Posts tagged ‘NPR’

December 6, 2012

Three Beautiful Books For Children (and Adults)

by Edwin Turner

As the season for giving arrives, Biblioklept reviews three beautiful books that children and adults alike will enjoy.

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First up is E.T.A. Hoffman’s 1816 Christmas classic Nutcracker in translation by Ralph Manheim and beautifully illustrated by the late Maurice Sendak. In 1983, Sendak designed sets and costumes for the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s adaptation of Nutcracker and in 1984 he translated some of those designs into a book edition.

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According to a 2001 profile with NPR, Sendak was initially unsure about working on what he considered “the most bland and banal of ballets.” However, upon reading Hoffman’s original text, Sendak discovered a work full of “weird, dark qualities that make it something of a masterpiece,” an observation he notes in his introduction to Nutcracker.

The NPR profile notes that Sendak intended to bring “Hoffmann’s original story back to audiences, especially by having the main character, a girl named Clara, brought back into the story.” Sendak believed

The whole ballet is about her and for the most part you get her in act one, and then she discreetly disappears for the rest of the work. My feeling is this has to be disturbing to children. . . . [She goes] where the wild things are . . . She is overwhelmed with growing up and has no knowledge of what this means. I think the ballet is all about a strong emotional sense of something happening to her, which is bewildering.

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These “strange, weird” qualities—the same tones that made Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are a classic of children’s literature—are on display in Nutcracker. Hoffman’s text in Manheim’s translation has a wonderfully episodic, even picaresque quality that restores a sense of adventure—and even peril—to the smooth play we might be familiar with sitting through each December.

Nutcracker’s reading level, length, and tone make it likely appropriate for children over eight or nine, but younger children will enjoy reading the story through Sendak’s marvelous and strange illustrations.

Nutcracker is available in a new hardback edition from Random House.

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Next up is Annelore Parot’s Kokeshi Kimonos from Chronicle Books.

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Koskeshi Kimonos is a fun and stylish book that uses kokeshi dolls to showcase facets of Japanese culture including attire and family life. The book features folding flaps, pull out sections, and other interactive features that will appeal to younger children. It’s the sort of aesthetically charming book that adults can enjoy as well.

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Kokeshi Kimonos will likely appeal to younger readers—five to nine—and seems particularly suited to girls (although this doesn’t mean boys wouldn’t enjoy it, of course). The cute kokeshis are a wonderful alternative to the sterile, plastic world of Barbie and other facile dolls.

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Finally, Ernest Raboff’s Albrecht Dürer, part of his Art for Children series. The book is out of print but not impossible to find.

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Raboff presents Dürer’s life simply and in clear context, using about a dozen beautiful  prints from the German master, as well as many of his etchings. Raboff also hand letters the book, and provides his own sketches and illustrations occasionally to clarify and explain Dürer’s work.

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What I love most about Raboff’s book though is the way he integrates elements of art appreciation into his book in subtle, simple ways. Lovely:

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April 17, 2012

“Mount Hood” (Live) — Hauschka

by Biblioklept
March 30, 2012

Harry Crews and Earl Scruggs Interviews to Replay on NPR’s Fresh Air

by Biblioklept

NPR’s Fresh Air will rebroadcast a 1988 interview with Harry Crews and a 2003 interview with Earl Scruggs today. If you can’t listen live, check out the podcasts (Crews podcast; Scruggs podcast), or download the NPR smartphone app.

From the Crews interview:

I wrote four novels and short stories before I even published anything, and the reason I didn’t publish any of those things was because it wasn’t any good, and the reason it wasn’t any good was because I was trying to write about a world I did not know . . . One night it occurred to me that whatever strength I had was all back in there in Bacon County, Ga., with all that sickness and hookworm and rickets and ignorance and beauty and loveliness. But that’s where it was. It wasn’t somewhere else.

(Thanks to the readers who wrote in about these shows).

March 9, 2012

Worst Review Tactics

by akingatnight

“It’s like [name of thing you love]only so much better!”

Has this ever happened to you? A friend or a “professional” reviewer of books, movies, records, etc. tries to sell you on some new thing by citing a comparison to something you love and then insulting that thing by telling you this new thing is aesthetically superior, the platonic ideal only glimpsed at by the thing you already love, exclaiming, “You should be so pumped to abandon that thing you already love in favor of this new thing that I am suddenly telling you is the more appropriate thing to admire!”

What’s funny about all this is that the reviewer/friend is really only trying to connect with you, to personalize their recommendation within a framework they know you will understand. But often, by going this route, they inadvertently demean your love for whatever the thing is, and what ends up happening (for me anyway) is the exact opposite response they were trying to get from me:

I end up hating this new thing.

The earliest example I can remember happened in college when I was on the phone with a dear friend when he asked (unfortunately):

“Have you heard this album Michigan by this guy Sufjan Stevens? It’s basically like Jim O’Rourke’s Eureka but the songwriting and arrangements are way better”

And on that day, at that moment, I gave birth to an infinite unquenchable hatred for Sufjan Stevens.

And why exactly did this happen? Because my discovery of Jim O’Rourke, (which had occurred a year or so before that conversation) was as close to a life-changing event as is possible with the consumption of art. Jim O’Rourke represents the nexus of so many wide-ranging creative ideas and disciplines, the perfect marriage of avant-garde and pop, melody and dissonance, improv and structure, (etc.) that I was obsessed with him to the point that he became a kind of index of creativity for me; I sought out every band or artist he had worked with; I read every interview with him published on the internet; I even kept a running Word doc where I copied and pasted the titles of any book or movie or album (or anything) that he mentioned liking.

 A brief list of a few of my favorite things I learned about via Jim O’Rourke:

John Fahey

Tony Conrad

Dusan Makavejev

Robert Downey Sr.

Derek Bailey

Faust

CAN

Whitehouse

Arthur Russell

Merzbow

Ray Russell

Bill Fay

Van Dyke Parks

Kevin Drumm

Masayuki Takayanagi

Otomo Yoshihde

Keiji Haino

Judy Sill

Curt Boetcher

Nic Roeg

Luc Ferrari

Robbie Basho

Robert Wyatt

Ivor Cutler

Smog

Scott Walker

And the list can go on and on. Basically this man is my hero. And my friend knew this when he called me; maybe he didn’t quite know the depth and breadth of my love, but he knew as much as I was able to communicate verbally. And he certainly knew that at the time Eureka was my favorite of Jim’s albums. (I’ve since decided that Insignificance is the superior of that era of Drag City albums, although I prefer his instrumental, electronic or improve records to the songwriting ones in general).

So what was my friend expecting me to do in response to his absurd claims? Drop all my built up love for the guy who has had the biggest influence on my creative life and suddenly take up with some dude whose name I couldn’t even pronounce yet? At his insistence I picked up Sufjan’s album and listened to a few songs, but all I was really doing was picking it apart, looking for all the ways it simply did not stack up to Eureka. Because of course, how could it stack up? That’s an impossible proposition considering the circumstance. I’m even willing to say that in a “blind taste test” situation it may be possible that 9 out of 10 listeners would prefer Sufbag Stevens to my Jim but I don’t care, I was and am so biased it’s not even worth pursuing.

So why am I thinking of all of this now?

Well the other day a dear, dear friend of mine wrote an article for NPR music where he outrageously overpraised an upcoming album by singer/composer Julia Holter—and it has been driving me nuts for the week or so since he posted it.

I should preface by saying that my friend’s taste in music is among the sharpest most well-rounded of anyone I know. I take his word on basically everything and there is a reason he has this NPR job: he is better informed about music than almost anyone and he can keenly articulate his thoughts. So when he writes about an album, I almost always give whatever it is a listen—and in most cases I wholeheartedly agree with him.

But in the first paragraph of this Julia Holter article, he pulls this shit on me, going straight for heart in the second sentence by referencing Scott Walker’s The Drift and Gaspar Noe’s film Enter The Void. My jaw dropped when he pulled those references; I may have spoken out loud to my wife, calling out to her in the other room, “Holy shit Lars just compared this girl to Enter the Void and Scott Walker!” Here’s Lars’s lede:

When the world is at the tip of anyone’s fingers, there’s little space for a true vanguard of sound. Think about it: When was the last time you heard or saw something entirely new? Experiences like Gaspar Noe’s film Enter the Void and Scott Walker’s album The Drift shook me to my core, and questioned my ideas of not only art, but also life itself. But trace the steps and you’ll find Ennio Morricone and Krzysztof Penderecki in Walker, or Kenneth Anger and 2001: A Space Odyssey in Noe.

One sentence further my heart was no longer the target; I felt that I had been kicked in the balls:

We’re a culture that recycles — no revelatory observation — but with Ekstasis, Julia Holter has created a radically new world from a crystalline Venn diagram of sound.

A “radically new world,” not recycled like Scott Walker or Gaspar Noe? So she’s more original than these mere recyclers? Well. Okay. I guess I’ll see about this.

And so with that attitude I approached the listening to Holter’s album, and I can’t shake the comparison, I can’t get past the bitterness, the sour taste in my mouth of having two of my favorite things evoked and then dismissed in favor of This Thing

I made it about halfway through Exstasis before I gave up. For all the grandstanding in the article, all I can hear is a younger Enya who is less interested in consonant melodies and who has probably seen Joanna Newsom live a few times–and even that description should sound cool to me! But it doesn’t. Lars’s overpraise acts as a numbing agent—sort of like when you eat pizza too soon out of the oven and it burns your tongue and you are doomed to taste less of the pizza for the rest of the meal, punished by the eagerness.

Am I crazy? Is this album really as good as Lars is claiming? I fear now I won’t ever be able to judge it accurately. All week I’ve been linking my friends to his article to try to gather responses from others to try to help me get a more holistic, less reactionary understanding of what is going on here. So maybe that’s why I was moved to write this article as well. Please tell me that I’m way off base and that Ekstasis is totally amazing or whatever. But if you harbor any love for Scott Walker or Gaspar Noé maybe just go ahead and avoid it.

April 24, 2011

Werner Herzog on NPR’s Fresh Air

by Biblioklept

Werner Herzog on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Herzog discusses his new documentary The Cave of Forgotten Dreams. (Thanks to Bblklpt reader Josh for forwarding us the link).

May 13, 2010

Dave Tompkins Discusses His New Book about Vocoders on NPR

by Biblioklept

If you missed this morning’s interview on NPR with Dave Tompkins on his new book How to Wreck a Nice Beach (Melville House) you can listen to it here. Tompkins discusses national defense, A Clockwork Orange, Kraftwerk, hip-hop, and autotune. Good stuff.

February 8, 2010

“I Guess My Work All These Years Has Been about Living in Dangerous Times” — Don DeLillo Interviewed on NPR

by Biblioklept

Driving to work this morning in the dark dolorous haze appropriate to a post-Super Bowl Monday, I was more than a little surprised to catch Steve Innskeep interview Don DeLillo on Morning Edition. If you missed the interview, which focuses on DeLillo’s latest, Point Omega, you can listen to it or download it from Morning Edition‘s site. The usually-taciturn DeLillo is particularly reflective, even generous in this interview. “I guess my work all these years has been about living in dangerous times” he says, “and part of this danger has been what the media reports, and how it changes our perceptions.” It’s also kinda strange to hear his voice, which seems frailer and more awkward than I would have imagined. Very cool interview.

December 3, 2006

David Foster Wallace Talks Tennis on NPR

by Biblioklept

A couple of weeks ago, loyal reader Damon Noisette left a link to a David Foster Wallace piece on Roger Federer. Click on the player below to listen to a cool interview with DFW about this piece. I know, I know–the interview is a couple of months old–but I’m trying to integrate audio into this website, and this is something of a trial run. Enjoy (or not).

[odeo=http://odeo.com/audio/1757889]

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