There are a lot of magnificent worlds in Margo Lanagan’s head. With her latest collection of short stories, Yellowcake, she once again drops the reader in the middle of these lands and into the lives of the characters that attempt to navigate, make sense of, and survive the remarkable events these locations suffer. What always impresses me about Lanagan’s short story collections is not the remarkable settings she establishes, but how she will dump me in the middle of these places without apology for the lack of explanation. Instead, she teams the reader up with a rapidly developed character and a compelling human conflict, allowing this person to walk us down distorted corridors as we all grow together.
The ten tales from Yellowcake, collected from numerous short story collections over the past few years, offer no exception from this remarkable formula. Each of her past three collections has provided me a story that seems forever ingrained in my head (for the record, “Singing My Sister Down,” “White Time,” and “A Feather in the Breast of God,” from Black Juice, White Time, and Red Spikes respectively). I’m not entirely sure which story will hold the same distinction from this new collection, but if I had to wager a guess, I’d promote “An Honest Day’s Work,” for its incredible transition from the ecstasy of a windfall for an impoverished people to mortification at the realization of the humanity of their pending fortune. It is a great example of the emotional wringer Lanagan’s stories can put a reader through, yet somehow done with a compelling wonder.
Eluvium’s latest double-CD release, Nightmare Ending, is my first real exposure to the artist. For its rich composition of instrumental genius, the fact that I found it a bit…happier…than music I generally listen to in no way served to reduce its stunning musical impact (I don’t mind being happy, but I guess I tend to gravitate towards more minor chords in songs). To my predictable liking, there is a fine mix of atypical musical sounds and samples that provide a wonderful accompaniment to the piano, percussion, and emotional guitars and slowly rise and fall with distorted, but far from harsh, tones. Still, this is a hard mixture to pull off in creating a full album of unique music (let alone a double album), but Nightmare Ending does it incredibly well…an opinion I had even before I was pleasantly surprised to hear Yo La Tengo’s Ira Kaplan as a guest vocalist on the final track.
And, in a very “chocolate meet peanut butter” way, Nightmare Ending served as a wonderful soundtrack to my reading of Yellowcake, greatly highlighting Lanagan’s stunning worlds with its compositions.
Hiding from the intruder and the camera.
The above is our sweet Sasha Cat resting among a collection of stuff toys. We call her “Sash-ET,” as sometimes we wander right by her and don’t even notice she has buried herself by the animals.
This is our new neighbor cat. When Neighbor Kitty comes by, sweet Sasha turns into a howling beast, emitting a noise so chilling that it brings Ozzy Cat running to see what is wrong with his sister. In fact, the noise has the same effect on us.
So angered by the visitor, Sasha patrols the window to ensure she doesn’t return. The above picture was taken two hours after the visit; it took another 30 minute or so before Sasha gave up the vigil.
Talking Heads – Life During Wartime: Talking Heads appear on the Random Eight at a much ratio than they are represented on the iPod, but the songs always make me happy of their success on the Thursday playback.
Marillion – Forgotten Sons: Proggy anti-war ranting.
Afghan Whigs – Superstition / Going to Town: Fun live track from one of the band’s early EPs.
Merzbow – Variation For P.D. 1 (1995): Noisy noisy.
Tom Waits – The Return of Jacking and Judy: A blues-rooted tune from Orphans.
R.E.M. – Laughing: Very early, friendly track that would lead to so much for the band.
Robyn Hitchcock – Lady Waters & The Hooded One: With a few exceptions, this has been a very “indie-rock” focused Random Eight.
Afghan Whigs – When We Two Parted: A great song that was stunning live on their tour late last year.
The first shot captured after the initial collection posted here. Perhaps its former owner read the book and realized Tinker Bell was really a nasty character.
Made by me (so far, no fatalities reported in the house).
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The Older Blog
Something OffSomething Off
There is no hole deep enough to stifle the sound of protest
There is no man ridiculous enough to quiet the world
Maria Alyokhina must be freed
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova must be freed
Viet Khang must be freed
Tran Vu Anh Binh must be freed
Vladimir Putin there is something off in your world
Truong Tan Sang there is something off in your world
I hope so
Contemplating Silent Wishes
Contemplating Silent Wishes, the second release from Fertanish, presents minimalist, experimental rhythms and sounds that patiently travel through a complicated and mesmerizing composition.
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