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April 27, 2010

Note Books - Carey Mercer of Frog Eyes

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

Carey Mercer is the frontman for the band Frog Eyes, and his musical side projects have included Swan Lake and Blackout Beach.

The band's new album, Frog Eyes: Paul's Tomb: A Triumph, is out today, a record the NME called "a furiously lobbed Molotov cocktail of well-read rock – a volatile brew of uneasy drama and emotion."

In his own words, here is the Note Books entry from Frog Eyes' Carey Mercer:

I am not really interested in ideas or authors or novels in themselves; what I am interested in is the cables of similarities that stretch between poles. Thus, all of our expression might be seen as a glittering bridge, stretching between that which we experience and that which we wish to remember—the life of the body, the "lived life," bridging into the life of the mind. This bridge is the one true wonder of the world.

Bolano: it's the 2666 mind-punch that I will remember most from last year’s reading. I think the same violence that pulsates in Ciadad Juarez also pulsates in Vancouver; it is the same violence that haunts The Highway of Tears, and it seems to pulsate all around the world, not only through individual actions but also in the economic inequalities that force women into hardship and danger and exile.

Bolano is a pole from which many, many cables emanate. In fact, this multi-tendriled image, this author-as-lexicon, or author-as-polymath, applies to a lot of my favourite contemporary authors: Sebald, Marias, Mosley, Herling. I use the term "contemporary" here quite loosely—I still believe we are in (and certainly of) the twentieth century—it’s legacies, sewers and abysses still hold us in a gravitational pull that no arbitrary line on a calendar nor iPad-revolution can sever.

Which segues into Rebecca West, who is not contemporary, but is the chronological first, the birth-mother of this tradition for me. But it is only her magnificent travel-memoir of pre-war Yugoslavia Black Land and Grey Falcon that really "deserves" (what a funny term) mentioning here (though her essays on Hamlet and Kafka are wonderful). West is both acutely sensitive to the beauties and enchantments of foreign lands (I know I am being Romantic here), and also seductively arrogant in her judgments and proclamations. There is something so truly wondrous about this work—the pre-sentiment of WWII dread, the fascination with the "other," the quality of Britishness that is both fascinating and hilariously pompous (not that I'd be saying this to her face!). It’s the kind of work where one makes statements such as "this is truly the kind of mind that has gone out of the world" after reading it.

That is, until one picks up the works of Anne Carson. I know that the world is full of rogue-classicists, men and women intent on breathing new life into the Greeks in their own way (I'm making fun of my 2005 self here). So much has been said about Anne, and even a bit by me, that I will include her, and yet not even briefly discuss what makes her so fine to read.

Of all the novels that hit me hard during the writing of Frog Eyes: Paul's Tomb: A Triumph, I think Lydia Chernova's Sofia Petrovna had the most thematic impact: Frog Eyes: Paul's Tomb: A Triumph is "about" the systematic destruction of women. I read that Sofia Petrovna made Anna Akhmatova weep; Akhmatova's story, the story of a mother whose son is disappeared by bureaucratic terror, is mirrored in the novel. It is not just his destruction that is tragic--which it of course is--but the true tragedy is for the mother, who must keep sailing on. It's unimaginable.

Take care of the people you love.


Frog Eyes links and free and legal mp3s:

Frog Eyes MySpace page
Frog Eyes Wikipedia entry

Frog Eyes: "Lear in Love" [mp3] from Frog Eyes: Paul's Tomb: A Triumph
Frog Eyes: "Flower in a Glove" [mp3] from Frog Eyes: Paul's Tomb: A Triumph
Frog Eyes: "Bushels" [mp3] from Tears of the Valedictorian


also at Largehearted Boy:

Previous Note Books submissions (musicians discuss literature)

52 Books, 52 Weeks
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (highlights of the week's comics & graphic novel releases)
Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
daily mp3 downloads
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (highlights of the week's book releases)
musician/author interviews
Soundtracked (directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from this week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists


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