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Posts Tagged ‘Kate Bush’

Staff Picks: Pop, Rock, and Bear Hock

August 29, 2014 | by

From Barry Guy's Witch Gong Game ll/l0 (1993).

From Barry Guy’s Witch Gong Game ll/l0 (1993).

John Swartzwelder has written more Simpsons episodes than any other writer (fifty-nine in total). He’s also one of the most eccentric writers in the business: one story goes that “when he could no longer smoke in restaurants, he bought his favorite booth from his favorite diner and had it installed in his home.” Since leaving The Simpsons in 2003, he has self-published a novel each year, all of which are available on his Web site. After reading his first novel, The Time Machine Did It, I’m not surprised that Swartzwelder is the same person who introduced now-classic Simpsons characters such as Cletus Spuckler, Stampy the Elephant, and the three-eyed fish Blinky (who has now become a symbol among pundits for nuclear waste and wildlife mutation). The novels are pure screwball, honoring the comedies of the Marx Brothers and Preston Sturges as Swartzwelder dismisses any narrative rule for laughs. In The Time Machine Did It, a private detective named Frank Burly (“to give prospective clients the idea that I was a burly kind of man ... and who would be frank with them at all times”) finds himself traveling through time for a supposed multimillionaire who wakes up one day to find that everything he owns is gone. The plotline includes a homemade time machine and a town taken over by criminals, but why the novel works is the simple fact that it never takes itself too seriously. “On an impulse I mooned most of the 1950’s as I went by. I don’t know what makes me do these things. I guess it’s just part of my charm.” —Justin Alvarez

In outline, it reads like something made up by Roberto Bolaño: an Austrian writer crosses America, wracked by nightmares and visions and pursued by his mysterious, estranged wife. Peter Handke’s 1972 novella Short Letter, Long Farewell helped inspire the American “road movies” of Wim Wenders, and if Bolaño didn’t know the book, there is a strong family resemblance. As the critic Wayne Koestenbaum put it, the two writers share an “ability to sound sane (though vacant-souled) about insane circumstances,” whether these involve a desert sunset or a restaurant serving bear hock à la Daniel Boone. —Lorin Stein

That Olivier Messiaen’s “Quartet for the End of Time” is, in part, a transmutation of birdsong into lines of music has oddly come up several times over the past month, in the course of putting together the Fall issue and elsewhere. At the same time, I’ve found myself returning periodically to Music & Literature’s impressive fourth issue to gaze at the work of British composer Barry Guy, whose graphic scores are translations of sensory experiences relating to literature, painting, and architecture and visual reflections of movement, energy, and pitch. So it felt like the stars had fully aligned when I read Christian Wiman’s “translations” of Osip Mandelstam, from a small collection called Stolen Air. Instead of faithfully translating Mandelstam’s poems, Wiman has created versions of them: though some closely resemble the originals, others, he says, are “liberal transcriptions” and “collisions and collusions” between the two poets. Wiman sought to get at the sound of Mandelstam’s language, its music, without having any knowledge of Russian but feeling buoyed by Mandelstam’s notion of a poet’s “secret hearing.” And so we get silvery, jostling lines like “I love the early animal of her, / These woozy, easy swings” and “Better to live alluvial, / Better to live layered downward, / To be a man of sand, of hollows, shallows / To cling to sleeves of water / And to let them go—” —Nicole Rudick Read More »

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Too Hot, Too Greedy

July 30, 2013 | by

Close watchers of this space may observe that we have, in the past, posted the iconic video for “Wuthering Heights.” But when we realized that today was not just Emily Brontë’s birthday but also Kate Bush’s, well, you can see that we had no alternative. 

 

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Her Voice in My Head

May 3, 2011 | by

When I was old enough to know better, I ate a bar of soap in the shape of the Muppets’ Fozzie Bear, because I loved him so much I wanted to consume him, even if doing so made me ill. I didn’t yet know the word foreshadowing. Fozzie was the only first of many pop-culture icons I feel shaped by. I’ve held longest to Kate Bush, the singer-songwriter who conjures Millais’s 1852 painting of Ophelia come to life, a beautiful young girl, singing to herself as she drowns, her pure, high upper register both childlike and demented. I was nine, in 1985, when Bush’s Hounds of Love unseated Madonna’s Like a Virgin from the top of the UK pop charts, presenting a different kind of sexuality. Hopping across New York in a Day-Glo tank top, Madonna was livin’ for the city, fueled by wolf whistles. Bush was fueled by dreamscapes, by her inner emotional life. That’s a good option, I thought. I could just live inside my head forever.

Bush emerged at the same time as Debbie Harry, but your punk-rock Grace Kelly was nothing like our prog-rock Ophelia. Never had one felt so worried for a pop star.

“Hold me down! It’s coming for me through the trees!” she sang on Hounds of Love’s title track. In “Running Up That Hill” she was ready to “make a deal with God.” I memorized the accompanying dramatic dance moves (to the lay observer they look like Martha Graham, but they’re actually Lindsay Kemp, whose interpretive dance classes Bush spent her original record advance on).

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