Friday, September 28, 2012

"The Man Who Sold The World," by Peter Doggett

Bring your iPod.

Peter Doggett's, "The Man Who Sold the World: David Bowie and the 1970s,"takes a song-by-song approach in considering what it contends was a decade of groundbreaking, culture-shaping musical creation by its famous subject.

This work truly offers everything you ever wanted to know about David Bowie, but were afraid to ask.

Doggett is the possessor of much information that will be of interest to fans of the Thin Gray Duke, bytes of data that fill in spaces and explain the unexplained.

He knows the time-periods he's covering, especially late '60s London, with which he seems particularly fascinated. A great byproduct of his exhaustive presentation is the uncovering and remembering of seminal works now forgotten.

The author's essays are multi-pronged, filled with theories and suppositions and associations that may or may not be fact, but which make for good reading and represent an engaging valuation of the man, his times, and his music.

Ah, the music. In his effort to place it front and center, and perhaps to simplify his task via simple chronology, Doggett's structure follows the decade's thread, album-to-album, song-to-song.

Succeeding albums are introduced with an essay discussing Bowie's professional and personal place in the moment of their inception. Then he analyzes each song in detail, the key and any switches in same, the instruments of choice, who did the arrangement, Bowie's surreptitious turn on the sax, Mick Ronson's ukulele etc.

Finally, the album/chapter is closed with an analysis of the disc's commercial, personal, and cultural impact. Even if you know the songs, Doggett’s intense musical criticism will create a desire (need?) to hear them again.

So you need all the songs to truly enjoy this book. highwayscribery didn’t have them all and tended to feel like being outside a party he was not invited to. The biographer does not commit the crime of falling in love with his subject, in "The Man Who Sold The World."

Yes, when it comes to the big picture, Bowie gets his fair share of plaudits. Doggett closes the book noting:

“...and the wider world is still assimilating the bewildering twists and curves of his trajectory through that decade. So pervasive was the influence of Bowie’s seventies work, in fact, like the Beatles before him, that it has become part of the fabric of contemporary music, just has his unique sense of style, and the sexual playfulness at its heart, have helped to form our contemporary notions of fashion, art, and design.”

But to reach these heights in the Doggett‘s estimation, Bowie’s and his work are run through the author’s demanding critiques. This reviewer got the impression that only on a few tracks did Bowie ever achieve the sublime state attributed to him by the author, as the rest are subject to a critique so rigorous that some of the assessments are downright unflattering.

If you came to a Bowie album, say, “Ziggy Stardust,” in years after its consecration as an egg laid by a True Rock God, it may come as something of a surprise that his vocal on the titanic and bluesy “It An Easy” was all wrong, a blown call, in Doggett’s estimation. Or that “Hunky Dory” is an okay album reflecting an artist yet to be fully defined.

As for Bowie himself, it might be said the man is not quite so extraordinary as his art. We’ve read about this person before. The needy entertainer casting about for an identity to replace the missing organic one. The desperation, the self-involvement, the heartlessness when it came to colleagues.

It was all about Bowie, and so is this book.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

"The Selvage" by Linda Gregerson

the words on paper make
     a sort of currency, which heaven,

against all odds, accepts.
     So Will, which is to say, May what

I purpose, please, this once, and what
     will happen coincide.

And who hasn‘t felt the urgency or desperation to ask that question?

"The Selvage," by Linda Gregerson is a mostly accessible collection of 18 poems rendered in a prosodic style. Certain of these confections are driven by an easy, if flavorful, flow of straight passages presented as verse and resulting in the slightest alterations to meanings.

Sure, it has been done, but this is a nice combination of elements.

Add to the convenience of an unobtrusive read the poet’s sweet descriptive gift, wide-ranging curiosity evidenced in subject choice, and the aptly placed piece of richer wordsmithery and you have an evocative, at times emotional experience in your hands.

It's a kind of prose with dollops of poetry where most needed.

Gregerson's poems puzzle, but not too much. And even where you never really wrap your mind around the whole garden, certain of the flowers growing within are no less satisfying.

highwayscribery admits to having only a vague notion of what is going on in the poem "Varenna," but still has room in the heart for:

Quaker-gray from taupe, until
     the blackwater satins unroll their

gorgeous lengths above a sharpening
     partition of lake-and-loam.

There's a music that is pleasing and it can be found throughout the work presented here.

That said, Gregerson's interest in antiquity has her wander where only those academic poets and their academic followers dare to. You won't need to know who Theseus was to understand "Theseus Forgetting," its lesson universal like so much scripted here.

But "Ariadne in Triumph" and "Dido Refuses to Speak" are less decipherable than some of the other poems and a guide in the back of the tome to the classic personalities employed here may suggest the author and her editors realized that some of this stuff is beyond the ken of the common cur. (guilty)

"The Selvage," is free of cliché. Its locations are not worn literary beacons like Paris, London and Prague, but off-the-grid and unknown places that add to our knowing.

The chosen topics are both ancient and contemporary.

There is an (positive) expression of Obama’s election and a poetic critique of the little girl in a red dress in Stephen Spielberg’s black-and-white “Schindler’s List. There is an appreciation for a dead dray horse a, recuperation of poet Isabella Whitney and more.

Fragments of the wide world shining throughout “The Selvage,” represent a lovely return on a minimal investment.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

"La Gaviota" por Fernan Caballero

"La Gaviota" es una novela en cual la tierra pesa tanto como los personajes.

Es una novela "andalúza" desde las pies a la cabeza.

Las pies tomen lugar en Villamar, un pueblito Gaditano que perdurece en el olvido.

Su población esta hecho por unas cuantas personajes muy pintorescos y
que la autora Fernán Caballero -- nom de plum de la Alemana Cecilia Francisca Josefa Böhl de Faber -- quien pasó buen rato en las tierras moras de la península Iberica.
Llega a este lugar marinera un tal Stein; Aleman que ha venido a luchar en una guerra Española de la decada 1840. Malparado, los buenos y simples del pueblo le devuelven su salud.

Stein se queda en Villamar mientras la autora nos familiaríza con las maneras y charlas de la gente llana y andalúza de aquella epoca. Mientras tanto, Stein se enamora de una rapaza del sitio conocida por los vecinos como "La Gaviota" gracias a su carácter de arrogante y desairada.

Resulta ésta ser gran cantaora quien crece bajo la instrucción de Stein. Acaban casandose. Su madurez y el profundo cariño que Stein guarda para "La Gaviota" hace que se pasan buen y alégre rato en el campo.
Pero un aristócrata de Sevilla la escucha cantar y se enamora de la impertinente joven.

La cabeza de la historia se encuentra en la capital andalúza a donde el conde los lleva a Stein y su esposa. He aquí la novela se centra en las charlas que se desarollan en el salón de una condesa con sus tan-pintorescos-como-los-campesinos amigos de la alta sociedad hispalense.
En Sevilla la cantaora se enrede, como no, con un torero, cosa que la puede venir bien o mal, pero eso no se cuenta aquí.

"La Gaviota" es entrañable aunque lento a veces. La autora pasa much tiempo dejando sus personajes desplegar las ideas, dichos, y noticias de la epoca mientras la trama se desarolla con menos energía que la palabrarería empleado en los largos intercambios de ideas, noticias, insultas, cotilleo etc.

Tiene, o relata, Caballero un gran sentido de humor demostrado através de las bocas de sus tertuliantes.
Es decir que las piezas de "La Gaviota" valen mas que la enteridad pero, aun asi, merece la pena leerlo sobre todo para conocer las ideas y maneras de ser en tiempos y lugares lejanos pero no carecientes de interés.

De mérito especial son los tremendos retratos que hace Caballero de unas corridas de toros en tiempos cuando los caballos de los picadores se morían a rachas y la sangre y tortura excedían lo que se presencia en el espectaculo moderno.