Friday, July 30, 2010

Death, "For the Whole World to See"

Sheesh. Great lost Detroit black punk band, who recorded seven singles in and around 1974 with the help of Funkadelic producer Don Davis, who must not have done much but turn the recorder on and let it bleed. Certainly some MC5 ringing in their ears, little Stooges, not much metal in the fast stuff but some in the bluesy slower stuff: the tremendous thing about these songs is not who they sound LIKE, but who FOLLOWED them and sounded like them. Particularly the Bad Brains, who either listened to this in their sleep or are these guys children. The stuttering drums, the crushing guitar riffs, the simple-as-brain-damage refrains, the dum-dum-bullet-stupid bass: I'm such a troglodyte at heart! "Keep on Knocking" is the standout, but "Rock n Roll Victim" is the Bad Brains-ish one for sure. Love the songs, love the narrative (brought to me, pathetically enough, by a New Yorker article about them this week. But it made me crank some Bad Brains for the wife, and we thought we were hearing some lost Kiss or some neanderthal Van Halen for sure. For thor's sake buy it (not that I did) and give the guys some money after all these years.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Suspect, L. R. Wright

A quietly satisfying mystery novel, remniscent of Simenon: one finds out WhoDunIt in the first pages, but the book unfolds as as WhyDunIt, a masterful character study set in a small town in British Columbia featuring a Royal Mountie detective, a librarian, and two old men, principally, but other characters are quickly and deftly sketched.

There is very little violence, except implied, or recalled: the murder of one very old man by another very old man. The reason for the crime comes out slowly, through flashbacks. The tremendous natural landscape of BC plays a role too, as a destructive force each character struggles against, as a creative force each character struggles to find a nourishing spot within.

Sleep while I Sing takes place after The Suspect: the detective and the librarian are repeating characters, and their relationship, romantic, emotional and intellectual, is important in both books.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Palladio by Jonathan Dee

I read Palladio with excitement and curiosity, a novel about the advertising business (and other things). My good friend and fiction reviewer without peer Donna Rifkind had recommended Dee's new novel, The Privileges, but I had to wait for my hold at the public library, and snapped up Palladio in the meantime. Dee is a morbidly interesting writer -- that is, I had no idea I was so interested in the world of advertising, the contemporary world of advertising, as well as a thumbnail history of advertising in America in the past fifty years, until Dee began telling me a story about a young man and an older man in that business. Oh yeah, there's a woman too, but it's mostly about advertising. Dee will be compared (by others certainly, and now by me) to Tom Wolfe, since there is a "masters of the universe" sort of a feel to his protagonists (even more so The Privileges) and if I had ever been able to finish a single Wolf novel, I might even make the comparison ring true. But I haven't. Still recommend this book, though: Dee has a marvelous gift.

So I get the new one finally and I'm in a tizzy of anticipation, glancing at it on my nightstand, dutifully (and happily, if in a hard-working sort of way) finishing David Mitchell's stunning Cloud Atlas before I dig in. And The Privileges is a good read, compelling, and Dee once again makes several uber-rich lives somewhat transparent to me and interesting, but on the whole the new one was a disappointment, second half of the book never really delivers on the thesis grandly contstructed in the first half -- that is, a successful couple, I mean so successful that in the second half of the novels pedestrian details like actual numbers of dollars and how many millions have vanished completely , a successful couple (and their couple of somewhat less successful, if gorgeous, children) will have to eventually pay the piper in some fashion for all their success. They don't pay. The wife's father dies, the husband blows out his knee during one of his fanatical workouts, they must stand by their daughter after she is in a bad car wreck where some people apparently die, after partying for several days and nights with her at one of her family's many luxury homes, and the son is held hostage by an "outsider artist" he is considering promoting. (I'm not making that outsider artist bit up, though it sounds like I am.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Cloud Atlas is a tour de force. A lengthy "novel" consisting of six novellas that move chronologically from the early 19th century to the distant post-apocalyptic future in the first half of the book, then reverse and run backwards in time in the second half (from p.a. future to 19th century, so we end where we began), and which six novellas are linked with what at first seem to be casual coincidences (the diary chronicling a sea voyage in the first novella becomes a tattered rare book that a young composer in the 1930s finds and reads in the second novella, a piece by the young composer is heard in the third novella), it as ambitious and experimental and daring as it is compellingly and closely written in each of the six wildly-different narratives.

The Hidden Fortress, Akira Kurosawa

My son and I saw THE HIDDEN FORTRESS at AFI Silver yesterday afternoon, what a masterpiece! The 21-year old Misa Uehara as the Princess was particuarly astounding, more than holding her own next to the redoubtable Toshiro Mifune as the General, and Minoru Chiaki and Kamatari Fujiwara as the two peasants reluctantly accompanying the Princess across ... See Moreenemy territory. They are equal parts Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern, the grave-diggers from Hamlet, and reputedly George Lucas's models for C3PO and R2D2 in Star Wars. A stunner.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Love in the Ruins, Walker Percy (1971)

Forty-five. It is strange how little one changes. The psychologists are all wrong about puberty. Puberty changes nothing. This morning I woke with exactly the same cosmic-sexual-religious longing I woke up with when I was ten years old. Nothing changes but accidentals: your toes rotate, showing more skin. Every molecule in your body has been replaced but you are exactly the same... The scientists are wrong: man is not his own juices but a vortex, a traveling suck in his juices.

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