School – or, I should say, “school” – is out…. I have an entire week off from the campaign. I wonder if it’ll play like that weird section in All Quiet on the Western Front when the lads all go home from Belgium.
This is Not a Best of List
But I am far behind on the records and books reportage, no?
Speaking of weird interludes…this very arresting novel detours like nothing i’ve read since Going After Cacciato by Tim O’Brien. It’s a first novel about a child of the worst period of the Troubles – you know, a kid from the Falls Road
who ends up working for the little bit left of an Irish Mafia in, you guessed it, Harlem. Leaving aside the actual main plot arc – which is righteous, “taut,” rich, all that stuff – we get a 100-page long Mexican Prison sequence. The prison sequence begets a Belfast flashback which begets…well, it’s a great prison sequence, kind of a maximalist counterpart to All the Pretty Horses minimalism. The writing is about as gorgeous, and the caustic asides are as funny, as anything you’ll find in the crime genre.
Oh, and there’s also a magical realist-style, Hurricane-in-the-forest sequence.
Lawrence Block is a better known commodity in the genre fiction realm, and sort of crime’s version of the “Greenwich Village novelist.” He’s written dozens of novels – on par with McBain in all his prolific-ness – and developed at least three recurring characters who front their own series. In the last months I’ve been investigating the character of Matthew Scudder, an alcoholic, always-almost-almost-suicidal ex-cop who haunts an unglamorous but not squalid NYC neighborhood of the 1970s. Scudder’s believable intelligence is constantly offset by weird, realistic drinking bouts, and many of his best investigatory moves are made from behind the haze of a severe hangover. I have been going through the novels in order, and am currently in the middle of When the Sacred Gin Mill Closes, which deserves its reputation as being a high point in Block’s career. Like a lot of the greats who have a background in and a fetish for the pulp tradition, Block’s kind of great writing comes from that weird alchemy of lean prose that’s more evocative than the sum of its parts.
Weird story behind this author. That said, this title and its sequel rocked my face loose, if one imagines face-loosening as the pleasurable vacuousness associated with being an overeducated, effeminate waif. Is there any other way to fancy such and such a jaw slackening?
Wow, I need to listen to it a few more times before I get all apoplectic and start citing Loveless or Spiderland… but I am very moved by this record. I don’t know what the going opaque genre tag is for the emergent, post-Melvins, post-Don Cab, post-Deicide, post-John Zorn style of New Heavy Music…but I know that of all this milieu’s milestones, Conqueror is the first one I feel like wanking about. Imagine the slow, crushing but thoughtful riffage you’d expect from unsane/codeine/isis, and then add shoegaze-y drone and vocals, and then add a frontman capable of conjuring a Bergman-ish sense of wonder, which is to say wonder before god’s absence and wonder before the vagaries of beauty, sunlight and the earth.
Jackson Browne, Late for the Sky
Oh, how deep is the canon of introspective, earnestly morose solo albums of the 1970s?!?!? I am doing my damndest to avoid this genre, which already prompted me to record a record that i haven’t yet mastered but i’m already sick of. However, to factors thrust this record upon me, those being 1) anders parker recommended it to me, and 2) by digging jackson browne i could never again ever be threatened by allegations of coolness.
Anyway, what a strange record. All the songs are great, and all of the songs are at least 90 seconds too long. I’m wondering if he remedied that in time for “Running on Empty.” I won’t be wondering for long, though, because Jackson’s albs are available at the record place for a fair price.
Raenie’s done with her video game, so I’ll leave things here. I have a sort throat coming on, so, alleluia, ‘looks like I’ll be celebrating this vacation with le bedrest. I’ll take it. I think we’re gonna watch this flick now: