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Archive for the ‘Constance Garnett’ Category

2016-12-05-21-06-09SOUNDTRACK: YVA LAS VEGASS-Tiny Desk Concert #241 (September 24, 2012).

I’d published these posts without Soundtracks while I was reading the calendars.  But I decided to add Tiny Desk Concerts to them when I realized that I’d love to post about all of the remaining 100 or shows and this was a good way to knock out 25 of them.

yvaYva Las Vegass is a fascinating performer.  With just her voice and a small stringed instrument she sounds like no one else I’ve heard.

The blurb says:

she infuses Venezuelan folk traditions with a punk aesthetic. I heard songs as allegories, songs that told stories and songs that felt like deep primal screams, all accompanied by a traditional Venezuelan cuatro — a small stringed instrument similar to a ukulele.

She does not use a pick and her strumming varies from delicate and soft to aggressive and loud   And her voice is really powerful.

“Mariposas” starts off slowly with some delicate strumming and her singing.  When she gets to the fast chorus, her playing is so hard and percussive that the song changes tempo incredibly.

Introducing “Tonadas Y Cantos” she says that people in Venezuela sing this song to milk their cows.  It’s a traditional song but she plays it a little harder and a little punk “because that’s who I am.”  She sings fast and aggressive (some lyrics so fast it’s impossible to even know what the words are).   And while most of the song is in Spanish, there are some English lyrics too: “What do you do when you can’t pretend anymore. What do you when being dead sounds good.  Be brave be strong.”

This song ends very abruptly and the next one starts just as fast—there was clearly an edit–I wonder what they edited out.

“Polo Margaritenoio” is a traditional Venezuelan song “with no author because someone stole it.”  The writer “was a woman who was very vulgar like me.”

Yva is a fascinating performer and while she’s not very flashy, she commands attention with her voice and her playing.  I only wish I knew what she was singing.

The blurb continues:

You can’t quite see her cut-off jeans and Chuck Taylor high-top sneakers behind Bob Boilen’s desk, but in attitude and style, Yva Las Vegass is punk-rock through and through.

As the show ends, she says “I worked my ass off, you can tell by how much I sweated in my wool hat.”

[READ: December 22, 2016] “At Christmas Time”

Near the end of November, I found out about The Short Story Advent Calendar.  Which is what exactly?  Well…

The Short Story Advent Calendar returns, not a moment too soon, to spice up your holidays with another collection of 24 stories that readers open one by one on the mornings leading up to Christmas.  This year’s stories once again come from some of your favourite writers across the continent—plus a couple of new crushes you haven’t met yet. Most of the stories have never appeared in a book before. Some have never been published, period.

I already had plans for what to post about in December, but since this arrived I’ve decided to post about every story on each day.

This is the first story on this collection that I have read before!  That’s not bad out of 22 stories.  (Or it’s very bad t hat I haven’t been reading enough stories).

I haven’t read that much Chekov, but I have read this one.  When I read it last time, I liked it but was more than a little confused by the ending.

I feel like I got a little bit more out of it this time, but the ending is still a puzzle.

This very short story is set up in two parts.

In the first part, an old couple from the country wish to send a letter to their daughter in the city whom they have not seen in four years.  She had gotten married and had sent two letters to them.  But they have not heard from her since that second letter several years ago.  Her mother, Vasilissa , wanted to send a letter sooner, but there was no one to write it for her.

At long last, and with so much to say, Vasilissa finally she asks Yegor, the innkeeper’s wife’s brother, “who had done nothing but sit idly at home in the tavern since he had come back from military service, but of whom people said that he wrote the most beautiful letters, if only one paid him enough.” She pays him 15 kopecks.

Vasilissa had spent so much time imagining what to say to her daughter.  But now that she is under pressure, she has drawn a blank.  Yegor asks what their son-in-law does.  He used to a be a soldier but now he is a door-keeper at a hospital.

Yegor begins writing some very formal sounding military instructions, “Fate has ordained you for the military profession.”  Of course the mother wants to tell her daughter about the famine and their poor crops.  And she wonders if she is a grandmother yet.

Vasilissa is revolted by this man (although I’m unclear if she knows what he is writing or not).  But she looks at him: “He was the very essence of coarse, arrogant, stiff-necked vulgarity, proud to have been born and bred in a pot-house, and Vasilissa well knew how vulgar he was, but could not find words to express it.”

The next morning, Vasilissa walked 11 miles to the post office and mailed the letter.

Part Two opens on New year’s Day, with the daughter’s husband working as a porter at a doctor’s office.  He receives the letter and delivers it to his wife.  The daughter is very excited to receive the letter. She reads the letter to her children.  And she is excited–laughing or crying, it’s hard to tell.  She reads of the snow and the warm fire and the doggie.  She huddles close with her children until he leaves the room.

The husband remembers back to three or four letters that she had asked him to send but which are still lying around somewhere.

And it’s super poignant.  And the more I think about it and reread it, the more powerful it is.

But then there’s a final line which I simply didn’t get.  I even translated the French “Charcot douche,” but it didn’t really help.  I can’t decide if those final words are meant to be significant or just suggesting that life goes on.

Incidentally, there are several different translations of this story available.  This one was by Constance Garnett.  Although I found the version online at Eldritch Press, translated by Marian Fell to be a bit easier to read–despite the fact that it was translated in 1915.

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gogolSOUNDTRACK: ANDY WILLIAMS-Merry Christmas (1965).

awxmasMan, I love some Andy Williams at Christmastime.  I don’t really know much about him at other times of the year and I imagine that I would never listen to him, but he is one of the voices of Christmas. I like his voice so much even if I don’t love all the songs on this record.

His “Sleigh Ride” is the essential version–boppy and fun–you can imagine zipping along on a sleigh with jingle bells bouncing along.

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is a bit slow, but “Winter Wonderland” sounds great.  His “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” is fun–he can really belt out those notes and “Silver Bells” is also a highlight.

The choice of “My Favorite Things” (from The Sound of Music) is unexpected, as it has nothing to do with Christmas, but his rendition is wonderful.  “Christmas Holiday” is a song I don’t know but Williams belts it out as well.  “Do You Hear What I Hear” is also great.

“Some Children See Him” is a fascinating song that I haven’t heard too much (although Rivers Cuomo does a cover of it(!)).  It’s all about how children from different countries see Jesus a different way (a rather progressive idea).

“Little Altar Boy” is a slow and somewhat ponderous song that I’m unfamiliar with.  The final two songs “Mary’s Little Boy Child” and “The Bells of St. Mary” are pretty but not fun (as you would assume from the titles).

So I love about half the disc and like most of the rest.  Williams has an earlier Christmas album as well.  I think I’d like to pick and choose between the two discs for a great Williams collection.

[READ: December 23, 2014] The Night Before Christmas

I had intended to read all Dickens stories this week.  And then my latest New Directions Pearl arrived and it was this one: The Night Before Christmas (also translated as Christmas Eve) by Nikolai Gogol.  Well, that put a change in my plans.

I don’t know much about Gogol, although apparently he wrote only short stories (no novels).  My book has a quote from Dostoevsky that says, “We all came out of Gogol’s overcoat.”  So imagine my surprise when this night before Christmas is actually about witches and the devil and affairs with beautiful women!

The story is set in Dikanka, Ukraine.  It is Christmas Eve and, according to legend, that is the night in which the devil is free to perform tricks and torment people.  Before the devil comes, we see a witch flying around the sky collecting stars.  The devil decides that he is going to steal the moon–this will make it very dark so he can create even more mischief.  The moon proves to be very hot, and he winds up juggling it a few times until he gets it into his pocket.

The devil decides to get back at Vakula, the village blacksmith.  In addition to being the blacksmith, he is also an artist and he has painted some really cruel pictures of the devil on the side of the church.  And the devil is pretty miffed about this.  So he sets an elaborate plan in motion. (more…)

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