on life, music etc beyond mainstream

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(still deeply impressed by the best British crime TV series of 2013, now out on BluRay and DVD, Broadchurch) 


I have a little private theory. One thesis is simple: a great crime/thriller story can have a more profound effect on your life than a lot of highly estimated pieces of so-called serious fiction. It’s a „can“-phrase, no general statement. I believe that a great thriller is no fast food, but a way to touch deep zones of your life, on a conscious and unconscious level. And I ‚m not simply referring to the classics a la Hammett, Chandler, Highsmith, Woolrich, Doyle et al.

I ‚m always careful about books everybody’s talking about. Uwe Tellkamp’s novel „Der Turm“ has been highly praised, and is pure bullshit in my modest opinion. „Die Asche meiner Mutter“, on the other hand, is brilliantly written, high literature in every sense, but boring to death (because you always know what will happen next). Or Peter Handkes „Die linkshändige Frau“, pure kitsch that seems to be proud of any lack of action. Its lack of imagination speaks volumes.  Or one of the most boring books of German post-war literature, „Die Angst des Tormanns beim Elfmeter“, another Handke novel that is – without mercy – killing hours and hours of precious lifetime. But the highlight of depressive nonsense of highest order is Handke’s „Der Chinese des Schmerzes“, in comparison to this Günter Grass’s slightly exhaustung „Der Butt“ is a hell of a ride!  Or last year’s bestseller „Shades of Grey“ – read ten pages of this piece of crap and you must think the so-called  sexual revolution had never really happened.  Völlig verklemmter Quatsch. So many books that get a nearly hysteric attention!

But, under the radar, you’ll find lost treasures that give you so much more than normal „serious“ or „mainstream crime fiction“. So, at the end of this, I highly recommend three books, one thriller, one mystery book, one more or less contemporary novel that deserve much more than the exclusive praise by a few happy critics and then vanishing into a minority „cult status“. „The Ocean at the End of the Lane“ by Neil Gaiman (okay, not really a secret anymore, but ignored (with raised eyebrows) by a lot of people who regard mystery books as third class literature!), „Der amerikanische Traum“ by Ernst Augustin (a true masterpiece!!!), and „Laidlaw“ by William McIlvanney (a crime novel I had read within two days and nights, originally published in 1977, and reissued by Cannongate Books in 2013).



Reading Ian’s time-traveling essay on Joy Division’s CLOSER, I’m asking myself what is the reason that sometimes you do not return to certain records you have once liked very much for a very, very long time. For example, I was deeply impressed by that album (I even remember asking me why they hadn’t put their most famous song on it), but I haven’t heard it since, well, let’s say, 1988. This happened to other records I adored or even loved: Soft Machine’s THIRD (a milestone, my first encounter with Robert Wyatt, and one of the most beautiful songs ever recorded, Moon in June), Al Stewart’s famous album (what was the title?), Gustav Mahler’s SYMPHONY NO.3 (conducted by Georg Solti, by the way, Ian:)), John Abercrombie’s TIMELESS,  the Kinks‘ MUSWELL HILLBILLIES etc etc.: haven’t heared these great works for ages. Well, Al Stewart may have been a guilty pleasure, a record for one or two seasons, but the other ones: soul food, more than 5-star albums, revelations, but, after they seem to have had their time, no constant companions, on the surface. Maybe you take certain albums with you, and transport them to a well-searched place in the hinterland of your mind, where they do their quiet, but unconscious work! At this moment my old time favourite Jackson Browne album springs to mind (and is sharing the famous collection of long time buried treasures): LATE FOR THE SKY.



Is it, possibly, too late for the sky? Pure coincidence, but I just read about a new record of the group British Sea Power. i’ve never been particularly fond of their music, but I’m a big fan of the British coast, especially of the South (there i have been, in Blackpool and Brighton, in Dorset (where the excellent new English crime series BROADCHURCH has found its surroundings), and on the coastal path of Cornwall. Now BSP have released their soundtrack for the documentary FROM THE SEA TO THE LAND BEYOND that seems to assemble old footage for a (in big parts at least black-and-white) portrait of the coastlines of Old Britannia. „Sometimes the sextet can be too ambitious, but this soundtrack to Penny Woolcock’s film about the history of Britain’s coastline from 1901 to the present day is BSP at their most haunting and restrained.“ Okay then, alone for the topic of the film, I will carefully listen to the music and watch the movie with big eyes. It’s the same thing as with my collection of once beloved albums: I haven’t been there for too long. I travelled the Coastal Path in 1997, I bought TIME OUT OF MIND in Portsmouth, I walked on the beaches of Dorset in 1990 or 1991 (on that same journey, I met Brian in his old home in Maida Vale, just before the birth of his youngest daughter, and did my first imterview with Robert Wyatt, the theme: DONDESTAN. I’m so grateful, I still keep returning to this record once in a while, and it has as special topic too, the lonely atmosphere of a Spanish coastline, ha!). One thing is for sure: I have just ordered a copy of CLOSER, I will go back to some of these wild places in my mind. Into the wilderness.

„On this occasion, for this listener, that is Scottish sea birds, walking home in the dark after dinner at the Ship Inn with a new love; waking to sea air, and running across East Sands in the morning. Listening to the gales, escaping the towns, and reading Fitzgerald books in summer, one page especially apt: “… The orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning ——So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”“


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