Monthly Archives: December 2012

Year in Music, 2012 edition.

I’ll keep this short. My notable albums of the year (in alphabetical order) were:

  • `Alleluia! Don’t Bend! Ascend! by Godspeed You! Black Emperor
  • Bloom by Beach House
  • Channel Orange by Frank Ocean
  • The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do by Fiona Apple
  • Lonerism by Tame Impala
  • Old Ideas by Leonard Cohen
  • Shields by Grizzly Bear
  • Swing Lo Magellan by Dirty Projectors

It was a bit of a strange year in that no album felt earth-shakingly landmark, though who can really say how these albums will fare over time. If I had to pick a favourite one, it would probably be Swing Lo Magellan, because I can envision listening to that one for a long, long time, though most of these albums have been really quite fantastic.

Also don’t miss:

  • Attack on Memory by Cloud Nothings
  • Bish Bosch by Scott Walker
  • Clear Moon by Mount Eerie
  • Confess by Twin Shadow
  • Ekstasis by Julia Holter
  • Gossamer by Passion Pit
  • The Haunted Man by Bat For Lashes
  • Mature Themes by Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
  • Shrines by Purity Ring
  • Until the Quiet Comes by Flying Lotus

And a special imaginary award goes to Atoms For Peace’s “Default”, which probably got the most playtime on my computer this year despite its relatively young age.

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Mark Hollis on Laughing Stock.

Mark Hollis talks about Talk Talk’s Laughing Stock. [via YouTube]

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Boxing Day Vila-Matas.

Hope you had a good Christmas!

Here’s a Vila-Matas piece called I’m Not Auster.

The others (other writers that is, the ones we like, the ones inside us) work on us in a strange way, so that it becomes impossible in fact to be without them. However far away you are in a physical sense (even if you find yourself on a desert island, or locked in solitary confinement), you find you’re inhabited by others. This is a far cry from how Miguel de Unamuno saw it; he was a first-rate thinker but also an egomaniac, and ended up suspecting that there were no such things as others, that in fact others were his own invention, a way of avoiding the distress of being alone in the world. Sometimes I toy with the idea that my friends are indeed figments of my imagination. Although I never manage to make them say what I want them to, sometimes, seen from this unamaniacal p p erspective, other people can appear to be taking part in a strange game, theatrical, conspiratorial, like something out of a David Mamet film. I do have days when it seems like everyone’s agreed to say precisely what I’d expect them to say. But not very often.

[via The Quarterly Conversation]

Here is an interview concentrating on Dublinesque.

The broad passageway that joins fiction and reality is cool and well-ventilated, and the air within blows about with the same natural ease with which I mix biography and invention.

[via Enrique Vila-Matas]

And here is a Scott Esposito article on EVM.

This self-effacing beginning is a spot-on way for Vila-Matas to start his retelling of how his youthful pretensions to become a second Hemingway quickly ran off the rails. Befitting a writer who would stake his name to the quicksands of the derivative, the young man we find in this book is one who is constantly trying to copy others. He attempts to mimic Hemingway’s effortless bohemianism, he adopts the thick glasses and harsh demeanour of the Parisian literati (themselves poseurs), and he tries to fit in with one of the avant-garde movements. From Duras (whose elevated French he never quite understands) he receives a 12-point list of qualities he must work into his writing, which he follows with a naive ardour. He even steals the plot and format of the literary work he creates in Paris from Unamuno and Nabokov.

[via The National]

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Merry Christmas, everybody.

christmas is coming

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The Crack Manifesto.

In 1996, a number of Mexican writers—namely Pedro Ángel Palou, Eloy Urroz, Ignacio Padilla, Ricardo Chávez Castañeda, and Jorge Volpi—wrote the Crack Manifesto “dedicated to breaking with the pervading Latin American tradition of Magical Realism in favor of a return to the complexity of plot and style found in the works of Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortázar”. Here you can find the text in English. [via Context/Dalkey Archive Press]

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Year in Reading, 2012 edition.

It’s the end of the year again. My year in reading was strange. I read less than I was hoping to (the second semester within the year just overtook me somehow). I also feel guilty at not having had a more balanced diet. I read comparatively little non-fiction and criticism/theory this year, as you might be able to tell from this list.

That said, it was also a wonderful year of old and new. I picked up a couple of new favourites, and revisited some old ones (something I don’t do often enough). These, then, are the books that left the deepest impressions. I’ve split them up into the newly published, the not-so-newly published, and the re-reads, just because that’s the way it panned out for me.

THE NEW

From the Observatory, by Julio Cortázar, translated by Anne McLean, archipelago books
Satantango, by László Krasznahorkai, translated by George Szirtes, New Directions
The Smoke of Distant Fires, by Eduardo Chirinos, translated by G. J. Racz, Open Letter
Scars, by Juan José Saer, translated by Steve Dolph, Open Letter

Here we have two novels, one poetry collection, and one slender and unclassifiable volume!

THE NOT-SO-NEW

Dead Man Upright*, by Derek Raymond, Melville House
The First Person Singular, by Alphonso Lingis, Northwestern University Press
The Walk, by Robert Walser, translated by Christopher Middleton and Susan Bernofsky, New Directions
Your Face Tomorrow, by Javier Marías, translated by Margaret Jull Costa, New Directions

* this is a new edition, but it is an old book.

A crime novel! A novella! A gigantic novel (in three volumes)! And philosophy!

THE RE-READS

Autonauts of the Cosmoroute, by Julio Cortázar and Carol Dunlop, translated by Anne McLean, archipelago books
Gasoline
, by Quim Monzó, translated by Mary Ann Newman, Open Letter
The Hour of the Star, by Clarice Lispector, translated by Benjamin Moser, New Directions

And to round off, we have a novel, a novella, and one heck of an adventure.

So that’s it from me. What were your notable books of the year?

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Johnny Cash x Bob Dylan

In Vila-Matas’s Dublinesque, he makes mention of a YouTube video featuring Johnny Cash and a young Bob Dylan. I imagine that this is the video that he refers to. [via YouTube]

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Raised from the Ground review.

Throughout Raised from the Ground, Saramago explores many of the themes that would so singularly characterize and bring great acclaim to his later works. His unique grammatical and prose stylings are present, but are somewhat less masterfully asserted as they would come to be in subsequent novels. In more ways than one, raised from the ground bears similarity to the writings of John Steinbeck, a fellow author for whom the politics of labor were not so easily divorced from everyday life. Raised from the Ground is a beautiful, however sorrowful, novel the likes of which Saramago was so adept at creating. From his humble beginnings to the pinnacle of literary accomplishment, Saramago appeared to approach his life with dignity, compassion, and a yearning for justice—three qualities to be found in abundance within this timeless tale of the human condition.

On the latest Saramago book available in English, Raised from the Ground. [via Three Percent]

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On Ravi Shankar.

Have you ever seen a bird fly into a house and not be able to find its way out? You open the windows. You do your best not to make eye contact, for eye contact will disorient and terrify it. You open the windows, you stand back, you wait. There is a mad fluttering of wings, there is panic and feathers, and you can hear its heart pounding, and then, in a rush, it’s free, it’s out, it soars and is gone.

So it is with Ravi Shankar’s music. So it is with Ravi Shankar. Grace and speed and motion and, in the end, freedom and light and more light.

Brian Cullman on Ravi Shankar. [via The Paris Review]

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On Béla Tarr.

His is an art form of dissolving contrasts in which the everyday lives of individuals are located within the broader frameworks of politics and nature. Minutiae are shown to contain the seeds of power, survival or despair, and the vile or banal is filmed with astonishing sensitivity. This is an essentially disproportionate worldview that pits paradox against conventional logic, taste or taxonomy. It follows the effects of huge historical, even meteorological forces on tiny populations; it proves that beauty can inhere in something as simple as wood grain; and it suggests different ways in which to conceive of, even perhaps accept, cruelty and boredom. Alternatively it witnesses how such sliding scales and acute contrasts might provoke madness or revelation. In The Turin Horse there is a long, luminous chiaroscuro close-up of a steaming baked potato. In isolation it might seem bland, indulgent or absurd, but in the story’s context of desperate hunger, the messianic splendour of the vegetable makes sense. In this way the excesses or eccentricities of Tarr’s vision have a function in depicting lives distorted by hardship or isolation. This gloss of the prosaic sublime sheds light on the director by elucidating the ways in which apparently contradictory, inappropriate, fanciful or gratuitously depressing elements in his work also have radical meaning.

Rose McLaren on the work of Béla Tarr. [via The White Review]

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