Philip Larkin’s All What Jazz has led me to ask two questions:
1. Why didn’t I pick this up earlier?
2. Why don’t I read more jazz criticism?
I’m not saying Larkin’s thoughts on Armstrong and Monk are having the same life changing effect on me that Ellen Willis had when I read a good deal of her work in one concise book, but Larkin’s jazz reviews came at such a perfect time for me. Also curious as to how Larkin the critic makes me look at Larkin the poet.
My playlist for this time of year is varied: lots of Neil Young, Steely Dan, Fleetwood Mac, etc. A lot of stuff that was playing on the radio when I was hanging out in my mother’s womb. I also picked up Numero Group’s WTNG 89.9FM: Solid Bronze compilation that the label put together for this pat Record Store Day. I’m basically becoming a Yacht Rocker at this point in my life, and I’m totally willing to embrace it. I’m a Greek fisherman cap away from being a member of Seals & Crofts.
This week I’ve been kind of obsessive. I’m obsessed with Orphans by Charles D’Ambrosio. Orphans and basically nothing else, save for a few news stories (see below). Buy this book! If you are in publishing, force someone to reprint it! The essays are sharp and funny, erudite and involved. Where has this guy been all my life?
Also some other non-fiction: did you read the last Cord Jefferson piece for GOOD magazine? It’s about a struggling lucha libre company in LA, and it’s fantastic. The biggest stars of the franchise are modeled after anti-immigration American conservatives and they badger the predominantly Mexican-American crowd with racist vitriol. It gets weird. And speaking of weird, did you read about this mysterious death in the Arizona desert? Please read about it so we can talk about it. This story features: pseudo-cults, the desert, unexplained violence, thousands of dollars in debt, vows of silence, and twisty marriage drama. Someone has to do a wonderful long-form piece on this for The New Yorker or somewhere else. I will read it the day it comes out.
Pretty much all of the book-sized reading I did this week was for upcoming pieces; I’ll have thoughts on new books from Joe Meno and Nathan Larson and Patrick Somerville (and, hopefully, something older from a certain well-respected Canadian author) up before long, but…not yet. I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed Joshua Cohen’s column on books in the latest Harper’s, in which he makes a surprising connection between Nabokov and the blues; one hopes that a collection of Cohen’s nonfiction and criticism isn’t far off. And Jason Zengerle’s New York piece on Peter Beinart also made for smart, debate-provoking reading.
Listening to The Jealous Sound’s A Gentle Reminder, Dirty Three’s Toward the Low Sun, and — based on Jason’s recommendation — Nick Waterhouse. Cathartic and precisely-played all, even if the specifics differ. And it’s also worth mentioning that it was BEA this week, which led to seeing a lot of amazing people both from inside New York and points further afield. Hard to argue with that.