Revelations

Laird Bar­ron: Scotch, my dog. Not liv­ing in the Arc­tic any­more.

Adam Blue: “You won’t start mak­ing art until you stop mak­ing art.” An old­er, and much wis­er, artist once told me this after spend­ing all of five sec­onds look­ing at the best paint­ing I ever made. It real­ly hurt my feel­ings. Prob­a­bly because it was, and is, com­plete­ly true.

Matthew Cheney: All of the songs on the Moun­tain Goats’ 2009 album The Life of the World to Come are titled with ref­er­ences to books, chap­ters, and vers­es of the Bible. (None, alas, are from Rev­e­la­tions.) The album as a whole is, for me, a mixed lot — the band (which was once just John Darnielle) has para­dox­i­cal­ly become less inter­est­ing and imag­i­na­tive as their musi­cal skill and pro­duc­tion val­ues have increased; indeed, their lat­est, Tran­scen­den­tal Youth, is for me the least inter­est­ing album yet released under the Moun­tain Goats name. Until Tran­scen­den­tal Youth, the recent albums each have had at least a cou­ple cap­ti­vat­ing songs, and on The Life of the World to Come the most breath­tak­ing is “Deuteron­o­my 2:10”, one of the sad­dest songs I’ve ever encoun­tered (and I’m a Tom Waits fan!). The music is a sim­ple pro­gres­sion of piano chords that fall into a few melod­ic notes at the end. Darnielle sings qui­et­ly, some­times in a whis­per. Each verse of the song is told from the point of view of an ani­mal that is the last of its kind: a tas­man­ian wolf, a dodo, and a gold­en toad. Each verse ends with the phrase “there’ll be no more after me.” If you can lis­ten to this song with­out tears in your eyes, you are a mon­ster.

Howard P. Love­craft: The White Peo­ple by Arthur Machen. A mas­ter­piece of fan­tas­tic writ­ing, with almost unlim­it­ed pow­er in the inti­ma­tion of potent hideous­ness and cos­mic aber­ra­tion.

Nick Mamatas: The late Project Itoh is one of the great­est SF writ­ers I’ve had the plea­sure of read­ing. His nov­els Geno­ci­dal Organ and Har­mo­ny (to be read in that order, but pub­lished in the US in reverse order) are absolute­ly essen­tial. Please check him out.

Meghan McCar­ron: While I hes­i­tate to be that guy rec­om­mend­ing an app, I’m going to do it any­way: Songza is an expert­ly curat­ed stream­ing ser­vice that has turned me on to all sorts of great stuff, from “indie R&B” like Mar­ques Toliv­er to an entire sta­tion of Texas coun­try clas­sics. The sta­tion based on Bob Dylan’s radio show gave me “Russ­ian Satel­lite” by Mighty Spar­row, a calyp­so protest song about Laika’s untime­ly death. If I like a song on Songza, I save it on Spo­ti­fy, where I also waste hours click­ing down the “relat­ed artists” rab­bit hole. Yes­ter­day this glo­ri­ous pro­cras­ti­na­tion lead me to Brigitte, a faux-60’s French girl band; today it snaked me back to Beth Orton’s “Cen­tral Reser­va­tion,” which I hadn’t heard in ten years and has got­ten even bet­ter with age. On a more top­i­cal note, if you haven’t heard the Moun­tain Goats’ “Love­craft in Brook­lyn,” please don’t let the fact that I cribbed the title deter you: it’s a great song.

Luis Rodrigues: Ear­li­er this year, I picked up a copy of Last Days by Bri­an Even­son at a friend’s place and was hooked from line one. It was clever and fun­ny and twist­ed and unex­pect­ed and I placed an order for a big box of Even­son books right then and there on my smart­phone. Dis­cov­er­ing Even­son tru­ly felt like a rev­e­la­tion, and there’s noth­ing quite like those first few sec­onds of ela­tion when you real­ize you’re in the pres­ence of genius.

Eric Schaller: The Weird: A Com­pendi­um of Strange and Dark Sto­ries, edit­ed by Jeff and Ann Van­der­Meer. This anthol­o­gy is appro­pri­ate to The Rev­e­la­tor’s theme this issue, if only because Love­craft is one of the major influ­ences on the lit­er­a­ture of the weird. But where this anthol­o­gy parts com­pa­ny with pure genre is in plac­ing Kaf­ka as the oth­er major influ­ence, Love­craft and Kaf­ka loom­ing over the weird lit­er­a­ture of the past cen­tu­ry like a pal­lid two-head­ed Mount Rush­more. Rec­og­niz­ing these two strains of influ­ence opens The Weird up to the world of fic­tion like no anthol­o­gy before it. Cov­er­ing over 100 years of fic­tion, and weigh­ing in at over 750,000 words, this book is more than just a rev­e­la­tion, it is a feast that out­does and out­lasts any hol­i­day cel­e­bra­tion.

Bri­an Fran­cis Slat­tery: The falset­to of Dona Dumitru Simini­ca.

Sonya Taaffe: Alan Tur­ing.

Chad Woody: Amidst the Inter­net flood, I am increas­ing­ly impressed with things that go undig­i­tized. While tin­ker­ing at a nov­el set in the Old West, I found Wikipedia and Google indis­pens­able for his­tor­i­cal infor­ma­tion. But I also found an excel­lent lit­tle free news­pa­per called Voic­es of the Sand­hills while dri­ving through Nebras­ka a year ago. It’s full of 1800s fron­tier lore, pho­tos of gun­fight­ers and Native Amer­i­cans, and odd ranch­ing tales. None of it appears on the Inter­net. The entire enter­prise seems based in anoth­er era of pub­lish­ing. To get copies, you must dri­ve through Nebras­ka, or sub­scribe by mail.