Thursday, August 28, 2008

More on the KEXP review + reading in LA on Saturday + sad news

After I posted that last review, I had an amicable back & forth with Chris Estey in the comments thread. He had this to say:

I have to say I’ve been struggling a bit in hindsight with my criticism of your fictional aspect to the book. I was actually leery of your combining a fictionalized character with so much story behind such an important record being readily available, but you really did pull that element off well, too. Perhaps much better than I suggest in my final paragraph above. Other 33 1/3 volumes had done it, as had other writers elsewhere, to a less satisfying level of literature. Thinking back on it, you did a really good job of telling a story many of us can identify with — the feeling that the creator of an album (or story, for example) is a twin of ours, creating a disturbing simulation of our own existence. I had bought “Shoot Out The Lights” just before my deep, several-year engagement with a girl fell apart, and the LP didn’t seem to have any lyrics that couldn’t have been written about my own existence. You captured that weird energy between fan/listener and singer/songwriter so well that it’s been more memorable than a lot of other fiction I’ve read this year. So, well, I want to thank you and encourage people even more to check out your analysis of Richard & Linda Thompson’s (arguable tie for best) album, with less hesitation than my review originally stated. You’re a damned good writer!

Man! High praise, indeed. Thanks, Chris! If you're ever in Austin, let me buy you a beer.

Just a reminder: Don't forget I'm reading in LA at Metropolis Books on Saturday, August 30, at 6 pm with Kim Cooper and David Smay. It will be 33 1/3-tastic!

Also, finally with the sad news: Dave Smith, a scholar of Richard Thompson's music, recently passed away at the far-too-young age of 58. His book The Great Valerio, a close analysis of Richard Thompson's themes and inspirations, is a surprising and pleasurable read for all RT fans. And you can download it for free from the Internet. Do the man proud.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Another review + upcoming reading

KEXP read my book! And mostly liked it! I can live surprisingly well with being called "too ambitious" by those guys.

Childs adds a fictional narrator, a philosophical folk rock doppelganger
who assesses the moves of the declining couple as his own life spins out of
control, in mordant comparison to Dante’s Inferno and Virgil’s Descent. I have
to admit that I found this part of the book a little distracting, and a mash-up
of perhaps more personal creative writing with a remarkably solid analysis of
the Thompson’s output ends up feeling too ambitious. (Childs is similar to
conceptually extrapolative Camden Joy, but gives a lot more of the archetypal
solid rock write trivia and insight.) Fortunately, this interwoven subplot is
pulled off enough not to ruin the spot-on observations and criticisms that fuel
the rest of the book. It shouldn’t keep you from reading it, and you should buy
the album Shoot Out The Lights immediately if you haven’t got it.

I have to point out that I don't mind this ambiguity some reviewers feel about the fiction in my story. I knew it would be offputting for some, but it serves the primary thesis ("Shoot Out The Lights is a song-cycle about living in Hell") by giving readers a narrator and arc to mirror the story of the Thompsons, plus it allowed me to revel in certain flavors of darkness that are, happily, not a part of my own life. I suppose one of the common threads in the cricitism is that the story and analysis could have been better integrated. Maybe so, but I should state that the back-and-forth between reality and fiction was intentional and meant to be somewhat comic (the fact that I am explaining this is a sign that maybe I failed at that). I meant Virgil's perpetual confusion and misery and sad-sackist intellectualism to lead him to jumble his honest reflections of the album Shoot Out The Lights with his own position as a fan, an outside observer, and the ultimately flawed guide to the album. He's less a poet from a bygone day than the creepy loner who narrates many of Richard Thompson's songs. But the fact that I am explaining this is another sign of failure. Therefore, by the logic of this paragraph, I can live with failure. QED.

In other news: PEOPLE OF LOS ANGELES! I'm reading with Kim "In The Aeroplane Over the Sea" Cooper and David "Swordfishtrombones" Cooper at Metropolis Books on August 30th at 6 pm! You will notice that all three albums under discussion have the distinct scent of nostalgia for an impossible past. What could be more fun than talking about that?

PLUS, if you have yet to do so, GET ON THE BUS. The "Crawling Down Cahuenga" Tom Waits tour bus, that is. If there's still availability, you owe it to yourself.

Reading at Grimey's with Will Kimbrough!

The good people of Grimey's Records in Nashville made this possible. Here's a recording of the show from August 14, 2008. There's a couple of places where I may have stretched the facts a little bit in a belabored shot at being funny, but I think the truth is served. Also, when Will Kimbrough comes back to the mic late in the show, he mentions that when he met Richard Thompson, RT was the soul of human kindness. I agree with him, although it's inaudible on the tape (I'd already walked away from the mic), pointing out that I doubt Thompson or Linda Thompson Kenis were avoiding me out of spite, but more likely because I was asking them to discuss one of the most painful times in their lives.

Quick addendum: fellow 33 1/3 author John "The Who Sell Out" Dougan showed up. The guy is awesome, as is his book. Go buy it!

(Press the Play button below to hear the recording.)

Will Kimbrough burning up "Shoot Out The Lights"

Fat guy attempts jokes, bores friends and strangers:

Monday, August 18, 2008

Grimey's Reading, first notes

I read from Shoot Out The Lights at Grimey's Records in Nashville last Thursday. Let me first say that Grimey's is an incredibly fantastic place, with a killer selection of music and a supercool, super-knowledgeable staff. Let me also say that Will Kimbrough, who is a great guy, tore the shit out of some Richard Thompson songs. And I stammered my way through a reading somehow. I have a recording that I'm thinking I'll post when I get the chance! Let me also say that John Dougan, the scribe behind the awesome 33 1/3 book on The Who Sell Out, also showed up, and he is also a super-cool guy. I very much enjoyed comparing notes about the writing of our respective books.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

I'm not going to be online often over the next week to 10 days, so I just wanted to mention that I'll be reading from Shoot Out The Lights in Nashville a week from Thursday, 8/14, at Grimey's New & Preloved Music at 6 pm with the incredibly awesome Will Kimbrough joining me to play some Richard Thompson songs. If you're in Nashville or thereabouts, come on down!