April 29, 2010
Gothic Romance Paperbacks
When I was a kid, my mom and aunt Phyllis constantly read Gothic Romance novels. They'd buy tons of these books, usually at the Hutchinson, Kansas thrift shops, used bookstores, and yard sales. Gothics were (and still are) a subgenre of romance fiction; they usually feature an equal measure of romance and suspense, sometimes even in a supernatural realm, and they center on a single heroine, alone in a castle or on the moors or some other location that readers consider "enchanting" or "mysterious." Apparently the Gothic Romance subgenre grew from much earlier books like The Castle of Otranto and Frankenstein and Wuthering Heights, all of which I read and loved; however, I don't think I ever actually read one of these Gothics that my mom collected. Years later, though, when I worked at an NYC literary agency in the 90s, my boss represented some authors who wrote Gothic Romances; I skimmed a few then to see what they were like, and I also proofread a few of the "updated" versions of Gothics for my freelance proofing job. These books didn't seem as interesting to me as those old ones from Mom's and Phyllis's bookshelves, though, mostly because their cover art just wasn't as good:
I really love all the eerie, iconic jackets from those 1970s Gothic Romances. Almost without fail, the paperbacks showed a single woman, seemingly lost or terrified, wandering or fleeing within the dark wilderness, often with a foreboding castle behind her. And always in that castle, tiny and dreamy and golden: a single, secretive lighted window. As a kid, I remember staring and staring at my mom's Gothic paperbacks, trying, without actually turning the actual pages, to invent the story of the woman, the wilderness, the castle and its single light.
April 11, 2010
John Grant, "Queen of Denmark"
For the past couple of months, I've been working pretty diligently on a freelance textbook project; this is the main reason I've been silent on this blog. I've been gathering some ideas for (hopefully) interesting posts, and soon I'll update.
This past week, my good friend John Grant released his album, The Queen of Denmark. That's the album cover above. "Queen" is John's first solo album (previously he had sung in the band The Czars, whose albums were also great, but I can't recommend this solo CD enough--it's beautiful and soul-baring and bitter and gentle and sad, and boasts the guys from Midlake as the backing band). In addition, it's already getting stellar reviews, even a 5-star-out-of-5 review from UK magazine Mojo, which also included a fantastic painting of John that illustrates some of the album's lyrics (pictured below).
I told John that you know you've made it when you not only get a perfect review, but they make a cartoon painting of you and your songs.
More about John later. There's a chance that he and I might be making a video together for one of the songs; I'll also be doing an interview with him about the album. Until then, if you want to hear more about John or his music, or even download one of his best songs for free, head over to Bella Union, the label led by ex-Cocteau Twin Simon Raymonde.