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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Embedding Video: Your Ghost by Kristen Hersh 8-year old suggested we figure out how to embed YouTube videos in a blog, rather than just using a link, as I have always done. It is so easy! And then right away I find I have to use it, and I have something to show you. Back story:

I was (finally) reading the October LibraryThing: State of the Thing newsletter, and there was an author interview with Kristen Hersh, who is a musician, and who has also recently released a book called Rat Girl based on her diary from when she was 18. That alone wasn't really enough to move me to check the music, but when I saw her thoughts on her music being based on ambient noise, I had to go there. This is what I read: You mentioned recently that the songs seem to be based on ambient noise. Has knowing that changed the magic of the songs, that they are based on real sounds and not the whispered words angels and demons? Like, "Oh, that's just the heat register kicking in."  (You can read the rest of the interview there, too.)

Now, I am having a music moment these days. I want to figure out music, especially sad music. I am trying to prepare for a music theory exam (my first ever). I have started a correspondence with my uncle, a professional bluegrass musician. I am analyzing pop songs with my piano teacher (like Mad World, Love the Way You Lie, U Smile - there are some musical things out there). And so on. Also germane is that one of my all-time favourite cds is Sheila Chandra's Moonsung: A Real World Retrospective from 1999. I keep it near Brian Eno in my collection, and I listen to it whenever I am recovering from anesthetic (happens more often than you might think). It is drone-ish music, based on ambient noise. I think of it when I am in a strange bedroom hearing a different pattern of night sounds (like heat registers and traffic) and try to make music out of my irritation. I also love Arvo Pärt, and have written about him before, because of the sadness, and the drone-ishness, and the modal aspect of his music (link is to Wikipedia if you are interested - it's not perfect, but it's a start). It all kind of goes together.

So...I had to check out Kristen Hersh on YouTube. I love the 'Shock of the New' (I love Robert Hughes, too). I LIVE FOR the shock of the new. And I LOVE the sound of this woman's music. It is odd. It is sad. It is beautiful. It defies easy analysis. Her other songs are cool too. Sundrops is even odder - and to watch her play it live makes me think she composed it physically rather than sonically. Is that possible?

Tell me what you think, please.

The marigold wonders nervously about all the brackets. The marigold LOVES brackets. And all-caps. And irony. Does it give the effect of animated conversation, or is it all a bit too much? And should I even care?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Library Thing Early Review

The Rehearsal
by Eleanor Catton

I saved this for summer beach reading. I heard it was really fun. A reading buddy of mine offered to share her (signed) copy, but I already had this one to take away. It almost seemed a shame to wait, but it turned out to be perfect for summer.

It is engaging and eyebrow-raising, without being challenging. The narrative is original, with a number of convincing voices. It's quite interesting to see the taboo treated as something ordinary that just happens, that it changes everything but not the essential character of life.

The story concerns the aftermath of an affair revealed between a senior student and a male teacher in a private girls' school. I have an unusually good view into life in girls' schools, and I just loved the not-politically-correct tone of the book. It struck me as nuanced and accurate rather than stereotypical and formulized for instruction (which feels rare, especially for this kind of loaded topic, set in a girls' school environment, let me tell you).

Catton also managed to write in a post-modern, that is to say non-linear, fashion that felt fresh. It did add a level of challenge to the book that I also found extremely compelling. It's just not that often that you need to scroll around in a book to re-orient yourself because the points of view are dizzying.

In a world where there are a lot a lot a lot of fabulous first books (not to mention first singles, first films etc), you have to wonder if the writer will be able to stay interesting. Here's hoping.

LibraryThing Early Review

You Comma Idiot
by Doug Harris

Received. Looks funny.

Is funny. One funny cool thing is that the publicity person responsible for sending out review copies is already a person whose judgment I trust in choosing the funny: Corey Redekopp, author of Shelf Monkey, one of my all-time favourite book-books (and one of this year's Canada Reads Top 40! Yeah!)

This book manages to be funny and Canadian-local, without being parochial and I'm-Canadian-look-at-me. It reminds me of the experience of reading Michael Chabon - I feel an absolute homegrown sense of the accurate ear of the writer. I am not a Montreal small-time drug-dealer/loser (shocker, I know, right?) but as a Canadian adult I find the characters and dialogue totally believable.

I also really love the take on the narrative voice. I seem to mention that a lot in my reviews. It must be hard for a writer to come up with (and therefore hard for a reader to run into) a fresh style of narrative voice. There are already a lot of good books in the world, after all. Although the device chosen by Harris has been used before (rarely), this is one great new version. It is...well...I guess it has to be called an interior monologue. Harold Bloom (one of my reading heroes) cites Hamlet as the first character given an interior monologue, and it is the paradigm. Hamlet wonders aloud, abstractly.."Is it...?" Harris has his character Lee address himself as "you" as in "You are running down the street..." The reader is not watching the character talk to himself - the reader is inside the conversation, he is an interlocutor with himself, the character. Cool.

I have no way of judging if little Canadian books become successful and I don't have much time to devote to checking whether they receive good critical notices. However, I can rave as Souci on LibraryThing, and The Nervous Marigold. I can tell my reading buddies, and I can lend my copy around to the worthy.

This is a super book, and it is satisfying to know that there are new Canadian writers that are outside the canon (for now), outside the political-book complex, just writing good books that READERS ENJOY!

The marigold wonders nervously if it would be overstating it to mention the indecisive loser-ishness of Hamlet being a germane reference in You Comma Idiot, or if that is perhaps reaching a bit too far.