Tuesday, June 30, 2015

You're Not Much Use to Anyone - Book Review

Published July 2014
You're Not Much Use to Anyone - David Shapiro A-
A Blogger's Life in New York

David Shapiro's semi-autobiographical novel, You're Not Much Use to Anyone, is like a big screen version of Seinfeld directed by Woody Allen with music by Belle and Sebastian. David Shapiro first gained national attention for starting a blog called "Pitchfork Reviews Reviews." In his novel, the fictional character (also named David) gained national attention for starting a blog called "Pitchfork Reviews Reviews." I like this novel because it's about subjects I'm interested in (blogging and music) and it reminds me of things I love (Seinfeld and Woody Allen). But, the fact that it's based on the author's real life/real events is intriguing. It motivated me to dig deeper after finishing the book. The more I learned about the real David Shapiro, the more I admired the novel. In a Vice interview last year Shapiro admits, "I feel guilty about a lot of stuff because I don't act in a way that's considerate of other people all the time. A friend who a character is based on said I didn't sign up for this, meaning she didn't ask to be the basis for a fictional character who does things she didn't do. And I wonder how I would feel if someone were to write about me in the way that I did about other people."

In the "fictional" story, David is fresh out of college and wondering what to do next. He gets a crappy office job to appease his parents. He meets a girl, he loses a girl, he meets another girl. He starts "Pitchfork Reviews Reviews" via his Blackberry. Not much else happens, but it's the way those things unfolded that made Shapiro's You're Not Much Use to Anyone engrossing. This novel won't blow anyone away. It's a quick and uncomplicated read about a small window of time in a young man's life- a niche novel, or dare I say a guilty pleasure. And I suspect that the David character might drive many readers crazy. He's whiny, self-involved, and annoyingly smart- the kind of guy who could have it all, but he's too blinded by insecurity and lacks enough life experience to embrace the possibilities. 

Recommended to music geeks who read Pitchfork and those who think life/love is a mixtape.

Check out the entire Vice interview by Zach Sokol below

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Death of Bunny Munro - Book Review

The Death of Bunny Munro - Nick Cave B
A Menace to Society
Published Sept 2009
Nick Cave is a fascinating man, music icon and literary rock star. His second novel, The Death of Bunny Munro, is deviant, dark and hypersexual. I loved the sinister tone of the writing, carefully mixed with black comedy. The protagonist, Bunny Munro, is a traveling salesman and world class cocksman. He tries to f**k nearly every woman he meets and his indiscretion has driven his wife to suicide. The story takes off when our bewildered anti-hero takes his nine-year-old son on a hellish road trip, while he attempts to sell beauty products. It's all very Twilight Zone/David Lynch-esque. Then there is the Kylie Minogue and Avril Lavigne fetish thing. I had to laugh when I read (via RollingStone.com) Cave explaining the correlation between his novel and Minogue's attention grabbing "Spinning Around" music video, "Kylie's hot pants were all the tabloids could talk about. I think she has to take a certain responsibility for this novel, by wearing those hot pants." Lavigne is also mentioned throughout the novel. In the same Rolling Stone article referenced above, Cave admits, "I'm not sure how Avril Lavigne came about, except that I personally like her very much, and something about her physicality seemed to be the right kind of thing for this character."

What the novel lacks in dramatic structure, it makes up for in pure perverse intrigue. Reportedly, two of Cave's influences for The Death of Bunny Munro were the SCUM Manifesto by the radical feminist Valerie Solanas (she tried to kill Any Warhol in 1968) and the Gospel According to St Mark.  With one screenplay under his belt, 2005's The Proposition, this novel was originally meant to be a screenplay for John Hillcoat (Director of the 2009 film, The Road). However, The Death of Bunny Munro obviously ended up being a novel. It was written on the road while touring with his band, the Bad Seeds.

Lastly, it is worth mentioning that the audio version is read by the author and comes with an original soundtrack and 3D spatial audio designed for listening on headphones- It's a wicked experience. This novel is definitely not for general audiences. But, if you want to take a walk on the wild side I highly recommend it.

The link below is an outstanding (short) interview with Nick Cave courtesy of WIRED via Youtube. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Neon Repairman - Album Review

Released Spring/Summer 2015
Neon Repairman - Freedy Johnston B
Darkness is My Friend

In 1992 Freedy Johnston released Can You Fly, a terrific album that sounds as good today as it did 20 years ago. A year later he released Unlucky, a flawless six-song EP that featured a popular cover of Jimmy Webb's "Wichita Lineman." Primed for a breakout commerical hit, This Perfect World (his major-label debut) dropped in 1994 and brought Johnston the attention he so rightly deserved. In 1995 Rolling Stone magazine named him "Songwriter of the Year," and the Kansas native closed out the 90s by releasing two more brilliant albums, Never Home and Blue Days Black Nights. Johnston was surely on his way to becoming one of music's most important artists for years to come.

Fast-Foward to 2014, Neon Repairman, his first new album since 2010's Rain on the City, was successfully crowd funded and set for a late 2014 or early 2015 release. The current musical landscape looks nothing like the 90s, but ultimately this new album is vintage Johnston- albeit, a slow burn. IntialIy, with my hopes and expectations sky high, Neon Repairman didn't blow me away as a whole. But, there were enough hooks to keep me listening. After four or five spins, songs that didn't intially grab me were suddenly becoming my favorites, i.e., "Baby, Baby Come Home," "Summer Clothes," and "A Little Bit of Somethin' Wrong." This album may not break any new ground; however, all the things that make Johnston special are showcased here- great songwriting, interesting characters and a vulnerability that feels truly authentic. His fans won't be disappointed. Fans of the genre (acoustic-based/singer-songwriter/Americana) should check out Neon Repairman and/or one of the albums I mentioned above.

Favorite Tracks: Neon Repairman, TV in My Arms, Summer Clothes, Baby Baby Come Home, A Little Bit of Somethin' Wrong

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Poem She Didn't Write And Other Poems - Book Reiew

The Poem She Didn't Write And Other Poems - Olena Kalytiak Davis B-
Sassy, Sexual & Postconfessional

Published Dec 2014
This is the kind of book I might re-read in five years and think that it's brilliant. But, for now it feels sorta hit-or-miss.
Favorite poems:
Sonnet (seized)
Look at Lesbia Now
Mean, Manly and Meant
Sonnet (stopped)
Summer Fiction
Sonnet (full-court press)
Methow 19:19

For more about Olena Kalytiak Davis and The Poem She Didn't Write and Other Poems, check out this link via The New Yorker from last December http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/12/08/you-and-me-both