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Michael Cisco
Posted on Monday, March 03, 2003 - 12:25 am:   

I've loved hearing stories read aloud ever since I was a boy; I used to have a great variety of story records, and I listened to them constantly.

I heard William S. Burroughs read before I'd ever read a line of his work. I first heard him, I think, on an antho record called LIKE A GIRL, I WANT YOU TO KEEP COMING, and here, mixed in with the likes of Henry Rollins and Debby Harry, was this drawling nasal old man ...
His written words made little impression on me at first. Then one day I blundered across a bit I'd heard him read aloud and suddenly his voice was there in my head and on the page at once; pretty soon, I could conjure his reading of any passage, whether I'd ever heard him read it or not. This superimposition of vocal patterns on written ones was instrumental to my development as a writer; I had already begun writing by that time, but now I was on the path to good writing.

So, I'm wondering, if anyone else has had a similar experience specifically with hearing the writing.

I'm still influenced by writers whose material reaches me through the ears rather than the eyes: Joe Frank, for one, and Gregory Whitehead. Anyone else heard these friends on the radio or online? Any names to add to the list?
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KJ Bishop
Posted on Monday, March 03, 2003 - 02:08 am:   

I don't know if Tom Waits counts. I realise it's singing, not reading. But his words and rhythms get under my skin and into my bones. So ugly and so beautiful at the same time. I find that if I call his voice into my head, I get quite different writing than I do when I use my own voice. And if I imagine a passage re-read in his voice, 'he' tends to fix the rhythms and wording better than I would if I stuck to my own voice.
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Jack Haringa
Posted on Monday, March 03, 2003 - 03:46 am:   

Curiously, I came across H. P. Lovecraft on album before reading anything by the Old Man. Our public library had a record of David Mccallum (of Man from U.N.C.L.E. fame) reading "The Dunwich Horror" and "The Rats in the Walls" that I discovered when I was 13 or so. I haven't listened to the album in a couple decades now, but I recall Mccallum giving a sonorous performance filled with portentous phrasing(though that may be the frightened adolescent in me distorting the truth). Having heard that I sought out the books, finding the paperback collections of The Tomb and The Lurking Fear with those marvellous John Holmes covers.

KJ--I've always found there to be little use trying to describe Tom Waits to those who haven't heard him, or trying to explain the appeal to those who don't care for him. It is an ugly/beautiful combination, and a sense of phrasing and emphasis that raises the lyrics above the words printed on the liner (though as a Beat-like poet, Waits is no slouch). I find the same with the grand guignol of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (on albums such as Henry's Dream, Murder Ballads, and No More Shall We Part.

In a reversal of this, I discovered Nick Drake through the writing of Phil Rickman (Drake being a bit before my time). But listening to Drake's heartbreaking voice over his spare guitar and cello arrangements reaffirms the Burgessian adage that writing about music is like dancing about architecture. No length of discription can convey the strength of the lyrics and melodies working in concert.

~Jack~
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Michael Cisco
Posted on Monday, March 03, 2003 - 03:58 pm:   

I'd say anything that influences the way you use language "counts" (as though I were keeping score!). The only thing keeping me from getting into Tom Waits has always been the fact that everybody else is already into him; he was the default background music almost everywhere I went for about five years, so actually buying his stuff seemed redundant.
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Forrest
Posted on Monday, March 03, 2003 - 06:51 pm:   

I'm curious, Michael, if you listen to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (nicknamed "Nick Cave and the Bad Teeth" on another group)? I think his work is absolutely wonderful, though I haven't heard his latest.

I'm in agreement with you, Jack - only Nick Cave can sing Nick Cave. It's not just the words, not just the music. So much of the person comes through in his performance (at least on CD - I have yet to see him live).

Forrest
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KJ Bishop
Posted on Monday, March 03, 2003 - 07:25 pm:   

Well, I love Nick Cave possibly even more than I love Tom Waits. (And he comes from my home town, too.) Must get the new album.

Has anyone read Cave's novel 'And the Ass Saw the Angel'?

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Michael Cisco
Posted on Monday, March 03, 2003 - 09:24 pm:   

NC and I are not destined to get along, but I will never deny I am highly persnicketty about the music I listen to. I say I'm particular, not *discriminating*. My taste isn't good taste, just my taste.
If the words to a song have to make sense or tell a story, then I prefer 'em old (as in "Death May Dissolve My Body Now" old). Except for Brian Dewan, who writes great songs now. And "Iron Man."
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Jay C
Posted on Tuesday, March 04, 2003 - 08:05 am:   

NC is goodly, in the right circumstance. Though the whole Kylie thing was an aberration.
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Luís
Posted on Tuesday, March 04, 2003 - 08:58 am:   

Have you heard the version of the Wild Rose song where Nick Cave sings both parts, in falsetto? That was fun. :-)
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Jack Haringa
Posted on Tuesday, March 04, 2003 - 02:26 pm:   

KJ--I've read And the Ass Saw the Angel. Twice, actually. I thought it was a deeply disturbed novel that was thoroughly enjoyable in a southern-gothic-goes-to-Australia-via-Tod-Browning kind of way. Much of the imagery is similar to that found on Henry's Dream and they may have been written around the same time. It would be interesting if there were an audio version of it read by Cave, but I don't think there is.

Veering mildly closer to topic, I've not heard too many really impressive readings of books, but two of the best to my mind are Kevin Spacey's reading of Peter Straub's "Mrs. God" and Ken Howard's performance on Stephen King's "The Library Policeman". I found the second of these sort of silly when read in Four Past Midnight but effectively creepy on audio.

~Jack~
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Forrest
Posted on Tuesday, March 04, 2003 - 02:57 pm:   

KJ: I haven't yet read AND THE ASS SAW THE ANGEL, but it is coming out again, in the US, this month some time. I can't remember the publisher's name off the top of my head, but it's Henry Rollin's publishing house that's putting it out.
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Stepan Chapman
Posted on Saturday, March 08, 2003 - 10:55 pm:   

I don't think I'd be into T.S. Eliot if I'd never heard his recordings. His voice is the perfect voice to read "Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock".
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ben peek
Posted on Friday, March 14, 2003 - 07:43 pm:   

forrest: henry rollin's publishing company is called 2.13.61. i believe it's his birthday.

i like some of nick cave. i own a copy of THE ASS SAW THE ANGEL but its one of those things that falls behind in the to be read list, partly because the latest of cave's music isn't really doing it for me now. i haven't bought his last three albums, because i've only liked one or two, and it sometimes feels that he's got a new audience now and the joy i took in previous albums will just have to be that. (i especially liked the murder ballads cd. even with kylie.)

i am, however, right there for tom waits. i loved BLOOD MONEY and ALICE. and a few of his cds do have spoken word pieces on them which are great.

(he even does a neat acting turn, does tom waits.)

this is going on, isn't it?

michael: i don't actually like listening to writers read their work. i'm not against it or anything like that, but i prefer to read it. i think you get more from prose when you read it to yourself, in your head, than when it is read. aloud i think i'm getting the performance and a different piece of work.

of course, with that said, listening to charles bukowski read has always been good.

btw, have you heard the alan moore, david j, and tim perkins spoken word productions? very neat. some of them have been turned into comics (such as BIRTH CAUL) but they begin as productions and are really quite strong.
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Michael Cisco
Posted on Friday, March 14, 2003 - 09:52 pm:   

Haven't heard them ... would be interested ...

Anyway, I think reading and hearing are complementary. For years, I claimed I couldn't understand or work with poetry, that it was somehow alien to me. But read aloud, most poetry (at least the older stuff) suddenly crystallizes; in fact, I can't hardly read poetry silently. If I can't hear it - or better if I'm not thinking about the phrasing as it is read or as I read it - it lies inert on the page.

Step: That's interesting - most people I've spoken to find Eliot's voice a bit feeble and his clipped tones precious and annoying. Perfect, I agree, for Prufrock.
Both Lovecraft and Burroughs were stuck on Eliot, even though they neither of them really liked him at all. Lovecraft wrote a parody of "The Wasteland" which is the nearest to funny he ever got, but even he couldn't entirely avoid Eliot. It's amazing to see how far the ripples manage to travel.

Shantih Shantih Shantih
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Bjoern Quiring
Posted on Thursday, October 23, 2003 - 06:37 pm:   

Have you ever heard the recording of Joyce reading the last pages of 'Anna Livia Plurabelle'? Even if you have no idea what the dickens he is talking about, the beauty of sound and rhythm is quite extraordinary. Probably the best introduction to the 'Wake'.

I also like the readings of Paul Bowles, e. g. 'A Distant Episode'; a detached, grainy voice from nowhere in particular. That's another case where you tend to 'hear' the writing after a while.

There actually is a CD with Cave reading some short excerpts from the 'Ass' plus some instrumentals. In that particular recording he sounds kind of tired and not really into it, though. I once heard him read live, and in my memory that was far superior.

Where can one find Lovecraft's parody of the 'Waste Land', by the way? Sounds interesting.


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Michael Cisco
Posted on Thursday, October 23, 2003 - 10:54 pm:   

Night Shade has published a collection of HPL's poetry entitled "The Ancient Track" - the poem itself is entitled "Waste Paper - A Poem of Profound Insignificance".

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