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August 20, 2006


From yesterday's Wall Street Journal feature about book publishers and music:

One byproduct of the book soundtrack trend has been the transformation of a grassroots music blog into a coveted marketing slot for authors like Mr. Ellis and Mr. Klosterman. The blog, called Largehearted Boy, features a running series called, "Book Notes." About once a week, an author of a recent book posts a list of songs that inspired the work or that readers might want to listen to as they turn the pages. The series was begun last year by David Gutowski, a Web-site developer in Decatur, Ala., who runs the blog. Mr. Gutowski started the series as a way to combine his interests in books and music.

Increasingly, however, Mr. Gutowski says he's approached by publishers hoping to expose their authors to the discerning young music fans who visit his site.

If you are reading this, consider yourself "discerning."

A Cleveland Plain-Dealer reviewer compares author J.M. Ledgard's novel, Giraffe, with a Radiohead track and Haruki Murakami.

The resulting novel, however, is closer to a potent, disturbing dream, as if Radiohead's "Idioteque" had mixed with something by the Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami. Ledgard pierces his readers with images -- "Prague stumbles on, as a wasted body in a fine suit." And he sets up bits from Charles Dickens and a Czech children's story that work like refrains to ensnare and enchant us.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette names its favorite music blogs, listing Stereogum, Salon's Audiofile, Aquarium Drunkard, and Said the Gramophone.

Cracked lists the five "most obviously drug-fueled TV appearances ever," complete with YouTube evidence.

The Fall's Mark E. Smith talks to the Sunday Herald.

The Fall – currently comprising Smith, his wife Elena, a bassist “from round here” and two Americans – just keep moving forward. “British musicians, they’ve got a reputation in the States for just pissing off. How many times have you heard it? They go over there and after two or three days they can’t handle it. They’re spoilt bastards .”

American musicians, claims Smith, are different to the British variety. “They’re a lot more positive, you know? I’ve been working, obviously, with Manchester musicians and London musicians for a long time, and they’re right miserable bastards, they’re always thinking about their girlfriends or their wives.”

So, he says, “I’ve got these Yanks, and they’re really good, they’re about 27 and they don’t know anything about The Fall, they’re sort of Frank Zappa types. And I’ve got the wife, of course, and it’s sounding really good. It’s the best thing that has happened to me, really, [the rest of the band] pissing off.”

Matthew Lightburn of the Dears talks to the Times Online.

“It gets frustrating when your album falls victim to extreme contextualisation.” (Nice phrase. Perhaps future targets of bad reviews should say, when asked if their work was poorly received: “Not as such; it was extremely contextualised.”) But he’s not in denial about it, he insists. “I went back and listened to Lost in the Plot and thought, ‘Wow, I really do sound like Morrissey.’ But if an album hits reviewers at the wrong time, you’re toast.”

Author Joan Didion talks to the Observer about her last book, The Year of Magical Thinking.

In the meantime, she is working with David Hare and turning her extraordinary book of grieving and remembering into a play, which should open on Broadway early next year. It will take the form of a monologue. 'It is,' she says, 'like giving the book a new life.'

In the Observer, author Alexander McCall Smith recalls the meals of his colonial African childhood.

As children we yearned for ketchup, a great treat being a tomato sauce sandwich. As a boy I used to eat raw bacon covered with this tomato sauce. I thought that wonderful. I also ate sugar sandwiches, which were very easy to make, consisting of two slices of white bread spread with butter, on which sugar would be sprinkled. Tomato sauce, though, was to be eaten in moderation, we were told. The reason for this was my mother's belief that consumption of this sauce by children led to what she called juvenile delinquency.

In the New York Times, Jon Pareles reviews the new Bob Dylan album, Modern Times.

“Modern Times” sounds more tentative than either of its predecessors. Onstage Mr. Dylan’s touring band regularly supercharges his songs. But on “Modern Times” the musicians play as if they’re just feeling their way into the tunes. Mr. Dylan (under the pseudonymn Jack Frost) produced “Modern Times” himself, as he did with the more aggressive “ ‘Love and Theft.’ ” So the new album’s just-jamming style is clearly a deliberate choice. Perhaps it’s intended to make the songs more approachable; with the drummer using brushes, Mr. Dylan can sing quietly.

Author David Sedaris talks to the Times Online about his public speaking career.

“It amazes me every time I get up there on stage,” he says. “I look at the audience and think: what are you doing here? To want to see this guy, who’s nothing to look at, read out loud about his stupid life?”

The San Francisco Chronicle reviews Haruki Murakami's lastest collection of short stories, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman.

Murakami's Japanese contemporaries have criticized him for being pop-lit, and his debt to American pop culture is, admittedly, large. But these elements -- fast food, jazz, slang -- are more global than American, and the fundamentals of Murakami's work are undoubtedly Japanese, located somewhere between Kabuki and manga.


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