Is it sad that the peak moments of my life were playing in a junior-high rock band and covering a song about atheism in front of my Catholic-school classmates?
Is it sad that the peak moments of my life were playing in a junior-high rock band and covering a song about atheism in front of my Catholic-school classmates?
But are not
all facts dreams
as soon as
Most of the books we sell are by living authors, but we do have a couple literary legends above the records and between the bottles of red and white wine lining our shelves (yes, we sell wine now!).
"'The Gorgeous Nothings' — the first full-color facsimile edition of Emily Dickinson’s manuscripts ever to appear — is a deluxe edition of her late writings, presenting this crucially important, experimental late work exactly as she wrote it on scraps of envelopes."
Released in 2013 by New Directions Press, the book consists of photographs of Dickinson's late poems with typed versions for accessible reading on the opposite pages.
I cannot recommend this work enough. It is arguably the most beautiful book we carry. The writing in it is luminous. The facsimiles of Dickinson's poems on weathered envelopes are wonderful.
From the Introduction by Jen Bervin:
Emily Dickinson, one of the greatest American poets, wrote approximately 1,800 distinct poems within 2,357 poem drafts and at least 1,150 letters and prose fragments—a total of 3,507 pieces before her death at the age of fifty-five. On the triangular flap of the envelope seal A 252, we find this fleeting message inscribed in lines winnowing down to a single word at the tip: "In this short Life | that only [merely] lasts an hour | How much — how | little — is | within our | power."
The poems comprising Babette by Sara Deniz Akant (Rescue Press), are haunted, paradoxical, and beyond time. Who is Babette exactly? According to an interview with the Heavy Feather Review, Akant said that Babette is a "necessary nucleus" of all that is evil about space and time, along with being a "sort of rep for the multiple self."
Encountering Babette can feel a little jarring at first. But like any new experience, patience yields rewards. In this case, Akant's work feels very ethereal and places she takes the reader at the edges of space and time are unlike anything I've read before.
Maggie Nelson writes, "Let me tell you some things about Babette. It doesn't sound like anything else... It is a deeply weird, expert emissary from a world already fully formed."
Let's look at a section from "gohst,"
the past two years she has been opening the door
and entering the room to make it beautiful.
she had been dusting a perfuming its curtains
so tidying and redecorating was always
changing, getting older, getting better, as they say.
The collection feels ancient. Some of the figures are specters and it relies on very old words with unfamiliar definitions. For our readers who are looking for interesting, unique poetry, I would definitely recommend Babette. I found it challenging at first, but after giving it time, Akant's goals became apparent and I was able to appreciate these unearthly poems.
The Meekling Review & IS A CULT by THE FUNS
Sometimes you have to push boundaries. If you stay in your haven, you can’t test your limits, which is why we’re breaking into new ground for this week’s Book & Record pairing by featuring a literary journal to pair with a brand new album. Not just any lit journal, but our favorite new strange collection, The Meekling Review. It just so happens to fit in the company of the brand new album from former Chicagoans, THE FUNS.
The Meekling Review is the newest project from the folks at Meekling Press, which they deem, “A journal of performative literary nonsense.” This issue, No. SZQ.645π, is the first and the last, the alpha and omega.
The Meekling Review filled with meaty ads and a prose poem about the performances of self, psycomagic-inspired tarot readings, symbolic logic magic, a catalog of opening paragraphs, a series of images and their artistic analysis, studies on rat habitats, and alternative taxonomies of a distinguished literary oeuvre.
"Is A Cult" is the title of the new THE FUNS record, out today on Maximum Pelt. It's also a fact, THE FUNS is a cult. Over the past decade, no band on the underground scene has generated such cult like devotion and worship as they have. THE FUNS make raw, challenging, and emotional music that plays off rapid tempo shifts, booming, tribal rhythms, shimmering guitars, and endless buzz and fuzz. On their latest effort, THE FUNS are subdued, they are calculated, and the results are mesmerizing.
THE FUNS are Phillip Jerome Lesicko and Jessee Rose Crane, who are partners both musically and spiritually. They both play guitar, drums, and sing, trading duties as they go. They reside at Rose Raft, a studio and artist haven in an old home they rehabbed, located 45 minutes outside of St. Louis, and yet a world away from everything.
THE FUNS IS A CULT is our 8/25 from Maximum Pelt.
Sharp lyrics. Catchy choruses. Fuzzed-out guitar. Mitski’s "Puberty 2" is my favorite record in the store at the moment.
“A Loving Feeling” and “Fireworks” are two of the catchiest songs I have heard in a while. “A Burning Hill” is a somber acoustic song that warrants repeat listens. The jangly-guitared “My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars” weirded me out the first time I heard it but it’s become one of my favorites on the record, if not the favorite.
After watching her performance on the Blue Stage at the Pitchfork Festival this summer, I was navel-gazing at the Curbside Splendor table at the festival when I looked up and noticed Mitski herself was standing in front of me, browsing our fiction and nonfiction books. I didn’t get the chance to thank her for her music but I was able to catch most of her Q+A.
One tidbit: I found out that she is a Christina Aguilera fan. Who knew?
Any good album has songs that get better with time. I would put the first two tracks “Happy” and “Dan the Dancer” in this category. “Happy” begins slow with an unceasing drum sample before the chorus comes on strong and memorable. “Dan the Dancer” begins strong and whispery.
This is the sort of album that’s worth owning. I highly recommend it.
Mammother by Zachary Schomburg & Dracula by Nurses
While reading Zachary Schomburg’s debut novel, Mammother and listening to album Dracula from Nurses on the Blue Line, a group of French-speaking nuns in gray habits sat around me just as I was reading about Pie Time’s neighboring town, Nun’s Hat. If this doesn’t make complete sense, that’s okay. It doesn’t need to be clear for something to be beautiful. The general feeling of this moment was both grounded and ethereal.
In Mammother, the people of Pie Time are suffering from God’s Finger, a mysterious plague that leaves its victims dead with a big hole through their chests, and in each hole is a random consumer product. Mano Medium is a sensitive, young cigarette-factory worker in love, and he does his part by quitting the factory to work double-time as Pie Time’s replacement barber and butcher, and by holding the things found in the holes of the newly dead. However, the more people die, the bigger Mano becomes.
With a large cast of unusual characters, each struggling with their own complex and tangled relationships to death, money, and love, Mammother is a fabulist's tale of how we hold on and how we let go in a rapidly growing world.
When creating Dracula, Nurses were completely immersed in the recording process, the three members of the band (Aaron Chapman, James Mitchell, John Bowers) deep in collaboration. They did not embrace typical roles - no guitarist, no keyboardist - instead collaborating as a trio of producers, adding one idea on top of another until the sounds became songs. This isolation, the early winter darkness, the misty, moody walks on rocky beaches all creep into Dracula.
The band avoided society and focused on making the record, and managing to shut out most outside influences. Except for Prince. The band embraces hooks and melodies - yes, they turn them upside down and inside out--but at their core, the band (and Dracula) are defined by pop songwriting.
Want strange, but tender? Want to be bemused, but aware? Want to have an experience that made Kirkus reviews say “What the hell did I just read?” You probably do, which is why you’ll want to check out these works.
Mammother is officially released on 09/23, but you can get it at Curbside Books & Records and through Featherproof.
Every once in a while, a book comes along that makes you want to give a customer a sweaty bear hug and whisper creepily in their ear,
"please read this... it hurts so good..."
When was the last time you read something that made you laugh?
Like really laugh. Like made noises out of your mouth and nose. Think about that for a second.
John McCarthy’s “Ghost County” is a book of poems with a focus on life and death in the Midwest. His poems are about desperate situations and places we know. Verbal fights in pick-up trucks, a high school homecoming, and an alcoholic preacher all populate this memorable book from Midwestern Gothic Press.
The author examines sights that are uncomfortable and does not look away. The poems named “Pickup Truck” deliver quatrain after quatrain of the ebbs and flows of a relationship. Late nights. Fights. Stress about work. Memories from the truck the pair spend so much time together in. As with any summary, one doesn’t get a true sense of the rhythm of the author’s words, which is as important as anything. So here is a taste:
In order to say the word love,
the tongue must pass between
your teeth, and I will say it
with so much force when I bite
my body right out of my body.
I will stand under hot water
until all my skin dries out
but I cannot help any of it.
I will tell everyone, except us,
what to do with their lives,
those final years cracking open
until time is a pair of lungs
To borrow some of the author’s language, “Ghost County” throbs with anger. What these poems reveal is the beauty of those things we might find commonplace now. McCarthy shines a spotlight on the familiar and glossed over. Check out this collection today.
The Dead Wrestler Elegies by W. Todd Kaneko and Beat the Champ by the Mountain Goats
Wrestling is more than just wrestling. For some it's an escape, an outlet, and for these artists, it's a way to cope.
The Dead Wrestler Elegies covers themes of loss, love, regret, redemption, and remorse. Kaneko's poems and illustrations blend Charles Bukowski's raw-boned verse and Randy "Macho Man" Savage's devastating elbow drop to mine the history of professional wrestling and examine complex relationships between fathers and sons.
Of his songs, John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats writes, "Beat the Champ is about professional wrestling, which was an avenue of escape for me when I was a kid. Wrestling was low-budget working class entertainment back then, strictly UHF material. It was cheap theater. You had to bring your imagination to the proceedings and you got paid back double. I wrote these songs to re-immerse myself in the blood and fire of the visions that spoke to me as a child, and to see what more there might be in them now that I'm grown."
Hey Book & Record Lovers,
Not in Chicago? Can’t make it down to the Loop? Don’t want to leave the house because you’re too busy reading? We’ve got some exciting news for you: You can now get selected items from our online store!
From now until the end of May, use the discount code “ONLINE20” for 20% off all orders from the online store. As always, the store is open Monday through Friday from 11 am to 7 pm, but now you can grab indie books and records all the time at the online store from Curbside Books & Records!
There's something in Arthur Russell's sentiment "You Can Make Me Feel Bad" with the follow-up "if you want to." He's allowing his subject the option to make him feel bad.
This isn't the happiest mix, I realize. "The Ocean" by The Dodos includes the line "I want you to be/where I want you to be," written after the death of guitarist, Christopher Reimer. In "Sisters," Chicago boys, Ne-Hi sing, "You know its okay/ if I’m leaving and you don’t stay." But, it all comes down to "You & Me," in the Penny & the Quarters single, Penny let's you know, "If I never see the setting sun again/ you won't hear me cry," leaving you in a wake of relief, in the end.
So, that being said, I'm not sorry for bumming you out.
Hey Chicago writers!
Need time to write?
Don't worry, we got you.
Come to the Curbside Writers Club May 15th for a lax environment conducive to helping you get some writing done. From 5-7 PM, we're reserving tables and playing soothing tunes in Revival Food Hall to help you sculpt your manuscript.
Because reading is a big part of writing, everything from Curbside Books & Records will be 20% off. Afterwards, grab a drink from the bar and talk with your fellow writers. The Revival Cafe Bar will be offering a beer & a shot combo for $6.
All writers and readers are welcome to attend!
Body Horror: Capitalism, Fear, Misogyny, Jokes by Anne Elizabeth Moore and Haxel Princess by Cherry Glazerr
Anne Elizabeth Moore’s Body Horror: Capitalism, Fear, Misogyny, Jokes released on Tuesday. Every day, heinous acts are perpetrated on women's bodies in this political economy—whether for entertainment, in the guise of medicine, or due to the conditions of labor that propel consumerism. In Body Horror: Capitalism, Fear, Misogyny, Jokes, award-winning journalist and Fulbright scholar Anne Elizabeth Moore explores the global toll of capitalism on women with thorough research and surprising humor. The essays range from probing journalistic investigations, such as Moore’s reporting on the labor conditions of the Cambodian garment industry, to the uncomfortably personal, as when Moore, who suffers from several autoimmune disorders, examines her experiences seeking care and community in the increasingly complicated (and problematic) American healthcare system. Featuring illustrations by Xander Marro, Body Horror is a fascinating and revealing portrait of the gore of contemporary American culture and politics.
Clementine Creevy, musician and Transparent actor, created Cherry Glazerr when she was 14. Back in 2014, much-loved Cali imprint Burger Records released Cherry Glazerr’s intoxicating debut Haxel Princess. The New York Times called ‘Grilled Cheese’ one of their Top Songs of 2014. Haxel Princess is back in print thanks to Secretly Canadian Records.
The sun's out in Chicago, which means it's time to grab a book and head to your favorite outdoor reading spot, because literature needs fresh air, too! We've got a playlist of tunes to accompany on your walk.
Since it's National Poetry Month, we're offering 20% off all Artifice and Curbside Splendor Poetry titles throughout April! Get titles such as Barry Giffard's New York, 1960 and Daniela Olszewska's Citizen J.
For those auditory readers, we've got fonograf editions albums in! Check out these unique readings from esteemed poets Eileen Myles and Rae Armantrout.
We aren't open for the official Record Store Day, but we are taking 10% off ALL records Friday April 21st! Get albums from Jagjaguwar, HoZac Records, Thrill Jockey Records, Maximum PELT, Numero Group, Drag City Records, and many more!
We're so excited about National Poetry Month, that we are offering 20% off all Curbside Splendor poetry titles, including Artifice Books for the entire month of April.
That means you can pick up Sara Woods's Wolf Doctors, and write your own poetry thanks to her writing prompts like:
Write a poem on paper made of someone else's hair. Become a nobel-man. Get real good at hopscotch.
A teen romance about a love triangle between Lake Superior and two of Jupiter's moons. Feel free to pick any two moons you like! My favorite are Callisto and and Ganymede.
So get in here and celebrate reading and writing poetry!
See You In the Morning by Mairead Case and Lemon Cotton Candy Sunset by Richard Edwards
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been busy lately. I haven’t had time to sit down and enjoy anything for a while, so I read lit mags on the ‘L’ and listen to music on my phone. When I’m in transit, I don’t always get the chance to process every crafted detail of media I’m ingesting. With these pieces, I had no choice but to put everything on hold and focus on the art.
When Richard Edwards makes an album, he always advises you to “listen to it loud.” When Lemon Cotton Candy Sunset arrived on Tuesday, I ran home to play it and it hasn’t been off my record player since. The Margot and the Nuclear So & So’s frontman’s first solo album is the result of the aftermath of his divorce and a stomach ailment that caused the cancellation of a sold-out Margot tour. Richards doesn’t deviate from his past work, but this album is solo; it’s truly his creation. His instrumentals are more orchestral than his previous work, but his lyrics are tight as ever, yet abstract. I sat down and binged on lines like:
Come to see me here in Chicago
I’ll pick you up from Logan Square station
Come to see me down in the ghetto
And I’ll break my brain all over you again.
- from “Lemon”
See You In the Morning by Mairead Case is a lucid dream in the real world. Case’s unnamed narrator doesn’t hold back in the way she sees the world. The story is simple; the ambiguous narrator describes the world around her as she navigates school, work, her friends, and her own sexuality. The prose manages to be free and ambient without coming off as twee or sentimental. As I sat down to read, I was in the narrator’s view of the world, and happily forced to accept it.
These are works that demand your attention. You have no choice but to sit down and take in the entirety of the artists’ work.
LEMON COTTON CANDY SUNSET is out 3/31 from Joyful Noise Records.
Poem Strip by Dino Buzzati and The Flying Club Cup by Beirut
For this week’s book & record pairing, we’re taking you around the Adriatic Sea.
When Beirut’s Zach Condon left his New Mexico home at seventeen to travel Europe, he came back with a new appreciation for Balkan folk music that help shaped Beirut’s signature sound. Condon’s second full length album, The Flying Club Cup, hones in tighter than his debut with a brass heavy sound.
Watch Beirut play through The Flying Club Cup in the feature length film by La Blogotheque sessions. As Condon proclaims “All I want is the best for our lives my dear / And you know my wishes are sincere,” you can tell that he means it.
Follow Orfi through the levels of the afterworld in search of his love, Eura in this pop-culture heavy graphic novel. Dino Buzzati was the Italian master of the avant garde. With Poem Strip, Buzzati rewrites the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, but in his contemporary setting, Milan in the1960s. Poem Strip reads both nostalgic and current thanks to Marina Harss’s 2009 translation from the Italian. It’s easy to get caught up in the story, but you’ll want to read again and again for Buzzati’s art.
Springtime Carnivore's Greta Morgan picked out a round of records she wanted to share with you. If you missed Springtime Carnivore's performance at Thalia Hall with Jenny Lewis, don't worry! You can catch them June 6 at The Empty Bottle with Lavern (Springtime Carnivore / Laverne). Grab tickets for the show and Greta's picks at our store.
Check out a selection of her picks from La Sera, Kevin Morby, and more!
Binary Star by Sarah Gerard and My Woman by Angel Olsen
Sarah Gerard’s debut novel, Binary Star, is for hopeless romantics. Her prose is brief. Events are factually recalled. The effect is a rapid and harsh, resulting in an honest evaluation of mental illness and the pitfalls of intimacy.
The story follows an unnamed astronomy student as she travels the United States with her long-distance boyfriend, John. The couple embarks on their trip from Chicago around the Pacific coast “to find something new.” The goal is uncertain to the characters, but it becomes apparent they are attempting “to escape their problems—her anorexia and his alcoholism” as Gerard describes.
Gerard does not hesitate to reveal the narrator’s feelings for her partner, saying:
Belief is brittle. My skin is dry and brittle and cracks. I am always bleeding, especially from the fingers. I do not believe John loves me. There.
I believe that John used to love me.
I do without my body: I am you, I am me, I am you, I am me: I always end with you.
Angel Olsen’s latest album, My Woman, speaks these same truths. Asheville resident by way of Chicago, Olsen more than proved her prowess as a songwriter with the release of her third full-length album. Pitchfork claimed, “it’s tough and tender at once, a bold rumination on how love and autonomy require one another.”
These artists don’t shy away from the burdens of love, but aren’t afraid to find the beauty in it either.