Listed: Dave Eggers + Ben Katchor
Writer Dave Eggers is best known for his quasi-autobiographical debut, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. But perhaps more noteworthy is the laundry list of culturally beneficial and generally open-minded endeavors which Eggers has undertaken since achieving his literary superstardom. Among these include the founding of the McSweeneys literary journal and website (www.mcsweeneys.net), which has provided a high-profile and artist friendly forum for authors unknown and famous. He has gone on tour with Brooklyn bright eyes They Might Be Giants, combining his own prose with their equally esoteric and compelling music. He helped to found The Believer (www.believermag.com), an ad-free magazine emphasizing the aesthetic and the obscure which has featured articles such as an interview between Salmon Rushdie and Terry Gilliam, and poetry by Silver Jew David Berman. Eggers recenlty published his second book, You Shall Know Our Velocity, a character investigation of a travel novel which follows the journey of a young man and his friend as they traipse the globe in an attempt to give away a hefty chunk of money. However, most admirable is Eggers's founding of 826 Valencia (www.826valencia.org), an organization that helps underpriviliged students learn English and creative writing skills that are not easily available in public schools. The tremendous number of people who have offered their services (as well as those who have received these services) have helped to make Eggers as valuable as public servant as he is as a writer. He is currently working on a novella, an excerpt from which entitled Something Might Plummet, Something Might Fall was recently published online.
Dave Eggers's Top Ten of the Moment:
1. Beulah (Velocette) - We just were sent their new album. Not sure when it comes out. But I love these guys. They usually have horns in their songs, but I can't hear any on the new album. But it's so good anyway; everything they do is great. I guess you'd put it in the smart West Coast pop-rock/noise-pop category. More bands should use horns. Remember the June Brides? That was great music, lots of horns and messy guitar together.
2. Beth Orton - "Ooh Child" - This is off a new rarities thing she's got coming out soon. Her best singing, I think.
3. Youssou N'Dour - Nothing's in Vain (Nonesuch) - If you've never heard him -- and I don't know his music all that well -- this is a very accessible and perfect album.
4. Kathleen Edwards - "Another Song the Radio Won't Like" (ZoŽ) - I don't know much about her. Heard the song on the radio and bought the album, and I listen to this song over and over.
5. Jayhawks - Rainy Day Music (American/Lost Highway) -This seems to be everyone's favorite Jayhawks album. I think I agree.
6. The Velveteen - This is a San Francisco band. They're so good. Very eighties, in a way, reminding you of the Echo/Bunnymen-Icicle Works/English Beat era, even though they don't quite sound much at all like any of those people.
6. Here Are the Facts You Requested - This is another SF band. I know they've put out a few albums, but their new one is the best. I met them in the desert many years ago, and did some cartoons for their first album. Haven't had any contact with them forever, but they sent me this, which I listen to all the time.
7. Stacey Twigg - This is another SF band, with some great songs. There's a song called "He Said" that I play over and over.
8. Elmore James - The Very Best of Elmore James (Flair) - I used to try to like traditional blues more than I actually did, but Elmore James is easy to like. Very raw and varied.
9. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Fever To Tell (Interscope) - I listen to the 9th and 10th songs again and again. That's probably the best 1-2 punch I've ever heard, next to maybe Nos 3 & 4 off Blonde on Blonde.
10. Warren Zanes - Memory Girls (Dualtones) - This is just a great album by one of the guys from the Del Fuegos. Great songs. But I heard this guy has some crazy criminal record -- a rap sheet a mile long. No way would you catch me at a show; seems too dangerous.
Ben Katchor's erudite comic strips meet at an intersection between absurd, obsessive urban detail and the complex Semitic view of self-as-interloper. In addition to these strips, Katchor has been collaborating with composer Mark Mulcahy on The Slug Bearers of Kayrol Island or The Friends of Dr. Rushower, on the third in a string of attempts to adapt his work to musical theater. His most recent publication, Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer: The Beauty Supply District will be available in Paperback from Pantheon Books in August.
Here's a list of what's on the floor next to my drawing table. My listening in the past two years has been largely educational - trying to hear whatís been done in English-language opera and music-theater. Iím working on my second full-length show with Mark Mulcahy, whoís from the pop music world. The technical sophistication of some of the operas on this list is undercut by a false sense of drama. Itís a business suited to the actor-composer -- a rare breed.
1. Igor Stravinsky - The Rakeís Progress Robert Craft, conductor (Music Masters Classics) - His great English-language opera. Wonderful libretto by W.H. Auden.
2. The Apollo Acappella Audition Album (Relic Record Productions) - Dozens of records in this series are in my local record store. True New York City art songs.
3. Dmitry Shostakovich - Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk Mstislav Rostropovich, conducts (EMI Classics)
4. Benjamin Britten - Albert Herring David Gilbert, conducts (Vox Classics) - Another entertaining English-language opera.
5. Theo Bleckmann - Origami (Songlines) - Wonderful compositions by a master of extended vocal technique. He lives in NYC.
6. Heiner Goebbels - Eislermaterial (ECM New Series) - A performance piece using compositions and interviews with Hans Eisler, a Brecht collaborator.
7. Songs by Foster, Ives, Hawthorne, Hanby & Others - The Great Sentimental Age (Vox Box) Greg Smith Singers. The American sound in sublime performances.
8. Gyorgy Ligeti - Le Grand Macabre (Sony classical)
9. Dmitry Shostakovich - The Gamblers Andrey Chistiakov, conducts (Harmonia Mundi) - Unfinished opera based on a play by Gogol.
10. Francis Poulenc - Les Mamelles de Tiresias (Philips) - Profound light music based on a play by Apollinaire.
11. Rodion Shchedrin - Dead Souls (Bolshoi)
12. Charles Ives - The Complete Songs of Charles Ives, Vol. 1 & 4 (Albany Records) - An important recording project.
13. Gian Carlo Menotti - The Telephone (Nuova Era) - Somewhere I have the score has a great drawing by Saul Steinberg.
14. Moritz Eggert - Piano compositions (Wergo) - I collaborated with him on a short music-theater piece, There was a Building.
15. J. Offenbach - Les Bridgands (Bourg Records) - A favorite operetta composer.
16. Nino Rota - Il Giornalino di Gian Burrasca (RCA) - The music for an Italian TV production based on the classic Italian childrenís book. Perfect Nino Rota.
17. Francis Poulenc - La Voix Humaine Jean-Claude Dasadesus, conducts (Harmonia Mundi)
18. Harry Partch - Revelation in the Courthouse Park (Tomato)
19. Jackie Wilson - Final Curtain (Sound Hound Music)
20. Charles Aznavour - Chante (EMI) - I have many of his albums on LP. This is my only CD and thatís why Iím listening to it.
21. Mark Mulcahy - Smile Sunset (Mezzotint) - My collaborator on a new music theater show The Slug Bearers of Kayrol Island to premiere in NYC in March 2004 at the Kitchen.
By Dusted Magazine