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.

 

 

Advertisements

new ideas

There’s a little Irish band called Villagers, well actually it’s just one guy. An incredibly talented young man I saw a few years ago on TV looking like the new Conor Oberst, now somehow he’s got older, greying hair, but his music is still poetic, emotional and he sings like the falling snow – crisp, clear, illuminating fears and time itself.

He has an interesting new album out. A re-recording of songs from the past 5 years, recorded in a day. It’s much more musical, an almost classical take on his songs with harp and grand piano included. I think it makes these already great songs stronger. You can listen to the whole thing on his website, or just watch the video below. Either way it’s really worth listening to, especially if you think all music sounds the same these days…

The other album I’m listening to is, of course, the new Sun Kil Moon. It’s very loud. He shouts a lot and swears a great deal. He sings about his day, and hanging out with his girlfriend, watching boxing matches and things like that. I think it’s amazing, but I know it won’t be for everyone. Mark won’t let any of this stuff go up on youtube, but you can listen to a song here from his website.

Finally I must write I’m half way through reading Owen Jones “The Establishment and how they get away with it”. It’s such vital important reading even if, like me, you already assumed the government and big business are far too cozy.  Some of the facts and interviews in the book are really inspiring. The book shows how important it is we vote in elections, we get involved in things we believe in,  and stand up for our diplomatic rights and to be critical independent thinkers. It shows how can power can, but doesn’t have to,  lead to absolute corruption.

Last of all, news about a film being made about a young JD Salinger excites me! What happened to those new books of his that were promised in 2015?

 

 

the internet reality.

I read a couple of books recently with a similar theme. The novel “the circle” by Dave Eggers, a kind of internet-modern age 1984. Although I would have written a far happier and satisfying tale, it was brilliant but really scared me. It’s about the end of everything that matters, a world where you can only vote with a facebook account, all kids have chips put in them at birth to prevent child abductions and hidden tiny cameras eliminate crime. So there’s no privacy left anymore. Everything must be shared. The other book was not a fantasy, but a reality “the internet is not the answer” a clued up book written by a Andrew Keen. a Silicon Valley insider and journalist about how the internet is, in a nut shell, making us all unhappy while a few privileged dot.com billionaires profit and robots and drones take over all services. Oh and it’s turning us into idiots too and changing our memory and sense of time. Ho-hum

So not exactly happy tales, and certainly not the kind of thing I usually read, but it certainly got me thinking about the state of this little world we share (far too much).

Tomorrow morning I’m going on holiday. We’re staying at a hotel, then we’re off on a boat for adventures. I don’t particularly want everyone to know where I’m going, what I’m doing. I don’t want to share a photo of my kids and I having fun at the beach. Does that make me selfish? It’s important to just experience moments in time with those around you and to reflect on your own existence without posting about it on social media hoping to get a few likes and comments to prove your own reality. I’m not judging, I do it too, but reading Eggers and Keen I realize it really can’t be all that healthy.

It’s what I’ve always loved about writing poems. Everything I write is about myself, relationships in my life (yawn yawn), but I try to do it in a way that doesn’t make sense to anyone else. I’m in love with the mystery I guess, and it seems these days mystery is becoming a dirty word. What and why are you hiding?

So, those are powerful books. I’d really recommend them, but probably not at the same time unless you want to get freaked out. My summer reading now is “my salinger year”, and I’ll be listening a lot to this little punk band you can watch below. More fun soon.

The fraigle/tragic mind of JD Salinger

la_ca_0828_salingerOf course Salinger was nuts. It’s pretty much accepted now that he actually was Holden Caulfield, and last year I read an incredibly hearbreaking biography which shows just how disturbed and crazy he was, mostly from the results of horrific experiences in the second world war (he was with the first to enter the notorious Nazi concertraiton camp Dachau). This is a guy who told his own daughter “You never really get the smell of burning flesh out of your nose entirely, no matter how long you live.” Without a doubt these experiences messed his already fragile mind up. Still he had “it”. That magic that few people are born with, such artistic brilliance and natural talent that whatever happens in your life, you create art. I’m counting the days till the paperback release of Joanna Rakoff’s “My Salinger Year”, about her experiences as Salinger’s literary agent in the late 1990’s.

Until then there was a fascinating program on BBC radio a couple of weeks about looking at the spiritual life of Salinger which I really recommend you listen to here. He was heavily into Hinduism philosophy, and a rather extreme form of Buddhism. But then again he mixed up elements of Christianity and Scientology. Basically the guy was lost, confused and didn’t know what to do. Life seemed meaningless and empty to him, and he never quite figured things out. Like I said my overflowing emotion towards Saligner is sadness. But then, I’ll read Franny and Zoeey or Catcher in the Rye and just be knocked senseless by the beauty and elegance of those words.

salwroteOnce you’ve heard that cool program you might like to hear a song by a band called Airport Girl. It’s called “What Salinger Wrote“. It’s not on youtube or soundcloud but you can hear it on this link.

I’m off to Romania now for a week for Open Hands Charity. We’ve got much to do over there, and I’m going to pick up a book at the airport to keep me going.Maybe the new Matthew Thomas “we are not ourselves“.

I’m really excited about the new album from Emma Kupa later this month. But I’ll write about that, and the awesome new surprisingly loud single from sun kil moon when I’m back.

bis bald 🙂

the secret world of books

peanutsRural England, where I live, is don’t get me wrong – very beautiful and tranquil.  You feel a strange connection with nature and the passing seasons, and I don’t want to live anywhere else right now. But I always love going to the city because there you can find treasure and life. No, I’m not talking about the cattle market at H+M, I’m talking about book shops.

The little town near us, just a 15 minute drive away, is where I spend a lot of my time.  At the moment I’m working at the school there, and it’s a busy little market town that has everything I pretty much need. Supermarket, bakery, town hall café, hair dresser, green grocer, travel agent, cinema, but the best of all is the library. It’s a small library, there’s probably only a few hundred books, but I always find something interesting (Last week I picked up two books one called “The Internet Delusion – how not to liberate the world”, and the new Goldsmith prize winning sensation Ali Smith novel “How to be both”. (I like to mix things up a little!) There’s also a really ace childrens section in the library and there’s nothing cooler than hanging out with my kids there on Saturday mornings while they’re checking out the new Diary of a Wimpy Kid books and I’m leisurely reading the Saturday Independent newspaper (I forgot the other cool thing about libraries is the free newspapers!)

But then if I really want to discover something magical, I need to go further afield. To a city either Brighton or Tunbrdige Wells and the Waterstones Book Shop.  It’s a beautiful old fashioned bookshop with lush wooden exterior. Every time I go in there I see pearls and rubys – last week if was a new biography of Stefan Zweig, and a book called “My Salinger Year” written by JD Salinger’s literary agent.  It’s where I first discovered Richard Yates, and it’s where I have just discovered my “New favourite writer” William Maxwell.

mwaxI never heard of this guy before, but I am totally blown away by his elegance and writing prose. You know sometimes you read a paragraph and it just knocks you down, you have to re-read it again and it fills you with a sense of joy and wonder?  Someone who seems to “get” human nature, and explores all the love and the heartbreak of life in a compelling and, most important, enjoyable way. I have no idea if his other books are any good, but the one I’m reading – “the folded leaf” is my book recommendation to you. I guess it was written around 1950, a golden time as far as I’m concerned in literature. life.

Ok got to go. I wish I could go and read Maxwell now, but Open Hands awaits….

the mark kozelek show featuring war on drugs

It’s crazy warm here in Sussex, pretty much November now but the leaves are still all green and aside from the usual rainy day wipe outs it feels more like July…wait a minute, isn’t that a Dashboard Confessional song?  Anyway, autumn’s a good time to reflect on change and I usually write a few poems about hope falling fast, just to cheer myself up…

Which brings me nicely to Mark Kozelek and that whole thing with war on drugs. For those lucky enough not to know anything about it, I won’t bore you with the details here, but Kozelek’s released two “diss tracks” about the war on drugs guy who in turn seems to be super offended and music websites which are silly enough to allow comments are full with people saying how much that hate Mark Kozelek and make some awful remarks about him having “mental health issues” and that they won’t ever listen to him again.

Still I said it before and I’ll say it again, Kozelek can do whatever he likes because he is the most interesting, creative and talented musician of our generation. Nobody can touch him, if I could only listen to one cd it would of course be a red house painters or sun kil moon one (the bands he’s fronted). I even paid a ridiculous amount of money on ebay to get an out of print Spanish edition of his poems/songs. I listen to his msic more than anything else.

But that doesn’t mean he’s not an asshole. Back in 2001 I went with a girl to a red house painters concert. She was shocked and offended by his stage antics and the way he talked about “chicks” and going to bars to “pick up girls”. She said afterwards she would never listen to his sweet lullaby tender love songs anymore. I have no idea if she’s kept that up because shortly afterwards I met my future wife, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

I don’t know why though. Back in my freelance journalism days I wrote a few pieces about literary heroes of mine – Jack Kerouac and William Faulkner. They weren’t the “nicest” people. I’m reading this biography of JD Salinger, he also wasn’t a nice guy but any stretch of the imagination. Then there’s Hemingway, a guy I wouldn’t want to cross he’d tear me apart.  Where does it say your heroes have to be nice, friendly, kind, caring, loveable?

So you could say all those examples are men, and you might have a point it can get too much. I never got that macho stuff, it bores me, and as much as I like to pretend I feel “connected” to these writers I couldn’t see myself hanging out with them as such. Not even Kerouac. I’m way too soft.

It’s like that with Mark Kozelek. He’s a complicated person, he can’t fit into some box of what’s “cool” or what’s “socially acceptable”. He’s been an outsider all his life, and just listen to any of his songs to get a glimpse of his genius. Like the best writers and artists though he’s troubled. I do think it’s funny the way he responds, but it’s also kind of nuts too, but it’s the way it has to be.

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!