Displaying articles for: February 2011

Lizard Music

Were you aware that William Burroughs wrote a young- adult novel starring Encyclopedia Brown back in 1976?  Or that, in their prime, the Firesign Theater produced a whole album involving an invasion by lizard-men from an invisible island?  Or that Roger Corman filmed, in only six days, a script by Roald Dahl based on a lost story by George MacDonald titled At the Beck of the Norse Whim?  No?  Oh, that's right:  you don't have access to those alternate timelines where such things are solid facts.  But apparently Daniel Pinkwater does.

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Suburban Triumph

"Their goal is to make old structures of feeling signify anew," wrote Robert Christgau last summer about Arcade Fire and their album The Suburbs. Sunday night the record picked up the Grammy for Album of the Year.  In "Maturity for Modern Kids"  Robert Christgau gives his take on why this "exceptionally principled" Montreal band is also capable of getting a jaded crowd to reach for the sky.

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The Cello Suites

Eric Siblin's cleverly dovetailed and enticingly readable investigative account of the famous rediscovery of J. S. Bach's masterful scores for solo cello, at the hands of Pablo Casals in the late nineteenth century, and their subsequent elevation to the consensual apex of musical beauty, puts paid to the quip (supposedly first made by comedian Martin Mull) that "writing about music is like dancing about architecture."  The image of misguided critical futility inherent in Mull's comparison has no place with a writer like Siblin, who can charmingly and empathetically convey the sweet sounds of a live performance through the medium of black marks on a white page—which, ironically, is exactly how Bach's music was first conceived, transcribed and precariously transmitted down the centuries.

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Reading the Headlines: Egypt

Our intrepid correspondent, Adam Hanft, enters the stacks and returns with some timely reading on Egypt past and present.

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April 19: "What you see first, after the starting gun's crack, is a column of bobbing runners, thousands of them, surging downhill..."

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.