It’s one more random than 10!
The Lovely Becky got a nice bit of news today. Her forthcoming novel, The Countess, got listed on Amazon today, with the cover and pub date and everything. Needless to say, we’re very excited.
The second time around the novel-writing block has been an interesting contrast with the first time. TLB’s first novel, Icebergs, was a multi-generational tale of two families united by a plane crash. While certainly not a warm and fuzzy book, it’s a book full of touching moments, both happy and sad. It’s certainly not a violent or disturbing book, at least, not after the plane crash.
Writing that book almost made TLB crazy. A host of elements formed a perfect storm of stress, and there were a few occasions where I was genuinely concerned for her mental well-being. Being a trooper, she got through it and in the process was a finalist for the PEN-Hemingway Award, but still, I was worried about a repeat of this when she started working on The Countess.
On top of that, The Countess is about Elizabeth Bathory, infamous as the most prolific female serial killer in history, who was accused of bathing in the blood of virgins to preserve her youth. This book is violent and often disturbing because Bathory herself was violent and disturbing, and the story is told from the point of view of this “infamous lady.” Furthermore, TLB’s office is littered with books about the countess that would fit right at home in Bram Stoker’s library. The word “blood” probably appears in half the titles. In addition to the stress of producing another novel, my wife plunged herself into the mind a female Hungarian psychopath. My concerns were raised even more after TLB received a book with translations of Bathory’s correspondence—TLB’s first encounter with the countess’s writing—and the tone was a dead ringer for what my wife had already written.
So, naturally, this writing process was smooth sailing. It’s had its stresses, as all creative work under a deadline does, but it’s remarkable how sane TLB has been while wandering in the shoes of a crazy woman for the past year. It’s been a relief, both to see her so much more relaxed and also not to wake up in the middle of the night with her hovering over the bed and speaking in a spooky Hungarian accent: One stab, two stabs, three stabs in my husband’s heart, ah-ah-ah!
And let me tell you, this book rocks you like a hurricane, and an awesome hurricane, not one created by a bunch of German metalheads with receding hairlines. My still-beating heart overflows with enough pride to fill the lobby of the Overlook Hotel, because it’s been an inspiration watching her not only work hard, but work so confidently. She’s been lowering the rope down to me, and I’m hoping to get to that summit myself one of these days.
Time for one tune, two tunes, eleven random tunes, ah-ah-ah!
1) “Anyway You Want It,” Journey. It’s impossible for me to separate this from the part in Caddyshack where Rodney Dangerfield plays this song. It’s such a random bit but still cracks me up even though I know it’s coming, precisely because it is so random. I also really love the guitar solos and channel my inner Neal Schon when playing it in Rock Band. Video note: quite possibly the most unnecessary intro in the history of music videos.
2) “Fences,” Phoenix. This song suffers from coming after the 1-2 punch of “Lisztomania,” and “1901,” two tough acts for any song to follow. But it’s got the complex yet accessible aesthetic of the whole album. There’s a lot going on in Phoenix songs, but they never seem cluttered to me, and the pieces all fit: an acoustic guitar works with the slinky disco beat, and while groovy, it also chills. Good stuff.
3) “Anybody Seen My Baby,” The Rolling Stones. A cool video for a song that gets on my nerves. Jagger’s delivery is so exaggerated, like he’s a bit player on Saturday Night Live trying out his Jagger impression, and there’s nothing really Stonesy about the music. Should be called “Anybody Seen Meh Baby.”
4) “Pacific Theme,” Broken Social Scene. A warm instrumental welcome on a day when it’s in the single digits. It makes me think of driving along the coastal highway in California, something I think everyone should try to do before they die. Video note: I didn't know Steven Spielberg was in this band!
5) “This Time,” INXS. I heard “Don’t Change” at the end of the movie Adventureland and realized I needed to get INXS back into my musical life. I was actually a big fan back in the 80s, but I lost all my INXS albums in the Great Compact Disc Burglary of ’99 and never bothered to rebuy them. So I picked up the 35-song Shine Like It Does anthology for a mere 12 credits on eMusic (about $5-6). I have to say, I think INXS holds up pretty well. Sure, they’ve got a few big 80s trappings, but this song in particular sounds pretty timeless. It's nice to have them back.
6) “Fade to Black,” Metallica. “Thrash ballad” may seem like an oxymoron, but these morons found a way to make it work on more than one occasion. I prefer “One” and “Sanitarium” mostly because this ode to teen suicide has lyrics that seem like they were written by a teenager. Once James Hetfield shuts up and lets guitarist Kirk Hammett do the talking, however, it wipes away its melodramatic tears and storms into the mosh pit.
7) “Venus,” The Feelers. On the surface, this is 90s alternative by the numbers. I am a sucker for the quiet-building-into-loud thing, though, no matter how many times I hear it or how many times bands rip it off. Start with the soft strumming guitar, add the drums, and then punch that distortion pedal halfway through and I’m probably at least going to ask the song up for a drink.
8) “For No One,” The Beatles. I love them not just because they are arguably the greatest pop-rock songwriters of all time, but because no one still really sounds like them. Thousands have tried, sure, but when something like this plays, with the harpsichord and the French horn, with just a sprinkle of Ringo in the background, it still sounds unique.
9) “Bury Me With It,” Modest Mouse. “I just don’t need none of that Mad Max bullshit.” I disagree. I love that Mad Max bullshit, especially The Road Warrior. Speaking of crazed revenge killers, is it my imagination, or does Mel Gibson sound drunk in the trailers for his new movie? There’s something about his voice that sounds like he just had a half-dozen Foster’s oil cans (that’s Australian for “big fucking can of beer”) before the cameras started rolling. Maybe he’s just drunk on pre-Vatican II Catholicism.
10) “Serve the Servants,” Nirvana. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is the classic, and while I never tire of hearing it, this is my favorite Nirvana song because it has the most bite. “Teeange angst has paid off well, now I’m bored and old” is such a classic line, saying everything you not only needed to know about Cobain, but also what happened after the post-Nevermind grunge land rush. Plus he throws in a Holy Grail reference to show that he’s not just a sour rich rocker bemoaning his rich rocker status.
11) “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone,” Sleater-Kinney. This may sound like blasphemy, but they were better than The Ramones. I go for “Hey, ho, let’s go!” as much as the next guy, and no question those four miscreants were the four horsemen of punk. The problem is, music has to evolve if you want to continue being interesting. God bless The Ramones, and their first four albums are amazing, but even Phil Spector’s production couldn’t push them very far after that. Sleater-Kinney got better with each release, spitting out razor-sharp blasts of political punk, but going The Clash route and treating that as a stepping stone to greater creativity instead of a millstone that dragged them down to the bottom of a creative rut. A very nice way to end the list.
Have a good weekend, and may your creative endeavors not drive you crazy.