“Music of the Trilobites”: I’m in AmSpec

on music, drinking, and John Darnielle's novel Master of Reality. You can read it now even if you don't subscribe: I read John Darnielle’s 2011 novel Master of Reality under the unfamiliar constellations of Australia—which was fitting, since the slender book is about being both physically and spiritually far from home. Master of Reality is an entry in Continuum’s “33 1/3” series of books about pop or rock albums. (The other books in the series tend to be straightforward critical studies.) I’ve n … [Read more...]

Who Are You and What Do You Want?: I watch a play

at the Studio Theater, Cock, playing through June 22. It's by Mike Bartlett, the guy who did Contractions, and like Contractions it's a high-concept play with few characters and a lot of emotional intensity.The high concept is that John, having broken up with his long-term boyfriend for no real reason except his own itchy ambivalence, meets a woman and falls for her hard. But then the boyfriend takes him back, and suddenly he has to choose--and he can't, for almost two hours, he just can't … [Read more...]

“Music of the Trilobites”: Me in AmSpec

not really a book review!I read John Darnielle’s 2011 novel Master of Reality under the unfamiliar constellations of Australia—which was fitting, since the slender book is about being both physically and spiritually far from home. Master of Reality is an entry in Continuum’s “33 1/3” series of books about pop or rock albums. (The other books in the series tend to be straightforward critical studies.) I’ve never listened to Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality, but Darnielle’s diary of a 1980s te … [Read more...]

“How to Stop Time”: I review “Only Lovers Left Alive”

for AmCon: There’s a lot to love about this swoony, drifty vampire flick, a sensual opium dream which unfurls in a lushly-colored musical haze. Tilda Swinton was born to play a vampire, with her giant sepulcher-face full of bones. She’s magnetic, as are the cityscapes, a bleached-white Tangiers and half-abandoned Detroit.The blood=drug equation isn’t subtle, but there’s a subtler, haunting motif of music and nostalgia as ecstatic drugs in which we lose ourselves. The vampires are drunk on th … [Read more...]

From Josip Novakovich, “April Fool’s Day”

"If he'd kept drinking slivovitz, he'd still be all right, I am sure. The trouble with vodka is that it doesn't feel like anything, so you can drink a whole bottle without vomiting or your throat burning. Slivovitz won't let you do that--when you drink it, you know you are drinking.""You are right about that. After two glasses, your stomach is on fire, and after three, you are vomiting. That's a good safety check built right into the drink. God's wisdom is in the plums--that's how He takes … [Read more...]

The Mask of Obedience

Last year I wrote this really scattershot, unsatisfying post about "The Beauty of Obedience," rescuing obedience as a positive term and a category you're allowed to care about. I recognize that that post was not the tightest thing I've ever written, and in fact, I'm still kind of flailing around trying to talk about what a positive vision of obedience might look like, but here are yet more extremely scattered thoughts.I've been thinking about that terrific phrase, "the mask of command," and … [Read more...]

King of Cups: Rereading Tim Powers’s “Last Call”

Fantasist (and mackerel-snapper, if we're counting) Tim Powers does high-concept tales in which hard-bitten characters struggle to learn to love one another and escape complex, unforgiving systems of magical dark forces. Last Call is probably my second-favorite of his fantasies of salvage--the greatest is Declare aka "the one where demons fight the Cold War"--and as I reread it I loved it even more than I did the first time around. The high concept this time is "war for succession among the gods … [Read more...]


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