stuff and “newer” songs.  I just wasn’t feeling it.

Perhaps it was me, or the crowd around me rubbing me the wrong way.  Whatever the case, I just didn’t enjoy this set as much as I thought I would.  The band sounded great.  Although I did notice that I wasn’t as blown away by the bass like I was last time (song choices or mixing levels, I guess,, because I’m sure Gimera was great.  I also felt like Tim Gane wasn’t quite as much of a maniac as he was last time–I feel like I was less awed by his playing than I was last time.

Lætitia Sadier sounded great.  In fact everyone sounded good, but I just wasn’t feeling it.  Or maybe I just like Union Transfer better than Franklin Music Hall (I do).

Sadier told us they were playing a special encore for us.  A song they hadn’t played since 2001.  I was pretty excited, except when they started it, I didn’t know it.  Well, actually I did know it because it came from Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night, which I know I’ve listened to.  But apparently not all that much.

The second encore was French Disko, one of only two songs that they played last time.  Normally I love when a band plays a wholly different setlist for a show, but this one went so far into the obscure that I was really excited to hear the two dupes.  “French Disko” is super fun song and I did really enjoy that one.

They ended with a song that they released with Nurse with Wound which I didn’t know.  That segued into another obscure song.  And the night was over.

I’ve enjoyed Stereolab as background listening and as foreground listening.  Generally speaking anything they play is cool with me.  But I think a lot of factors made this show really less than enjoyable.

I’m sure there are many fans who would look at this setlist and tell me how jealous they were.  But I was getting a little nervous because this was two shows in a row that I had been really looking forward to from which I came away feeling meh.


2022 Franklin Music Hall 2018 Union Transfer
Supah Jaianto ⊗ Brakhage ∴
Low Fi ⇓ French Disko ≥
The Free Design © Baby Lulu ≅
Refractions in the Plastic Pulse Miss Modular ∴
U.H.F. – MFP Ψ Vonal Declosion ♣
Miss Modular Metronomic Underground €
Mountain ≥ Need to Be ♣
Delugeoisie ⊗ Anamorphose Ø
Harmonium ≥ Ping Pong Ø
I Feel the Air (of Another Planet) ¥ Percolator €
Pack Yr Romantic Mind ® John Cage Bubblegum ≥
Super-Electric Œ Lo Boob Oscillator ≥
encore encore
Op Hop Detonation (first performance since 2001) © The Stars Our Destination Ø
French Disko ≥ Rainbo Conversation ∴
Simple Headphone Mind Ω / Excursions Into “Oh, A-Oh” € Jenny Ondioline ®

⊗ Not Music (2010)
€ Fab Four Suture (2006)
♣ Margerine Eclipse (2004)
≅ Sound Dust (2001)
¥ The First of the Microbe Hunters (2000)
© Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night (1999)

∴ Dots and Loops (1997)
Ω Simple Headphone Mind (album with Nurse with Wound) (1997)
€ Emperor Tomato Ketchup (1996)
≥ Refried Ectoplasm (Switched On Volume 2) (1995)
Ø Mars Audiac Quintet (1994)
Ψ The Groop Played “Space Age Batchelor Pad Music” (1993)

® Transient Random Noise Bursts with Announcements (1993)
⇓ Low Fi (1992)
ΠSuper-Electric (1991)

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[ATTENDED: October 7, 2022] Fievel is Glaque

Deradoorian was supposed to open this tour with Stereolab.  I hadn’t heard of them, although I have just learned that they are the creation of Angel Deradoorian who was part of Dirty Projectors.  She had to drop off the tour for (unstated) personal reasons.

Her loss is a boon for Fievel is Glaque.

Fievel is Glaque is the duo of American keyboardist Zach Phillips and Belgian singer Ma Clément.  For the show they were a five piece–with guitar, drums and saxophone/flute.

They played a weird jazzy alt rock.  The songs were mostly just over a minute long.  And Clément sang in a French-inflected English that was really quite lovely.  They were practically like the anti-Stereolab.  Like if Stereolab had a younger, brattier cousin.

The audience around me was awful.  Five college girls who were talking loudly, dancing wildly, trying to pick up guys and talking to the band.  I really should have moved.  But I was pretty close.  Poor decision on my part as they annoyed me the whole night.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed this strange band with the strange name.  Zach told Post Trash:

Our first saxophonist, Eléonore Kenis, spoke the name in all sincerity in the volleyball court of Parc de Forest in 2018. We badly wanted to change it. Fievel is the mouse of cartoon fame (though neither of us have seen those movies) and “glauque” (rhymes with “oak”) is a French word notable for describing both a pale, bluish green and meaning creepy/sleazy/sordid/sinister. My own post-hoc rationalized interpretation goes something like this: gentrification functionally targets run-down, destitute, “glauque” areas; Fievel is an off-brand, “social realist” Mickey Mouse; accordingly, the name means something like “gentrify Mickey Mouse.” We deeply wish we had a different name but are committed to making this one retrospectively cool.

By the end of their set, I was really digging their weird music.  A little too much saxophone for me, but their guitarist was really good (as the drunken college girls kept shouting at him).  Although when I listened to their studio recordings I didn’t enjoy them quite as much–sounding even more like Stereolab minus the krautrock and adding lite jazz.

Great opening band though.  Worth arriving early for.

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 SOUNDTRACKSTEREOLAB-“High Expectation” (1991).

In Stuart David’s book, In The All-Night Café, he lists the songs on a mixtape that Stuart Murdoch gave to him when they first met.

Although I’ve been a fan of Belle & Sebastian for a long time, I knew almost none of the songs on this mixtape.  So, much like Stuart David, I’m listening to them for the first time trying to see how they inspire Stuart Murdoch.

In the book, David writes how much he does not like “rock,” especially music based around bluesy rock.  Most of these songs, accordingly, do not do that.  In fact, most of these songs are (unsurprisingly) soft and delicate.

Stereolab have been around forever (I saw them live two years ago) and their music has gone through several transformations over the years.

This song comes from their second release, an EP called Super-Electric, and was then released on the Switched On collection.  It’s a pretty quiet song, with a kind of soporific feel–muted guitars, no drums, and a kind of gauzy sheen over all the music.

One of the best things about Stereolab is that their lyrics are usually absolutely different from what you think they might be about given the music and Lætitia Sadier’s delivery.  She sings softly and, because French is her native language, her emphases are not always where one might expect, so she can sing a line like: “There is no sense in being interested/In a child, a group, or in a society” (in the song Spark Plug”) and it sounds like a pretty pop song with lovely backing vocals.

In “High Expectation,” she sings gently over this chill-out song:

Do you really want to love someone who does not love you
Do you really want to stab your enemy in the back.  Stab him in front.

and then the understated but still catchy chorus:

I don’t, I don’t, I don’t, I’m sorry.

Stereolab were unique right from the get go.

[READ: June 1, 2020] Check Please Book 2

Check Please is a two-part graphic novel.  Book 1 followed college freshman Eric “Bitty” Bittle through his freshman and sophomore years.  In book two Bitty is now a junior (and senior) Samwell College and is taking on more responsibilities.

The book is written as a vlog from Bitty.  As the opening blurb tells us

I’m a junior on the Samwell men’s hockey team and not only do I have new teammates and responsibilities I’ve got a new beau–remember Jack?  Dating a professional hockey player wasn’t anything I expected to do in college.  My parents don’t know, my teammates have no clue, and Jack and I aren’t sure that we want to keep it a secret.

Jack Zimmerman is now playing pro hockey for the Falcons.  He has a hockey nickname–Zimmboni–and the respect of his team.  Despite the high profile games dn Bitty’s schooling, they do manage to see each other (Zoom meetings before they were what everyone was doing). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: IVY-“Beautiful” (1995).

Ivy was a trio consisting of Andy Chase and Adam Schlesinger.  They wrote beautiful gentle indie pop songs.  But what set them apart was singer Dominique Durand.  Dominique was from Paris, living in New York and studying English.  She sings in a delightfully accented style (not unlike Laetitia Sadler of Stereolab).

The band released five albums over about fifteen years and their sound morphed in different ways, although it never strayed from the blue print of gentle, catchy echoing melodies.

“Beautiful” was the song that introduced me to the band.  It’s a bit faster than some of their later songs, with a fast drum beat and some (relatively) loud guitar chords.

The chorus, with some ripping guitars over Durand’s gently soaring “Don’t you look beautiful,” so exemplifies the late 90s for me, that it should be locked in a time capsule.

And it’s all over in two and a half minutes.

Fascinatingly, this article from Variety lists seven of Ivy’s “best” songs and “Beautiful” is not one of them.  Shows what they know.

[READ: April 1, 2020] “Love Letter”

This is a tremendously political short story written as a letter.

The letter is written on February 22, 202_

It is from a grandfather to his grandson Robbie.  Robbie wrote an email but the grandfather is hand writing back (not sure emailing is the best move).

He uses initials so as not to cause any more trouble for G., M., or J. (good folks, all, we very much enjoyed meeting them).

Believe me, I am as disgusted as you are with all this.

He believes that “they” think that M. “should” have let someone in authority know about G. “since being here is a privilege and not a right.”  And what of J?  Even if J is a citizen, they may say she forfeited certain rights by declining to report G & M. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: September 29, 2019] Philly Music Fest

For those counting, this makes four concerts in four nights, which is frankly insane (and thanks to my poor wife who tolerates such excesses).

But the whole reason I wanted to go this evening was to see Man Man (more in their own post).

But, in fact, the entire Philly Music Fest was pretty fantastic.  I would have certainly gone to three of the four nights if I could have.  This little festival is a testament to the amazing music that Philadelphia is producing, and they didn’t even include two of my favorite Philly bands, Mannequin Pussy and Control Top.

The first night I actually didn’t know any of the bands.

  • Wednesday 9/25 at Milkboy (a venue I haven’t been to yet)
  • Secret American
  • Sixteen Jackies
  • Ceramic Animal

The second night was an amazing line up! (more…)

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[ATTENDED: September 26, 2019] Stereolab

I can still remember going into Ralph’s Record City (R.I.P.) in Scranton and buying a used copy of Transient Random Noise Bursts with Announcements based on a friend’s recommendation.  I remember thinking that the title made it sound a lot like a stereo test record.  I also remember not understanding the image on the cover as a phonograph needle for quite a while.

I also remember really liking it.

And that started my long time appreciation of Stereolab.   My friend Lar was always updating me about the latest release or re-release or re-issue (which even happened recently with the new reissues of the band’s back catalog).

I started to drift away from them a bit with their last couple of records, and then they more or less broke up.

Nevertheless, it was pretty exciting to hear that they were reuniting for a new tour (and returning to Philadelphia 11 years after their last show in the city.

I really had no idea what to expect, but I grabbed tickets immediately and they quickly sold out. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: September 26, 2019] Bitchin Bajas

I was super excited to see that Stereolab was touring again for the first time in over a decade.  I wondered who they would have open for them.

I never imagined it would be a band called Bitchin Bajas, of whom I had never heard.

The band is a three-piece and is a side-project of Cooper Crane from the band Cave (who I also don’t know).

With a name like Bitchin Bajas, I assumed they’d be a kind of desert punk band, but boy was I wrong about that.

When I walked in, the stage was set with three keyboards.  The band came out rather quietly with little fanfare and sat down. (more…)

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815SOUNDTRACK: BORIS-New Album (2011).

In 2011, Boris released three albums at roughly the same time.  The three albums are linked because they share tracks (usually very different versions, sometimes radically different).  And, of course, the CD and LP feature different versions of several tracks (but none seem to have a different cover).

New Album shares the songs “Hope,” “Party Boy” and “Spoon” with Attention Please. 
New Album shares the tracks “Jackson Head” and “Tu, La La” with Heavy Rocks.
Heavy Rocks
shares the tracks “Aileron” with Attention Please, although it is radically different.

Sargent House CD (Total length: 50:10).  Interestingly, this American release is longer than the other two.  It is quite poppy with some heavier elements.  There’s a lot of songs that could even be considered dancey (!).

“Flare” 5:04 opens with sirens blaring and a gentle electronic introduction a song bursts forth that feels like total J-pop.  A little heavy (in parts) but this is really dancey.  There’s a great Wata solo in the middle and a rather heavy ending.  The percussion throughout is very mechanical sounding like ea car engine sputtering.  It’s a remarkable sound for Boris.

“Hope” 3:43 is a poppy / shoegazey song sung by Wata. It’s synthy (with trippy synth sound effects  throughout).  It’s slick and catchy.  The version of Attention Please is a more organic, with strings instead of electronics.

“Party Boy” 3:48 opens with a synthy riff and thumping bass drums.  It is the catchiest thing they’re released with a really poppy chorus and interesting swirling synths around the vocals.  There’s even a harp in the middle of the song.  The version on Attention Please is much heavier with a buzzy bass guitar and almost no synths.

“Luna” 8:29 has fast electronic drums and processed Wata backing vocals.  It is super techno sounding.  The middle section is an instrumental with electronics that sound very Eastern (sped up, but that kind of scale).  It’s followed by some heavy guitars and pounding drums.  A ripping staccato guitar solo follows.  There’s even a few moments that sound like Sigur Rós.  Why the song “Black Original” didn’t make this album but is on the Japanese versions is a mystery to me.

“Spoon” 4:29 Opening with single keyboard notes over a pounding drums and distorted guitars, this song sung by Wata is fluid and catchy.  It’s the most shoegazey thing they’ve done so far.  There’s a total Stereolab vibe in this song.  The ending features a series of intense ascending chords.  The version on Attention Please has no synths, just shoegaze guitars.

“Pardon?” 6:00 The song opens with woozy electronic but soon changes to very gentle guitars and an almost jazzy bassline.  The whispered vocals are downright soothing.  There’s a trippy almost delicate guitar solo that runs through until the end.

“Jackson Head” 3:11 This is the most punk song on the record, but it’s electronic punk with very dark synths.  The lyrics are shouted with a repeated chant of “Jackson Head.”  The solo sounds like single, distorted snyth notes under the pulsing of the rhythm.  The version on Heavy Rocks is less synth menace, although it does sprinkle trippy synths throughout the song.

“Les Paul Custom ’86” 4:10 A whispered vocal over a thumping potential dance beat.  When Wata takes over vocals the song changes style, but only slightly.  Distant synths enter the song and try to install a melody on it, but it seems to be fighting everything else.  Wata’s spoken “echo” echos around your heads in a cool swirl (if you wear headphones).

“Tu, La La” 4:15 “Tu La La” has the best riff of any Boris song, It is fast and catchy and really interesting.  This version has strings that kind of overwhelm the greatness of the riff. (I prefer the version on Heavy Rocks)  The end of this version has an intense buildup of staccato strings.

“Looprider” 7:01 is a quiet song with a slow bassline and interesting guitar lines.   The last minute or so is fast synths, building and building with a siren effect that echoes the start of the album.

This is a pretty unexpected release from the band who created Heavy Rocks and Amplifier Worship, but I think it’s a great addition to their catalog.

For comparison sake:

Daymare LP Total length:       45:40

  1. “フレア (Vinyl Version)” (“Flare”; features introduction quoting the end of “Looprider”) 5:02
  2. “希望 -Hope-” 3:40
  3. “Party Boy (Vinyl Version)” 3:43
  4. “Black Original (Vinyl Version)” 4:33
  5. “Pardon?” 5:54
  6. “Spoon” 4:23
  7. “ジャクソンヘッド” (“Jackson Head”) 3:09
  8. “黒っぽいギター (Vinyl Version)” (“Dark Guitar”; English title “Les Paul Custom ’86”) 4:06
  9. “Tu, la la” 4:11
  10. “Looprider (Vinyl Version)” 6:59

Tearbridge CD Total length:       45:39

  1. “Party Boy” 3:49
  2. “希望 -Hope-” 3:43
  3. “フレア” (“Flare”) 4:21
  4. “Black Original” 4:27
  5. “Pardon?” 5:59
  6. “Spoon” 4:28
  7. “ジャクソンヘッド” (“Jackson Head”) 3:12
  8. “黒っぽいギター” (“Dark Guitar”; English title “Les Paul Custom ’86”) 4:09
  9. “Tu, la la” 4:15
  10. “Looprider” 7:13

[READ: February 5, 2016] “Fall River”

This was the 2015 New Yorker fiction issue.  It featured several stories and several one-page essays from writers I like.  The subject this time was “Time Travel.”

For this essay McGuane travels back to 1955 to his grandmother’s house in Fall River section of Boston.

He says there is little compassion between the duchies of this town.  The Irish Catholics dominate every neighborhood, with each having its own church.  But eventually Irish Catholic men like his uncles started showing interest in the Italian, French Canadian and Jewish girls–going so far as to marry some of them.

He wants to go back there to 1955 when there were half as many people and each town had its own personality.  The ragman is known as “the sheeny” and he imagines that the sheeny is a soon-to-be-famous sculptor.  He brings up a lot of other single incidents, like the “Portagee” boy who came to exact revenge on the author;s brother for breaking his arm.  Or how Emeril Lagasse comes from “up the Flint.”  There’s Cockney immigrants Down Almy Street who are known as “jicks” (a one-size-fits-all Irish insult). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LATETIA SADLER–“There’s a Price to Pay for Freedom (And It Isn’t Security)” (2012).

What a treat to see Latetia Sadler as the song of the day from The Current (Minnesota Public Radio).  Latetia Sadler is the voice of Stereolab.  She has a new album coming out called Silencio and this is the first single.

It’s hard to say whether or not the song “sounds” like Stereolab, because Stereolab sounds different all the time.  But this is definitely not your bubbly Stereolab.

The song opens with some dreamy slow synths which morph into some dreamy guitars.   There’s no vocals for over a minute (which makes it seem like it might be an instrumental.  When Latetia’s voice comes in (backed by a deep male voice (very un-Stereolab) the music pulls back almost entirely and Latetia’s peculiarly inflected words [ree-uh-li-TEE] come to the fore.  It’s hard to believe that such a dreamy song would be about what the title suggests it’s about.  But how about this for a stinging (if oblique) final line: “Happy to identify with a reflection in merchandise.”

I prefer Stereolab’s bubblier music to their more dreamy, languid songs.  This one is nice, and because of her voice, it’s intriguing.  But I’d need a beat more oomph to want to get a whole record.

[READ: July 6, 2012] “An Abduction”

Tessa Hadley is rapidly turning into one of my favorite authors.  I only know her from reading New Yorker stories and I really must expand beyond these glossy pages.

This story was really fantastic.  I loved how the title has one meaning–the obvious meaning, which is even stated in the story–at the beginning, but by the end, the meaning changes to something else.

And what a great opening to a story: “June Allsop was abducted when she was fifteen, and nobody noticed.”  Shocking!  Then Hadley contextualizes this oversight: “This happened a long time ago, in Surrey, in the nineteen-sixties, when parents were more careless.”  Hmm.

So Jane was home from boarding school–her older brother was studying for college, her younger sister was not yet in boarding school and still had friends locally.  So, yes, Jane was bored.  She tried her best to have fun, but was really stumped.  When her father drove down the driveway past her and she accidentally hit his car with the ball from her Jokari set (paddle ball), the only fun she was having was destroyed.  Her father drove off in a huff.

Driving past him on the road was a two-seater convertible with the top down and three long-haired boys driving.  Her dad scowled at them, but paid them no mind.  Which is a shame as they are the abductors of young Jane. (more…)

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I received this disc when it was donated to our library.  Clinic is an art-punk band from Liverpool.  This is a collection of B-Sides (that’s an unusual place to start when you’ve never heard a band before). As such, it’s hard to tell if this is what the band sounds like or if these are crazy experiments (because the songs are pretty crazy).  Even if they are experiments, they’ve got me very interested in hearing what the rest of their stuff sounds like.  And since these songs are all over the map I’m still not sure what their albums may sound like.

There are twelve songs on the record: only three are over 3 minutes long, the rest are just over 2 minutes (with a couple under 2 minutes).  This whole collection is under half an hour.  And yet it feels like they take you all over the place, music-wise.  The collection covers from 1999-2007, but they’re not in chronological order, so you can’t even tell if any of this is a progression in musical styles or just a bunch of experiments.  The willful obscurity is quite exciting.

“The Majestic” is a grand, building monstrosity.  It is full of pomp, which is immediately deflated by the slightly off-key organ.  “Nicht” is a 180 degree turn—a blistering hardcore song. It’s played very fast and yet it is not sloppy (and it’s 90 seconds long).  “Christmas” flips the sound again, with a delicate, slow song about, yes, Christmas.  “The Castle” has a lot of organ sounds, which reminds me of early weirder Who songs and even Stereolab.  “You Can’t Hurt You Anymore” is an instrumental (with cowbell!).  “Dissolution” has a distorted guitar and tribal drums.  It breaks after a few riffs to showcase some bizarre distorted spoken words.

Speaking of lyrics.  A lyric sheet is included which is very helpful because the lyrics are utter nonsense: “Pork pie had to know uncle now you can elope” “Diktat no fat fun eyebrow shhhh for the one and the one with horrors”  “Cheat the bored, cheat thee sup at the toast.”  I suspect they are just making sounds while they play and then figuring out what the words might be later.

“Magic Boots” returns to that punk sound with distorted guitar solos at the front (and distorted vocals in the back).  “The Scythe” has a kind of western guitar feel (simple, but interesting).  “Lee Shan” is the slowest song on the disc (spoken/chanting vocals are low in the mix).  “J.O.” is a slow keyboard song.  “Circle I” is another blistering noisy punk song. The collection ends with “Golden Rectangle” which is a slowish surf-sounding song, but with keyboards.

It amazes me that this band has so many full length records out.  They must have a cult following, even though I’d never heard of them before.  I’d really like to check out what their main releases sound like.

[READ: March 11, 2012] “A Rooting Interest”

Hot on the heels of Jonathan Fraznen saying he hates Twitter, I get to read how much he loves Edith Wharton.

It’s no secret that Franzen is a curmudgeon–he is an emotional guy who believes in authenticity; there is absolutely no surprise that he would hate Twitter.  And, while I think Twitter is good for some things, he is absolutely correct when he says, “Twitter stands for everything I oppose…it’s hard to cite facts or create an argument in 140 characters…it’s like if Kafka had decided to make a video semaphoring The Metamorphosis.”  [Actually I’m not sure that that simile is apt, but I get the point.]

He may be a little overstepping with the rest: “Or it’s like writing a novel without the letter ‘P’…It’s the ultimate irresponsible medium … People I care about are readers…particularly serious readers and writers, these are my people. And we do not like to yak about ourselves.”  I think there is some fun to be had yakking about ourselves, but the point is well taken.

It also seems quite appropriate for this article in The New Yorker in which he lauds a writer who wrote almost one hundred years ago. (more…)

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