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Archive for the ‘Roberto Bolaño’ Category

concavityStarting this month, Matt Bucher and David Laird, scholars and fans of David Foster Wallace have created the first regular Podcast devoted to Wallace.  And the intro and closing music is from Parquet Courts’ “Instant Disassembly” which is also pretty cool.

This introductory episode serves as an introduction to Bucher and Laird, their love of Wallace’s work, and what they hope to do in future episodes.

Matt Bucher lives in Texas, not far from the Ransom Center where the Wallace archives have been settled (he assures us that he moved there before the site was selected). David Laird is from Kelowna, in British Colombia (4 hours east of Vancouver).  The claim to fame of Kelowna is the mythical lake monster Ogopogo.  But in Infinite Jest, a character is spoken of as being addicted to a thick apple juice that comes from BC.

Bucher also runs Sideshow Media Group which published Elegant Complexity, Nature’s Nightmare, and Consider David Foster Wallace. He says he and his brother founded the press because no one would publish Elegant Complexity, and he felt it needed to get out there. (more…)

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nyrbSOUNDTRACK: ALEC OUNSWORTH-Tiny Desk Concert #48 (February 22, 2010).

alecI didn’t recognize the name Alec Ounsworth.  But I see that he is the singer from Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, a band I don’t know at all.  He has created some other music outside of Clap Your Hands, like the band Flashy Python, which features members of Dr. Dog, The Walkmen and Man Man.  And in the fall of 2009, he released a solo record called Mo’ Beauty.

In this Tiny Desk it is just him and guitarist Matt Sutton.  They play three songs from Mo’ Beauty (on guitar and harmonica): “Modern Girl (…With Scissors),” “Holy, Holy, Holy Moses (Song for New Orleans)” and “When You’ve No Eyes.”

Since I don’t really know CYHSY, I can’t compare this to that band.  The songs are pleasant and a little catchy.  I feel like perhaps the wordplay is what draws you in (he refrains “all this useless beauty” in the first song).  His voice is distinctive and takes a little getting used to, but I warmed up to it by the end of the set.

After the set he says that the other three guys from the touring band were waiting in the van.  As the show fades you hear Bob Boilen mutter, “it was okay to invite them up.”

[READ: May 11, 2015] “Argentina: The Brothels Behind the Graveyard” 

Roberto Bolaño talked about this article in The Secret of Evil.  I was curious to read it and was happy to find it quite easily and for free online from The New York Review of Books.

I don’t really know Naipaul at all, although Bolaño spoke very highly of him.

This article looks at Argentina.  I don’t know how much time he spent there, but it sounds like NYRoB sent him there to write and essay or two..

He begins by talking about the death of Perón (in July of 1974).  Perón was in the ninth month of his third presidency and his legend had lasted for thirty years.  He was overthrown in 1955 and was exiled for seventeen years.  He had a triumphant return the previous year and a resounding failure shortly after. (more…)

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lumpenSOUNDTRACK: WE ARRIVE ALIVE-“Walls” (2011).

wallsI discovered We Arrive Alive from the Girl Band bandcamp site (it says the bands are friends).  They are from County Wicklow and play very cool post rock instrumentals.  They have three EPs, all of which are available for free on their bandcamp site.

Their first is called Walls.  The opening song “Walls” has fast guitar with a slinky Sleater-Kinney kind of guitar progression. Unlike S-K, there is bass and no vocals. The middle section feels like any number of post-rock instrumentalists like Explosions in the Sky.  But it’s not derivative–it’s expansive and beautiful.  “Save Me from the Morning” is a much faster song with a more intricate bassline underneath the guitar riffs. The structure of the song makes it seem more like a conventional song (ie one with words). But there are no words, and the guitars fill in very nicely for where vocals might appear. But 90 seconds in, the songs switches gears and becomes a bit more jazzy.  Then around 3 minutes the bass takes over with big loud notes—it’s a great transition. There’s yet another part, a quiet section, that ends the song.  That’s a lot of music packed into 6 and a half minutes.

“This is a City” is the final song.  A seven minute slow building instrumental. It starts quietly and the intertwining guitars get louder as they echo more.  I love the way at around 5 minutes the song shifts gears entirely to a sort of electronic feel with pinging notes.  It ends with a  fantastic closing riff.

I’m glad to have discovered these guys, I love a good collection of instrumentals.

[READ: March 17, 2015] A Little Lumpen Novelita

This may be the final extant untranslated book by Roberto Bolaño.  Although I have yet to read The Secret of Evil (that fell right off my radar), as far as I can tell, the only things left untranslated are:

  • Diorama (this book is unpublished at all, so it’s unlikely to be translated anytime soon)  AND
  • Consejos de un discípulo de Morrisona un fanático de Joyce, 1984  [Advice from a Morrison Disciple to a Joyce Fanatic] which has yet to be translated and I don’t know why, so I assume it never will be.

I don’t fully understand the use of the word “Lumpen” in the title, but don’t let that odd word (which is in the Spanish title, so we can’t blame excellent translator Natasha Wimmer) keep you from reading this breezy and entertaining (if not a bit dark) book.

As with many books by Bolaño, there’s not a lot of plot, per se.  In this book, a young woman (Bianca) and her brother have been orphaned at a young age.  Their parents died in a car crash in Italy (which is where they live).  They try to cope as best they can, but they ultimately decide to drop out of school and do nothing except watch a movie a day.  Bianca tells her brother that they can’t afford that lifestyle (especially since he just seems to get X-Rated films), but he continues to do so anyway.

They realize that they will need money of course, so Bianca gets a job as a hair washer at a salon.  Her brother gets a job cleaning floors at a gym.  It seems to be enough for the time being. (more…)

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bolano SOUNDTRACK: SUFJAN STEVENS Christmas Unicorn: Songs for Christmas, Vol. X (2010).

sufjan 10This is the final disc in the second Sufjan Steven Christmas box set.  It is comprised of mostly shorter songs except for the final one which is 13 minutes long.

Interspersed in the disc are three short instrumentals (under a minute each).  “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” “Angels We Have Heard On High” and “We Three Kings” are all pretty with flutes and minimal electronics.

The more traditional songs are “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” which sounds very much like a Sufjan song with some fun electronic sounds and orchestration and some unusual vocals.  “Up on the Housetop” features lots of drums and layered vocals. It is the standard version but tinkered with with in fun ways.  “We Need a Little Christmas” is a fun and traditional version with choral vocals.

The other three tracks are originals from Sufjan.  “Happy Karma Christmas” a slow track of mostly drums and echoed vocals. It reminds me of Beck’s discoey electronic moments.  “Justice Delivers Its Death” is based on the lyrics of “Silver and Gold” (from Rudolph) but it is a much darker song (obviously, given the title) and sounds nothing like it.

The final track is “Christmas Unicorn.”  It’s a sweet song with funny/thoughtful lyrics.  After three minutes it turns into a nice instrumental.  At the four minute mark a new refrain begins. It sounds like the song is going to fade to end, but it doesn’t. At 6:30, drums come back in and the song takes off with more singers and a fugue style of interweaving vocals.  At 7:36 a new melody is introduced which is, Joy Divisions’ “Love will Tear Us Apart.” They incorporate that into the fugue vocals and it works very well.  It’s a strange song and very unChristmassey, but it’s very cool and quite catchy by the end.

I don’t enjoy this second box set as much as the first, since it is so unChristmassey, but it has some really interesting songs on it.

[READ: December 13, 2014] Bolaño: A Biography in Conversations

I don’t often read biographies about authors I like, but once in a while one will catch my eye.  I knew Maristain’s name from Bolaño’s last published interview, so I was curious what she would do with this collection.  It was translated by Kit Maude, and I am also curious about some of the words that Maude chose to use (the word savage/savages comes up an awful lot when not referring to The Savage Detectives).  But overall it was an easy, quick read.

As the subtitle suggests, Maristain has compiled a loose biography of Bolaño based on interviews with others.  Some are interviews that she has conducted and others are previously existing interviews that she has cobbled together.  The people interviewed are primarily his family and his fellow poets/novelists/friends.

Bolaño was born April 28 1953 in Santiago de Chile.  Soon after, they moved to Valparaiso, and then other smaller towns in Chile. In 1968 they moved to the Mexico City because of his mother’s asthma (although he never set foot in Sonora, the scene of the crimes in 2666). They lived close to the Olympic park and were within walking distance of the Olympic torch during the 1968 Olympics.

He had a difficult upbringing, with his parents splitting up and his mother moving out and taking his sister with her.  Roberto, meanwhile, stayed with his father.  They eventually had a falling out and Roberto went twenty years without seeing him.  His father was a boxer and an opinionated man, and there are lots of quotes from him in the book.

In 1977 Bolaño left Mexico for Spain (and never went back) and that’s when we start getting into his publishing history. (more…)

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univSOUNDTRACK: BECK-Mutations (1998).

mutationsThis is the first album that shows a wholly different side to Beck. It is pretty much an entirely traditional album.  There’s no samples, just consistently strong songwriting.  The overall feel is mellow and it comes as quite a shock after the chaos of Odelay!

Although the album has a very consistent vibe, it’s not all samey.  There’s a lot of different instrumentation like the harpsichord on “Lazy Flies,” and the old-timey piano and slide guitar on “Canceled Check” which has a very country feel.  It’s not all simple and normal though, as “Check” ends with a strange musical breakdown that keeps it from being a smooth song.  “We Live Again” is a very mellow track with Beck singing sweetly over the waves of music.

As befits the name “Tropicalia” has a very tropical feel, it’s totally danceable and was a very wise choice as a sample.  “Dead Melodies” has a classical music feel (with vocals of course).  “Bottle of Blues” is, unsurprisingly, a somewhat rowdy blues song.  “O Maria” is a slow but upbeat piano song that also feels old timey.  “Sing It Again” has a melody that is similar to “Norwegian Wood,” but the song is nothing like that Beatles classic.  This is gently sung and played acoustic guitar number.  And “Static” is a quiet disc ender.

This disc also feature a “bonus” track, and this is the first one that is actually enjoyable.  It is a fleshed out song (and a good one at that). It is comparatively rambunctious and noisy and quite different from anything else on the disc.  It’s called “Diamond Bollocks” and has a great bass line and cool backing vocals.  This song could easily have been a hit if it weren’t tucked away at the end of the disc.  (Well, and there are some weird moments to, but overall, easily a hit).

Despite all that Beck is known for his crazy songs and samples, Mutations is an extremely cohesive record with enough diversity to keep it from ever getting dull.  It’s a great record and is somewhat overlooked in his catalog.

[READ: March 16, 2014] The Unknown University

This is a collection of almost all of Roberto Bolaño’s poetry.  Some (but not all) of the poems from his collection The Romantic Dogs are included here, although some of those are apparently modified a little.  It also includes what was earlier released as Antwerp but is here called “People Walking Away.”  (I found Antwerp and “People” to be quite unusual and would never remember what is the same in the two.  But translator Laura Healy says that she more or less uses Natasha Wimmer’s translation of Antwerp for the parts that are the same (a task which must have been harder than it sounds if the two pieces weren’t exactly the same).

This book is 830 pages with facing pages of Spanish and English.  According to the publisher’s note, this collection was found on Bolaño’s computer as is—a collection of all of his poems from throughout his career.

Most of the early poems were written when Bolaño was young (in his 20s).  Even at such a young age, he writes powerfully.  Not all of his poems are great of course (how could they be when there are so many) but there are dozens and dozens of poems that I thought were fantastic.  I’m going to include some below, but I also wanted to get some criticisms out of the way too.

He tends to revisit ideas quite a lot, which is normal for a poet, but it seems weird to revisit an idea in subsequent poems (especially when the poems are just a few lines long each).  It almost feels like he fixated on a subject and thought of a number of ways to work with it and rather than make one long poem, he made several short ones.  Like this strange occurrence: (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: November 8, 2013] Daniel Alarcón reads “Gomez Palacio”

alarcon The New Yorker has a Fiction podcast of current authors reading a story from the New Yorker archives.  I was unaware of this podcast until I recently stumbled upon this Alarcón reading.  I am trying to find out the breadth and depth of this podcast, but I find the navigation really unclear.  It seems like there are a lot of stories in this series.  (You can see the archives list here, although I wish it was a little easier to navigate).

The podcast is 30 minutes long.  What you get is a brief interview with Alarcón, in which he talks primarily about his exposure to Bolaño and his interpretation of this story.  And then he reads the story itself.

The interview was very interesting.  He talks about reading Bolaño when 2666 had come out in Chile.  What I enjoyed hearing him talk about was the Bolaño universe and him “sampling himself.”  And also how the shorter works reference each other and different characters appear and reappear–that Bolaño has created an entire world in which all of his stories are set.  These are things that I noticed, of course, but it is always comforting to hear others confirm your ideas. (more…)

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cooksSOUNDTRACK: PHISH-The Story of the Ghost (1998).

storyghostThe Story of the Ghost is one of the first Phish albums that I was aware of when it came out.  I remember buying it and liking it, especially the first few songs.  This is not surprising as the first few songs are much more electric and funky.  By the end of the album there’s a lot of mid tempo songs that feel like they’re somewhat incomplete—good ideas but the songs feel…unfinished?

“Ghost” has a funky guitar and drum section, it’s a song I’ve liked from the day I bought the disc.  But the real hit was “Birds of a Feather,” which has an amazingly catchy chorus.  This version (as opposed to the live one) is weird in that Trey is kind of whispering the vocals, but the guitar is ferocious.

“Meat” is a weird skittery song that sounds cavernous here.  The weird processed vocals are certainly something that keeps this song like more of an oddity.  “Guyute” sounds an awful lot like early Phish—like it has come from Gamehendge, it’s a nice return to old form.  It’s a great song with a really lengthy instrumental section.  This features one of Trey’s great extended pretty solos.

“Fikus” is a strange little song (2 minutes), with lots of percussion and a quiet bass line.  “Shafty” has got  some cool wah wah guitars, and is also only 2 minutes long, but it shows that there is a bunch of funk on the disc.  “Limb by Limb” is a fun if simple song that seems sparse until the chorus kicks in.  “Frankie Says” is a kind of circular song that is interesting but doesn’t really go anywhere.  “Water in the Sky” is a short piece but it is full of ideas—percussion, slide guitar, and nice harmonies.  “Roggae” is a fun little song with some fugue like vocals.

“Wading in the Velvet Sea’ is a very pretty song with very nice harmonies.  “The Moma Dance” is a funky wah wah guitared track which really comes to life live, although I like the way they reprise “Ghost” at the end.  The final track is called “End of Session,” it’s a very mellow little number (also less than 2 minutes) with organ and gentle guitars.  There’s a small verse of harmonies as the albums drifts off.

This album is one of the band’s less popular recordings, but i think it’s quite good.

[READ: October 30, 2013] Lives of Notorious Cooks

Brendan Connell is back with a book which demonstrates that whatever subject he writes about, he delves in deeply and with great relish.

Connell’s new book is, as the title says, a series of brief lives of fictional cooks.  There are 51 biographies in this book.  From Connell’s previous works and from the title, I expected that these cooks might be somewhat less than savory characters.  But Connell makes these chefs genuinely impressive—making delicious meals from both the finest ingredients or the lowest of items.

As with previous stories by Connell, the depth of his knowledge is impressive—he includes not only recipes but complete menus of feasts.  And as usual, his word choices are wonderful—exuberant when necessary, obscure if useful and always spot on.

Although I am normally inclined to make a comment about each “story “ in a  collection, this one really resists that.  There are not enough distinguishing characteristics between cooks for me to write enough about each one (without rewriting the book).  This is not in any way to say that each is not unique, but that they are all cooks, each specializing in a different food or style.  But rather than from saying “Agis cooks fish” it’s better to take this book as a whole rather than in pieces. (more…)

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