Novel. (Past)

So: longtime readers of this space might remember some mentions of a novel-in-progress. (Titled, for what it’s worth, The Freestanding.) I finished work on it a while ago; had a go at finding a home for it, and was unsuccessful at that. Eventually, I ended up shifting my interest elsewhere — I’m still proud of the work I did, but there are other longer-form projects at which I wanted to try my hand, as well as some concerns that were fresher in my head.

That said, I’m planning to include the novel in Word Riot’s Published For a Day project next week. It’s good company to be in (Jackie Corley, Shya Scanlon, and others), and — who knows — maybe someone who checks it out will like what they read.

Two on Books

One: Via Richard Nash, the launch of Pre/Post Books, which looks to be taking an intelligent approach to both the print and digital editions of their catalog:

…we hope our deep respect for the printed book as a storytelling canvas is reflected in the finished product.Simultaneously this project embraces digital. The online editions of this book (currently in production) are concerned not only with craftsmanship but also the advantages that networked connectivity, portability and increasingly high-resolution screens bring to the experience of reading…

Two: At the Huffington Post, Cal Morgan of Harper Perennial is interviewed, with some smart things to say about (among other things) paperback originals:

A lot of writers come to us today because they see that publishing in trade paperback can be an actual virtue, not just a stepping stone to getting published in hardcover. If you ask a lot of younger readers what format they choose to buy their books in, it’s trade paperback. A lot of readers don’t particularly want to buy a $25 hardcover; they wait for the twelve- or fourteen-dollar paperback. Most of the small presses and the independent presses publish in trade paperback.

Deserts & Islands

Heading out of town for a couple of days for a foray  — my first — to scenic Las Vegas, Nevada. Posting will resume once I’m back.

When I was in Seattle last month, I caught a set from Javelin at the Vera Project. It wasn’t quite my thing — in the world of ramshackle DIY dance-friendly groups, I drift a bit more towards Tanlines* — but one song, a remix they’d done of a Future Islands song, caught my attention. Since then, I’ve been listening to Future Islands’ In the Fall somewhat obsessively — its songs prompt thoughts of breaking into a disturbingly visceral version of the running man while sitting at my desk. Their music is catchy, ornate, and a little ominous, and I’m quite fond of it.

This is their song “Tin Man”:

*-which is to say that I drift towards Professor Murder and affiliated bands & projects.

The Lodger: Reviewed

I reviewed the latest album from The Lodger, Flashbacks, for Dusted:

Siddall’s voice is in the same melancholy vein as Field Mice/Trembling Blue Stars mainstay Robert Wratten, and the Lodger’s music suggests that that influence goes beyond the vocal approach. The Lodger takes a restrained, austere approach to uptempo, jangling rock – though here, the presence of trumpet and saxophone tilts the dynamic away from what might be expected from that particular strain of indiepop.

You can read the whole review here.

Books I Will Be Reading (in the future)

Some months ago, I wrote about Chris Eaton’s prose and music for The Rumpus. I’ve now read that Eaton’s collection Letters to Thomas Pynchon is due out in a digital edition via Joyland/ECW Press later this fall.

Additionally, Ben Tanzer’s Hold Steady-inspired You Can Make Him Like You is due next spring on Artistically Declined. Both of these are books I’m looking forward to reading — though as a iPad/Kindle/Nook non-owner, I wish there was a more interesting digital format available than the PDF, but hey.


Yesterday, I went to the Guggenheim. While there, I took in “Grey Area, an exhibit of Julie Mehretu artwork. Taking in her large-scale, informationally-dense works, I thought about the recent New Yorker piece on the artist. In turn, that prompted thoughts of another piece from the same publication – Sasha Frere-Jones’s essay on noise-rock. Specifically, this bit about Yellow Swans:

Yellow Swans broke up in 2008, leaving a last album, “Going Places,” released only this year, whose tracks have titles but certainly don’t resemble songs. One called “Sovereign” is several slowly undulating waves of grainy, high-mid-range noise whose source is unclear. The result is simultaneously organic and mechanical. Freed from songs, the sounds draw attention to how odd machines can feel, and how powerful. Abstract noise sends the mind searching for concrete comparisons: clunking hard drives, breaking wires, muffled phones, turnstiles.

Many of these phrases would serve as equally apt descriptors for Mehretu’s art, I’d argue. And while the immersive qualities of the overwhelming scale on which she works aren’t unique, her process, and its incorporation of technological processes and layered construction, seems to oddly mirror some of the artists referenced in Frere-Jones’s piece. I don’t know that the analogy holds up under greater scrutiny, but thought it was worth mentioning.

At Vol.1, Two Book Reviews

Christian TeBordo’s The Awful Possibilities:

The postcards make tangible that which is the key quality of The Awful Possibilities: the way in which TeBordo is able to command alienation, both with the subject matter of his stories and the details of his prose.

(The full review is here.)

Kristina Born’s One Hour of Television:

Some of One Hour of Television‘s pages abound with text; others contain a handful of lines. Some have only one. Yet the book lingers: Born provides connective tissue: a trauma-filled trip to Las Vegas; a depressive recounting the plot of Erin Brockovich.

(The full review is here.)

Ah, The Subconscious.

Yesterday morning began with one of the more surreal dreams I’ve had in a while. Specifically, that someone was hosting their wedding reception in my living room. (Which is, I can assure you, large enough to comfortably hold maybe six people.) This was taking place at roughly 6:30 in the morning. And whoever was holding the reception had  decided to do this without asking me. All I wanted to do in this was take a shower — but to do that would have involved passing through a well-dressed, very fancy crowd of people wearing, you know, the clothing I’d slept in the night before. So instead, I lay in bed, unwilling to commit some sort of socially awkward faux pas.

There’s a metaphor here — or perhaps a subconscious cry for help — but I haven’t the slightest idea what it might be.

At Dusted: My Education, Reviewed

Up today at Dusted: a review of My Education’s Sunrise.

If you’ve read any recent think-piece about how the lines between rock bands and classical ensembles are blurring, you could pretty easily swap their name into the list of case studies provided without sacrificing accuracy. Besides recording their own compositions, they’ve also released their take on Arvo Pärt’s taut “Spiegel im Spiegel” and collaborated with the hip-hop group dälek.

You can read the whole thing here.

Sudden Realizations

The dangers of having one’s digital camera around while one is writing: one may take self-portraits.

Writing | May 2010

And learn that, sans glasses one resembles a dude in a metal band.

Writing | May 2010

“Dude, we’re totally gonna end up on Hydra Head with these songs!”

In Which Soccer FAQs Prompt Theoretical Horror Novels

Some context: I was recently sent a choice excerpt from the website of the soccer team the Carolina RailHawks. (Hat tip: Woo.) Specifically, it’s the first sentence of the answer to the fourth question. My response was to immediately compose an except from the overwrought post-apocalyptic horror novel that phrase is obviously borrowed from.

Wilbur thought it had just been the wind, but then he heard it again: a sharp sort of keening coming from high above him. He looked back. As he caught sight of it, his stomach contracted and his sweat ran cold. Its wingspan was unmistakable: it was a Carolina Railhawk, and it had caught his scent. At the camp outside the ruins of Savannah, he had heard about these birds. One old man had seen its nest, woven together from the bodies of lost children. ‘It was a human tunnel,’ the old man had said. ‘A human tunnel made from childreeeeeeeeeeeeen!’ Then the old man had begun screaming, throwing soup at anyone who came near him. Wilbur saw that the bird had grown closer, and he knew that he had only one option, lest he become part of that hideous archway of bent limbs and wrenched faces.

I may be channeling my inner Garth Marenghi here. I’m not sure.

First Sentences.

When out west, I made my way to the spacious new location of the Elliott Bay Book Company, where I spent a fair amount of time on Saturday afternoon. (Upon realizing that the show I was planning to see at Neumos had a later start time than expected, I also spent a fair amount of time there the same Saturday evening.) Among the books I picked up there were a pair from NYRB Classics. It didn’t hurt that a recent Believer article by Sarah Weinman had piqued my interest in Don Carpenter, or that each of the books came with an introduction from an author whose I work I greatly respect. I’ve since read both novels, and enjoyed both. Hard Rain Falling particularly impressed me — it’s probably my favorite of the books I’ve read this year.

It’s also notable that each of the books has a fantastic, note-perfect first sentence. To wit:

William Lindsay Gresham’s Nightmare Alley:

Stan Carlisle stood well back from the entrance of the canvas enclosure, under the blaze of a naked light bulb, and watched the geek.

Don Carpenter’s Hard Rain Falling:

Three Indians were standing outside in front of the post office that hot summer morning when the motorcycle blazed down Walnut Street and caused Mel Weatherwax to back his pickup truck over the cowboy who was loading sacks of lime.

Music That Is Less Modern.

In a similar vein to the post below, I also have two new “Delorean” entries over at Tiny Mix Tapes.

Samuel: Lives of Insects
“”Sideways Looker” closes out the EP by essentially pushing one mood for two minutes and segueing from there into somewhere much more grim. Essentially, it’s the sound of a band teetering between blissful noise-pop and something distorted and implosive.”

Damon & Naomi: The Sub Pop Years
“At its best, this compilation emphasizes the group’s strengths: the varied but complementary voices of Krukowski and Yang, their attention to details in the songs they write and play, and their ability to move from sentimentality to baroque precision.”

Modern Music.

In the last few weeks, I’ve had a few reviews run on Dusted; this is an attempt to collect links to all of them in one place.

Avi Buffalo: Avi Buffalo
“At times, this album could pass for a mid-1990s contemporary of the softly-spoken indie pop of Holiday. At others, when the guitar’s melodies become more prominent and the sweeps cinematic, Avi Buffalo’s signing to the one-time home of the Shins and Band of Horses is equally understandable.”

Frog Eyes: Paul’s Tomb: A Triumph
“…while Paul’s Tomb doesn’t represent a huge stylistic break for the band — Mercer’s rapid-fire guitar playing and ecstatic shouts are still present here — its sense of pace suggests that the band has acquired a newfound attention to detail.”

Phosphorescent: Here’s to Taking it Easy
“Elevated by slide guitar and ebullient horns, “It’s Hard to Be Humble (When You’re From Alabama)” has a loose, rambling feel to it, suggesting that last year’s Willie Nelson hat-top To Willie was more than a one-off venture. That clarity, though — distinctive guitar solos! horn section! — may be worrisome to those already familiar with the group’s previous work.”

The Tallest Man on Earth: The Wild Hunt
“I’m not from Barcelona,” Mattson sings 40 seconds into the song, and suggests that his palette of songwriting tools has expanded to incorporate the answer song.”