A roundup of things consumed by our editors.
I’m planning to start Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 in the coming weeks. It’s been a while since I read one of his novels, and so picked up his After Dark as a sort of chaser. And…I’m not sure that I loved it. His evocation of nighttime moods is close to perfect, as is his suggestion of something unbearably sinister lying below the surface of daily life. But while he establishes a number of concurrent plot threads that are each beguiling in their own way, they never…entirely…connected. (Which might be the point, but it made for an less-than-satisfying conclusion.)
Monica Drake’s Clown Girl came recommended by a host of smart people. The novel’s tone walks the line between a gritty surreal logic and metaphor — but ultimately, it possesses enough grit so that its metaphorical take on art & compromise never read as overly formal. I’ll be thinking about this one for a while to come, I suspect.
I also tackled One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich this week, which joins Down and Out in Paris and London in my collection of recently-read-novels-as-social-reporting.
And in preparation for next week’s event at powerHouse Arena, I’m presently reading Dennis Cooper’s Try. Next up will be Alex Shakar’s Luminarium; from there, I’m hoping to head further into the weird, with Lauren Beukes’s Zoo City and Geoff Ryman’s The Child Garden.
Last night an old soul asked me what the three big topics on my mind are right now. Perhaps I can condense the most memorable pop culture I digested this week into the answer I gave.
1) Creating self-designed communities in theater as a mode of communal catharsis. As seen in the most fruitful passages of Three Uses of the Knife: On the Nature and Purpose of Drama by David Mamet, consumed in one sitting. Found in the trials of one-man fantasy league from Robert Coover’s The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop. The action behind and in front of the lens in Robert Gardner’s anthro-doc relic Dead Birds, playing this weekend at Film Forum.
2) Characters bringing oblivion that to them seems the only sensible way. See: Jeanne Moreau, never better, in The Bride Wore Black, also at Film Forum – further proof that Truffaut at the height of his powers was a film noir pulpsmith. Also: “Getting Real”, Louis Menand’s exhaustive New Yorker profile of diplomat George F. Kennan, the Cold War’s father of Soviet containment.
3) Watching faces you love grow beautifully, fascinatingly older. On this weekend which roughly coincides with nine months to the day after Valentine’s Day, perhaps it is no coincidence that an inordinate number of people important to me are celebrating birthdays of late. UCLA biologists this week announced an ability to slow the aging process in fruit flies. I will remain impressed but not indebted until those same biologists (or their fruit fly equivalent) can start producing adorable baby blogs in which un-aging insects portray characters from old movies.
Even though I just finished up another oral history pertaining to music, I now find myself pretty deep into Mark Yarm’s Everybody Loves Our Town: A History of Grunge. Obviously the only thing to listen to while reading such a book is a lot of Mudhoney, and I’ve been doing plenty of that, but I’ve also been getting reacquainted with the “supergroup” side project The Monkeywrench. Consisting of Mark Arm and Steve Turner of Mudhoney), Tim Kerr (Big Boys, Poison 13), and a few other veterans from the louder side of the late 1980s and early 90s, the band’s first LP on Sub Pop, Clean As A Broke Dick Dog, is one of the nastiest pieces of rock n’ roll I’ve ever heard. It’s got the snarl of Mudhoney, the swagger of The Replacements, and a dirty, rollicking blues feel to it. I believe I once heard some British music magazine describe it as the Traveling Wilburys all hopped up on Wild Turkey and uppers (or some combination along those lines…)
I finished reading Ira Silverberg’s interview with Dennis Cooper in The Paris Review prior to Cooper’s conversation with Brandon Stosuy that we’re hosting at Powerhouse this coming Tuesday. I also re-read the fantastic interview he’d done with Vice a few years back, where Cooper talks a good deal about his late 70s zine Little Caesar. Now all I need is to get my hands on a copy of The Marble Swarm.