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April 27, 2008


Mother Jones wraps up day two of the Coachella music festival.

The Los Angeles Times reviews my favorite non-fiction book of the year, Tom McCarthy's Tintin and the Secret of Literature.

There's a secret written into the book's very title. McCarthy is telling us less about, say, what literature is than what it isn't. We come to a novel expecting it to tell us everything that it can, to be replete. McCarthy lifts the rug to show us that the more a story tells us, the more it hides. Channeling Barthes, McCarthy characterizes Tintin -- whose exploits so often involve misread missives, misunderstood map coordinates, misconstruction of another character's language -- as standing "guardian . . . at the heart of a noise." In all his adventures around the globe, Tintin is constantly trying to decode clues he's been given, constantly finding himself mired in perils, from which he inevitably escapes, only to compulsively reboot the fiendish cycle again and again. All his labors turn out to be frustratingly like those of Sisyphus -- unending. Whenever he figures out a particular enigma, it only unleashes more enigmas, sending him off on yet another quest. For McCarthy, as for Barthes, this is the "secret" of literature.

In the Boston Globe, author Adam Mansbach (author of the novel The End of the Jews) recounts the book tour experience of a father-to-be.

The terms of the book tour for my new novel, "The End of the Jews," are these: My cellphone must stay on, charged, and within reach. There is only a five-week differential between the book's drop date and my first child's. I am sprinting through seven cities in 11 days, so as to be home in Berkeley, Calif., a seemingly safe two weeks before that second date. All my flights are changeable. I'd like to avoid answering a spousal call from behind a podium, but I'm prepared to do so. I even have my Rudy Giuliani joke worked out in advance.

Locus lists the winners of the 2008 Nebula Awards, given by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America last night.

The Los Angeles Times excerpts an essay, "Let me Entertain You," from Michal Chabon's collection on non-fiction Maps and Legends: Reading and Writing Along the Borderlands.

Second Hand Songs is an online database of cover songs.

The Seattle Times previews "hot" summer movies.

The 2008 Coachella live music downloads page has been updated with mp3s of Portishead's performance last night.

Nicole Atkins talks to the Times Online.

Her new single, Maybe Tonight, which sounds like the Ronettes doing a residency on the Jersey Shore, should be all over the playlists like a rash. Say this to Atkins and she comes out with a characteristic one-two. “That song that almost brought you to tears,” she muses rhetorically, “because it doesn’t have the same beat as every other track on the radio, maybe that’ll be the song to make you pull over. Or the song that makes people have sex in their cars again.”

Actress Scarlett Johansson talks to the Scotsman about her album of Tom Waits covers, Anywhere I Lay My Head (out May 20th).

Johansson says she was approached to make an album by record label Rhino, whose people had been impressed by her contribution to a 2006 charity record, Unexpected Dreams: Songs From The Stars. "I have so many friends that would kill to have that opportunity, so I couldn't pass it up," the 23-year-old New Yorker says as she settles into a chair in a basement room of a private members' club in London's Covent Garden. "But I wasn't quite sure what to do with the opportunity. Initially I thought I would do a bunch of standards because I always loved Rosemary Clooney, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald, and other female jazz vocalists. I wanted to include this Tom Waits song, 'Never Talk To Strangers', and I thought I would put more Tom Waits songs on. Eventually it became all Tom Waits songs."

Fall frontman Mark E Smith talks to the Scotsman about his memoir, Renegade: The Lives and Tales of Mark E. Smith.

"The publishers kept on at me to make it doomy and gloomy," he says. Perhaps they hoped Smith would exploit his love of horror fiction (Arthur Machen is his favourite; as a teenager he was a member of the Machen Society). More likely they wanted the horrors of life on the road with the Fall, and Smith gives them his version of the on-stage fights, the walk-outs halfway across America, the wedding-day sackings – likening ex-Fall members to David Beckham and all those England World Cup football flops who "couldn't stay away from their birds and couldn't stop crying". But Renegade is even better when it's not about music and Smith is revealing his deep love for Neighbours and expostulating why Bargain Booze is such a great concept for a shop.

Smith also talks to the Telegraph about the book.

But as biography, it is singularly uninformative. 'That was the general idea,' Smith admits. It is more saloon-bar wisdom than standard memoir; vicious, funny and always contrarian. Indeed 'contrarian' would have been a better title than 'renegade', which sounds too much like the rock'n'roll biographies that Smith loathes. 'All that sex on the road, groupies and debauchery,' he says. 'This was supposed to be a riposte to those books, and a way to set the record straight after other writers have attempted to perpetrate their own story of the Fall.'

The Bat Segundo Show has a podcast dedicated to New York Comic-Con, which includes an interview with cartoonist Jeffrey Brown.

The Times Online gives the film adaptation of Persepolis 4 out of 5 stars.

Marjane is one of the great preteenage heroines in literature. Rebellious, inquisitive and opinionated, she is forever using her wits to hold onto her freedom. There’s something wonderful about seeing this young Iranian girl walking through the streets of Tehran with “Punk Is Not Ded” scrawled on her back. They may make her wear a veil over her head, but they can’t veil her mind.

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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