An insignificant detail in a B-movie, watched separately by two friends and discussed later at a café, sets into motion an absurd and dizzying conversation where there is no winner. A brilliant writer and author of An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter, César Aira's sound construction in this 88-page novel is another document that illustrates the Argentine's heft in contemporary fiction.
In order to appreciate the magnitude of my disappointment, I should explain just how important conversations are for me. At this stage of my life, they have become the single most important thing. I have allowed them to occupy this privileged position, and have cultivated them as a raison d'être, almost like my life work. They constitute my only worthwhile occupation, and I have devoted myself to enhancing their value, treasuring them through their reconstruction and miniaturization on my secret nocturnal altar. Hence, if I lose the day, I also lose the night. In fact, my nights even more than my days would be emptied out, for it is always possible to find other distractions during the day; nights are more demanding; their entire sustenance is intelligence and the complicity of intelligence, which becomes complicity with myself through my system of duplication. To lose that would be to lose myself, to remain alone in my aimless insomnia.
This is worse than a sophomore slump. It's a shitshow.
Marisha Pessl, who nailed it when she debuted with her 2006 novel Special Topics in Calamity Physics, completely misfires with the murder mystery-esque Night Film, which attempts to chronicle the unexplained death of the daughter of a cult horror filmmaker.
While the plot is mildly interesting, the narration by the annoying main character -- a shamed investigative reporter -- is maddening for the clichés that litter the 624-page hardcover en masse and the sentences that are weak in their transitions and too often feel like padding.
The most maddening characteristic of Night Film is Pessl's use of italics to emphasis internal thoughts or dialogue. She uses this writing trick so often that it reads like a college freshman's term paper, in which that college freshman read Night Film and thought it was the best book he had ever read.
Randomly selected passage:
Harry banged the glass of water onto the bar. She grabbed it, gulping it down, a drop of water trickling out the edge of her red mouth, sliding down her chin. She set the empty glass down, wobbling unsteadily on her heels, and the bartender wordlessly moved away to refill it. He'd been through this drill with her before.
A house with a premium of sun, daily storms that threaten to destroy, a 12-mile walk/hike in the nearby mountains, the steep decline into downtown and the intense incline back up the hill by bike, a nightly trip to a venue or the cinema. The ability for privacy in public in a place where you can blend in.
Words are spoken to a box that hovers over a dirt pit. You say them out of obligation because it's your turn to speak. In your heart, you know and he knew that the real words, the ones of substance, were said when you could both cry together over them.
Upheaval Suite, recorded over the span of two years in multiple environments in Arizona and Texas, is Steve Jansen’s attempt at documenting how sound is influenced by wide-ranging states of mental health/disease related to displacement and the foreign and usually uncomfortable spaces that the musician tried to make “home.”
Originally from Phoenix, Arizona, Jansen is a Texas-based experimentalist whose musical pursuits focus on alto saxophone, tape-manipulation, extended guitar loops, and contact mic-aided soundscapes. He has played with improvisors from around the world, including Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, Tim Daisy, James Fella, and Whoopi Pupi, and shared bills with musical luminaries Frank Rosaly, Dave Rempis, Retox, Christina Carter, and Richard Ramirez. In April 2014, he completed an extensive tour of the American Southwest with sound artist heavyweight John Wiese of Sissy Spacek.
All tunes on Upheaval Suite were recorded live – no tracking – save for “Upheaval Suite III.” Instruments/sounds include: MiniDisc player/condenser microphone feedback and laptop, vocal microphone feedback and loop station, alto saxophone, tape manipulation, voice, prepared electric guitar, broken bell, and metal chains.
Womb Bomb is an extra bitter riot grrrl band from Houston, Texas. On this limited-edition cassette, the temporarily defunct, bass driven, lo-fi project – who has played just one show (in an abandoned doctor’s office) – examine public transit harassment, PMS tropes, rape culture, and the denial of health care for Texas women via only slightly tongue-in-cheek garage trash punk.
The full-color fold-out J-card is decorated with a collage of uterine fibroids, dermoid cysts, bloody feminine hygiene products, and hearts.
Womb Bomb – which routinely practiced in an apartment in the city’s Museum District that had a verified electrical problem, a significant gas leak, rats in the attic, and a colony of stray cats living outside – is Kira Black on drums, ????? on guitar, and Lindsey Simard
on bass and vocals.
Recorded live by Ian Wells at KTRU Rice Radio in Houston in November 2013. All songs by Womb Bomb except “Bad Girls” by Bob’s Burgers.
A daylong drive yields the arrival at a great summer space. Twenty-five hours later, a phone call has you packing the suitcase that you had only unpacked six hours earlier. He wants to know when you're coming home, so you have to go.
It crawls out of the only article of clothing on the floor and gets you good. An outwardly calm, inwardly frantic trip to a medical office is met with a pricey upfront fee and double the promised wait time.
Home remedy calms the immediate pain, and the actual sting point is back to normal after icing. Hours later, an arthritic left hand debilitates certain abilities and continues through the week. The poison in your system also deletes a feeling of promise in your psyche.
This music is ethereal. Conjuring up musical ideas from post-punk, 20th century classical and especially East Asian native songs. Repetitive chants and phrases loom through the air, recreating a landscape of ancient ancestors and a world distant from our own.
If anything, H.G. Bissinger’s now cult-like book (originally published in 1990) is 367 pages of proof that the best fiction is nonfiction. In Bissinger’s incredible effort, the journalist – using language, pacing, and white space in a creed that alt-weeklies were founded upon – captures the pulse of the bleak Texas town of Odessa via its high-school football team. Approaching its 25th anniversary of publication, the insane thing is that towns like Odessa, where collective and individual happiness are dependent on the athletic performances of 16- and 17-year olds, still exist en masse.
The debut of FRIENDSHIP CEMETERY, recorded directly to a crude tape deck, features the music of a longtime collaborative project between Texas-based musicians Parham Daghighi and Steve Jansen.
Side A consists of an improvisation on electric guitar, which serves as a musical preface to the poem that follows. The untitled poem, written in July/August 2013, uses, as its source material, six common phonemes found in the Persian language.
Side B is a tape-manipulation set of an alarm-clock chime captured in a shady Albuquerque inn during a road trip across the American Southwest in November 2013.