No Destruction Foxygen
The Next Day David Bowie
GMF John Grant
Tiff (featuring Justin Vernon) Poliça
Released April 15th, 2013 by Poliça
Produced by Ryan Olson
Recorded at April Base, April 2012
Lyrics by Channy Leaneagh
Musicians: Ben Ivascu on drums, Chris Bierden on bass, Channy Leaneagh on lead vocals, Drew Christopherson on drums, Justin Vernon on additional…
Vol. 12, No. 1
If you’re a writer, chances are you’ve heard this before: “Oh, you’re a writer? I’d love to write a novel, if only I had the time.” It’s a frustrating and all-too-common misunderstanding that reduces the craft of writing to a simple exercise in typing—anyone can produce sound from a piano, but being a true musician takes talent, practice, and a certain kind of madness. It’s the difference between simplicity and elegance, laziness and grace. And it is the masters of the craft, writers who make the impossibility of fiction seem effortless, writers like Etgar Keret, who are to blame for this misconception.
Do not let Etgar Keret deceive you. The Israeli writer who’s worked in film, illustration, animation, and radio, is a storyteller in all senses of the word. Like a conman, he’ll promise you a simple story and then the next thing you know your emotional reserves have been completely emptied. It’s a literary bait and switch, and he’ll get you every time.
Here, in “Todd,” a story that also challenges the boundaries between literature and reality, Etgar directly engages with the wonderful deception of fiction itself. The titular friend asks the narrator, who resembles Etgar—an Israeli short story writer who frequently appears on NPR—to write a story that’ll help him get girls into bed. The narrator must then explain that writing doesn’t work that way: “A story isn’t a magic spell or hypnotherapy,” the narrator claims, and yet that is exactly what happens here. Etgar knows that fiction has the power to captivate you, to entrance you, to alter your perception of reality. Todd, the lonesome character in this story, isn’t asking for “metaphors and insights and all that” but wants a simple little story that’ll change his life. Just a bit of practical magic.
To convince a reader that a fictional world has bearing on the real world is both a miracle and a marvelous swindle. Like many of his stories, “Todd” offers us a simple concept and, as if by sorcery (or a postmodern sleight of hand), reveals an entire world of complexity. The story of course isn’t just about helping a friend get laid. It’s about the meaning of things—stories, relationships, and whatever “masculinity” is these days. Read it and find out for yourself, but just keep an eye on your wallet. And if anyone has spoken to Todd, please tell him to call me.
Benjamin Samuel, Co-Editor, Electric Literature
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Single Sentence Animation
by Etgar Keret
Recommended by Electric Literature
MY FRIEND TODD wants me to write him a story that will help him get girls into bed.
“You’ve already written stories that make girls cry,” he says. “And ones that make them laugh. So now write one that’ll make them jump into bed with me.”
I try to explain to him that it doesn’t work that way. True, there are some girls who cry when they read my stories, and there are some guys who—
“Forget guys,” Todd interrupts. “Guys don’t do it for me. I’m telling you this up front, so you won’t write a story that’ll get anyone who reads it into my bed, just girls. I’m telling you this up front to avoid unpleasantness.”
So I explain to him again, in my patient tone, that it doesn’t work that way. A story isn’t a magic spell or hypnotherapy; a story is just a way to share something you feel with other people, something intimate, sometimes even embarrassing, that—
“Great,” Todd interrupts again, “so let’s share something embarrassing with your readers that’ll make the girls jump into bed with me.” He doesn’t listen, that Todd. He never listens, at least not to me.
I met Todd at a reading he organized in Denver. When he talked about the stories he loved that evening, he became so excited that he began to stammer. He has a lot of passion, that Todd, and a lot of energy, and it’s obvious that he doesn’t really know where to channel it all. We didn’t get to talk a lot, but I saw right away that he was a smart person and a mentsch. Someone you could depend on. Todd is the kind of person you want beside you in a burning house or on a sinking ship. The kind of guy you know won’t jump into a lifeboat and leave you behind.
But at the moment, we’re not in a burning house or on a sinking ship, we’re just drinking organic, soymilk lattés in a funky, natural café in Williamsburg. And that makes me a little sad. Because if there were something burning or sinking in the area, I could remind myself why I like him, but when Todd starts hammering away at me to write him a story, he’s hard to stomach.
“Title the story, ‘Todd the Man’,” he tells me. “Or even just, ‘Todd.’ You know what? Just ‘Todd’ is better. That way, girls who read it are less likely to figure out where it’s heading, and then, at the end, when it comes—bam! They won’t know what hit them. All of a sudden, they’ll look at me differently. All of a sudden, they’ll feel their pulse start to pound in their temples, and they’ll swallow their saliva and say, ‘Tell me, Todd, do you happen to live close by?’ or, ‘Stop, don’t look at me like that,’ but in a tone that actually says the opposite: ‘Please, please keep looking at me like that,’ and I’ll look at them and then it’ll happen, as if spontaneously, as if it has nothing to do with the story you wrote. That’s it. That’s the kind of story I want you to write for me. Understand?”
And I say, “Todd, I haven’t seen you in a year. Tell me what’s happening with you, what’s new. Ask me how I’m doing, ask how my kid is.”
“Nothing’s happening with me,” he says impatiently, “and I don’t need to ask about the kid, I already know everything about him. I heard your interview on NPR a few days ago. All you did in that crappy interview was talk about him. How he said this and how he said that. The interviewer asks you about writing, about life in Israel, about the Iranian threat, and like a Rottweiler’s jaw, you’re locked onto quotes from your kid, as if he’s some kind of Zen genius.”
“He really is very smart,” I say defensively. “He has a unique angle on life. Different from us adults.”
“Good for him,” Todd hisses. “So, what do you say? Are you writing me the story or not?”
So I’m sitting at the faux-wood, plastic desk in the faux five-star, three-star hotel the Israeli Consulate has rented for me for two days, trying to write Todd his story. I struggle to find something in my life that’s full of the kind of emotion that will make girls jump into Todd’s bed. I don’t understand, by the way, what Todd’s problem is with finding girls himself. He’s a nice looking guy and pretty charming, the kind that knocks up a pretty waitress from a small town diner and then takes off. Maybe that’s his problem: he doesn’t project loyalty. To women, I mean. Romantically speaking. Because when it comes to burning houses or sinking ships, as I’ve already said, you can count on him all the way. So maybe that’s what I should write: a story that will make girls think that Todd will be loyal. That they’ll be able to rely on him. Or the opposite: a story that will make it clear to all the girls who read it that loyalty and dependability are overrated. That you have to go with your heart and not worry about the future. Go with your heart and find yourself pregnant after Todd is long gone, organizing a poetry reading on Mars, sponsored by NASA. And on a live broadcast, five years later, when he dedicates the event to you and Sylvia Plath, you can point to the screen in your living room and say, “You see that man in the space suit, Todd Junior? He’s your Dad.”
Maybe I should write a story about that. About a woman who meets someone like Todd, and he’s charming and in favor of eternal, free love and all the other bullshit that men who want to fuck the whole world believe. And he gives her a passionate explanation of evolution, of how women are monogamous because they want a male to protect their offspring, and how men are polygamous because they want to impregnate as many women as possible, and how there’s nothing you can do about it, it’s nature, and it’s stronger than any conservative presidential candidate or Cosmopolitan article called, “How to hold on to your husband.”
“You have to live in the moment,” the guy in the story will say, then he’ll sleep with her and break her heart. He’ll never act like some shit she can easily drop. He’ll act like Todd. Which means that even while he fucks up her life, he’ll still be kind and nice and exhaustingly intense, and—yes—poignant too. And that’ll make the whole business of breaking it off with him even harder. But in the end, when it happens, she’ll realize that it was still worth it. And that’s the tricky part: the “it-was-still-worth-it” part. Because I can connect to the rest of the scenario like a smartphone to wireless internet at Starbucks, but the “it was still worth it” is more complicated. What could the girl in the story get out of that whole hit-and-run accident with Todd but another sad dent on the bumper of her soul?
Line Of Fire Junip
Sun Blows Up Today The Flaming Lips
This is the final post of the Fillmore Tree. I did this a little faster because I don’t want it to be a gimmick to generate traffic. Instead, I want this post to get great Miles Davis shows out to listeners that didn’t know where to begin with his unreleased material. Like the 1975 Tree, the Fillmore Tree was made by dedicated Miles fans that had a good grasp on the man’s work and knew that the average fan would be intimidated by the wealth of material. These trees, then, served to remove the mystery of Miles’ catalog and allowed for themed sets that also served a purpose: illuminating Miles’ development outside of the studio.
In the studio, Miles’ music changed rapidly from around 1968 on. Having finished off several albums with one of the greatest “conventional” jazz groups (Hancock, Williams, Shorter, Carter), Miles began to dabble in electronics. Thankfully Columbia’s reissue program has started to fill in the gaps, meaning where the “Second Great Quintet” material (and box) leaves off, the In A Silent Way Sessions picks up. These segue almost seamlessly in the Bitches Brew era, which is now also covered by a box.
This is where this set comes in. This does not purport to be Miles’ only music from the end of Bitches Brew, but it does offer a glimpse of the “Lost Quintet” at the beginning of the year, and a snapshot of a drastically different lineup at the end. While Corea uses electronics, for the most part the combination of Corea, Holland, Shorter and DeJohnette was a “conventional” group using the large group, studio composed album Bitches Brew as a launching point for improvisation. Miles’ group made these studio compositions into vivid improvisational vehicles, and you can hear them on these early discs (and the commercially released It’s About That Time).
Miles’ group’s sound would change because of personnel changes. Airto and Grossman were added, and Shorter departed. These discs (and the commercially released Black Beauty) show Miles in transition. He still was using Bitches Brew as a starting point, but the sound was dryer and thinner, and it featured less of a late-’60s improvisational edge. The last sets on this tree sound drastically different because of sweeping changes in the players. Miles swapped out Grossman for the criminally underrated Gary Bartz, and Corea was gone in favor of Jarrett. Likewise, and most crucially, Dave Holland was no longer present to add a jazz underpinning; instead Micheal Henderson’s r&b bass created the rock pulse that is documented on the Cellar Door Sessions.
In fact, I would say 1970 is a crucial year to see where the Cellar Door Sessions that Columbia so lovingly documented came from. Without that box (and these shows), the transformation into Jack Johnson, for instance, can seem jarring. The Jack Johnson box, and then the On The Corner box, are crucial documents that allow the listener to see a smooth, rather than abrupt or radical, progression in Miles’ development. Yet this illustration is incomplete without seeing a full picture of Miles’ shows in 1970 (with the situs of the Fillmore representing a thread through each). In other words, while the studio work finally influenced Miles’ live sets, the inverse held true: what happened live would always show up in one way or another in the studio.
Thus, this set, and the 1975 Tree, fill in important blanks that add continuity to the welcome reissue (and critical reexamination) of Miles’ move towards electronics and finally funk. These dates show Miles’ working group, without random additions (which oddly become popular) to the lineup, in contrast with Dark Magus, Live Evil (though McLaughlin was a frequent collaborator, his attendance was a departure instead of the norm), or the video Another Kind Of Blue (with Corea and Jarrett playing in the same band for the Isle of Wight festival). These sets are recordings of Miles at his technical, and to these ears, creative peak. They mark the transition from one beloved era to one that has confused listeners.
In short, this post contains essential music for anybody with any interest in connecting the dots from In A Silent Way to Miles’ temporary retirement.
Disc 1 (3/6/70, Fillmore East [First Set])
Disc 2 (3/6/70, Fillmore East [Second Set])
Disc 3 (4/9/70, Fillmore West)
Disc 4 (4/11/70, Fillmore West)
Disc 5 (4/12/70, Fillmore West)
Disc 6 (10/15/70, Fillmore West)
Disc 7 (10/17/70, Fillmore West)
Disc 8 (10/18/70, Fillmore West)
All links and artwork updated 1/08/13.
NEW SINGLE ARCHIVE HERE (954 MB)