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Archive for the ‘Marcel Proust’ Category

CV1_TNY_03_17_14Liniers.inddSOUNDTRACK: YASMINE HAMDAN-Tiny Desk Concert #359 (May 24, 2014).

Yysamineasmine Hamdan is a Lebanese singer-songwriter.  The three songs she plays here are sung in Lebanese (I assume).  Sung with just the accompaniment of one guitar, Yasmine sings and sways her way through these beautiful songs.  It’s actually fun to just see her move while she sings, she’s so loose and relaxed and yes, sensuous.

The most interesting thing is that Hamdan had only just met guitarist Gabriel Gordon when they traveled down together from New York that morning. They’d never rehearsed together, so the interesting guitar lines he’s playing sound great even though they might not be what she intended.  (I wish there was a little more information about this partnership in the blurb).

“Beirut” is a song form the 1940s and she does some interesting vocal things by using her hands around her mouth.  “Deny” and “Shouei” are beautiful songs that Hamdan has written and the two of them sound just great together.

[READ: May 27, 2014] “Long Story Short”

I have been one of those readers who doesn’t really know what to make of Lydia Davis, so I found this article very interesting and helpful.  It allowed me to appreciate her super short stories a lot more.  For yes I have mused about why “she doesn’t call them poems or fragments.”  The answer: “She prefers the deeper associations of the word ‘story’.”

I was interested that she is considered “one of the most original minds in American fiction today,” and I tend to agree that she is because no one else really writes like her.  Her Collected Stories has “some two hundred pieces” in just over 700 pages.  This is thirty years worth of work.

But I also liked seeing the succinct comment “like many things that Davis writes, [a letter] had started out sincere and then turned weird.”  In this case the letter she wrote to a frozen peas manufacturer was published as the story “Letter to a Frozen Peas Manufacturer.”

I didn’t know much if anything about Davis, so this article acted as a biography as well.  She dated writer Paul Auster and while he write his traditional stories, Davis struggled to do the same.  Her stories never came together or seemed to be about normal things, as her mother commented: “Why don’t you write about your travels or something more cheerful?”  But it was when she started reading very short stories by the poet Russell Edson (of whom I’ve never heard), that she hit upon the idea of writing very short stories and “The Thirteenth Woman” was her first successful attempt. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE BIRD AND THE BEE-12 Days of Christmas (2008).

The+Bird+and+the+Bee++la+classeI first heard a bit of this song in a Sephora a few years ago.  Then they played it on New Girl (in two separate Christmas episodes).  But I never knew who the artist was. Then some kind soul pointed me to the band and lo, I found the track.

I don’t know much else about the Bird and the Bee, but this is hands down my favorite rendition of the 12 Days of Christmas.  In addition to the great, groovy sound (which reminds me of the Cocteau Twins), I just loved how…different the song sounded.  Turns out, according to their soundcloud page, “we changed the song so that every repeat is a completely different progression.”  I love it.

The song never gets boring and her voice is simply gorgeous.  I only wish it was available for sale or download or something.

[READ: December 16, 2013] Five Dials #27

I was a little harsh on Five Dials Number 26, but overall, it still kept up the greatness that has been Five Dials.  And #27 keeps up the excellence.  Since Five Dials likes globetrotting, this issue is based in and around Greece, the county that is in tumult.

This one also has letters from Our Glorious Readers.  One of the readers sensibly comments that the Berlin issue would keep her busy throughout the winter.  Wish I had doled mine out better.  I feel that Toronto gets a little knock from the editors who seem to think it is not as cool as Berlin.  I also enjoyed the reader’s description of Peter Stamm’s writing as being like skiing.

CRAIG TAYLOR-A Letter from the Editor: On Timelines and Greek Photographs
Taylor talks about the timelines that tend to appear in newspapers, most of which seem to talk about the collapse of something or other (like the Greek economy).  After visiting Athens, Five Dials felt it was time to bring some Greek writing to English readers. The letter talks about the contents within and gives good context to Dimitris Tsoumblekas’ photos which are quite good but are even better when you know what they are doing–especially the one about his father. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: COLIN STETSON: “Horn of Plenty” (interview, NPR’s All Things Considered) (2011).

I’ll be mentioning some recordings by Stetson shortly, but as an introduction to this man and his bass saxophone, this ten minute piece from NPR is absolutely essential.  I had listened to his recent album and NPR has two concerts from him that are downloadable.  I enjoyed the music, but after listening to this interview it gave me so much more appreciation for what the man is doing.

For a lot of classical and jazz, knowing what the author “meant” can help.  Knowing that The Moldau is a river makes Bedřich Smetana’s piece all the more interesting and moving.  Similarly, knowing that “Judges” is about horses… well, holy crap yes it is.

More importantly, knowing how he does what he does–circular breathing: taking air in through your nose while breathing out through your mouth (try it…it’s not possible) allows Stetson to essentially never have to stop playing.  (Tenacious D has a very funny version of this called “Inward Singing,” although it lacks the gravitas of Stetson.)

Also, the bass saxophone weighs twenty pounds nad is almost as tall as him.  The picture is preposterous.  Who even thinks of making music with such a thing.  And yet he does.  Unsettling music, sure, but music nonetheless.   Listen to this interview and be amazed.

[READ: 2010-2011 and beyond] Natasha Wimmer

Many readers don’t read anything that was written in a different language.  And those of us who do probably give little thought to the translator.  Until recently I didn’t give much thought about them either.  Often I assumed that if I didn’t like a book, it was the author not the translator.  And that could be true, but it may also not be so easy a judgment.

Natasha Wimmer has translated many of Roberto Bolaño’s English publications (she has not translated them all–see below–and, she has also translated other writers).  But she has famously translated The Savage Detectives which rocketed her to prominence, and then she managed his unwieldy 2666.  She has also recently translated Between Parentheses, the book I am currently reading.

Between Parentheses is a collection of newspaper columns, essays and pseudo-fictions.  It is a far cry from the convoluted masterwork that is 2666 and yet Wimmer has made this collection of essays utterly readable (I’ll review the book proper when I finish it).  Again, obviously the work is Bolaño’s and he deserves the credit.  But as I’m reading these newspaper articles, I am aware that they were written in Spanish.  And yet the word choices that Wimmer uses, from idioms to real seventy-five-cent words make the essays flow, give them real impact and really convey the kind of writer that Bolaño was.  Let’s take just one example picked not at random but because it uses a real seventy-five-cent word and it mentions David Foster Wallace (can I go a week without mentioning him?).  In “All Subjects with Fresán”, Bolaño states that he and Rodrigo Fresán spend much of their time talking about various subjects;  he lists 30.  Number 22 is “David Lynch and the prolixity of David Foster Wallace.”  I have no idea what word Bolaño used in Spanish (he has an amazing vocabulary, so I’m sure it was a Spanish 75 cent word) but how many translations would have used the word prolixity?  [Okay I had to look it up, he uses “palabrerío” which Collins translated as “verbiage, hot air.”  How much more outstanding is “prolixity”!–Oh, and as if Bolaño wasn’t prone to palabrerío himself]. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PETER, BJORN & JOHN-Writer’s Block (2006).

My friend Eugenie told me about these guys: 3 Swedish songwriters whose names are, indeed Peter, Bjorn and John. This is their 3rd CD and I’m not even sure what I thought they would sound like except that Eugenie has great taste. I think I thought they would be a bit more synth poppy (I guess the Abba connection is pretty strong) but instead, they write wonderfully poppy songs, but they are more folky, or alt-rocky. I was really pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this CD.

All three guys sing. Peter sings most of the songs and he sounds like a combination of John Lennon and Michael Penn…his voice varies quite a bit between songs. Bjorn sings two of the songs. His voice is quite different…deeper and more stark, and it’s quite a nice change from Peter’s (not that there’s anything bad about Peter’s). John sings one song, and his voice is fairly similar to Peter’s. But they all do harmonies, so you hear them all the time.

It took me about three listens to fall in love with this CD. There’s a couple of songs that are immediately gratifying; however, the rest really reward multiple listens. Interestingly, it’s the two Bjorn songs that are immediately catchy. “Amsterdam” and “Let’s Call It Off” (which gets a remix on the album too). “Amsterdam” (interestingly, Guster have a fantastically catchy song called “Amsterdam” which this song is not) has this immediately striking whistle (as in a person whistling) as its opening motif. It is stark and haunting, and will have you whistling it for days. “Young Folks” is a duet with Victoria Bergsman (not sure who she is) and has a deliriously catchy chorus. “The Chills” has this great shh-shh-shh sound that is at once chilly and interesting and reminiscent of The Cure’s “A Forest.” As you might guess, the CD covers some pretty different styles and genres, yet the album is not a mishmash. There’s a consistent PB&J sound that unifies the record and leaves you wanting to hit play again after it’s over.

The Swedish music scene has just been exploding lately…The Hives, Dungen, Jose Gonzales, Jens Lekman and PB&J are all adding to the (sadly seen as one-hit novelties) wonderful Cardigans.

[READ: January 2008] Sister Bernadette’s Barking Dog

For Christmas, Sarah’s mom gave her this book, not knowing that she missed the intended target by mere inches. As soon as I saw the book I immediately had to read it. Diagramming sentences was always a guilty pleasure of mine, and I am saddened to hear that kids don’t do it anymore. (more…)

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