songs and books

Aside from collecting first edition Richard Yates books, I’m also enjoying Dave Eggers. I’ve occasionally read his magazine, and ended up listening to some of his novels on cd back when I was driving for hours all over the place for a fun but temporary job I did a while ago. Now I’m reading “the circle” and it’s the best modern book I’ve read in a long time. It’s a book I find myself thinking about when I’m away from home, working or doing shopping or walking the kids to school feeling excited for the evening to come so I can read the next page. Like a modern 1984 a stark warning about the dangers of internet obsessed society, and it’s funny/sad and makes your heart beat super fast. The writing is crisp, clear, intelligent and the dialogue is spot-on. I’m reading it along with a non-fiction book called “the internet is not the answer” and those two books together make a pretty compelling case for just dropping out of internet life and trying to find Walden Lake in 2015…

There are three songs I listen to over and over again at the moment that I hope to get you into too. The latest NOW music compilation is the biggest selling album of the year so far here in the UK, but I say forget the boring repetitive crap you hear in the charts, this is where it’s at.

1. Lily and Madeline “blue blades” – I’m so in love with everything about this little band. The words, the melody, the lush harmonies and sad reflections of nature and broken hearts. I’ve just downloaded their new EP too.

2. Puss N Boots “down by the river”. Ok, so I own the entire Norah Jones back catalogue, and not many people bought her folky-country band puss n boots, but guess what? I did and this is my favourite song on it.

3. Libertines “Gunga Din” Ok, so they are pretty much on the cover of NME every week, and will outsell most albums this year, but this song makes me happy. Maybe it’s because those last two songs are kind of depressing that you’re ready for the party to begin. And I know I want to go a party put together by Pete and Carl….

4. Mark Kozelek “Caroline” – If I had to throw away my record collection and never restock it, but could keep one thing it would be my Mark Kozelek records and cd’s. This song is about as perfect as it gets.

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Election Revolution so vote

First off, I’m a political junkie. Even if you don’t agree with what I will say, I’ve always followed politics so let me explain a few things. There’s a youth TV station here in the UK called E4 that’s shutting down for 24 hours on Thursday as it’s the day of the general election. They say things are more important that re-runs of Hollyoaks. In that spirit I’m taking a break from writing about writers, musicians, songs, poems to talk about politics. Next week I’m writing about Richard Yates, but even he worked briefly as a speech writer for Robert Kennedy.

I was shocked, completely shocked, when my favourite newspaper The Independent gave it’s backing to another 4 years of Conservative-Lib Dem government. They wrote Labour aren’t “yet fit to govern”. How can a left-wing leaning newspaper endorse not just the status quo, but 4 more years of harsh cuts, and tax breaks for the wealthiest of in our society while making the most vulnerable in our country suffer the hardest? Because they don’t like Ed Milliband as much as they like their good old pal Nick Clegg.

A BBC interviewer asked Ed Milliband (leader of Labour government) if he is “too left wing” to be prime minister. He’s been fiercely attacked by the press, the right wing press, and somehow now the liberal newspapers like the Indie.

People laugh at Ed Milliband, he trips over a lot. He’s not stylish, he looks geeky and people make fun of him eating a sandwich. Cameron meanwhile looks ultra slick and modern. A “pumped up” guy ready to “fight” to win. The kind of super confidence you can get when you’ve got, according to respected observers, a £30 million private fortune ready to cash in if you don’t happen to win on Thursday. No wonder he doesn’t seem that bothered if he wins or loses.

But it’s not all about money, it’s about principles and morals, and the way I see it Ed Milliband and Labour are the winners this time. I’m a member of the Green Party, I thought it was a foregone conclusion they’d get my vote again, but this time I’ve been so impressed with Ed Milliband, that Labour will get my vote on Thursday. He’s a million miles away from Tony Blair, closer in ideals and fairness to old Labour like Neil Kinnock and John Smith, and I urge anyone who can to vote Labour. We know it’s going to a be a tough few years, cuts and sacrifices have to be made but I believe Labour will do all they can to protect for the vulnerable and weak in our society, and stand up to the corporations and powerful elite that have far too much influence in the country.

Russell Brand’s interview with Ed Milliband was what did it for me. Brand I can take or leave, of course he’s nihilistic and self-centered, but he cares about people and doing the right thing. Brand famously urged people not to vote, now he’s telling us to vote Labour. I’m with him 100% you can see why below. Great article here by Owen Jones about all this.

Do the right thing, do it all the time.

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….

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!

JD Salinger

Instead of roaring around the countryside, burning petrol, for my job I’ve been stuck up home these last few days, with a sick note from the doctor and three great books to get through. These books are all so brilliant, so inspiring that I’m going to list them here :

Salinger by David Shields and Shane Salerno

The Easter Parade by Richard Yates

Archie The Married Life: Book Three by Paul Kupperberg

Of all these books, the Salinger biography is the most incredible and fascinating biography I’ve read since the JFK one. It’s a huge book, I’ve already read 150 pages but he’s still hanging out with Hemmingwell in 1943, not yet crazy. He gets his heart broken from Oona O’ Neil who goes on to marry Charlie Chaplin, and the most surprising thing of all all his books seem to be based on events from his real life. I’m a little nervous to how this book will conclude, the authors warn early on what happened to Salinger will break your heart, how he turned out in the end. Destroyed, broken, angry, bitter, and just plain mean. Still, that’s all to come at the moment he’s young, addicted to writing and adventure, sensitive and funny distrusting of the big bad world. Too bad he couldn’t stay that way.

Anything by Richard Yates is always effortlessly cool, and Archie is my hero. His married life is insane though…Just saying.