Indexing: James Salter, Bitch Magnet Returns, Skater Lit, “The Pilgrim Hawk,” and More

A roundup of things consumed by our contributors.

Jen Vafidis
I read through Songs of Kabir in Three Lives the other day; that guy makes me laugh. I saw Holy Motors; that was just okay. I’m seeing Swans on Sunday. I’m cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year, so I’m wondering if I should get Sam Sifton’s book on said meal for my e-reader or something. But, ah, I have been all over the place when it comes to serious reading! This week I wantonly dipped into and out of the following: Enormous Changes at the Last Minute by Grace Paley (which I love); Saving God by Mark Johnston (which I also love); The Masters of Atlantis by Charles Portis (mostly flirting with this one); and Light Years by James Salter. I think I’ll commit to that last one because I’ve been thinking a lot about Salter in anticipation of his upcoming novel, which was pushed to a spring release. I’m lukewarm to Richard Ford’s touch in general, but his introduction to Light Years does hit upon the big draws to Salter’s work: sentence-level beauty, narratives constructed like clocks, and sex writing par excellence. His erotica is mind-boggling. How does he do it? The guy manages to be purpler than D.H. Lawrence and he still wins you over.

Tobias Carroll

I should also mention that I took in the Bitch Magnet/Moss Icon show at Le Poisson Rouge on Thursday. Both bands were terrific, but Bitch Magnet were especially so — visceral and cerebral in equal measure. It’s interesting listening to them and remembering that their music was written at a time when its members were in (I believe) their early 20s — there’s a definite sense of throwing everything they had into a song — which, more often than not, pays off. Previously, I’d known them as the band Sooyoung Park had been in before Seam, and while Seam is definitely the more focused of the two, I suspect I’ll be listening to Umber a whole hell of a lot in the months and years to come. Thursday’s show so impressed me that I ended up buying a ticket for Bitch Magnet’s show yesterday at the Knitting Factory, a bill which they shared with Turing Machine and Violent Bullshit. Among the highlights: Turing Machine guitarist Justin Chearno the first time he’d shared a bill with Bitch Magnet; it was 1988, in Youngstown, Ohio. His band had played for an hour and a half because “it was Youngstown, and that was what you did.”

I think that this Indexing’s going to be a musically-focused one, for the record.

Two years ago, at a Hardly Art showcase at Shea Stadium, I saw the band Fergus & Geronimo for the first time. I’m still not sure how to describe their set in ways that do it justice — it was less of a case of “and then they ran a zither through eight distortion pedals, and it sounded like the humpback whales from Star Trek: The Voyage Home, and then we all started moshing” and more that they were really good at what they did — pop with nifty textures, played tautly. Their debut Unlearn had many a fine pop song, but was more of an (intentionally) patchwork affair; and while their new album Funky Was the State of Affairs has its share of winks and nods, it’s also pretty damn catchy throughout.

Also, the new Cult of Youth album Love Will Prevail is terrific. Earlier this week, Cult of Youth took a weird and inexplicable leap within my brain, from “these guys are pretty good” to “I want to listen to nothing that is not this right now.” Maybe it’s brain chemistry; maybe it’s some shift in circumstances or the onset of autumn flipping a switch in my brain. But either way, I’m into it.

One of the highlights of my week in reading was Glenway Wescott’s short novel The Pilgrim Hawk. It’s a seemingly low-key drama about an American expatriate, his friend, and an Irish couple who show up for the day bearing with them the hawk of the title. Within this fairly confined framework emerge a number of powerful observations on relationships, failure, and power dynamics. And Westcott’s one of those writers who can evoke his characters’ futures without seeming heavy-handed. Excellent stuff; Michael Cunningham mentions Fitzgerald and James in his introduction to the NYRB Classics edition, and — dude’s not wrong.

Josh Spilker
My desk was overflowing with magazines again. I took on an A$AP Rocky interview in Clash, the small print inJuice Magazine, and stocked up on a few issues of The Skateboard Mag. I think I might write a skateboarder into my novel. That seems ill-advised on the surface, but I know no other way to work.

I’m also about halfway through Frank Hinton’s Action, Figure novel and I picked up The Age of Wire & String by Ben Marcus, which I haven’t started yet.

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