I mentioned that I was uncertain about my appreciation of this band. And I wondered how they would hold up to a longer show. The answer is surprisingly well. The sound quality of this set isn’t great–the levels seem way too loud (not sure if that’s the band or the recording) and I really can’t understand the words, but the music is very moody and evocative and I like it quite a lot.
This set comes from the album Hospice, which is a concept album about a person dying of bone cancer (with lyrics like “they told me that there was no saving you” and song titles like “Kettering”). Earlier descriptions made me think the album was a major drag to listen to– I mean the subject alone is exhausting–but musically it’s a different story. There’s lush strings and interesting guitars. And, at least live, the band can make a holy racket.
I’m a little surprised by the number of keyboard errors in “Atrophy.” I mean an occasional bum note is fine, but there’s a bunch in that track. It’s very weird. But that is made up for by the vocals which are angsty and impassioned, especially on the final song “Cold War.” The NPR site has three tracks available for viewing and I must say that watching the band is more exciting than just listening to them. But I have really gained an appreciation for The Antlers.
Check out the show here.
[READ: December 16, 2012] McSweeney’s #11
This crazy title for this Issue/Post comes because the cover and spine of the book are all text. Indeed, the book is gorgeously bound in black leather(ish) with shiny gold print. Each author gets a summary of his or her work and a note that he or she is free (see each story below).
I did not read Issue #10 yet because it came out as a thrilling paperback, and I’ve been putting it off for a reason even I can’t quite fathom. I anticipate reading that one last. Again, no idea why. In some ways, Issue #11 picks up where Issue #9 left off. There’s lots of text on the cover, there’s letters and everything else that makes it look like McSweeney’s. But as I said this one seems more somehow. It’s the hardcover. And, it’s also the DVD that accompanies the book. I have a hard time believing I’ve owned this book for almost ten years and never watched the DVD but I finally got around to it. More on that soon.
This issue contains letters, fiction, non-fiction and a play that picks up from Issue #9
He writes several letters about a “twitcher,” a term to describe bird-watchers who are overcome by the sight of birds. His friend Rabs, at the age of 12, was already a twitcher. Perhaps it’s started with Trevor’s brother’s parakeet named “Pedro the Parrot” with whom Rabs was obsessed. He was also upset when their friend Tammy died and compared her to the death of a bird. And when Courtney couldn’t think of how to describe Rabs, Trevor wished he knew about twitcher back then so he could provide the answer.
Rotter describes a series of not so good drawings that attempt to convey their last meeting.
Accuses McSweeney’s of sending him a lot of mail. In reply Benjamin sends the outline of a story about a detective.
Mossman wrote a novel in 1972 called The Stones of Summer, which was very well received. Then he stopped writing. This letter is from Mossman to Scott, a student who had reviewed the book back in 1973.
Offers up the Conceptual Art Registry, a resource for conceptual art ideas that you must site and give some money to when you use a piece. (I liked this idea quite a lot).
This is a letter from Mario to Luigi seeking forgiveness
The disgust at getting old.
TOM BISSELL- “God Lives in St. Petersburg” [There are no floors in Russia and Tom Bissel is free]
A teacher of English in Russia has two very distinct crises going on in his life. He is a devout Christian, trying to bring Christ to not only nonbelievers but actual disdainers. And while he himself is sincere in his beliefs, he’s also been finding succor in the arms of a man. Oh, and to top it off, one of his students (a 14 year old girl) would like to marry him to get back to the U.S. This is a dark story, indeed, but very enjoyable for the conflicts it presents.
A.G.PASQUELLA- “Why Not a Spider Monkey Jesus?” [One coke-snorting monkey-god is as logical as the next and A.G. Pasquella is free]
This story is also religious, except that, as the title suggests, what if Jesus were a spider monkey? This is listed as selected scenes from the novel. I don’t know if that is true, but if it is, it gives away a lot of the novel, but it’s also going to be a very short novel. The story begins with a monkey that scientists manipulate to allow him to talk. And you can imagine what a goldmine that is. This story was dark and very funny.
T. CORAGHESSAN BOYLE-“Blinded by the Light” [For now they sit and watch the future come, eyes closed, and T.C. Boyle is free]
A scientist comes to town trying to convince the citizens that the atmosphere is burning away. That they will all soon be blind because of the sun. This is an interesting environmental story because the citizens do not believe the scientist, and so it is almost anti-scientific, except that we all know the scientist is correct. It was an interesting story with a twisted perspective.
ALISON SMITH-“The Specialist” [None of the doctors, none of them would ever know and Alison Smith is free]
This story features a medical curiosity. A woman feels an aching inside of her. She goes to specialist after specialist and no one can help her. That is until the final Specialist looks inside of her and sees an arctic cave. A cave that is far bigger than her external size. This story was surreal but very cool.
BRENT HOFF-“The Colossal Squid: An Interview” [There is a squid even larger than the giant squid and Brent Hoff is free]
Not an interview with a squid (which would have been strange indeed), but with two scientist who work with cephalopods, Steve O’Shea and Kat Bolstad. Informative and a little silly (Hoff asks serious as well as crazy questions).
SEAN WARREN-“What Keeler Did to His Foot in the Navy” [A friend will search for, find and give you a new bunk curtain and Sean Warren is free]
This story was a fascinating look at what a solider might do to get out of his service. It begins with a look at the state of a new recruit–how he has been given a terrible bunk (with no privacy curtain), a terrible job and a terrible boss, all aboard a ship that will be out at sea for a long time. And when we learn that he is more of a reader, not a soldier, the crisis seems worse. The story is told from the POV of the man’s bunkmate who is a nice person, but who doesn’t want to be too nice, especially since he put up with this crap when he was new. The story was very cool.
STEPHEN ELLIOTT-“I’ll Change Completely” [The damage was done, a new path laid out, long ago, and Stephen R. Elliott is free]
This is actually three linked stories: Other Desires, Forefathers and The Yard. It’s hard to see how the stories are linked at first, but Elliott does a great job of making the connections real by the end. The story concerns a man who was arrested as a youth. And now that he is older, he finds himself visiting a youth in prison. Not to help or soothe the youth but because the youth has a connection to him. And the gradual realization of that connection is what makes the story so compelling. In part two, when he “interrogates’ the youth in prison–the same prison that was incarcerated in, it was a psychologically exhausting scene.
DOUG DORST-“The Candidate in Bloom” [Maybe it's not entirely his fault and Doug Dorst is free]
I don’t know if this was meant to be timely for any then current politicians, but we can see a candidate who is utterly worn out. Is it him? Is there something wrong with him? Or is it that people are trying to assassinate him?
LAWRENCE WESCHLER-“Convergences” [Seeing is connecting is loving and Lawrence Weschler is free]
Another great Weschler convergence. This one seems to be the final entry, a kind of postscript that doesn’t really try to wrap things up but does give us some more grand convergences to explore, like trees (both familial and real) and volcanos/big bangs. Always interesting. This was also in his book Everything That Rises.
BENJAMIN LYTAL-“Weena” [The sky over Tulsa is a paused explosion and Ben Lytal is free]
This story was two pages long. I didn’t get it.
DAVID MEANS-“Elyria Man” [The Bogmen have eyes and aspirationas [sic] and David Means is free]
This story is from the POV of a dead and recently dug up Bog Man, how he watches the scientist uncover him and wonders what will happen in the end. Also dark and a little hard to follow (especially since the end can’t be from the bogman’s POV).
DAPHNE BEAL-“The Poor Thing” [Only a prostitute knows what a prostitute is and Daphne Beal is free]
This one is non-fiction. Beal spent weeks with Nepali prostitutes in Bombay. The title is a phrase spoken by the prostitutes about someone else. Beal finds that the conditions of the prostitutes was far better than she had been led to believe.
SAMANTHA HUNT-“Blue” [Unrequited doesn't begin to describe it and Samantha Hunt is free]
This was a bizarre story about a girl who believes she is a mermaid, and the man who doesn’t seem to think much about her at all. There are some awesome descriptive scenes (like when she falls down the stairs with a box of typesetting letters and when the water offers to protect her), and there were also some wonderful descriptions of things, but overall I found the story very confusing. The end clarified things somewhat but I feel like I was quite lost for much of this.
ROBERT OLMSTEAD-“The Probability of Great Events Sets Life in Motion” [Even crafts will not quell the anger and Robert Olmstead is free]
There is a very angry military veteran. He has taken up making crafts in his spare time. Tragedies spike the sales of his crafts (which are more or less angels), but even that doesn’t make him stop wanting to kill everyone around him. When the religious man and his son come by to talk….again, a new angle is broached.
JOYCE CAROL OATES-“The Gathering Squall” [A father, his daughter shamed, will not know his latent rage and Joyce Carol Oates is free]
This story also seemed to take a while to get where it was going, but once it got there it was really captivating. And despicable. In it a teenage girl is abused (but not all the way) by a bunch of her male classmates at the beach. She thinks they like her but as the night wears on they cross boundaries until the boys go waaay too far and the girl is brought home by a stranger who heard the ruckus. But the torment only seems to start when she gets home and her father is angered by what he believes happened. JCO loves the dark story and this one surely is.
DENIS JOHNSON-“Soul of a Whore: Act 2″ [Evil is in the hand of the beholden and Denis Johnson is free]
When I first commented on this play in Issue #9, I thought it was one act (which explains why I didn’t think much of it). This second Act (no idea how many there actually are) was a lot more fun. In it a man in a coma is abused verbally by his relatives. Until a healer comes and we learn something new about the state of the coma. The story was funny, very dark and very twisted. I enjoyed it quite a lot.
Took the photographs of aerial antennae.
This was a very enjoyable issue. The stories were all good and the non-fiction wasn’t depressing! The one complaint is that there are a ton of typographical errors within. From odd spacing and carriage returns to weird characters and common typos. McSweeney’s always talks about how the books are not edited, although clearly they are. Which is why these errors stand out so much, I suspect. But don’t let that detract from an otherwise excellent issue.