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November 15, 2006

Book Notes - David Breskin ("Supermodel")

David Breskin has created a modern day epic poem with his book, Supermodel. The world needs more epic poems, and epic poets like David Breskin. Loosely based on model Petra Nemcova's tsunami experience, this experimental work is lyrical, fascinating, and one of the most interesting books I have read all year.

A note: Breskin's preface was originally included in our e-mail correspondence about this feature. Many thanks to him for allowing its inclusion.

In his own words, here is David Breskin's Book Notes entry for his epic poem, Supermodel:

Music informs (and “influences”—although that word is not sufficient) nearly everything I do creatively, and many things I do uncreatively. And now I have put together my list for you, of music I was listening to as I was writing SUPERMODEL. But, here’s the thing, I can say NOTHING about it. Or, rather: anything I say (and have tried to write) would only go to diminish the mysterious pull of (this) music; oversimplify the connections tween this music and what the book became; and “close down” rather than “open up” interpretation for potential readers / listeners. So: a quandary. You respectfully ask your contributors not just to create a playlist but to discuss it. I understand why. I’ve been to the site plenty (before your contact to me) and find it wonderful and compelling, but in my aborted attempts to discuss I only felt I was doing both music and book and your lovely audience a disservice. Music, as our only invisible, truly invisible art form, does not want—in my currently feeble hands—to take this shape. I am sorry. I’m not trying to make too much of this, I’m not trying to overvalorize my own incompetence, or to give this shit a “holy” or “sacred” angle which is not my vibe or meaning.

It’s just this: I’ve written an epic poem in what might be a new form. The form might be foolish, misguided, irritating, or worse, boring. I was thinking, “Better a spectacular failure than a mediocre success.” (Of course I hope it is neither.) The poem is, I think, 2,119 couplets. It is one sentence. It goes and goes, goes and goes some more. The music is in there. It’s in the soup—it can’t be boiled out. But it can’t be discussed, broken down to ingredients, made metaphorical or overly mechanical—eg, “this song led to this couplet, this thought, this scene”—without doing violence to the delicate neural tracework between ear, body and mind.

And here’s my coda: because SUPERMODEL takes as its canvas the Internet itself, thru which and on top of which it paints its narrative, the “found poetry” piece of the book begins with a list (of porn star names, alpha order) and includes many other lists. Because the Internet was born for and lives for lists themselves. We know American poetry has a long romance with the list—Whitman to Ginsburg and beyond. Because of this, I also find a straightforward and simple list the right thing to do here. A list without commentary. A list unalphabetical. A list unafraid of being insufficient in and of itself. Naked, additive, geometric, polyrhythmic, moronic, obsessive and uh...99.98% pure.


Miles Davis:
The Cellar Door Sessions 1970
The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions

Jon Brion:
Punch-Drunk Love
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
I (Heart) Huckabees

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan:
The Day, The Night, The Dawn, The Dusk
The Ultimate Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn, The Early Years,
Rare Recordings, Volumes I and II

Keith Jarrett:

Brad Mehldau:
Live in Tokyo


Peter Wispelwey:
Johann Sebastian Bach: 6 Suites

Phil Kline:
Zippo Songs

Youssou N'Dour:

The Nels Cline Singers:
The Giant Pin

Jonny Greenwood:

Arvo Part:
Tabula Rasa
Orient & Occident

Dave Douglas:
Freak In

Bad Brains:

Bebo Valdes & Diego "El Cigala":
Lagrimas Negras

Henry Threadgill:
Easily Step Into Another World
Too Much Sugar For a Dime
Carry The Day
Up Popped The Two Lips

Com Lag
I Might Be Wrong (Live Recordings)
Kid A

Liberty Ellman:
Ophiuchus Butterfly

Joey Baron:
Tongue in Groove

Wayne Shorter:
Footprints Live!
Night Dreamer
Super Nova
The Odyssey of Iska

Paco de Lucia:

Nonesuch Explorers:
Tahiti: The Gaugin Years: Songs and Dances
Nubia: Escalay (The Water Wheel): Oud Music
Zimbabwe: Shona Mbira Music
East Africa: Witchcraft and Ritual Music
Ghana: High-Life and Other Popular Music
Bali: Music From the Morning of the World
Bali: Gamelan Semar Pegulingan
Java: Court Gamelan

Paul Motion:
Monk in Motian

Grant Green:
Idle Moments

The Sabri Brothers:
Ya Mustapha

Thione Seck:
Orientation (Egypt-India-Senegal)

Steve Reich:
Music For Eighteen Musicians

Sun Ra:
Visits Planet Earth / Interstellar Low Ways

Weather Report:
Live and Unreleased

Joni Mitchell:
Ladies of the Canyon

Konono No. 1:

Art Blakey:
Free For All
The Freedom Rider
Roots and Herbs

Duke Ellington:
The Complete RCA Victor Recordings (1927-1973)

Glenn Gould:
The Goldberg Variations (1965 and 1982)

Steely Dan:
Two Against Nature

Bill Evans:
Waltz For Debby

60 Horses In My Head

see also:

Previous Book Notes submissions (authors create playlists for their book)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2006 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2005 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2004 Edition)


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