Read Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins, Troublers by Rob Walsh, Caketrain 10, Jurg Laederach’s 69 Ways to Play the Blues and the first issue of Them. Watched Melancholia. Listened to Jenny Hval’s Innocence is Kinky, Beyonce’s Beyonce, and Kate Carr’s Songs From a Cold Place.
It’s clear from reading Battleborn that Watkins has incredible skill with fiction. Her stories feel alive and vital, and they underscore the uselessness of the realism vs. experimental writing debate. While Watkins is working in well established forms, she makes them new. The story “The Archivist,” is a particular highlight. It focuses on the relationship between two sisters, one with a small child, one who has recently become pregnant. Watkins unspools how their shared history and continues to affect them and how trauma is passed down. The one exception was “The Diggings,” which felt overlong and somewhat aimless compared to the sharper, more focused stories in the collection.
Jur Laederach’s 69 Ways to Play the Blues is a strange little book. It’s a collection of stories, many of which take place in New York City and were informed by that author’s time there. The stories cover a variety of subjects: a late playwrights final, unfinished, mess of a play, a psychiatrist who can’t stop saying “Yes, that would be a nice job, if you could get it!”, and a man wearing an infinite amount of clothing. It’s fun and playful, very Oulipian.
Them is a lit journal focused on writing by trans authors, and has a great explanation of how the term applies to the journal here. It contains fantastic writing from j/j hastain, Grey Vild, Calvin Gimpelevich, and many others, and concludes with a moving, triumphant poem by Van Binfa. Do yourself a favor and read the first issue here.
Innocence is Kinky, Jenny Hval’s fourth solo album, begins with Hval blankly stating, “That night I watched people fucking on my computer.” It’s a fearless beginning to a fearless album. Her voice is athletic and versatile, and the album is provocative and ambitious. I liked it a lot — it’s big and messy, but appropriate given the subject matter. You can listen to the track “Mephisto in the Water” here.
Kate Carr’s Songs From a Cold Place was released on the artist’s Flaming Pines label, a great home for experimental/ambient music. This album contains sounds gathered during Carr’s trip to Iceland, and mixes field recordings with recognizable instruments like the guitar and glockenspiel. On the surface, it’s a similar process to Simon Scott’s Below Sea Level, but the results are quite different. Songs From a Cold Place is quieter, and the natural sounds seem less manipulated. You can listen to the album, along with other records from the Flaming Pines label, at their Bandcamp page. There’s a wealth of fantastic music on there, particularly the compilation Listen to the Weather.