I must concur with Brian Raftery. It is absolutely criminal that The Bees’ fantastic third album, Octopus, which may very well be one of the best albums of the year, has received as much attention in the States as an obnoxious experimental film from an obscure Danish filmmaker playing on a mere three screens. The Bees have shifted away from Free the Bees‘s highly energetic homage to 1960s soul, slipping one decade further into 1970s summer radio to find a striking maturity that combines a more nuanced quirkiness, emotional sincerity, and the dependable enthusiasm of veteran music lovers who know when to steal hooks and when to improve upon them. From the bluesy opener “Who Cares What the Question Is?” to the tight ballad “Listening Man,” the drumming (alternating between Michael Clevett and singer Paul Butler; like a dependable garage band unafraid to tailor its sound, the band members swap instrumental roles quite a bit on the album) is reminiscent of Mitch Mitchell — never using more fills than it needs to and keeping things basic. Paul Butler has shifted away from crooning like Jim Morrison and John Lennon, to fall into the custom of Englishmen shamelessly impersonating R&B singers. If the radio stations were less in the pockets of corpulent music companies and if they actually gave two damns about music, then I truly believe that this would be the summer album to be heard at kickback siestas. Don’t believe me? Well, check out these tunes. Alas, the band only appears to have made a dent on its native soil. Which also means no U.S. tour dates. The Bees deserve better treatment.
Howard Junker: “The worst thing a writer can do is to launch an internal editor during the writing process. Nothing could be more stifling.” Oh, I don’t know about that. Without discounting the need for an editor, I should point out to Mr. Junker that T.C. Boyle is a prolific novelist of some considerable talent and Boyle writes all of his novels in a “continuous first draft,” constantly tinkering to get the words right. I don’t believe there’s any uniform manner to writing a novel, except to get to the end of the damn thing. What matters most is not how one gets there, but what the finished product entails. [UPDATE: Here’s the video for “Listening Man.” Alternate link to The Bees videos: here.]
Peter Craven offers a more interesting angle to the “novel is dead” argument than others. He believes that the only way to save literature is to film it. While I am more optimistic than Mr. Craven about literature’s ability to persevere, there is some validity to his argument. The idea here doesn’t involve looking the other way like a coward and flailing one’s hands up in the air without any clear-cut solutions upon hearing people talking about The Sopranos. Why not have more anthology series on television that use short stories or novellas as their source material? In fact, this was precisely the case for the anthology series from the 1950s Consider some of the writers who got their material adapted on Playhouse 90: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Horton Foote, John P. Marquand, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway. Or consider this list of writers from Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Stanley Ellin, Roald Dahl, Robert Bloch, Ray Bradbury, Cornell Woolrich, A.A. Milne (!), and John Cheever. (Alas, I must bemoan the disproportionate lack of women here, but the point stands.) Even as television was getting its start, the producers knew that quality material could be found by employing literary people and the television writing gigs enabled these writers to continue their craft in the printed word. Whether any of this had any direct correlation to these writers’ print sales is difficult to say. But when I see a David Chase or a David Simon trying to bring a more literary approach to television, I see possibilities for convergence and a support system for writers. I see someone trying to up the game of narrative in all mediums. And it’s all considerably more constructive than the kind of “novel is dead” bullshit I’d expect from some guy with a THE END OF THE WORLD IS NIGH placard strapped to his corpus, ringing a bell at Times Square. (via Orthofer)