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Archive for the ‘Margaret Jull Costa’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: GURR-“Christmas One and Only” (2018).

I really enjoyed Gurr when I saw them live this year.  I wanted to see what their studio music sounded like and I found this release called the Christmas Business EP.  Two songs that feature Eddie Argos from Art Brut.

This second song has a poppier riff (More guitar than bass) and a happier vocals style with the Gurr women singing “Christmas coming into town all the kids are frantically screaming / Christmas coming into town its all about love, oh this is the season.”

Even the hard-hearted Eddie Argos finds his Grinch heart melting this year.

It begins with him saying “Sat around the Christmas tree sorry about my misery” and this rather amusing line: “My favorite thing about Christmas time used to be finishing everybody’s glasses of wine.”

But after some cheerful lines from Gurr, he has a change of heart:

“I never liked Christmas, but since I met you I want to grab it with both fists and give it a big kiss.”

There’s also this very nice ending sentiment

“good or bad this year is nobody’s business / I hope you have a wonderful Christmas.”

Thank you Eddie.

This short song (also less than 3 minutes) ends with this amusing comment:

Die hard is a Christmas film and so is Die Hard 2 / I want to drink some Glühwein and watch them both with you.

Cheers!

Check it out here.

[READ: December 1, 2019] “Torre Del Mirador”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fourth time reading the Calendar.  I didn’t know about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh), but each year since has been very enjoyable.  Here’s what they say this year

The Short Story Advent Calendar is back! And to celebrate its fifth anniversary, we’ve decided to make the festivities even more festive, with five different coloured editions to help you ring in the holiday season.

No matter which colour you choose, the insides are the same: it’s another collection of expertly curated, individually bound short stories from some of the best writers in North America and beyond.

(This is a collection of literary, non-religious short stories for adults. For more information, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.)

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check back here to read an exclusive interview with the author.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

I’m pairing music this year with some Christmas songs that I have come across this year.

This story (translated by Margaret Jull Costa) seemed very familiar and I have to wonder if I’ve read it anywhere before.  I loved it for how weird and engaging it was.

One morning, the narrator is awoken by a phone call.  The caller tells him that he was close to having a nervous breakdown and he needed to talk to someone.  The narrator is annoyed at being woken up and assumes it is a prank from one of his friends.  But the caller tries to clarify.  He says that his wife was making his life miserable–always telling him how ugly he was.  She said she hated his face.  He got so fed up that he left her. He rented the apartment across from their villa and has been spying on her ever since.  He tells the narrator that he picked his number at random. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: WILD BELLE-“Love Like This” (Field Recordings, June 26, 2013).

This Field Recording [Wild Belle: Reggae-Tinged Romance Amid The Big Bikes] is set in the El Segundo-based South Bay Customs motorcycle shop.

It doesn’t seem totally appropriate for the keyboard driven pop of Wild Belle, but there’s something about singer Natalie Bergman’s voice–a little gravelly, a hushed kind of whisper that seems apt.

Wild Belle singer Natalie Bergman seemed a bit confused upon the band’s arrival. … But once we walked past the front doors, we quickly realized that this wasn’t your everyday L.A. bike shop. South Bay’s walls are lined with eccentric oddities, and the facility also houses an art gallery and a performance space for local musicians.

So it was fitting that in a coincidental twist, she told us that she’d be embarking on a motorcycle ride across the Midwest with a close friend in the next month.

“Love Like This” certainly has a reggae-tinged vibe.  I especially like the interesting echoing guitar sounds.  It’s got a catchy chorus, but the whole song seems to have such a relaxed vibe that it makes me laugh to here her nonchalantly sing

My heart’s on fire
You light me up, and I can’t cool down
Your love is wild
You’re dangerous

The song picks up and is certainly catchy.  And while I do actually like her voice, I can’t imagine more than one song from them.

[READ: February 6, 2018] “A New Paradise, or a New Hell”

This is an excerpt from the novel Death with Interruptions. It was translated from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa.

It is a fascinating story with existential implications. Although I cannot imagine how this could be stretched into a novel.

On the first day of the new year, no one died.  In the whole country, not a single person died the whole day.  It was unprecedented.  There were many accidents, several life-threatening, bit no one actually died.  It was especially noticeable because the venerable queen mother who was known to be on the verge of her last breathe also did not die. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LAMBCHOP- “2B2” (2012).

I don’t have much exposure to Lambchop.  I know of  them mostly as a slow, country-type band.  And that’s why I haven’t listened to them much.  So I picked one song from their latest album, Mr. M, to talk about (because they are associated with Five Dials, see below).

And, indeed, they are slow.  I wouldn’t say country so much as roots, maybe, traditional folk or something.  It’s certainly slow.  This song reminds me in someways of Tindersticks, although a very stripped down Tindertsicks.  Of course, what I like about Tindertsicks is that they are not stripped down.  So this song kind of leaves me a little flat.  I like it, but I’ve already got music that’s like this ti listen to.

I’ll bet though, that it would make great background music to an engaging story (see below).  I wonder what song they chose to remix.  It’s be crazy if I picked it.

[READ: May 3, 2012] Five Dials 23

Five Dials 23 was recently released with quite little fanfare.  That may be because it is like an appetizer for the soon to be released Issue 24 which promises to be very large.

Five Dials 23 contains only one piece (and an Letter from the Editor).  The piece is by Javier Marías, whom I’ve read and enjoyed and have put on my list of authors to explore more.

CRAIG TAYLOR-“On That Fiction Feeling and Lambchop”

Craig Taylor’s introduction wonderfully encapsulates why I prefer to read fiction to non-fiction.  I have friends who say they only like to read non-fiction because at least they’re learning something (or some variant of that).  And while it’s compelling to argue that you learn stuff from fiction too, it’s not always easy to prove.  So Taylor’s Letter from the Editor is where I can point people in the future:

I remember it happened when I read part of Runaway by Alice Munro, specifically the three linked short stories ‘Chance’, ‘Soon’ and ‘Silence’. I remember the names of the North London streets I was compelled to walk – from Messina Avenue to Woodchurch Road to Greencroft Gardens – just to free myself from the sensation that had blossomed within me after I set down the book. During that walk, the neighbourhood seemed raw and responsive. I was unsettled, but in the best possible way; I was in the midst of experiencing the kind of sadness that can only be induced by fiction, which is more potent sadness than most. Also in this jumble of sensation brought on by Munro was a vow to live better, to somehow dodge the mistakes of her characters. There was a bit of a ‘what the hell am I doing with my life?’; a bit of a ‘pay attention to the details’; a bit of an ‘appreciate life more’. In short, the great inner churning that comes at the end of a few extraordinary pieces of fiction.

The details aren’t relevant, it’s the overall mood and idea that he conjures that is.  Although he mentioned Munro, he begins to talk about The Leopard by Tomasi di Lampedusa.  How this debut (and only) novel has left a strong impact not only on him and many more who have read it but also on Marías.  And that that it was Marías’ essay is about: The Leopard.

The second half of his introduction talks about the next issue and that a 10″ vinyl album will be released with it.  It will feature a double A side with author Hollis Hampton-Jones reading from her novel Comes the Night, while backed by Lambchop.  The other side features a remix of a song by Lambchop from their Mr. M album.  The end of the Letter from the Editot is given over to Hampton-Jones and her remembrance of the recording session.  (It’s very cool).

EMILY ROBERTSON and TUCKER NICHOLS drew the cool pictures of leopards.

JAVIER MARÍAS-“Hating The Leopard

This essay, translated by Margaret Jull Costa,talks about the novel The Leopard and how as a novelist, Marías hates it, even though as a reader, he loves it.

I love the surprising way he opens this: There is no such thing as the indispensable author or novel.”  Because even if the best novelist in the world never wrote, the world woul dnot be different.  I also love this insight, which I actually used recently when talking about Ulysses to someone (yes, I’m that guy) that books which “aspired to being ‘modern’ or ‘original’… leads inevitably to an early senescence or, as others might say, they become ‘dated.’  …. They can sometimes seem slightly old-fashioned or, if you prefer, dated, precisely because they were so innovative, bold, confident, original and ambitious.”  But he quickly points out that The Leopard does not fall into this dated category.

Before explaining why The Leopard has stayed with him, he gives some basic background about its publication and near lack of publication.  Indeed, Tomasi di Lampedusa (how do you say that last name?) died before it was published (but not before receiving several rejection letters).  What’s especially surprising is why he wrote the novel in the first place: “the relative late success of his cousin, the poet Lucio Piccolo…led Lampedusa to make the following comment in a letter: ‘Being absolutely certain that I was no more of a fool than he, I sat down at my desk and wrote a novel.'”  Nothing inspires like jealousy!  He also wrote because he was a solitary person.  He was married, but he seems to spend a lot of time alone.  He wanted the book published but not at the expense of his heirs (that’s nice).

Marías talks a bit about why he finds the book so extraordinary (although he says that so much has been written about the novel that he is reluctant to add more).  But one thing that impressed upon him was how the book is about preparing for death, but how, “Death stalks the book not in any insistent way, but tenuously, respectfully, modestly, almost as part of life and not necessarily the most important part either.”  As far as hating the book, Marías feels that perhaps some novelists have earned the right to hate it.

I always enjoy Five Dials.  I can only hope that my posting about it here can get more people to check it out.  Now to see why my library doesn’t have a  copy of The Leopard.

For ease of searching I include: Javier Marias.

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SOUNDTRACK: BUKE AND GASS-“Page Break” (2010).

NPR has selected the 50 best CDs of 2010.  I knew a few of them but had never heard of a bunch of other ones (about 20% are classical).  This CD with the bizarre cover has a great write up:

The wannabe tech-geek in me was initially attracted to Buke and Gass for the band’s two handmade instruments, which modify a baritone-ukulele and a guitar/bass hybrid run through heavy-duty amps (also handmade, mind you).

The problem (and perhaps its because I’m listening at Xmas time) is that the main melody line of the bridge makes me want to sing “Hark, Hear the Bells” and so this feels like a Christmas song even though it’s not.

Whoops– check that.  That melody is certainly there, but I just learned that I was listening to it in mono.  The other speaker presents all kinds of interesting things that distract from that melody (and project much more coolness).

I like the intensity of the track (and the fact that it’s under 2 minutes long).  It’s pretty heavy and the female vocals are nicely aggressive.  And by the end of the song, the syncopation is downright awesome.

It’s amazing how listening to the ENTIRE song can really change your mind.  This is definitely a cool track and will make me investigate the band more.

[READ: December 22, 2010] “One Night of Love”

I had recently gotten interested in reading Javier Marías when I was looking for information about Roberto Bolaño.  I discovered that New Directions Press, the publisher of all of Bolaño’s smaller books also published translations of all of Marías’ books too.  This story comes from his new collection of short stories While the Women Are Sleeping.  (I had also forgotten that McSweeney’s published his book Voyage on the Horizon a few years ago).

I didn’t know where Marías was from when I first started this (I assumed he was Mexican because of the New Directions connection–he’s actually from Spain).  Anyhow, when I thought he was from Mexico, I wondered if there was some kind of connection between his style and Bolaño’s, but also if he was trying to reintroduce magical realism to Bolaño (who abhorred magical realism).

Well that’s moot, (he may be doing that but not because he is from Mexico).

So this story concerns a man who is dissatisfied with his wife’s sexual appetite and performance.  He has taken to visiting prostitutes (see why the Bolaño thing rang true?), but he is concerned because the prostitutes  have grown “increasingly nervous and increasingly expensive” ([Nervous]?). (more…)

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