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Archive for the ‘Tracy Bonham’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: TRACY BONHAM-Live on Mountain Stage, September 29, 2010 (2010).

I loved Tracy Bonham when she first came out.  Her EP and first LP were amazing explorations of controlled anger with great bursts of violin.

As with many angry songwriters from the 90s, Bonham seems to have become, shall we say, happier.  She has a new album out this year called Masts of Manhatta.

I haven’t heard the album, so I don’t know if this Mountain Stage performance represents it well or not.  I’m guessing that the Mountain Stage setting has made it somewhat more mellow than the original (steel guitars and fiddle solos?), but that may not be the case.

Regardless of the tone of the album, the songwriting tricks that Bonham has always employed are still in evidence here.  In fact, even though I’d never heard these songs before, the chord progressions (and of course, her voice) make these songs sound distinctly hers.  And lyrically she’s still clever as anything–witness most of the lyrics to “We Moved Our City to the Country”  which also features a very conventional fiddle (no, not violin) solo.

It seems like Bonham has grown as an artist and is exploring lots of different styles. And although I really love her early rocking stuff, and I was a little concerned that she had gone soft, it’s clear she’s just channeled her hardness in a different direction.  She’s also got great stage presence.

Manhatta here I come.  The show is available here.

[READ: October 12, 2010] “The Third and Final Continent”

Jhumpa Lahiri was the final writer in the 1999 New Yorker 20 Under 4o issue.

I have heard such wonderful things about Jhumpa Lahiri, and I have been intending to read her novels and short story collections for quite some time.  I’m a bit saddened that this is the first fiction by her that I’ve read.  But it was an excellent place to start.

The story is a masterful telling of what, even the main character admits, is “quite ordinary.”  And yet it is touching and moving and a wholly realized experience.  [DIGRESSION: I have been listening to old interviews with David Foster Wallace and in most of his interviews he argues that good writing should be “real” as opposed to ironic and sarcastic.  He worries that hipster irony has eroded people’s ability to tell real stories.]  Well, this is a very real story.  It is simple and honest and wholly believable–just what the doctor ordered].

The story opens with an Indian man leaving India for London in 1964.  In 1969 he gets a job offer to work in the library at M.I.T.  Before leaving though, he confirms his arranged marriage, meets his bride and officially weds.  But days later he has left for America with the intention of her following in about six weeks.  He lands in Massachusetts on the day of the moon landing.

After staying at the YMCA, and adjusting to American life, he finds an apartment at an old woman’s house.  He tells the old woman that he is married bit she is insistent  that he has no female visitors.  The old lady is strict and a little crazy (she makes him marvel about the moon landing on a nightly basis).  And yet, despite herself, it is clear that she approves of this polite man. (I was a little surprised that she would be so approving of a foreigner, but maybe she was more progressive than I give her credit).

And the bulk of the story is made up of his life in this small apartment with this ever-present landlady who he feels somewhat indebted to, even though all he really owes her is $8 a week. (more…)

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