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Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: KING CRIMSON-The Elements Of King Crimson – 2016 Tour Box (2016).

This was the third Tour Box containing material that is similar in spirit, but different in fact to the previous two.

As always, it starts with the Wind extract, the sound of Fripp’s mellotron warming up and a voice saying “I prefer the early ones.”  It segues into a beautiful instrumental of “Moonchild.”  Once again, the lyrics are interesting in the song, but it sounds great without them.

The music stays in somewhat chronological order of release, but often with contemporary versions.  Like the 2015 recording of 1970’s “Peace” (which is okay) and “Pictures Of A City” (which is great).

“Prince Rupert’s Lament” is a two and half-minute guitar solo which has the Toronto crowd from the previous track overlaid, making this recording sound like a live one, when it is in fact an except from the recording session of Lizard.  There’s a rehearsal of the full 10 minute “Islands” from 1971 or so.

Then a “new” song, the two and a half-minute 2014 “Threshold Soundscape” which segues into the 2014 live version of “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic Part I” which is quite bass heavy.  Up next is a recording session of “Easy Money” without all the bells and whistles.

Then comes two live recordings from 1974.  “Improv I” which is full of gongs and guitars and chaos and segues into “Doctor Diamond.”  This is a song I had never heard before.  It never had an official release and this version seems like they’re just trying it out, like they weren’t really sure about the words, especially.  It’s heavy and  more than a little odd.

After a 30 second clip “From the Drummer’s Stool” which is the a drummer playing the intense “21st Century Schizoid Man” drums, the full song is played from 1974, sounding quite old in the mix.

The second disc continues with all manner of things in no particular order.

There’s more extracts from Lizard, this time a very pretty solo piano version of “Prince Rupert Awakes.”

And them it’s on to a non-Crimson album.  “The Other Man” is an alternate early version of the song from the Jakszyk, Fripp, Collins album A Scarcity of Miracles which I don’t know at all.

Next comes “Making Of Discipline,” it’s clips from bulk of the album spliced together into one song.  It’s very nifty.  There’s a demo instrumental of “Walking on Air” and then a three-minute live track called “Radical Action (to Unseat The Hold of Monkey Mind).”

There’s a demo of “Meltdown” (with guide vocals) and then a 40 second clip “From the Drummers’ Stools I” and a 20 second clip “From The Guitarist’s Stool I” which is part of the 21CSM solo.

Then comes some heavy stuff.  “The ConstruKction Of Light” live from 2014 with no vocal tag at the end followed by the bizarre Beatles mashup “Tomorrow Never Knew/Thela” live from 2000.

There another sample “From the Drummers’ Stools II” this one from “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic I” which is followed by “Nuages” (which I read as Nu-ages.  It’s trippy with bouncy bass

There’s a 2014 recording of the slow, jazzy “The Light Of Day” also originally from Scarcity of Miracles. It’s followed by a Lizard excerpt “From The Guitarist’s Stool II” and then a fast complicated 40 second 2014 soundcheck for “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic I.”

Moving away from that classic business, we jump to a new mix of “Dinosaur” from THRAK.  It’s followed by a final 45 second “From The Drummers’ Stools III” and then concluding with a cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes.”  This version is from 2000 and I find it kind of weak, especially compared to the powerhouse versions they would unleash later.

Overall there’s some cool stuff on this box, but I feel like there’s a bunch of stuff that’s not quite my Crimson taste.

[READ: January 12, 2018] The Nix

The Nix received some pretty positive reviews and I was quite interested to read it–even though I had no idea what it was really about.  It’s not until nearly page 100 that we find out what the title even means.

The Nix (in the story, not the novel itself) is a ghost story from Norway.  The protagonists’s mother heard about The Nix from her Norwegian father.  The Nix was a horse.  It encouraged you to ride it.  When you did, it never stopped running until it ran off a cliff with you on it.  In modern terms, The Nix is a person–usually someone you think you love. Someone who will leave you.

Summarizing the book is either really easy or something of a challenge depending on how many aspects you want to include.

The book more or less follows one man–starting with his failing writing career and then flashing back to how he got where he is.  That sounds pretty dull, but the book is set on the backdrop of contemporary America–from the rebellions of hippie parents to the rebellions of the 99%ers.

There’s also these wonderful subplots that prop up the main story. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER-Tiny Desk Concert #725 (April 2, 2018).

It’s fascinating to read about singers who have been around for a long time about whose names I have never heard before.

Dee Dee Bridgewtaer is such a singer.  Sadly, this blurb, while very informative, doesn’t say anything about her career.  So I don’t know how long she has been singing or what she actually sings.  Although it does say what her new record is about.

When she was just three years old, her family moved from Memphis, Tennessee, to Flint, Michigan. Years later, Bridgewater could still hear the soul sounds of Memphis on WDIA, the first radio station in America programmed entirely by African-Americans for African-Americans. She recalled, “I could catch it when I was in Flint as a teenager and I would listen to it after 11:00 at night, because that was the only time I could get it — when all the other stations were off the air. I know it was real, ’cause I went through it and these were all songs I heard on WDIA.”

Bridgewater, now 67, brought three of these songs to the Tiny Desk: First, is the celebrated blues hit, “Hound Dog,” first recorded by not by Elvis Presley but by Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton in 1952. What makes this presentation special is not only Bridgewater’s sultry and soulful interpretation, but her adorable Daisy, perhaps the cutest “Hound Dog” to ever bless this song.

Bridgewater’s version is great and really puts a different spin on the song if you’re used to the Elvis version.  It’s much more sassy and gives you a sense of what the song was really about a lot more than the standard version.  There’s a cool slide guitar solo too.

Before the next song, she says, “I’ve watched the Tiny Desk before but I’ve never seen this many people.”

Then she explains what this song is about:

The first lines of the next tune will quite actually send chills down your spine. Bridgewater and backup singers Sharisse Norman and Shontelle Norman-Beatty’s close harmonic voicings add a spiritual dimension to the already hallowed song. “Why (Am I Treated So Bad)?” was written by Roebuck “Pops” Staples in response to the harassment of the Little Rock Nine, brave students who decided they had the right to attend an all-white Arkansas high school in 1957.

Their version is excellent and powerful.  The backing vocalists add so much to this song.  There’s also a cool keyboard solo that’s kind of under-documented.

Last here is “B.A.B.Y.” Bridgewater recorded this song and the entire album in Memphis’ historic Royal Studios and told NPR this story, “I stepped outside of the studio right after they started mixing ‘B.A.B.Y.’ and I said a prayer. I said, ‘God I need a sign, that I’m moving in the right direction because I am stepping completely away from jazz music.'” Before Bridgewater could get back into the studio to record the next track she got a surprise visit from Carla Thomas, the Memphis soul queen herself and daughter of Rufus Thomas, influential entertainer, singer-songwriter and former WDIA radio DJ. It was a true return to her Memphis roots, a memorable and beautiful moment for Bridgewater.

The song has a sweet soul sound with the addition of horns.  Bridgewater’s voice is perfect for this song and the other songs, too.  I don’t know what Bridgewater’s other songs sound like but she seems perfectly suited to these.

[READ: April 12, 2016] “Visitation”

This is the story of a man, Loomis, who has made many bad relationship choices and who is now stuck realizing that he is not only not a great father but also stuck in a horrible situation with regard to his son.

Loomis and his wife separated and she moved with their son to Southern California.  Since then, he’d flown out (it doesn’t say from where) every three weeks.  He would go for three to five days and stay in the same hotel each time.  He hated the crappy hotel but his son liked it, so he continued to go there, even as he noticed it got worse with each visit.

His wife and son lived in the basement of an ex-marine’s house.  The marine hated him even though they had never been introduced.  Whenever he would visit, his wife would be sure to not be around.

Their hotel stay is pretty bad.  The boy watches anime while Loomis fixes himself a drink. (more…)

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CV1_TNY_06_08_15_09.inddSOUNDTRACK: SOUNDTRACKSTELLA DONNELLY-“Talking” NPR’S SOUTH X LULLABY (March 19, 2018).

The South X Lullaby is a really fun way to get to know a new (or familiar, but mostly new) artist in an intimate live setting.  I had heard one of Stella Donnelly’s songs before, but this Lullaby presented her by herself (with a very cool backdrop) with an amazingly clear recording of her voice and guitar.

Stella Donnelly has only one EP to her name, but that’s been enough to make her sharp wit come through in sweet, quiet songs that rage loudly. The Australian singer-songwriter’s Thrush Metal EP was recently reissued in the U.S. with a bonus track, “Talking,” which she performs here surrounded by video of wires, a weaving machine and woolen yarns.

Her voice is clear with big open vowels (you can kind of hear the Australian accent, but it’s somewhat indeterminate).  Despite it being just her electric guitar, she plays a in a couple of slightly different styles throughout the song which adds a lot of texture to the piece.

For the end of the song she really unleashes her voice even as the guitar doesn’t alter all that much.  It’s pretty intense.

I wish you could see the art installation a bit more (I realize this is a video for her, but the installation is pretty neat).  At least they hold the pull-back screen at the end a little long so you can see what’s going on.

Donnelly played “Talking” in Conductors and Resistance, an art installation by the Israeli artist Ronen Sharabani that’s on display as part of the SXSW Art Program. Like Donnelly’s direct and feminist folk songs, Sharabani confronts the viewer to increase action in areas of high resistance, the only way to ensure a strong reaction.

[READ: April 13, 2016] “A Soldier Home”

Back in June of 2009, The New Yorker had their annual summer fiction issue.  Included in that issue were three short essays under the heading of “Summer Reading.”  I knew all three authors, so I decided to include them here.

This essay was about Yiyun Li’s growing up in China.

And I was astonished by the first line: “The summer after my year of involuntary service in the Chinese army….”  I didn’t know that women were made to be in it.  She says that after that summer, she read Hemingway compulsively. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: HURRAY FOR THE RIFF RAFF-Tiny Desk Concert #702 (February 5, 2018).

I first heard of Hurray for the Riff Raff from their previous album (the song “The Body Electric”).  I loved Segarra’s voice and the politics behind the song.  I could hear that she was a proud woman, but I had no idea that she was a proud Puerto Rican as well.  I learned about that aspect of her music when they played Newport Folk Festival.

Alynda Segarra’s unamplifed voice in this Tiny Desk performance had no problem rising above the drums, congas, cello, violin, bass, keyboards, and an electric guitar. The passion for her Puerto Rican roots feels boundless. As Soul Captain for Hurray for the Riff Raff, she and her band weave tales of man’s inhumanity to fellow humans, often from bigotry, intolerance and ignorance.

“Rican Beach” adds a lot more Latinx accents to the music–between the congas and other percussion from Juan-Carlos Chaurand and the riffs and, of course, Segarra’s lyrics, this is a much more culturally aware album without removing any of the folk/rock that the band is built on.

First they stole our language
Then they stole our names
Then they stole the things that brought us faith
And they stole our neighbors
And they stole our streets
And they left us to die on Rican Beach

“Pa’lante,” is such a wonderful mix of the Hispanic and Americana.  Singing in Spanish to Juan and Miguel the song includes a more traditional American folk style with piano (Sarah Goldstone), violin (Claudia Chopek), cello (Patricia Santos) and even a guitar solo (Jordan Hyde).  Introducing the song, she says, “There’s a lot of people trying to hold us back but we have a whole generation of children counting on us to change the world.  And I believe in us.”

The song “Pa’lante,” one of the most articulate songs of a generation, speaks of being colonized and hypnotized, sterilized and dehumanized, with the refrain, “pa’lante” which translates as “forward.”  To continue the fight to freedom and respect:

“To all who lost their pride, I say, Pa’lante!
To all who had to survive, I say, Pa’lante!
To my brothers, and my sisters, I say, Pa’lante!”

But before that empowering end, the opening lyrics speak to the everyday that we all want:  Over  a simple piano melody, she sings:

Oh I just wanna go to work / And get back home, and be something
I just wanna fall and lie / And do my time, and be something
Well I just wanna prove my worth / On the planet Earth, and be, something
I just wanna fall in love / Not fuck it up, and feel something

And then more specifically:

Colonized, and hypnotized, be something
Sterilized, dehumanized, be something
Well take your pay / And stay out the way, be something
Ah do your best / But fuck the rest, be something

After four verses the song shifts gear entirely.  There’s some louder chords and then it moves on to a an almost chamber-pop style with some prominent snare drum Charlie Ferguson.  The end of the song, with her singing “P’alante” it’s catchy and inspiring at the same time.

For “Nothing’s Gonna Change That Girl” Segarra picks up a guitar.  It’s a slower more traditional folk song with full string accompaniment.  There’s quiet backing vocals and delicate yet pronounced bass from Justin Kimmel and some fun percussion before the ending refrain “before you love me like this, oh yeah, love me like this.”

I have tickets to see them and Waxahatchee this spring, it should be a great double bill.

[READ: July 22, 2016] “Sweetness”

I haven’t read very much by Toni Morrison.  I have always intended to but just never did.

So this might be the first thing I’ve read by her.  And man, does it pack a lot into the few pages of it.

The story begins with a woman saying, “It’s not my fault. So you can’t blame me.”  And then she reveals that what’s not her fault is the color of the skin of her baby.  The woman–the mother–is a light-skinned black woman with “good” hair, “what we call high yellow.”  So was the girl’s father.  So how could the baby have come out so dark-blue black?  She was embarrassed as soon as the baby was born.

She talks about her family’s past–how her own mother was light-skinned and could have passed but chose not to.  She told the price she paid for that decision–colored water fountains and, even more offensive: a colored Bible. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JAMILA WOODS-Tiny Desk Concert #699 (January 29, 2018).

Jamila Woods is the Associate Artistic Director of Young Chicago Authors, the non-profit organization behind the Louder Than a Bomb youth poetry slam festival.  She also did guest vocals on a slew of albums recently.

Last year she released her debut album HEAVN.  But there is so much more

Singer, songwriter, poet, educator and community organizer Jamila Woods is also a freedom fighter: a voice that celebrates black ancestry, black feminism and black identity. “Look at what they did to my sisters last century, last week,” goes a line from “Blk Girl Soldier,” her powerful opening number at the Tiny Desk.

A cool bass line from Erik Hunter opens “Blk Girl Soldier.”  I don’t love the music that much (too jazz lite for me) but the lyrics are outstanding

We go missing by the hundreds…
The camera loves us, Oscar doesn’t…
They want us in the kitchen
Kill our sons with lynchings
We get loud about it
Oh now we’re the bitches

Woods’ delivery is fantastic and the backing vocals (and keys) from Aminata Burton add a nice touch.  Throughout this song and the others the drums are great–different sounds and rhythms from Ralph Schaefer.

Woods followed “Blk Girl Soldier” with “Giovanni,” another anthem of black female pride, inspired by the Nikki Giovanni poem “Ego Tripping.” The original text includes no punctuation, not a single comma or period, and reveals a liberated prosody that is also illustrated in the song. Listen how her lyricism interplays with the rhythm section’s syncopated groove to create a captivating state of emotional buoyancy.

I love the stops and starts and the groovy bass and soaring guitars from Justin Canavan.  But once again, I’m more enamored of her lyrics

Little Bitty you wanna call me
100 motherfuckers can’t tell me
How I’m supposed to look when I’m angry
How I’m supposed to shriek when you’re around me

“Holy” opens with just keys and a punctuating drum beat.  This song is a slower one and it is all about self-empowerment.

Of particular note is her recurring theme of self-love, as heard in “Holy,” the last song in this set: “Woke up this morning with my mind set on loving me.” (What a refreshing affirmation to hear “loving me,” instead of the predictable “loving you.”)

I don’t like R&B, but I could see this album transcending that for me.

[READ: November 12, 2017] The Resurrection of Joan Ashby

I received an email from A.M. Homes touting this book (obviously, I wasn’t the only one).  It was quite an encouraging email so I decided to give this fascinating book a try.  Boy, did I love it.

The book opens with a clip from the Fall issue of Literature Magazine.   It is a story about Joan Ashby, wondering where she has been all of these years.  The article says that they have been allowed to look at her childhood notebooks.

At thirteen she wrote nine precepts she was determined to follow in order to become a writer

  1. Do not waste time
  2. Ignore Eleanor when she tells me I need friends
  3. Read great literature every day
  4. Write every day
  5. Rewrite every day
  6. Avoid crushes and love
  7. Do not entertain any offer of marriage
  8. Never ever have children
  9. Never allow anyone to get in my way

Eight years later she burst onto the scene with her first collection of short stories about incest, murder, insanity, suicide, abandonment and the theft of lives called Other Small Spaces.  Four years later in 1989 her second book Fictional Family Life was a collection of superbly interlocked stories.

She was considered brutal and unsparing and wrote very powerfully.

During all of this time, her parents were irrelevant–they didn’t seem to think much about her when she was young and when she became successful she had little to do with them.

The “magazine” prints excerpts from these stories and here is where Wolas really shines.  She creates story fragments that really show off what a great writer Ashby (and of course, by extension, Wolas) is.

These are followed by an interview and her last public sighting–a reading of her work.  It was at this reading that her first shock was revealed–she had gotten married.  And when she toured for the second book, the women who revered her were outraged by this betrayal.

The opening section is “continued after the break” which is basically the rest of the book. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: WOLF ALICE-Visions of a Life (2017).

Wolf Alice’s second album explores a great deal of diversity.  Nearly every song is in a different style–and yet none of them sound out of place.  It just sounds like Wolf Alice pushing their sound in many different directions and seeing what sticks (and most of hit sticks quite nicely).

It opens a lot noisier than the first album, but the shoegaze element is still prominent.  “Heavenward” is all distorted guitars and soaring melodies before settling down into a quieter verse and then a really catchy, bouncy chorus.  It’s followed by the loudest craziest song they’ve recorded thus far.  The 2 minute “Yuk Foo” is a solid blast of aggressive punk with a thumping bassline, squealing feedbacking guitars and Ellie Roswell screaming and cursing like a fiend.   Catharsis in 2 minutes.

It’s followed by “Beautifully Unconventional,” yet another terrific and, for them, a rather different style of song.  A staggered guitar phrase and a cool staccato chorus.  It’s wonderfully catchy.

“Don’t Delete The Kisses” is a surprisingly sweet pop song. The hook of the shouted singular words is undeniable.  “What if it’s not meant for me? love” with a happy ending “Me and you were meant to be in love”  “Planet Hunter” slows things down a bit with a quiet guitar and Roswell’s voice out front, but it leads into a full and really catchy chorus and a great ending section with a loud bass that takes the song to the end.

A lot of the band’s songs feature Roswell whispering the lyrics. “Sky Musings” is one of those songs.  It’s propulsive with Roswell’s vocals slightly obscured as she speaks out.  If she were a tad louder in the mix, the song would feel incredibly intimate.

“Formidable Cool” shifts things agin, with an almost Beatlesqsue guitar riff that turns very loud for the chorus.  The lyrics get really angry and the song grows pretty intense.  “Space & Time” is a bouncing song that lets up in the middle until the second half roars to the end.  Live, this song was amazing with guitarist Jeff Oddie just banging the crap out of his old guitar and making all kinds of sounds.

“Sadboy” is a bit of slower song but it’s got some great noises and sounds on it.  The hook is one that will stay with you.  The second half, with the “waiting for love” refrain features a whole chorus of backing singers (or Ellie)–quite a surprise–as well as some deep, processed vocals and what I assume is Roswell screaming in the background.

“St. Purple & Green” opens with a similar chorused vocal effect before roaring out with some loud crashing guitars. The band plays especially wonderfully with loud/quiet dynamic because during the quiet sections, Roswell’s voice is so delicate and soothing.  The contrasts are tremendous.

“After the Zero Hour” is a pretty folk song with acoustic guitars and Roswell’s layered soaring vocals.  It’s quite a lovely piece.

The disc ends with the title track “Visions of a Life,” an 8 minute epic of heaviness with multiple parts and time signatures.  It’s a fanatic conclusion to the disc–even if 8 minutes is nowhere near long enough.

I feel pretty lucky to have seen them in a small venue as I can imagine them really taking off.

[READ: January 29, 2018] “The Recipe for Life”

This is an essay about Chabon’s father and his own childhood.

His father was a doctor–an excellent doctor, by all accounts.  He worked all day as a hospital pediatrician and then at night he did house calls for U.S. Public Health Service for insurance claims.

He often took Michael with him.  And Michael often had his own doctor bag (made of plastic) and his own stethoscope (made of plastic) and a needle (made of plastic).

He recalls one night when the patient asked him if he wanted to be a doctor like his father.  He felt, even then, that he could never live up to his father’s work.  He saw (and still sees) his father as an excellent diagnostician (he gets every diagnosis correct very early on while watching Marcus Welby).  But Michael is more impressed at his father’s ability to reassurance patients.  he is warm and thoughtful and consoling.

Except toward Michael: “Unless I am gravely ill or seriously injured–and I am almost never either of those things–I don’t even rate the bedside manner.  My father’s response when I cut a finger, stub my toe, twist an ankle or fall of my bicycle never varies: ‘We’ll have to amputate.'” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KINGS OF SPADE-Crave (2013).

I have seen Kings of Spade twice (both times opening for King’s X).  I have never heard of them outside of these shows.  And yet, they seem to have a pretty good following (especially in their native Hawaii).

Their website describes them as “blues rock from Hawaii” and that’s pretty apt.  They certainly groove in the rocking blues.  They are fronted by a fantastic, powerful singer named Kasi Nunes.  She formed the band along with guitarist Jesse Savio.  There’s also drummer Matt Kato, bassist Max Benoit, turntablist DJ A2Z and percussionist Obie 1.

“Crave” opens the disc with some great bluesy grooves and solos all under the power of Nunes’ wail.  “Boys in the Band” is a song they still play and it works great in concert.  The recorded version features a turntablist, which they do not have live.  The song has a cool break where you get to hear Nunes’ voice unaffected as she sings the title.

“Funk” adds some horns, although not a lot of funk, which is fine.  It works more as soul with scratchy wah wah guitars.

“Weight on My Shoulders” is a strange song.  It has the riff and melody of “Crimson and Clover,” a song I don’t really like.  But the lyrics of the chorus focus on the weight of the world being on her shoulders (to the tune of “waitin’ to show her”).  The verses are the big surprise because the song turns into a rap.  Nunes’ flow is pretty good, but it’s more about her lyrics than her delivery.  She raps about growing up and the awkwardness of being a woman at 25.  Nunes is all about women and feminism.

“Keep On” starts with her saying “to the most beautiful, this is from X-Factor (X-Factor was their name before they became Kings of Spade).  This is a groovy song with Nunes’ rapping and the turntablist working away.  There’s more horns as well.  It rocks pretty well, and there are two sections that change the style of the song in an effective way.  I like the end where the song switches tone into a more menacing-sounding thump.

“Move On” rocks along, very catchy and fun with some cool organ underneath the riffage.  Until the middle when it really slows down to a kind of Janis Joplin vein.  The first time i saw them, they played a fantastic version of Piece of My Heart (Nunes hits the marks really well).

I’m not sure if it was well-known that Nunes is a lesbian.  She doesn’t mention it until song 7.  But she’s certainly not hiding the fact because the whole of “Don’t Hate Me” is about her coming out experience.  It’s a powerful tour de force (which is rapped as well) that covers many bases about coming out–parents, classmates, friends, community.  She sings about “growing up a baby dyke” and spending years as “a closet homo” before finally reaching a place where “a hater’s lame opinion can’t cause me any strife.”   I love the metaphor about building

The final song shows off yet another style of the band.  “Secret Lover” is a slow acoustic song with a kind of Spanish feel.  It’s a love song to a secret lover (no one will ever measure up to you) which I can’t decide if it’s awesome or sad (is the secret a good one?).

This is a solid album.  It’s a bit all over the place, trying out different sounds.  They will step things up for their next album (and Kasi will adopt her now-trademark red Mohawk).

[READ: July 26, 2016] “Alice”

This is the life story of a little girl.  It is told by a distant, almost disinterested narrator, and this narrator fits the girls’ life as well.

Living in Australia, Alice had red-gold sausage curls.  She had lovely hair and thick creamy skin and gray-blue eyes.  Her disposition could be summed up as “it is good to be good.”

Her mother was Scottish-born and was irrational, quickly tempered and noisy: “she had no feelings.”

Alice’s mother didn’t regard her at all.  After her mother had two boys, they consumed all of her attention.  Alice became nursemaid and nanny to her brothers. Any problem became Alice’s fault.   And even though people looked at her and admired her, once they realized that this would gain no favor with her mother, they admired her brothers instead. (more…)

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