Tag Archives: nick hornby

hey, hey, it’s a working day

Since I missed the boat on blogging about Lonely Avenue when it was released last year, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to finally, belatedly discuss it in this space thanks to a fortuitous Twitter posting from Mr. Folds this morning.

Ben just released the video for “A Working Day,” the album’s opening track and my favorite in the collection. (Close second: “Saskia Hamilton.”) Perhaps it’s because I, too, have had several guys (and gals) on the ‘Net (and on the phone — two just today) tell me I suck, thanks to my day job writing mostly about small towns and their accompanying small town bickering. Perhaps it’s because like the song’s protagonist, I also think that “everything I write is shit,” including this very blog post. Either way, I love this song if for no other reason than it’s an excellent tune to crank in the car. Rolling in my Nissan, listening to Ben Folds wax philosophic about his own inadequacies, I am nothing but the epitome of cool.

Anyway, the point is, this song makes me happy. And — as if it could happen any other way — its accompanying video makes me equally, if not even more so, ecstatic.

The energy and unadulterated joy behind this clip is contagious. I watched it twice before work this morning, and both viewings left me with a big, goofy grin on my face. I’ve been to a bunch of Ben Folds’s shows over the years and have gladly taken part in his a capella arrangements for songs like “Army” and “Not the Same.” But seeing it done for the first time with a new song — and wishing to God I could have been there to do it, too — is like witnessing Ben’s process for the first time. It’s at once cool and confounding — how on earth did he get it to sound so seamless? How long did he craft the arrangement by himself before trying it out on his audience/guinea pigs? It always works in the end, but the obvious preparation he put into this video in particular warrants new appreciation for his musical genius.

When I first heard Ben was collaborating with Nick Hornby, one of my favorite authors, for this album, I was thrilled. It didn’t immediately occur to me that I would get the chance to hear these songs live if I went to see Ben solo — they lived so perfectly together as one entity on Lonely Avenue that I couldn’t picture them out on their own in the wild concert halls across the continent. Now, I’m ready and willing to jump right in, playing living instrument to Ben’s madcap conductor.

As the song says,

I’m a genius, really, I’m excellent
Better than them, I kick their asses

The next time Ben needs someone to participate in a viral video, he knows who to call.

belated book report: halvsies edition

I’m just about half-way through Songbook and thought I’d bring you a status report — though I promise an actual review once I finish. I breezed through the first 92 pages while on the train Monday night (and into Tuesday morning), eagerly gobbling up Hornby’s prose despite the distractions at hand.

The thing about doing anything on the train is that you are bound to be interrupted. Most people tend to keep to themselves during late night rides, and it’s certainly a more sedate group than Greyhound travelers (shudder), but every now and then I find myself next to a Seat Hog.

Monday’s SH was on her way to Chicago, and I could understand her need and desire for sleep, especially considering that the train was running over three hours late, and it would be many more before she reached her destination. She lay curled up next to the window seat, and I tried my best not to disturb her as I sat down and arranged my bags and accoutrements. And then it hit me.

Literally, her sweater/coat/giant-red-something-that-wasn’t-a-Slanket hit me. Specifically, its pocket. Girlfriend had jammed some major gloves into that thing, and it packed quite the punch. Somewhat startled, I tried to reposition myself further away, only to find The Pocket yet again pressing into my side. This little dance continued for the duration of my ride, The Pocket creeping towards me, The Sleeve even finding its way across my lap at one point.

I suppose I can’t really blame the woman for being a Seat Hog, since it seemed to be mostly her sweater’s fortitude that kept thrusting itself my way. Anyway, what all this has to do with Songbook is, is that even though I had to wrestle with The Sweater From Seat Hog Hell and smell the slight stench wafting up from the woman’s admittedly kicky flamingo-patterned socks, I was still able to focus on, and delight in, my book.

And boy, what a book. Every time I read something of Hornby’s, I feel like he’s sitting across from me and we’re having a conversation. He says everything that I’ve ever wanted to say about music but couldn’t quite articulate. Take this quote from an essay he wrote circa Songbook about Ryan Adams’ Heartbreaker, and Adams’ ability to turn torment into musical genius:

What rights do we have here? Are we entitled to ask other people to be unhappy for our benefit? After all, there are loads of us, and only one of them. And how can you be happy, really, if you are only ordinary in your happiness, but extraordinary in your grief? Is it really worth it? It sounds harsh, I know, but if you are currently romantically involved with someone with a real talent — especially a talent for songwriting — then do us all a favour and dump them. There might be a ‘Heartbreaker‘ — or a ‘Blood On The Tracks’ or a ‘Layla‘ — in it for all of us.

I mean, is that not just a perfect paragraph?

Songbook is littered with soliloquies like this, except Hornby isn’t just talking; he’s talking to you. And as he’s relating to you, you’re relating to him, and everything is just…wonderful. It’s an experience I’m not finished with yet, and one I can’t wait to see through to its end. Stay tuned.

the post-birthday world

a selection of cards from my lovely friends.

Yesterday was a big day: Beethoven’s birthday!* Okay, so it was also my 24th. As I contemplate turning another year older, and inching further and further (farther and farther?) into my twenties, I think about all the things I’ve accomplished, and all the things I have yet to achieve.

(*Though I have to say I was disappointed with Peanuts‘ lack of recognition, considering all the build-up.)

At 23 I got a master’s degree, met the love of my life, finally started this long-gestating blog, and interviewed at my dream magazine. I still need to secure a job using said degree, move closer to the BF, update waaaaay more, and try to break my unofficial boycott of The Title That Shall Not Be Named.

Oh yeah, and read more books.

I used to read a book a week, sometimes more, but with school, the soul-suck of the job search, and endless traveling, it’s been hard to fit it in. Birthday to the rescue! I received three new books as presents, and I can’t wait to dive in: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers, and About a Boy and Songbook by Nick Hornby.

I’ve wanted to read all three for ages, especially Songbook, and I’m positively giddy that now I can enjoy them at my leisure. And since I seem to have a lot of leisure time lately, that will hopefully be sooner rather than later.

the birthday book haul. (with bonus bananagrams gift in the background!)

I’m also going to try to write more here, and hope to bring you reviews of each title. I haven’t written a straight-up book review since about the sixth grade, when I’d complete countless fill-in-the-blank worksheets asking for characters, plot details, and my overall thoughts and grades of books I read in my spare time. I found a whole bunch of these reports recently, and they generally involved copious exclamation points and grades in the A+++ range. I’d like to think my tastes have become more discerning since then.

Also in the spirit of growing up, I’m attempting to make my baby blog a more real part of the ‘sphere by featuring some guest posts in the coming weeks. The first should be up today, with at least one more to follow. (Ahem, Mark.) If you’re interested in writing one, or have suggestions for something you think I should write, drop me a line at catchthesparks.blog@gmail.com.

I even have a blog email now — how’s that for adult?

PS: Check out the site my flatmate Jaime made for me. This girl is talented (and thoughtful), no?