A Reading – Devendra Banhart – 6/25/2015

I Left My Noodle on Ramen Street
This post is a little late, but it’s better late than never, I suppose. Devendra Banhart released an art book recently called “I Left My Noodle on Ramen Street.” He stopped by The Strand on 6/25/15 to chat about art, music, and his new book in a conversation with his friend Adam Green, of The Moldy Peaches fame. The book is a lovely combination of art, essays, photography, and doodles.

rejoicing in the hands

Devendra said that he wanted the book to be purely art, but the publisher wanted a more intimate and personal book. The result is that the book seems almost like an art-journal. As you may know, Devendra draws and designs all of his own album covers. The book is filled with a lot of tiny, meticulous drawings that we have all grown to love and recognize. He said that this book is the kind of music that he would like to create, and flipping through the book, it’s fascinating to see into how Devendra’s mind works and how intricately connected music and art are to him.

Sphinx Devendra talked about his attempts to get an art show in a gallery and how he was rejected by all the art galleries. The frustration of this led to a series of drawings that are referred to as Sphinxes. These are permutations of different things filling up an empty space, his art-gallery surrogate. It is little stories and details like this that really help you understand what you’re looking at. Hearing him speak added another dimension of understanding to his art, music, and this book. It was really lovely and magical to be able to attend the reading.

self-portrait banhart

I would really only recommend this book to Devendra-devotees; if you are a fan of his music and music videos, you are going to love this book. There is so much to look at and to learn! If you think Devendra is a weird and radical hippie, then you will probably find this book a waste of money and time. I’ve put together a little playlist for you to listen to while flipping through the book, doodling on your own, or just to lay on the rug and listen to with your eyes closed. Enjoy!

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Movie Review: Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter

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Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter is about Kumiko, a girl in Japan who discovers a VHS of Fargo buried under a rock in a cave. She is convinced that a scene of Steve Buschemi burying a suitcase full of money is real, so she sets out to recover the buried treasure. Kumiko constructs a treasure map by measuring the dimensions of her television screen, and then she flies to Minnesota in the middle of winter and tries to find her way to Fargo with nothing but her red jacket.kumiko

Rinko Kikuchi is absolutely flawless to me. She plays Kumiko with the perfect combination of stubbornness, aloofness, and empathy that is required to convey the kind of person who would leave everything behind and set out on an impossible journey halfway across the world. One of my favorite scenes is when Kikuchi yells “Not fake, real!” with a desperate conviction that underlies the entire movie. The soundtrack, by The Octopus Project, is also beautiful and perfect for the endless snowscapes of Minnesota. (Is snowscape a word? I might have just made that up.)

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The script was written by two brothers, David and Nathan Zellner, and directed by David. The script was inspired by a bizarre set of real events, which I wouldn’t read about before watching the movie! The dialogue in the movie is sparse, and we spend a good chunk of the time watching Kumiko on her own. I am always impressed with movies with little to no dialogue and a limited cast of characters. (Other examples: Locke, All is Lost, Amour) The dialogue that happens alternates between laugh-out-loud funny or relaying a heart-searingly kind of loneliness and disconnect.

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As funny and quirky as the premise of the film may be, it’s anything but a comedy. We have more in common with Kumiko than we may realize or want to acknowledge. Kumiko reminded me of Michael Ondaatje’s not-prose-and-not-poem piece, Elimination Dance. An elimination dance is a kind of dance or competition where a speaker will read a set of criteria out loud one at at time, and if you meet the criteria you are out of the running. Ondaatje’s starts off silly enough, those who are allergic to the sea, any person who has lost a urine sample in the mail. You begin to feel comfortable and think, “Oh I’m safe, I’m not like any of these weirdos”, until Ondaatje dives deeper in his last line, “Anyone with pain,” and with that, you’re eliminated as well. That’s exactly how I felt while watching Kumiko.

Recommendation: Definitely Go See

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Watch the Trailer 
Listen to the Soundtrack
Elimination Dance, Michael Ondaatje

A Playlist for Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore

Kafka

“When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”

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Anyone that has read a book or interview by Haruki Murakami knows how important music is to his voice and his writing. Kafka on the Shore is no different. Kafka on the Shore follows the lives of two people: Kafka Tamura and Mr. Nakata. Kafka is running away from home to escape an Oedipal-esque prophecy that his father predicts of him. Mr. Nakata can talk to cats, so  he is hired to search for a missing cat named Goma and ends up on a crazy journey. Both characters embark on long journeys with little idea of where they are going; instead, a lot of things happen to both, as passive actors in their own lives.

At one of the most climactic scenes (don’t worry, I won’t spoil the book for you), Kafka Tamura is listening to the final movement of his favorite symphony, and Murakami makes sure to describe the music as well as the story. You can almost hear the frenzied rise of the instruments with Kafka! Music equally affects the other characters of the book – Kafka and his friend Oshima have long discussions about music and meaning, while Hoshino becomes transformed through music.

I think in order to fully appreciate the novel, you have to understand Murakami’s writing philosophy. In an interview with the Paris Review, he says:

“You’ve read Raymond Chandler, of course. His books don’t really offer conclusions. He might say, He is the killer, but it doesn’t matter to me who did it. There was a very interesting episode when Howard Hawks made a picture of The Big Sleep. Hawks couldn’t understand who killed the chauffeur, so he called Chandler and asked, and Chandler answered, I don’t care! Same for me. Conclusion means nothing at all.”

Like listening to music, reading Kafka on the Shore is about the journey; it is the only thing that matters, the destination is a necessary consequence of traveling. Once I was able to comprehend this, I was able to let go a little and fully inhabit the world that Murakami has created.

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Music is so prevalent here and acts as a guidepost through the book, telling you how far you’ve journeyed, so I created a playlist to listen to while reading Kafka on the Shore. Half of these songs were actually mentioned in the book, while the rest just seemed to fit the tone of the book. Please see the tracklist and link to the playlist below:

  1. Piano Sonata No. 17 in D Major, Schubert
  2. Crossroads, Cream
  3. Little Red Corvette, Prince
  4. In a Sentimental Mood, Duke Ellington
  5. (Sittin’ On) The Dock of The Bay, Otis Redding
  6. As Time Goes By, Eddie Haywood
  7. Visions of Johanna, Bob Dylan
  8. Dunes, Alabama Shakes
  9. Kid A, Radiohead
  10. The Bitter End, Placebo

Click here to launch Kafka on the Shore: A Playlist

A Reading: Richard Siken – 4/23/2015

The Fulcrum

The Fulcrum, Richard Siken

Richard Siken read from his newest collection of poems, War of the Foxes, on Thursday, April 23, at NYU, and I was lucky enough to attend. The Creative Writer’s House is this beautiful old house bordering the West Village on 10th Street and 6th Avenue, and it has a very long and skinny corridor of rooms on the first floor. I arrived 15 minutes early, and the first floor was completely packed. People were sitting on the floor, on the stairs, and crammed into doorways. I made my way to the very back and ended up sitting on the fold-out table meant for the reception afterwards.

Siken said that if a book is a landscape, then a reading is a path through the landscape. War of the Foxes has many paths winding through the landscape of his poems, what Siken categorized into war poems, angry poems, and making poems. He made a few jokes about dirty poems and why he didn’t write any this time, before reading his poems on making. My only wish is that he read more than three poems. He read, in the following order:

  1. The Language of the Birds
  2. Three Proofs
  3. Landscape with a Blur of Conquerors

I’ve provided links where the poems are available online, but I would urge you to support poetry and the arts and to buy his book!

Siken told us that one of the last things he wrote in Crush was the following line from “Unfinished Duet”:

His hands keep turning into
birds, and his hands keep flying away
from him. Eventually the birds must land.

“The Language of the Birds” is a kind of continuation and landing place for Crush, opening with a certain kind of quiet grace:

A man saw a bird and found him beautiful. The bird had a song inside him, and feathers.

And Flew And Flew, Richard Siken

I was surprised at how much Richard Siken is like his poems – a combination of vulnerability, intelligence, and power. He answered questions about his craft confidently, was able to quote Gertrude Stein off the top of his head, and yet choked up a little while reading a poem out loud for the first time at a reading. He mentioned that he created some really beautiful landmarks in his landscape of a book, but couldn’t find a workable way to fit them into the book. I am desperately curious to know what these landmarks are, and I may spend one of these weekends with a paintbrush and canvas and start creating my vision of his landscapes, and maybe a few of my own. It’s always a treat to hear a favorite poet or author read. I walked up to him after the reading, and not only did he sign my books, but he gave me a list of poetry recommendations. I’ve listed them below, in case you’re interested and inspired as well:

  • Jack Gilbert
  • Claudia Rankine
  • Anne Carson
  • Jorie Graham
  • Larry Levis

Claudia Rankine and Larry Levis were new names to me, while I’m relatively familiar with the work of the other poets’. It was so nice to see that I shared some favorite poets with Siken! I’ll definitely be looking for these books the next time I’m at the Strand. Have you read any of these before? What are some of the most memorable readings you’ve attended?

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Additional Reading: