I’d published these posts without Soundtracks while I was reading the calendars. But I decided to add Tiny Desk Concerts to them when I realized that I’d love to post about all of the remaining 100 or shows and this was a good way to knock out 25 of them.
Janet Feder is an amazing guitarist. I enjoyed the simple act of her picking out the notes in a chord and simultaneously using her pinky to play harmonics on two different strings.
But beyond that she has a great sound. In part it’s the guitar which is a nylon-string baritone electric! But it’s also because of the way she prepares her strings—she gets interesting bell sounds and other rattling noises. These aren’t the focus of the song, just the accents of them.
The first song is not an instrumental, it’s called “Angles And Exits.” She says that she was used to not singing since she primarily played classical music. But she has enjoyed adding voice to her songs. Her voice is soft and delicate. The song works with words, but it would probably be fine without them.
It looks like she has some kind of thing on the first fret on the high strings—so an open notes gets that bell sound. She says that these additions to the guitar have allowed her to have fun playing the guitar again.
She describes what she does on the second song “Heater.” She puts a device on her string to make a great sound. Although even after she describes it I don’t understand how it works. She begins the song by pulling on what sounds like an uncoiled guitar string ratcheting it tighter ad tighter. When she finally gets to the melody, her playing is excellent—all over the guitar but not really flashy, just interesting. The melody in the slow part at the end is enchanting.
“I Hear Voices” opens with harmonics and a rattling on the strings—a neat combination of heavenly notes and noise from an alligator clip on the strings. It’s a mesmerizing and very cool sound and a beautiful song too.
[READ: December 16, 2016] “The Heaviest Dress”
Near the end of November, I found out about The Short Story Advent Calendar. Which is what exactly? Well…
The Short Story Advent Calendar returns, not a moment too soon, to spice up your holidays with another collection of 24 stories that readers open one by one on the mornings leading up to Christmas. This year’s stories once again come from some of your favourite writers across the continent—plus a couple of new crushes you haven’t met yet. Most of the stories have never appeared in a book before. Some have never been published, period.
I already had plans for what to post about in December, but since this arrived I’ve decided to post about every story on each day.
This is the story of a young Jewish girl returning to her home in Montreal after some time in New York City.
The girl’s parents died when she was five and she had lived with her Aunt Rita and Uncle Mort ever since. She felt that their house was never hers, and so it never grew mundane. In the past year she had moved to New York City to go to fashion school.
Her trip back to Montreal is done on a Hasidic Passover bus. She wore a long skit and long sleeves and was allowed on for ten dollars. She wore a black sack dress that she had created for a class. Her dress was supposed to be princess-waisted, but was so far just a sack dress.
The occasion of her trip is the death of Elainey. Elainey had had cancer and in the last few months of her life she had become dependent on Rita and Mort. The narrator imagines Elainey asking for money as if she were an heiress on a yacht who has simply forgotten her wallet.
The other person in the house when she arrives is Dennis. Dennis told them all that Elainey had had a sugar daddy (he didn’t use that phrase) whose last name was Rockefeller (or Rothschild).
The narrator is upset by this story not because of the character assassination but because while Elainey was apparently living it up in New York, she was stuck in a crummy, termite-infested apartment, occasionally hooking up with a lousy guy named Aaron.
It’s not until the end of this section that we learn that Dennis was Elainey’s son and the convoluted family tree that’s involved.
Elainey was Mort’s cousin. But Mort’s mother, the narrator’s grandmother, had raised her after she had been abandoned by her father and orphaned by her mother. Then Elainey had gotten pregnant at 14.
Mort says he used to bring Elainey butter sandwiches because she was hungrier than “his mother thought decent.” And when the baby was born, Mort’s mother drove him to Plattsburgh within hours of his birth to “a special home.”
The last time the narrator had seen Elainey was a year ago. But she couldn’t decide if Elainey was repellent or wonderful, with her stories of fabulousness in New York City and going to the Plaza.
Elainey located Dennis shortly after her diagnosis. He had been living in upstate New York–so rural he had never met a jew before. Elainey acted like they were old friends almost immediately. And Dennis also felt a strong bond.
When he told Rita that one of Elainey’s men was a good Christian, Rita politely agreed, “a good soul, yes.”
The story ends rather up in the air, I felt. It felt like the two threads never quite fit together. The narrator has made a decision about her life, but there is no follow-through yet and Dennis, having gone through his mother’s things offers something to the narrator which he knows is valueless, but which he thinks might be meaningful.
I enjoyed the story because the whole thing felt so alien to me. But I was a little unsatisfied by the end.