"I cannot live without books." -- Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Simon Reynolds' "Retromania"

I think "Retromania" is the best music book of the 21st Century so far.  But of course I am not including the great rock n' roll memoirs, but just talking about "music books" as a cultural thing.  And this is a very important book to me, with respect to how music fans react to pop in general.  If you are like me, a long term fan of pop music and its trends,  and you are middle-aged, one thing comes to mind.  There is nothing new happening in contemporary music.  In fact its a shocking fact.  If i get a buzz on something that's out there, more likely it came from the distant past - the 60's or 50's even.

Simon Reynolds doesn't have an answer for all of this, but he is the first writer of my generation to comment on how pop is just plain old.  And old is not really bad, but...its still old!  Reynolds even goes beyond music and into fashion as well.  His knowledge of pop culture is right on the dot, with respect to him focusing on various trends and readings on contemporary culture.  I also find his writings on the download culture fascinating.  And if you are a music fan, one can imagine that one is busy downloading as fast as they can, but more likely not hearing everything.  So therefore we're hording music instead of enjoying and thinking about music.  And is this a good thing?  Most say no, but habits are hard to break.

What i do know is that the shock of the new probably won't happen to me in my life time.  I remember certain records giving me that 'wow.  The Yardbirds double A single of "I'm a Man' and "Still I'm Sad."  The first Roxy Music album.  And the Kinks "Village Green Preservation Society."  The first listening of those records put me into the 'now.'   And that is what's missing in my listening life right now - the 'now' factor.

Friday, September 9, 2011

"Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot" by Jacques Tardi and Jean-Patrick Manchette

Superb.  Jacques Tardi adopted "The Prone Gunman" by Jean-Patrick Manchette and its splendid.  Without a doubt Manchette is my discovery of a new(ish) noir writer - and his stuff is pretty bleak, in a very French style of course.  Nevertheless the narrative is about a trained assassin who wants to quit his work, but alas can't.  He has a thing for Maria Callas and a tender heart - that is hidden from everyone, including himself.  But make no mistake he's a murderer. Tardi's illustrations are pretty perfect, and visually he tales the tale.  This is the second release in English of this dynamic dual.  One hopes that there are other titles lurking ahead or in one's drawer someplace in the latin Quarter.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Enrique Vila-Matas' "Never Any End To Paris"

A wonderful fine for me.  And to think of it, I only picked this book up because it had Paris in its title, and its published by New Directions.  Such a beautiful start, and the end is just as wonderful.   Enrique Vila-Matas' novel "Never Any End to Paris"  is for me a mediative and hysterical look at a writer and the writing Parisian writing world, that exists in real life, but also in one's imagination.
It reads like a memoir, and for all I know it is a memoir, but alas, one can see this as almost an early Jean-Luc Godard film.  Zillion of quotes, and literary & film references a go-go.  And that is part of he fun of this novel.
The main character is an obsessed Hemingway fan who may or may not be a talented writer.  And that in the end is not that important, what's the deal is the life one imagines.  Everyone from Boris Vian to Guy Debord come through these pages, and one can write an endless amount of footnotes if that was the need.  But alas, its a trip to a romantic notion of a writer drifting through Paris 20th century literary life.  It was sad to see this novel ending...

Saturday, September 3, 2011

"People" by Blexbolex

The cover of "People' drove me to this book. At first it looks like a great kids book - and technically it is, but alas, there is something being said here that is not obvious. Typically Blexbolex draws an image of a music "conductor" but then on the opposite page, with the same held baton he draws a "tyrant." So one" starts to make comparisons between the two pages. Another example is an illustration "party goers" and the opposite page is "hermit." And so forth.

There is something very Jacques Tati about it all. It maybe due to the retro look of the book, but also the commentary on the images where one thinks there would be no commentary. "People" serves many purposes. It can be an excellent book for a second language reader, or for those who need graphic design ideas, or..... there is the textural meaning what it means to be labeled and filed in a specific manner and form. Blexbolex is working on many levels here and this is an excellent book.