I finished reading Jonathan Safran Foer‘s second novel today. It’s called Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. It’s about a kid who’s father dies in one of the World Trade Center towers on 9/11. He finds something among his father’s possessions that leads him to believe that there’s someone out there who knows something about his father that he doesn’t, and basically he’s a kid who misses his father so much that he wants to know everything about his father. So without giving anything away, he spends most of the book looking for this stranger who might provide him with some insights about his dead father. I’m not going to lie about: I wasn’t enthralled by the story or the writing. I was able to put the book down for days and start where I left off without losing the feel of the story, mainly because it didn’t have much of a feel for me. I skimmed through more than a few portions of the book. It didn’t grab me, but I kept reading because I wasn’t completely disinterested in it. Then everything changed near the end of the book in the chapter that begins on page 285. Something happens in that chapter that is so truthful and so real and so sad and tragic and insane, and honest, it cut to the bone like no moment I’ve experienced in a novel for a long time. Earlier today I tried to describe the scene to someone, and a shiver went through me as I thought about it. Anyway, that made it for me. That scene will likely stay with me for the rest of my life. What a moment. So that’s it. Mission accomplished. I say job well done to Jonathan Safran Foer. That moment killed me. It knocked me out and moved me. And did it without being a depressing downer of a story. Anyone who can have that affect on me is doing something right.
The new Gillian Welch CD, The Harrow & The Harvest arrived in our mailbox last week. We haven’t had a chance to sit down and listen to the whole thing straight through, but judging from what I’ve heard so far, it’s in the same league as her last album, Soul Journey, which is so simple, it’s masterful.
Anyway, the insert for the CD cover is made from a single piece of stiff fabric similar to a coffee mug coaster. The cover drawing is pressed into the fabric. It’s a miniature work of art that reminds me what it was like to listen to an album on vinyl and admire the artwork that went into the overall package. Anyone remember those days?
I first heard of Kate Bush after she sang with Peter Gabriel on his song, “Don’t Give Up,” in 1986, something like that. I don’t much listen to Peter Gabriel anymore, though I still think his instrumental Passion album holds up better than anything he’s done. I’d probably still listen to him if he continued to put out albums in that vein instead of, well, whatever version of pop music is does these days. Anyway, I thought highly of Kate Bush because I thought highly of Peter Gabriel. But then I read a review in Rolling Stone where her voice was described as a mixture of Patti Smith and a Hoover vacuum cleaner. I don’t know a thing about Patti Smith, but the vacuum cleaner quality of her voice made sense to me somehow, and I gradually came to feel like her voice was full of hot air and helium. Silly overly dramatic singing. Whatever appreciation I had for Kate Bush’s voice and her artistry disappeared. The one song of hers that kind of worked for me was called “Deeper Understanding,” a song about technology cutting a person off from the world. So I was mildly interested recently when I heard that she re-recorded the song on her latest album, supposedly transforming it, along with some other older songs, into a more mature and purer take on what she originally intended. Or something. So I thought, okay, maybe she’s grown out of the melodrama I couldn’t stand in her music before, and if she sings like a normal person, maybe it’s not that bad. So I gave it a whirl…
…and brother was I wrong. What the hell’s going on here, Bob? Conceptually, I see what she’s going for, and it almost works. But I don’t know man… Autotune kills it for me. Maybe I need to listen more carefully. I do like the harmonica part near the end, though. She be jammin’.