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October 23, 2008

Shorties (Mia Kirshner, Mountain Goats, and more)

The Los Angeles Times profiles actress Mia Kirshner (The L Word) and her involvement in putting together the book, I Live Here.

Over the last six years, she traveled to four messy and malignant parts of the world -- the Russian republic of Ingushetia; Burma; Juarez, Mexico; and Malawi -- that have large disenfranchised populations. "I Live Here," is the product of those trips: Its four separate volumes, one for each region, tell stories about the women and children in these places through journal entries, collages, photographs, paintings, graphic novellas and images of found objects. Kirshner wrangled many collaborators; J.B. MacKinnon, Paul Shoebridge and Michael Simons are the co-authors, and there is a boatload of other contributors, including some of the subjects themselves.

I Live Here is simply the most eye-opening and important book I have read all year, and something everyone should read. Look for Kirshner's Book Notes essay on this blog soon.

The New York Daily News tries to define what sales numbers designate a song or album a hit these days.

In the New York Times, Jon Pareles covers day one of the CMJ Music Marathon.

The Stranger interviews author Aimee Bender.

You’ve written very well about Haruki Murakami and the messiness of his fiction, and how appealing it is that his stories aren’t clean-cut. What other authors do you look to for this quality?

Ah, I’m glad that came through. I love the messiness. Barthelme has a certain very beautiful messiness. His writing is precise but he’s very free with his tangents and what kind of meaning he’s after. I think there’s some gorgeous mess in Mary Gaitskill’s novel Veronica. James Baldwin’s amazing short story “Sonny’s Blues” is giant and sprawling and I think messy but the emotional impact feels directly tied to that freedom. The story would not have the same depth if it got to its point zippily. Maybe Melville as one of the ultimate good mess-makers. And the fact that an abridged Moby Dick came out last year seems like a pretty clear indicator that we like to clean stuff up too much. I like seeing the mess. As long as the writer is still engaged, I really like following along and going down unexpected alleys.

The Arizona Star interviews John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats.

You said before in another interview that you "don't collaborate well," yet you've got this Kaki King EP and tour going and you recently worked with Aesop Rock. Why the change and can we expect more of this in the future?

"Yeah, I don't know — I think I had some bad jamming experiences in high school. I am enjoying collaborating, for sure. I do always worry that I am forcing my ideas on people, because I get pretty carried away when I'm working — I get very self-conscious about that, which is a total non-issue when I'm working by myself. Still, Kaki and I are hoping to do more stuff. We're thrilled with how the EP came out."

Chip Kidd talks to the National Post about his new book, Bat-manga! The Secret History of Batman in Japan.

"It's a pretty insular, niche sort of thing," says Kidd, who will be coming to Toronto from New York this Sunday to speak about his latest work, Bat-manga! The Secret History of Batman in Japan, at the International Festival of Authors. A hefty tome featuring a rare series of Batman and Robin comics commissioned for a children's anthology in Japan some 40 years ago, the collection took Kidd more than a decade to assemble.

Drowned in Sound interviews indie guitar goddess Marnie Stern.

Southern Shelter features mp3s of a recent Twin Tigers Athens performance.

The New Year's Matt Kadane puts his iPod on shuffle for the A.V. Club.

Yahoo Music lists the 25 cheesiest hits of the 1970s.

The A.V. Club interviews author/actor John Hodgman about his new book, More Information Than You Require (and how his Daily Show appearances help the book's readers).

AVC: Do you think your appearance that night and your subsequent appearances on the show helps people get a better handle on the tone of the book itself and how it should be read?

JH: Yes, absolutely. It's like a letter of introduction. It's like I came to America's doorstep wearing a cheap blazer spouting a bunch of lies and looking crazy, but I had a letter with me that said, "Let this man in. He's not just crazy. It is all just an act. Signed, Jon Stewart."

The Frontloader is sharing mp3s of Pink Floyd's 1970 Peel session.

Tor is making Brian Slattery's novel, Spaceman Blues, available as a free downloadable e-book.

InsideVandy lists its top 10 most underappreciated bands/artists of all time.

Ursula K. Le Guin talks to the Vancouver Courier.

"I've been fighting that little battle for decades," says Le Guin, reached in Portland, Ore., her home for the last 50 years. "Saying, 'Hey you people over in criticism and the universities. Look at this stuff--stop sneering and just read it.' This is where a lot of good fiction is taking place." The Pulitzer Prize-winning Chabon, says Le Guin, came along at just the right time. "Here's somebody with one of the great big awards who's talking our language."

The Vancouver Sun finds that young adult novels are a hit with older readers.

Financial Times examines the dropping songwriters' royalties from CD sales.

The Phoenix offers the backstory of Jack Kerouac & William S. Burroughs' collaborative novel, And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks and also posts an excerpt.

John Petkovic of Cobra Verde talks to the Cleveland Free Times about a chance encounter with film director Jim Jarmusch in New York.

"We were just sitting around," recalls Petkovic. "I said, 'You think we're stalking you, but in reality you're stalking us.' We started talking, and I told him our perfect tour would be to book a tour but not do any shows. We would just park the van and hang out, smoke cigarettes and drink a little bit. He wrote me a week later and said he was so inspired, he called Tom Waits and told him what I said, and said that he and Tom wanted to make a movie based on that concept. I'm sure they'll never get around to it, but the point is that you can't take yourselves too seriously. Tours are always a means to an end, but for us, this is the end."

Scripps News recommends election-themed books for children.

The Orange County Register lists the top 50 Halloween songs.

The National Post offers a short interview with author Richard Russo.

Does the internet help or hurt?

The internet helps my screenwriting life enormously. I can deliver completed scripts by email attachment, which means I almost never have to go to L.A. Screenwriters can now live in places like Maine. I don't know that the Net affects my life as a novelist one way or another.

Author Todd Hasak-Lowy shares a music playlist at the New York Times Paper Cuts blog.

see also: Hasak-Lowy's Largehearted Boy Book Notes music playlist for his novel, Captives

Seattle Weekly interviews one of my favorite singer-songwriters, Jeffrey Lewis.

So what have you been writing about lately? What's on your mind?

I've actually been working on a thing about Barack Obama...I thought since I'm doing a U.S. tour in the week leading right up to the election, I should do something election-oriented for the tour, and the idea struck me that maybe I'll just do a very quick biography of Barack Obama as one of my illustrated songs. It's just in the preliminary stage right now...I'm just writing down ideas for it and doing some research. It may not turn into anything if I don't think it's workable.

KCRW's Bookworm interviews literary critic James Wood today about his book, How Fiction Works.

John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats and Kaki King talk to the North County Times about their shared musical integrity.

"I haven't made one single artistic move with the desire to be seen in a particular way," King said. "I'm extremely selfish. It's true. I don't make records for anyone but me. The shows are for the fans. They pay a lot of money, and many times, drive a long way. I'll play everything they want to hear because the shows are for them, but the records are for me."

Darnielle echoed a similar sentiment about his process. "I don't sit down and plan out an album," he said. "I write songs and see where they're going."

Orham Pamuk discusses the importance of books in the Guardian.

I regret that I have not been able to shake off the enlightenment idea that books exist to prepare us for life. Perhaps this is because a writer's life in Turkey is proof that they are. But it also has something to do with the fact that in those days Turkey lacked the sort of large library where you could easily locate any book you wanted. As for books in foreign languages, not a single library had them. If I wanted to learn everything that there was to be learned, and become a wise person and so escape the constraints of the national literature - imposed by the literary cliques and literary diplomacy, and enforced by stifling prohibitions - I was going to have to build my own great library.

AddictiveTips lists 16 free search engines for finding music online.

Minnesota Public Radio interviews Sarah Vowell about her latest book, The Wordy Shipmates.

also at Largehearted Boy:

daily mp3 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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