Did You Hear? Q & A

New music! Sometimes old music. Music that we love!

I haven’t heard anything this captivating in a long time.

This song is its own little 6-minute universe, self-contained and wholly complete. It feels sparse but not empty, with every small piece placed purposefully. Each new element feels like some new discovery, and when that fat round bass comes in (~1:30), oh man, forget about it. Do yourself a favor and sink into this one with a nice pair of headphones where you can hear the subtlety that makes this song incredible.

– Brook Reeder

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Flooded with Light

Dahlias

Stunning Sentences

I unloaded my little gathering of groceries on the conveyor belt. I’m usually at the market early in the morning, which is Lisa’s shift, and over the years we’ve had the same conversation, except today it isn’t the same.

“What are you reading?” I said.

The store was, for the most part, empty—no one standing in line, glancing at a watch, tapping an anxious toe—and so we could indulge in a long discussion about whatever books we’re reading. What is compelling? What holds your attention? What’s different? Unique? And always at the end, as if we were saving the most important for the end: Would you recommend it?

“Nothing,” she says. “I put the book down.”

“What? Why?”

“I don’t know.” She rings up my carton of eggs. “The sentences. They were just so… flat.”

Ah, yes. In this age of information, where words—sometimes not even words, but the suggestion of a word—serve as conveyor belts of facts and advertisements, can anyone craft a sentence that fills the brain with hyperbolic joy? Something that breaks up the crushing barrage of workhorse prose? A sentence that veers from the traditional subject-verb linear line to make us see anew?

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Maybe He’s Just Fucking With Us

Farm Animals

Wittgenstein's Mistress

Pages Read: 100-148, then 100-150

Last time Nemira and I met, I was the one dominating the conversation, because I am the expert in writing about loneliness and melancholia (please forgive my bragging.) This session, she took over, telling me how she started to see all these parallels between the novel and her dissertation. This was frightening for me, because I am sort of pretending to understand the philosophical ideas she puts forth–there’s a lot of nodding and “mm-hmm”-ing and wondering if my facial expression belies my confusion. Anyway, at the risk of ignoring the plot for a moment–spoiler alert: Kate’s still in the beach cottage–let’s listen to Nemira tell us a bit about what she studies.

“My project is about how we represent perceptual properties–like colors, and sounds, tones, pitches, loudness, that sort of thing–and spatial properties, and how they’re more similar than people had thought. What I’m working on right now is an argument to the effect that one of the reasons people posit for thinking that we represent a space in which objects are located is to explain certain properties of spatial experience, right?”

I try to look like I understand. I obviously fail.

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Did You Hear? Song for Zula

New music! Sometimes old music. Music that we love!

What’s that you say? We need a “With or Without You” for a new generation? What a strangely specific thing to request… anyway, here you go. :)

I love how the slapback echo on the bass and snare drum are more than effects in this song, they are an integral part of the rhythm and feel of the whole thing. Very nicely arranged.

– Brook Reeder

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Sixteen Writers on the State of My Uterus

Selfish Shallow and Self-Absorbed

FA review tag

I began to seriously question whether or not I want to have kids one Wednesday at 9 p.m. while having my hair checked for lice. I was sitting in a black swivel chair, wearing a leopard-print hairdresser cape, as an older woman meticulously worked through my scalp with mint-scented conditioner, baking soda, and a fine-tooth comb.

For the past six months, since completing my MFA, I have been working as a nanny for a five-year-old girl to support my writing habit. The reason babysitters get paid as much as they do is because taking care of kids is hard. While my hours don’t come close to those of an actual parent, this sort of babysitting––working one-on-one with the same child, five days a week, for months––is much different than rolling in on Friday night, making popcorn, throwing on a movie, and then reading for three hours while the kids sleep. Instead, you get the whole range: highs, lows, joys, frustrations, emotional drain, and exposure to lice. Call it Parenting Lite. I’ve spent much time thinking about how, if writing while babysitting is challenging, could I ever be a writer and also an actual parent?

Meghan Daum has edited a collection of essays that addresses this topic: Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids. Everyone is supposed to want to have kids. If people choose not to have kids, they often feel compelled to come up with an excuse: they can’t afford it, they had a messed up childhood, they don’t like kids, or they aren’t able to have children. “When people ask why I don’t have kids,” writes Elliott Holt, “I sometimes say, ‘I’m forty; that ship has sailed.’ Or I say, ‘I’m focused on producing books, not children.’ Or, ‘I can’t afford to have a child on my own.’ That’s all true, it’s just not the full story.”

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When Movie Critics Attack

After the Tall Timber

Is it wrong to remember Renata Adler primarily for her bitter, public fights with Pauline Kael?

When Adler’s two brilliant works of semi-fiction—Speedboat at Pitch Dark—were re-released to great acclaim a couple of years ago, she seemed poised to go down in history as a master stylist in her own right. So I’m kind of afraid that the publication of this new collection of Adler’s nonfiction—After the Tall Timber—will set Adler’s legacy back. In all of its 528 pages, Adler’s pugnacious film criticism and her feud with Pauline Kael are clearly the most interesting parts—simply because everything else she reported on feels so… dated?

Adler brought her considerable intellect to bear on the pressing issues of her time, but the pressing issues of her time are pretty snooze-inducing, in retrospect. Robert Bork. Biafra. Jayson Blair. The Kenneth Starr report. There is plenty to say about these issues, and for the most part it has all been said, and we have all moved on. Apparently the 1970s to 1990s, when Adler wrote these pieces, were a great time to be a film critic, and an awfully dull time to extrapolate on American headline news.

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HITTING SHELVES #19: Gutshot by Amelia Gray

Gutshot

Gutshot by Amelia Gray comes out today!

It’s the fourth book from an absolute wizard of short fiction. Gray’s stories come in many different moods—fanciful, haunting, tender, bizarre—but each one is surprisingly brief and surprisingly excellent. In “Gutshot,” a man who’s been shot in the gut exclaims “Jesus Christ,” and Jesus Christ consoles him by pointing to a plane overhead that’s flying to Dallas. (It makes sense when you read it.) In “These Are the Fables,” two lovers flee the parking lot of a Dunkin’ Donuts that is burning down, and their eccentric journey becomes a tale that they tell their child. Each of Gray’s stories is like that—a blast of ice water thrown in your face.

We asked the author one question.

How are you celebrating the publication of Gutshot?

Amelia Gray: When Gutshot comes out, I’ll be in New York. It will be the day after the great Franklin Park Reading Series, where I’m reading with Colson Whitehead, Tobias Carroll, Wendy C. Ortiz and Natalie Eilbert. I will start the day by trotting my hungover ass down to Bergen Bagels for Brooklyn’s finest bagel, untoasted if I’m up early enough, which I almost certainly won’t be. I will eat the toasted bagel with serious gusto while standing by the high counter and then I will walk to a coffee shop with my computer, a ThinkPad which weighs approximately eight hundred pounds, maybe actually gaining as the years pass, like the words all get jammed up in its weakening battery. Its keys have the kind of strong action that makes me feel like I’m saying the right thing. Continue reading

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Killing Milk

Killing Milk

This parody of Bill O’Reilly’s best-selling history books (Killing Lincoln, Killing Kennedy, Killing Jesus, etc.) is “by Bill O’Reilly” via Courtney Bowman and Nicholas Bowman, from their new book Killing O’Reilly.

WARNING: In order to keep readers turning pages, I have written this chapter as a noir. But don’t let the style fool you. What you are about to read is unsanitized and uncompromising. The murder of Harvey Milk, America’s first gay[i] politician, was brutal, but the full story hasn’t been told. Until now.

It had all started at a club on Castro two years earlier.

Harvey Milk is leaning on the bar, nursing the butt of a Camel. His jaw juts out of his face like a cliffside, his chin looks like his face is making a fist, and his dimples are deadly sharp.

It’s the summer of 1976, the gayest year in San Francisco history, but Milk thinks it could be gayer. Milk used to be on the Board of Permit Appeals. Appealing straight permits and letting gay permits fly, Milk was the most powerful gay man in the world. But he wanted more. That’s why he quit and ran for office. A race he just lost. He drops the Joe in a dirty glass. Milk makes to pay his tab when a man walks up.

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