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I just read the most thorough and smart analysis  I could imagine of Twilight in The Atlantic.  It was not as much about the book itself, but why girls are drawn to it so deeply, and what to make of the appeal of its confusingly 19th century morality.  It's pretty amazing.  AND it expresses effectively the strange appeal of the mostly silly books to me, a pretty savvy reader; an appeal that I feel like a fail over and over to explain. 

"It’s also the first book that seemed at long last to rekindle something of the girl-reader in me. In fact, there were times when the novel—no work of literature, to be sure, no school for style; hugged mainly to the slender chests of very young teenage girls, whose regard for it is on a par with the regard with which just yesterday they held Hannah Montana—stirred something in me so long forgotten that I felt embarrassed by it. Reading the book, I sometimes experienced what I imagine long-married men must feel when they get an unexpected glimpse at pornography: slingshot back to a world of sensation that, through sheer force of will and dutiful acceptance of life’s fortunes, I thought I had subdued.""
-Caitlin Flanagan

Good criticism always knocks me on my feet.  Read it:

Twilight Movie Review. Inside, I still want to be a teen.

All reviews of Twilight must be divided into two camps: those written by fans of the books, and those that aren't.  I'll say up front that while I found the books extremely flawed at parts and recognize their appeal for only a very very small audience, I did enjoy myself immensely while reading them.  This is a pretty good adaptation of the book and a so-so stand alone movie.  Critics fault it for being bloodless and sexually repressed, but that's the crux of Stephanie Meyer's  series right there: 1000s of pages of sexual frustration.  To be sure there were awkward moments that even the midnight-showing-twilight-loving audience I was in still laughed at: when Edward the vampire first smells Bella his look of supposed hate and pain actually looks more like he's going to vomit, and later the vampire baseball scene, which was silly and unnecessary in the book, becomes the worst kind of camp on screen.  Director Hardwick goes WAY overboard with MTV style aesthetics that sometimes made me think I was watching a My Chemical Romance music video.  But they did well in casting their two leads.  Kristen Stewart plays Bella with a muttering teenage self consciousness that reminded me so much of real teens I've known.  Robert Pattinson had impossible shoes to fill for the fans as Edward, the vampire who is both obsessively in love and menacing, the self loathing hero who must look as if he's going to eat Bella while simultaneously conducting himself like a 18th century puritan.  But when it comes down to the heart of the story, believing that the two main characters are really so attracted to each other that they'd risk everything to be together, the actors do such an entrancing job smoldering at each other that I admit, I believe.  It never was really about the vampire bits anyway.

One Mississippi Review

One Mississippi: A Novel One Mississippi: A Novel by Mark Childress

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
At the start, this appears to be your basic southern childhood adventures memoir. Led by the famous "My Dog Skip" by Willie Morris, it's a genre that can be enjoyable, but pretty predictable. Kid moves to a small town. His parents are troubled. He's a loner. He bemoans that there is nothing to do there until he makes a wild new friend who leads him on dangerous adventures that help the kid find some true core of himself.

This started that way, but took some interesting diversions. It's set in 70's post-school-desegregation Jackson, MS, and both the black and white kids are trying to find their place in the new paradigm. The prejudices of both sides are shown in many shades of grey. When the band teacher refuses to drop an old minstrel song from their statewide band competition routine, the black students retaliate by purposefully sabotaging their performance. The later regret on both sides is nicely portrayed. It's the same with the treatment of a church youth group putting on a hilarious Jesus Christ Superstar style rock opera. The kids look at the intense church culture critically but enjoy the fellowship and music, and the church leaders are written as humans instead of stereotypes. The novel also deals with the extreme taboos against homosexuality at that time, but nothing feels heavy handed. It's just a natural part of these kids lives at the time.

Towards the end, the book turns suddenly quite dark. Although I truly didn't see it coming, it didn't feel disjointed. Life smacks you in the head with something horrible now and again. (Honestly I get a little sick of the ominous foreboding that many novels lay on thick at the beginning so that a tragic ending feels natural. Just let me ENJOY the good times in the book for now.) After the tragic events, the book didn't offer any easy answers, but it also didn't feel hopeless. I appreciate that.

It's not groundbreaking writing and the focus on teenage hijinks is pretty silly at times, but it was an engrossing read.

View all my reviews.

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Mudbound Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book had the real possibility of being stereotypical, which it narrowly avoided. It's set in the Mississippi Delta in the years immediately following WWII, and the big themes are the unraveling of race roles and the decline of agrarian supremacy in rural America. As a High School Student in Mississippi, I got so much assigned reading with that description (ok, for good reason) that I usually stay away from it nowadays.

That said, this was pretty good. The characters were round and unpredictable, but not at the expense of acting unrealistically. It's a pretty even handed treatment of race, neither vilifying or excusing the actions of whites who were essentially good people caught in the traditions of the past. There were the usual characters present; the bigoted and hated old white patriarch, the proud, young, hopeful black male, but also many morally ambiguous characters just trying to survive in the middle ground. As a many generation resident of the tiny region this is set in, I can say she got the reverence that people treat the land with dead on.

I did find it a little funny though to write a dark southern novel set in north Mississippi that also uses Faulkner's short chapters from multiple perspectives. And I wish that I could read a southern novel set in this time period that doesn't end in utter tragedy. Sure, mid-century is an era for the south full of much pain and guilt, but not every story from that time has to end in despair.

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"The Wind Up Bird Chronicle" review

The Wind-up Bird Chronicle The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book was given to me by someone who had a rather profound experience while reading it. It literally shook him completely and caused him to take a keen eye to the state of his life at the time. Knowing this going into it, I spent most of the book seeking the moment that would be profound enough to make me feel something that intensely.

I can't say that moment ever happened for me. To be sure, "Wind-Up Bird" is engrossing. The protagonist is going through a crisis of life that begins banal: his wife leaves him after seven very uneventful years of marriage; and then he slips into an underworld of psychics whose powers are never fully explained, war veterans whose mental injuries are never fully explained, and finally to an alternate reality whose entire basis is never fully explained.

There lies my real problem with the book. It feels as if Murakami spends hundreds of pages creating a world overflowing with symbolism, but none of the symbols are ever cashed in. I understand that everything and everyone in the novel is connected, but I have little idea why they are or what it means. Near the end, the protagonist says of the ordeal, "Well, finally, the events I've been through have been tremendously complicated. All kinds of characters have come on the scene, and strange things have happened one after another, to the point where, if I try to think about them in order, I lose track." Indeed, there are an incredible array of characters, settings, objects, and events colliding with each other. But by the end, I feel I'm hardly closer to understanding WHY they were brought together. I have no doubt that this is purposeful. Murakami seems to be giving only exactly as much information as he wants you to have, and all inferences are welcome.

There are quite a few passages of real emotional resonance in the book, but they are usually those that are separate from the "main" narrative, such as the horrific/fantastical experiences of a man in China during wartime, or letters from a 17 year old girl who is attempting to simplify and understand her life. These short passages really work because they contain Murakami's great imagination within a very digestible package while the main narrative rambles on and on. For me, the most beautiful parts of the book were the simplest in structure: the repeated memory of his wife's back as he zipped up her dress on their last day together, the endless descriptions of the the everyday details of preparing meals, the warmth of holding a cat, or the quiet of watching the yard from the porch as it rains. I loved these parts, and I was floored by the complexity of the world he was able to create. But ironically (or not) by the end I felt just like the protagonist, who spends most of the book asking the constantly enigmatic characters around him to tell him, "one concrete fact." I just hoped the complexity and beautiful prose would add up to something more concrete in the end.

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Arcata, California

Today was our last day of tour in California.  Coming up from the south, through deserts and the complete surreality of SO CAL's sunny dispositions and impossibly picturesque lifestyles, stopping for many days in the Bay Area to witness the final greatest achievement of the liberal body put into city form, and then ending in serene, green, and strange Arcata.  I have loved almost every minute in California this time. 

Tonight we played in a beautiful house that despite being inhabited by seven people was clean and organized and picturesque and comfortable.  It made be wish very badly to live in such a place.  I don't hate my house but it has been very disorganized and dirty for a while, and that's really  not where I'm at as a person right now.  I mean, I've nearly quit drinking any alcohol, improved my diet and my exercise, keep my room and car and personal effects in ship shape, and devote myself to reading and projects and working almost entirely.  My house and its contents (outside my room) are pretty incongruous with the rest of my life.  This is one of the things I hope to change when I get home in a few weeks.  

Whenever a tour is ending that I am really enjoying I have to encorage myself to get back into my life by making lists of things I will improve when I get home.  It makes the return seem like an achievement instead of a crash landing.  So, clean house.  organize kitchen and buy more food supplies for cooking.  Finally build that shelf to hold the rest of my boxed books.  Get rid of more stuff besides books.  Call more people and take more concern in their lives.  Write more.  Don't go back to work for as long as possible.

There was someone at our show tonight that I would have liked to have gotten to know better, but we left that house to come to this nice one where we are going to sleep now.  I'm a little sad about it.  That sort of thing happens to me so rarely; I've turned myself into a bit of a closed down island lately.  It's even a little scary to me how much so.  To feel any kind of spark to seek out the company of a new person is a major stirring in me.  But fortunately or unfortunately tomorrow is a new day and we'll be gone from this place. 

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I decided I'm going to start writing here again at some point after a long livejournal conversation Paul B. and I had a few nights ago.  I also realized I need some format to exercise my writing muscle.  Even if it is just a perfunctory rundown of the events of my life, it's better for my declining writing skills to at least put up some fight as they wane.

So, I'm on tour again with my band Good Luck and my friend Paul Baribeau.  We are going to the west coast.  I have a sinking scary feeling every time I try to travel this way that it is going to go disasterously wrong because it mostly has before.  The first time I went I was in some kind of love sick daze that prevented me from fully enjoying half the of the things I saw.  The second time I went it was in the middle of a financially irresponsible tour that ended in a $2000 bill in the sonoran desert and a 24 hour straight drive home.  I have hope.  I have the ability to hold out hope this time.  Still, Matt is both sick and homesick.  There are other issues.  The pocketbook is safe this time but the heart and the mind never are you know?  You have to tell yourself, this is all pretty dramatic for a silly old rock tour.  I am still so lucky and should be so thankful.  But no matter who you are or how lucky you are in life, something's always gonna bring you down.

Today we stopped in Sedona, AZ, the startlingly beautiful tourist trap surrounded by great red rock cliffs.  It is high desert country.  Clear and dry and hot and strange.  There are a multitude of crystal-chakra stores and homemade fudge stands.   Then we came to Flagstaff, which looks almost like the Pacific Northwest.  It's chilly and green here.  Just like Ashville or Eureka, which have similar weather and geography, it seems to be populated by the wildest adventure hippie punks.  Now Albuquerque.  There's the one for me.  It seems like the kind of place that a person would go in the 19th century to recover from some chronic illness.  Pure and dry and bright and beautiful.  Anyone want to rent me a room there for a few months?  I'm checking craigslist.

That's about all for tour.  I'm still reeling from finishing the the Twilight Series books.  As I've said to many many people, I don't think they are particularly well written, and the storyline falls mostly into pretty disgusting teenage girl wish fufillment, but I must say I loved them.  I truely enjoyed every minute reading them.  I was not challenged or educated or anything like that but I was completely immersed in the eternal love between some vampires in Forks, WA.  Pop Art, what can I say?  I too am affected by the lowest common denominator.  Chalk me up as human.  I love sunsets too.

Tour Dates

Good Luck is on tour.  Since I never think to update here, but probably should, I'm belatedly posting tour dates for the tour that I'm already part way through.  It's the first tour I've been on in quite a long time, but probably not my last this year.  I think I will be back to my more transient lifestyle for a while.  I have loved being stable in Bloomington but missed everything that is good about not being stable. 

5.17.08     Cleveland, MS @ Po' Monkeys
5.18.08     New Orleans, LA @ Dragon’s Den, 435 Esplanade Ave.
5.19.08     Pensacola, FL @ Sluggo’s, Cervantes Ave.
5.20.08     Tallahassee, FL
5.21.08     Gainesville, FL @ TBA
5.22.08     Tampa, FL @ Transitions Art Gallery - Skatepark of Tampa,  4215 East Columbus Drive
5.23.08     St. Augustine, FL @ TBA
5.24.08     Charleston, SC @ TBA
5.25.08     Athens, GA @ TBA w/ Daffadil
5.26.08     Atlanta, GA @ 141 Moreland Ave. w/ Hot New Mexicans
5.27.08    Greensboro, NC @ Square One,  1400 Glenwood Ave., with Invisible + one more TBA
5.28.08    Richmond, VA @ Rumors Boutique,  404 N. Harrison St., w/ Nana Grizol
5.29.08     Washington, DC @ The Bobby Fisher Memorial Building, 1644 North Capital St. NW,  w/ Nana Grizol
5.30.08     Baltimore, MD @ Charm City Art Space, 1729 Maryland Ave.
5.31.08     Philadelphia, PA @ TBA
6.01.08     New York City, NY @ Brooklyn Cat House w/ Ach(ten), Halo Fauna
6.02.08     Long Island, NY @ TBA w/ Halo Fauna
6.03.08     Providence, RI @ TBA
6.04.08     Portland, ME @    Bike Barn
6.05.08     Worcester, MA @ Collective A Go-Go
6.06.08     Buffalo, NY @ 29 Custer St. w/ Halo Fauna
6.07.08     Pittsburgh, PA @ TBA
6.08.08     Lexington, KY - Crucial Fun Fest! @ Northside YMCA, 381 W. Louden, w/ Delay and many others
6.09.08     Columbus, OH @ Monster House,  115 W. 10th Ave.
6.10.08     Detroit, MI @ The Trumbullplex
6.11.08     Lansing, MI @ Mac’s Bar,  2700 E. Michigan Ave

Tour is great, Matt and Mike are lovely babies and I'm glad that people finally get to hear the cd we spent so much time on. 

Went tubing down a river and snorkeling in a crystal clear spring where you could see down to the bottom of a 40 foot cave.  Played some good shows and some mediocre ones but overall life is easy. 

(no subject)

Last few weeks have been crazy,
spent a week of 14 hour days recording a 13 song album with my band Good Luck that I'm extremely proud of.  I think it's the best thing I've ever done.

Then as soon as we were finished Matt flew to L.A. to do this:

They all have their eyes closed, probably scared shitless.

Which is perfrom at the Independent Spirit Movie awards with my other buddies Paul Baribeau and Kimya in front of Angelina Jolie and and shit.  That's a still shot from tv. All because of Juno and all that.
I stayed here, so tonight I went to the Sex Workers Art show which made me laugh and feel really good about my body and people I know.
Then went out for drinks with them and Clyde and Michael Hoerger and other people I don't normally drink with (I don't really drink anyway) and it all just felt right.
I miss Matt after being used to hanging out with him constantly for the last 2 months working on this album, but it's good to be apart.  I have to get acclimated to a normal social life again.

Oh and the next episode of my tv show is online:Kirkwood Sunday Mornings video

It feels so good to be this productive, even if none of it pays the bills.  Back to Framemakers tomorrow.

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"After walking back from the village to his manor across the dimming snows, Sleptsov sat down in a corner, on a plush covered chair which he never remembered using before.  It was the kind of thing that happens after some great calamity.  Not your brother but a chance acquaintance, a vague country neighbor to whom you never paid much attention, with whom in normal times you exchange scarcely a word, is the one who comforts you wisely and gently, and hands you your dropped hat after the funeral service is over, and you are reeling from grief, your teeth chattering, your eyes blinded by tears.  The same can be said of inanimate objects.  Any room, even the coziest and the most absurdly small, in the little-used wing of a great country house has an unlived-in corner.  And it was such a corner in which Sleptsov sat."
That's the opening paragraph of a Nabokov christmas story I read on christmas day, possibly my favorite thing I read all year with the exception of The Satanic Verses.