Dreamers and Comics: Reading the Sky

It was Martin Luther King Jr. Day and I began the draft of this post.

Six, seven months of reading, moving, travelling, and growing… albeit, an inexcusable hitatus! A break without warning!

The purpose of this blog was to bring music and literature together through the power of nostalgia. Basically.

It’s news to me to discover that for once that music has rotated beneath the needle of my eye on a constant rotation while the complexities of all the premiering literature began to feel far more foreign and -gasp- difficult at retaining my full attention towards the latter part of 2010.

Nonetheless, I begin:


Mr. Baths, Will Wiesenfeld at work

I had the privilege of seeing this phenomenal artist blow away and dominate the audience with his fantastical melodies, and sweet lullaby singing vocals back in October.

Cerulean was one of my go-to columns of 2010. Songs with sound clips from anime pictures, and animal chasing little girls, -Listen to *Aminals*- provided a sound that never seized to lift me out of the humdrum of a work filled day. It also was an album that reawakened the romantic in me.

Did I mention I also hugged Mr. Will Wiesenfled himself after his performance? Way!

The conversation went like this:

My friend pushing me towards him offstage: “She would like to give you a hug.”

W.W: “Are you sure? I’m super sweaty.

Me: “So am I!

W.W: “Oh, well ok then!

*Huge Hug, HUGE HUGE Smiles*

He had been touring with El Ten Eleven, a brilliant instrumental band of whom I’ve seen several times back in NYC. What a treat it was to see them both perform together. I danced and swayed, and sang and smiled, and after the show got to see Tim Fogarty get punched in the face by a friend! It was part of a promotion for their new album, which is awesome just so you know. Buy it. Now. Ahem.

Now, given the young carefree little girl I was so clearly at the forefront during the second half of 2010, it might be less of a surprise that graphic novels became the literary drug of choice. The perfect compliment to the suspended dream state platform my musical tastes had been floating upon.

Of course, when it comes to literature in the illustrative variety I am partial to interpretations and works by the favorite, my hero, Mr. Neil Gaiman.

To say this is obvious is an understatement. Neil Gaiman’s work is a constant source of inspiration, this lifetime and the next. Punto.

Just before moving out west, one very special gift  the boy gifted me, was a story affiliated with his widely acclaimed and brilliant series, The Sandman.


The Dream Hunters by Neil Gaiman and Yoshika Amano

An illustrated novel as opposed to a comic, it presents the tale in rich watercolrs and thin lines. Its a magical story, playfully showing Cain and Abel in their fateful interaction of fear and loyalty, always a personal delight to come upon.

The Dream Hunters tells the tale of a humble monk living a life of meditation and study on a quiet mountain. The monk is faced with a challenge for his place in the temple when a fox and badger set a wager of driving him out. While both creatures instantly fail in their ploys, an unexpected affinity develops between the fox and the monk. Transformed into the body of  a woman,  the monk is able to glimpse the fox’s true beauty, and the two quickly fall in love for the first time.

Meanwhile, within the shade beside the light a weathly man in Kyoto seeking relief from his lifelong fear of death seeks the wisdom of three spell casting sisters, The Three Witches. His query obtained an answer; that the same monk’s life, and thereby his ending of it, was to be his key to salvation.

The story ends in a unique fashion. Love wins, yet more in a spiritual sense, and not without leaving a tidbit of common advisement of Gaiman’s; Hope. Never neglecting belief in it. Mr. Gaiman’s stories rarely seem to lack sunlight, no matter how dark or turbulent the storms his characters sail through to reach it.


The Dream Hunters by Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell

The second interpretation, which took 10 years to reach fruition was illustrated as a comic by a familiar collaborator of Gaiman’s, P. Craig Russell. This edition unveils an interpretation of the story through the hands of a modern artist, rippled with rich colors, as well as the familiar texture of which several Sandman editions were incorporated with.

It’s refreshing to see two completely different tellings of the same story, also released by Vertigo. Both hold their own in beauty and illustrated narrative, and so really, the two are personal recommendations as opposed to one vs. the other.

To top off this colorful literary and musical dream state, the book I’d like to mention as a delicious after hours snack is this:

Mr. Russell's been around the block! Clearly, we readers (and writers) can't get enough of him.

Murder Mysteries is the tale of a fallen angel, and the murder of another, which precipitated the falling.

Having initally read it several years ago as a short story in a collection of others, called Smoke and Mirrors, it was a delight to discover an illustrated edition. Yes,  its based on the very first crime to ever take place in time. No, the religious tones do not –in any way-overwhelm the power of the story. I would personally suggest reading the literary edition first, but with some ambient music playing, the comic edition would be a likewise cerebral delight.

This story is about justice, and how well we are able to determine the difference between that and its opposite when living clothed by the initial caresses of a budding romance.

It is another tale not conditioned with the dated ‘happy ending,’ yet indisputably wonderful.

A friend once told me that he thought Mr. Gaiman’s work only tiptoed its way towards the edge of despair, before galloping back beneath the lifting gaze of the Sun. He said he thought all his work to be this way because Gaiman himself was a hopeful person. That he exuded his own gratitude into the narratives. That was years ago, and it remains to be one of those sustaining thoughts gauzed with all the love and optimism this little lady is able to contain.

In the end, it seems to be the story’s protagonist who walks away into a life of gratitude. I can’t help but wonder if Gaiman himself has met any angels. Ones who whispered stories in the dark until the the Sun sailed in and swept them away in a stream of cigarette smoke.

Perhaps it is so, and if it’s true… he may not the only one.


There’s more. But I’m saving that for the next entry.

James Jean, anyone? How about Julia Wertz?

See you in a minute.

Newsom Trumps Beauty, Much Like Landis

First off, I looked upon this book as a treasure capsule that would comfort me with its lure of nostalgia, as I settled into a new city across the country.

New York is a city that brings on ideas of self-empowerment. If you’ve lived there, you probably already learned how to care for yourself,  and how to navigate through seas of faces. Having moved to a city of smiling ones as opposed to the familiar morose variety, I haven’t quite abandoned my efforts to establish boundaries. So my iPod follows me out the door, buds in my ears, cell phone in my back pocket.

I’m the sort of girl who texts when attending concerts solo, to keep from getting lonely.

In comes Joanna Newsom.

Muscial Trapeze Artist

She’s a new discovery for me, paying tribute to my musical geshe. After listening to her latest epic contribution. I searched the interwebs for videos of her live shows. Watching her create music with her body, her mouth the imperative guide, there’s an element of comfort and empowerment her passion induces.

I’m an especially big fan of “Easy.” ~“Tell me your worries, I want to be told…”

She is who I listened to as I read:

Normal People Don’t Live Like This by Dylan Landis is a book that appeals to the sad, lonesome reader. I’m going to take it even a step further and say this book is about womanhood, and the responsibility of raising a young girl.

The interconnected stories of Dylan’s novel take place in the 70’s and 80’s in New York’s upper west side. This is also my native neighborhood. Like an old blanket long since robbed of its original softness, that part of town pulls me into its silken arms and lulls me to sleep to the sound of trash compactors.

Dylan, even in pulling from the past, provokes her protagonist, Leah to engage with the present. Her life. She sits on a gradually deteriorating platform of adolescence, attempting to be mesh with the socially elite, and missing the mark by the force of her own anxiety. Throughout the ingestion of the book, I found myself urging her forward into the unknown future. But Leah is a stubborn character, set to stand still for fear of falling apart. With most young adults we look to the parents for clues, and in this book Leah’s mother, Helen, does not fail to satisfy our suspicions.

The middle-aged anorexic, obsessed with illusion of control; an appetite satiated by the sound of crinkly paper covered hangers, and fresh paint. You’ll have to read to learn more about her. I found Helen to be the most fascinating character in the book.

The men in this narrative are tender, when the they appear in the story line. Mixing melancholy impressions in, they fail to save the women from themselves, and so disappear quite quietly without further mentioning. This leaves room for a soft curiosity, but not enough; Leah and her counterparts are the main attraction.

An interesting twist to the literal snapshots of Leah behaving badly with her friends and enemies, is the few open-ended glimpses we see of Leah, her mother, and a friend all at different points in the future. A window of loss, and incredulity, I hoped for good fortune to aid these women to see their own beauty. That is the real truth of this book. While these stories may not have been written with the intent of channeling women’s universal struggles, the characters are irrevocably relatable.

Young girls smoking cigarettes and lying about it, winning the admiration of the toughest girl in school just to prove she can. Adult actions made by young adults who’ve barely begun to familiarize themselves with the transformations of their own bodies. Puberty in all of its facets.

Dylan in my mind promised me much, like Ms. Newsom’s pleasant resemblance to the beloved Joni Mitchel, with her book of stories recalling the city forever safe in my heart, no matter the distance.

So, I sit here on Alamo Square, a site frequented by tour buses and photographers capturing the infamous Painted Ladies, my gaze turned up at the clouds, thinking. About Leah, and the little girl within me who understands. Who sleeps on the spine of books and days like these.

Pick up the the book on Amazon, or if you’re in San Francisco, City Lights.

This city has great book shops.


The Novel That Grew Hornby Up

Relationships and how we have them; A seemingly dated topic for a novel.

 What about a book about a has been musician survived by his many girlfriends and their badly fathered offspring? The fan of his work who grabs his attention by posting a subjective review of his work on a fan site he frequents to remind himself of who he was?

The inside panel of this book reads like a drama with characters undergoing midlife crises and living by their passions, searching for meaning.

I’ll admit that I’m fairly familiar with Nick Hornby’s work. He did write High Fidelity  afterall. His work has always been cleverly rife with dry wit and realistic storylines I could relate to. Though, at times I’ve somewhat felt the melancholy undertones to the fate of his characters weighed down my overall impression.

Juliet, Naked is a book filled with challenges.

It dares you to read it because it’s certain it will win the reader over with its humanity. Rife with metaphors, it scrolls through the minds of two disenchanted souls connecting through modern technology. A very realistic courtship given today’s modern developments. The difference is the time period they come from, the generations they represent, the countries that raised them.

Mr. Hornby has always exuded loyalty to his native UK, placing his character all over England, and perhaps enabling them with familiarities only he would know. Juliet,Naked spans his storyline on more unfamiliar ground, placing his characters a considerable distance apart with one in an American suburb, and the other in a barely populated beach town in England. It explains the stagnance of their sensibilities, the small tours, and long departed edge smoothed to a subtle nub.

The female protagonist, Annie, is nearing 40, intelligent, thoughtful, and delightfully sarcastic. The male protagonist, the failed rock star Tucker Crow, is self deprecating, compassionate, though overwhelmed by a lack of purpose. He fathers one of his children well, which fulfills him in a way that keeps him afloat; something Annie lacks.

They are different in backgrounds and values, but essentially the span of their thoughts reach the same destination. Nearing middle-age, or skating across its platform, they nonetheless find each other, milling for purpose.

 Annie articulates her thoughts in metaphors:

 “The short visit of a middle-aged man and his young son shouldn’t be a gourmet pastry; it should be a store-bought egg-salad sandwich, a distracted bowl of cereal, an apple snatched from a fruit bowl when you didn’t have time to eat. She had somehow constructed a life so empty that she was in the middle of the defining narrative incident of the last ten years, and what did it consist of, really?

 They both seem to be reaching a point of resolve, the freedom in knowing that the events of their lives need little more than acceptance to be embraced. Until they reach it.

Annie:  “…she heard teachers and parents and teaching colleagues and friends. This was how England spoke, and she couldn’t listen to her anymore.”

 Or Tucker: “The truth about life was that nothing ever ended until you died, and even then you just left a whole bunch of unresolved narratives behind you. He’d somehow managed to retain the mental habits of a songwriter long after he’d stopped writing songs, and perhaps it was time to give them up.”

 Nick Hornby has always been a fine writer, who’s work I’ve looked out for, and words I’ve found insight from. This book, however, failed to resemble, but succeeded in representing growth. He writes from the perspective of both genders diving between them so smoothly, the pages drift past with the relatable content.

I cared about these characters because they spoke to personal fears of self fulfillment, aging, and all the common trials we face as human beings.

 That’s what this book is; human.

Mr. Hornby’s writing has grown infinitely. It’s an adult book with essential ideas. Characters so meaty and well developed they beg the reader to look within.

So, what’s the end result? Is there a happy ending? These are just two lives built around one story. I can assure you though, read it and you will find that no tunnel lacks in light. It makes for a heartwarming unforgettable journey.


Juliet, Naked is available on Amazon, in hardcover, and at a reasonable cover. To read the first few pages just click on the book! 

Note: Billie Holiday would relate to this narrative fo’ sho’.

The Convalescent ate my Pessimism

I’ll be honest, sometimes I have the mind of an insect. A bright neon sign has been known to attract my gaze for whole minutes and make me forget my present reality. So when I was simply strolling around without an aim in the local bookstore, selecting The Convalescent by Jessica Anthony had no other motive except the attraction to its beauty; and it is a good-looking book.

The cover had an edge unfamiliar to me, everything detailed to the finish of the side pages with engravings on the cover and the details so elaborate I couldn’t resist removing it and unfolding the sides to fully absorb the image in its entirety. A man is beautifully sprawled across the surface with his face hidden, with only nerve endings shredded to ribbons exposing the stories, loves, elements surrounding his life, or any life.

Upon the first page I fell for the hero, Rovar, his self-deprecating comments, comic and endearing in their honesty. They encapsulate the life he has been granted since birth, the life of misfortune sadly fated to him by his ancestors. There’s no doubt that he is indeed pathetic, but I continue to wonder as I read on, the rollercoaster of chapters telling his story first, the history of his ancestors second; There has to be love coming his way, some stroke of good fortune.

“…Other people are always busy doing big and important things like running for president or voting for president, or thinking about running for president.  I sell meat out of a bus...”

He is kind, he is generous, he is more than he is and yet all he can do is shrug. Accept his supposed fate as a diseased dwarf living and selling meat off of a bus.

“I am the last remaining descendant of a line of the worst sort of losers on the planet.”

When I grabbed this book off the shelf of new bestsellers I hesitated before making the purchase. This book was a collector’s item.

To add the proverbial boot, Katherine Dunn’s recommendation sold me. The author of a book detailing the life of a circus family forever won my heart with the tender tale-telling of her wonderfully twisted novel Geek Love .

That’s all we’re given. A couple of recommendations, a beautiful painting, and a butterfly etched curiously into the cover.

For me, it was an abundant lot and I hope that readers who haven’t picked it up yet will consider doing so now. The underdog rarely gets his or her due, and that is exactly why this book is so important. In every environment there is ugliness, what Ms. Anthony reminds us is within each facet darkly colored with downfalls and tribulations there is beauty. Sometimes somewhat fragmented, but still visible to those who know that in life there is more than just a point.

We are always doing more than living.

By the way, this book made me listen to Radiohead incessantly. When I was in college, I found that Thom Yorke’s voice made me cry more than smile. There’s another bit of ugliness and beauty in that too.

*Amazon’s selling Ms. Anthony’s book at a pretty good price. Brilliance and great writing is just a click (or two) away

Miller and Manu

When I read Tropic of Cancer  it was a moment of literary awakening. I’d never heard of an author cursing so much in their writing, ranting on the ugly beauty of New York, or the many seedy districts of Paris. It was the summer of my 21st year and the book in its audacity left me walking the balmy summer nights with it’s pages splayed open upon my hands, occassionally looking up to avoid walking into traffic. There’s a reason why it was banned in the 40’s.

I ask of life, is a bunch of books, a bunch of dreams, and a bunch of cunt.”

You know when a song plays suddenly from your random mp3 shuffle, and something about the beat, the melody, or the ever flowing rhythm sends you dancing in your seat and channeling a memory, a promise, a loving thought. . . A good song makes you start to plan things. It motivates you, and the best ones motivate you to tell the people you love exactly how you feel.

Music is empowerment.

It shuts our minds off, and clicks on the phonetic funny bone. Meaning, sometimes listening to music that moves me can be painful. Sometimes I make the effort to avoid songs that remind of me anything at all. Clean slate songs. A playlist of nothingness. But the pleasure that pain ends with in sweeping you gloriously through the agony into ecstacy, that is why I do it.

I think some music has influenced me to travel, while books and their gentle lulling have kept me company as I chartered unfamiliar territories.

            I was preparing for a summer semester in Italy when I read Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer. When I arrived and began to attend university, I discovered Manu Chao.  

Here was a radical speaking up to three languages in one song; jubilant, agressive and free. Perfect compliment to Miller’s seemingly disjointed rants. In truth there was a purpose to all of the chaos, and that is what Manu Chao is like. This album was the first I listened to by him, and at this point I have many more. As it is part of my personal story, I can’t help but to recommend you listen to this first.

My theory is that a good song can be distracting. It paralyzes the body and sends the imagination exploring. It’s when you get control over the music that you absorb the literature, and the story strengthens.

The story is your life.


To buy a copy of  Proxima Estación: Esperanza the album, click the link; Amazon gives quite a few affordable sources.  

To buy a copy of Henry Miller’s, Tropic of Cancer check this copy out. You could even read a few pages before purchasing to get a full grasp for the book. I hope you like it or recommend it to someone who might.