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If the walls of Number 8 Sunflower Street could talk …. As Ana celebrates the new millennium, she is shocked to learn that she must leave behind her childhood home, her hometown, and — hardest of all — her girlfriend for a new life in Rio de Janeiro. Ten years later, Greg is sent to live with his aunt — who runs a video rental store from her garage and owns a dog named Keanu Reeves — as his parents work out their not-so-secret divorce.
And ten years after that, Beto must put his dreams of becoming a photographer on hold as the COVID pandemic arrives in Brazil, forcing him to live with his overprotective mother and overachieving sister. Set in and narrated by the same house, Number 8 Sunflower Street, and in three different decades — , , and respectively — This Is Our Place is a novel about queer teens dealing with sudden life changes, family conflict, and first loves, proving that while generations change, we will always be connected to each other.
Eight years ago, everything changed for Devlin: Her country was attacked. Her father was killed. And her mother became the Royal Spymistress, retreating into her position away from everyone… even her daughter. Joining the spy ranks herself, Dev sees her mother only when receiving assignments. She wants more, but she understands the peril their country, Aris, is in. Dev has known strength and survival her whole life, but with a dangerous new assignment of infiltrating the royal court of their neighbor country Cerena to steal the magic they need, she learns that not all that glitters is weak.
And not all stories are true. It all starts when Shani runs into May. Like, literally. She was supposed to be focusing on her monthlong paleoichthyology internship. She was going to spend all her time thinking about dead fish and not at all about how she was unceremoniously dumped days before winter break.
Is she ready to try a committed relationship again, or is she okay with this just being a passing winter fling? Ranka is tired of death. But when she is named Bloodwinn, the next treaty bride to the human kingdom of Isodal, her coven sends her south with a single directive: kill him.
Easy enough, for a blood-witch whose magic compels her to kill. Except the prince is gentle, kind, and terrified of her. Soon, she will have to decide between the coven that raised her and the princess who sees beyond the monster they shaped her to be. But the four still know nothing of its origins, or how to stop the cycle of doomed fates. And each girl harbors her own secret. One is learning why she was brought to the school.
One struggles to keep her new and deadly power under control. One knows exactly how much time she has left. Can the girls change their own stories and break the curse? Or must one of them die to end it forever? To him, high school and home are stages to endure until his real life can finally begin. Buy it: Amazon.
Kaori and Kairi are the first twins to survive infancy on the ancient island of Mu, where gender is as fluid as the crashing waves. One was born of fire, the other of water. A prophecy that has haunted the elders since time began. A rivalry destined to sink the entire island beneath a twin catastrophe of volcano and tsunami.
As hatred spills from the forbidden twins like the deadly poison of sacrificed sea snakes, they must decide what matters to them most…. The fight for the island — for tradition and duty. Or the fight for freedom — for love and light. Fairy tales have been spun for thousands of years and remain among our most treasured stories. Weaving fresh tales with unexpected reimaginings, At Midnight brings together a diverse group of acclaimed YA writers to breathe new life into a storied tradition.
Buy it: Amazon Bookshop IndieBound. Knowing the truth or keeping the peace? The summer of her senior year, seventeen-year-old Avery Anderson finds herself uprooted from her life in DC and moved into the hostile home of her terminally ill grandmother, Mama Letty.
The tension between her mom and Mama Letty makes for an unwelcoming arrival and unearths some family drama they refuse to talk about. Everytime Avery tries to look deeper, they turn her away, leaving her desperate to learn the secrets that split her family in two. While testing her prototype radio equipment, she detects a mysterious signal and pursues its origin.
In , a cataclysmic event has rendered Earth uninhabitable, and humankind survives by living inside artificial worlds. But the experiment goes wrong. Willa is pulled forward in time, and the three find themselves stranded in a strange, seemingly abandoned city.
If she can make it to the finale, she can reject Jordy and publicly break his heart. How is she supposed to live with this girl for six weeks? Sharing bunkbeds, for crying out loud? If they can sustain their reluctant alliance—and keep their unexpected chemistry from interfering—they might just have a chance to take Jordy down. This is the sequel to These Feathered Flames. But as the sisters work independently to reunite, a dangerous force lies in wait, trying to regain power in order to overthrow the monarchy….
A thief. An artist. A acrobat. An actress. While the odds of pulling off the heist are slim, the odds of survival are even slimmer. These are all reimaginings of Sleeping Beauty , Snow White , or a combination of the two. Malice by Heather Walter. Every five years the girls of Elk Mountain wake up in the woods, where the simple farm boys they grew up with become predators and hunt them for brides.
Dan Lightman returns to the mountain to help the Marlow sisters. Nellie is only fourteen, and all she wants is a few more years, to grow up on her own terms. All three girls live in the shadow of their beautiful eldest sister, Julia. Five years ago -at the last Bride Hunt- she refused the man who caught her, and she was killed for it. The barbaric ritual is a sacred rite of passage to a fringe sect of Catholicism in post-apocalyptic, small-town Appalachia. But wait!
Wanna see the entire gorgeous wrap? Of course you do! Add it on Goodreads now! Lumen Reese is a bisexual author of usually queer speculative fiction from West Michigan. Amar expected a reaction from his four siblings, but his bombshell sends shockwaves throughout the community and begins to fracture their family unit, already fragile from the death of their mother. Amar was sure he knew what love meant, but was he just plain wrong?
And could this whole disaster turn into a love story after all? Jamie is a Florida Woman. She grew up on the beach, thrives in humidity, has weathered more hurricanes than she can count, and now, after going viral for an outrageous crime she never meant to commit in the first place, she has the requisite headline to her name.
Something sinister stirs in the palmetto woods surrounding her cabin, and secrets lurk among the three beguiling women who run the shelter and affectionately take Jamie under their wing for the summer. She hears the distant screams of monkeys each night; the staff perform cryptic, lakeside sacrifices to honor Atlas; and the land, which has long been abandoned by citrus farmers and theme park developers alike, now proves to be dangerously, relentlessly untamed.
Both musicians come alive at Harlem jazz clubs and Prohibition-era speakeasies. Dazzled by the world they are discovering together, their romance ignites. But while Will is obsessed with Dolly, Dolly is obsessed with crime.
The power dynamics keep shifting as Will agrees to commit petty crimes with Dolly in exchange for sexual favors. When the University and their rich families unite to split them up, passions escalate. To strike back at those who deny them the right to be together, they are they plot another crime: murder.
Leah is changed. A marine biologist, she left for a routine expedition months earlier, only this time her submarine sank to the sea floor. When she finally surfaces and returns home, her wife Miri knows that something is wrong. Barely eating and lost in her thoughts, Leah rotates between rooms in their apartment, running the taps morning and night. Whatever happened in that vessel, whatever it was they were supposed to be studying before they were stranded, Leah has carried part of it with her, onto dry land and into their home.
As Miri searches for answers, desperate to understand what happened below the water, she must face the possibility that the woman she loves is slipping from her grasp. At age sixteen, Fahad hopes to spend the summer with his mother in London. He enlists Ali, a local teenager, in this project, hoping his presence will prove instructive.
Instead, over the course of one hot, indolent season, attraction blooms between the two boys, and Fahad finds himself seduced by the wildness of the land and its inhabitants: the people, who revere and revile his father in turn; cousin Mousey, who lives alone with a man he calls his manager; and most of all, Ali, who threatens to unearth all that is hidden. Decades later, Fahad is living abroad when he receives a call from his mother summoning him home.
His return will force him to face the past. Jazz pianist Gus Kitko expected to spend his final moments on Earth playing piano at the greatest goodbye party of all time, and maybe kissing rockstar Ardent Violet, before the last of humanity is wiped out forever by the Vanguards—ultra-powerful robots from the dark heart of space, hell-bent on destroying humanity for reasons none can divine. But when the Vanguards arrive, the unthinkable happens—the mecha that should be killing Gus instead saves him.
When your parents name you and your three siblings after flowers, the world is stacked against you. The youngest daughter, Aster always keeps her head down and lets her siblings stand in the spotlight. Love is never going to happen, especially when the only other lesbians in town are already married to each other. But at the elite Wrynn College of Art, students paint and sculpt in a rarified bubble.
Louisa Arceneaux is a thoughtful, observant nineteen-year-old when she transfers to Wrynn as a scholarship student, but she soon finds herself adrift in an environment that prizes novelty over beauty. Gradually, Louisa and Karina are drawn into an intense sensual and artistic relationship, one that forces them to confront their deepest desires and fears. When Preston concocts an explosive hoax, the fates of all four artists are upended as each is unexpectedly thrust into the cutthroat New York art world.
Now, all must struggle to find new identities in art, in society, and amongst each other. In the process, they must either find their most authentic terms of life—of success, failure, and joy—or risk losing themselves altogether.
With each tale, K-Ming Chang gives us her own take on a surrealism that mixes myth and migration, corporeality and ghostliness, queerness and the quotidian. Stunningly told in her feminist fabulist style, these are uncanny stories peeling back greater questions of power and memory. If you can hear the call of the water,. They say Cape Disappointment is haunted.
Waiting for them. Part queer modern gothic, part ghost story, They Drown Our Daughters explores the depths of motherhood, identity, and the lengths a woman will go to hold on to both. For Malaya, the pressures of her predominantly white Upper East Side prep school are relentless, as are the expectations passed down from her painfully proper mother and sharp-tongued grandmother.
Written with vibrant lyricism shot through with tenderness, Big Girl announces Sullivan as an urgent and vital voice in contemporary fiction. When Alex Easton, a retired soldier, receives word that their childhood friend Madeline Usher is dying, they race to the ancestral home of the Ushers in the remote countryside of Ruritania.
What they find there is a nightmare of fungal growths and possessed wildlife, surrounding a dark, pulsing lake. Madeline sleepwalks and speaks in strange voices at night, and her brother Roderick is consumed with a mysterious malady of the nerves. Aided by a redoubtable British mycologist and a baffled American doctor, Alex must unravel the secret of the House of Usher before it consumes them all. However, today is no ordinary day at the Stabler estate.
Which means she can buy a house, give her girlfriend the life she deserves, pay off her student loans. After years away from home, Summer Graves is back in Austin, Texas, to accept a new teaching position. Of all the changes to the old neighborhood, the most dispiriting one is the slated demolition of the high school her grandmother founded. But the challenge stirs memories of another kind. On the architectural team revitalizing the neighborhood, hometown girl Aiko Holt is all about progress.
Then she sees Summer again. Some things never change. Neither can forget the kiss they shared at their senior-year dance. For now, the only thing Summer and Aiko are willing to give in to is a heat that still burns. Ava Montgomery never wanted to return home. And then, when the body of a missing child is found in those same woods, that dark past begins to repeat itself. They never told anyone how much they really know about what happened to Adam on the night he died; does one of them want to drive her out of Wildwood to keep that secret?
As Marjorie becomes obsessed with the infamous murder, and old friendships and feuds reignite, Ava is drawn back into the forest to confront her own role in its violent history—before her daughter becomes its next prey. In , fourteen-year-old Blanca dies in a hilltop monastery in Mallorca.
But following their debutante ball Rose is suddenly talking about marriage, and Eddie is horrified. When Eddie meets charming, renowned poet Nash Nicholson, he invites her to his crumbling Gothic estate in the countryside. The entourage of eccentric artists indulging in pure hedonism is exactly what Eddie needs in order to forget Rose and finish her novel. Buy it: Waterstones Book Depository.
When Velasin arrives in Qi-Katai, it soon becomes clear that an unknown faction is set against their union, while Velasin himself is wrestling with more than culture shock. As the danger escalates, Caethari and Velasin must learn to trust each other in order to survive—and maybe even make their arranged marriage a loving one in the process. Life is going well for Greg Kelly.
This arrangement has been particularly appealing to Greg and his exceptional sexual appetite. Now approaching their mid-thirties, fatherhood calls and they enlist a friend to act as surrogate. In order to focus on building a family, Greg and Cristian decide to close up the marriage when the baby arrives.
Greg is going to miss his hookups, but at least he has the summer for one last hurrah. He methodically plans his hookups via Grindr and Tinder, carefully coordinates train routes for quick lunchtime hookups, and scouts potential candidates anywhere, anytime, like an old time Hollywood casting director. Greg is left asking, what does it mean to find happiness but still crave more? In City 40, Valery is Dr.
But as Valery begins his work, he is struck by the questions his research raises: why is there so much radiation in this area? What, exactly, is being hidden from the thousands who live in the town? And if he keeps looking for answers, will he live to serve out his sentence? Graduating into the long maw of an American recession, Sneha is one of the fortunate ones.
She begins dating women—soon developing a burning crush on Marina, a beguiling and beautiful dancer who always seems just out of reach. But before long, trouble arrives. Painful secrets rear their heads; jobs go off the rails; evictions loom. Sneha struggles to be truly close and open with anybody, even as her friendships deepen, even as she throws herself headlong into a dizzying romance with Marina.
After a violent slave uprising begins the Haitian Revolution, Sylvie and her brother leave their parents and old lives behind to flee unwittingly into another uprising—austere and radical Paris. When the Reign of Terror descends, she must decide whether to become an accomplice while another kingdom rises on the bones of innocents…or risk losing her head. Frank, a queer biracial Indonesian scientist, who compromises everything she claims to love in the name of science and ambition when she sets out to procreate without sperm or egg; and Dr.
Plum struggles to determine the limits of her own ambition when Dr. Frank offers her a chance to assist with her next project. How far will Plum go in the name of scientific advancement and what is she willing to risk? Which of his bad qualities did she fall for first?
Harvard senior Beatriz Herrera does not have a post-graduation plan. Still, she would do anything for her sweet, opposite-from-her-in-every-way prima, Hero. Even if it means watching Hero and her boyfriend, Claudio, make googly eyes at each other all spring break.
A night that cemented her disdain toward him forever— not that she plans on telling him why. But does a country so bitterly divided have space for this kind of love story? Nowhere near perfect but desperately trying his best. In Boyfriend Material , Luc and Oliver met, pretended to fall in love, fell in love for real, dealt with heartbreak and disappointment and family and friends…and somehow figured out a way to make it work.
To them, spy novels are a peppery snack; romance novels are sweet and delicious. Eating a map can help them remember destinations, and children, when they misbehave, are forced to eat dry, musty pages from dictionaries. Devon is part of The Family, an old and reclusive clan of book eaters. Her brothers grow up feasting on stories of valor and adventure, and Devon—like all other book eater women—is raised on a carefully curated diet of fairytales and cautionary stories.
When the truth about their sexual orientations came to light, their marriage and TV careers were ended, but decades later they have remained friends. A Hail Mary arrives in the form of Yana Tosh, a ninety-year-old diva of the silver screen who has amassed a valuable collection of old costumes and props and is looking to sell.
Jay and Cindy have to beat their competition, a vice president from a mega-auction house with ten times their resources. And when he winds up dead, they become prime suspects in the murder. With their freedom and livelihoods on the line, Jay and Cindy desperately need to clear their names. Gregarious, charming, and ever so eager to please, she agrees to deliver a message for another lovely scribe in exchange for kisses and ends up getting sent to Low Parliament by a temperamental fairy as a result.
As Lana transcribes the endless circular arguments of Parliament, the debates grow tenser and more desperate. Due to long-standing tradition, a hung vote will cause Parliament to flood and a return to endless war. Lana must rely on an unlikely pair of comrades—Bugbite, the curmudgeonly fairy, and Eloquentia, the bewitching human deputy—to save humanity and maybe even woo one or two lucky ladies , come hell or high water.
Firuz-e Jafari is one of the fortunate ones who have emigrated to the Democratic Free State of Qilwa. Firuz has escaped the slaughter of other traditional Sassanid blood-magic practitioners. They have a good job at a free healing clinic in Qilwa; a kindly new employer, Kofi; and a gifted new student, Afsoneh, a troubled orphan refugee.
But Firuz and Kofi have discovered a terrible new disease which leaves mysterious bruises on its victims. The illness is spreading quickly through Qilwa, and there are dangerous accusations of ineptly-performed blood magic. In order to survive, Firuz must break a deadly cycle of prejudice while finding a fresh start for their both their blood and found family. The prophecy of the nameless god—the words that declared Malini the rightful empress of Parijatdvipa—has proven a blessing and curse.
She is determined to claim the throne that fate offered her. But even with the strength of the rage in her heart and the army of loyal men by her side, deposing her brother is going to be a brutal and bloody fight. Their chosen paths once pulled them apart. And they soon realize that coming together is the only way to save their kingdom from those who would rather see it burn—even if it will cost them.
A barnstormer. A Wild West trick shooter. A mathematician. When archaeologist Anna Baring announces the founding of the Lady Adventurers Club in May , none of the other three members expect to ever meet again. After all, they live halfway around the world from each other. What could possibly bring them together once more? Then they each receive an unexpected letter. Anna has found a tomb that promises to be even grander than that of King Tutankhamun, and she wants them to come to Egypt for the opening.
The tomb will make old Tut look like a pauper. But will the women of the Lady Adventurers Club get to see it? Egypt is a political powder keg. Unscrupulous criminals keep shooting at them. And weird, unnerving things seem to happen wherever they go. As the women race across Egypt, their friendship will be tested as they fall deeper into danger.
Penny struggles with depression and craves stability in an unstable world. Halsey is divorced, raising her child, and contending with an unexpected realization about herself. Irresponsible William can be counted on only to fall in love as capriciously as he falls out of it. And both Laurie and Chris are floundering after betrayals—hers professional, his personal.
With little in common except childhood memories, the five face impossible choices. Until then, the fate of the Nolan family compound is as uncertain as their paths in life. From the author of All Are Welcome comes a novel about a family legacy worth fighting for. A fierce and riveting queer coming-of-age story, following the personal and political awakening of a young gay Black man in s NYC, from the television drama writer and producer of The Chi , Narcos , and Bel-Air.
Not to jinx it or anything, but the stars seem to finally be aligning for Will Cowen. So, when a heartbreakingly beautiful manuscript lands on his desk, Will seizes the opportunity for a win. Could this prized new author be his big break or, his downfall? Fueled by insecurity and an open bar, he finds himself in need of comfort, which comes from the least likely person, the normally cold and distant Graham. Where is a style-conscious journalist going to find a barbershop that can do justice to his hair?
But the stories also record moments of self-denial, self-deception and fear that point to the fact that this is still a society where gay men experience prejudice, discrimination, and homophobic violence. The narrator of several of these stories is a writer who wants to focus on the personal satisfactions and inner dramas of these lives as the truth about gay experience. But at the back of his mind are the stories of the brutal murders of gay men reported with coy innuendo in the press.
If he is tempted to see his lovers as characters in a witty novel of manners, is this a novel that can only take place somewhere other than in Trinidad? But since this is Trinidad, could the conflicted, self-hating Dorian really be a serial killer? Buy it: Peepal Tree Press.
Breathtaking mountain vistas, quirky townsfolk, and charming small businesses aside, her hometown of Fern Falls is built of one heartbreak on top of another. Take her one-time best friend turned crush, Rachel Reed. The memory of their perfect, doomed first kiss is still fresh as new-fallen snow. She has all the inspiration for a spectacular event: delicious vanilla lattes, acoustic guitars under majestic pines, a cozy barn surrounded by brilliant stars.
That would be as unprofessional as it is unlikely. This is the Canadian pub date and cover. It releases in the US on November 8th. Syria, In an instant, the course of their lives is changed forever. Ten years later, Hussam and Wassim are still struggling to find peace and belonging. Sponsored as a refugee by a controlling older man, Hussam is living an openly gay life in Vancouver, where he attempts to quiet his demons with sex, drugs, and alcohol.
Wassim is living on the streets of Damascus, having abandoned a wife and child and a charade he could no longer keep up. The past continues to reverberate through the present as Hussam and Wassim come face to face with heartache, history, drag queens, border guards, and ghosts both literal and figurative. Buy it: Indigo Bookshop US. Beneath the roiling waters of the Arkansas River lie dead men and buried secrets.
After all, the river had claimed its share over the years. When Jane confessed to his murder, she should have gone to jail. So Jane left for Boston—and took her secrets with her. Twenty-five years later, the river floods and a body surfaces. Now in her forties, Jane returns to Maud Bottoms to reckon with her past: to do jail time, to face her revenge-bent mother, to make things right. Because in this desolate river valley, some secrets are better left undisturbed.
The Holiday but make it gay. She desperately needs space to figure out who she is. Truman Belvedere has just had his heart crushed into a million pieces when he learned that his boyfriend of almost a year has a secret life that includes a husband and a daughter. Reeling from this discovery, all he wants is a place to lick his wounds far, far away from New Orleans. Over Christmas, each of them will have a chance to try on a new life…and maybe fall in love with the perfect partner of their dreams.
But all holidays must come to an end, and eventually Greta and Truman will have to decide whether the love they each found so far from home is worth fighting for. A novel of cascading prose that captures a nation in slow collapse, Sacrificio is a visionary work, capturing the fury, passion, fatalism, and grim humor of young lives lived at the margins of a society they desperately wish to change.
Luci LaBang is a star: For decades this flamboyant drag artist has cast a spell over screen and stage. But as time takes its toll, Luci fears her star is beginning to dim. Luda begs Luci to share the secrets of her stardom and to reveal the hidden tricks of her trade. For Luci LaBang is a mistress of the Glamour, a mysterious discipline that draws on sex, drugs, and the occult for its trancelike, transformative effects.
Now Luci wonders if Luda has mastered the Glamour all too well. What follows is an intoxicating descent into the demimonde of Gasglow, a fantastical city of dreams, and into the nightmarish heart of Luda herself: a femme fatale, a phenomenon, a monster, and, perhaps, the brightest star of them all. Remy Pendergast is many things: the only son of the Duke of Valenbonne though his father might wish otherwise , an elite bounty hunter of rogue vampires, and an outcast among his fellow Reapers.
His mother was the subject of gossip even before she eloped with a vampire, giving rise to the rumors that Remy is half-vampire himself. When a terrifying new breed of vampire is sighted outside of the city, Remy prepares to investigate alone.
But as the three face dangerous hardships during their journey, Remy develops fond and complicated feelings for the couple. He begins to question what he holds true about vampires, as well as the story behind his own family legacy. For Arthur Less, life is going surprisingly well: he is a moderately accomplished novelist in a steady relationship with his partner, Freddy Pelu. But nothing lasts: the death of an old lover and a sudden financial crisis has Less running away from his problems yet again as he accepts a series of literary gigs that send him on a zigzagging adventure across the US.
We cannot, however, escape ourselves—even across deserts, bayous, and coastlines. From his estranged father and strained relationship with Freddy, to the reckoning he experiences in confronting his privilege, Arthur Less must eventually face his personal demons. With all of the irrepressible wit and musicality that made Less a bestselling, Pulitzer Prize-winning, must-read breakout book, Less Is Lost is a profound and joyous novel about the enigma of life in America, the riddle of love, and the stories we tell along the way.
The gods have fled. Monsters threaten to invade the city of Logos, hunting mankind as they did in the olden days. In the midst of it all, a serial killer has begun ritually sacrificing victims—to lure the gods back and stop the imminent destruction, or for a more sinister purpose? Lilac Antonis wants to stop the impending destruction of her city by summoning her mother, a blood god—even if she has to slit a few throats to do it.
But evading her lover Arcadia and her friends means sneaking, lying, and even spilling the blood of people she loves. The Unbalancing is R. Birdverse fans may recognise the story from R. From Violet, she learns the story of her grandmother, Emily. When her situation becomes dire, Violet, along with a crew of unlikely cosmopolitans determines to rescue Emily from the wrath of the person she thought loved her the most, her husband, Tak-Wing.
In the middle of it all, a strange match of timeless Test cricket unfolds, in which the ball has an agency all its own. As fires devastate most of the United States, Lark and his family secure a place on a refugee boat headed to Ireland, the last country not yet overrun by extremists and rumored to be accepting American refugees. As he runs for his life, Lark finds an abandoned dog who becomes his closest companion, and then a woman in search of her lost son.
Together they form a makeshift family and attempt to reach Glendalough, a place they believe will offer protection. But can any community provide the safety that they seek? But when the voice of an angel, or a very convincing delusion, leads Misery to the center of the Empire, they find themself trapped between two powerful and dangerous factions, each hoping to use Misery to win a terrible war.
Still waiting to be convinced of their own divinity and secretly training with a crew of outlaws and outcasts, Misery grows close to a rebel royal, Lady Alodia Lightning, who may know something of saints and prophecy herself. The voice that guides Misery grows bolder by the day, and it seems the madness is catching…. Sydney Mackenzie is taking a well-earned break from her intense job as a PA to the rich and famous.
Her tour around England in Gertie, her beloved VW camper, is cut short when her boss calls in a favour. Beatrice Russell is an esteemed actress, adored by her fans worldwide, disliked by anyone that knows her. As the summer heats up, the ice queen begins to thaw, and Syd sees a glimmer of the troubled woman under the celebrity bravado, drawing her closer to the enigmatic actress — sometimes too close.
Can Syd reach the real Bea and draw her out before the summer ends and she returns to filming in the States, or is Bea broken beyond repair? Bring a little joy to the world? Matthew Prince is young, rich, and thoroughly spoiled. So what if his parents barely remember he exists and the press is totally obsessed with him? Population: who cares? Just when it looks like the holiday season is bringing nothing but heated squabbles, the charity gala loses its coordinator and Matthew steps in as a saintly act to get home early on good behavior…with Hector as his maddening plus-one.
In Northern Alberta, a queer Indigenous doctoral student steps away from his dissertation to write a novel. He is adrift, caught between his childhood on the reservation and this new life of the urban intelligentsia. Amid these conversations, the narrator is haunted by memories of Jack, a cousin caught in the cycle of police violence, drugs, and survival.
Buying a drink for a stranger turns into what should be an uncomplicated, amazing one-night stand. Erin Bennett came to Family Weekend to get closer to her daughter, not have a one-night stand with a college senior. What should have been a one-time fling quickly proves impossible to ignore, and soon Cassie and Erin are sneaking around. Worst of all, they start to realize they have something real.
But is being honest about the love between them worth the cost? Thanks to her thriving art career, Miriam Blum finally has her decoupaged glitter ducks in a row—until devastating news forces her to a very unwanted family reunion. Persuaded to take the case, Andy accompanies the widow to Lavender House, the family seat of recently deceased Irene Lamontaine, head of the Lamontaine Soap empire. At this secluded estate, where none of the residents, or the staff, need to hide their identities, Andy finds a bewitching freedom.
These exquisite stories are mostly set in the s in the small towns that surround Fresno. Paris Daillencourt is a recipe for disaster. Despite his passion for baking, his cat, and his classics degree, constant self-doubt and second-guessing have left him a curdled, directionless mess. In this heartrending, lyrical debut work of fiction, Fatimah Asghar traces the intense bond of three orphaned siblings who, after their parents die, are left to raise one another.
Wandering cleric Chih of the Singing Hills travels to the riverlands to record tales of the notorious near-immortal martial artists who haunt the region. On the road to Betony Docks, they fall in with a pair of young women far from home, and an older couple who are more than they seem. As Chih runs headlong into an ancient feud, they find themselves far more entangled in the history of the riverlands than they ever expected to be.
The Atlas Paradox is the long-awaited sequel to dark academic sensation The Atlas Six—guaranteed to have even more yearning, backstabbing, betrayal, and chaos. Six magicians. Two rivalries. One researcher. And a man who can walk through dreams. All must pick a side: do they wish to preserve the world—or destroy it? In this electric sequel to the viral sensation, The Atlas Six, the society of Alexandrians is revealed for what it is: a secret society with raw, world-changing power, headed by a man whose plans to change life as we know it are already under way.
But the cost of knowledge is steep, and as the price of power demands each character choose a side, which alliances will hold and which will see their enmity deepen? Shipboard romance! Bound for New York on the R. What she actually finds is a dead body, a disrespectful parrot, and a beautiful stranger in Violet Debenham, who is everything—a magician, an actress, a scandal—Maud has been trained to fear and has learned to desire.
Surrounded by the open sea and a ship full of loathsome, aristocratic suspects, they must solve a murder and untangle a conspiracy that began generations before them. One year ago, recent Portland transplant Ellie Oliver had her dream job in animation and a Christmas Eve meet-cute with a woman at a bookstore that led her to fall in love over the course of a single night. But after a betrayal the next morning and the loss of her job soon after, she finds herself adrift, alone, and desperate for money.
They make a plan to spend the holidays together at his family cabin to keep up the ruse. Now, Ellie must choose between the safety of a fake relationship and the risk of something real. Many have called our time dystopian. But The World Keeps Ending, and the World Goes On reminds us that apocalypse has already come in myriad ways for marginalized peoples and calls us to imagine what will persist in the aftermaths.
With lyric and tonal dexterity, these poems spin backwards and forwards in time. They look into the collective psyche of our years in the pandemic and in the throes of anti-racist uprisings, while imagining other vectors, directions, and futures. Stories of survival collide across space and time—from Korean comfort women during World War II to children wandering a museum in the future. These poems explore narrative distances and queer linearity, investigating on microscopic scales before soaring towards the universal.
Throughout, Choi grapples with where the individual fits within the strange landscapes of this apocalyptic world, with its violent and many-layered histories. In the process, she imagines what togetherness—between Black and Asian and other marginalized communities, between living organisms, between children of calamity and conquest—could look like. But when young men begin to go missing from campus, Nathan finds that the deaders have returned, more frightening and hungrier than ever.
With the help of the mysterious Theo, Nathan seeks to learn the truth behind the disappearances. But something worse than the deaders begins to haunt Nathan. As reality grows thin, things emerge from the cracks. Is Theo what he seems? Or could he be some kind of monster? Will Nathan learn the truth before he vanishes into the darkness?
Everything that was green and good is gone, scorched away by a war that no one living remembers. The small surviving human population scavenges to get by; they cannot read or write and lack the tools or knowledge to rebuild. The only ones with any power are the mindless Enforcers, controlled by the Madjideye, a faceless, formless spiritual entity that has infiltrated the world to subjugate the human population. However, Elite Enforcer H Yun Seo, who was abducted as a child, then tortured and brainwashed into servitude is determined to arrest Riordan for theft of resources and will stop at nothing to bring xir to the Madjideye.
In a ruined world, six people collide, discovering family and foe, navigating friendship and love, and reclaiming the sacredness of the gifts they carry. When Tennal—a rich socialite, inveterate flirt, and walking disaster—is caught using his telepathic powers for illegal activities, the military decides to bind his mind to someone whose coercive powers are strong enough to control him. Enter Lieutenant Surit, the child of a disgraced general.
And their bond may just be the key to their freedom. Film-maker Hayes Figueiredo is struggling to finish the documentary of his heart when handsome physicist Yusuf Hassan shows up, claiming Hayes is the key to understanding the Envisioner — a mysterious device that can predict the future. Hayes is taken to a top-secret research facility where he discovers his alternate self from an alternate universe created the Envisioner and sent it to his reality.
As Hayes finds himself falling for Yusuf, he studies the parallel universe and imagines the perfect life they will live together. Because there are infinite realities, but only one Yusuf. With the fate of countless realities and his heart in his hands, Hayes leads Yusuf on the run, tumbling through a kaleidoscope of universes trying to save it all. Birds in San Francisco were found to have raised the pitch of their songs over forty years in order to be better heard above the noises of the increased traffic.
In the waters around New Zealand, whale calls have adapted to the increase in shipping noise over the last few decades—the hum of engines and thrash of propellers. Whales need to signal over huge distances to survive, and one hopes that they continue to adapt to this audio pollution.
So musical evolution and adaptation is an interspecies phenomenon. And presumably, as some claim, birds enjoy singing, even though they, like us, change their tunes over time. The joy of making music will find a way, regardless of the context and the form that emerges to best fit it. But I have a feeling that this somewhat reversed view of creation—that it is more pragmatic and adaptive than some might think—happens a lot, and in very different areas. It seems that creativity, whether birdsong, painting, or songwriting, is as adaptive as anything else.
Genius—the emergence of a truly remarkable and memorable work—seems to appear when a thing is perfectly suited to its context. When something works, it strikes us as not just being a clever adaptation, but as emotionally resonant as well. When the right thing is in the right place, we are moved. Scarlet Tanager by Joe Thompson In my experience, the emotionally charged content always lies there, hidden, waiting to be tapped, and although musicians tailor and mold their work to how and where it will be best heard or seen, the agony and the ecstasy can be relied on to fill whatever shape is available.
We do express our emotions, our reactions to events, breakups and infatuations, but the way we do that—the art of it—is in putting them into prescribed forms or squeezing them into new forms that perfectly fit some emerging context. For some composers, music is created via notation, the written system of markings that some percentage of musicians share as a common language. Even if an instrument traditionally a piano is used as an aid in composition, this kind of music emerges as a written entity.
Changes in the score might be made at a later date by performing musicians or by the composer, but the writing is largely done without input from actual players. More recently, music began to be created mechanically or digitally, by an accretion and layering of sounds, samples, notes, and bits dragged and thrown together either physically or in the virtual world of a computer.
Though much of my own music may initially have been composed in isolation, it only approached its final shape as a result of being performed live. As with jazz and folk musicians, everything was expected to be thrown into the crucible of a gig, to see if it sank, floated, or maybe even flew. After some time rethinking things and learning more songs written by others in my bedroom, I began to frequent the coffee house at the local university and realized that the folk scene represented there was insular and needed refreshing.
This was the late sixties, and I was still in high school, but anyone could see and hear that the purism of folk was being blown away by the need of rock, soul, and pop to absorb everything in their path. I seem to recall that it worked; they had somehow never heard these songs! Because I performed them more energetically than the standard folk artist might present his own material, people listened, or maybe they were just stunned at the audacity of a precocious teenager.
I played Chuck Berry and Eddie Cochran on ukulele, shifting the context of those songs even further afield. I was incredibly shy at the time and remained so for many years, so one might ask and people did what in the world a withdrawn introvert was doing making a spectacle of himself on stage.
Performing must have seemed like my only option. There was also the remote possibility that I would briefly be the hero and reap some social and personal rewards in other areas beyond mere communication, though I doubt I would have admitted that to myself. Poor Susan Boyle; I can identify. Despite all this, Desperate Dave did not have ambitions to be a professional musician— that seemed wholly unrealistic. Leaping up in public to do something wildly expressive and then quickly retreating back into my shell seemed, well, sort of normal to me.
Maybe normal is the wrong word, but it worked. Maybe some problem of some sort can at least get the ball in play. But I have come to believe that you can escape your demons and still tap the well. When I was at art school in the early seventies, I began to perform with a classmate, Mark Kehoe, who played accordion. I dropped the acoustic guitar and focused on the ukulele and my hand-me-down violin, which now had decals of bathing beauties stuck on it.
We played at bars and art openings, and together we traveled cross-country and ended up playing on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. By this point we had a look, too—a variation on Old World immigrant, I guess is how you would describe it. Mark adopted a more Eastern European look, and I gravitated to old suits and fedoras. We played mainly standards. One might say that the reviews of a street performance were instant—people either stopped, watched, and maybe gave money, or they moved on.
I think I also realized then that it was possible to mix ironic humor with sincerity in performance. Seeming opposites could coexist. Keeping these two in balance was a bit of a tightrope act, but it could be done. In high school around Baltimore, one could attend what were called Teen Centers, which were school gymnasiums where local bands would be brought in to play on weekends. One act was a choreographed Motown-style revue, and at one point they donned gloves that glowed in the dark when they switched to UV lights.
It was a spectacular effect, though a little corny. Another act did a Sgt. Pepper—type revue, and to my young ears they sounded just like the records. Being a cover band, even a really good one, was limiting. There were also rock bands, some of which had virtuosic musicians.
Most would jam endlessly and aimlessly on a blues song, but one D. These displays of technique and imagination were humbling. My own guitar playing was so rudimentary that it was hard to imagine we were playing the same instrument. I caught one big outdoor rock festival back then—in Bath, a town a few hours east of London. Exhausted after hours of listening to music, I fell asleep on the damp ground. In the middle of the night I woke up and realized that Led Zeppelin was playing.
I think they were the biggest act on the bill, but I went back to sleep. In the early morning I was awake again and caught Dr. John, who closed the festival. He was in full Night Tripper mode, and I loved that record, so I was excited to see him. He came out in carnival drag, playing his funky voodoo jive, and the UK audience pelted him with beer cans.
I was confused. Here was the most original act of the whole festival, dumped into the worst slot, and he was completely unappreciated by this crowd. It was depressing. But authentic blues played by white English guys? It made no sense. He had sexy go-go dancers who just danced the whole show, and though it was exciting as hell, this too put any thoughts of being a professional musician out of my head—these folks were in the stratosphere, and we were just amateurs.
No way. I was musically curious, and sometimes I would check out performers whose music I was only slightly aware of. I saw Rahsaan Roland Kirk, the jazz saxophonist, at the Famous Ballroom in Baltimore, a downtown venue with glitter cutouts of rocket ships on the walls. It was about musicianship, sure, but it was also about entertainment. Kirk sometimes played two or three horns at once, which seemed like the musical equivalent of playing the guitar with your teeth or behind your back or even smashing it—a stage gimmick.
After having played on the streets of Berkeley, back on the East Coast Mark and I opened for a wonderful local band called the Motels at the art-school auditorium. I shaved off my scraggly beard on stage while Mark played accordion and his girlfriend held up cue cards written in Russian. In retrospect, it seems I was saying goodbye to the old immigrant guy in the dark suit. I was ready to embrace rock and roll again. He moved from instrument to instrument.
At one point there was a bizarre solo on a Moog synthesizer, an instrument not often associated with jazz. Here was electronic noise suddenly reimagined as entertainment! As if to prove to skeptics that he and the band really could play, that they really had chops no matter how far out they sometimes got, they would occasionally do a traditional big band tune.
Then it would be back to outer space. There was a slide show projected on the wall behind the band, commemorating their visit to the pyramids in Egypt, and much of the time Sun Ra was wearing spectacles that had no glass in them. In its own cosmic way, this was all show business too. In my friend Chris Frantz, who was about to graduate from the painting department of the Rhode Island School of Design, suggested that we put together a band.
We did, and he proposed we call ourselves the Artistics. Being more social and gregarious than I was, Chris pulled in some other musicians. We began by doing cover songs at loft parties in Providence. I still had no ambitions to become a pop star; writing was purely and simply a creative outlet for me.
Not many came back completed. I imagined that this serial killer fancied himself as a grand and visionary sophisticate in the model of either Napoleon or some Romantic lunatic. Another guitar player in that band, David Anderson, was probably even less socially adept than I was, and he was a great and somewhat unconventional performer. Chris joked that we should have called the band the Autistics. Glam rock was the new thing. Bowie made a big impression on me, and at one point I dyed my hair blonde and sewed myself some leather trousers.
No doubt this made for a striking image at the time in little Providence, Rhode Island. What might be okay as a stage get-up was maybe stretching things as street wear. I became aware that the DJs were finding ways to extend the songs longer than what appeared on the records. Dancing was fun, too. In the mid-seventies I was offered room and board in New York by a painter, Jamie Dalglish, who let me sleep on his loft floor in return for help renovating the place. Television and the Ramones had started playing there as well, and we took advantage of our perfect location to go see these bands as often as we could afford.
Soon Chris again took the initiative and suggested we form another band. I began to write songs based on riffs and fragments, which I would cobble together, my guitar plugged into an old Webcor reel-to- reel tape recorder that had a mic input.
I filled notebooks with lyrics. Talking Heads, the name we settled on, started off as a live band. Some great stuff was created this way, and there were lots of pretty phony manufactured stars as well, but it seemed to be a bit of crapshoot whether any of these acts could actually get an audience to listen. Courtesy of David Byrne These poor souls thrust in the limelight had to compete with the Beatles, Dylan, Marvin Gaye, and Stevie Wonder, who all seemed completely comfortable performing and had taken charge of their own creative destinies or at least it seemed that way at the time.
In a sense, these extremely talented artists made it harder on those whose middling talents needed a little help—whether that meant some coaching on how to sing as if you mean it, how to engage an audience in your performance, or on how to dress and move. This prejudice now seems unfair. The highly coached acts—or, to be kind, the more collaboratively put-together acts— were not all bad. Some should never get near a stage, as their talents end with the laptop or with rhymes, but others eventually find their way.
Expecting them to be good at both things sometimes seems unfair. After all, those bodies are already being used by their original owners. Not quite like looking at an accident, as one writer said, but not that far off either. We played somewhere almost every week but held on to our day jobs. Looking at early video footage of our three-piece combo at CBGB, I now sense that it was less a band than an outline for a band.
It was a sketch, just the bare-bones musical elements needed to lay out a song. Nothing more. There was no real pleasure or pleasantness to these arrangements. It was like looking at a framework, an architectural drawing, and being asked to imagine where the walls and sink might go. This was all intentional. So the only sensible course was to avoid all of it, to strip everything back and see what was left.
Some others in that scene had similar ideas. The lyrics too were stripped bare. Who knows? More honest? I eventually realized that the simple act of getting on stage is in itself artificial, but the dogma provided a place to start. Clothing is part of performance too, but how were we supposed to start from scratch sartorially? Of course, back then the fact that we were sometimes wearing polo shirts both set us apart and branded us as preppies.
They could afford to pay for flattering clothes, but they opted for house dresses and schlubby suits. After leaving funky Baltimore a city with an eccentric character that had also come to be defined by race riots and white flight for art school in little Providence, Rhode Island, I met folks with histories way different from mine, and I found it strange and wonderful. Trying to figure all that out was at least as informative as what I was learning in my classes.
Some of these folks had uniforms of a sort—not military- or UPS-style uniforms, but they adhered fairly rigorously to clothing regimens that were way different than anything I was familiar with. The WASP style was often portrayed on TV and in movies as a sort of archetypical American look, and some of my new friends seemed to subscribe to it.
At one point I decided my look would be, like our musical dogma, stripped down, in the sense that I would attempt to have no look at all. In my forays outside of bohemia and away from the winos and addicts that littered the Bowery at that time, I realized that most New York men wore suits, and that this was a kind of uniform that intentionally eliminated or was at least intended to eliminate the possibility of clothing as a statement.
The intention, I guess, was democratic and meritorious, though subtle class signals were there. So in an attempt to look like Mr. Man on the Street I got a cheap polyester suitC—gray with subtle checks, from one of those downtown discount outlets—and I wore that on stage a few times. I looked like a flasher! I was aware that our sartorial choice was not without liabilities. I soon realized that when it comes to clothing it is next to impossible to find something completely neutral.
Every outfit carries cultural baggage of some kind. It took me a while to get a handle on this aspect of performance. After a couple of years we felt ready to flesh out our sound, to add a little color to our black-and- white drawing. A mutual friend tipped us that a musician named Jerry Harrison was available. He had some trepidation, having been burned by his experience with that band their lead singer, Jonathan Richman, dumped the band and went acoustic folkie just as they were closing in on the brass ring , so at first Jerry played with us on just a few songs during some out-of-town shows.
Eventually he took the plunge. As a four-piece, we suddenly sounded like a real band. The music was still spartan, sparse and squeaky clean, but now there was a roundness to the sound that was more physically and sonically moving—even slightly sensuous at times, God forbid. There were other changes. T-shirts and skinny black jeans soon became the uniform of choice, at least for Jerry and me.
But when we played in Paris after our first record came out we went shopping for le jeans, and, finding them easily, we stocked up. The French obviously appreciated what they viewed as the proto American Rebel look more than Americans did. It was a sexier Everyman than the polyester-suit guy, and jeans and T-shirts are easy to wash and care for on the road.
These were skinny straight-leg black jeans, referencing an earlier generation much, much earlier of rebels and festering youth. These outfits and their silhouettes evoked greasers and rockabilly performers like Eddie Cochran, but also the Beatles and the Stones—before they had a wardrobe budget. E Maybe the skinny, dark, stick-figure look alluded to other eras as well, like the tortured emaciated self-portraits of Egon Schiele and stylized bohemian extremists such as Antonin Artaud.
The conceptual artist Joseph Kosuth only wore black in those days, as did a girlfriend I briefly dated. It was a uniform that signified that one was a kind of downtown aesthete; not necessarily nihilistic, but a monk in the bohemian order. Photo by Barbara A. What was that supposed to reference? Was there a noir movie I missed where the guys dressed like this? Jerry played keyboards and guitar, and he sang too, so we learned that with this arsenal we could vary the textures on each song more than we had before.
Sometimes Jerry would play electric piano and sometimes a guitar part, often something contrapuntal to mine. Sometimes one of us would play slide guitar while the other played chords. By the time we recorded our first record, in , he had just barely learned our repertoire, but already some flesh was appearing on our bones.
We finally sounded like a band more than like a sketch of a band, and we were amazingly tight. When we toured Europe and the UK, the press commented on our Stax Volt influences—and they were right. But it was all there, right from the beginning, though the proportions were completely different. That gave us a firm foundation for all the angular shit that I was throwing around. What does being tight mean?
Sometimes a band that has played together a lot will evolve to where they play some parts ahead of the beat and some slightly behind, and singers do the same thing. It turns out that not being perfectly aligned with a grid is okay; in fact, sometimes it feels better than a perfectly metric fixed-up version. The musician and neuroscientist Daniel Levitin once demonstrated an experiment he had devised at his research lab in Montreal.
He had a classical pianist play a Chopin piece on a Diskclavier, a sort of electronic player piano. Levitin then dialed back the expressiveness incrementally until every note hit exactly on a beat. No surprise, this came across as drained of emotion, though it was technically more accurate. Alternatively, the expressiveness could be ramped up, and playing became more florid and even less on the grid. This too was unemotional; it veered toward chaos.
Musicians sort of knew this already—that the emotional center is not the technical center, that funky grooves are not square, and what sounds like a simple beat can either be sensuous or simply a metronomic timekeeper, depending on the player. Throughout the three-piece and four-piece periods, Talking Heads songs, and even the shows, were still mostly about self-examination, angst, and bafflement at the world we found ourselves in.
Psychological stuff. The groove was always there, as a kind of physical body-oriented antidote to this nervous angsty flailing, but the groove never took over. It served as a sonic and psychological safety net, a link to the body. It said that no matter how alienated the subject or the singer might appear, the groove and its connection to the body would provide solace and grounding. But the edgy, uncomfortable stuff was still the foreground. While we were on tour, we saw our contemporaries performing.
We saw the Clash in a school auditorium in England. It was hard to make out what was going on musically, but it was obvious that the music that was emerging then was viewed as more of a coherent movement there, with the anthemic rabble-rousing aspect bringing that point home. Any rabble-rousing in our own music was buried pretty deep. I still thought the most subversive thing was to look totally normal. To look like a rebel was to pigeonhole yourself in advance as someone who spoke only to other rebels.
I never completely achieved that normal look, but it was a guiding principal. So, although some of us might have alluded to the James Deans of the world with our attire, we drew the line at leather jackets and safety pins. While in London I visited the Virgin Records office, which was then just off Portobello Road, and they let me watch a bunch of Sex Pistols appearances on video.
I thought the band was hilarious—not a joke, but definitely a species of comedy. By the time our second record came out in , we were playing larger venues: small theaters rather than the familiar grotty clubs. We usually headlined, with one act playing before us. We traveled by van. Some other bands took the traditional career path of opening for more established acts, which allowed the emerging bands to play at bigger venues, but that sounded depressing and debilitating to me.
Remember Dr. For the occasion I decided to be festive, so I dressed up in primary colors: jeans and T-shirt, naturally, bright red and yellow. We were coughing for days afterward. When our third album came out the next year, we were still a four-piece band, but now there were more overdubs and wiggly treatments from our new friend Brian Eno, who had produced our previous record. We were still touring constantly, and we bought some of the latest gear for our live performances.
There were guitar-effects pedals and echo units, and Jerry got a Yamaha portable mini-grand piano, an organ, and a Prophet-5 synthesizer. We were still a live performing band and not simply a group that faithfully reproduced recordings. We knew that the groove was fun and essential for us, and it visibly moved our audiences. With the added instruments and effects, we could really begin to vary the textures from one song to the next.
We made sure no song sounded exactly like another one, at least not to us. I twitched a bit, mainly from the waist down. I also sensed that we were pushing up against the edge as far as representing what we were doing in the studio; the textures, layers, effects, and palimpsest of sounds and rhythms—all of that we were just barely able to reproduce live with four people.
It sounded great, and some of my more off-putting to some vocal mannerisms were even softening, or so it seemed to me. As the tour went on, night after night of performing, I was on the verge of actually singing. After the band recorded our next record, Remain in Light, we were faced with a dilemma: this was not a record that a four-piece band would remotely be able to reproduce live.
The combination of groove and a structure in which no one part dominated or carried the melody by itself generated a very different sensation, and that also needed to be reproduced and evoked on stage.
Getting that rhythmic texture right was as important to this material as any other element in the songs—possibly more so. During the recording sessions, only Adrian Belew and a couple of percussionists were added to the core band. The magic of multitracking meant we could add parts ourselves; Jerry could play a guitar part and then add a keyboard track later.
We built up twenty-four tracks of knotty interwoven parts, and by switching groups of them on and off, we could create sections that might work in place of conventional verses and choruses. It was created using the same technique we would soon use on Remain in Light, though in this case neither of us sang or wrote the lyrics, which all came from found sources.
However, that experience gave us the confidence to argue that a pop record could indeed be made in that way. But live performance was another story. Initial rehearsals were chaotic. I remember Jerry being especially adept at determining who would play what. Of course, what came out in the end did not sound exactly like it did on the record. It became more extended, funkier, its joy in the groove more apparent.
Our first show with this enlarged band was at the Heatwave Festival outside Toronto. We were terrified. We were going to perform almost all new, unheard material with a completely new sound, though I think to be safe we started the set with some popular favorites played by the old four-piece band.
The festival crowd was with us. Audiences love it when a performer walks the tightrope in front of them; like sports fans, they feel like their support is what keeps the team winning. It had the desired effect.
We were nervous, but ecstatic too, and the audience sensed that. In the end we might have been a little sloppy, but it worked. Backstage afterward we all jumped for joy. It was a totally new kind of performing for me. It was about surrender, ecstasy, and transcendence, and the live performance tended to really bring those qualities to the forefront. I think audiences sometimes felt this too. With a smaller group there is tight musical and personal interaction, and the audience can still distinguish among the various personalities and individuals on stage.
Everyone was both musically and visually part of the whole. The band became a more abstract entity, a community. And while individual band members might shine and take virtuosic turns, their identities became submerged within the group.
It might seem paradoxical, but the more integral everyone was, the more everyone gave up some individuality and surrendered to the music. It was a living, breathing model of a more ideal society, an ephemeral utopia that everyone, even the audience, felt was being manifested in front of them, if only for a brief period. As I experienced it, this was not just a musical transformation, but also a psychic one.
The nature of the music helped, but partly it was the very size of the band that allowed me, even as lead singer, to lose myself and experience a kind of ecstatic release. You can sometimes feel transported with a smaller group, but with a large band it is often the norm. It was joyous and at times powerfully spiritual, without being corny or religious in any kind of traditional or dogmatic way. You can imagine how seductive this could be. Its kinship with other more prescribed forms was obvious— the Gospel church, ecstatic trance in many parts of the world, and of course other kinds of pop music that derived from similar sources.
Interesting also that we were bringing together classic funk musicians like Bernie and white art- rock kids like ourselves. We used our own arty taste to introduce weirdly mutated aspects of black American music to rock audiences—a curious combo. There was little mixing of the two in clubs or on stage. Radio in the United States had more or less the same reaction.
They said it was too funky; not really rock. There are indeed media outlets whose audiences are interested in music regardless of the race of the composer, but by and large the world of music in the United States is only slightly less segregated than other institutions. A lot of businesses might not be overtly racist, but by playing to their perceived demographic—which is a natural business decision—they reinforce existing divisions.
Needless to say, white folks like to dance too. Maybe our shows, with some of us grooving on stage, made actual dancing as opposed to thrashing about sort of okay. I got the sense that what was new was not just having black and white folks together on stage—there was nothing new about that—but the way in which we did it.
Our shows presented everyone as being part of the band. Everyone played together; that was what was new. My own contorting on stage was spontaneous. I obviously had to be at the mic when I was singing, but otherwise the groove took me and I let it do what it wanted. I had no interest in or ability to learn smooth dance moves, though we all watched Soul Train.
Besides, a white nerdy guy trying to be smooth and black is a terrible thing to behold. I let my body discover, little by little, its own grammar of movement—often jerky, spastic, and strangely formal. The tour eventually took us to Japan, where I went to see their traditional theater forms: Kabuki, Noh, and Bunraku. These were, compared to Western theater, highly stylized; presentational is the word that is sometimes used, as opposed to the pseudo-naturalistic theater we in the West are more used to.
F Everyone wore massive, elaborate costumes and moved in ways that were unlike the ways people move in real life. They may have been playing the parts of noblemen, geishas, or samurai, but their faces were painted and they spoke in voices that were far from natural.
In Bunraku, the puppet theater, often a whole group of assistants would be on stage operating the almost-life-size puppet. G The text, the voices, would come from a group of guys seated off to the side. You had to reassemble the character in your head. Was any of this applicable to a pop-music performance?
A business suit again! But I applied it to clothing as well. H On a break from the tour, I went south to Bali, a place the choreographer Toni Basil, whom Eno and I had met during the Bush of Ghosts sessions, had recommended as being transporting and all about performance.
I rented a small motorcycle and headed up into the hills, away from the beach resorts. I soon discovered that if one saw offerings of flowers and fruit being brought to a village temple compound in the afternoon, one could be pretty certain that some sort of ritual performance would follow there at night.
A gamelan is a small orchestra made up mainly of tuned metallic gongs and xylophone-like instruments—the interplay between the parts is beautiful and intricate. In these latter events some participants would often fall into a trance, but even in trance there were prescribed procedures. I was struck by other seemingly peripheral aspects of these performances. People would wander in and out, go get a snack from a cart or leave to smoke a bidi cigarette, and then return to watch some more.
This was more like the behavior of audiences in music clubs than in Western theaters, where they were expected to sit quietly and only leave or converse once the show was over. There was no attempt to formally separate the ritual and the show from the audience.
Everything seemed to flow into everything else. The food, the music, and the dance were all just another part of daily activity. I remembered a story about John Cage, who, when in Japan, asked someone what their religion was. It was part of life in much of the world, and not necessarily phony either. I decided that maybe it was okay to wear costumes and put on a show. The services in a gospel church are funky and energetic, but they are prescribed and happen in almost identical sequences over and over.
In the world of the ecstatic church, religion bleeds into performance, and there are obvious musical parallels with what we were doing. Toni had worked with untrained dancers before, so she knew how to get me to make my improvised moves, edit them, select the best ones, refine them further, and begin to order them into a sequence. It took weeks to get the moves tight. It was all going to be filmed in one master shot, so I had to be able to perform the whole thing from top to bottom without stopping on multiple takes.
It was a song-and- dance routine, as she described it, though nothing like what one normally thinks of when one hears that phrase. We added little film snippets during the editing that revealed the source material for some of the moves: a few seconds of a kid dancing in Yoyogi Park in Tokyo dancing there is now forbidden! In thinking of what kind of performance and tour would follow, I decided to apply my insights from Japan, Bali, and the gospel church.
This show would be mapped out from beginning to end. In retrospect, the earlier tour with a big band had been a work in progress. My movements during rehearsals gradually became more formal as I realized which improvisations worked in which sections of which songs. I storyboarded the whole thing, sometimes not knowing which song would go with which staging idea.
The songs got assigned to the staging and lighting ideas later, as did details of the movements. I had realized that people on stage can either stick out if they wear white or sparkly outfits or disappear if they wear dark colors. With music shows, there is inevitably so much gear on stage—guitars, drums, keyboards, amps— that sometimes the gear ends up being lit as much as the performers.
We hid the guitar amps under the riders that the backing band played on, so those were invisible too. Wearing gray suits seemed to be the best of both worlds, and by planning it in advance, we knew there would at least be consistent lighting from night to night. We avoided that problem. But I felt it was time to break away from that a little bit. I still confined the lighting to white, though now white in all its possibilities, permutations, and combinations. There were no colored gels as such, but we did use fluorescent bulbs, movie lights, shadows, handheld lights, work lights, household lamps, and floor lights—each of which had a particular quality of its own, but were still what we might consider white.
I showed her the storyboards and explained the concept, and she knew exactly how to achieve the desired effects, which lighting instruments to use, and how to rig them. I had become excited by the downtown New York theater scene. Robert Wilson, Mabou Mines, and the Wooster Group in particular were all experimenting with new ways of putting things on stage and presenting them, experiments that to my eyes were close to the Asian theater forms and rituals that had recently inspired me.
I invited JoAnne Akalaitis, one of the directors involved with Mabou Mines, to look at our early rehearsals and give me some notes. There was no staging or lighting yet, but I was curious whether a more theatrical eye might see something I was missing, or suggest a better way to do something. Robert Wilson performance by Stephanie Berger To further complicate matters, I decided to make the show completely transparent.
I would show how everything was done and how it had been put together. The audience would see each piece of stage gear being put into place and then see, as soon as possible afterward, what that instrument or type of lighting did. Following this concept to its natural conclusion meant starting with a bare stage. A single work light would be hanging from the fly space, as it typically does during rehearsals or when a crew is moving stuff in and out.
This was done by having their gear on rolling platforms that were hidden in the wings. The platforms would be pushed out by stagehands, and then the musician would jump into position and remain part of the group until the end of the show. Stage and lighting elements would also be carried out by the stagehands: footlights, lights on stands like they use in movies, slide projectors on scaffolding. Well, that was the idea. There is another way in which pop-music shows resemble both Western and Eastern classical theater: the audience knows the story already.
Well, same with pop concerts. They want to see something familiar from a new angle. As a performing artist, this can be frustrating. This situation seems unfair. You would never go to a movie longing to spend half the evening watching familiar scenes featuring the actors replayed, with only a few new ones interspersed.
But sometimes that is indeed exactly what people want. In art museums a mixture of the known, familiar, and new is expected, as it is in classical concerts. The next day we met for lunch after the show. Courtesy of Hiro William was forthright, blunt maybe; he had no fear that his outsider perspective might not be relevant. Surprisingly, to me anyway, his observations were like the adages one might have heard from a Vaudevillian, a burlesque dancer, or a stand-up comedian: certain stage rules appear to be universal.
Being caught by surprise is, it seems, not good. One can see the application of this rule in film and almost everywhere else. Stand-up comedians probably have lots of similar rules about getting an audience ready for the punch line. The directors and editors of horror movies have taught us many such rules, like the sacrificial victim and the ominous music which sometimes leads to nothing the first time, increasing the shock when something actually happens later.
And then while we sit there in the theater anticipating what will happen, the director can play with those expectations, acknowledging that he or she knows that we know. There are two conversations going on at the same time: the story and a conversation about how the story is being told.
The same thing can happen on stage. The dancing that had emerged organically in the previous tour began to get increasingly codified. It still emerged out of movement that was improvised in rehearsals, but now I was more confident that if a singer, player, or performer did something spontaneously that worked perfectly for us, it could be repeated without any risk of losing its power and soul. I had confidence that this bottom- up approach to making a show would work.
Every performer does this. If something new works one night, well, leave it in. Not everyone liked this new approach. But where does the music fit into all this? Paired with another lighting effect the song might have seemed equally suited, but maybe more ominous or even threatening though that might have worked, too. We sometimes think we discern cause and effect simply because things are taking place at the same moment in time, and this extends beyond the stage.
We read into things, find emotional links between what we see and hear, and to me, these connections are no less true and honest for not being conceived and developed ahead of time. Although the idea was simple, the fact that every piece of gear had to come on stage for tech check in the afternoon and then be removed again before the show was a lot of work for the crew.
But the show was a success; the transparency and conceptual nature of its structure took away nothing from the emotional impact. It was tremendously gratifying. It was hard to top that experience. In I made a record, Rei Momo, with a lot of Latin musicians. The joy of following the record with a tour accompanied by a large Latin band, playing salsa, samba, merengue, cumbias, and other grooves, was too much to resist.
We used the same material for the stage set of my film True Stories. The band wore all white this time, and the fact that there were so many of them meant that their outfits would allow them to pop out from the background. M I had referenced religious trance and ritual in earlier performances and recordings, and I never lost interest in that facet of music.
Photo by Clayton Call As with gospel music, religion seems to be at the root of much Brazilian pop music and creativity, and as with the Asian ritual and theatrical forms, costumes and trance and dance are completely formalized but incredibly moving. There are evening ceremonies, to be sure, but their influence is deeply felt in everyday life, and that affected my thinking as I prepared for the next round of performances.
I may well be idealizing some of what I saw and witnessed, taking aspects of what I perceived and adapting them to solve and deal with my own issues and creative bottlenecks. Somehow I have a feeling that might be okay. Rather than having a discreet opening act, I brought Margareth Menezes on board: a Brazilian singer from—surprise! She stole the show on some nights. Live and learn. I bucked the tide on that tour. We did mostly new material rather than interspersing it with a lot of popular favorites, and I think I paid the price.
At one point we got booked at a European outdoor music festival, and my Latin band was sandwiched between Pearl Jam and Soundgarden. I followed this with a tour that mixed a band made up of funk musicians like George Porter Jr. I intended to make explicit the link between Latin grooves and New Orleans funk, or so I hoped. I had begun to do some short acoustic sets with a drum machine.
After that I decided to strip things down again. I recorded and toured with a four-piece band that emphasized grooves. There was a drummer, Todd Turkisher, a bass player, Paul Socolow, and a percussionist, Mauro Refosco—but no keyboard or second guitar such as one would see or hear in a typical rock band. I had written more personal songs, which were better suited to a smaller ensemble. There was little dancing, and I seem to recall I wore black again.
We played small, out-of-the-way clubs and some not so out-of-the-way to break in the material. The idea was to hone the band into a tight live unit and then essentially record live in the studio. It worked, but only sort of. I could hear discrepancies and musical problems in the studio that I had missed in the heat and passion of live performance, so some further tweaking was still required.
Beauty was a revelation, and these songs were unashamed to be beautiful, which was a difficult thing to accept in the world of downtown musicians and artists. Anything that sounds or looks beautiful would seem to that crowd to be merely pretty, shallow, and therefore deeply suspect—morally suspect even, I found out.
Noise, for them, is deep; beauty shallow. Sure, bossa novas had become a staple of every bad piano bar, but the songs themselves are innovative and radical in their way. I let the orchestrations strings and occasional winds do the harmonic work that guitars and keyboards often do, and once again there were drums and plenty of percussion, so the grooves were strong and thus avoided the tendencies one might associate with a nice melody and traditional balladry.
Since both guitars and keyboards are close to the same range as the human voice, limiting their use meant the singing had a clearing in which to live, and I was increasingly enjoying singing in there. In the early days, I might have gotten on stage and begun to sing as a desperate attempt to communicate, but I now found that singing was both a physical and emotional joy.
Music can do that; you can enjoy singing about something sad. Audiences, likewise, can dance to a tragic story. It happens all the time. My body, and the physical and emotional enjoyment I was getting from singing, was in effect telling me what to write. I gathered a group that helped me express this: a rhythm section and a six-piece string section.
We toured, and it worked. To some extent, I let the tour finances dictate what that performance would be. I wanted us to wear outfits that would unify us on stage, have us appear like a slightly less ragtag bunch, but the budget was limited.
First I had jumpsuits made for everyone, modeled on one that I had purchased in a store. A fashion mutiny understandably began building steam. We switched to Dickies—workwear with matching tops and bottoms, brown or blue or gray. Those looked somewhat like the originally envisioned jumpsuits, but now there was an everyday workwear angle.
I often looked like a UPS man, but I thought that in its own way it was quite elegant. N The audiences sat and listened quietly at times, but they were usually up and dancing by the end. Best of both worlds. Often—and this never failed to surprise us—audiences at these shows would stop the show in the middle and engage in a lengthy round of applause. Standing ovations, many times. They realized that they were happy, that they were really, really enjoying what they were seeing and hearing, and they wanted to let us know.
Some of them might also have been a little bit nostalgic, applauding our joint legacies as performers and audience. There was a healthy percentage of younger folks as well, which was great to see. Maybe keeping the ticket prices affordable helped. Once again, I had to think about what sort of a show this could be given the financial means available to me.
I saw a Super Furry Animals show during which the video was totally in synch with the songs throughout the whole night. Very impressive. They hired teams of creative types to make the videos. It costs a fortune, and their results were probably better or at least as good as anything I could pull together. O It was charming and effective, moving even, something obviously low-tech that almost anyone could do.
Why not? I worked with my manager on a budget. I had learned over the years that we could predict, based on the size of proposed performance venues, how much we might make on a tour, so we could predict if singers, dancers, choreographers, and the cost of carting all of them around along with the band was feasible.
In this case, it was. The dance vocabulary of those shows is emphatic, energetic, and exciting, but everyone has seen that stuff before, so why bother? Likewise, I suggested that each choreographer initially pick just two songs to work on. They ended up doing quite a bit more than just six songs. I provided a proposed set list, and left the choice of what to work on to them.
I see dance as something anyone can do, though I knew that inevitably the dancers would have some special skills, as we all do. I wanted them to blend in with the rest of us. In that piece they wore matching primary-colored off-the-rack outfits and did mostly pedestrian moves in unison. Sometimes they rolled down a gully and sometimes they clambered on rocks.
It was often funny and beautiful. Mark De Gli Antoni joined on keyboards. The singers were easy: folks I had crossed paths with or worked with before. To find appropriate dancers, the choreographers sent out word to dancers and performers they knew personally. Even so, at the beginning of the dance audition there were fifty dancers in the room.
We had two days to whittle them down to three. Cruel, but, well, fun too. It consisted of four simple rules: Improvise moving to the music and come up with an eight-count phrase. In dance, a phrase is a short series of moves that can be repeated.
When you find a phrase you like, loop repeat it. When you see someone else with a stronger phrase, copy it. When everyone is doing the same phrase the exercise is over. It was like watching evolution on fast-forward, or an emergent lifeform coming into being. At first the room was chaos, writhing bodies everywhere. Then one could see that folks had chosen their phrases, and almost immediately one could see a pocket of dancers who had all adopted the same phrase.
The copying had begun already, albeit just in one area. This pocket of copying began to expand, to go viral, while yet another one now emerged on the other side of the room. One clump grew faster than the other, and within four minutes the whole room was filled with dancers moving in perfect unison.
After this vigorous athletic experiment, the dancers rested while we compared notes. I noticed a weird and quite loud wind like sound, rushing and pulsing. I realized it was the sound of fifty people catching their breath, breathing in and out, in an enclosed room. It then gradually faded away. For me that was part of the piece, too.
Having learned from the Rei Momo tour, I decided to go back to the white outfits. But as with the big Latin tour, I sensed that there was a spiritual aspect to the new songs we were playing, as well as many of the older ones, so white also hinted at associations with gospel, temples, and mosques. P We rehearsed for a month. For the first three weeks the band and singers learned the music in one room, while the dancers and choreographers worked in another room two floors below.
In the fourth week we brought the dancers and musicians together. We then did what is called an out-of-town run: a series of shows in smaller towns to get the bugs out, where no one in the press would see what we were up to. Our first show was in Easton, Pennsylvania, in a lovely old restored theater in a little once-industrial town.
There were some rough patches, but the big surprise was that the audience—hardly a contemporary-dance crowd—loved it. It was going to be okay. And it got better. I realized that the dancers, and the singers who sometimes joined them, raised the energy level of the whole show.
I joined them when I could, and to do so felt ecstatic, but my interaction was limited by my singing and guitar-playing duties. Even so, they all became part of the whole, not a separate part tacked on. Over the course of the tour we took this idea further: some of the dancers would sing, some would play guitar, and eventually we added bits that blurred the boundaries between dancers, singers, and musicians.
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