Yes, well, it's been a while since I've sent out a newsletter, primarily because I didn’t have any news to share. And I still don’t, actually. There are lots of potential things swirling around, but somewhat maddeningly, nothing has firmed up enough yet that I can officially announce it.
And of course, there have been a lot of non-writing things going on. Remember when I said I was recovering from that back injury? Ha. Turns out, that was entirely wishful thinking on my part. After several more months of physical therapy, and a few very painful procedures that involved someone burning out nerves on my spine, I am now feeling much better. Except of course when I look at the bills that my garbage freelancer health insurance refuses to cover despite doubling my monthly payments this year because healthcare in America is now stunningly broken.
Then I made a foolhardy decision based on nothing but unfounded hubris, and tried to go back to rolling my own website on Wordpress. Apparently a few years absence from the tech industry is all it took for me to lose what little savvy I possessed, and within three months my website was hacked.
So now I’m back on Squarespace, feeling better, and working on a number of things that I can’t talk about yet. Oh, I did get this goregeous new cover for Bane and Shadow from my Chinese publisher, though.
I may not be able to tell you what I’m working on right now, but I can share the books I’ve been using for research, so you can speculate wildly, if that’s your thing. Or you may just find it interesting.
A rather dry but well researched and thorough recounting of the early history of Poland, which is where my grandmother was born. As difficult as this is for us to imagine, in the 11th Century, Poland was quite the powerhouse, and had a uniquely progressive government for that time which deemphasized the monarchy. One could also speculate this ultimately left them vulnerable to their single-willed monarchy-based neighbors and the reason why, for long stretches of time, there was no sovereign nation of Poland.
As er… presumputious as the title sounds, I found this to be a surprisingly even-handed book. I had some vague knowledge about the Crusades, but I had never realized just how preposterous the entire thing was, especially the bit about maintaining a tiny European country in the Middle East for an astonishingly long time. I also thought it noteworthy that until the Crusades, the whole christian vs muslim thing was not something that preoccupied either group a great deal. In fact, the reason the Latins (as the author refers to the mix of Western European nations who comprised most of the Crusade armies) were so successful initially is because the various muslim sects saw them more as a tool to use against other muslim sects than as a genuine threat to the Islamic world. A large portion of the distrust and animosity between Christianity and Islam came about as a result of Crusades, rather than a cause for it. So to some degree, we can all thank Pope Urban II for that!
Oddly surreal at times, this collection is a mixture of Russian and Ukrainian stories drawn primarily from folklore that seems to respect absolutely no one and nothing. In particular, there are some fairly unsettling representations of Jewish people. One can sense a lot of discontented, bordering on revolutionary attitude in Gogol’s work, but interestingly, he was terribly upset when people began interpreting his work as anti-czarist, and felt compelled to write extensively on how much he loved both the Romanovs and the institution of serfdom. Naturally, that did not go down well with the Marxists.
Archery has been my hobby for a little while, but I’m mostly self-taught. Now I’d like to be able to write about it, and perhaps actually hit the target now and then, so I need a better grasp of both the terms and the techniques.
Still working on it. I find it a rather charming and pleasant read, and I’m not going to beat myself up if I don’t finish. Reading Tolstoy is like a master class in learning how to quickly sketch evocative character portraits.
This is a re-read, actually (“the french word for window”…gets me every time…). I think it’s important to note that while Chekov’s plays aren’t exactly comedies as we think of the genre, they should be fairly funny throughout, and if the version of whatever play you saw wasn’t funny, the director didn’t get it. Check out Vanya on 42nd Street with Wallace Shawn and Julianne Moore if you want to see Chekov done right.
Another re-read. I find Lermontov’s language particularly stirring and empathetic, even—or perhaps especially—when he’s writing about someone vile.
The main reason I felt compelled to write this newsletter is so that I can share with you the thrilling news that there are new albums from Wye Oak and Grouper! Anyone who’s been following this newsletter for a while might recognize these two very different bands, because they are among my favorites and I mention them regularly.
The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs is Wye Oak’s most accessible album to date, taking aspects of their early grunge rock vibe with their later synth 80’s vibe, and blending them perfectly in an album that is both extremely catchy, and startlingly profound. Check out the title track
Grid of Points is not any more accessible than any previous Grouper album, which is to say it is not particularly accessible. Quiet, eerie, and disjointed, it evokes for me the feeling of being goth in the Midwest in the early 90’s when “goth” wasn’t really a thing yet. All the sublime melancholy without any of the pretentious trappings or expectations. Check out the track “Parking Lot”.