What can I say about Glen Hansard that I haven’t said already—he’s a powerful singer and a great storyteller. This is his second appearance on Tiny Desk (although his first solo) and his fourth or fifth concert on NPR.
With The Swell Season, they played for 34 minutes (a Tiny Desk Record). And this Concert is no shortie either at nearly 22 minutes.
He’s playing songs from his solo album (on that same beat up guitar). Although he is distinctly himself, without the band(s), he sounds a bit like Cat Stevens and sometimes like Van Morrison (and he looks like Gordon Lightfoot).
He sings rather quietly and then impressively loudly–powerful and passionate. He is clearly into what he does.
“Love Don’t Leave Me Waiting” is rocking folk song (he throws a coda of RESPECT at the end) in which he really belts out a few parts. He’s got a delightful “La la la” middle section, and the overall melody is great.
“Bird of Sorrow” is much more mellow song. It builds through some verses and allows him to belt out a few lines near the end.
“Come Way to the Water” has him on a 4 string tenor guitar. Although it is quite clearly a Glen Hansard song, the guitar is much more timid sounding compared to his voice. And it really does give the song a very different (darker) feeling. In fact when it’s over, he says, “that was kind of depressing wasn’t it?”
“Lucia” is a “song he hasn’t finished yet” but he’s going to play it because “it’s a little bit happier.” Although the lyrics are “Lucia, you’re letting me down again / Lucia, your heart’s not in it babe…. And if your heart’s not in it, then your heart’s not in it, babe.” Not exactly a happy song. But very pretty.
“The Song of Good Hope” is slower with no big powerful singing, but it’s really heartfelt and intense.
And as always, he is unfailingly polite and thanks everyone for listening.
My friend Jonathan says that he will always try to see Hansard live, and it seems like I should be doing the same next time he comes around.
[READ: January 12, 2017] “At Home in the Past”
The June 6 & 13, 2016 issue of the New Yorker was the Fiction Issue. It also contained five one page reflections about “Childhood Reading.”
As soon as I started reading this, I knew that Sarah would want to read it as well. For although I have not, Sarah has read The Secret Garden, which is what Tessa Hadley is writing about here.
Tessa says that she didn’t own many books as a child–mostly she borrowed from the library. But the ones she did own she read over and over and “some of them soaked in deep under my skin, composing my private mythology and shaping my mind.”
She says she had a Puffin paperback of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden. The cover picture of a dark-haired girl in a white coat standing among thorny bare rose bushes looks just like Mary Lennox is described in the book.
Although it was published in 1911, she felt no separation from the Edwardians. She felt at home in the past and often preferred it to modernity, which seemed somehow inferior.
But the crux of this essay is how strange it is to reread a book that was formative in your childhood. It is “as potent as revisiting a lost place.” The book’s landscape is intimately known and at the same time unfamiliar.
I love that she says she can now see over the wall of The Secret Garden, see the ideological underpinnings, sniff out falsifies. And yet, when a book is well crafted, it makes your cynical, doubting self feel smaller and makes your wide-eyed believing child part become stronger.
She marvels at the way the novel begins–in a way that no book written now ever would. Mary grew up privileged in British India. Her pretty mother had not wanted a girl at all, her father was absent and ill. A current novel may want us to feel sympathy for poor Mary, but in this book Mary was a “sickly, fretful, ugly” baby and “by the time she was six years old, she was as tyrannical and selfish a little pig as ever lived.”
And then when Mary is nine, a disaster strikes. But again the writing is economical and unsentimental. In a few weeks, with the arrival of cholera, she experiences the death of her nurse, and then her mother, and then her father. Which led to the servants fleeing, leaving her alone: Nobody wanted her. Even the class divide is sentimentalized.
Mary is rescued by her uncle and sent to the Yorkshire moors. As an adult, Tessa can read the metaphor that Mary can only be healed from the decadence of India by returning to wholesome English Nature.
But, even as Tessa’s brain is working on all of this–decoding all of the secrets–she is still enthralled by the story. “This is one of the miracles that fiction works: you can be a doubter and a believer in the same moment, in the same sentence.”
This makes me want to read The Secret Garden, too. And I was right, Sarah really enjoyed this essay.