Monday, August 31, 2009

review: New Stories from the South 2009 edited by Madison Smartt Bell



New Stories from the South 2009

Edited by Madison Smartt Bell
Algonquin, 2009

Recently discussed what southern literature means with a non-literary person to speak, meaning he's a banker of some sort but likes reading and reads for pleasure. Imagine that. Anyway, we started talking about Clyde Edgerton. He kind of knows Clyde and he wanted to know what I thought about his work. I said I hadn't read it, but from my understanding he's a pretty classic Southern writer--all kind of rural and pastoral with a small town oddity attached to it. He said that was pretty much it. And I wondered aloud why "southern literature" doesn't include Atlanta gangs or Miami real estate deals or beach scenes from Florida and North Carolina*. "That's not the literary south," my friend said. And he's right. I feel that most southern literature is all about mosquitoes and high grass and slaves and plantations and moonshine and long-winding oak-covered paths where sweet tea and fried chicken is served at all hours of the day. Those are my stereotypes and as a person born and raised in the South so to speak, I usually avoid a "southern writer" like I avoid other southern "delicacies" like boiled peanuts and Gone With The Wind velvet movie posters--it's just not for me.



With both trepidation and hope do I enter into a book like
New Stories from The South. I want the stories there to be new, to be dangerous, to be funny, to be Southern but not stereotypically Southern--I want them to exist as the South really does exist, somewhere still hung up on its eccentricities, but moving forward in some exurban boom of suburban dream meets agrarian past. Threaten me with how our consumerist SUV culture is at war with our Christian heritage, how the funny Yankee accents in Charlotte and Atlanta are turning everything on their head, how college football influences business deals, how our temperate climate is making us the new-new frontier. It's a blessing and a curse that the South has such a defined literary lineage, no New England or Midwest or West Coast story series gets as much play as a series like this one.

Now with those desires out in the open, here's a disclaimer. Those stories may very well exist in this book and I wouldn't know it. I didn't read the whole book. I read most of it. I don't read many short story collections, but when I do it's a breath of fresh air, there's not reason I have to read the whole thing. The stories have been completed, I don't have to go on and on if I don't want to, especially not in an anthology. So those stories I so boldly clamor for may very well be here, but I didn't see them. That doesn't mean I didn't see some good stories however...oh, and another thing...I didn't read in chronological order. More freedom, more joy.

When I opened this and saw who some of the contributors were I immediately went for Kevin Wilson. I've just recently found Mr. Wilson, though there is a chance I've met him in an off-handed manner as it turns out we were both at the same university at one time--him a few years older than myself. But, it has not been a slow trickle, it has been a wave with Mr. Wilson as I found three of his stories within three or four days of one another and haven't seen any more since. This story, "No Joke, This is Going to Be Painful," was one of those and it was about an ice fight and I loved it. It's not necessarily a Southern story, though it does take place in Tennessee, but the setting doesn't matter--it's about a jealous sister who is between dead-end jobs and starts flirting around with a married man that she met at a party with her sister. Short stories have to have such a tight crucible, where every circumstance is perfectly aligned and Wilson makes a quirky, sarcastic, snot-nosed story that's funny and is what the South needs. Why should all witty sarcasm stay in Brooklyn I ask?

The same with Michael Knight's "The Grand Old Party," a funny story about adultery and the courage it takes to confront it. These guys both have fun, breezy styles, Southern but not; the type of South I like to read about. And they're both from Tennessee. Which reminds me: how does one define Southern for these anthologies? Some of these stories could take place anywhere, do not specifically mention the South, and some of the writers now live in New York or somewhere else non-Southern.

I did read some other stories, but let's get to the ones I did not. That one about horses, I didn't. Too serious, maybe? Jill McCorkle? No, I don't know why, I've read some blurbs I didn't like before. Geoff Wyss and his story "Child of God?" No reason, I just didn't open there. This whole anthology stuff is so messy. I chose Knight's story because it was in the Oxford American. That influenced me. I think I read Stephanie Soileau's because it was right after Wilson's and in a journal called Nimrod. Just being honest here.

There were also a lot of New Orleans stories in here, and this is the South's 9/11 of sorts, I guess. I'm surprised how much literature has come out about it, and more to come I'm sure...it's the perfect circumstance to set up a story and the fact that so many writers have passed through New Orleans, like New York, makes a huge difference as well. Writing the New Orleans story is becoming a rite of passage (if it wasn't already) for the modern Southern writer just like a New York story is for everybody else in the northeast and an L.A. story for everybody out west. I read at least two New Orleans stories here, though I think there's a few more and enjoyed Stephanie Dickinson's the best--her mix of fantasy, desperation and attitude sets her writing apart. The FEMA city is one of those bold New Orleans masterstrokes that will continue to serve the Southern writer for several more years to come, I'm sure.

The favorite for me is probably "Night Glow" by Holly Wilson. It has this crass dirt bike riding juvenile delinquent of sorts paired up with a young girl whose life consists of vegetable gardens, Quaker puppet shows, a neighborhood friend obsessed with gymnastics and a pen pal who lives far away that she corresponds with four times a year. Wilson pumps this story with so many passing details that it's hard to keep straight, though each one means something important and vital, and though the story washes over fairly quickly there's a lot of remnants left afterwards to mull and chew. Like a good story should do. This whole story could be a complicated novel, but Wilson does not worry about possibilities and just gives us what it is--which contains all the details that a modern Southern story should, including octopus tattoos and blind puppet masters. Those are the ingredients for success in a good Southern story, in case anyone is looking for a formula to rip off and copy and then make millions in a major motion picture.

But that's the beauty of this anthology, I don't have to read the whole thing to appreciate it. And others who find this and pick it up will certainly enjoy it for the stories I didn't read, perhaps they read the exact opposite of what I did. But be sure of this--the stories here are written well with engaging ideas about how to deal with this South. It's emerging, they're emerging, we are all emerging in trying to navigate the south in a new world and a new century. And New Stories from the South 2009 isn't an end to that search, but just an excellent guidepost along the way.

*One "southern" book I'm excited to read, but haven't yet is John Brandon's Arkansas which I understand contains some seedy Southern drug-abusing elements and might somehow fit my ideal. Not that drug abusing is my ideal. Um, this has gotten off-track...
More after the jump...

Lit Randomness: Hornby's new novel, Dan Chaon, Andromeda Klein & more




A review of Nick Hornby's new book, Juliet Naked: At The Guardian.

Frank Portman, of the punk group Mr. T Experience, has a new book out called
Andromeda Klein. His playlist is at Largehearted Boy.


Interv. w/ Dan Chaon, author of the new book,
Await Your Reply: At The Millions.

Interview with Megan Abbott: At 3 AM.



More after the jump...

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday Five: 5 Best New Orleans Shirts Not Involving Brad Pitt

Tomorrow is the 4th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina hitting New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Check all of our recent NOLA coverage here, including yesterday's piece about shirt company Rosa Loves. My recent t-shirt obsession ends on Monday. Promise.



A t-shirt recruiting Brad Pitt to run for mayor of New Orleans made quite a stir earlier this summer, but in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, many great t-shirt companies (and therefore, t-shirts) have popped up. Here's our list of favorite New Orleans t-shirts not involving Brad Pitt.





5.



Defend New Orleans
from New Urbanism (it's already a model). Defend New Orleans from others (you didn't care before, why do you care now?). Defend New Orleans is now a classic.

4.


Don't hate. Just respect. Okay, wait, yeah hate is okay. Find out more here.



3.


Better than the subway, better than the bus. My Ride.



2.


Iconic image for a tourist favorite. Everybody knows this. Order it here.



1. These lists kind of set me up to fail. Really, I think I could fill the list out with Dirty Coast shirts. Turducken. It sticks to you. Edwin Edwards. Metairie, it's safe here. 504 Ever. Some are hilarious, some are sad, all are appropriate. Really, these shirts are some of the best anywhere. But I loved the concept and execution of NOLA Gothic.


















More after the jump...

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Interview w/ Mike Fretto of Rosa Loves

Every Thursday in August, we've put something together about Hurricane Katrina as its 4th anniversary approaches on Aug. 29. First was a review of Zeitoun, then a review of A.D. New Orleans After The Deluge and then an interview with Leo McGovern, editor of Antigravity Magazine and a character in A.D. Today is an interview with Mike Fretto, creator and co-founder of the t-shirt company Rosa Loves. For more NOLA, read yesterday's review of the new album by the Generationals and check back for our Top 5 New Orleans T-shirts That Do Not Involve Brad Pitt.



Not only have the residents of New Orleans been profoundly affected by Hurricane Katrina, many others have volunteered their time and energy on short-term or long-term trips to help rebuild the city. Those people also came back changed. Mike Fretto's December 2005 trip to New Orleans inspired him to use his art and design skills to start Rosa Loves. Based in St. Augustine, FL, the concept behind Rosa Loves is simple: develop a t-shirt for a person or purpose, sell the shirt, give the money to that cause and then end the shirt's run when the goal is met.

Rosa Loves started in 2006 and their new line of shirts will be unveiled soon for projects like the fair-trade coffee company Grower's Alliance, the Kosovar refugee aid agency Balkan Sunflowers, and LEAP an international poverty relief NGO. There are also many other projects at Rosa Loves that haven't met their goal yet, such as this one.





Mike answered a few questions about the origins of Rosa Loves, their first project and how they design their shirts.


How did you start Rosa Loves? What was the inspiration behind it?

It was sort of inspired by a trip I took to New Orleans in December 2005 after Katrina. Back then, it was go and gut as many houses as you possibly can, which is all we were doing. I realized, “All we are doing is gutting people's houses, and it's making a huge difference for these families.”

It was like no big deal for us, we had 10 college students with crowbars. I had this idea of having a big impact, with such a small thing, with such a huge need, you're overwhelmed with the bigger need of the town. It was almost to the point that I was discouraged...we're helping this family, but there are so many other families that need help. Now that person (that we helped) can get ahead, now that person has more options.

That idea seemed so simple, and for some reason it took a little while for me to figure that out, that idea with doing such a small thing with the resources of the group. It wasn't a big deal for us, but it made a huge difference.

I just went home and it stayed me with a long time. I'm going to go back to work, and I'm designing logos, and I'm like this is lame. I was like how can I use my gifts? I'll use design to make t-shirts for specific things.

It's something small, but it's something that's going to make a bigger difference. A lot of people don't realize that we as middle class, or upper class, middle class, wherever we're at economically in our lives, there's always some way that we can help someone. I wanted people to be thinking in more tangible ways. I was just trying to encourage that.





Mike Fretto, co-founder of Rosa Loves

So what did you do next?

My friend Chris Lewis and I, we decided that we were going to do this. There were these guys in town (St. Augustine, FL) going around serving sandwiches to poor folks, and then they were serving sandwiches and had a Bible study. I went to check it out, and I met this woman named Glenda. Everyone was drawn to her, someone that was standing out from everyone else. She's disabled and has this walker all messed up...the wheels were all burned out. I don't know how she was using it, it was all jacked up.

I came to Chris and said “What if we help Glenda get a new walker?"

So you were going to make shirts for Glenda.

I sort of ran it by her, I told her about my idea, I told her we would like to represent her in a shirt. She didn't get it at first. And I came back with a little illustration and she was excited about it. Then when we brought her the walker, (Glenda) was freakin’ out, she was so excited, she's a really charismatic person, so it was cool. We knew she was going to be around, and we just surprised her. When that happened, I think that's when it really clicked in for us...it totally works. We met the goal, and it's makes a huge difference for her, and people know how she got it.

How do you choose your projects?

A couple of them we just found out, the other ones we've just been connected to through direct relationships with friends. The type of person that we want to focus on are people in poverty, whether they be in the States or elsewhere. People that needed it, and in a real financial need. Everything that we've been connected to is through friends. Obviously, we just can't accept anybody that we don't know. We want to look into that person, that need, and make sure that need is legit.

We want to do more local stuff, we haven't been good at staying true to that. There are more international stories that come to us, than there are local. We need to make more of an effort to find local stories. Our goal is to have if not equal amount, if not local stories, but to ratio of the international stories.




Do you do all the designs for your shirts? What's the inspiration for them?

It's tough, I thought maybe we should make these designs totally unrelated to the story. At first, I thought we should just make a cool, abstract design that people would like. But these need to be unique, and there's more to the shirt, than just the design, but then it becomes a piece of art. With (Rosa Loves) it's like, I want to make it cool, and I want to tell the story and i want to make it meaningful. What's been cool, is that people have come to me, and they're somewhat connected to that story, and they've had graphic design experience andI felt like it was more appropriate for that person to design it rather than me. I've been able to stand back, and not design every shirt. Now all of our shirts look different, so now, there's been a pattern of cool shirts that look different.

Inside of the shirt, we print a brief insert of the story. To find out more about the story, people can go to the web address. The concept of having the story inside is really special, no one knows it’s there except the person wearing the shirt. You’re carrying around the responsibility to tell people about it, but it’s sort of symbolic, like if you help someone you’re carrying around that when when you leave. It’s a really cool concept that has really worked.

What about the name Rosa Loves?

We just wanted to give it a real name. We wanted it to have this open-endedness to it. You get this sense of this mother, or this caring figure. We wanted it to be a name, we didn't want it to sound like another charity, it's something that we're still kind of defining, we just sort of jumped into it.






More after the jump...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

review: Con Law Generationals



Generationals
Con Law
Park The Van Records, 2009

Generationals: "When They Fight, They Fight"
Generationals: "Wildlife Sculpture"

No doubt that New Orleans has a rich musical tradition, unfortunately that tradition has rarely included good rock music. There are a lot of of awesome musicians in NOLA, but that rarely has translated into actual bands, rock bands that is. In fact it's kind of alarming to visit the Generationals MySpace page and have the words NEW ORLEANS rather than BROOKLYN or PORTLAND or SEATTLE scream out at you. But all that's alright, because this isn't NEW ORLEANS music really, not much bounce, nothing real jazzy, no CASH MONEY.

Ted Joyner and Grant Widner, the originators of Generationals, are formerly of the Baton Rouge -based The Eames Era. They are beneficiaries of fortuitous timing, running into Park The Van close to the same time that the once displaced label made their return to New Orleans. This is Park The Van's first New Orleans artist. And their faith is well-founded because Generationals have made a wonderful record. There is a vintage quality to
Con Law, something like 60s pop, classy grooves, soul and triumphant horn solos with the crackle of modern indie rock say-speak and some tasteful beats.



My first inclination was to liken them to Spoon (modern rock horns!), Talking Heads (soft new wave!) and Vampire Weekend (whimsical dance-pop!). I guess that's right, but I still feel like something is missing with those comparisons, namely a vintage sensibility with arrangements and melody.

Their own underdog hit "When They Fight, They Fight" sounds a lot different than some other tracks on the record, but it possesses an unshakeable soulful groove, snappy percussion, the "I love you baby" chorus...I really think The Drifters and Same Cooke would be proud. Generationals has that irresistible but infectious indifference to SERIOUS indie rock. Whatever the heck that means. So there's a freedom to clap, to dance, to shake a hip, to find a GROOVE and GET IT ON.




That hit is followed by the great "Our Time 2 Shine" which I overlooked for its breeziness after many repeats of "When They Fight, They Fight." But now I'm convinced the alternating vocals and it's descriptions of going out on the town make this song just as swell. Very swell, indeed. The perfect song for relaxing AFTER the groove has been gotten. More great horn parts, nice alternating vocals, very laid-back, enough to make any 60's R&B hit-making factory jealous.

With these two songs in particular, there is a less is more quality--each sound, instrument, each beat seems planned for maximum impact. Their timing and rhythm here is impeccable and it carries to "Wildlife Sculpture," "Bobby Beale" and "Exterior Street Day" in particular.

With a fully rounded out lineup, Generationals are planning to hit the road hard. And they have an incredible sound to sell. If anyone is still missing a soundtrack to the summer, listen to Generationals now.

More after the jump...

Lit Randomness: books and IKEA, why write, no working-class writers, Bill Tantric & more



Book lovers & IKEA:
At HTML Giant


Why I Write by Stephen Elliott: At The Rumpus

The urge to publish is a hunger. The drive to write and the drive to publish are virtually the same thing, at least for me. They both come from somewhere deep. Like the drive for sex, they can be explained but the explanation is always incomplete.


No writers are working-class: At American Fiction Notes (sorry...I forgot where I got this)

Crazy stories from heavy-metal writers: At Jacket Copy (h/t Largehearted)

Interv. w/ Bill Tantric, author of Tamper: At Lit Kicks

Tamper evolves into a classic good-time mystery/adventure that explores the legend of Amazing Stories writer Richard Shaver, and somehow ends with a printed diagram of a folded-paper fortune teller, the kind I remember playing with as a kid

More after the jump...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Swing South: San Fran's David Dondero



David Dondero: "Rothko Chapel"
David Dondero: "When the Heart Breaks Deep"


San Francisco-based (but former North Carolinian, so I'm told) David Dondero weaves these incredible narrative folk rock songs with the occasional incredible backing band that blasts Americana-rock to its gills. Songs about traveling, about life, about life traveling. The lyrics are as impressive as anything the guitar, the banjo or the harmonica does. Most of his songs concentrate on a place and time and they're all fiery, all compelling, all salt of the earth, Woody Guthrie reinvented.

Saw Dondero live maybe a year ago, and it was a great show. The unassuming Dondero just kind of wakes up once on stage, it's hard to listen closely to the words when the music is so awesome. My fave track off his 2007
Simple Love is "Mighty Mississippi," which is kind of set up like a honky-tonk punk song. Love this stuff. Vid & tour dates after the jump...





Aug 25
The Garage Charlottesville, Virginia

Aug 27
The Tipsy Teapot Greenville, North Carolina

Aug 28
Soapbox Laundrolounge Wilmington, North Carolina

Sep 2
Jammin Java Vienna, Virginia

Sep 3
Local 506 Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Sep 11
Sadlack’s Raleigh, North Carolina

More after the jump...

review: Firmament--Gray Young



Gray Young
Firmament
Self-Released, 2009

Gray Young: "Tilling The Wind"

It's a tough battle for an instrumental band. Sigur Ros and Explosions in the Sky are best known for having unpronounceable Icelandic names and providing introspection to Texas high school football.

But Gray Young definitely has a model. After seeing them for the first time I walked up to bassist Dan Grinder and asked, "Do you guys like Appleseed Cast?"
"Is it that obvious?" he asked. Gray Young in their early stages sounds like early Appleseed Cast, pre-
Low Level Owl days. Both have some crazy post-emo, post-punk/math rock something or another with scattered vocals. Both know how to turn it down and turn it up. So Gray Young picks up where Appleseed Cast left off with those early albums.



They rip a new one into the post-punk instrumental, usually (notice usually) more rock and roll than Mogwai or The Album Leaf. But these are not just instrumental emo-punk songs. The opening track, "Provenance" is a progressive rock song, with more nuanced bass and percussion lines than what is typically found in a hook-dependent song. It's obvious as a trio (Chas McKeown, guitar and Jason Dopko on drums along with Grinder on bass) that they have spent some time crafting their approach.

The band eventually settles on some wide-open dazed tracks that Explosions in The Sky are best known for, especially with a song like "Firmament" that rocks back and forth between an eerie guitar and high tinny cymbals before an all-out blast bringing the band back to some of their post-punk mindset.

Gray Young's own voice, so to speak, becomes most obvious in the song "Tilling the Wind," a track I've heard them play live several times that is more lighthearted than their other fare, but seems to capture the spirit of the band best. There's the steady guitar opener with the same few chords being played while Chas sings. Finally, the drums bring in a steady beat before Chas turns and launches into a bridge. It is arranged more like a typical rock song (not a bad thing), with its own defining edge. For the chorus, the band lets the music have the stage and the melody for this song is excellent. More stuff like this provides Gray Young with a calling card. The song is remembered for the music and is not just defined by the words that go along with them.
Though close to 4 minutes, "Tilling The Wind" seems too short; as if they only wanted to stun, not completely shock.

Another track, "Across the Loft" is like the companion piece to the opener "Provenance." Its head-nodding intro met with staccato cymbals picks up where the former left off--Gray Young knows to build and maximize song climaxes as well as anyone.

Some work will be needed for Gray Young to move past this album in the future. It seems that all of their songs kind of steal from one another--which creates a great milieu for this album, but it also becomes difficult to distinguish between the individual songs. This is a great soundtrack--if you like one song, you will like them all. That Gray Young is a trio never limits the band, but a point for the band to keep pushing themselves farther along.

Later I saw Gray Young open up for Appleseed Cast and the band didn't seem out of place there. Their set complemented exactly what Appleseed Cast did later on, but Appleseed Cast's work provided variety while maintaining the same ethos.
Firmament is a good album and I've come to listen to it regularly. But Gray Young will need to develop more of their own signature, they still lack one. There are some promising options, but they will have to further it beyond what they have now.
More after the jump...

Monday, August 24, 2009

Swing South: ATL's Today The Moon, Tomorrow The Sun



Today the Moon, Tomorrow the Sun: "Traits of a Traitor (Autonomic Remix)"

This is what I am saying with Atlanta's Today the Moon, Tomorrow the Sun: the minimalism is over. I've been listening to a lot of good folkish indie rock lately, and I'm ready for something with substance, something that I can't handle in all one listen, something with so many things going on aurally that I pass out from overstimulation.

Today The Moon, Tomorrow The Sun isn't quite that thick, but they do provide some alt-eletronica rock for all of us to appreciate. It's not all that dance-y, but there are some nice beats. Think Bloc Party. Then they slay with sped-up drone guitars, think Smashing Pumpkins and Garbage. So what we have here is party music for those that refuse to wear high heels except to their own wedding. Bouncy and jumpy with no sense of being club music. They've put out two EPs (most recently
The Lightning Exhibit) and and it looks like they are recording again soon.

So open up Photoshop. Pour on the layers. Find some bright colors, but only ones complementary on the color wheel. Add some noise. Some pixelation. Some blur. Find that one tool that makes everything kind of retro in a somewhat, but not too dated way. What you'll get is Today the Moon, Tomorrow the Sun. And find them on tour in the southeast.

Vid and tour dates after the jump...




Like It Or Not from today the moon, tomorrow the sun on Vimeo.



8/24 - Chapel Hill, NC @ The Cave
8/25 - Raleigh, NC @ Slim's Downtown
8/26 - Norfolk, Va. @ The Boot w/ Whispering Winds
8/27 - Wilmington, NC @ The Soapbox
8/28 - Myrtle Beach, SC @ Fresh Brewed Coffee House
8/29 - Charleston, SC @ Tin Roof
9/4 - Sandy Springs, Ga. @ North River Tavern
9/10 - Brooklyn, NY @ Club Europa Club w/ The Ropes
9/12 - New York, NY @ Resonator Magazine Presents show... (venue TBA)
9/16 - Auburn, Al. @ The Independent w/ The Bandar-Log
9/19 - Atlanta, Ga. @ Other Sound Festival
9/25 - Atlanta, Ga. @ Variety Playhouse w/ Here We Go Magic and The Walkmen
9/26 - Lexington, Ky. @ Buster's Billards w/ Varsovia


More after the jump...

Lit Randomness: Shard writing w/ John Bennett, the essential Charles Manson reading list, killed book jackets & more



Interv. w/ John Bennett, author of Tire Grabbers: At Word Riot.

I've become something of an Attila the Hun. I ransack genre. Although a novel can still slap me into line, somewhat. Back in the mid-90s something transpired inside me that was the result of the accumulation of a lifetime of the environment and upbringing you mentioned above, a melting down, a fusion, and the writing began coming out of me in a lava flow which continues to this day. I call this Shard writing.
The essential Charles Manson reading list: At Bookforum.



Interv. w/ Stephanie Johnson, One of These Things Is Not Like the Others: At HTMLGiant.

Killed book jackets & covers: At Print (h/t Vol. 1 Brooklyn)

You're a Good Man, Gregor Brown. Parody comics w/ R. Sikoryak: At Book Bench.

More after the jump...

Friday, August 21, 2009

Swing South: BKLYN's The Weight



The Weight "A Day In The Sun"

http://www.myspace.com/theweightnyc


It kind of cracks me up the publicity The Weight has picked up this past year. I guess the band has banked on the fact that they play AMERICANA in NEW YORK CITY...yeah, sounds exactly like those salsa commercials from a few years ago. But what didn't work in salsa's favor works for The Weight. They make good alt-country/Americana and they happen to now live in the Big Apple. So they've kind of capitalized on the uptick in interest in country-rock-americana-alt-country while also living in the hipster capital of the world.

What makes it more frustrating is the notoriety isn't all undeserved. Though I do think somebody like Lucero or American Aquarium is better, The Weight still have some good music. Their album "Are Men" is out now, and they're hitting the road where they belong--down South. Southeast tour dates & vid after the jump...



The Weight @ CMJ 2008 from tinymixtapes on Vimeo.



8/21 - Asheville, NC @ The Rocket Room
8/22 - Atlanta, NC @ The Earl
8/23 - Chattanooga @ JJ's Bohemia
8/24 - Nashville, TN @ Springwater
8/25 - Little Rock, AR @ Whitewater Tavern


More after the jump...

Friday Five: 5 Worst Required Reading Books



School is back in session. Or close to it at least. Now's the time that English teachers pull out pop quizzes and try to lead discussions on the summer's required reading. Please. Why didn't they just break all your new crayons and mock you for having a He-Man lunchbox? Oh, they did that too? Well, don't know what to tell you except to check out our 5 worst required reading books after the jump...

5. Passage to India by E.M. Forster

"You can't remember why books are so boring...just that they are." Co-worker Allison

(Tie) 4. Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway & The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthone.



"Boring." Co-worker Bill



"Snoozefest." Co-worker Bill


3.
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens



We all knew decapitation was bad, just not this bad.

2.
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe



"Nothing relates to American high school freshmen quite like the struggles of Okonkwo the African tribesman an the Protestant missionaries who threaten his culture. And there were no Cliffs Notes." My friend, Daniel

1. Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott



Multi-colored highlighters, chainmail making lessons and my Andre the Giant impersonator of a teacher giving sword fighting lessons for two months.

Any more to add?
More after the jump...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Interv. w/ Leo McGovern of Antigravity and A.D. New Orleans After The Deluge

Every Thursday in August, we're trying to put something together about Hurricane Katrina as its 4th anniversary is upon us. First was a review of Zeitoun, then a review of A.D. New Orleans After The Deluge and today an interview with Leo McGovern, editor of Antigravity Magazine and a character in A.D.


Leo McGovern

Even if Leo McGovern was not in a graphic novel about Hurricane Katrina, he'd deserve a nice Q&A on this website anyway. He's consistently put out Antigravity (August ish features The Generationals) for the past five years, a New Orleans music zine/magazine and community resource highlighting what's cool about south Louisiana. His staff in that time has some nice cred, as they've moved on to larger national music mags, regional pubs or to start their own blogs that rhyme with "check light." (That was a full disclosure reference, in case you haven't figured it out).

But Leo is in A.D. New Orleans After The Deluge, the new graphic novel by Josh Neufeld about Hurricane Katrina out now on Pantheon. It's kind of a cool honor for Leo since he's a huge comic book collector. Below, Leo answers a few questions about the book, Antigravity and Hurricane Katrina. Also, the Antigravity website features some before and after photos of Leo's house as well as his full sked of book release fun.






How'd you get connected with Josh Neufeld for this project? Were you already familiar or aware of his previous work?


Shortly after Katrina, my then-fiance and I returned to New Orleans, salvaged what little we could from our Mid-City apartment and then, because my parents' house had very little damage, began a nine-month stay in my childhood bedroom, about fifteen minutes outside of New Orleans. September and October of 2005 were spent helping friends get their houses or businesses in order and, upon the suggestion of a friend, I began a blog to catalog our story and all of the photos we'd take and experiences we had venturing into the city.

In October 2005, I saw, on a comics news website, that Josh Neufeld (whose work I knew from American Splendor and Titans of Finance, a book he drew for Rob Walker, who lived in New Orleans for awhile) was in Biloxi doing a stint with the Red Cross, and he was writing about his experiences on LiveJournal. I read that he and a few Red Cross colleagues were planning a trip to New Orleans, as one of them had a family home he wanted to check on, so I got in touch and offered to act as a tour guide. We actually didn't meet at that time (the opportunity to re-start Antigravity suddenly came up and I was on a pressing deadline while Josh was here), but Josh remembered me when A.D. began development and here we are.

What was the process like for getting him your story? And did you know any of the other featured characters before work began on the web comic?

My part of that process was probably the easiest of all the "characters'", due to all the blogging I'd done. A lot of my story in the book comes directly from what I wrote in September 2005. After Michelle and I agreed to be in the comic, Josh and Larry Smith (whose website SMITH published the first version of A.D. as a serial webcomic) came to New Orleans in early 2007 and interviewed us about specifics, like how we felt about certain personal things appearing in the comic. While he was working on the comic, Josh would call if he had a question or needed reference for something. I imagine the interview process with everyone else was much more in-depth.

I didn't know any of the other "characters" before A.D., though I probably did see Abbas at the Calhoun Superette by chance, never realizing we'd both be featured in the same book.





Do you view the finished version as accurate? Or is it more of a fictionalized tale in the "based on a true story" mold?

I think it's as true as any adaptation of a real-life story can be. One thing about Katrina is you don't have to exaggerate to create emotional tension or to find a story—there are plenty of emotions built in and there's literally a story in every flooded house and in every person who lives in New Orleans. Is it the whole story? There's no way any book or movie could contain the entirety of Katrina, but A.D. succeeds in what it set out to do, and that's expressing the true stories of a variety of real New Orleanians who span gender, class, religion and race.

In reading the comic and the book, in a couple of places your character is saying a couple of foreboding statements, such as about the fate of your comics and asking Michelle if she was packing enough clothes. Were you fairly concerned about Katrina when it was coming? Or did Neufeld take some creative liberties there?

We weren't really worried about it until the weekend! On the 27th, I was still working on finishing the September edition of Antigravity and we didn't decide to leave until later that night (we finally left New Orleans in the early morning of the 28th). We were definitely conflicted as to how bad we thought it'd be, hence the hemming and hawing over how to pack clothes and whatnot. My "Screw it. If it floods, a foot here or there won't make a difference" line is something I specifically remember saying while debating whether or not to stack boxes of comics on a table.

Some piece of me must have known how things would turn out, though, because I took pictures of our apartment before we left—something I'd never done when evacuating for a hurricane. It was pretty surreal when, after we'd gone into our apartment following the flood, we could put the before and after pictures side by side.

What's the weirdest/oddest thing about seeing yourself in a comic & graphic novel?


For some reason, characters awkwardly sweating in indie comics has always been something I've empathized with. It was a great moment when I saw myself sweating in Chapter 1 and though, "Hey, now I'm a sweaty guy in a comic!" It's weird, I admit.

Antigravity just turned 5. Are you doing much differently with the magazine after the storm? How has the magazine's role in the community been any different since Katrina?

Antigravity is doing as well as it ever has. We're not rolling in dough or anything like that, but we can pay our printing bills, pay a small freelance rate (which is something we couldn't do a few years ago) and I can pick up a bar tab every once in awhile. I still have a day job, but quitting that was never really the point anyway. If anything, AG has become even more local-centric since 2005, and also more varied in terms of content. We cover local fashion, comics, new bands, old bands—it's really an exercise at shining a light on artists we care about, regardless of whether they fit in some "editorial mandate." As far as its role in the community, we've expanded our Alternative Media Expo (which features over 100 local artists in a convention-style event), but most importantly we're still publishing, and I hope by sticking around we give many local artists the feeling that they're being acknowledged in a way traditional newspapers and media outlets can't.


More after the jump...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

mp3s: Bazan, The Rural Alberta Advantage, Nakatomi Plaza & more




David Bazan: "Bless This Mess"

The new song "Bless This Mess" from David Bazan has made the rounds, but it deserves to make the rounds again. My favorite Pedro album was
Control and this seems to have a bit of that dismal electronic-inspired feel. Looking forward to the full album, Curse Your Branches, out later this fall from Barsuk. More mp3's after the jump...

Nakatomi Plaza: "The Finish Line"


The Opposite Sex: "Frozen Heart/Frozen Mind"


Volcano Choir: "Island, IS"


The Rural Alberta Advantage: "Don't Haunt This Place"


Leo Blais "Sincerity"





More after the jump...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Lit Randomness: Free books on NYC subways, Chunklet's Henry Owings, DFW's last book & the obligatory/mandatory Dave Eggers link




Free books on NYC subway=happy journalist:
At Huffington Post (h/t Maud Newton's twitter)

David Foster Wallace's unfinished book: summarized at The Rumpus.

Chunklet's Henry Owings says music writing sucks, and he probably hates this blog w/o ever having seen it: At Jacket Copy.

The obligatory/mandatory Dave Eggers link (two of them): About Where the Wild Things Are At Vol. 1 Brooklyn and more about Zeitoun at GOATMILK.
Let's see how much longer this lasts. More after the jump...

Pop Prick: Dierks Bentley "Sideways"

Pop Prick is by Josh Rank. He can be found at: www.joshrank.blogspot.com.

Dierks Bentley “Sideways”
The literary genius of Dierks Bentley




This Top 40 country song follows in the same vein of such literary greats like James Joyce, Virginia Woolfe, and William Faulkner. It’s rare to find a contemporary song that employs the classic writing device of “stream of consciousness” narrative.

“Hey girl, what’s your name?

It’s so loud in here I can’t hear a thing

But I sure do like your style

And I can see you came to rock

In your blue jeans and white tank top

Man, that look drives me wild”


It’s almost as if he wrote the lyrics without thinking about them at all. As if he were walking through a honky-tonk bar, saw a pretty little thing, and spoke exactly what he was thinking into a teletype.




It’s lyric writing like this that the world of music doesn’t see enough of. People spend too much time paying attention to rhyme, content, and general aesthetic pleasantness. Bentley may be at the forefront of a new movement in music.

After passing some time rambling, the song stumbles upon a few rhymes. This is where the song veers off course. It should have just stuck to lyrics that any drunk hillbilly could come up with after pouring a jug of moonshine down his throat so the genius would not be lost. However. Bentley tries to force some rhymes:

“And it’s, hey now, here we go

DJ don’t play nothing slow

Keep those girls out on the floor

Gotta make them want to come back for more”


He somehow manages to keep the hillbilly simplicity while including rhyming words. This is commendable for the simple fact that it still has mass appeal to the country community while employing some literary technique. This is why the song has managed the acclaim it has.

I, however, like to focus on the more unique aspects of the song. All the pretty rhymes overshadow, but don’t erase the stream-of-consciousness beauty.

“Ain’t no need to fight

Y’all take the redneck stuff outside

That’s what parking lots are for”


Beautiful. And he brings it back to the moonshine thought pattern by including two words that aren’t even words and a double negative. Jeff Foxworthy would be proud.

Bentley may seem like a dumbass who would fail a seventh grade English class, but that’s an image he's created just to sell records. His true love for classic literature pokes through in the subtle devices he uses to write his music. Now if only he could find a way to write about something more than drunk girls at a bar, he might gain the recognition he deserves in the literary community.

More after the jump...

Monday, August 17, 2009

review: Nathan Oliver--Cloud Animals



Nathan Oliver
Cloud Animals
Pox World Empire, 2009

Nathan Oliver: "French Press"


Cloud Animals is a mix of folk, modern rock, and synth goodness to make a diverse palette of selections. There are some uneven parts here, many of the songs don't really resemble the one that came before it. But they make a whole. A great whole.

The opener carnivalesque "Icicles for Fingers" has this fanciful plucky swing vibe, the bass line keeps its strong and the vocals from Nathan White maintain an edge of playfulness and sarcastic danger. Really, it's an interesting track to include in the context of the rest of the album--it's crazy device is never repeated nor really even hinted at. And, well, it's chilling. But the rest of the album has thrills, spills and melancholia to settle everyone down.


Because the second track
"Under Lock and Key" launches into driving modern rock before ceding to more typical lighthearted folk in "French Press" complete with a high-strung chorus and high-key guitar chords. Nathan Oliver tries on different skins with these songs, moving around a bit to find the best fit. Maybe part of it is that the band lineup changes and essentially revolves around Nathan White. He's got varied tastes and is trying them all out.

Further dalliances include my two favorite tracks: "Playground Lies" and "Red Panda." Deeper grooves with some electric flourishes dashed over them. "Playground Lies" has this wide open bridge and chorus, grandiose in its scale and scope with this heartland naivete, before moving into brooders in "A Dark History" and "Alone in a Fog," taking their own garage rock/shoegaze acoustic plunge. But with all these, there does seems to be some folk-sian narrative, nothing here is churned out completely as a single of the week.

All of that is almost thrown out the window, with "Red Panda" though. It's got this fluid danceable breakdown, that if the song were in isolation, would make indie-rock crushes like The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Vivian Girls blush. But really, it's only one song, the most frustrating, the most appealing, the most out of left-field that just proves that Cloud Animals really is a carnival.

I have no doubt that Nathan Oliver could throw a bunch of those dance hits together, stack up the indie accolades and then take a bow. But it's only one skin, and Nathan Oliver is still moving through them, like a confused chameleon who happens to look good at whatever is tried on.

But it's okay, Nathan Oliver. We're all willing to wait and grow and laugh and find out with you. Keep doing your thing. We've got all of Cloud Animals to keep us company.

For more Nathan Oliver, check out our list of 5 More North Carolina Bands You Should Hear Now.

More after the jump...

Lit Randomness: Mad Men reading list, new lit mags, the mandatory/obligatory Dave Eggers link & more



The Mad Men Reading List: At The Daily Beast.
Yes, it includes Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, but some other not so obvious ones as well (h/t Bookforum).

Review of the new book about Gigposters.com: At PopMatters.
The best:
No matter how many times one opens the book there is always something new to see, a shape or line that stands out. The posters seem to change with your mood, or the weather, the images evoking different spirits, stories, ideas. The best ones have nothing apparently in common with their subjects.
Two new lit mags that do not have "Electric" in their names: The Collagist and Staccato Fiction.
On a separate note, Kevin Wilson has a piece in The Collagist. I have read about three or four of his stories in the past week, all in different locations. And it all started w/ my alumni magazine. I am an unintentional stalker of Kevin Wilson (that is assuming that all of the instances I have recently read Kevin Wilson fiction is the same Kevin Wilson. I may just be an unintentional stalker of multiple short story writers named "Kevin Wilson.")

A totally honest confession of a desire to gain fame by writing a book: At The Nervous Breakdown.

The Authors Guild and Google: At The Rumpus.

Mandatory/Obligatory Dave Eggers link: At The Washington Post (h/t Largehearted)
Take that Vol. 1 Brooklyn!






More after the jump...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Southern Swing: The Fiery Furnaces and The White Rabbits



How is a band making a political statement news? Has Pitchfork heard of freaking punk rock? And, you know, good old-fashioned angst? Whether you agree or not with whatever The Fiery Furnaces have to say about healthcare or doctors or Obama or whomever, at least they're using their platform for something.
Why not make sure the world knows that all of us true grandmother-loving, pro-American, ‘young people’ haven’t given up our political involvement?

They think that us ‘young people’ (so to speak…) don’t care anymore, you know. That we have we have retreated to our caves, or communes, or moms’ basements, or new condos in the 11222, or… whatevs.

Show them that it’s not true! (And there’s a good chance that you don’t have health insurance to begin with…..)

Why not, ask the Furnaces? Once art and politics, religion and other issues seemed to go hand-in-hand, now they seem to go foot-in-mouth. Either everybody is too scared to say something and just want to focus on their "art" and craft another quirky lyric about a failed relationship or something. Or nobody knows anything anymore. I'll go with the latter.

Oh yeah, and The Fiery Furnaces are a playing a host of dates in the South in support of I'm Going Away, along with White Rabbits who also have their own excellent album out. Dates and vids after the jump...






The Fiery Furnaces/White Rabbits Tour Dates

8/16 RICHMOND, VA / The National w/ White Rabbits

8/17 CARRBORO, NC / Cat’s Cradle w/ White Rabbits

8/18 CHARLOTTE, NC / Visulite Theatre w/ White Rabbits

8/19 NASHVILLE, TN / Mercy Lounge w/ White Rabbits

8/20 ATLANTA, GA / Variety Playhouse w/ White Rabbits

8/21 BIRMINGHAM, AL / Bottletree w/ White Rabbits

8/22 TAMPA, FL / The Orpheum

8/23 ORLANDO, FL / The Social w/ White Rabbits

8/25 ASHEVILLE, NC / The Grey Eagle w/ White Rabbits

8/26 CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA / Fry’s Spring Beach Club w/ White Rabbits




More after the jump...

Friday Five: 5 More North Carolina Bands You Should Hear Right Now



We goodnaturedly went back and forth with the guys at Earfarm for a couple of days about their choices for the top North Carolina bands you should hear right now. The basic criteria seemed to be bands generally ignored in the popular indie rock press (i.e. not featured in Spin or on semi-huge national indie rock tours). In our opinion, there were some pretty glaring omissions.

And there are a few more glaring omissions off our list. This opportunity coincided nicely with a new Friday list feature we wanted to start, called the Friday Five.


So here's 5 more North Carolina bands you should hear right now...


5. The Never



The Never: "Cavity"

Good friends and part of the Trekky family with Lost in the Trees, their pure chamber pop-rock and fanciful art is sensational. Think Mae, The Beatles and Tim Burton.


4. Nathan Oliver




Nathan Oliver: "Icicles For Fingers"


Composed of Nathan White and his merry band of roving pranksters, alt-grunge beats meets folk with an electric twist. Their newest is
Cloud Animals and it's a gem. I'll get a review up one day, I swear.

3. Dylan Gilbert



Dylan Gilbert: "No Mystery"

Earnest solo indie rock full of experimentation and introspection from somewhere other than the Triangle. Dylan once told me he wrote over 100 songs for his last album, The Quiet Life. He picked 14 great ones. Similar to Bright Eyes with a Ryan Adams kick. He probably hates those comparisons.

2. I Was Totally Destroying It



I Was Totally Destroying It: "The Witch Riding Your Back"

Now come the serious contenders. Great pop punk rock, that goes beyond silly Alternative Press cliches. "To Nomenclature" and "Done Waiting" are so hook-laden and catchy the band might as well mount me on the wall, because I'm caught up with their bouncy effortless rhythms. It's made me respect pop again. And
Horror Vaccui promises to bring more of the same greatness.

1. Red Collar




Red Collar: "Pilgrim"

I guess after the comments over at EarFarm, this isn't totally unexpected. I've been a huge fan since their EP got pressed in my hands--a blend of Bruce Springsteen and Fugazi and The Hold Steady with poignant working-class reflection. There is no skippable material on Pilgrim, just when you think they've topped out with "Communter," "Tools" and "Rust Belt Heart" in the middle here comes "Hands Up" and "Used Guitars." If you've never been inspired by a rock and roll show, then you've never been to see Red Collar. They've caught lightning in a bottle with
Pilgrim--its a captivating and danceable and an ultimately hopeful mix of nostalgia and the American dream. Dare I say a modern classic? I will gladly dare.

More after the jump...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

review: A.D. New Orleans After the Deluge by Josh Neufeld



Every Thursday in August, we're featuring something about Hurricane Katrina. The storm hit New Orleans and the Gulf Coast of Mississippi four years ago, on Aug. 29, 2005. Last week, we reviewed Zeitoun by Dave Eggers. For this week, here's a review of A.D. New Orleans After The Deluge.

A.D. New Orleans After The Deluge
by Josh Neufeld
Pantheon Books, 2009

To my knowledge, this is the first major graphic novel work about Hurricane Katrina to emerge, and it first appeared as part of an ongoing web-comic on Smith Mag. But the subject matter is primarily visual--that's why Spike Lee's When the Levees Broke is more powerful than Jed Horne or Douglas Brinkley's excellent accounts. But this disaster had incredible access. TV cameras couldn't make it inside the World Trade Center. Columbine happened and then it was over with small snatches of video evidence.

But this event unfolded on the outside over several days, people struggling to get out into the open rather than to slink and hide inside the privacy of their homes. These people needed to be seen, needed to be on television, needed to be heard, needed to be saved. With those visuals still in our collective conscience, Hurricane Katrina and its complicated aftermath is great for a graphic novel.


Wow, what a challenge. Maus set the bar incredibly high for those that wade in after it. Neufeld, of American Splendor fame, chooses to work only in a single color for sets of panels, veering from dull neon yellow to mauve, to light green. It's a subtle reminder that all of the stories are told through rose-colored glasses, views marred by individuals. It also shows the limited options that each character has at their disposal. Though most pages use three to four panels to move the story, Neufeld uses large single pages and double trucks to display the power of nature. A swirling toilet bowl mirrors the gathering storm, a smoky black and yellow colored storm cloud looks like a nuclear bomb, Abbas and Darnell through the dark sludge of mud along the street after Abbas' store had been overwhelmed with water.

The individual story is fascinating (such as in Zeitoun), but that limited view is like eating too much chocolate cake--too much of it leaves deficiencies.
But to switch to generalities loses the narrative story, the history books already do that. So Neufeld chooses five people to make his snapshot, five from different neighborhoods with different ethnicities who make different choices about how to deal with the storm. Not too many, not too few, just enough. Their hardships in animated form do not detract from the desperation in the situation, but create and allow visual images for where the cameras could not go and could not capture.


(From Smith Magazine)

Neufeld uses his own incredible visual imagination and perspective to demonstrate those in an intimate and personal way, such as Denise falling headfirst at the reader as the storm befalls her house. At the time of the event, she stared at a wall or some other inanimate object, but here she stares at us, the reader and we are as incapable of helping her now as we were then.

But now, thanks to Neufeld, we can empathize. We see her perspective.
Some of the stories gets the short end of the stick. The doctor in the French Quarter who is never under any sort of threat gets little ink--his story is true and honest and needs to be told--like how the French Quarter experienced minimal damage--if only to stand in contrast to the more turbulent tale of Denise, who leaves from a crowded hospital, only to have her roof fall in and then eventually end up at the storied Convention Center.

Neufeld tries to include some of the actual realities and small successes--Leo offers foreboding warnings about the fate of his comic books and other possessions, him and Michelle rejoice when the FEMA checks come. Their good fortune at the ATM and lounging at a friend's house is in stark contrast to Abbas and Darnell sleeping on a roof. Though those are subtle jabs at the politics, in a few places the characters overexplain "thugs looting" for water to give to others versus "police getting supplies" to take care of themselves.

Of course, Neufeld is justified--those points were lost on the media the first time around, so he makes sure everybody gets it this time.
The monochromatic scenes change once the characters return and start to rebuild their lives--they are highlighted in a different color than their surroundings, marked as a special breed in a special class--the displaced, the refugees, the returnees to New Orleans giving and sharing their stories after losing so much. In A.D., Neufeld uses an expressive medium to compensate for the feelings that words often miss--the significance of destruction, the loneliness, the frustration at an injust system. Though A.D. is only a glimpse into all of those, it's really all that's needed.
More after the jump...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

review: Sunlight at Midnight, Darkness at Noon



Sunlight at Midnight, Darkness at Noon

by Hosho McCreesh and Christopher Cunningham
Edited by Jason Behrends
Orange Alert Press, 2009

I am bloody and world-weary from this book, beat up not from its opposition, but from its sheer determination. It got me down, it brought me up, it scraped my knees, made my brain bleed. Sunlight at Midnight, Darkness at Noon is the figurative war of ideas, told in a mad, mad, mad rush of typewritten missives. I wanted to read it in one frantic stand, all in a one five, six, seven hour sitting on my porch in the middle of summer with only coffee and candy bars to understand its blistering pace. I couldn't do it.

And I don't see how they did it, how Christopher Cunningham and Hosho McCreesh were able to come up with these grand narratives on almost a daily basis in letters to one another. Their well of critical, observational and descriptive powers is deep. They shamed me. They are probably disappointed that I even attempt this "writing" thing--my greatest efforts seem like mere trifle to their castoff correspondence.

In their symbiotic relationship, Cunningham and McCreesh veer between consumerism to war politics to the blandness of American culture. Written in letters seven years ago, some of their complaints are now all too familiar--not their fault, but their outrage about the Patriot Act et. al. will poke the embers of the minds that read it in 2009. They give these old arguments a fresh urgency again, they remind why outrage is needed and necessary.

Their correspondence is rarely catch-up about life, the significant other, the cats, the dogs. These are not friendly letters (at least the ones printed). These are not essays, but screeds. Like scripture, in some places. Dogears, extra bookmarks and underlined sentences fill my copy. Cunningham and McCreesh ebb and flow, a flux that sometimes makes their voices indistinguishable. But somewhere along the line I became a Cunningham man over McCreesh--his Southern views inflected with hope amidst suburban slog, compared to McCreesh's mostly Southwestern (and sometimes Swiss) appreciation of nature.

Perhaps my favorite part is when Cunningham fears that after a drought of correspondence from McCreesh that he has become ill, dead, missing whatever. Not that I think Cunningham seriously believed it, but he turned the phrase "You better not be dead, motherf*****" into a refrain as he described the loneliness of a mid-summer June day:

"sitting here in the stillborn night of far off screams and chained dogs pleading for mercy in the hot dark everywhere. bass drums always echo between houses built too close together, yards high with uncut summer grass. I hear water sloshing in old iron pipes rusting below my feet in the subterranean crawlspace where the multitude of spiders plot their eventual invasion..."
That is the style, the place, the time fraught with concern about what war-time politics might bring. That is my only complaint, I guess, sometimes the heavy-handed political preaching wore on for a few too many pages in the middle, but the overall effect of their descriptive style complemented with plenty of "yr" and "&" to the backbeat of Miles Davis on the failings, successes, generosity (or lack thereof) in America makes me use a phrase I don't want to, but need to--they are beat, "beat to their soul", embodying it in the truest form, not in the way that culture has taken it, monopolized it, corrupted it. Cunningham and McCreesh are the Beats for the modern day--they've created a potent political and cultural critique mixed with a shorthand style and bopsody pace all their own.


More after the jump...
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