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Archive for the ‘Percy Bysshe Shelley’ Category

[LISTENED TO: August 22, 2015] The Case of the Missing Moonstone

wollensI was immediately attracted to this book because of the title of the series.  What an intriguing idea.  When we started listening to it, I was even more excited because of how Stratford has taken reality and tinkered with it to make this intriguing mystery.

The preface explains exactly what Stratford is up to:

This is a made-up story about two very real girls: Ada Byron, who has been called the world’s first computer programmer, and Mary Shelley, the world’s first science-fiction author. Ada and Mary didn’t really know one another, nor did they have a detective agency together.  Mary and Ada were eighteen years apart in age, not three, as they are in the world of Wollstonecraft.
Setting that aside, the characters themselves are as true to history as we are able to tell.  At the end of the book, there are notes that reveal more about what happened to each of them in real life, so that you can enjoy the history as much as I hope you’ll enjoy the story.  Because the history bit is brilliant.

The plot is a mystery, of course, but it takes a long time to actually get to the mystery (long into the second of three audio discs).  Because the beginning of the book does an excellent job of establishing character and setting.  It even feels like it may have been written in the time period in which it is set–the prose is kind of leisurely and very British (or at least that is how it is read by Nicola Barber, whose voice is simply perfect for this story).  So even though there was no actual mystery I really enjoyed these opening chapters.

As the story opens we meet young Ada.  She is obviously brilliant–reading books at a young age, creating fascinating science experiments (she is trying to imagine how fast a sock would have to fly for it to hurt someone and imagines inventing a sock cannon) and hanging out in the gondola of a hot-air balloon (which is tethered to her house).  But she has no real connection to the world and doesn’t even know the names of her maids and servants (thinking the woman who just left to get married was called Miss Coverlet).  In fact there are some hilarious malaprops later in the book. Her father (Lord Byron) is long gone and her mother is away.  So her mother has hired a tutor to look after Ada. (more…)

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may20014SOUNDTRACK: CRYPTOPSY-“Slit Your Guts” (1996).

cryptI had never heard of this band until I saw the song mentioned in the article.  The song is impossibly fast with speeding guitars, super fast (inhuman) drums and an indecipherable growl as vocal.  In other words, a typical cookie monster metal song.  And yet, there is a lot more to it and, indeed it took me several listens before I could even figure out what was happening here, by which time I had really fallen for the song.

There’s a middle section which is just as punishing and fast but which is basically an instrumental break–not for showing off exactly but for showcasing more than the bands pummel.  It has a short guitar solo followed by a faster more traditional solo (each for one measure, each in a different ear). Then the tempo picks up for an extended instrumental section.  The melody is slightly more sinister, but it sounds great.  There’s even a (very short) bass solo that sticks out as a totally unexpected (and fun) surprise.

Then the growls come back in, staying with the new melody.  The vocals are so low and growly that they are almost another distorted instrument rather than a voice.

After that there’s a lengthy proper guitar solo.  As the song comes to a close,  it repeats some previous sections before suddenly halting.  It’s quite a trip. And it definitely makes me want to hear more from them (whatever their name means).

[READ: April 14, 2014] “Destroy Your Safe and Happy Lives”

Robbins, who is a poet, but about whom I know little else, takes us on a sort of literary tour of heavy metal.  His tone is interesting–he is clearly into metal, like in a big way (at the end of the article he talks about taking his writing students to see Converge (although he doesn’t exactly say why)), but he’s also not afraid to make fun of the preposterousness of, well, most of the bands–even the ones he likes.  It’s a kind of warts and all appreciation for what metal is and isn’t.  many people have written about metal from many different angles, so there’s not a lot “new” here, but it is interesting to hear the different bands discussed in such a thoughtful (and not just in a fanboy) way.

His first footnote is interesting both for metal followers and metal disdainers: “Genre classification doesn’t interest me.  Listen to Poison Idea’s Feel the Darkness followed by Repulsion’s Horrified and tell me the main difference between hardcore punk and metal isn’t that one has a bullshit positive message and one has a bullshit negative message.”

But since Robbins is a poet, he is interested in metal’s connection to poetry.  And in the article he cites William Blake (of course), but also Rilke and John Ashbery and (naturally) Milton’s Paradise Lost, as well as Shelley, Lord Byron and Charles Baudelaire.  He talks about them not because they are cool poets, but because they have also talked about because of metal’s “most familiar trope…duh, Satanism, which might be silly–okay, its’ definitely silly, but has a distinguished literary pedigree”.  Besides, he notes that Satan has the best lines in Paradise Lost (and I note that just as Judas has the best songs in Jesus Christ Superstar).

But sometimes this Satanism turns into a  form of paganism which then turns into nature worship.  From Voivod’s “Killing Technology” to black metal’s romanticism of nature (sometimes to crazy extremes–but that’s what a band needs to do to stand out sometimes).  Metal is all about the dark and primordial, a”rebuke to our soft lives.”

And yet, as a poet, Robbins has some quibbles with metal: (more…)

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