Two Reviews

Up today at Dusted: thoughts on Bon Iver member S. Carey’s All We Grow, which I liked overall. I’m curious to see where Carey’s next album goes, however — when All We Grow was good, it was quite compelling, but there were some aspect to the album of which I was less fond.

Also in the “recent reviews” camp: at Tiny Mix Tapes, I discussed  the Carissa’s Wierd collection They’ll Only Miss You When You Leave: Songs 1996-2003. So hey, you might want to check that out as well.

Weekend Reading: Gender & Rock.

Two worthwhile pieces for your weekend reading.

In the first, Amy Klein, guitarist for the excellent punk rock band Titus Andronicus, takes a look at the new issue of Rolling Stone and its handling of gender. She then ties this in with a larger political narrative which, I would argue, makes no small amount of sense. Definitely worth a read. (Hat-tip to Maura for the link.)

The second is Jamie Peck’s profile of Frankie Rose for NY Press. Which both functions as both a fine overview of the musical history of the drummer-turned-bandleader (whose upcoming album is terrific) and a spot-on take of the gender issues contained in the indie rock scene of today. (Of which, sadly, there are many.)

If “Psychic junkie vampires” doesn’t get your attention…

I reviewed The Orange Eats Creeps, Grace Krilanovich’s surreal novel of vampires, ESP, and punk rock,  for Vol.1. You can read said review here; here’s a bit of it:

It’s possible that Krilanovich’s gangs of pill-popping, train-jumping, Pacific Northwestern vampires are vampiric in metaphor only. It’s never clear, but that lack of clarity is the point – somewhere partway through the novel, its nameless narrator left to her own devices, it becomes apparent that the shape of her head is far more important than whether or not some straight-edge Van Helsing will eventually show up, stake in hand.

There’s also some discussion of the book at HTML Giant, and a trailer for it below. Something that didn’t make it in to my review but may be relevant to yesterday’s Gowns-related post: I found myself mentally cueing up Gowns’ “White Like Heaven” as I read Krilanovich’s novel. Which is likely not going to make a lot of sense to anyone reading this who is not, well, me. But still.

The number one and the word “volume”

For what it’s worth, I’m doing a bit more blogging these days over at Vol.1. Some recent posts there include:

Also, a few of the reviews that I wrote for the now-apparently-defunct Lit Mob will be given new life at Vol.1. The first, on Tony O’Neill’s Down and Out on Murder Mile, is now up.

(I am also going to try to do these sorts of posts more frequently.)

(I cannot think of a good play on “metadata” right now. My apologies.)

My first sudden reaction of the night was that Till Fellner’s recording of Bach’s “Well-Tempered Clavier” would make excellent for the night’s editing.

My second sudden reaction of the night had to do with the amount of classical music in my collection. In my apartment, I generally listen to music in one of two rooms: my office, where the preferred format is digital and the playback device is my computer; and my living room, where the turntable and CD changer live. All of which means that, while most of the music I have exists in multiple formats, some can only be played in one room or another. And while some of the classical music I have might be well-suited to editing, iTunes (understandably) doesn’t default to a “search by composer” mode, which can make things problematic.

Alternately: take it away, Nico Muhly:

If you listen to a lot of classical music, you know what I’m talking about: whole CD’s, with each track assigned to a different artist. It’s like, Lorraine Hunt with the orchestra of the age of whatever. Lorraine Hunt + Random Tenor + That orchestra + That Lutenist whose name I forgot. Lorraine Hunt + That Lutenist + That Oboe d’Amore-ist whose name I forgot.

Exactly.

Notes on “Three Delays”

Inspired by a glowing Rick Moody review in The Believer, I recently picked up Charlie Smith’s novel Three Delays. “[I]t makes the entire shelf of novels from the last generation superfluous,” says Moody? Sure, I’m in.

three_delays

Right about now, I’m about two-thirds of the way through the novel. (So…two delays, then?) I have to say, I’m kind of regretting not emulating the  daily Infinite Jest blogging done recently over at Bookavore. Three Delays is the kind of novel where my reactions shifted wildly every sixty pages or so, and I suspect that being able to track those shifts in opinion over time would have been entertaining. I began by finding the narrator (Billy) difficult to take, obsessive and temperamental and, generally, the kind of guy you’d hate to wind up talking with at a bar at three a.m. Then Billy let slip something about his past as a child preacher, and my take on him shifted; there was still a bit of an overly hard-boiled quality to the narration, but it too slipped away, and the perspective shifted so that the gap between author and narrator was more visible.

Two-thirds of the way through, and I’m still hooked, though a lot will depend on how Smith brings it all together. It doesn’t shy away from grand themes: love! And religion! And madness! And drugs! And art! It’s written in a style that alternately dwells on the moment and is effortlessly able to condense years of shared history into a few sentences. Still: for a story that’s intimate in scope, Smith’s ambitions are grand indeed. I have a day or two to go, and I’m fascinated to see where it’s all going to end up.

Design (department of scowl)

So: decided to do a quick theme-change here, for no apparent reason. I have plans afoot for a much larger-scale renovation around here , but for the time being, I figured I’d shift a few things around and see how it looked. The theme in use is The Erudite by Matt Wiebe; I’ll be getting working some kinks out over the next few days.

On Small Presses + Design Restrictions

This isn’t a post about starting a small press. Though I have to say, between Jackie Corley’s two posts so far on the subject and the announcement of Publishing Genius’s Awesome Machine imprint, it’s something that’s been running through my mind more than usual lately. In lieu of having, say, a book I’d like to release on a theoretical small press, my mind turns to the look and feel of things — hence, these ramblings.

There’s something appealing about developing an aesthetic, of working with restrictions (say, no color on the covers) and making that into an asset. I recently read an old New Directions edition of John Hawkes’s Travesty, and the cover artwork manages to be distinctive using only a dissected photograph and a pair of typefaces.

There’s also something appealing about experimenting with the tactile. Not long ago, I picked up Wild Nothing’s Gemini on LP. Their label, Captured Tracks, released a limited edition of this album with silkscreened covers; it turned the cover image from something lush and surreal to something timeless, and made it tactile in the process. I’d think something like this (taking a certain number of each print run and silkscreening covers, for instance) would be doable in the print realm as well.

Mostly just thinking out loud, at present. But I can’t deny that the challenge of creating a distinctive look and feel for the paperback editions* of this theoretical press has a pretty significant appeal; of, essentially, creating the sort of books that would draw my eye by being distinctive from the editions around them.

*-I assume there would also be digital editions involved as well.

Mark Robinson!

So hey, Maura Johnston has an excellent interview over at eMusic with Teenbeat founder Mark Robinson.

This bit is interesting, and — I’d think — gets at a lot of what’s good about both physical and digital distribution of music.

What do you think of digital distribution’s effects on the presentation of albums?

My main beef right now is that for some reason all our covers that we’re sending through our digital distributor are coming out fuzzy, which really drives me crazy. I have mixed feelings about it, ’cause I still like the physical artifact. But I also like that music is actually becoming music, instead of something to look at. And I love albums, but I also like that you can just buy one song, which is great.

It’s worth mentioning that the archival CD-R releases that they’re doing both look and sound great. It’s also worth mentioning that Robinson and Tae Won Yu are credited with the design of Versus’s new album On the Ones and Threes, and the look of it is terrific; I’ve got the gatefold LP, and it’s the sort of — dare I say opulent? — opulent design that works really well at a large size.

The album itself? Also pretty terrific.

Some Thoughts on “Casanova”

The good people at the Portland Mercury have a fantastic interview up with Matt Fraction, the man responsible for writing Casanova, pretty much my favorite comic book right now. There’s an equally good interview with Fraction up over at Comics Alliance, as well as this one in GQ. The last of those includes the following quote, which has been running through my head for the last couple of weeks:

For all the bravado and, what you call it, callow youthfulness behind the idea of “Do it yourself!,” at the end of the day, there’s a time in your life when you absolutely can, and there’s a time in your life when you’re married and you have a mortgage and a baby or two babies and you need diapers and food and it’s just like, “I can’t do that, I can’t work for free anymore.” It’s not like anybody’s getting rich. It’s not like “Well, I need a BMW.” No-I need to pay my light bill. That’s the reality of it.

The backmatter this time out — short essays on work that was, in some ways, influential to Casanova — is reminiscent of Fraction’s work as critic and and enthusiast at Artbomb and CBR’s Poplife. Good stuff all around, I’d say.

I have a second copy of the first reissued issue, should anyone want it. Casanova‘s the sort of thing I feel borderline evangelical about; the reissued second issue is out today, and there’s a preview here.

For Flavorwire: Capsule Reviews, Enhanced Books

At Flavorwire, I have a piece up on what my editor there has dubbed “Performance-enhanced books.” In practical terms, that involves capsule reviews of five titles:

And here’s a bit of it:

In recent years, the pros and cons of print and digital editions of books have sparked more than a few debates, with each side boasting its own set of passionate advocates and agitated detractors. What follows will not address that argument. (At least, not directly.) Instead, we’re taking a look at books that are, in some way, enhanced – editions packaged with a complementary object that supplements the words printed between the covers, enhances the author’s themes, or provides a valuable point of reference for the work.

The whole piece can be read here.

Slush, etc.

Via their Twitter feed, Fictionaut recently linked this Jim Hanas post arguing against the slush pile.

I’m not sure that I agree with it.  I think Hanas is a little too optimistic about editors seeking out and finding good work, if good work can theoretically be found anywhere. Though given that Fictionaut provides exactly the sort of system that Hanas is talking about (and has been embraced by the editors of some journals and small presses), it’s understandable that they’re enthusiastic about this argument.

Admittedly, I do in fact have a Fictionaut page. I’ve been seeking homes for two stories for a while now, and have been pondering shrugging my shoulders, posting them on said Fictionaut page, and moving on.  I can understand Hanas’s argument; I’m less sure that I agree with it as an overarching philosophy.