Musical Rosary #6–Agony in the Garden

He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will." This one's really short and straightforward because there's a song which more or less perfectly captures the acceptance & surrender which this mystery is mostly about for me. I already wrote some stuff about the Mountain Goats' We Shall All Be Healed and it's not like you guys were ever going to escape this rosary series without SOME … [Read more...]

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“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...]

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“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...]

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From “Master of Reality”

I got this calendar free with dinner at New China up on Foothill. They were giving them away if you ate there in January. One thing about me is that I always get maximum use out of free things. When the managers from around the country all went to San Diego for the region-wide management training summit, I kept all the soaps and shampoos from the hotel room they'd put me in. I also kept the toothpaste. And I didn't keep them in a closet as a souvenir of the management training summit, either: I … [Read more...]

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From John Darnielle, “Master of Reality”

Now I feel like a freak. Kids at State used to call each other "freak," it was like the meanest thing you could call a guy until he'd been there long enough to really stop caring. At that point though it stopped being an insult and became more like a job tile or army rank. … [Read more...]

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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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“Never Quite Free”: My series on portrayals of penitence concludes

with a look at the Mountain Goats, We Shall All Be Healed. This piece has a couple lines I really like: One way to mistell stories of penitence is to envision penance as a linear process of restoration. You do a bad thing, you feel bad, you make amends (often in a way which involves saying ritual words like “I’m sorry,” or doing something which offers an obvious symbolic parallel to your wrongdoing), status quo ante. There can be truly sublime portrayals of this kind of almost mathematical penit … [Read more...]

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