What Is Dave Doing?!?

by David Dedrick on September 12, 2013

I’ve never understood the tradition of the “Summer Reading List”. You know, when authors and celebs are asked to list the books they’re planning to read that summer (and many of which seem like a put on, don’t they?). Personally, I have way less time to read in the summer. I need a winter reading list! Anyway, this is an attempt to explain the gaps between the answer to the question…

WHAT IS DAVE DOING?!?

Reading: Anthony Trollope, The Bertrams and Castle Richmond

Disaster! I carelessly lost my e-reader the other day, which may put a crimp in my Anthony Trollope reading marathon. I can’t stress enough the convenience of having all his books within easy reach on my Kobo. Fortunately, I have Castle Richmond in my library so I can finish it, but if I don’t have the next book in line then the read-a-thon will have to be put on hold. *sigh*

Despite having hit a home run with Dr. Thorne and the continuation of the Barsetshire series of books, Trollope’s next two books did not attempt to build on that success. (Marketing 101, Trollope, Marketing 101.)

The Bertrams is a strangely dark story, which begins with three characters: George Bertram and his amazing success at Oxford; Arthur Wilkinson and his disappointment at Oxford; and Henry Harcourt, Bertram’s friend, who has already left school and is building a career for himself in the City. Starting there the book soon focuses on George Bertram’s engagement to the beautiful, but coldly imperious Caroline Waddington with the side stories of Wilkinson and Harcourt reflecting upon the main story – though there are parallels between the characters. George and Arthur’s miserly uncles who control or attempt to control the family through their purse strings; Henry and George’s careers in the City; George and Arthur’s love stories – one lover is afraid of poverty; the other would sacrifice all for love, for instance.

Basically, George’s pride and impulsive behaviour clashes with Caroline’s pride and her icy demeanor. Unhappiness soon follows.

As always with Trollope there are lots of great characters to enliven the dour proceedings. Also of interest is a travelogue of George’s journey to the Holy Land – a wonderfully piquant description of that region and its combination of evocative holiness and terrible squalor (easily a match for Twain’s section of Innocents Abroad.)

Presciently, Trollope has some good advice for us in this age of instant communication too:
“This at least should be a rule through the letter-writing world: that no angry letter be posted till four-and-twenty hours shall have elapsed since it was written.
We all know how absurd is that other rule, that of saying the alphabet when you are angry. Trash! Sit down and write your letter; write it with all the venom in your power; spit out your spleen at the fullest; ’twill do you good; you think you have been injured; say all that you can say with all your poisoned eloquence, and gratify yourself by reading it while your temper is still hot. Then put it in your desk; and, as a matter of course, burn it before breakfast the following morning. Believe me that you will then have a double gratification.”

Castle Richmond in contrast is a more or less normal sort of a novel, detailing two cousins in love with the same woman – one a poor, yet prideful and imperious sort and the other a rich and complaisant yet kind type. A terrible family secret is revealed knocking everything sideways, but it all comes out all right in the end.

What’s interesting about the novel is its setting: it takes place in Ireland during the Potato Famine and Trollope writes about this with compassion and personal knowledge since he lived in Ireland through that terrible time. His description of the suffering and the attempts by government and those in more fortunate circumstances to alleviate the suffering feels truthful and lived through to the reader.

Here is a brief excerpt:

“In those days there was a form of face which came upon the sufferers when their state of misery was far advanced, and which was a sure sign that their last stage of misery was nearly run. The mouth would fall and seem to hang, the lips at the two ends of the mouth would be dragged down, and the lower parts of the cheeks would fall as though they had been dragged and pulled. There were no signs of acute agony when this phasis of countenance was to be seen, none of the horrid symptoms of gnawing hunger by which one generally supposes that famine is accompanied. The look is one of apathy, desolation, and death. When custom had made these signs easily legible, the poor doomed wretch was known with certainty. “It’s no use in life meddling with him; he’s gone,” said a lady to me in the far west of the south of Ireland, while the poor boy, whose doom was thus spoken, stood by listening. Her delicacy did not equal her energy in doing good,–for she did much good; but in truth it was difficult to be delicate when the hands were so full.”

Also of interest is the novel’s use of bastardy. The terrible shock of bastardy is lost to our modern minds and manners, but in those days, to be a bastard meant you were not your father’s child and could not inherit or even carry the name of your father. It was actually a law at this time in Great Britain that a bastard could not inherit property – a law that was not repealed until 1926. Of course Trollope writes compassionately about this subject, but matter-of-factly. He was not a social reformer by nature and did not write in that vein, but his characters – even the ones least deserving of our sympathy – are also presented with compassion and sympathy. (I’m not writing about the bastard here, but about the scoundrels who reveal the secret.)

Greg Kot and Jim Derogatis, The Beatles vs. The Rolling Stones: Sound Opinions on the Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Rivalry

The-Beatles-Vs-The-Rolling-StonesThis was a fun book and a quick read. Basically a transcription of a dialogue between Kot and Derogatis – or it could be written, but it sounds on the page more like they were speaking to each other – debating that age-old question: are you a Beatle or a Rolling Stone? They examine the question from different angles: style, music, influence and even who was the best guitarist, bassist or drummer. Pretty much heaven for a big music fan like myself. There is a strong bias towards the Rolling Stones by both authors since they’re American and the Stones were much more “American” in their sound than the Beatles (who were a true synthesis of all sorts of different musical traditions). I mean, one of them even defends Their Satanic Majesties Request as better than Pepper! COME ON! They are fair in their assessments though and the book almost feels like they have to give a grudging respect to the Beatles. Still, in my humble opinion, there is no way that Beggar’s Banquet or Let It Bleed are the equal of Revolver. I’d grant that to Sticky Fingers – one of the greatest rock records of all time – but not the other two. And to say Exile on Main St. is better than The White Album is crazy, insane madness. Dudes, The White Album starts with “Back in the USSR”, “Dear Prudence”, “Glass Onion”, “Ob-la-di Ob-la-da”, “Wild Honey Pie”, “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill”, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Happiness is a Warm Gun”! That’s one side of one record! Exile on Main St. starts with “Rocks Off”, “Rip This Joint”, “Shake Your Hips” (a cover) and “Tumbling Dice”. Look at that list, people! Okay, strike “Bungalow Bill” (which is boring) and “Wild Honey Pie” (which I like, but tends to cause critics to break out in hives) from The White Album. That is still one list of awesome songs (even if you’re a bit worn out from hearing “Ob-la-di…” over and over again). Exile has two great songs “Rocks Off” and “Tumbling Dice”. We have to strike “Shake Your Hips” because it’s a cover, which just leaves “Rip This Joint”, which is a so-so song. Ugh! God, it’s no contest! See what you did, Greg Kot and Jim Derogatis!!!

LISTENING: Rolling Stones, Let It Bleed

Let-It-BleedDon’t get me wrong. I love the Rolling Stones – just don’t do them any favours by comparing them to the Beatles. After reading that someone thought this album was as good as Revolver meant I had to give it a spin to see if they were as crazy as I thought they were. Yep, crazy. It’s a great album though. “Gimme Shelter”, “Monkey Man” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” are fantastic instant classics; “Midnight Rambler” is a pretty good Mick Jagger ham-a-thon; and there are some other songs, including “Country Honk”, an acoustic version of Honky Tonk Women that is there for no good reason. It’s a superb album, but it’s not the perfect jewel that is Revolver.

LISTENING: Rolling Stones, Exile On Main St.

ExileYes, I had to listen to this one again too after reading the OUTRAGEOUS opinion that it is better than The White Album. I listened to it. It is not! I’m not saying it’s a bad album. I’m just saying that it’s ridiculous to compare it to the crazy, mixed-up, fantastically inspired curate’s egg that is The White Album. I’m not the biggest fan of statistics, but I’m going to put this out there:

Exile on Main St. is 63:31 minutes long and contains 18 songs.
The White Album is 88:06 and has 30 songs.

Even if you think a third of The White Album stinks (which is madness), that’s still 20 absolutely classic songs. I don’t think you can make the same claim about Exile. One feels like it was born in the white heat of inspiration and the other feels like it was time to make a double album – like the Beatles did. Also, the oversized record sleeve barely fits onto my record shelves – very annoying!

LISTENING: Prefab Sprout, Swoon

SwoonPhew! After all that testosterone and swagger, I had to cool out with some nerdy 80’s alt-pop. I dearly love this quirky, herky-jerky album even if no one else loves it as much as me. It was THE album of Grade 12 – along with The Smiths – and it cost me sixteen of the twenty bucks my Grandma gave me for my birthday, but it was worth every cent of every dollar. I remember when my friend and I were being interviewed about our fanzine for one of the city papers. The interviewer asked me what my favourite albums were and when I said Prefab Sprout, he looked somewhat disgusted with my sissified choice. I guess I was supposed to say Black Flag or something, but nope; I’ll take kooky guitar pop over grinding noise any day.

Awkward first video follows:

LISTENING: Various Artists, Wayfaring Strangers: Ladies from the Canyon

Wayfaring-StrangersContinuing in a mellow vein, this beautiful compilation of obscure female singer-songwriters from the early 70’s is the ticket. Talented young women who were lucky enough to have their music recorded and released. Many of them were involved with churches or religious communities who supported their art, which is wonderful to me, but the writer of the CD feels the need to apologize for the religious content of some of the songs. (Geez, everybody, relax! Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris aren’t going to show up at you house and rough you up.) Most professional: Caroline Peyton with the mysterious “Engram” (secret Scientologist?). Most beautiful and heartbreaking: Judy Kelly with “Window”. I also liked Becky Severson’s “A Special Path”, Propinquity’s “And I a Fairytale Lady”, Reilly and Malloney’s “Wildman” and Shira Small’s coo-coo-cuh-razy “Eternal Life”. But really almost every song’s a WINNAH! Sad, when you consider that almost every one of these beautiful and talented women quit music after releasing one or two albums.

LISTENING: Various Artists, Mojo Magazine: Uncovered

Uncovered(It looks like there’s a theme this week!) Say what you want about the Rolling Stones, at the beginning of their careers they curated a lot of great American music as this collection of songs covered by them proves. There are some great bluesmen on here, of course, but this compilation highlights the band’s diverse musical interests with country, jazz, R&B, rockabilly added to the mix. I sometimes complain that these sorts of compilations lack imagination, but as a historical audio-document of the what every eager young, musicological man and woman was listening to in pre-Beat boom Britain it’s hard to knock it.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Joe September 13, 2013 at 10:33 am

Comparing the White Album to Exile on Main Street is really apples and oranges. The White Album has a wildly eclectic mix of styles (number nine…number nine…) while Exile on Main Street has a unifying vibe, world-weary yet serene, that ties the whole thing together. That said, I prefer Exile. I’ve listened to it a lot more and usually listen from start to finish.

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David Dedrick September 15, 2013 at 12:23 pm

Well, to paraphrase Billy Joel, I didn’t start the fire, but I wanted to put in my two cents. Being a bigger Beatles fan than a Stones fan, I side with The White Album so I’ll admit to my own bias. I am a big fan of the Stones, don’t get me wrong. I have the original release of Exile with the postcards. But when push comes to shove, Exile is a regular album with four more songs. The White Album is a crazy, fun, scary experience that wishes you a gorgeous “Good Night” at the end.

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Layne September 13, 2013 at 10:04 pm

To hell with Trollope, I need to know more about the deck situation!

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David Dedrick September 15, 2013 at 12:24 pm

Don’t. Ever. Mess. With. The. Trollope. 🙂

Just for you, Layne, there is a new segment of Deckin’ Around on this week’s show.

Reply

Joe May 4, 2017 at 3:54 pm

I just listened to the entire White Album for the first time in years, and it’s incredible.

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