Some stuff I thought about riding my bike home today, June 15, 2011, and then some stuff that I thought while I was making lunch (a salad out of my garden of lettuce with green apple and blue cheese, a bowl of chickpea curry and rice, an orange, and a kosher dill pickle):
THE COMEDY OF CORMAC McCARTHY: There’s very little that’s funny in The Road (2006), but all of Cormac McCarthy’s other books are full of really funny shit. My friend Evan clued me into it when he pointed out that in the very beginning of Child of God (1973), McCarthy describes Lester Ballard, the pitiful necrophiliac protagonist, shitting in the woods and wiping his ass with a stick. That’s what I call funny! And then in Suttree (1979), which is full of this kind of dark/hilarious shit, Harrogate (his other notable country bumpkin character) is introduced with a very “writerly,” Faulknerian description of him having sex with some farmer’s watermelons by the light of the moon. Someone as smart as McCarthy has to be hilarious, and a lot of the terrifying parts of Blood Meridian (1985), especially centered around the Judge, take the form of comedy. In this case, though, one would have to be completely divorced of any concept of morality to find any of it actually funny – which may be the point.
AMERICAN PSYCHO BY BRET EASTON ELLIS: I read American Psycho (1991) in the middle of the winter this year. It’s the only book that’s ever physically repulsed me. I lived near where Patrick Bateman lived on the Upper East Side last year, and I’m glad I didn’t read this book while I was there. Manhattan reminded me of a giant outdoor shopping mall, and this book (set in the late 1980s) seems to describe when it was halfway transformed into what it is today. I like to imagine that this book and The Big Lebowski (1998, dir. Joel and Ethan Cohen) somehow take place in the same universe, and the Dude is somehow the anti-Patrick Bateman, in the way that L.A. and New York relate but don’t. The Dude is to L.A. as Bateman is to NYC. “Sometimes there’s a man… I won’t say a hero, ‘cause what’s a hero? But sometimes, there’s a man – and I’m talkin’ about the Dude here – sometimes, there’s a man, well, he’s the man for his time and place. He fits right in there. And that’s the Dude. In Los Angeles.” My favorite part: when Bateman is on vacation in the Hamptons, and he spends time eating sand, microwaves a jellyfish, and stands over his fiancée with a knife waiting to see if she’ll wake up.
JORGE LUIS BORGES: My favorite writer. Borges has a big reputation within literary circles and academia, but really, I think everyone can and should enjoy him. The ones that got me into his writing are: The Library of Babel (1941), Borges and I (1960), and Argumentum Ornithologicum (1960). They’re all good, and short enough to read on a subway ride, or on a break at work. A good place to start: Labyrinths (1962).
THE SMELL OF TOMATO PLANTS: I’ve recently gotten way into gardening, which is all about saving money and eating healthy to me, but aside from that, everything about it brings back all these memories of my late Grandma Opal. I spent a lot of time helping her in her garden when I was a kid. Nothing brings back those memories and makes me feel connected to my past more than that weird smell tomato leaves have. And that’s something I can experience everyday.
COWBOY INDIAN BEAR: This is a seriously amazing band from Lawrence, Kansas. They made my favorite record of last year, Each Other All the Time (The Record Machine), and their new stuff is even better. They play a lot around the Midwest and are slowly making their way out towards the coasts, as far as touring goes. Check them out.
CHAD VANGAALEN: My roommate recently got me into him. His new record, Diaper Island (Sub Pop), is unbelievable. It’s pretty much all I’m listening to these days. “That fuckin’ mind scanner that made me piss myself….”
JAMES BLAKE: James Blake’s self-titled debut album (Universal Republic) was my soundtrack to the winter/spring months. So, so worth the hype. If you can get past his Auto-Tuned/vocodered vocals (which I can) – which, by the way, he doesn’t need because he has a fucking amazing voice… I’m curious if he’s going to use these lame effects in the future… anyway… – this record will reward you for multiple listens. So simple on the surface, so complex once you get into it!
EAST OF EDEN BY JOHN STEINBECK: Do people still read Steinbeck? I love his books. Especially this one (1952), The Grapes of Wrath (1939) (duh), and Tortilla Flat (1935). If an alien landed and wanted to know what the deal was with Humans, I would give them this.
KANSAS: Journalists like to make a big deal out of the fact that we live in Kansas, as if it’s surprising that art could come from anywhere but the coasts. I personally am really inspired by the history and the natural world here, as well as the sense of ownership I have of where I do my thing. I traveled in three continents last year, and lived in Kansas, Texas, Ohio, and Manhattan. But Lawrence is where I have decided to stay. William Burroughs lived here, and the Phelps family (Westboro Baptist Church) is just a few miles away. What could be more American than that? On a side note, I was walking around a few days ago with some friends and heard singing and went to see what it was, and it was the Phelps family protesting a Foster the People show. I’m not sure why. A group of locals all congregated to yell them down and counter-harass them. Someone made signs on pizza boxes and stood with them. The signs said, “I’m with Fag” and “God Loves Puppies.” I live here and love it here, but I came from Missouri, as a side note.
GRAVEFACE RECORDS: Graveface put out my records, so I’m plugging them, but I was a fan long before we ever worked together. I sort of harassed Ryan Graveface until he agreed to put out Oh, Ramona (2008). If you can find a label that is more committed to its fans/customers, and to the idea that records should be special objects, I’d like to see it.
Jordan Geiger, formerly of Minus Story, Shearwater, and the Appleseed Cast, is the principal member of the Lawrence, Kansas, group Hospital Ships. Their second album, Lonely Twin, was released on Graveface Records in June.
Photo Courtesy: Hospital ShipsVisit: Hospital Ships | Graveface
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