SOUNDTRACK: ARCTIC MONKEYS-Favourite Worst Nightmare (2007).
I really enjoyed the first Arctic Monkeys CD a lot. Despite the hype from England, or perhaps because of the hype from England, I sought out the first record and really dug the aggressive musical style, the funny lyrics and delivery and the great basslines (which, especially in the last song, reminded me of The Jam somehow). They were part of a group of “garage-y” bands at the time like The Vines, The Hives, The Strokes, and I guess even The White Stripes were lumped in there too. I enjoyed most of these bands’ debuts, but didn’t bother with the follow ups.
I felt the Arctic Monkeys were different enough to warrant checking out their second disc. I was a little disappointed on the first listen through because it didn’t seem to have the same quality as the debut. I wasn’t sure what was missing, but it didn’t grab me as hard. I don’t know if it’s just less snotty, less brash, more mature or what. I’ve since listened to it a number of times and it has revealed things about it that I really like a lot. The lyrics are really good, and the music bears repeated listens. In fact, it is a really solid album overall with memorable songs, I guess it’s just not as special for me.
[READ: August 20, 2007] Dr Black and the Guerrillia.
Those of you who’ve been following the saga of myself and Brendan Connell will be interested to see this next stage. On his blog, Oxygen, we’d been having a discussion about my reviews of his books. He said he’d send me something that I could “almost even share with your children. Almost.” So he sent me a copy of Dr. Black and the Guerrillia. And it is a very handsome book, indeed, full of cool-but-creepy ink drawings by John Connell. Oh, and he was right about the “almost.”
What I noticed when reading this novella (it’s about 80 pages or so) is Connell’s incredible attention to detail. And as I think back to his other works, the amount of detail that he includes in his scenes is really striking. This is probably why I reacted so strongly to his other works. Scenes are vividly described often with excruciating detail. In his The Translation of Father Torturo, I reacted more to what was being said than the way he said it, and in retrospect I can see that, personal tastes aside, the writing is very powerful and very effective. This story doesn’t have any of that kind of brutality, even though there is some violence and bloodshed (so it’s not quite for the kiddies).
The story itself is really rather fun. It concerns the exploits of “Dr. Black.” Perhaps my two favorite conceits of the book are that we are expected to know who Dr. Black is (there is no exposition about him or his background) and that this work is treated as a sort of genuine historical record, including footnotes (I’m a sucker for footnotes, hence my fondness for David Foster Wallace). [In linking to Connell’s blog, I have just discovered that there are several “Dr. Black” stories, and that this is the latest one. I’ve no idea if there is exposition about the good doctor in the other stories or if there is any intention of them being published together someday. I rather hope not, as I loved jumping in and being expected to catch up.]
Dr. Black is in search of the Yaroa tribe to finish his latest academic treatise A Key to All Gods. He is welcomed by the natives, eventually stranded without supplies in the woods, and then ultimately captured by the titular guerrillias who are bent on overthrowing President Trujillo and liberating the people of San Corrados. His life is often threatened, but he uses cunning and good fortune to extricate himself from perilous circumstances, all the while remaining calm and scientific.
The stylistic tics in the book harken to a Joycean stream of consciousness including dreamstate and even bullet points. These odd moments bring a wonderfully hallucinogenic quality to the book. Dr Black even gets to meet one of the gods he intends to write about.
As with Connell’s novel, I am taking him at his word that all of the fascinating details, scientific and otherwise, are true. In many ways it doesn’t matter; he could be making up everything about the story and that would be fine too. But given its style as near documentary, it seems only right that he’s truthful about his discoveries. Connell also has an impressive vocabulary. Don’t bother with a pocket dictionary to look up some of these words. Much like with the way you are expected to catch up with the ongoing story of Dr. Black, you are expected to get the big words. Any book that starts out, “The mountains were the color of chrysoprase,” is basically daring you to keep up. Unless, of course, everyone knows what the color is, and I’m just revealing my ignorance. If you don’t, it looks like this:
At any rate, he’s not going to be talking down to any readers, which is a trait that I admire.
I’m intrigued enough by this story to check out some of Dr. Black’s other exploits, and if you’ve been following my thread of Connell’s stories, I think this is really the place to start with his works. It’s very satisfying.