Nights of Love

Been so caught up in the merry-go-round of school/children/domestic bliss/regretting regret/to-do-lists that I’ve not had time to capture much in writings, either poetic or here. Doesn’t matter, as I read in an essay by the American essayist Mark Grief that people  waste their time trying to write diaries or take photos because people like that…like me….he argues do not fully experience life, but merely live in a fantasy escapism trying to catch time before it rushes on to the next experience. He says better to just drift through…Well, Marky Mark, I’ve been doing that a bit too much recently, and it somehow doesn’t quite fulfil me. Maybe I’m into escapism as I need to record words more than ever these days.

For my birthday I had a HMV voucher so I picked up the latest albums by Neil Young (Peace Trail) and Thurston Moore (Rock ‘n’ Roll Consciousness) Neil Young is  here is railing on in an enjoyable way about how he doesn’t understands the modern world, and he’s angry with too about people messing with nature, native Americans and the workers, and it’s full of energy and protest. Thurston Moore is a nice collection of breezy 10 minute songs, with flowing guitars and a relentless drumming by good old Steve Shelley. It’s got Debbie Googe on too, and it feels like early 20th century sonic youth. That’s not a bad thing. I’ve been listening to it a lot driving to and from work, and it’s got the right balance of escapism and interesting lyrics to keep you focused after a crazy day working in a little school.

Been reading lots of interesting things. Really like this Dutch magazine called Flow. Also got a copy of the always brilliant and funny PJ O Rourke “How the hell did this happen” in which he attempts to understand how the hell Trump got elected. Also the new Gwendoline Riley “First Love” which I’m hoping will win the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction this year, because it’s the best modern novel I’ve read in ages. It’s sad and brutal though, but as I watch “Neighbours” everyday for 20 minute blasts of escapism in sunny Australia with nice happy one dimensional characters, I need to counter it with something like Gwen Riley.

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regret regrets

One of the most brilliant writers of the 20th Century was Stefan Zweig, I don’t think anybody could express emotion or instability as well as he did.He did some crazy things in life, and there’s a thrilling biography out about him you can check out here if you’re looking for a szmore obscure story, here’s a throwback to something I wrote in my old days of magazine journalism

He wrote a novel called, in English, “Beware of Pity”. This has now been made into an a super intense razor sharp play that was performed in London last week. Sadly I couldn’t get to go, but the live steam is still up for a few more days. If you want to watch the grandmaster of intensity you can do so here. I doubt there will be a better or more powerful play out all year.

Then there is my favourite modern British writer Gwendoline Riley who has a new book out called “First Love”. If you’ve not heard of her before, you need to go to your local library or book shop and ask for either “Sick Notes”, “Cold Water”, or “Joshua Spassky”. A trilogy of brilliant short but addictive novels. She writes like a lonely British version of Holden Caulfield fighting against a world you’ll never understand. You can listen to her  here  talk about her
new book.

Talking of Salinger…New biopic  “Rebel in the Rye” is out at the Sundance film festival. People say it’s predictable and dull. Still, people say a lot these days.

Finally, by far the best new band I’ve heard over the past year is Wild Pink. They have a new album out, released last week. You can listen to their radness below playing a couple of
songs.

 

 

best books ever written (and why I quit the internet)

Yep, before we get onto that list, here’s the why bit : I’m taking a break from the internet for a little while which already makes me sound either super cynical, a little dumb, or superior. All three of those I’ll rebuke (except perhaps the second at certain moments). Let me explain – it’s all part of trying to live a simple life and living life for what it is. Ok, that too but really because…. the other week I was reading about Thurston Moore’s new girlfriend and clicking on all the follow up links, and then following that up by reading through New York Times, CNN, BBC, Guardian Online, Mirror Online, Sydney Morning Herald, Huffington Post, NPR and before I knew the whole morning had passed and I hadn’t actually really done anything, learnt anything, or even felt particularly happy or even peaceful about it. I’m not even going into Facebook and how that sucks away at your idea of self. I’m only online now to check e-mails and my bank balance. Also for “work” reasons which is pretty strict. It means if I’m writing an article about why Sonic Youth broke up I can check out that article about Thurston Moore’s girlfriend and how she “broke up the band” but otherwise all that stuff is strictly off limits.

So, of course I’m aware I’m going to miss out on things. Only printed press allowed for me, so I’m sure I’ll miss out on a lot of interesting new words and guitars unless somebody plays it on the radio or writes about it in my printed newspaper. But it’s alright, it gives me time to look back on this glorious past – in a week or two I’ll post my top 10 records of all time, but for now from the top of my head here are the books

1. William Faulkner “The Sound and the Fury”

2. Jack Kerouac “On the Road”

3. JD Salinger “Catcher in the Rye”

4. Gwendoline Riley “Sick Notes”

5. Sythia Plath “The Bell Jar”

6. Theodore Dreiser “Sister Carrie”

7. Willa Cather “My Antonia”

8.  Fyodor Dostoevsky “Crime and Punishment”

9. Richard Yates “Eleven Kinds of loneliness”

10. Alfred Hayes “The Girl on the Via Flaminia”

So, that was fun I wrote that pretty quickly which is the best way to do these things. You can buy all these books from your local book shop or order them from the library. Please no Amazon though.

This will automatically post to facebook, but I won’t check it till I’m back from Romania in May!

Books and Music for Winter Blues

It’s really raining an awful lot here in Sussex at the moment, so much so that the simple pleasures is starting to wane, you know like watching the rain splash on the pavement and wearing wellies and jumping in puddles, holding your nose in case that puddle turns out to be a secret lake. Or is that just me?

Anyway, I don’t know about your but I get tired of all these magazine articles about “escape the Winter Blues” full of tips to re-energeise your life like eating broccoli for breakfast, joining a gym, tedious positive thinking like staring at your tired face every morning and saying “you’re looking great, you’re a winner”, oh and jetting off to some luxurious Island for the weekend. Or wait, that last one doesn’t sound too bad but it was in the Sunday Times so is out of my price range.

So, rather than offer ways to beat the winter blues I thought it would be fun to offer a couple of new books and records that indulge in the melancholy a little bit, not too much though, but just enough for days when you unplug your phone, draw the curtains and curl up under the blankets with a couple of packs of your favourite biscuits to watch the Homeland box set with. You got the hot cocoa? Then let’s go…

Jenny Offdosill Dept. of Speculation A novel about “love, parenthood, infidelity, and a crumbling marriage “ already sounds great, right? This one tackles all that in an experimental way, so you’ve got a little novel crammed of poems, notes, reflections, scribbles. There’s a nice little interview with Jenny-O over at NPR, and this one is out in a few weeks and I’ll be checking it out. My second tip is the effortlessly cool Gwendoline Riley Opposed Positions, I already mentioned this last year, but now it’s just out this month in paperback. Nobody writes opbetter about modern love gone sour better, her crisp urgent sentences will get into your heart, and you can read this one in one setting, she’s the best writer under 40 around today, dark and broody but beautiful writing.

Onto the music, my first tip for embracing the winter blues is Benji, the latest by Mark Kozelek under his sun kil moon name. This will probably end up being my record of the year, as these days all I ever do is listen to Mark Kozelek records, but anymusicway here’s a nice piece he wrote for the New York Times last week where he talks about this record, and his crazy life. The guy’s the best musician and songwriter we’ve got right now, so support him and buy this record! Finally, someone I know very little about – I think I even skipped the page about her in NME last week – is Angel Olsen who has a new album out in February, she did this haunting acoustic set over at NPR (again!) which you can watch or download. I don’t even know if I like this music, I don’t know if it’s really for me, but it did transfix me when I heard this session. She sure sings about sad things though, so be prepared!

When that’s all over and you’ve had enough of moping around the house feeling sorry for yourself, you can go and check out this cool blog by a summer camp member. It’s bright, breezy, fun, clever, much like summer camp themselves, who remain one of my favourite bands and I’m excited to hear their new record later this year. Like Promise Ring sang happiness is all the rage.

writers of the world, write.

The idea of this blog is, despite the SK title, to be 90% music and 10% books, manly because there still seems an active volcano of emerging and exciting bands out there, as well as countless golden oldies who keep on rocking (in the free world) with something interesting to say, or a new idea to express. Sadly, the same can’t be said for books. I tend to read dead writers, so they aren’t going to publish anything new (except in the case of JD Salinger), and so there’s little point writing about them here except when there’s a cool film out.

So it’s all the more exciting when an author turns up who is very much alive in fact born in 1979, who has a new book out, and I find out I’ve read all of her books without actually meaning to. Her name is Gwendoline Riley. She’s ace. She writes about herself in all her “novels”, she seems isolated and afraid of the world, trying to figure out broken hearts and broken lives through her slender little novels and there’s always a glimmer of love and hope, even if it’s just the safety net of music and more isolation. I’ve no doubt in my mind she’s the greatest English writer of the day. Ok, there might not be much competition out there, and we can forget the Booker Prize winners of the past few years.

Funny thing is I’d forgotten about her. I read her brilliant first novel “cold water” in 2002, and her second one “sick notes” seemed exactly the same and came out a year or so later. I remember really like those early books, all youth and hope despite the setbacks of life. Then working for a book wholesaler I picked up her third one in the free book section, it was “Joshua Spassky” a more straight forward love story with disappointments and failures thrown in. Then life took over a bit and her books gathered dust in between living in England and Germany., it was only the other day when I was scanning the bookshelves looking for something other than Tozer (as interesting as “The blessedness of possessing nothing” is it can seem a bit unreachable from my cozy Habitat armchair), that I re-read parts of JS, and it tore at my heart in the way the best songs and books can.

So, as it turned out, Gwendoline Riley has a new book out – her first since JS – called “opposed positions” which I’ve just picked up the hardcover of at Uckfield library, and I’ve only read the first few pages but I’ve already decided this is the book of the year. Best not to mention I’ve not read a single other book published this year…

So, anyway, that’s it really. No videos. No songs. No pictures. Although if I were to put a song on it would have to be a Smiths song as Miss Riley always writes about them in her books, but I think our old friend Morrissey is getting quite enough attention as it is at the moment, don’t you think?