Thursday, February 21, 2008

Still Catching Up

Way too much reading and listening to try to deal with after months away from this, but here are a few quick (I promise) thoughts:

Joe Henry's Civilians is brilliant. I've listened to it already much more than Scar or Tiny Voices.

The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao had great moments. But a lousy ending (in the sense that it was both cheap and predictable).

Tree of Smoke is fantastic, but more in the abstract of its writing, its chaos, and its scope, than in the reality of its characters or coming to care about any of them.

Pinker's The Stuff of Thought was interesting. And it held together better than a lot of contemporary "accessible" science literature, most of which sets out a great introduction, a fascinating first chapter, and then a disheartening series of iterations and reiterations, each of less interest and relevance than the one before. Whatever that means.

George Saunders makes me laugh. And despite the weight of what he sometimes addresses, his style is light enough to make for acceptable three a.m. rocking a baby to sleep reading.

Thanks to Zach's recommendation, I read Cavell's Must We Mean What We Say, which was great. Especially in its discussion of films.

The Coen Brothers' adaptation of No Country for Old Men gets less impressive on repeated viewings. And it becomes more and more a betrayal of the heart of the text, too.

Six discs of Miles Davis On the Corner is overkill, but hearing the original album with more depth, if not more clarity, brings the fear in a way that the previous CD couldn't. Plus, if you buy the whole box, you get another excuse to listen to "He Loved Him Madly," which is one of the most brilliant (or at least entertaining) explorations of nothing happening quickly that I can think of. It's like "Once Upon a Time in the West." And just as Greg Lawson insisted that if you don't like that movie, then you don't like movies, I would argue that if you don't like that song, then you don't like music. Or not. Maybe "Gimme Shelter" is a better example of such a dichotomy.

And, having used the word dichotomy, I am forced to publish.

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