Indexing: Turing Machine, John McPhee’s “The Pine Barrens,” Revisiting Coleridge, Andrés Neuman, and More

Items of interest from Vol. 1 contributors. 

R. Stephen Shodin

Continuing the gritty and damaged theme of my last Indexing, I finally finished Ed Brubaker’s Criminal Vol. 5: The Sinners. It had taken up residence atop the “to be read” stack for way too long. So long, in fact, that I nearly forgot just how badass Tracy Lawless is. Criminal indeed. I’m psyched to check out Vol. 6: The Last of the Innocent as soon as possible.

After Brubaker laid waste to what remained of my hope for humanity I decided it was high time I switch gears altogether. I decided not to forsake grit completely though. Bob Mould’s autobiography See A Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody, is chock full of his uncompromising vision, and although I was hard pressed to put it down, it didn’t end up resonating with me as much as his songs have. That said, it’s a crucial read for anyone else that cares to place themselves in the fanboy category.

I rounded out my week’s reading with Jill Ciment’s The Tattoo Artist; a slim volume of pure artistic power. This book is much like a tattoo; there are specific images conveyed, but those images have deeper meanings that are not as easily understood or even grasped by simply reading, one must let the words get under their own skin and discover what they mean to them.

And finally, after years of waiting, Turing Machine’s new record, What is the Meaning of What, arrived in all of its pink-marbled vinyl glory. I promise not to get too emo about this, but Jerry Fuchs was a friend, and one of the finest human beings I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. These final recordings are a great testament to such a talented, generous, and kind person.

Tobias Carroll

A lot of my reading for this week  has been for forthcoming reviews here and elsewhere: T.M. Wolf’s Sound, Brian Evenson’s Windeye, Anne-Marie Kinney’s Radio Iris, and Matthew Battles’s The Sovereignties of Invention.

One thing that wasn’t read for a review — though the process of reading it is sparking a number of ideas in my brain — is John McPhee’s The Pine Barrens, which I picked up last year at Powell’s during a trip to Portland. Written in 1967, it provides a history of a certain part of my home state, but beyond the history and the details McPhee provides of daily life, it also contains brief digressions about plans for the area, suggesting a whole shadow history of what happened between then and now.

I also read The Lifespan of a Fact, about which much has already been written. I’ll just say that I enjoyed it thoroughly, both for the Fingal/D’Agata banter and for the issues that it raises; I’ll also say that, as a fan of Janet Malcolm’s writing, I found a lot of overlap between the two. In other words, if you loved The Lifespan of a Fact but haven’t read The Journalist and The Murderer or The Crime of Sheila McGough yet, well — I might have a couple of books to recommend to you…

Jen Vafidis

All I have been doing is listening to that Death Grips album! Also reading Michael Robbins and this amazing book by Bill Davidson about Hollywood scandals.

Josh Spilker

Grow Up is the new one from Ben Brooks and is coming soon in the U.S. Brooks is a 19-year British writer who published a few novellas in the U.S. with Mudluscious and some other small presses. All of the Brit reviews shouted ‘Skins’ at Brooks, mainly because of his age I think. He was known before for his crazy font changes, but this doesn’t have any of that–I’m not sure if the major press thing stuffed it out of him or what. So far, it’s surprisingly good, with a lot of unexpected dark moments that arrive in a hurry.

Otherwise, I’ve been skimming Writing Movies for Fun & Profit and I’m moving towards Alan Moore’s Jack the Ripper graphic novel, From Hell, after it’s been staring at me for about two weeks.

I’ve been listening to a lot of releases from garage punk label Dirtnap Records. The new Mind Spiders and Mean Jeans are excellent.

Jason Diamond

I used to pride myself on being able to finish a copy of The New Yorker before the next issue came out.  Those days seem to be behind me because of work duties, but I finally got to finish up the Alex Ross piece on Count Harry Kessler, “Diary of an Aesthete,” from two weeks back. That was a real treat.

Andrés Neuman’s Traveller of the Century is sitting on my desk.  I keep saying that this will be the day when I get to finally crack it open, and I’m pretty sure that today is totally the day.

Finally caved in and watched Drive last evening.  I’m apprehensive of Ryan Gosling because they guy is just so frickin handsome, and I’m sick of seeing his face with “Hey girl” next to it every three Tumblrs I look at.  That said, the movie was pretty fantastic and I’m not going to hate on Gosling because he’s far better looking than I am.  Also, that soundtrack?

Nick Curley

Two juggernaut forces have recently enticed me with the poetry of Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Steve Coogan in The Trip (still holding up on second viewing as one of my favorite movies of recent years) and Justin Taylor reading two of his poems for Vol. 1’s recent 3-Minute Punk Rock Stories at Public Assembly.  Coleridge as proto-punk (really, really proto) seems right on: turn of the (18th) century sad sack who got clinically depressed over girls, obsessions with God and piety, addicted and later strung out on opiates, becomes a middle-aged critic beloved for sharp-tongued lectures, but still derives his biggest joys from writing exclamatory rhyming verse.  Is “On a Ruined House in a Romantic Country” one of Coleridge’s titles, or Mark E. Smith‘s?

Coleridge seems acutely tuned to the lukewarm winter and coming spring we’re currently living out here.  Or perhaps his work is such sensory overload that it would feel like an apt depiction of life no matter the climate.  Two particularly punk verses, on the topics of writer’s block and heartbreak, are particularly affecting to me this week.  The first, from “Work Without Hope”: “All Nature seems at work.  Slugs leave their lair – / The birds are singing, birds are on their wing / And winter slumbering in the open air / Wears on his smiling face a dream of Spring! / And I the while, the sole unbusy thing / Nor honey pair, nor make, nor build, nor sing.”  It’s such a choice cut that it was utilized by that other saturnine Romantic poet – Bill Murray – in the film Groundhog Day.

The second, from “Farewell to Love”, is devastating.  Not altogether surprising that John Dunne before Coleridge and Frank Sinatra afterward composed works of the same name.  I could easily picture Sinatra strolling rainy streets, fedora caving in under water’s weight, uttering Coleridge’s lines here: “While most were wooing wealth, or gaily swerving / To pleasure’s secret haunts, and some apart  / Stood strong in pride, self-conscious of deserving / To you I gave my whole weak wishing heart.”  The marvelous line breaks rhyme so swiftly, and only enhance the ache of the ideas.  The rhythm feels like our pop songs, as does its sentiment.  The risk of loving one another, and its stark contrast to those who would stick to worldly possessions and ironic detachment, is that most emo of declarations: no one understands.  Yet, in its utterance, and in recollection for one chilly moment in April – it seems that we’ve all been there.

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