... books! Ah, the book pile. Mine has been weirdly truncated lately, causing all sorts of free-floating angst to manifest itself like Marley's ghost. "CARLOOOS." But I have managed to get a few reads in, here and there. Perhaps by posting about them, I can placate the unhappy book spirits here floating about -- and I am so tempted to call them 'agents' -- and get on with my day.
Heinrich Mann, Young Henry of Navarre. Damn, there was a lot of fly-specked romantic treacle here. I don't know how much of it was his translator's fault. Certainly his bro Thomas has had his share of mistranslation oopsies and arghs. But I kinda fear a lot of this was due to Heinrich. Some comments about Fascism and Leaders as applied to the Duke of Guise. The most successful parts were probably the scenes of the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre, written several years before Kristallnacht, and in fact much like recent descriptions of events in Rwanda. But I'm not looking forward to starting the sequel. Charles Marsh, God's Long Summer: Stories of Faith and Civil Rights. Applied theology in action in Mississippi. Not just the good side, either. The most harrowing chapter concerns the theology of former Imperial Wizard of the KKK, Sam Bowers. "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." Church burnings, bombings, shootings, people buried in a dam. Michael Tenzer, Gamelan Gong Kebyar. Wow, this is a dense book, filled with insight into the Balinese gamelan, and stereoscopically, Western musical traditions. I am a tyro musicologist, but I find Tenzer's comparisons exhilarating. Best footnote: Tenzer played Steve Reich's Drumming to his Balinese teacher, who listened to it with mild disdain, and asked, "Why doesn't it go anywhere?" Thank you Claudia and Doug! Gordon Lish, Extravaganza. Borscht Belt comedy routines given the Gertrude Stein treatment. It's very much a "What the hell? Oh, I see!" sort of book; and after reading it, you too will be able to construct Borscht Belt comedy routines, and skew them at will. On the other hand, if you don't like this sort of thing, you'll be glad it's short. John T. Noonan, Bribes: the intellectual history of a moral idea. Still only halfway through, but it's hard for me to resist someone who will dive deep into canon law for the apt citation, and then translate Jan Hus as 'John Goose'. I'm very much looking forward to the sections on the history of bribery in America. Andrew Reeves, this book is made for you. Arthur Taylor, Notes and Tones: Musician-to-Musician Interviews and Anderson & Rosenfeld, Talking Nets: An Oral History of Neural Networks. I'm pairing these two together, since they're about two great postwar, mainly American, intellectual achievements: jazz and classical neurocomputing. In both cases, you have controversy (Ornette Coleman, perceptrons), you have years in the wilderness, you have geniuses dying young (Parker, Pitts) or starving in pursuit of their art (Werbos ended up writing the checks at the National Science Foundation, most starving jazz people were not so lucky). I nearly wrote 'jazzmen', and that's another point of similarity: the gender ratios are 90:10 male to female. But mainly, these books serve as teasers, for the music and for the research.And a thank you to Dennis for his suggestion of Popular Music from Vittula, back in December. Cheerful long winters, crazed religious fanatics, random alcoholism, sultry fickle Finnish women, and the best one-line description of losing one's (male) virginity I have ever encountered.  It was like going home.
 "Like peeing on an electric fence." Obviously from someone who has been there. Y'all can use the comments for book talk.