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Friday, February 20, 2015

Murphy (1938) by Samuel Beckett

Samuel Beckett as a student in the 1920s.

Book Review
Murphy (1938)
by Samuel Beckett

  You can get away with calling Samuel Beckett either the "last of the modernists" or the "first of the post-modernists" in casual conversation, either assertion is easily buttressed by  Murphy, one of Beckett's few novels.  Published in 1938, the end of the modernist period, it contains a main character whose behavior is more in line with precepts of post modernism than any particular strain of modernism.  Murphy is equally obsessed with not working and conducting breathing and meditation exercises while tightly restrained in a chair.

 Beckett's prose technique is recognizably modernist or avant garde, but not excessively so. It's hard not to compare Murphy to novels written by James Joyce in their similar espousal of a low budget, pre-1960s concern with non-traditional brands of spirituality.  For example, Joyce's Ulysses is infused with multiple ruminations about Kabbalah.  Murphy has no explicit ideology, Samuel Beckett clearly did not want him to have any appreciable motivation.  At the end of Beckett, he is immolated in his "proper garrett" inside the insane asylum where he works.   The portion of the book where Beckett goes to work among the insane is the only part that could be considered to have "action."  The rest takes place mostly in the apartment of Beckett and his hooker girlfriend.

  The relationship of Beckett and James Joyce is no secret, occupying pride of place on Wikipedia for Samuel Beckett's "Early Works" heading.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Crocodiles, Best Coast Announce New LP's, Crocodiles/Spirit Club Play SD

Crocodiles, Best Coast Announce New LP's, Crocodiles/Spirit Club Play SD

Event Previews

Colleen Green
@ Hideout, San Diego, CA.
March 2nd, 2015

Spirit Club
Other Bodies
Chill Pill
@ Hideout, San Diego, CA.
March 4th, 2015

Crocodiles- Cry Baby Demon MP3- STEREOGUM
Best Coast Album Announcement - PITCHFORK

  If it's March then it must be time to crank up the 2015 promotional cycle. If you aren't Beyonce, Drake or a no-one, you aren't releasing your record between December and February, so it's normal for albums to be announced in mid February, after President's Day Weekend.  Such was the case today with Crocodiles announcing their Boys LP(Zoo Music) and Best Coast announcing The Only Place (Harvest Records.)

  This is the first year in several that I've been personally uninvolved in putting out an LP.  Usually this time of year is spent making sure that the album is complete and ready to manufacture, and then lining up the promotional efforts and coordinating.  And, you know, writing checks.  I think if you look at Best Coast...any aesthetic claims aside, valid or not, they are bulletproof. The fact that the record is coming out on Harvest likely means that Best Coast paid for the record themselves, and will be dictating their terms to Harvest along traditional indie lines.  Harvest of course, is ultimately an outpost for a major label(Capitol), thus the "major label debut" language of some of the blog write-ups.

  I suspect this was not exactly a last second arrangements, but not something that involves multiple LPs.  Certainly, Best Coast will be looking for a strong presence on the Billboard Chart, and the major question with this record is where it will land after the first week of sales.  Putting the record out on Harvest essentially says that Best Coast is satisfied with the status quo and really who could blame them in that regard.

Crocodiles are releasing their record on their own label, Zoo Music, and doing a pledge drive to support promotional costs.  That aside, they have the groundwork in place for a credible release, pending audience reaction.  I think essentially,,, that audience size is the make or break issue for Crocodiles at this point.  If you look at bands, the ultimate, bald question is "How many zeros can they put after the "1" on a check.  For 95% plus of all music the answer is "no zeros."  Then you've got hundred dollar checks(three figures), which many local bands can make on a night.

  Then in the four figures, you've got bands that can credibly tour major markets in the US and release a record nationally and internationally, maybe get some kind of money from a sponsor or for an ad.    Bands that can generate 10,000 are the artistic middle class. Five figure bands could be making 10,000 in a year or 90,000 in a month.   Six figure bands are the level where someone (maybe not the artist) is making a living,  We're talking about bands that get million dollar advances, play theaters and festivals, and land major synchs on multiple occasions.

   And I'll tell you that one of the things that I can do is tell the difference between the five figure and six figure bands.  There are not that many of the six/sevens around period, you can basically name them all if you are familiar with whatever genre of music you are talking about.  The point being that bands that can't make it from four to five figures are dead or semi-professional.  Bands at the five figure level are having fun but not creating a life of financial freedom and bands at the six figure level are supporting an eco system around them and may or may not enjoy financial freedom depending on their potential arrangements.

   Two other bands mentioned above have records coming out, Colleen Green, who has another LP coming on Hardly Art/Sub Pop, got something like the traditional label treatment- flying out to Nashville to record in the studio of that band JEFFF the brotherhood.  Spirit Club is a vehicle for Nathan "Wavves" Williams younger brother, Joel "Kynan" Williams and local scene stalwart Andrew "Jeans Wilder" Caddick.  It is being released on Ghost Ramp records, which is Nathan's own label, and I'm generally interested to see how that pans out.

 Surely, the first week of March, with the celebration of a year at the Hide Out, will be a week among weeks locally.

Brighton Rock (1938) by Graham Greene

Poster from the movie version of Brighton Rock, the 1938 film by Graham Greene.

Book Review
Brighton Rock (1938)
by Graham Greene

Graham Greene Book Reviews - 1001 Books 2006 Edition
England Made Me (1935)
Brighton Rock (1938) *
The Power and the Glory (1940) *
The Heart of the Matter (1948)
The Third Man (1949)
The End of the Affair (1951) *
The Quiet American (1955) *
Honorary Counsel (1973) *
* =  core title in 1001 Books list

   I'm two books deep into the Graham Greene oeuvre and I can already see why he is such a favorite of the 1001 Books editors: 1) English 2) Catholic 3) Had popular hits that combined genre work with "serious" subjects.   Both England Made Me and Brighton Rock have worked in genre areas: England Made Me is a proto-spy thriller and Brighton Rock more straight forward crime fiction.  I preferred the former to the latter.   Brighton Rock actually has a Catholic theme, with "Pinkie" Brown, the hero/anti hero/protagonist frequently referring to his own Catholic faith and that of others.

  The plot of Brighton Rock is straight forward: Pinkie kills a guy who kills his boss, and then he marries the only witness, a young waitress who is a willing accomplice in his scheme to prevent her from eventually testifying against him any potential court action.  It's a little thin, as crime thriller plots go, and there is something quintessentially Catholic about a gangster who MARRIES a woman simply to keep her from POSSIBLY testifying against him in a case that hasn't been initiated. The marriage assumes he will be charged with murder and need her to NOT testify.  That seems... to be a somewhat remote possibility during the entire book

   Mechanics aside, there is much to enjoy in Brighton Rock, particularly the setting and the inherent pleasure of an English crime novel set outside of London, which seems to be the location for most every English novel that doesn't take place "in the country."

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