Sometimes we at The Addison Recorder just need to talk about whatever pop culture ephemera occupies our time. So we are starting a monthly column for just that. It will be a bit shorter — just a paragraph or two from whichever Recorder voice wants to join in — and will hopefully provide a spark for comments from any readers who connect with whatever we are reading/watching/listening to/playing.
I spent May diving into One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera by the late and lamented Gabriel García Márquez. To read them is to become lost in his idiosyncratic style. I know an author really connects with me when my internal monologue becomes an imitation of their voice. This happened recently with Hilary Mantel and Larry McMurtry, but Márquez has a voice well outside my experience. Languid yet enrapturing, his words (translated excellently by Gregory Rabassa and Edith Grossman) have such layers of sensuality and mystery that setting the book down can seem like coming up for air. In a good way. It’s way outside my Midwestern mindset, but that’s probably half the appeal for me. I mean, just read this excerpt:
Wherever they might be they always remember that the past was a lie, that memory has no return, that every spring gone by could never be recovered, and that the wildest and most tenacious love is an ephemeral truth in the end.
It’s also fascinating to track how Márquez plays with the reader’s perception of time and history. Both novels are grand narratives, and both employ Márquez’s trademark Magical Realism to move through time as it suits the slippery narrative strands. This tactic allows Márquez to succinctly capture a vast stretch of his native Colombia’s history and crowd the novels to the gills with richly observed moments and characters. In his hands time can variously be fast as quicksilver, leaping decades within a sentence, and as languorous as the meanderingly powerful Magdalena River, recalling earlier narrative events that feel like distant memories. I don’t think I quite expressed what I’m driving at here, but … Gabo does that to readers.
I’ve been enjoying the Spotify playlist generically titled “Your Favorite Coffeehouse,” which contains your token Iron & Wine, Jose Gonzalez, and Ray LaMontagne, but also some gems I’d never heard. Additionally: Recently it was announced that Jenny Lewis, my musical alter ego, will release her third solo album (and first since 2008) in July. Knowing there will soon be more crushingly depressing, but gorgeous, music by my favorite artist out there for me to consume is making my black heart a little lighter this week.
And finally, on the commute home one night this week I listened to this Fresh Air interview with Louis CK, in which he addressed my one complaint about “Louie,” which is how his character always gets tangled up with beautiful women who are usually portrayed as mentally unstable. He has a lot to say about why he portrays both sides of a relationship the way he does. Take a listen if you get some time.
One of my many Recorder side projects over the next few months will be to write more cohesive, academic thoughts upon reading David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, a book which, like Alex’s books above, became something of an emotional quest for me to finish. But to share some not as cohesive or academic and very brief thoughts here: this is one of the greatest novels I’ve ever read. PERIOD. There are some writers whose experiments with mechanics, narrative, structure, and voice annoy the crap out of me because I see those experiments as dressing substituting for substance…buttercream icing on the blandest cake. And other writers, Murakami being a key example, frustrate me because their stories end without resolution, without you ever fully knowing what is going on.
Infinite Jest‘s unconventional approach serves the story, its stylistic variations and rapid cross-cutting reflecting the hyperactive goings-on in an America on the verge of change. (Or an O.N.A.N. on the verge of change — Wallace builds an alternate world with loving, elaborate detail.) And although the book seems to simply stop, the truth is that enough is written for a reader to deduce what is happening and tie up the plot lines in full.
More importantly, this book made me fall in love with three characters (and hate another) as I rarely do in fiction, and gave me a lot to think about concerning what entertainment we choose, what our relationships with our families are like, and how we are supposed to live. It addresses giant questions and, for its considerable darkness, points toward positive answers. It made me weep when it was over for having experienced something in the ranks of Vanity Fair and War and Peace but for our generation. And as a true recommendation, it made me laugh hysterically and often in public in about fifty different scenes.
(Plus, Walsh and I will agree that on page 600, when Gately fights the Canadians, you get one of the greatest “action” scenes in any book or film or TV show ever.)
Also, the Black Keys released Turn Blue and it debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts in a moment of Ohio pride. I haven’t heard the whole album yet. But if you want to hear a song full of hooks, stomping drums, guitars to make all the gods of the 70s smile down in approval, and wonderfully swirling keyboards, a song that perfectly captures the hopeless rush of being in a love you might not always want but can’t deny, turn on “Fever” and crank it up to TWELVE.
I bought some used CD’s at Reckless Records on Broadway the other day. One of them was Blur’s “13.” Another was Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds “The Boatman’s Call.” Both have been in steady rotation on my iTunes library. Check them out, either via used purchases or through Spotify.
Oh, and I started reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed. It might be the worst decision I’ve ever made, and not because it’s bad. No, it’s actually fantastic. No, it just makes for terrible public reading. It’s awkward explaining why you’re sobbing and clinging to seats on the Red Line. Go figure.
Two films, both funny and heart-breaking in very different ways, are especially important to see now, in light of the shootings at University of California at Santa Barbara.
Oppressed Majority is a short film that illustrates “a day in the life of a man who faces subtle sexism and unabashed sexual violence in a mirror-image society dominated by women.”