Yesterday morning, Stephin Merritt, literary celebrittante and lead pleonast of The Magnetic Fields, published a snide little report on Roxane Gay’s An Untamed State and Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See for The Morning News’ Tournament of Books. I’ll not take issue (overmuch) with the post’s critical content, mostly because I don’t believe it to be a piece of literary criticism. It’s more just a tedious procession of half-formed and not-argued judgments masquerading as likeable cantankerousness, or a bunch of casuistic setups for one-liners unworthy of a Comedy Central Roast. … Read More
The Magnetic Fields
[Ed. note: In honor of John Cale’s mini-residency at BAM this week — including an all-star tribute to Nico on Wednesday and performances of his 1973 solo album, Paris 1919 on Friday and Saturday — Flavorwire New York has embarked upon a week-long celebration of all things Velvet Underground.]
With all the tribute albums and concerts (and art shows and dance parties, etc.) on offer these days, it’s easy forget that they can be more than just shallow attempts on the part of their organizers to cash in on a name more famous than their own. Last night at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the consistently thoughtful, uncompromising John Cale reminded me. Not only did he amass an appropriate and diverse set of musicians for Life Along the Borderline: A Tribute to Nico, but his clear-eyed and unsentimental celebration of his one-time Velvet Underground bandmate did what any worthwhile tribute should do — broadened and deepened our understanding of its subject. … Read More
There are love songs, of course. There are break-up songs. And then there are songs about relationships that don’t fit into either of those categories — the ones about love affairs that aren’t ending, even when something has gone seriously, perhaps irreparably wrong. Romantic crisis anthems, if you will. The newest of Montreal album, Paralytic Stalks, which is out this week, is all about a relationship in peril; the band’s mastermind, Kevin Barnes, recently told Spin, “The general theme of the whole record is trying to keep myself together when I’m faced with all this madness, trying to keep my relationships together.” It struck us that we don’t hear these stories told in song nearly enough — and since Valentine’s Day, with its perfectionist conception of love, is around the corner, this seemed like a good time to compile them. … Read More
We’ve been having warm and fuzzy feelings about Stephin Merritt ever since the Magnetic Fields’ ’90s revival track “Andrew in Drag” hit the internet, but turns out the oddball frontman just as keen on the future as he is on the past. In collaboration with D.I.Y. video arcade collective Babycastles, the Museum of… Read More
“The only girl I ever loved is Andrew in drag,” Stephin Merritt intones, in a refrain that rhymes “drag” with, well, that other “F” word. And so begins the delightful first single from the Magnetic Fields’ forthcoming album, Love at the Bottom of the Sea. “Andrew in Drag” is a bouncy, jangly, un-PC ode to… Read More
Last week, we read about Alina Simone, who published her first book, a collection of essays, this past year. However, what’s fascinating about her story is that her editor (at big-name publishing house FSG, no less) didn’t discover her in a small literary journal, in a magazine article, or pluck her from an MFA program, but instead found her music on internet radio service Pandora and approached her to suggest that she write a book.
“It seemed like he already viewed music and literature as part of one continuum,” Simone has explained. “Certainly, the best songs out there read like the best poems or short stories.” Though we think there’s some room for argument on that point, we can definitely think of quite a few lyricists who we really wish would write novels — whether we think they’ve got the life experience or imagination to write a fascinating story or just enough chops slapping words together that we want to roll around in ever sentence they assemble. Click through to check out which musicians we think should write novels — and our first imaginings of what those novels would be like — and let us know who you’d like to see transition into fiction in the comments. … Read More
Among his many talents, Daniel Handler is the master of painting the precocious youth in moments of existential peril — his alter ego is Lemony Snicket, after all, though we admit we like his lusciously written books for adults even better. In Handler’s newest novel Why We Broke Up, illustrated by the great Maira Kalman, teenagers Min and Ed have, well, just broken up. And now, “arty” girl Min is writing her basketball-playing ex a novel-length letter as to just exactly why, following the trail of their failed relationship’s trinkets and detritus — sugar bowls, ticket stubs — until she reaches the bitter end. The tale is as simple as it gets, but expertly rendered and, as far as we’re concerned completely true to the teenage experience.
We’ve all been through it, whether we’d like to admit it or not, so to ease the pain, we’ve asked Handler (who in addition to being a successful novelist just happens to be the sometime accordionist for the Magnetic Fields — who would have ever broken up with him?) to put together the ultimate playlist to help you get through any breakup, whether you’re sixteen or sixty. Click through to listen to Handler’s picks and let us know which tracks you count on to heal your own broken hearts in the comments. … Read More
The holiday season is in full swing and everywhere you go you’re admonished to roast chestnuts on an open fire, rock some jingle bells, admire the winter wonderland, and have yourself a merry little Christmas. As soon as Black Friday came around (and we’re being generous since the economic downturn dictated that this year the Christmas season needed to start immediately after Halloween) every store, public space, and street-corner Santa started blaring holiday music. What’s annoying about Christmas music is that playlists, from radio to retail, tend to be so tightly controlled that you only hear the same handful of classics over and over. As an alternative, we at Flavorpill would like to offer up some of the best overlooked Christmas songs. … Read More
A couple of months back, our own Kathleen Massara celebrated the release of Peter Nadas’s weighty novel Parallel Stories with a selection of 10 epic novels that we dared you to finish. Of course, this also got us thinking about equivalents in other art forms, whether it’s film (Charlie Kaufman’s interminable Synecdoche, New York springs to mind immediately), theater… or, inevitably, music. The history of music is full of albums that are awfully difficult to sit through in their entirety, whether it’s because they’re “difficult” or just because they’re damn long. So here are 10 albums we dare you to finish. Have you got any challenges for us? … Read More
If you’ve ever wondered what your favorite literary characters might be listening to while they save the world/contemplate existence/get into trouble, or hallucinated a soundtrack to go along with your favorite novels, well, us too. But wonder no more! Here, we sneak a look at the hypothetical iPods of some of literature’s most interesting characters. What would be on the personal playlists of Holden Caulfield or Elizabeth Bennet, Huck Finn or Harry Potter, Tintin or Humbert Humbert? Something revealing, we bet. Or at least something danceable. Read on for a cozy reading soundtrack, character study, or yet another way to emulate your favorite literary hero. This week: Jane Austen’s beloved heroine, Elizabeth Bennet. … Read More