What I’ve been reading lately, part 7

[See also previous and subsequent posts in this series.]

I’m trying to move quickly to catch up with myself — I’m still a few months behind — so apologies if these books are not given as much coverage as they deserve.

Joni Mitchell: In Her Own Words — Malka Marom

A truly fascinating set of three (very long) interviews, conducted many years apart, with the most endlessly fascinating singer-songwriter of them all. (If you don’t accept my assessment, ask David Crosby.) Malka Marom was a folk singer herself, so has a good angle on the issues that Joni is dealing with — personal, musical and poetic. They’re some of the most revealing interviews I’ve ever read, not in terms of salacious details but of slowly and effectively opening up essence of a person, revealing what makes her tick.

And I’d have to say that Joni doesn’t come out of it all that well, in the end. It’s apparent in all three interviews that she’s quite a self-focussed person, and that tendency becomes stronger and darker across the three interviews. Towards the end we read

I’m reliving old injuries. I’m reliving them and I’m telling the person off that I didn’t tell off. I’m trying to expel anger. And it hangs in the air and I go, ‘What that very satisfactory, when you said that to them? No.’ And then I kind of do it again.

For such a free spirit, she seems to find it hard to let go of old hurts and resentments. It’s a shame; but, no doubt, a part of what made her such an absolutely superb artist. And she really does stand alone.

Marom’s book is well worth reading for anyone who loves Joni’s work. Continue reading

What I’ve been reading lately, part 6

[Previously: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5]

I’ve got a long way behind with these — I’m reading faster than I can blog — so I’ll try to move quickly and catch up with myself.

Off to be the Wizard — Scott Meyer

Debut novel from the creator of the wonderful Basic Instructions comic strip. I held off buying this for a long time on the grounds that being a clever cartoonist doesn’t necessarily mean you have the skills to be a novelist; but having seen a lot of positive reviews, I took the plunge when the e-book was heavily discounted. I’m glad I did, and now eagerly await a similar discount on the sequel. I don’t want to say too much about this for fear of spoilering, but I will say that the book launches on a fascinating science-fictional premise, and quickly takes a left-turn that took me by surprise. It’s not very literary, but it’s immensely engaging, which in my book counts for much more. Recommended. Continue reading

Joni Mitchell: subverting expectation line by line, word by word and phoneme by phoneme

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the music of Joni Mitchell recently, and I wanted to share an observation. It’s not news that her music is all about subverting expectations — see for example the ubiquitous use of the unresolved suspensions that she terms “chords of inquiry”. Here I want to draw attention to a few places where she makes consecutive parts of her lyrics contradict, or at least reinterpret, each other.

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What I’ve been reading lately, part 5

[Previously: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4]

One Hundred and Forty Characters in Search of an Argument — Andrew Rilstone

Rilstone is one of my very favourite writers — his blog is packed with all sorts of fascinating meditations on politics, Doctor Who, religion, Marvel comics, and pretty much anything else you might think of. He has a habit of leaping bafflingly from subject to subject, then pulling back the curtain and showing you how they were connected all along. Very clever, very enjoyable.

This particular book is his most recent — and, to be honest, perhaps not a good entry-point unless you’re interested in British politics and culture. More broadly, Rilstone engages with the problem of arguing on the Internet, and determining who is and isn’t actually interested in arguing as opposed to preaching. But for newcomers to his work, I’d recommend starting instead with George and Joe and Jack and Bob (his book on Star Wars or Do Balrogs Have Wings? (on Tolkien and Lewis). Continue reading

e-Book piracy: a moral dilemma

Here is a moral dilemma that I’ve not seen discussed before — maybe surprisingly, since it’s one that I imagine lots of us have run into. However I think through this, it leads me to a stupid conclusion. Can anyone help me to see what mistake I’m making?

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Recordings from the Mitcheldean pre-Festival concert

Just in case anyone’s brave enough to want to hear our set from Saturday night, I’ve been sent some rather good recordings by David Stephens, who ran the PA. If anything, the recording quality is rather too good, as it’s very unforgiving of my decidedly wobbly pitching. Fiona sounds superb, though.

Here’s our version of Chloe and Silas‘s gorgeous Tax Office Love Song:

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The Mitcheldean pre-Festival concert

Last night, Fiona and I played at the Mitcheldean Folk Festival’s pre-festival evening concert — a twenty-five minute set of eight songs. It went really well.

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