Books and music for the perpetual end of the world
I've found it almost impossible to read and write since about March 15. Did you know that anxiety plus a global pandemic generally -- in my experience anyway -- equals more anxiety? So the manuscript for my forthcoming book continues to languish, papers in need of grading continue to pile up (summer term, during which I've been teaching, ends today), and I continue to spend my free time mostly fretting. Thankfully, though, I've managed to read and listen to some pretty great things here and there, which I heartily recommend below:
I got really into the BC-based punk band NoMeansNo, who broke up a few years ago and whose work around the late 80's is just astonishingly good -- apocalyptic, prophetic, fun. Check out their 1989 album Wrong. I read a short biography of the band by Mark Black, which I'd recommend reading as you listen to their first few albums.
DC Talk's Jesus Freak (the book)
I've written at length about why this is the most important Christian rock record of all time, and it turns out that at least two other people agree with me. The 33 1/3 volume about this book (I was once laughed out of a virtual room for suggesting this album was ideal for this series -- who's laughing now??) is perceptive and insightful. Plus, a quote from me is the epigraph, which was pretty cool to discover.
Ascension: John Coltrane and His Quest
This 1993 book about Coltrane is sort of a biography, but it's more of a tour of his discography that places the changes in his music over his short and prolific career into both cultural (the changing world of the 1960s) and personal (Coltrane's life, spirituality, and musical philosophy) context. It's a bit long in places, but I learned a lot and have more late-period Coltrane to dig into whenever I start buying records again. (My turntable lives at my SFU office, which I'm still not allowed into at the moment.)
***The Pretty Good Jim's Journal Treasury: The Even More Definitive Collection of Every Published Cartoon
To my mind Jim's Journal is perhaps the greatest "alternative" comic strip of all time. A lot of people disagree. It is rarely funny, and often deliberately boring. But there's something supremely comforting about the zen-like nothingness of it all. Jim spends whole weeks just sitting in a chair watching TV, working his menial job, eating cereal, being excited about finding a dime on the sidewalk, things like that. In a time when it's sometimes felt hard to even enjoy these things, this collection is worth getting -- especially this new edition, which adds essays about each of the original Jim books, plus all the strips from the online reboot, which I'd not read before.
Thanks for tuning in. I'd love to know what you're reading and listening to as well! Keep in touch and feel free to forward this newsletter to anyone else who you think might enjoy it.
Now playing: "Daybreak" by Arch Echo, recommended by my friend and actual musical genius Andrew Best