This is precisely the time when artists go to work.There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.
I'm blown away by the recent piece Fractured Lands: How the Arab World Came Apart, a chronicle years in the making, presented as an entire issue of NYTimes Magazine. In terms of form I am reminded of a documentary approach, i.e. following different people in different locations for years (reminiscent of 'Iraq in Fragments'). Beyond observation, the piece provides an illuminating roadmap for those like me who need to be reminded of certain 5 Ws e.g. an overview of the Kurds, of the Arab Spring, of US involvement... I learned more about conflicts in the Middle East from this single piece than I have from traditional reporting. The whole functions as a constellation of sorts, where lines between events become more clear while ultimately pointing to the overwhelming scale of things. I got my hands on the print version and wish it had been bound into a solid book. It deserves to be.
This was on Hastings St in Vancouver. The sign is no longer there, nor the gallery below it.
Link to this work on website of Catriona Jeffries Gallery.
I cannot tell whether I were more pleased or mortified to observe in those solitary walks that the smaller birds did not appear to be at all afraid of me, but would hop about within a yard’s distance, looking for worms and other food, with as much indifference and security as if no creature at all were near them. I remember a thrush had the confidence to snatch out of my hand with his bill a piece of cake that Glumdalclitch had just given me for my breakfast.
The diversity of the phenomena of Nature is so great, and the treasures hidden in the heavens so rich, precisely in order that the human mind shall never be lacking in fresh nourishment.
If I call stones blue it is because blue is the precise word, believe me, and be equally assured that the color of stones can be very well distinguished by starlight.
"Shops, to these [shop owners], are what a cabin in the woods might be to somebody else - a refuge and a justification"
I was lucky to catch Jennifer Castle performing at the Hemlock Tavern this past September. I've been meaning to write a post about her because she is one of my favorite singer-songwriters working/touring today. Stuart Berman at Pitchfork says it better than I can:
Jennifer Castle is an enigma hiding in plain sight. On the surface, she’s a Canadian singer/songwriter like so many others, often performing with just a guitar and a stool, singing songs that conjure bygone country, folk, and blues traditions and that are lyrically steeped in richly detailed agrarian scenery and the travails of being a working mom. But Castle’s music is not so much of the earth as floating above it, untethered to the natural order of time and space and often eschewing typical verse/chorus/verse structure to roam according to its own wandering spirit. As Lou Reed famously sang, “between thought and expression lies a lifetime,” and that’s where Jennifer Castle’s songs live—that grey area where observation mutates into rumination, and where the physical world dissolves into psychic terrain.
Alone on the tiny backroom stage with her semi-acoustic guitar, she plunged us into the vibrant world I had previously encountered through her recordings. I highly recommend any of her LPs. Her latest, Pink City, is one of those records I keep going back to on cold nights with warm lighting. Here is a song (and video) from that record:
From the short story 'A Brutal Murder in a Public Place' by Joyce Carol Oates, found in McSwenney's 37.
Sparse highlights from the great spinning sphere of publication.