4.17.2015

Ear Relevant 4.10.15 - 4.17.15

You've probably seen that Chance the Rapper video for Sunday Candy by now but just in case you haven't...the choreography is beautiful.


Baltimore-via-Chicago keys and drums duo Wume announced a new album, Maintain, coming out May 19th on Ehse Records. Their bandcamp has a couple songs to tease ya.

I wrote about Liturgy's new album The Ark Work and why they're the only black metal band I like for Since I Left You. They played at Subterranean last week. Baltimore's Horse Lords opened who are just as worthy of your attention.

Strawberry Jacuzzi released a new song called 'Bitch Jam' on Midwest Action.

White Mystery made a film and it premiers at CIMM Fest on Monday. Check out the trailer below. The movie looks...it's...just watch the trailer.

4.15.2015

Ron Currie Jr. - 'God is Dead'

My friend Keith Meatto loaned me this book while I was visiting New York a couple months ago. We swap books as often as two people who live in different cities can. Additionally, Keith was my editor while Frontier Psychiatrist existed, and it's safe to say he has a pretty good idea of what I like to read. Case in point, Ron Currie Jr.'s debut book from 2007 God is Dead.

Spoiler alert, God dies in the beginning. The Almighty takes the body of a woman caught in war-torn Darfur, who is killed, eaten by dogs, and leaves the world wondering what to do now that he doesn't exist. Teens fulfill a suicide pact, ideological wars breakout, children are worshipped, people are accused of theism, kids text too much with people who never respond...all this and more.

Despite what the title may suggest, Nietzsche is never mentioned once throughout. In fact, the book doesn't necessarily aim to be philosophical at all. It doesn't really concern the matters of which religion was "right," or about atheism vs. agnosticism. It instead investigates the sunken corners of Currie's imagination of the world the way it actually would be were it to be found out there was no God. It's a world where people realized "God had created the universe and set it spinning, but it would continue chugging along despite the fact that he was no longer around to keep things tidy." The world doesn't end. CNN and Magic Bullet still exist in a post-God world. Hypocritical wars and angsty teens still exist. People are loathed, people are loved. Not much has really changed. But yet, things are irrevocably, if intangibly, different. 

4.14.2015

Runoff

Wrote the majority of this a week ago. Better late than never. Better luck next time, Chuy. 

The skies are spitting at us trying to deter us from voting today. I say us but I mean you. I voted when it was sunny a week ago. Early voting lasts for two weeks and we can still barely get one third of the city to vote.

So that's why the skies spit at us. Because we get the weather we deserve.

I'm sitting at the bar at the Hideout waiting for Mick Dumke and Ben Joravsky to woefully announce the imminent results of Chuy Garcia's loss in the mayoral runoff, the first in this city's history. It's only a matter of time. The bar being out of Daisy Cutter is a sign. That scattered laundry basket on Elston Ave. is a sign. My flat tire last night was a sign: Chuy won't win.

It sometimes feels like I live in a bubble. I saw exactly one (1) sign in someone's yard supporting Rahm Emanuel in my neighborhood. Logan Square is populated by Chuy. My social media is nothing by Chuy supporters. My hood has more 'Raht' stickers than 'Rahm' posters. Creative signs and wheat-pastes have sprouted on brick walls like buds on the trees along the boulevards are about to.

And he's still going to lose.

3.27.2015

Finished

Finishing a book is like being in the shower for a year and a half. You hear this constant stream of rushing water, no sounds outside of it really seem to matter, even if you have other fleeting thoughts or hear sounds from the apartment above you.  The shower is your only reality.

And then you turn the shower off.

And it's silent.

And you wonder: "Why the fuck did I just take a shower for a year and a half?"

At least that's how it feels for me.

I just submitted my first ever novel to a publisher. Do I expect anything to come out of this? Of course not. Even right before I clicked submit, I hesitated, wondering if I should even bother. It's nerve-wracking. Worse than being rejected is being accepted, and then actually allowing people to read all of these inane thoughts that have been cultivating inside of my head, especially the real weird stuff within the past couple months. And hope that I was able turn these thoughts into a literary format at the same time.

Either way, it's done. When it's inevitably rejected, I get to submit and submit and submit again. Eventually, I'll start a new one and start the whole process over. Gee. Can't wait...

In the meantime, I'm glad to finally have enough time to read someone else's work. Maybe start posting on here a bit more again. I'm proud of what I accomplished, but I just read the same damn book four times in a row. From now on, instead of editing so much, I think I'll just do it correctly the first time. Makes sense, right?

And don't worry, when it's ready, you can read it. I won't shut up about it. I'll make sure this thing, in whatever final form it ends up in, will end up in the hands or tablets of every last one of you.

3.04.2015

Size Doesn't Matter

You know what's fucked up? I've been working on this book for over a year and a half. I'm almost at 64,000 words. I entered super hibernation mode and ignored the entire world for three weeks to write the bulk of this. I've grown narcissistically insane thinking about what a great fucking writer I'm turning into and how this thing is going to change lives.

And this whole document, all of it, all of my random and twisted thoughts, all of the name-dropping and cultural references, all of my pseudo-philosophical meanderings on how technology is threatening (dismantling?!) free will, a fuckton of obscenities, all of it occupy an open office document of 175 KB.

That is such an incomprehensibly tiny speck of data on this machine that can hold 500 GB.

It's nothing.

Now that's what I call an ego killer.

I think I needed that.

Anyway.

Back to editing.

2.27.2015

Jami Attenberg - 'The Melting Season'

I feel conflicted. Not about the book. I liked the book. Attenberg is a great writer and I was engaged in this story all throughout.

I'm conflicted because it was a good book and I don't know why. Which is a good and bad thing. It's good, for Attenberg, because it means she writes so naturally and effortlessly that its just second nature for her to create a unique work of narrative fiction (which is not to say this required no effort; I know that's not true for any writer). It's a bad thing, for Attenberg, because I wasn't stirred as much as I'd hoped to be.

It's a good thing, for the reader, because it's an effortless read. You can fly through this thing, not being able to turn the page fast enough. It's a bad thing, for the reader, because you're not sure how to describe why this is so good.

The story involves a woman, Catherine, who is running away from home in Nebraska. She took all her husband's money, over six figures, and is driving, and eventually hits Vegas. Her marriage was falling apart (not just because her husband has a really small dick), her life itself was falling apart. Her little sister, a teenager, is pregnant, and her alcoholic mother beats on her all the time. Sheltered Midwest people living sheltered Midwest lives (Catherine comments more than once about how her family is trailer trash). But they have complex feelings and complex relationships that inform their complex feelings and cannot be reduced to issues such as pregnancy, or alcoholism, or domestic abuse, without taking into consideration the whole story.

2.25.2015

Aleksandar Hemon - 'Nowhere Man'

This was Hemon's first novel, published in 2002. It's the third book of his I've read but it's the first that has really showed me how brilliant of a writer he is. Within the first few pages I was hooked and didn't want to put it down. There are so many great lines. Here's a few that stick out from just the first few pages:
  • "...listening to the mizzle in my pillow,"
  • "The blinds gibbered..."
  • "The toilet bowl was agape, with a dissolving piece of toilet paper in it throbbing like a jellyfish."
  • "The faucet was sternly counting off droplets."
  • "Smashing the boxes was my favorite part, the controlled, benign destruction."
  • (about a cat, eating a mouse)..."patiently exposing its crimson essence."
  • "...a grimace of perplexed horror..."
  • "...despair was my loyal ally."
  • "...on a steel beam high up above perched a jury of pigeons, cooing peevishly."
His use of similes, adverbs and other modifiers, particularly with smell, offer a unique perspective, often accompanied by a morbid Eastern European sense of humor. Even without context, his sentences spring to life.

2.05.2015

Uki Goni - 'The Real Odessa'

Reading this book, and certainly writing about it, takes me a little bit out of my comfort zone. I'm used to reading and writing about fiction, yet this is non-fiction. The subtitle for the book is "How Peron Brought the Nazi War Criminals to Argentina." Which tells you exactly what the book is about. And while it may not be fiction, I still have many thoughts about the book, not to mention having learned some of the more atrocious secrets of Juan Peron's regime and Argentina's shameful complicity with saving Nazi war criminal and the real Odessa*.

First off, this story is thoroughly well researched. It's an amazing story, hard to believe at points how various governments of the world (including the USA) were complacent in the transfer of Nazis from post-WWII Europe to South America. That said, I thought the writing was a bit stiff and hard to follow at points. To that point, the book may have been too well-researched for only being 326 pages (not including the Afterward added to the second edition).

Another issue I had was how little mention there was of Eva 'Evita' Peron. She is mentioned numerous times throughout the book, sure, but is barely mentioned in the index when trying to find references to her. But, to be fair, this book is meant to focus on the war criminals. The book leaves her sympathies ambiguous: she did stand up to a Nazi war criminal when she refused to fire a Jewish employee. Yet, she was very welcoming and apparently charmed by multiple Nazis that visited la Casa Rosada.

But enough about the issues. The story is fascinating and I recommend it to any history buffs out there. Here are some of my major takeaways from the book:

2.01.2015

Kazuo Ishiguro - 'Never Let Me Go'

This book's been on my shelf for awhile. Finally got around to reading it. I think it's the fastest I've ever read a book that just made me go 'meh' at the end.

I'd been looking forward to reading something by Ishiguro for awhile. I see a lot of other authors I respect drop his name as a writer they appreciate. I can't quite put my finger on what it was but the book just didn't do it for me.

The story follows three main characters. Kathy is the narrator, retelling stories from the Hailsham, a vague prep school of sorts where she grew up with her friends Ruth and Tommy. Today, Kathy is a carer, while the other two are donors. It's ambiguous what this means, but as the book goes on, we learn it has to do with cloning (oh yeah, if you don't like spoilers, turn ye away now; probably don't watch the movie before reading the book either). These clones exist for the sole reason to be raised into healthy organ donors. Cancer and various diseases are a thing of the past in this world. So in this respect, I can understand the questions the book raises. Do clones have souls? Is it ethical to raise sentient beings for the purpose to save other sentient beings, without regards for the feelings of the former?

1.30.2015

James Tadd Adcox - 'Does Not Love'

I read this book in less than a day. That itself doesn't mean it's a great book, but there are other reasons this is a great book.

Save for the fact that so much good stuff is coming out on Curbside Splendor and that apparently Adcox knows my fellow Front Psych warrior Keith Meatto, I was excited to read this book. Mostly because it got compared to Don DeLillo, whose White Noise I'd finally read a few months back and thought it was brilliant. This book does indeed carry a similar vein of storytelling, taking jabs at pharmaceutical corporations, contemporary domestic life, and is written with so many jumpcuts that Godard himself would get dizzy reading this book.

Most of the chapters are 1-3 pages, offering multiple glimpses into the two main characters lives, the married couple Viola and Robert. After their third miscarriage, their marriage is falling apart. While predictable Robert is accepting of the state of things, Viola wants change. And Robert isn't as predictable as Viola makes him out to be. And Viola may not be able to handle the change she so desires.

The pacing of this book is perfect. The brevity of the chapters make the book feel like a flash fiction collection of loosely related plots. There are bits of surreality, with ghosts and empty spaces that can talk back to Viola and Robert. Yet it's still rooted in just enough reality to make one think that pharmaceutical guinea pigs could be forming and underground society while an FBI agent is fucking the brains out of a woman with the intent to ruin one man's life.

Never convoluted, often funny, and always kept me wanting more. It's a shame this didn't end up on more year-end lists. A truly contemporary debut novel that shows a sharp, satirical wit that will hopefully only continue to cut.