Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Long and the Short

Saturday night I was drinking red wine with mi niña and one of her friends, this friend’s husband and some others who I had just met, listening to the already tipsy talk about this and that, none of it mattering a whole bunch, but still, there I was having fun and drinking, interjecting the odd dig veiled in humor, but really I wasn’t insulting anyone, just sparring, which I wouldn’t have done were it not for this man, thin and well-dressed, a professor, over-served, making some intentionally antagonist remarks and interrogating me as to what I did, which is a question I never really know how to answer. So I got to talking to the husband of my girl’s friend and we spoke a bit about books, which I like to discuss, and he mentioned to me that he hates reading long books, which is not uncommon.

During the conversation I was reminded of a moment from 2666 that has popped up in almost every review, a moment where Amalfitano meets a young man who tells him his favorite books are Bartleby and The Metamorphosis and another I can’t recall. The narrator depicts Amalfitano’s thoughts regarding people and their disinclination to wrestle with the long, maybe sloppy, cumbersome tomes where the masters try and speak of life’s unspeakable, intangible, mysterious, and dark moments (my words, not Bolaño’s). People are more likely to praise the near perfect short works that, in a sense, play it safe with their brevity. Bartleby instead of Moby Dick; The Metamorphosis instead of The Trial or The Castle; By Night in Chile or Distant Star instead of 2666. So it’s clearly a great excerpt for reviewers as it sort of justifies the freewheelin’ pomo play of books like 2666 (which I fear will disappoint anyone who comes to the book having read so much praise). But it’s an interesting idea that has been on my mind since I read the big book. Is writing a short book playing it safe? What is the true aim of those who wrestle with the dark, inexpressible moments, who write these digressive tomes that fewer and fewer people may be willing to read? Who wants to wade through Tolstoy and Dostoevsky at their most long-winded? The Cossacks instead of Anna Karenina or War and Peace; Notes From Underground instead of The Brothers Karamazov.

Jeanette Winterson said something very funny when I saw her read. Someone asked her why her books were always so short and she said she thought it was bad manners to write long books. It made me laugh.

I wonder if this makes a big difference. I know I always look at the page count when I get a book, but it doesn’t always deter me. Then again, I haven’t begun War and Peace or the second Proust book or Larva: A Midsummer Night’s Babel, so maybe I’m guilty.

Just some thoughts, but I must say, in reference to the conversation Saturday night that started all this, I think the opinion that this person has, that short novels do a better job of capturing the story and the important details, is a little nuts. How would a slim Anna Karenina read? (Oddly, this same person said he loved the movie Once Upon a Time in America but said the cut-up 90-minute version was crap, a real tragedy.)

Okay, back to real life now.

Going Forward and Looking Back

Chad Post over at Three Percent has started his 2009 Translation Database. 2009 looks to be a damn good year. Tops on my list of anticipated titles:

Pluriverse by Ernesto Cardenal
Skating Rink by Roberto Bolaño
Halfway House by Guillermo Rosales
Guru is Born by Takeshi Kitano (yes, that Takeshi Kitano)
Best of Contemporary Mexican Fiction edited by Alvaro Uribe
Ghosts by Cesar Aira

And that’s just the ones where I have a slight inkling as to content or am aware of the writer.

So yeah, I’m jacked for 2009 to get going now that ’08 is on its last legs. And ’08 was a good year, as it brought me 2666, Senselessness, and Nazi Literature in the Americas, not to mention the other notable reads (not published in ’08) I managed to get under my belt, tops among them being Three Trapped Tigers and Infante’s Inferno by G. Cabrera Infante, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz, Sin by Forough Farokhzad, Madwomen by Gabriela Mistral, The Ecstasy of Capitulation by Daniel Borzutzky, The Enormity of the Tragedy by Quin Monzo, Bartleby & Co. by Enrique Vila-Matas, Distant Star and By Night in Chile by Roberto Bolaño, Antipoems by Nicanor Parra, Apocalypse by Ernesto Cardenal, Sylvia by Leonard Michaels, etc. and so on.

Let’s get our collective read on, as the kids say.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Horacio Castellanos Moya

Fantastic article on Horacio Castellanos Moya, whose Senselessness is a book you should read.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Seed for The Part About The Crimes

A fantastic article on not just 2666 but on Bolaño’s correspondence with Mexican journalist Sergio González Rodríguez whose work helped shape “The Part About the Crimes.”

Horacio Castellanos Moya

Nice Try, NYC

The Big Apple has a Big Ego to match, as we’ve always known, and I don’t mind admitting that there’s something appealing about that whole East Coast intellectual thing (I mean, the Bolaño discussion was held there for fuck’s sake), but trying to claim Obama as one of theirs is sad, really fucking sad. I mean, do New Yorkers really think that only in their city can one get in a pick-up basketball game and smoke?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Melvins on Pancake Mt.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Post 2666 Reading, or, My Bloody (Literary) Fate

What does it mean that the last four books I’ve read deal, in some way, with horrific violence? All four were written by Latinos, and all four are, at times, funny. Draw what you will from these observations. I’ll draw something in a minute, but let’s back up.

The first, claro, was 2666, the book I’ve been waiting a year to read, the book I devoured last month, the book I now own a few copies of, the book I went on and on about a few posts south of this one. Having discussed it at length, I’ll not go into it now except to reiterate that the book deals (in part) with the mass serial rape/killings of women in a fictional (stand-in) border town in Mexico. I knew I would be stewing on the book for some time and figured I ought to get a little distance, maybe follow it up with something dissimilar, which I thought I did. Senselessness (my Night Times review also pimped below) seemed, on first glance, a slightly different book. It is brief whereas 2666 is long. That is where the dissimilarities end. The book is often hilarious, often brutal, and, like 2666, it will stay with me for some time. If I was looking for a easily digested novella to distract me from the sprawling maze of 2666, I could’ve done better. While Senselessness is a quick read (I think it took me 2 days, and was due to deliberate stretching out) it is not an easily forgettable book. In many ways, it’s the book of the year (or 2nd behind, well, guess!). It also felt like a companion to 2666, though the two are not that alike. The narration is different. Senselessness is in the 2nd person, 2666 the 3rd. But both books employ run-on sentences and extended paragraphs. Both deal with torture, though Senselessness is almost always funny (when not dealing directly with the genocide), and 2666 is only occasionally funny, and it’s a different kind of humor—sly, subtle.

So I moved on. I picked up He Who Searches by Luisa Valenzuela. I can’t say I liked it very much, but it was interesting. It appealed to me because, again, it is short. Like 2666 (a book I fear I am drawing parallels to in my daily life) it is a puzzle of sorts. And the opening consists of a brief account of a man being tortured, even raped with a gun. Yeah, I managed to find another cruel story without even trying. I plodded on with the book, honestly confused by much of it. There are moments that crackle, but overall I was happy to have it finished, back on the shelf and away from my eyes.

Thinking that I had read enough books about Latin Americans being tortured and/or killed, I opted for what I thought would be a change: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz. Díaz, for those who don’t know, wrote a critically acclaimed collection of short stories, Drown, that dropped in ’96. People had their eyes on the guy, and he spent 10 years writing the follow up, his 1st novel. Some might fear that the critics who fell backward to praise his 1st book might have forgotten about him after a decade of nothing new. Didn’t happen. Oscar Wao won the Pulitzer and a heap of accolades, rightfully granted.

The book is pretty damn good. It’s very exciting stuff written in a charismatic voice that effortlessly combines sci-fi and fantasy references with street-tough 1st generation Dominican-American slang. And Spaniglish. Seriously, get the Spanish-English dictionary out and keep it next to you when you read this novel.

I knew the book was about a fat fanboy nerd who gets shunned by the girls he too-quickly falls for. I figured it would be a possibly heartbreaking story with some laughs and maybe a few amazing turns of phrase, much like Drown was. Wouldn’t you know it, the book is far greater than that, far more ambitious, and far bloodier. It spans generations and goes back to the Dominican Republic during the Trujillo Era, which— you guessed it— has plenty of rough stories waiting to be told. Oscar’s Mother’s and Grandfather’s tales, and Oscar’s as well, all reflect each other in moments of torture and pain. Dear god, it is a rough tale at times. Be warned: here there be tigers, tigers dressed as policemen. But the book is hilarious. Imagine that? (I should say that it was hilarious to me, a nerd from the ‘80s; the funniest thing being the Dungeons and Dragons references, like when Oscar, describing his near fatal beating, tells a friend that he lost about 110 hit points. I mean, only a geek like me, who played my fair share of D&D back in the day, would get that.)

So there we have it: four books in a row dealing with violence, most of which were funny. What does this say about Latino writers? I can only surmise that this is the best way to deal with unbelievable trauma. You have to laugh. If you don’t you’ll go mad. Just a thought, don’t quote me on this.

Next up? I’m going to try The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster. I’ve been eyeing it for a while and I think the only reason I’ve avoided this particular author is because I hated the movie he wrote, Smoke. By this looks to be some fun PoMo detective shit, and that sounds all right by me. I need a break from the (funny) rape, murder, systematic genocide and torture that has colored much of my reading as of late. Those who have read Auster may laugh as they read this, assuming they know something I don’t. Can the trilogy be full of brutality? Am I fated to read only books that in some way work in stories of slayings? Is this my gruesome Stephen King youth come back to haunt me? We’ll see, he said with a little apprehension.

The Cold War Over Bulgakov

The crux of this article is the “cold war” over Bulgakov’s nationality (Russian or Ukrainian) but what I find most exciting is that he was named Russia’s 2nd greatest writer in a recent poll. Considering the amount of great writers Russia can claim throughout its history, this is a pretty big honor for my hero.

Zombie Skating

Thanks, Sun Times.

Bush Gets Shoes Thrown at Him

Watch it here.

More Blog Adultery

My review of Senselessness, on the NT tip, yo:

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Natasha Wimmer

Interview here.

Was Bolaño a junkie?

Go Illinois! Go Chicago! Murder capitol of the country this year and another Governor arrested!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Happy Birthday, Joe

As I do every year, I just ate a pepper and egg sandwich in honor of my dearly departed grandfather. This year I snagged the food from Pompei as opposed to making it at home, which I did last year, much to the chagrin of mi niña, who could smell the frying red peppers and olive oil and nearly choked on the aroma.

Hope you’re doing well, Joe.

Sunday, December 07, 2008


I’m tired. I’m tired because I stayed up late finishing 2666. At long last (less than a month, really) the book is read and I can write a review. This review. Then again, considering the gobs of reviews this book is getting, why bother?

I will try and offer some thoughts on the book anyway, and I will dispense with the usual biographical information found in almost every review I’ve read (born in Chile, moved to Mexico in his teens, returned to Chile, imprisoned after the fall of Allende, released by luck, thanks to guards who were school friends, returned to Mexico, started the infrarealists, wandered, ended up in Europe, possibly did heroin, definitely got a liver disease, wrote for a decade knowing he was going to die, switched to novels to make money for his kids, realizing that poetry doesn’t sell, despite his proclamations that the novel is the least perfect form of writing, lower than the letter, lower than the essay, lower, certainly, than poetry, a vulgarity, a giant mistake, a beautiful, at times, mistake, and he died before getting a liver transplant). Instead I’ll comment briefly on a few things that have been haunting me since I got a good way into the book, and try and piece together the thoughts that have been in my head since I tried to sleep last night, around midnight, shaking with cold and puzzling over this novel.

Let’s start with (and wander away from and then get back to) some of things people are saying about 2666 and my reactions to their reactions. After all, we (the reviewers and I) are in the same community, if you accept the idea of reading communities. Are we, though, in the same interpretive community? Well, Adam Kirsch shares space in my community, at least on this point:

“According to Proust, one proof that we are reading a major new writer is that his writing immediately strikes us as ugly. Only minor writers write beautifully, since they simply reflect back to us our preconceived notion of what beauty is; we have no problem understanding what they are up to, since we have seen it many times before. When a writer is truly original, his failure to be conventionally beautiful makes us see him, initially, as shapeless, awkward, or perverse. Only once we have learned how to read him do we realize that this ugliness is really a new, totally unexpected kind of beauty and that what seemed wrong in his writing is exactly what makes him great.”

Which I guess that makes Kirsch and me in the same reading community as Proust.

Bolaño’s idea of the novel’s inherent weakness is compelling on a certain level, but if we accept that this idea was one that the legendary practical joker truly believed, and let’s for a moment, than one can understand how liberating a realization that was for Bolaño. Let’s say the novel, any novel, is a deeply flawed construction. Let’s say, The Sound and the Fury, my favorite American novel. It can be said that there are many flaws in this novel. Those who do not love it the way I do tell me that they find some of the sections cumbersome, un-navigable, damn near impossible. The Benjy and Quentin sections are notoriously difficult, written in a stream-of-consciousness style that can be off-putting (though I think Faulkner was the master of this style, better even than Joyce and Woolf). The writing disobeys convention, shifting in time and jumping from moment to moment often without a semblance of logic. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know… it’s not what you’d find in a Jane Austin novel. I, of course, defend Faulkner and, had I known that Proust comment, I could have employed it in my defense. And the same can be said of Bolaño, sort of.

There is a difference between Bolaño's "ugly" writing and Faulkner's. Unlike Faulkner, or Proust for that matter, his prose is often refreshingly readable, quick and smooth. Like Faulkner, and Proust, he is—at least in 2666—not shy when it comes to throwing in sentences that go on for pages. Early on in the book, Bolaño constructs a sentence that goes on for nearly five pages and spans continents. The quote (in the case of this review, the paraphrase) that immediately struck me is one Faulkner made while trying to explain his ambitiously long sentences in Absalom, Absalom!, which had something to do with trying to fit the entire world on the head of a pin. Bolaño seems eager to do the same, not only in the long sentences but also in the book as a whole. The five books that comprise 2666 cover a lot of territory and something like eighty years. They revolve around the fictional city of Santa Teresa in the north of Mexico. This city becomes a magnet, drawing in self-important literary critics from Paris, Madrid, and London, a philosophy teacher from Barcelona (originally from Chile), a reporter from Harlem, tourists from the Southwestern states of the U.S., and, of course, the reclusive writer who is the focus of the critics in book one and the hero of the last book. His story is something of an epic, a tour-de-force, though that phrase seems reserved for the fourth section of the book “The Part About the Crimes” which details five years of mostly unsolved murders of women in Santa Teresa (based on the very real unsolved murders of Ciudad Juárez).

While book four is indeed a staggering, often difficult story of the city and its mysterious murders, the aspect that seems lacking in almost every review I’ve come across is how that section contains more narratives than an Altman film, at least twenty, all circling around each other, painting a picture of the border town with the brutal backdrop. What impressed me most was the manner in which the narratives floated around and atop each other, sometimes overlapping, but distinct. Readers of last year’s unlikely hit, Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives, will recognize this technique. With that novel, Bolaño inserted into a romanticized story of young artistic ruminations and exploits a dossier in the form of narratives and anecdotes chronicling 20-odd years in the lives of the book's two primary characters. The 400 or so pages Bolaño devoted to this piecemeal account showed (probably better in Spanish) how comfortable Bolaño felt in the skin of many, many characters, all with different voices. (And yes, apparently the Spanish version is more impressive, as Bolaño wrote the separate chapters in different dialects, incorporating regional slang and distinct colloquialisms that might best be understood by a well traveled native Spanish speaker, keenly aware of the manifestations of which the language is capable.) While “The Part About the Crimes” does a good job of achieving this same goal, the last book “The Part About Archimboldi” tops it.

While this last section is about the reclusive writer, Benno von Archimboldi, it devotes as much, if not more, of its content to the tales of those whom Archimboldi, directly or indirectly, encounters in his storied life. Here we see Bolaño’s love of digressions and the non sequitur, as characters appear and disappear, and then, sometimes, reappear, telling their tales and affecting the hero, altering his course and the course of the novel, until the final moment of the book, which the reader could have guessed, evidence of exactly how 2666's separate pieces share motifs and a few coincidences; they all deal, to some extent, with Santa Teresa, the city in which the primary characters all find themselves in the end, suggesting that Santa Teresa itself is the one and only primary character, the one consistent in this dizzying, sprawling novel. What else could be the answer? The first part of 2666, “The Part About the Critics” doesn’t so much make the reader care about the four characters as it creates an ongoing sense of curiosity as to what will happen to them next. Leaving them in the place where Bolaño leaves them may upset some readers, but as the book progresses one sees that this is an essential quality of 2666, a book with mysteries and no answers (often the best kinds of mysteries). The people who populate 2666 are linked as everyone and everything is linked, at least in Bolaño novel. And everything is linked to the mass killings of women. One character says that these slayings contain the secret of the world. What could this mean? Speculations have already begun to abound, and if there is any justice they will increase as the book is studied and dissected by future generations, but rather than venture a guess at this point (I still have to digest the thing properly) I’ll simply leave that idea out there for you to consider.

So, like other reviewers, I’ve spent some time focusing on 2666’s first, fourth, and fifth parts. I think some attention is due to the second and third parts of the book, which in many ways are my favorites. Part two, “The Part About Amalfitano” is the shortest but in many ways the most upsetting. Natasha Wimmer, 2666’s translator, a talented woman, called Amalfitano her favorite character in the book, and it is easy to understand why. He strikes the reader as a sweet old man, perhaps too sweet, and his tragedy is a combination of too many factors: a vagabond wife chasing an insane poet of questionable sexuality, being a single father, a philosophy professor who takes a job in Santa Teresa almost as if the wind blew him there. And he’s most likely going mad. He’s most definitely concerned that his daughter might be in danger, a danger for which he credits himself. All of the suffering in his life is endured stoically in a way that reminded me of Bresson’s Balthazar, his quiet pain a reflection of what surrounds him, his endurance beautiful. For all the seriousness in his story, there’s a sadness to Amalfitano that often times is very funny, though not in the sense of high comedy, more in the sense of absurdity. There’s little else to do but laugh as he emulates Duchamp, hanging a book by a clothes line (one of the most compelling of 2666’s symbols). The somber tone that his story brings to the novel is amplified by the third section, “The Part About Fate.” Dismissed by some critics as the weakest, or the most “pop” and the least literary, it struck me as the most ominous. The book often conjures a misplaced feeling of dread, like a David Lynch film (I’m not the first to draw this comparison). This dread is never more evident than in “The Part About Fate.”

Oscar Fate, a pen name, one of two in the novel (Bolaño loved coincidences and mirroring elements), is a Harlem journalist who falls into an assignment covering a boxing match in Santa Teresa. He is clearly ill-suited for this task, but he accepts it, which brings him to the book’s center of action. The stories of the murdered women are by now becoming more prevalent in the novel— which is warming itself up for the fourth section, a head-first descent into the horror that so much of the book merely suggests—and Fate quickly realizes that this is the real story that needs coverage. His editor is not interested, dismissing it as none of their periodical’s concern. It is more than likely that this is Bolaño’s comment on the lack of alarm evident in the rest of the world regarding the murders in Ciudad Juárez. What can the 1st world do to help the 3rd, right? (Perhaps this book, getting so much attention here in the States, might go some distance toward alerting American readers about the situation in another part of the world right below their own country. The power of fiction, the power hope, though one wonders what exactly that would do. We may be the police of the world, but clearly there is little hope that we'll be intervening in a situation that holds little promise of our own gain.) Fate cannot shake off what’s going on, and though he talks about leaving before his deadline is up, he stays, drawn into a night of wandering from clubs, bars, a taqueria, and a local’s house where the mood shifts from hospitable to threatening, spurning the major movement of the book. At the beginning of the section, Fate broods over his recently deceased mother. He seems aimless, indifferent, a sad bastard magazine writer who never says much and seems unconcerned about everything he sees. And then he meets Amalfitano’s daughter. He senses the danger surrounding her and he takes action. The pace of his story suddenly quickens.

While there are some that (rightly) see this as Bolaño conjuring the pulp detective stories he so enjoyed, they also (wrongly) dismiss it as ill-fitting in the spectrum of the entire novel. If anyone considers “The Part About Fate” to be mismatched in regard to the rest of 2666, then they are clearly not reading the same book I have. Nothing is off the table for Bolaño. The novel contains within it World War II stories, academic satire, love triangles/quadrangles, mad poets, mad painters, madmen, madwomen, an ex-black Panther turned public speaker and Bar-B-Que recipe author, black militants marching under Osama bin Laden’s picture, god cops, bad cops, good and bad narcos, prostitutes, factory workers, a seer, a scapegoat, and so on, all held back, (barely) like raging water struggling against the muscle of a dam. Certainly there is room for a quasi-detective in the form of a misplaced journalist. When Fate and Amalfitano meet in a strange moment, the separate sections connect and the entire book seems to converge as a whole. There’s fear (Fate’s), the source of which is implied more than addressed overtly, and there’s a sense of tragedy (Amalfitano’s) that is, again, ambiguously expressed though nonetheless disquieting. Nothing in 2666 is understood completely, but the world of this novel seems more real as a result. There are no clear answers, only connections, shifting waters, the imperceptible but all too real danger. Bolaño steeps his work in a kind of dread that comes to us in our most vulnerable moments, when we feel an intangible horror and are sure it is real. Then we return to bed (as I did when I finished the book), turn out the lights and hear the night sounds we normally try to ignore. And then, despite our weariness, we can’t sleep. And we don’t even know why.

That’s the best way I can describe how I felt finishing the book. I’m going to stop writing about it now. I think it’s as futile to go on as the investigations in “The Part About the Crimes” that lead nowhere and are shelved with a growing amount of disinterest by the overtaxed police. I’m going to stew on this book for some time, I am sure, and thoughts may occur to me, thoughts that might inspire more rambling posts. I will say one more thing, which may sound ridiculous to any number of people, but I feel this is the book I was meant to be alive to read. This is not to say it has replaced The Master and Margarita or The Obscene Bird of Night or The Sound and the Fury as my favorite novel (those three all tie for that rank, by the way), but it is maybe the literary event of my lifetime. Newsweek said that 2666 is (and again I’m paraphrasing) easy to admire but difficult to love. I know what they mean by this, but I couldn’t disagree more. A better way of summing it up would be to say that it is impossible not to admire and difficult not to love, even if it that love is hard to endure. It’s not the kind of love that you’ll see depicted in a foppy British comedy with Hugh Grant in the lead. It’s the kind of love that burns and tears at you. It’s the kind of love that you never forget.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Inside My Music Mind Right About Now

Okay, here’s some songs that have been rattling around upstairs as of late, with the usual paragraph of explanation and/or accompanying anecdotal jive, ala Matt (um…) Fraction, who I stole this idea from, although my taste in music is much better than his:

“Friendship” by Tenacious D.

Thanksgiving night, while getting my ass handed to me in a game of Rummy 500 with my brother (always the winner in this game, though I am always eager to play him, continuing an unaccountable score that ranges, by now, in the millions with me behind by several tens of thousands) I heard this song via my brother’s iPod, on shuffle, well packed with gems, some dusty (to me), as was this one. I was fond of the D at one point, and I suppose I still am, though I might guess that to be so is to deviate from current hipster fashion. Nevertheless, this song from their debut record is pretty catchy and has a chord change that is as alluring as any I’ve heard in my thirty-seven, going on thirty-eight years. Maybe this is where I ought to be looking for music, in the humorous mining of rock and metal past. Lord knows I ain’t hearing much come from elsewhere.

“Tunnel of Love” by Dire Straits

I am, unapologetically, a fan of the third Dire Straits album, Making Movies, though I admit that the record could have been a brilliant EP if they would have chopped two tracks that haven’t grabbed me the way the first four have. And those first four songs are flawless. My favorite changes depending on my mood, but right now it’s the opener, “Tunnel of Love” with its eight minutes of shifting rock and balladry, with a refrain so beautiful it makes me come close to breaking the hell down in glorious, hot tears. (I’m writing this with the record on, and right now the song “Skateaway” is on and I must say that it is starting to combat “Tunnel of Love for my favorite. It’s a tough call.)

“Die, Die My Darling” by The Misfits

Always a favorite from a band that makes it hard to pick a favorite. Much loved by my old buddies from the burbs and much maligned by my snootier pals from the north side, the Misfits often amused and always enlivened any situation. They’re my go-to band when I get bored or depressed with the fluff in my collection, not that any of it is fluff, but, you know, you’re not always in the mood for the Arditti String Quartet or some other high-brow jazz.

“Crash Course in Brain Surgery” by Metallica

Speaking of the Misfits… well, my favorite Metallica record is still the Garage Days Re-Revisited EP that came out after Cliff Burton died and before the band sank deep into tedious waters. This EP, all covers, was sold on vinyl for a discounted price (it said so right on the cover in a warning to the customer not to pay more than seven or eight bucks) and introduced fans to the new bass player, Jason Newsted. Of all the songs, this one from the band Budgie stands out for many reasons, but perhaps it’s tops on my list because I had the T-shirt (ill-fitting in my chubby high school days, but I wore it anyway). These days, if you want to hear the ol’ Garage Days material (and it really is the finest by Metallica, proving that they were, if nothing else, a great cover band) you have to buy a 2 CD set called Garage Inc., which has plenty of dispensable moments and costs a helluva lot more than seven or eight bucks. Luckily, I had a coworker bring it in and I ripped a copy to the hard drive, eschewing “Turn the Page” and “Whiskey in a Jar” and other lackluster renditions of songs by better bands.

“Tiny Boy” from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Thank god the season is over so I can stop obsessing about whether or not it is the greatest show on television, which it is, if you ask me, but it’s the only show I watch with any regularity. Anyway, this is a song from the season finale, “The Nightman Cometh” which was… odd.

“Blue Moon Baby” by the Cramps

A cover by the best cover band ever, who also wrote some pretty great material themselves. Still, there’s a reason a collection of rockabilly and “obscure” songs was released called Song the Cramps Taught Us, and here’s one of them. Originally recorded by Dave Diddle Day, this version care of Lux, Ivy & Co. comes as an extra on the Date with Elvis CD. It was, when I had a car, my favorite song to crank up and drive to. Now I just hum it while walking.

Okay, that’s it for now. Now a long list, but that’s all I can find in the nasty confines of my head. Most of that space is reserved for the book I’m still reading (take a guess) and trying to figure out what to do with the precious gift of life. Stay tuned for more stabs at philosophy and bullshit tinkering.