Did You Hear? Artifice

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

How great is this voice? Before I heard this, SOHN’s style was described to me as the lovechild of Justin Timberlake and Thom Yorke, and it’s not a bad description. I especially like the hook of this song, and the way it moves through he chord changes in these great syncopated groups of three. The music video is a bit melodramatic, so instead I’m posting a live performance of this track from a radio show in Seattle. It’s cool to see how they put this track together, and how they pull it off live! The album version is terrific as well, and you can hear excellent another track from “Tremors” here.

- Brook Reeder

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#GreatReviewsMatter: Your Daily Lack of Perspective

Waldman

There is so much injustice in the world. And maybe you’ve been too preoccupied with cops getting away with killing citizens or women being fired because they’re pregnant to realize that the Worst. Thing. Ever. just happened to novelist Ayelet Waldman. After getting a really great review in The New York Times for her book Love & Treasure, Waldman was then viciously and heartlessly snubbed by not being included in the Times 100 Notable Books of 2014.

Feel her pain:

Yes, journal writing seems like something she would excel at.

As you can tell by trying to click the links in the tweets above, Waldman has since deleted these and other tweets railing against her horrible treatment (our fuzzy top image is a mere screen-grab from this page, where you can read the full rant). So I guess we won’t be seeing a #GreatReviewsMatter hashtag.

As her tantrum subsided, she did acknowledge that “There are real problems in the world. I’m just going to suck it up and do something good for someone else.” At which point she heroically offered to donate a dollar to charity for every pre-order someone makes of her book.

I was going to pre-order it myself, but I heard it wasn’t very notable.

-Michael Moats

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Consider the Poet: C.D. Wright

CD Wright

“With what then will we hail the next ones, the ones who have to pick up around here long after we’ve been chewing the roots of dandelions?”

–C.D. Wright, Cooling Time: An American Poetry Vigil

A few years ago, my dear friend told me her professor advised her to stop writing poetry. At the time, we were making a zine together with the working title “I’m just like my shoes: complicated, beautiful, and leather.” This zine was to include my stories that I called poems placed next to her dress sketches. I imagined a zine-release party in which we read poems while people modeled her final creations.

Quit writing poetry, her professor advised.

While pursuing an MFA in visual art, my friend had started to earn some buzz for her paintings. After trying to incorporate poetry into her practice, her art professor told her to focus on this craft instead. He said she’d never be a good writer. This response devastated my friend, devastated, devastated my friend. It stopped our zine. Devastated, she couldn’t finish it. I considered his devastating response.

***

During a recent graduate poetry workshop at the University of New Orleans, Louisiana’s poet laureate looked at me, and asked, “Do you consider yourself a poet.”

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Authors Note

If you haven’t already dropped all your cash on a Black Friday or CyberMonday gift, today is your chance to really spend some money, and ostensibly support a good cause.  Christie’s — the auction house where bidding typically starts about where your student loans are right now — is teaming up with the PEN American Center for “First Edition/Second Thoughts,” a charity auction of first editions that have been recently re-read and annotated by their authors.

Junot Diaz, Robert Caro, Marilynne Robinson, Philip Roth, Lydia Davis and 70 other authors and artists have looked back at their old works and added hand-written comments in the margins and elsewhere. Don DeLillo’s contribution, a 1997 edition of Underworld, features “four hundred pages of DeLillo’s handwritten notes, providing anecdotes, playful commentary, and his recollections of writing the book,” according to the New Yorker. “I found it interesting to become curious about something that I myself had written,” said DeLillo to the magazine, which also noted that the author communicates via fax.

The concept really is a cool one, and is among the few instances in which getting a “signed first edition” actually adds something to your reading. Here’s hoping there will be an opportunity in the future to read the annotations without having to bid the kind of money that would give any reasonable person, well, second thoughts*.

*Sorry.

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Between the Black American and the African: Misunderstanding

This is Chapter 6 of Letter to Jimmy by French-speaking African writer Alain Mabanckou. Written on the twentieth anniversary of James Baldwin’s death, Letter to Jimmy is Mabanckou’s ode to his literary hero and an effort to place James Baldwin’s life in context within the greater African diaspora.

Alain Mabanckou

Alain Mabanckou

In France, you hope to make progress on your quest for self-discovery, far away from the limita­tions imposed on you by your own country. Such a search proves to be more complicated than you imagined. The experience of migration places you face to face with other cultures, other people, and leads you to reconsider your ideas. Leeming writes that, ironically, once settled in Europe, you are forced to admit that the “old” continent had not in any way changed your heritage, and that the transformation would never occur: you would remain a black man as you had been in New York. Europe helps you, at best, understand what it means to be a black man. The Harlem ghetto had aroused in you a “. . . sense of congestion, rather like the insistent, maddening, claustrophobic pounding in the skull that comes from trying to breathe in a very small room with all the win­dows shut.”

Does an end to this confinement affect not only your body, but also your soul? Does Europe provide you with enough room to breathe?

After systematic rejection in your own country, you have to brave at present another reality—withdrawing into yourself, even watching yourself disappear: “The American Negro in Paris is forced at last to exercise an undemocratic discrimination rarely practiced by Ameri­cans, that of judging his people, duck by duck, and distinguishing them one from another. Through this deliberate isolation, through lack of numbers, and above all through his own overwhelming need to be, as it were, forgotten, the American Negro in Paris is very nearly the invisible man.”

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Oh hey it’s Jack London. Shirtless. Outside my house.

photo

This billboard recently appeared on Clement Street in San Francisco.

That photo of Jack London (author of White Fang, The Call of the Wild, and “To Build a Fire”) is literally over 100 years old.

I have strong feelings about Jack London.

- Brian Hurley

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The Jumbotron Fallacy

Jumbotron

So I saw the new Hunger Games movie, Mockingjay, and it reminded me of something that really annoys me about movies and TV shows.

Here’s an example. Think of Dr. Mindy Lahiri, in The Mindy Project, storming into the doctor’s office at the end of an episode. She’s chasing her boyfriend, Dr. Danny Castellano, and they’re about to have a mild confrontation about their relationship that will resolve the arc of the episode. (This has happened on The Mindy Project more times than I can count.) As soon as they enter the doctor’s office, they’re squabbling with each other, and every single person in the room turns to watch them. Whether it’s their fellow doctors, or patients in the waiting room, or the UPS guy who needs someone to sign for a package, every single person in the scene will stop what they’re doing and watch the drama between Mindy and Danny unfold. Usually these people have no context for the drama, because it all began in private – for example, Mindy is upset at Danny because he won’t let her keep a toothbrush at his apartment, which she feels is indicative of his fear of commitment. But suddenly everyone in the background seems to understand what these two are fighting about, and they seem to think it’s the most gripping scene they have ever witnessed. The bystanders know what Mindy is talking about when she refers to Danny’s toothbrush by its adorable, private nickname – they chuckle when they hear it – and then everyone coos and pats the shoulder of the person next to them as the happy couple makes up. Half a second later, in unison, everyone returns to typing at their computers, rubbing a sore elbow, or signing for a package.

What the fuck, right?

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Did You Hear? Hard Times

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

Who is this guy, what microphone is he using, and how can I steal his voice like Ursula in The Little Mermaid? This song makes me think about how much a first impression matters: On his 2012 album Sundark and Riverlight, I first heard him arranging and performing in this acoustic, organic style. If I had come across any other album first, I would have had a significantly different frame of reference. (Case in point, here is the same song done… differently. Yeah, I’ll bet you didn’t expect that.) Any time I hear a new band, my expectations and comparisons are forever based on the first thing I hear, which means it’s always a bit strange to go further back into earlier work, like coming in at Kid A and then skipping back to Pablo Honey, or first hearing Abbey Road followed by Help!

- Brook Reeder

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