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April 12, 2008


At Fox News, MTV's Kim Stolz offers music suggestions for the US presidential candidates.

For Senator Hillary Clinton:
1. Diana Ross: Ain’t No Mountain High Enough. (Hillary should pay particular attention to songs that appeal to a large audience, especially if they have female vocalists.)
2. Talking Heads: Life During Wartime. (Because of Hillary’s former issues with being a flip-flopper on the war, some war centric songs by politically liberal bands would be beneficial to her. Plus, who doesn’t like The Talking Heads?)
3. Journey: Don’t Stop Believing. (A big hit in middle America, and one that is sure to motivate voters on the fence.)
4. Tom Petty: I Won’t Back Down. (Self explanatory. Gives her supporters hope that she won’t concede to Barack).
5. Queen: Under Pressure
6. Matt and Kim: 5K. (This will be good for her because Matt and Kim are a well respected band in the indie scene, and relatively well known among young voters.)
7. Patti Labelle: Stir It Up
8. Justice: D.A.N.C.E. (Again, will up Hillary’s hipness factor, and is extremely motivational).

The Wall Street Journal interviews author Jennifer Weiner.

WSJ: You were a reporter at the Philadelphia Inquirer, which earlier this week carried a harsh review of "Certain Girls" by novelist Jane Smiley. Any regrets?

Ms. Weiner: The Inquirer has a right to hire whomever they want, and Jane Smiley has a right to her opinions. The only part that surprised me was her taking issue with the pink cover. That's not something I have a lot of control over. Maybe Jane Smiley tells her publisher what cover to give her.
[Jennifer Weiner Certain Girls]

What shocked me was that she said I have to stop writing about nice Jewish characters. [In her review, Ms. Smiley wrote that Ms. Weiner "seems boxed in by her chosen genre" and should "address larger questions than the psychological ups and downs of her nice Jewish characters."]

I couldn't believe that made it past the copy desk. The idea you can tell a writer of a specific religion to stop writing about that religion is presumptuous. When an older writer tries to tell a younger writer through a review what kind of career she should be pursuing, it tends to speak to the reviewer's anxieties rather than the book itself. She also spelled a character's name wrong. The husband's name is Dr. Peter Krushelevansky. It made me think the book was her jumping off place. But I'll be Jane Smiley's trampoline any day.

In the New York Review of Books, Joyce Carol Oates reviews Keith Gessen's debut novel, All the Sad Young Literary Men.

Beginning with its risky yet playful title, All the Sad Young Literary Men is a rueful, undramatic, mordantly funny, and frequently poignant sequence of sketch-like stories loosely organized by chronology and place and the prevailing theme of youthful literary ideals vis-à-vis literary accomplishment. In its seriocomic depiction of post-adolescent ennui it will remind some readers of Indecision (2005), the first novel by Benjamin Kunkel, Keith Gessen's co-editor at n+1; clearly, both young writers speak the same language, if not precisely the same dialect. Its cover art suggests a witty New Yorker cartoon: a small male figure at the very bottom of a page bearing on his back and shoulders an immense black tombstone of a book titled ALL THE SAD YOUNG LITERARY MEN.

The New York Times also reviews the book.

Fiction writers emerging from the world of journals often want to write about the hungers of their generation, the wants and hopes, the dreads and fussing, that might characterize a group of brainy young people struggling for success at the prime of their lives. One must assume that Keith Gessen has witnessed these struggles up close — not merely in his own backyard, but in his bathroom mirror — for he writes about them with the kind of knowledge you don’t find on Wikipedia. The ambition of young literary Americans is a kind of trench warfare, and Gessen, an editor of the magazine n+1, proves himself not only a capable observer but a natural novelist with a warm gun.

Billboard examines the resurgence of 90's indie music acts.

As more '90s acts return and sign to indie labels, a particular set of challenges and opportunities begins to emerge. How does an indie reintroduce a band that has been out of the spotlight for several years? How does it appeal to a new crowd without alienating the now-older core fan base? And why has the act chosen to continue its career on an indie as opposed to other alternatives, like returning to majors or leaving music altogether?

In the New York Review of Books, Michael Chabon reviews the new Richard Price novel, Lush Life.

Lush Life is a good, worthwhile, and in many ways satisfying novel. No matter how routinely and highly praised it may be, Price's ear for dialogue, his ability to capture and reproduce the rhythm, tone, and evanescent vocabulary of urban life, cannot be overpraised: with all due respect to Elmore Leonard, Price is our best, one of the best writers of dialogue in the history of American literature. Resorting with miraculous infrequency to the use of dialect spellings and other orthographical tricks, Price gets his characters' words to convey subtle nuances of class, occupation, education, even geographical gradations of neighborhood, while also using them as a powerful vehicle for the transmission, in fits and starts, evasions and doublings back, of their interior lives. He is a perfect magpie for slang, and like its predecessors this novel is rich in fascinating bits of law-enforcement and street-criminal argot.

The Telegraph examines the growing appeal of fantasy fiction.

The genre went from strength to strength, but today we're in the middle of an unprecedented fantasy boom. Sales continue to rise year on year and it is now the biggest genre in publishing, dwarfing its former powerhouse cousin, science fiction, and the once-ubiquitous romance. The more rational the world gets, with super-science all around us, the more we demand the irrational in our fiction.

NPR's All Things Considered examines the evolution of video game music.

NPR's Day to Day profiles singer-songwriter Kathleen Edwards.

"My camp counselor once put it like this," Edwards says. "She said, 'The reason that you swear a lot is because you're not smart enough to fill in the blanks with words that you don't know.' And I thought that was actually a great point. And from that point forward, I realized that I didn't want to be gratuitous in my cussing. And that it actually is a lot more interesting to have words that have the same meaning, but they're legal."

Kim Deal of the Breeders talks to the Brisbane Times about the band's new album, Mountain Battles.

The fourth Breeders' record has 13 songs, all but two clocking in under three minutes. Deal is a perfectionist but she doesn't indulge herself as a songwriter.

"Oh God, I try, I try!" she says. "Can you imagine having a seven-minute song? That would be so awesome! It's just I get bored and I think everyone else will, too, so I should just wrap it up right now. I look at so many albums and they've got like eight songs on it, and they're eight minutes apiece. I don't see how it works."

NME reviews the album, giving it an 8 out of 10 score.

The Sydney Morning Herald profiles actresses who sing: Zooey Deschanel, Scarlett Johanssen, Juliette Lewis, Toni Collette, Jena Malone, and Minnie Driver.

Guardian readers recall the worst music recommendations ever offered to them.

Guitarati offers music suggestions based on colors.

Bon Iver's Justin Vernon explains the "Pitchfork effect" to the Times Online.

“We’d only pressed up 500 copies of my album. A review appeared on Pitchfork; by 6pm that day we’d sold out. Up to then we’d only sold 200 copies over three months.” The album, For Emma, Forever Ago, scored an 8.1 on the influential music website. In the music world, that’s the equivalent of being voted Richard and Judy’s Best Read . . . ever “That day was insane. It tipped things over the edge. My manager was taking calls in the shower. I’d go for a piss and come back to 50 e-mails in my inbox.”

For s limited time, McSweeney's (pdf link) is sharing a PDF of Michael Chabon's Spideman 2 script.

New York magazine's The Take blog imagines a Friars Club roast of author Philip Roth.

John Updike: At the rate he's going, it's not a question of whether Philip is more prolific than I am…but whether he'll outpace Joyce Carol Oates! But I feel like this would be the place to let you all in on a little secret. Back in the early seventies, Norman Mailer, Saul Bellow, Roth, and I got together at my house in Connecticut and made a wager: whoever pissed off the most people would collect a year's royalties from the other two. I thought Mailer was a shoo-in with the fracas with NOW, and for a while Bellow seemed to be the front-runner, but, Philip, you've managed to infuriate Jews and women for several decades running. But I know it must be tough going to know Doris Lessing got her Nobel Prize before you did.

Mashable lists six "awesome ways to learn about music while listening to it."

Book Group Buzz is a blog at Booklist dedicated to book group issues.

Drowned in Sound talks to Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard and Nick Harmer about the band's new album, Narrow Stairs (out May 12th).

Gibbard also quickly dismisses the notion that it’s in any way an ‘anti’ record: “I think the record shows we know what we’re good at, willing to try some new things but not at the expense of throwing the middle finger up at the record company. This is not the kiss-off record.”

Minnesota Public Radio's The Current features American Music Club with an interview and in-studio performance.

also at Largehearted Boy:

2007 online music lists
Daily Downloads
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from this week's CD releases)
this week's CD releases


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