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April 22, 2008

Note Books - Shelley Short

The Note Books series features musicians discussing their literary side. Past contributors have included John Darnielle, John Vanderslice, and others.

Shelley Short's new album Water for the Day is filled with intimate yet powerful lyrics and simple arrangements that dutifully frame the poetry of the songs. Surrounded by talented musicians, Short's voice pulls us into her world like a good novel or breathtaking short story.

Though I have read elsewhere it is out of print, Abandoned Love Records still has a couple of copies of Short's wonderful debut album Oh' Say Little Dogies, Why? album in the simple yet beautiful silkscreened case that Keep Recordings was famous for.

In her own words, here is the Note Books entry from Shelley Short:

You know that feeling? I remember when I first had it. I was in 4th grade, and I was visiting my grandparents who lived at the bottom of a big mountain, in the middle of the woods next to a rapid river. I only brought one book for the week, Matilda by Roald Dahl. I was reading it too fast. I would be done too soon, and I would be stuck in the guest bedroom alone at night, left to listen wide eyed to the bears going through the garbage and the creek whispering secrets to the katydids. I loved that book so much, that once it was finished it was like having a good friend move away to another city.

Since that fateful night when the last page was done, and I felt a strange mixture of loneliness and pride, hardly ever have I been at a loss for what book to read next. I consider myself lucky, or spoiled in this respect, depending on how you look at it. Because of my father’s history with fiction, and unending shelves of books, I have never fallen short of an amazing recommendation.

The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers.
"There's nothing that makes you so aware of the improvisation of human existence as a song unfinished. Or an old address book. "--Carson McCullers
When I read this book I was in a tiny tiny room with no windows in Chicago, it was the dead of winter. That room was like a book portal with just a bed, a lamp and quiet walls muffled by snow and ice.

The main character, Frankie is on the edge of “innocence”. She’s 12, and she’d like to get out of her small southern town, all the way to Alaska. Her only friends are Bernice (the family’s maid) and her little cousin John Henry. It seems at first that there are no obstacles. She is clear on what she wants. But the roadblocks she encounters are as shocking to the reader as they probably are to her. I have read several of Carson’s other books, and have loved EVERY one. Her books have that same eerie southern quality that Faulkner’s do, but her writing has a light, unpredictability, and humor. There doesn’t seem to be a beginning or end , and I was left as confused as Frankie about the goings on in people.

Ask The Dust by John Fante
Before I moved to LA (for 6 months), I needed something to grasp about the place that was so foreign to me. Fante gave me that. He lived near where I was going to live in Echo Park. I could walk to a sandwich shop in old downtown called Phillipe’s; where there was sawdust on the floor, 50-cent coffee, and the waiters all wore starched caps and aprons. Fante wrote a lot of Ask the Dust back in 1939, at Phillipe’s, and it seemed like little had changed since then. It was like walking into a time warp, when I went there I swore I could see John sitting at the corner table eating French dip and jotting down in his notebook. It really helped me adjust as much as I could to the mysterious and romantic LA of old. A bag of oranges a day, the dusty old palm trees, the yellow and pink, the struggling, the cars.

Call It Sleep by Henry Roth
So fragile and so heavy. Reading this book was like holding a saturated rain cloud and trying to keep it from raining.
Henry Roth must have been more conscious than most as a child, as he is the best I have ever read at describing in such detail the thought process of a sensitive little boy. Like the other books on this list, Henry Roth is amazing at portraying the innocence. It reminds us how the goings on of a hardened adult (or child I suppose) can be interpreted in a crushing way to the defenseless consciousness of a little child.

Life and Times of Michael K by John Maxwell Coetzee
This novel takes place in civil war ridden South Africa. I think it was written in 1983. The main character is Michael K, a gardener with a hair lip, who seems neither happy nor sad, just merely content. His character is someone you could end up pitying. But I ended up idolizing him because of his simple problem solving, like how he came up with a makeshift wheel chair from ally parts so he could carry his ailing mother back to the country where she was born, so she could die there. And how he painstakingly, wondrously and delicately grows his very own pumpkin patch, where he gets all his nutrients while living in a shallow hole in the ground, out of sight from the world.

Shelley Short and Water for the Day links:

Shelley Short's website
Shelley Short's MySpace page

Muruch review of Water for the Day
Willamette Week review of Water for the Day

"Swimming" [mp3] from Water for the Day
"Like Anything It's Small" [mp3] from Captain Wildhorse (Rides The Heart Of Tomorrow)
"Lupine Manner" [mp3]
"Tomorrow Night" [mp3]

MSNBC profile of Shelley Short
Venus Zine interview with Shelley Short

Shelley Short posts at Largehearted Boy
Shelley Short blog posts at
Shelley Short blog posts at Hype Machine

also at Largehearted Boy:

Previous Note Books submissions (musicians discuss literature)
Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
guest book reviews
musician/author interviews
Soundtracked (directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2008 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2007 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2006 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2005 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2004 Edition)


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