book review: what i learned in a thousand towns (dar williams)

Right, so. I have a blog.

I also have a therapist. She’s new. I’ll call her LS, because that’s her name. It has been a rough mental health year for me because besides, you know, a fucking disgusting racist xenophobic sexual assuaulter being elected President, both my longtime prescriber and therapist BOTH retired. The last time I saw my prescriber was November 8, 2016. We talked about how it had been a rough year but starting on the 9th, things would ease up a little. HOW LITTLE WE FUCKING KNEW, AM I RIGHT. And then on top of that I started planning a wedding.

Anyway, I had to find a new prescriber – found one, she retired five months in, found another, she rocks – and I thought I was doing okay without a therapist except then I wasn’t. I tried a new one, a older dude who wanted to dig through my history – been there, did five years of CBT, have the coping mechanisms, I don’t want to talk about my relationship with my mom or my mother-in-law – and then I found LS, who is about my age, and understood immediately when I walked in to her office and said, “I want to talk about how the President is horrible, the world is on fire, and also I’m planning a wedding.”

She said, “Alright.”

LS is amazing.

The last time I saw her, I talked a lot about how while my job, just by nature of literally what my job is, makes me feel like I’m part of the Resistance Capital R Resistance, I wanted to do more. She asked me what my passions were. Photography. Theater. I used to write a ton of fan fiction. Plants. I like high schoolers because I was a weird high schooler and real adults were nice to me and listened to me and I could be that for some teenager now.

“Okay, your homework is to figure out how to turn that into volunteer work.”

So it’s been on my mind, and then Trav got me Dar Williams’ book for Christmas. What I Found In A Thousand Towns. On its face, it is basically about how to create a thriving large town or small city. But as I tore through during the early NBA games on Christmas Day, it was exactly the book I needed at exactly this time.

It’s about how cities and towns, the kind that Trump maybe won in 2016, the kind who have collapsed because the industry that they thrived on collapsed, can save themselves in the wake of that collapse. It’s about art. It’s about food. It’s about the harm of gentrification and why low cost swimming lessons matter and how to make affordable housing happen and the best ways to eliminate town-gown relations and just have Town Relations. There’s a whole chapter about Carrboro.

Carrboro is pretty expensive and named for a noted racist, my vague ancestor Julian Shakespeare Carr (he’s a fifth cousin somewhere back through marriage, I think). I wish it wasn’t named for a noted racist. But it loves community. And art, and music, and food, and beer, and people. People who live in Carrboro are invested in Carrboro. I knew that, sort of, in the back of my head. I know how many people I know and like that I see when I occasionally venture out to a concert, or even just out for a burrito. When I was house-hunting in Chapel Hill, it was in Chapel Hill, because I didn’t want to be too far from what felt like my community. I hadn’t realized I was so attached to Carrboro and Chapel Hill until I realized that the thought of buying a house in Durham was abhorrent to me (and not just because of Duke basketball, all you smart asses out there). Dar talks a lot about proximity, and how proximity is important to community, and I could verify that with my own experience: I can walk to downtown Chapel Hill and downtown Carrboro, if I wanted to. It is and was important to me to be that close to places.

2017 has been a gross dumpster fire of a hellscape year, but it’s been a gross dumpster fire of a hellscape year that really motivated people to get involved, in their communities, in other communities, to engage with the world. What I Found In A Thousand Towns is technically probably a book about urban planning rather than a memoir, which is what I thought it might be. I think it’s a surprisingly low key important book for the United States right now. Coal isn’t coming back. The uranium industry in Moab, Utah wasn’t coming back, either, and the town has found a way to thrive despite that. (The Most Scenic Dump story had me crying laughing.) Those things aren’t coming back, despite lies from the President about how he’d bring those jobs back, but there are other ways to save towns.

There aren’t solutions to the many sprawling and very serious problems of gentrification, which is often what “rejuvenating” a town or city comes down to; and the book can be a little white-person-focused at times, which is what it is. It isn’t a perfect book, but it was a book that made me think about things I hadn’t been thinking about before, and it was a book that crystalized some ideas I’d been wrestling with in their amorphous blob forms. It pointed out things I can do, and it pointed out where the most helpful thing I can do is to ask other people what they need. It made me ask a lot of questions about the place I live, even though Dar holds up Carrboro as a model of a pretty good small town. We are. Chapel Hill is. But we can do better, too, we can do a lot better, and I read this book, and I’m going to do better.

book review: on bowie – rob sheffield

hilary & stephen's wedding

The thing about Rob Sheffield’s writing is that he always conveys music as both deeply personal – this is how I feel about this song – and deeply human – this is why this makes us feel the way it does – and that seems to be the reason only he could write the book, the story, that I wanted to read about Bowie.

Because Bowie meant something to me, but as I think the world directly learned with his death, he also meant so many things to us. And if someone was going to tell us what Bowie meant, a little academic and a little personal and a little glam and a little spacey, I want Rob Sheffield to do it. He taught me how to fall in love and he taught me how to be a grown up in love, and I wanted him and only him to tell me how to be brokenhearted about David Bowie. I know what Bowie meant to me. I wanted to know what Bowie meant to us.

The last time I was writing about a Rob Sheffield book, I was crying over Bright Eyes on the porch of a rented college town apartment. This time I was crying in a TGIFriday’s at the Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport, sitting next to the man I mention in the Bright Eyes review, the one I thought had given up on me, who’s now my live-in boyfriend. We own a house. One of these days we’re gonna get hitched. We were on our way home from his cousin’s wedding, a severely delayed flight, and we were drinking Fireball and hard cider and watching a Rangers game and I was yelling a lot about Delta.

On Bowie came in the mail the day before we left for MSP. I had saved Patti Smith’s M Train for the trip out and said, “Oh, good, I’ll read this on the way home.” A four hour delay gets you reading. Near the end of the book and the delay both, I shoved it in front of Trav, and said, “Start here, read to here” – it’s an anecdote that ends with He was wearing fabulous shoes, and you know that Bowie was, wherever he was – and then said, a little defensively, “I’m not crying, you’re crying.” We ordered another drink.

Trav introduced me to Rob Sheffield’s writing; Rob’s writing is one of those common tongues that, well, Rob writes about in his books sometimes, that Trav and I share as a couple. I don’t know that we have a particular Bowie memory, though, beyond that he spent a lot of time in my dorm suite senior year, and that year my roommate Cass and I did watch Moulin Rouge over and over again. Trav and I have Prince memories; “Who doesn’t know that ‘7’ is a jam?” Of course we do – we went to college in Minnesota. We have Guy Clark memories; “Stuff That Works” has gone on just about every mix I’ve ever made him. We have scores of Merle memories, because that’s our taste in music. Of all the icons we’ve lost this year, Bowie might have been the only one we didn’t share a memory for.

Now we have a Bowie memory, too, though, and it’s sniffling together over Rob’s book in an MSP airport bar. I’m not crying over Bowie, you’re crying over Bowie.

We’re crying over Bowie.

Rob Sheffield is staying up all night in January, crying about Bowie, starting this book and not knowing quite yet it would be a book – and his wife got up and said to him, “I know.”

We’re still crying about Bowie. Rob Sheffield wrote us a damn good joyous celebration to read through those tears.

I received an advance copy of On Bowie from Dey Street Books in exchange for a review, but all opinions are mine particularly because publishing houses say fuck way less than I do. On Bowie will be available on June 28, 2016, and you can pre-order it now.

makes the or seem more

geer cemetery, durham

If I hadn’t filled my brain with Stephen Sondheim lyrics — and then bang! crash! the lightning flashed! and – well that’s another story never mind anyway — I might have won a Nobel Prize in physics by now. Probably not, because, ugh, I hated physics, but maybe. You never know. I did fill my brain with Sondheim lyrics, though, because that is what I do, and so I spent the time watching Into The Woods slowly dripping tears into my popcorn alternated with muttering lyrics under my breath.

shep. and I went to see it on New Year’s Day, and she asked me, honestly, afterwards, what I had thought, and my first response was, “Well, at least James Lapine fucked up his own script irreperably.” (It took me two weeks to write this because, well, you’ll see.)

What follows is deeply spoilerly, deeply picky, and deeply nerdy; if you haven’t seen the film and don’t want to know anything about it, back out now. I dig pretty damn deep into geekiness about the choices made, and I spare no sacred cows. None of it is to say I didn’t enjoy the movie, which I did, immensely. I thought all the performances were exceptional, particularly Emily Blunt and the kiddo who plays Jack. I adored the way they staged “Agony” and I thought that the Pine chewed an epically delightful amount of scenery. But I think there were a whole bunch of things they didn’t handle well, and because I am deeply emotionally invested in Into The Woods the stage musical, I have outlined them here for you. Because I know you care.

  •  the number one problem, the problem from which all other problems stem, is the choice to have the Baker narrate; both because he is a different kind of unreliable narrator than the Narrator / Mysterious Man, and because of the loss of the Mysterious Man as a character. It’s all tied into the way they’ve manipulated the relationship between the Baker and his father, because whereas in the play the Baker thinks his father is dead, in the movie he thinks his father deserted him — it’s a completely different kind of emotional resonance, and frankly, I think that the former, with the brief reunion where the Baker knows his father loved him and wanted to be there for him, is far better than the latter. And then of course the choice to cut “No More”, which only makes sense if you’ve made the previous change, well, it leaves the movie feeling like it ends with the Baker’s wife’s death and “No One Is Alone”, where instead it should end with “Children Will Listen”. Into The Woods has at its heart a lot of stuff about parents and children in addition to romantic relationships — I mean obviously duh — and I think that dismissing “Children Will Listen” to the closing fade out, along with the manupulation of the Baker’s relationship with his father, trivializes that part of the script, which is the most powerful part for me. Not to mention that not showing the Witch singing “Children Will Listen” leads to …
  • the Witch. Meryl Streep was perfectly good; she has the voice to pull off the part, and in the second act she was far less distracting than she was in the first act, when she wasn’t the Witch, she was Meryl Streep with four wrinkles on her forehead. But what the adaptation misses from the original script is this, and it’s most apparent in the directed delivery of “Last Midnight” and then the off-handed-ness of “Children Will Listen”, is that the Witch is ultimately the voice of reason in the show. She sings in “Last Midnight” i’m not good, i’m not nice, i’m just right, and that is true. She’s a villain, sure, but she is a villain who also gives out warnings and who loves her adopted daughter truly and purely. The Witch isn’t bad, she’s just right. And “Children Will Listen” reinforces that at the end of the show, but the movie doesn’t give it much focus, or the Witch a final reappearance. It’s a huge loss to the second half pacing, and the true conclusion of the script, and the loss of it leads me to …
  • the other songs they cut: I understand losing the first act finale (“Ever After”) and the second act opener (“So Happy”), because there’s no act break in the movie. They pulled some of the melody lines into the score, and that’s fine, but even so there’s something to those songs with the whole ensemble. “Ever After” because it’s a fucking fairy tale, you guys, and “So Happy” because you all know you know you want to know what happens next. After the Ever After. It’s the fucking point of the musical. What happens next. And the biggest loss — the biggest loss of a single song that doesn’t have that much power overall but does in the smallest fiercest way, not like “No More” but — it’s “Agony (Reprise)”, where the two princes meet up and sing about the new princesses they’ve found (a thinly veiled Sleeping Beauty and Snow White). Not only is it a loss at a change for weird, vaguely creepy humor in the dark, dark second act — the exchange of It’s my thing about blood / well it’s sick / it’s no sicker than your things with dwarves / dwarfs / dwarfs / Dwarfs are very upsetting will never fail to make me laugh like a hyena — and the fact that the Princes in the movie would have performed it lustily and with great scenery chewing, but it is, at heart, about still wanting.
  • the whole second act is about still wanting — it’s not enough. Ever After isn’t enough. That’s the whole point, the whole resonance of the second half of the script: it’s not enough, but if it isn’t enough, are you still willing to risk what you were willing to risk before? It’s why the Baker’s Wife’s death resonates. It’s why “No More” resonates. And it’s why the last line of “Agony (Reprise)” matters: ah, well: back to my wife. It’s what you’re stuck with. It’s what you can see but know you can’t have. And it’s a primal set-up for what happens between Cinderella’s Prince and the Baker’s Wife and “Moments In The Woods” — it’s the set up to the set up to the Baker’s Wife’s death, and while it might seem like a silly little fluff song for minor characters, when it’s missing, all I noticed was the emotional beats that it’s loss upset.
  • You know that Cinderella’s Prince is a player from the movie, and that’s enough to explain the lead up to “Moments In The Woods”, but it misses the point. The point that nothing is ever enough for any of these characters, which is both good — everyone deserves a dream, or, well, a wish — and leads to sadness and loss. And if you miss the point of that, you miss the point of the second act, you miss the point of the Baker’s Wife’s death, you miss the point of the Baker’s relationship with his father, his relationship with his son, the Witch’s relationship with Rapunzel.
  • And that makes me really sad, because Into The Woods should be a dark, sad, lonely, hopeful show. “Moments In The Woods” is the hope in the second act, even before “No One Is Alone”. It’s the moment, to be totally cheesy.

I think that the film gets a lot of things right; I think it’s gorgeous to look at, and Streep does a more than good job with an incredibly demanding vocal part, and if she doesn’t knock it out of the park on either the Witch’s Rap (greens, greens, and nothing but greens / parsley, peppers, cabbages and celery, etc) or “Last Midnight”, she does a credible job with the former and the staging and direction are what mar the latter. Emily Blunt and James Cordon are phenomenal both alone and in their interactions together (the staging of “It Takes Two” is a little silly, but they deliver it with such conviction that I didn’t care). Aging down Jack and Red Riding Hood reverses some of emotional beats lost in the cuts and makes a lot of their scenes and interactions with adults even more poignant, instead of having them be played by smart-mouthed teenagers; it made me miss a weighted “Children Will Listen” even more after “No One Is Alone”.

(Fun fact: well into my late 20s, I knew the Witch’s Rap by heart and could drop it whenever prompted. Now my head is full of Taylor Swift lyrics.)

(I have nothing to say about Johnny Depp except that in the original show, the actor who plays Cinderella’s Prince also plays The Wolf, which is both more creepster and less.)

I enjoyed the movie. I liked seeing the parts I know so well voiced and brought to life by new people. But I don’t think it was good, and I think Marshall may have missed the point of the script he was adapting from the very beginning.

If you’d like to see a version of the original show, the original Broadway cast filmed a one-off performance in 1994 and you can rent it on Amazon Streaming for $2.99. It’s worth it. Bernadette Peters is a wonder.

Careful before you say,
“Listen to me.”
Children will listen.

Careful the wish you make,
Wishes are children.
Careful the path they take-
Wishes come true,
Not free.

book review: exile in guyville (gina arnold ; 33 1/3 #86)

sarah shook @ the cradle

Two or three years ago, when this title was announced by Bloomsbury, I was excited, because I thought that Gina Arnold might be able to explain Exile In Guyville to me. To tell me what makes women of a particular age — say 32, because I know this record never kicked for my baby sister, who’s 30, up through about, oh, say, 45 or 50 now — what makes them love this album with abandon and devotion, 20 years later, and few of them able to explain it themselves. I can’t explain it. I just know that it marked me when I was in high school, and it’s never let go — I love Exile In Guyville as much now as I did in 1995. And she does, some:

Liz’s concerns were authentic to me and to others like me. Some of what she wrote about was simply general life experience.

Primarily, though, the majority of Arnold’s book is not an emotional reaction to this album; it’s a political one, and she does an excellent, thorough job of taking her reader through the politics of the Wicker Park music scene (the heavily male dominated scene from which Phair emerged) and through the collective reaction of critics to Guyville, calling quite a bit of it out on the carpet over the lack of feminism in the male response to the record — which is in turn some of why Phair made the album to begin with. Exile In Guyville — Arnold’s book, not the record; I’ll just go ahead and refer to the album as Guyville and the book by the full title to try and stem confusion — says a lot of things about music criticism and insular local music communities that probably should have been said when the album came out, and weren’t. It’s a fascinating political read, and it scratches some of my itch to understand why I love this record: because when I was 15, I didn’t know that I was a feminist, but I probably already was.

Arnold doesn’t let the two main groups of men who revolve around Guyville get away with much: the Rolling Stones, whose Exile On Main St is the track by track inspiration for Guyville, and the men in the Wicker Park music scene both get fairly exposed regarding their lack of feminist behavior, and Arnold isn’t wrong in that. It wasn’t, past a certain point, what I wanted to read in the book, but that’s a flaw in wanting a different book than the one Arnold wrote (that’s on me; I wanted more of a memoir, someone else’s story to compare to my own). And Arnold is not wrong when she explains the politics of Wicker Park and notes: “Acceptable roles included being fans or girlfriends of the boys in the bands, in which case their job was to support those bands quite literally — with their day jobs.”

Exile In Guyville is, like I said, a smart and thorough feminist politics book about a time two decades ago when women were just starting to make noise with their music, metaphorically speaking; Arnold nails every aspect of it, down to the chapter on the differences between the revenue streams of male and female musicians. That look, that lens, takes up the heavy majority of the book, but the gem of it is the last quarter: the quarter where Arnold steps from looking at how and where the album was fused and fired, and starts looking at the music itself. Arnold breaks down Exile in Guyville by doing exactly what she’s spent arguing the rest of the book against doing: comparing it, track by track, to Exile on Main Street.

And because she’s argued so hard about why you shouldn’t do that, when she finally does it, it works flawlessly. Frankly, it made me look at both Guyville and Exile in different ways — I put together a playlist where I cut the two records together, pairing up the songs the way that Arnold does as she discusses them, and it’s fascinating, the way that they do, in fact, parallel each other. Whether it was, as Phair has always asserted, a directly track by track conscious choice, or it was an overall idea that played out perfectly by accident, the lines are there — and I wouldn’t have found them if Arnold hadn’t written a book that is, mostly, dedicated to telling you that those aren’t the important parts of Phair’s album, or what she was doing, when and where. Gina Arnold isn’t wrong; Guyville as a record is more important than just a response to the Stones. But by taking the music out in favor of the politics for most of her book, when she gets down to brass tacks on the songs, Arnold’s book goes from interesting to shining.

Gina Arnold’s Exile In Guyville releases in the US on 5/22 and the UK on 7/17.

review: epiphanie bags “sydney”

epiphanie camera bag

I have been engaged in a long battle to find the perfect camera bag / purse — and over the winter, I finally resigned myself to the fact that I really needed a camera bag, and I needed a purse, and those were separate things. A purse I could still shove my camera into if necessary, but primarily, I needed a dedicated camera bag, and all the ones I had tried (made for the purpose, altered by me for the purpose) weren’t exactly what I needed. The space was too small, the bags themselves were too bulky, they didn’t have pockets, they hurt my back to carry, whatever. Long story short: camera bags, troublesome.

So I found a purse — a Baggallini hobo bag I have treated abysmally and which has stood up to it — and I bought myself an Epiphanie Bags Sydney style bag as a late Christmas present.

I’m in love.

After a lot of flipping between the various bags Epiphanie makes, I settled on the Sydney for a few reasons: I liked the shape of the main space, I liked the pockets, I really liked the iPad pocket on the back. And I really, really liked the straps – you can carry the Sydney cross-body, on your shoulder, or as a backpack. And for festivals, especially ones like Hopscotch, where you’re slogging 20-30 pounds of gear back and forth across Raleigh, because eff you Five Star, on days that can run 14 hours? The idea that I could have all that weight distributed on both shoulders was a dream. I can’t wait to not hurt like crazy on the Sunday after Hopscotch. Or, well, hurt slightly less than crazy. My feet might hurt but my back won’t.

For me, the five front pockets are used for, separately, business cards and lens-cleaner type things, memory cards, various personal stuff (lip gloss, reusable shopping bag, tampons), and the top horizontal pocket holds my ear plugs, my pass holder, and when I get to a show most often my phone — the three things I need most working a job and they’re incredibly easy to access. All the pockets are deceptively large, too. I could squeeze a lot more into them if I wanted to. I’m trying to pack lighter, though, so.

The main compartment I have divided in three — one for a long lens & my 50mm, one of my camera with the Tamron 24-75mm attached, and one for anything else: another lens, my wallet, a notebook. My only complaint here was that, due to the Sydney’s narrow width (which I love; it sits really closely on my hip, which was another reason I picked it out) and its corresponding depth to make up for the width, the dividers were hellacious to place properly. It took me forever because they kept fastening to places I didn’t want them to, and it’s still not a perfect set up, but it works.

epiphanie camera bag

I got the bag and it was great for two shows locally. But the real test was when I went to Atlanta for Panic! — I needed the Sydney to double as a purse for travel, because I didn’t want to check my suitcase. Which meant it had to hold all my camera gear, but also a travel makeup bag, two Moleskines, my wallet, and my iPod. That’s what’s in the photo above — a lot of what I easily carried in my Sydney flying from Raleigh to the ATL, not including the Tamron 24-75mm I took the shot with. It was a little heavy, but I can deal with heavy if I don’t feel like the bag is going to collapse immediately. The Sydney doesn’t feel that way. It’s deeply sturdy, and that’s awesome.

And I just need it to hold that much when I’m hauling things and actually in the airport / on the plane — once I get where I’m going, I can pull Moleskines out, I don’t always need the makeup bag (though it’s nice to have), and it becomes again a thoroughly functional camera bag that isn’t a pain to haul to a show or through a festival.

So that’s my conclusion: Epiphanie’s bags are expensive — and for the quality, not that expensive at all, really — but so far I’ve found the Sydney to be exactly what I needed, and well above it for the cost.


promo shots: some army

I don’t talk much about TV on here, because frankly no one but my friend Amy wants to hear my feelings about how Nick Burkhardt on Grimm is a moron (and I’m continually about six episodes behind in Justified), but I’ve just watched the Amazon Prime pilot of BOSCH — based loosely on City of Bones, a mid-series Harry Bosch novel by Michael Connelly — and I’ve watched it twice, and the way I’m watching it makes me think about photography.

I’ve talked a little, variously, about cinematography in various films; color use, light, what have you, and while I notice it in TV — the first two seasons of Justified are among the most lovely and atmospheric episodes of TV ever made, the later three just not quite as perfect but still lovely — I don’t necessarily think about it the same way. I give zero fucks, for example, how Major Crimes is filmed. I am interested in Flynn and Provenza doing stupid things, and Captain President Detective Roslin messing up things with Rusty. I do not care how they make Los Angeles look. Apparently, though, I do care what they do with Michael Connelly’s Bosch series, because it is deeply beloved to me, and Connelly’s writing is so vibrant, so dark, so sad. Those novels, especially the early ones, up through Nine Dragons or so, are truly genuine L.A. noir, and that has a feel. That has a look.

Amazon Prime is getting into the made-for-streaming game, which I’m into, and this is one of their pilots, which I’m into because I love the shit out of Connelly’s Bosch novels; it did well, so it will probably be picked up. The main plotline — child’s bones found buried in the Hollywood hills — is a pretty solid one; it’s a pretty solid Bosch novel, too, and it goes some interesting and super dark places. It’s not a bad introduction to Bosch, really, especially if you want, in the books, to escape the early self-destructive Bosch, but before you get to the later, domesticated, single dad Bosch. (I like that Bosch, too, because I love Bosch’s smartass daughter, but still, the latest books have a different feel than the first dozen or so.) The dialogue in the pilot clunks; the fact of the matter is that it’s lifted, almost the entire episode, straight from the opening to the book, right down to Bosch being on call being someone wanted to go to a Lakers game. It works in print; it didn’t sell on screen, partly because — and here’s the problem — they got the light all wrong. That awkward scene with Brasher and Bosch? It’s twilight. It’s not clear, it’s not clean, it’s not bright, not like the pilot gets it. You can be awkward but less awkward in twilight, you know.

And that’s the bigggest problem I had with the whole thing; they’ve got the light of these books — which Connelly conveys beautifully in text — all wrong. There are moments of that fierce Los Angeles sunshine glare in the books, but, fuck, Harry Bosch is a tunnel rat, the whole first few books are about him crawling around in tunnels in Vietnam, blowing shit up, and what that’s left him with in Los Angeles. Hell, Connelly wrote one called Lost Light, for fuck’s sake. All of the Bosch books are twilight, streetlights, early morning fog. They’re not Los Angeles sunshine. They’re the seedy bits, the alleys, the hookers left dead on street corners. The whole show is too goddamned clean to be about Harry Bosch — the only thing they get perfectly right in the pilot are the few scenes in Bosch’s house, which is visually perfect and, if they do it right, sixteen kinds of metaphors for how fucked up Harry Bosch really is.

Truth: Harry Bosch is fucked up. Not even a quarter of how fucked up Harry Bosch is got through in that pilot. Harry Bosch is a goddamned sloppy fucked up lonely drunk. I have plenty of problems with the added line of the court case, which is true to the books, just not City of Bones, and not in its details. Those rainy flashbacks almost get the right feel of the series, though, so that’s something. But the plotline itself, it’s far seedier and sloppy and brutal in the books — and gets dragged out, at least the case itself — for quite a while, and I don’t really feel like it’s adding anything here except wah wah wah poor put-upon Harry Bosch. Harry Bosch does that himself, Amazon, with or without a sanitized version of the Dollmaker case to hang over his head. It would be and should be compelling TV — Titus Welliver has a great face for it, and he’s talented even if Connelly’s dialogue apparently just crashes noisily on TV. (In fact, I really like him as Bosch; he’s very close to how I picture Bosch when I read the books.)

But they just don’t have the light right. I’ll keep watching, but that’s a hard goddamn thing for me to forgive. How can you fuck up Los Angeles noir light? Amazon has. It’s magical.

(Bosch wouldn’t wear Chucks, but this is the right light. For the record.)

book review: a whole new ballgame – caryn rose

baseball: seton hall @ unc

Last Saturday I was sitting at Trav’s dining room table, eating scrambled eggs and bacon, and talking about — something. Something that was in all likelihood not related to baseball at all. Definitely not this book. Something that prompted me to say, “Hold on, I need to see who’s on the Astros’ top ten prospects,” turn to my iPad, and then instruct Trav on how George Springer was an anomaly, because he came out of a snowbird school, and Carlos Correa was a true shortstop who they expected to stick there in the majors. He also loves me despite this.

This is how my brain works.

So basically Caryn Rose’s newest novel, A Whole New Ballgame, about a woman who gets her heart broken by a musician and then accidentally takes up baseball as a hobby, is exactly my jam. It’s a smart story about falling in love with baseball, and in the hands of a writer less able to convey the joy of baseball, it would probably fall flat, but in Rose’s, it makes me want to quit my job and drive around watching baseball (even more than usual). It’s full of romantic improbabilities that are upfront about their improbability, which mimics the magic of baseball and that moment when your team just wins. (As a lifelong Orioles fan, I am still trying to remember all those moments.)

Rose’s story is not unfamiliar — boy breaks girl’s heart, girl meet a better boy — but the way she tells it is. The thing that surprised me is that her message isn’t baseball will save your life (or rock and roll will save your life, or anything like that), but rather, the thesis of Rose’s story is that living your life will save your life. Here, baseball is the metaphor for Laurie’s decision to live her life, and move towards her future, instead of betting on the “safe thing” or the “sure thing”. The so-called “bad guys” — ex-boyfriend Kirk, sleazy-charming love interest and musician Ryan — are encased in amber throughout the piece, unable and unwilling to change, destined to be rolled over by tar and their own stagnancy.

So if baseball will save your life isn’t the thesis, how is this a baseball book? Because baseball is so at the heart of it; Rose is by profession a music writer, but she wrote at — one of the first professional female baseball bloggers — for many years, and Laurie’s path into baseball fandom is written with a true hand and one that never gets preachy, or too pedantic in explaining baseball to the readers as Laurie learns it. The novel is peppered with Red Sox trivia — Laurie lives in Boston at the start of the book — but as much genuine love for baseball as there is devotion to a single team. Laurie’s path crosses, early on, with Peter and Eric, lifelong friends visiting every MLB park in a single summer, and that’s the story that I won’t spoil for you. But as I said, the improbabilities don’t feel improbable, and the exposition doesn’t feel expository; these characters felt like friends, and several times I wished I was the one sitting in the fourth seat with Laurie, Peter and Eric in Kansas City or, even, the hallowed seats on the Green Monster.

A Whole Other Ballgame isn’t a new classic, and if it was, I’m not the person to determine that. But it is a smart novel about how you move on from losing the things you love, to finding new things you love, and maybe the old things, too. It’s a novel about love, loss, and the fact that no matter what happened last year, pitchers and catchers report in February every year. There’s always next year.

You can find every outlet to buy Caryn Rose’s A Whole New Ballgame here. There’s a release party in Brooklyn at WORD on March 12. The only thing this book was missing is that I never got to find out Peter and Eric’s opinions on my beloved Camden Yards.

(Up top is a photo from a February Carolina baseball game, in 2011. I think I got a sunburn. This year, the Heels are starting in Charleston, SC, instead of the Thrill, because snow. Fuck snow. I was ready for college baseball.)