Best Things of the Week
March 30, 2015
Best Thing I Saw All Week: David Vann in conversation with Tom Barbash (Part of Litquake’s Epicenter Series at Veracocha): Unfamiliar with Vann going into this, he proved quite fascinating, so I’m currently reading his Goat Mountain (more later). He included his email address in his inscription saying ‘Let me know what you think,’ and seemed to mean it. Vann, whose work has often been compared to Cormac McCarthy’s, refreshingly pulls no punches, calling Blood Meridian ‘the best American novel and by quite a distance’ and The Road ‘a piece of shit.’ At the bar I’d run into a semi-well-known novelist and I’d been lending a sympathetic ear to his ongoing five-year struggle with his latest when we were summoned to sit down. Vann moved inevitably into talking about his process which involves writing a first, and only, draft, marching through the manuscript from beginning to end, “I don’t struggle, I don’t rewrite, it all comes pretty easily,” he was saying. My novelist/friend who had, until this point, been leaning forward intently listening, leaned back and out of the corner of a big grin whispered in my ear “What an asshole!”
Best Thing I Read All Week: The Beatles. I try to keep up with contemporary music, but once a year or so a guy my age has to haul out all his Beatles albums and have his own fanfest, revisiting old faves and always discovering new ones. This time out I got completely hooked on You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away, playing it over and over, twenty times in a row, tearing up to that perfect first verse delivered by rock’s most enduring singer, the transcendent Things We Said Today sung by McCartney who, for a change of pace, kept the teddy-bear schtick firmly under control, and George’s miraculous, ringing If I Needed Someone, a declaration of independence aimed at the sky. The recently released re-masters (2009) sound terrific, brilliant, especially on the earlier (and best), pre-Sergeant Pepper stuff. You can hear Lennon get that last gram of heartbreak out of the back of his throat or the smile decorating McCartney’s vocal; you can hear the individual pieces that became the harmonies. In some places it’s like listening to the music new all over again; experiencing the joy and enthusiasm that are the undercarriage of every song. The re-masters are from the original, superior British LPs, not the bowdlerized American releases, so those of us who have that sequencing imprinted in our DNA after so many decades may have a bit of a hard time getting used to the order of things.