Eighth book, If You [ ]: Fabula, Fantasy, F**kery, Hope, is published
From Amazon: "With If You [ ], author Colin Fleming breaks the unwritten rule of the short story collection. In over thirty different styles, Fleming delivers a punk rock triple album in book form―compositions that display a dizzying range of fearless artistry, from horror to hyper-experimental to a story disguised as a grocery list. Together, these pieces resonate with unexpected chords, exploring the breadth of human experience and affirming that that narrative is everywhere, if we are able and willing to see it."
Interview on Downtown with Rich Kimball about an early live performance of “Atom Heart Mother” by Pink Floyd from Leeds 2/28/70; a 1945 episode of Suspense starring Judy Garland; versions of “Some Other Guy” by the Beatles and Johnny Kidd and the Pirates; Edgar Allan Poe’s “Hop-Frog”; and the beauty of the 1956 Topps baseball card set.
New piece in The Smart Set
Essay on jazz pianist Freddie Redd and his masterful Shades of Redd album. "Some albums seem to enjoy a challenge more than others. That is, they say, “Hit me with what you got, because this is what I got, and I think I can take you out.” Let us consider, then, Shades of Redd, one of the finest jazz dates of its era, and I think I’d extend the words upon the marquee to read, “any era.”
New Wall Street Journal piece on Sam Cooke
Looking at Cooke's My Kind of Blues album and the Cooke style of blues. "Cooke’s blues were silken and borderless. He spoke about being in service to song, doing right by a particular number, but here was the album that also revealed Cooke as ally of a genre. These blues sounded ancient and modern; a blues of clay, a blues of the corner tavern."
Daily Beast feature on the best animated Christmas special
On 1971's A Christmas Carol, in which Alastair Sim and Michael Hordern--Scrooge and Marley in 1951's Scrooge, the subject of the new book--reprise their roles. "How this was thought reasonable for kids, I have no clue. Marley’s ponderous fetters stretch across the whole of the floor like a phallic, post-Edenic snake (the damnation version). The effect is like Christmas horror porn—a verboten “treat” that a young person wouldn’t think was intended for their eyes."
Piece in The Smart Set on Otis Redding
Have a soulful Christmas with the the singer's lone two Christmas cuts. "I find that this is the key to Christmas art. It’s less about presents and seasonal trimmings and decorated trees than it is a human style of instructive fellowship. Built within that same instructive fellowship is the idea that the person doing the presenting, if you will, is also an acute listener. Can be presented to. A person of wisdom speaks — or sings — in such a manner that it sounds as if they’re listening as well. I think that’s why Redding is ideal at the holiday, because the finest Christmas art also says, 'hey, wait, don’t just leave me here, in December, you can take me out into the world in the rest of your life across all the months. Wisdom and fellowship is perpetual, not annual.' What’s more Christmas-y than that?"
Downtown with Rich Kimball
Talking about Christmas radio from Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar and Orson Welles, a new essay on film producer Joan Harrison in The Smart Set, a Christmas piece on Sam Cooke, and a recording of a ghost story from 1905.
New film essay in The Smart Set
On Joan Harrison, one of the first female film producers in Hollywood, and the fun little noir, Phantom Lady, from 1944. "As a writer herself, Harrison knew the value of a noir construction such as the one Woolrich provided. There is determinism in the noir world, but only up until a point. Put it like this: you’re trapped in a box, there’s a lid on the box, you didn’t choose to be in the box under the lid, but you have free will to move about in the box, such as you can, make box-based decisions there, hope for the best. In that manner, though a noir like this takes place in multiple settings, moving from bar, to apartment, to the theater, to the juke joint, to the country, it’s a locked room mystery."
Entry on the 33 1/3 blog about Sam Cooke and Christmas
Cooke didn't have any official Christmas recordings. So what's he have to do with the holiday? Quite a lot, as it turns out. "Anytime I finish a making a work of art of my own, that moves me much, which I think can move other people—and I did this when I finished my 33 1/3 Sam Cooke book, after reading over the last page—I listen to the Grateful Dead’s 'Box of Rain.' The song has the wisest words of any you’ll find, which encapsulate the real—the best—reason why any of us are here: 'What do you want me to do/To do for you/To see you through?' That’s pure Christmas. That’s pure art. You write, or create, to reach people, and to do something for them. To help them through, as best you can. Whether that’s by entertaining them, giving them something to relate to, inspiring them, teaching them, a combo. That’s what all art is about more than anything. I think that’s what Sam Cooke’s art was about, and definitely Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963, which I received as a Christmas present when I was a teenager. This would have been in 1991, and I was this music monster, devouring all that I could."
Downtown with Rich Kimball
Fun talk about the Beatles second Christmas fan club message; an entry in Thoreau's journals from Christmas day 1856; a singular Christmas painting from 1862 by William Holbrook Beard; the 1974 Rankin-Bass special, 'Twas the Night Before Christmas; and a 1937 holiday episode of the radio program Lights Out.
Downtown with Rich Kimball
A conversation about a Christmas episode of the radio program Dragnet; a BBC adaptation of M.R. James's "Whistle and I'll Come to You" from December 24, 1963; and Christmas performances by Jerry Lee Lewis and the Grateful Dead.
First film book is now available!
Scrooge has been published by Liverpool University Press. It's an entry in the Devil's Advocates series, and looks at the darkest cinematic version of Dickens' A Christmas--the one from 1951 directed by Brian Desmond Hurst, with Alastair Sim as the miser--as not only the ultimate work of cinematic terror, but one especially relevant to our times.
New op-ed in The Wall Street Journal on the Beatles' Let It Be film
Life lessons from an under-seen Fab movie. "Anyone who has ever played in a band or had co-workers can identify with the tension in this film. Love of rock ’n’ roll brought these guys together, and even as they come apart, they try to rekindle that love again. In the process, they find one of the great wonders of this world: the sublime power of saying goodbye. Saying goodbye can set us free, and it can help us set others free as well."
Beatles feature in The Daily Beast
Going inside of Peter Jackson's Get Back docu-series. "'Macca' is the protagonist of Get Back. He’s the one who has to accept that the world he’s known and shared is changing. The others are already there. It’s just not yet official."
New piece in The Smart Set on Powell and Pressburger's A Canterbury Tale
A film for which to be thankful. "The film is a mystery movie, but it is also not a mystery movie. There’s no stinting on the ratiocination, but the problem-solving aspect isn’t a case of life and death, blackmail, or the abducted child. It’s silly mystery. But also one that the three feel a duty to solve, which is also an excuse — or “reason” might be the better word — for each character to give themselves over to something larger than who they are, which they might not have otherwise."
Half hour radio interview
On Downtown talking about a Thanksgiving-themed episode of Suspense based on a Ray Bradbury story, Orson Welles and John Donne, Arthur Machen and writing well, the Beatles' "Cry Baby Cry," and a Green Day BBC radio session from 1994. Everyone who writes, or wants to, or reads, should check out the part starting at 13:13.