A Lost Retainer, No Ivy League, and A Chance to Learn by Sarah Derringer

Digging through a dumpster on the first day of sixth grade, desperately searching for the retainer I threw away at lunch, under the scornful eyes of my mother and the entire football team pretty much set the scene for my entire middle school experience. Retainers. Braces. Head gear. Acne. Crushes, heart ache, fashion fails, spikes and dog collars, thrift store sweaters...ahh, middle school.

Experiencing Hazel Newlevant’s No Ivy League brought my own painfully awkward middle school memories back to me. Prior to reading this book, I would have preferred to keep the retainer debacle and all other such humiliation in the deeply buried quagmire of my distant past. But Newlevant’s combination of quippy text and insights laid through careful illustrations gave me pause to reconsider my regrets, and allowed for some healing and learning in the process. This edgy memoir relates Newlevant’s own middle school transition from her homeschooled bubble into a mainstream, public school-kid Youth Conservation Crew, ages 14-18. Hazel sees herself as open-minded, world wise, and trendy- I mean, she has a nose ring- pretty rebellious for a homeschooled kid, right?

She steps out with a nervous confidence, hoping to fit in with the diverse group of teen coworkers as she joins them in helping to save the ecosystem of the local park from an invasive species of ivy. Not surprisingly, Hazel quickly finds herself in social situations she is unprepared to navigate: issues of race, sex, language, drugs, socioeconomics, identity, friendship, and truth. As she seeks to pursue justice while remaining true to herself, Hazel gets a peek at the truth undergirding the essence of middle school life: the fact that learning to use empathy and compassion are the most important lessons...and they are lessons taught not in a comfy classroom or sheltered homeschool co-op, but in real life, with real people. People and relationships are messy, and rights and wrongs from textbooks can’t be applied like labels or fill-in-the-blanks. Pivotal authors make an imprint on you, change the way you think.

My favorite part of Newlevant’s new text is the connection it allowed me to create between my own present and my past. After reading No Ivy League, in reflecting on my retainer nightmare and other cringe-inducing memories, I tried on a different lens: instead of rolling my eyes and wishing it didn’t happen, I thought, “What did I learn from that experience?” “What should I have done differently?” “How did I respond to that situation?” “How did that event shape the way I treat people today?” Newlevant’s No Ivy League achieves the mission stated in her letter to the reader: “It’s intimidating to publish a story about my younger self doing and saying so many profoundly embarrassing and regrettable things, but I hope that it helps those who see their own shame reflected in mine resolve to move forward with compassion.”


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An Avalanche of Truth: A Review of Jericho Brown's The Tradition by Alexandria Swan Tuesday

Jericho Brown is an associate professor of English and Director of the Creative Writing Program at Emory University in Atlanta. This is a steal. Whatever he is being paid, it is simply not enough. He has a laundry list of accomplishments that most writers dream of and likely never accomplish, simply because a man like Jericho Brown deserves every accolade he will ever apply for or that should come across his desk.

His latest book, The Tradition, is a masterful force of poetic writing.  Combining the sickening imagery of the modern world with an intense amount of self-reflection, The Tradition is not only a book for now, but a book about humanity that should long endure. The tones and settings are timeless. Whether he is discussing the fears of “free” black people, mental health problems, AIDS, or sexual assault, this lens is both a microscope and a telescope into the human experience and the broken psyche created by living in our world today. 

One of the early poems in the book, The Microscope, bends reality into one of the smallest settings we can imagine. “...in that science class where I learned what little difference God saw if he saw me.” You cannot see the world the same once you look at the cells of everyone around and see little to no difference. The wonder and imagination of a small child not yet aware of the ills of chosen segregation or police brutality or the true violent nature of his fellow classmates is an emotion few remember, even less attempt to capture. Jericho Brown does just that with the utmost precision. 

A later poem, Bullet Points, is a scathing social commentary that winds through depression and mental health stigmas in the black community, police brutality and its impacts on communities and society, about how people will lie to you constantly about the degrees of brutality, but the images captured and the numbers published never will. “(A Police Officer) took me from us and left my body, which is, no matter what we’ve been taught, greater than the settlement a city can pay for a mother to stop crying, more beautiful than the new bullet fished from the folds of my brain.” There isn’t really much anybody can say to properly respond to a statement such as that. 

But, The Tradition is full of statements to quote, knowledge and power to be gained from looking at the world through a lens of powerful introspection turned outward. I could talk at length about every poem in this book so it would be difficult for me to say you should pass on any opportunity to support this father, educator, and artist, but if you’ll allow me just one more prime example of exemplary writing from Jericho Brown, I would suggest the poem, Correspondence

This poem was inspired by a series of paintings called The Jerome Project by Titus Kaphar. Titus went looking for the police records of his father and found many men convicted and incarcerated for various lengths of time and myriad of crimes. Titus Kaphar took these men, painted their faces on gold leaf backgrounds, and then dipped their portraits into tar to signify the toxic nature of prison and the negative impacts such a life must have had on their brains, on their bodies, and on their quality of life. Utilizing these themes, Jericho Brown writes a tear-jerking poem of sincerity and innocence that I personally have never come across in any medium. Scribing a letter to future men, he states “The young are hard to kill. May be harder still to hear a kid cry without looking for a sweet to slip into his mouth.” He speaks as someone too innocent to understand how and why these men would become broken in these ways by the systems keeping their oppression at the forefront. 

The Tradition by Jericho Brown is an accomplishment of American poetry and should rightfully be celebrated as such. There is no promise that it will win any awards, but I do know that whether it manages to capture an institution’s seal of approval or not, this is one of the best collections of poetry in existence by a living writer, and I can only hope that this is recognized while he is alive in this world today.


My Name is Alexandria Swan Tuesday. We are the Tuesday-Xavier Collective. We Are a group of 18 different people inside of one brain. We are a recovering drug addict. We have experienced homelessness. We have seen just how small the cracks have to be for you to fall through them. We are The Rose That Grew From Concrete. When we are not writing for social change, we are writing about ducks, running from geese, and playing old Xbox 360 games (Bioshock is top 3 all time fite me about it outside) We love to talk about mental illness, being trans, and how the two wreak havoc on our social life but are in no way causative of each other. We collectively prefer she, and pineapple on our pizza.


Our Buy/Trade Policy & of more interest: What We're Actually Looking For

When you're running a brick and mortar store like ours, your buy/sell game must be on point. We don’t have a lot of room for storage so when you bring inventory into the shop it needs to be stuff we can move. And, now that we’re coming up on a year of being open (fans self) it feels like we’ve finally started to figure ourselves out—which only takes like half your life so we feel pretty stoked to have come a fraction of the way. That being said, here’s the scoop.

Some things of note: We sell most of our inventory for $10 or less. This means that we don’t pay out a lot for merchandise. In fact, when we buy, we’ll only be giving you 35% of our retail value for the products. However, if you make a trade with us, we’ll give you 50% of the retail value to spend in store on merchandise or on our new print co-op (which you can check out here). If you have something rare you want lots o’ money for, go to an antiquarian or eBay.

What we’re actually looking for: We love anarchist zines, Dolly Parton, Mitski, Tom Waits, Existentialism, weirdo poetry chapbooks, any kind of poetry book, Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Donovan, The Spinners, Whitney Houston, Milan Kundera, bootleg tapes, vintage magazines, VHS tapes, Santo & Johnny, A Tribe Called Quest, Aphex Twin, books about bands, Hole, Devo, Blondie, D’Angelo, The Impressions, Roxane Gay, 1970’s paperbacks, bell hooks, Junot Diaz, Billie Holiday, Van Halen, Led Zeppelin, Critical Theory, Maggie Nelson, Believer Mag, Clarice Lispector, Meatloaf, and so much more. Use these as your style springboard. & Please, don’t bring us dirty, torn, scratched inventory. We can’t and won’t take it.

thanks to The Local Radish for the pic!

thanks to The Local Radish for the pic!

Local CD from Bill Corder Now In Store!

Here’s a little story from Bill about the album, and the inspiration behind it! Don’t miss him this First Friday 2/1/2019 at the Irving Theater!

I got kicked out of choir in 5th grade at St. Catherine of Sienna School near the corner of Raymond and Shelby Streets in south Indianapolis. My voice had started to break and I seemed to sound sharp and flat at the same time. I was devastated I really liked choir.

When I began my freshman year of high school at the Latin School on Stevens Street in 1963 I still couldn't sing but I was determined to learn to play the guitar and start a folk group. I loved Peter Paul and Mary, the Highwaymen and a few others especially Phil Ochs. I knew he was telling the truth. And of course Bob Dylan. I found 6 other presemenarians to share the stage at the southside K of C.

We billed ourselves as the "Magnificent  7" and each received a commemorative  plaque. A few months later we were down to six members and  we dubbed ourselves The "Couriers" and played all over central Indiana. I remember one church fish fry in Battleground where we played for over 200 people. I know that we made enough so that we still had money for Arby's the next day.  And all the while I still can't sing.

We took our senior trip in August of 1967. We got into Manhattan on a Monday afternoon. It was either the 7,14,21st. or the 28th. I'm not sure which. Anyway I had a heck of a time talking them into playing the open stage that night at The Bitter End. I finally nagged enough and we took the subway from Midtown down to the Village. When we walked in around 6pm the light was slanting through the windows and onto the famous brick wall behind the stage. Yep the same wall that is behind PP&M on their first album.{There might be a copy in the store right now}. We sang, well they sang ,we played 3 or 4 songs and we got a good response which kind of surprised me because it was obvious that straight folk was over. Dylan had gone electric 3 years before. The manager asked. "Do you know anymore songs?" I said, "WE KNOW LOTS MORE SONGS!" He said, "Just play one." Ouch.

We played "Well,Well, Well." which we learned from a Highwaymen's record. We floated back to the hotel. That was pretty much our last gig. I put the guitar down for many, many years.

Fast forward to 1998 and my eldest son is learning the guitar and writing songs. I'm very interested and pick it up again myself. I started to teach myself to sing again. I slowly realized that hearing yourself correctly is key. I kept at it and with the help of many singer/songwriters I met at Chubby's

Club LaSalle from '98 until about 2003{ for me} I have now released my fourth album with "Songster '49". 15 songs of pure muscle and bone that took me 13 years to write. I assure you I sing on key throughout. It is my homage to the giants who came before us. We each can take a little bit out of the well of all our songs add our own flavor and pour it back in. It’s our America and our Americana.

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Take a Lesson from Carol Kaye

"Wichita Lineman"
"These Boots Are Made For Walkin'"
"Sloop John B"

What do all these famous 60s songs have in common? Carol Kaye, a member of the unsung studio band The Wrecking Crew, composed and played all of their time-tested bass lines. For decades, Kaye's work on countless studio sessions including Frank Zappa's Freak Out!and Quincy Jones' many film soundtracks, went relatively unknown. However, in recent years, the work of many crate diggers has uncovered Carol Kaye's work in pioneering the electric bass as we know it today. 

At Irvington Vinyl, we're happy to announce that our underground archives have discovered this gem, How to Play the Electric Bass, from Kaye's series of instructional books and records. Whether you're new to the instrument, or a seasoned player, learn technique from the pioneer of the instrument herself with this piece of history. 

UNDER CoNsTrUcTiOn.... We're Reorganizing

Thank you to everyone who chose to shop with us over this holiday season! You’ve made us hopeful as we keep growing and chugging. Look out in the new year for a smattering of neat-o announcements and new projects on the horizon. In the meantime, we (me, Elysia) want to apologize for the state of the vinyl collection. We’ve been open almost every day (-turkey day and xmas) since we started, and it’s hard to square away time for the CONSTRUCTION portion of things, ie. the fact that I personally live with over 8k vinyl at my home while another heck-ton sit unorganized in the shop’s basement. Cataloguing and sorting vinyl is a big job but we’re getting it done! Ultimately, this is just to say, thanks for your continued patience, love, and support. These first 6 months have been wonderful!

P.S. We’ve also eaten all the plums in the icebox. They were great!


"Quiett is an Indianapolis-based duo comprised of vocalist/guitarist Kevin Hake and producer Sam Leffers, combining ambient house, indie rock and new age folk. 

Their first EP, Fountains is a collaboration with UK producer Two Tail, released through Seattle electronic label Hush Hush Records in 2017. This four-track tape explores the moodiest corners of the sit-down dance floor, closing with an edit by French DJ Chevals to make you stand back up. Soft as silk; right as rain."

EP: https://soundcloud.com/hush-hush-records/sets/two-tail-quiett-fountains-ep


So We Lost Paradise, Selected Poems of Juan Cameron

Juan Cameron remains one of the leading contemporary poets in Chile. This book contains the last translations made by the award-winning Cola Franzen before her death this year, culminating a decades-long connection with Cameron and his poetry. So We Lost Paradise presents poems ranging from the whole span of his writing career, first under the Pinochet repression, and exile in Sweden, and then since his return to Valparaiso.

Published by Cold Hub Press in New Zealand, this book is “redolent of rain-showers and thunderclaps.”

At only 9.99 this book is a steal for one of poetry’s international greats! You can thank Jim Kates of Zephyr Press for bringing us the book!

Jim Kates is a minor poet, a literary translator and the president and co-director of Zephyr Press. He has been awarded three National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, an Individual Artist Fellowship from the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts, the Cliff Becker Book Prize in Translation for the Selected Poems of Mikhail Yeryomin (White Pine Press, 2014) and a Käpylä Translation Prize for translations of Aigerim Tazhi. He has published three chapbooks of his own poems: Mappemonde (Oyster River Press)Metes and Bounds (Accents Publishing) and The Old Testament (Cold Hub Press) and a full book, The Briar Patch (Hobblebush Books). He is the translator ofThe Score of the Game  and An Offshoot of Sense by Tatiana Shcherbina; Say Thank You and Level with Us by Mikhail Aizenberg; When a Poet Sees a Chestnut TreeSecret Wars, and I Have Invented Nothing by Jean-Pierre Rosnay; Corinthian Copper by Regina Derieva; Live by Fire by Aleksey Porvin; Thirty-nine Rooms, by Nikolai Baitov; Genrikh Sapgir’s Psalms — and Muddy River, a selection of poems by Sergey Stratanovsky. He is the translation editor ofContemporary Russian Poetry, and the editor of In the Grip of Strange Thoughts: Russian Poetry in a New Era.  A former president of the American Literary Translators Association, he is also the co-translator of six books of Latin American and Spanish poetry.


Introducing: JC AUTOBODY, New Local Vinyl in Stock

JC Autobody is an autocult enthusiast and Rust Belt native from Indiana whose sixth release, “Turbo,” will hit the streets on October 31st, 2018. The 10-song album will be released on limited edition vinyl and will appeal to fans at the intersection of shock rock, glam rock, heavy rock and gentle doom.

Songs like the title track Turbo will conjure up the emaciated ghost of Marc Bolan, while others like Dark Passenger and Horsepower bring to mind sounds akin to Sabbath’s “Master of Reality” and The Osmond’s early 70s Crazy Horses swan dive into heavy metal. Still, others like Analog Scum serve to rattle listeners with the unsettling sounds of a face-melt scene taken straight from the world of VHS trash cinema.

The album ends with a late night rager at Bigg’s Arcade, a fictitious Asteroids-n-pinball rat’s nest in blighted East Central Indiana, with pounding New York Doll’s-style piano to finish out a night of hedonistic Hoosier gloom known only to those of us from the Rust Belt.

Recorded in a garage and mix and mastered by the area’s top-rated mechanics, JC Autobody’s “Turbo” will sleep on your couch, drink all your dad’s beer and take you on a thrill ride through a heavy metal parking lot that you’ll never want to end.   


New Tapes Just In! Locally Produced! GET EXCITED.

Shadow Persona by exracer is a project from a single musician based out of Texas. The release is mainly slowcore/shoegaze-y music with some contemporary ambient elements.

MUST BE DESTROYED by Dope Sweater is a project from a band based out of Terre Haute here in Indiana. It is solid punk through and through. It leans more towards rock n roll/garage than hardcore though.

Tropical Blasé by Frabin is a project from a single musician based out of Brazil. The Brazilian release was through Midsummer Madness and I helped release a limited run of tapes for the US. It is a psych pop/rock release.


Critic's Corner: Review of Tom Lanoye's Speechless

Translated into English to be released stateside in November, Tom Lanoye’s latest book Speechless sold over 135,000 copies in Belgium and Holland alone.

To speak honestly about a book on speech, specifically the loss of it in Lanoye’s late mother Josee, isn’t just easy. Lanoye makes it an honor. This book reaches up and grabs you from the first page, it holds your face close and tells you that you’re safe to be just as weird as you need to, to listen, and to find empathy in yourself for Josee and her family. At points, Lanoye tells his mother’s story, and at points he tells his own. In both scenarios the reader is ushered into a small party, seated with a strong drink, and finds themselves more than willing to hear a yarn.

Except for Lanoye this isn’t any yarn, it’s life and death. It’s the realization that without his mother’s speech, he’d never have become the celebrated author he is today. Taking that spoon means taking the sweet with the bitter, with the downright monstrous. Lanoye helps us see that loving someone and telling their story is a courageous, but persnickety thing to do. In Speechless it’s done right though, so rest assured that this book will serve you as both cautionary tale and humorous memoir. It’s no one thing, it’s everything.


We're Up to A Lot!

Hey friends!

We’re hard at work (as usual) on some new great stuff for you. Currently, local musician and pal of IVB, Derek Hurt and I are building out the left side of the shop’s basement into a recording studio. We’ve been using the space as is to record tapes for Draken Mogollon, one of our neighbors who at the age of 12 plays a billion instruments better than any of us could ever imagine and sings like an angel to boot. We love our community and we want to be around as long as possible so we can continue lifting up the people who need it most. Here are some progress pictures to whet your appetites. More details about using the space yourself coming soon! In the meantime, consider subscribing to our Patreon. It’s only with the help of our customers and our subscribers that we are able to do all that we do.

Check Out All the Great Events You Can Support by Subscribing to Our Patreon

Under new ownership since April of this year, Irvington Vinyl & Books, formerly Bookmamas and Irvington Vinyl, works actively to provide creative resources and opportunities to the community. We host free events several times a month that foster the arts while simultaneously providing education and access for participants. However, as a fledgling business, funding the future of these projects is not always possible. Below are three of our regular events that we’d love to see grow and continue to serve Marion County.

Gluestick: First envisioned by former NUVO staff member, Kelsey Simpson as a collective in 2007, this organization provides free literature in the form of handmade zines as well as education in the production of zines. Simply put, zines are stapled, paper booklets. They can be made by anyone and are designed to be cheaply produced and distributed. Because of this they’ve often been used to stimulate community around music, art, and poetry. Kelsey and Gluestick are partners of Irvington Vinyl & Books and together we’ve been working to make zines with and for the community by leading workshops in prisons, teaching community members for free in local venues like The Green Room at Metonymy Media and Square Cat Vinyl, as well as doing collaborative community publications like Graveyard Smash, in which we invite attendees of the Irvington Halloween Festival to contribute a page as they enjoy the event. We’ll be using money from Patreon subscribers to support this partnership with Gluestick allowing us to continue to provide free art supplies to the community, to teach free workshops, and to help people publish and distribute their zines.

Poets Attack: Not enough attention gets drawn to Indianapolis’ vibrant creative community. What especially goes unnoticed is the plethora of writing talent we seem to spark up--say nothing of Vonnegut and John Green. However, when national writers book tours they tend to go straight from Columbus into Chicago, bypassing us entirely. This leaves our writers at a disadvantage. Our writing community needs those connections with outside writers to network and grow and that’s where Poets Attack comes in. The last Wednesday of every month, IVB hosts national poets to read alongside local poets. To do so, we offer to pay for half of their travel expenses. The way we’d like to expand this event with Patreon funding support  is to be able to pay these outside writers an honorarium for reading on our stage and to also have them host an hour long workshop before the reading begins to anyone who’d like to participate.

How to Stop Being Scared and Start Publishing: Being a writer on the scene can often feel isolating. Oh you haven’t published? You don’t know what an SASE is? You’ve never heard of flash fiction? These types of inquiries can make beginning writers feel like there’s too much to overcome to even get started in the writing and publishing world. This workshop happens monthly, is free and open to all writers no matter your skill level. We discuss subjects ranging from how to write a pitch or query letter, to the editing process, to how to hold a microphone and take up space on stage. The goal is to do more than just teach however. Writers need community, like minds to bounce ideas off of, to peer edit, and to feel supported. This event fosters just such a community. By better connecting the writers of Indianapolis and helping them realize they can learn so much just from being peers, we ensure that our local scene flourishes, grows, and better imprints on a national scale.

For Colored Girls Book Club: This book club is organized by local poet Gizelle Fletcher. Just entering its 6th month of existence, this series has garnered a community of over 200 individuals. Not only does Gizelle make very intentional reading selections of texts exclusively written by black women, she enlists local moderators who serve the arts and music community of Indianapolis. These people add their own context by facilitating a conversation about the books that both examines the role of black women in a fictionalized world and our present day. Attendance at this event continues to grow and it’s our goal to expand into providing even more value for attendees in the form of readings lists, discussion questions, and eventually bringing black women authors into the shop to discuss their writing life and experiences.

Critic's Corner: A Review of Eternal Life by Dara Horn

So, full disclosure, I'm writing this review because this book has been at the shop way too long and it needs a home. If you haven't read Dara Horn, this is a perfect introduction to her style, but also it's just a great book. Part sci-fi, part love story, part historical drama, this book has something for everyone, not to mention, it's timeless. 

When I say timeless, I mean without time; I mean the main character has been alive for over 2,000 years. The book follows Rachel, a matriarch who's world is steeped in the mystical, beginning with her not-death. Despite the strict nature of her early existence, as in "before Christ,
a world ruled by capital G God, of temples, and priests, and holy scholars, Rachel can't help her desire to rebel. It's sparked from love, a thing that did not belong to women to choose for themselves. But when the baby she bears through an affair develops a life-threatening illness, she's forced to turn to the religious pillars of her community for help. And so the curse begins. 

Rachel trades her own life--her death, rather--to save the life of her child. The thing is, Rachel can't die, no matter how much she wants to. Instead, she's constantly reborn, smooth and fresh and young as she was when her first child was born. So too is the father of that child, Eleazar, who pursues Rachel from one life to the next, convinced that if their bodies can stand the test of time, their love must also be as potent. While physically, the heat is on, Rachel can't bear constantly being reminded of the greatest mistake of her life even if she's orgasming her way through it. More than that, Rachel can't bear the loss of the thousands of children who've moved from her world onto the next. She simply can't give birth to another child and watch them die. 

So, does Rachel find a way to do herself in, or does her genius granddaughter some how discover a cure to death--a plot point that keeps Rachel on her toes? Come buy this lonely book to find out! It's the perfect book for mothers, for religious scholars, for fantasy buffs, and for anyone who wants to own something that simply will never get old, just like the book's charming protagonist. 

- Elysia


Easter Eggs from Drake Strange

Today is IVB employee and resident record dude, Drake's birthday! So in honor of him, we're posting his vinyl recommendations. He's got eclectic tastes from Broadcast to Lonnie Liston Smith, there's something here for every weirdo. 

Critic's Corner: A Review of Man with a Seagull on His Head by Harriet Paige

Reading this book felt like witnessing something I’m not supposed to be privy to. It starts slowly. You’re on a park bench and you see a person just casually being, just praying or walking or eating a sandwich, whathaveyou. But something oh so subtle about them clues you in to the greatest secret you’ve ever beheld.

Somehow this incredibly quiet book manages to impress emotion in a very pointed way. The story isn’t simple; a seagull literally falls on the head of one of the main characters. The woman who sees it, Jennifer, goes on to live a humble life with her Italian husband selling dresses in a boutique. But Ray, the man brained by a seagull can’t stop imagining Jennifer’s face. He paints and paints and paints and when he runs out of paint, he begins using his own blood and bodily fluids. It’s not that he’s in love with her—he’s never been in love before and can’t conceive of it. But he’s obsessed most certainly.

This is when two zany art collectors get involved. George and Grace Zoob swoop in and “rescue” Ray from his now dump of a house, requisitioning him to their spare bedroom where all he does is paint the woman in a series the Zoobs title, “She.”

Is this story about the witness, the victim, or Grace Zoob—a victim of her own making but an oddly inspirational one? For example, I love this quote from Grace, “Sometimes it was a joy to be empty, to hold that clean space inside of your stomach that came from being out and about before breakfast. It made her feel so light and so powerful. She had an inkling she might just become something marvelous were she never to eat again.

The answer is, this is a story about the moments wedged in between people becoming witnesses and victims, about how we forge our own futures or we face the brutal maw empty handed. Are you a Grace, a Jennfirer, or a Ray? Find out by reading Man with a Seagull on His Head which comes out October 9th this year. It’s short, ambient, and very well crafted.

- Elysia


Easter Eggs From Elysia

As the owner of this establishment, I want to take a moment and say, my picks are the best picks, no ifs, ands, or buts. 

Just kidding. But, if you like soul, dixieland, hiphop, or new wave, these are those. I especially live for the Princess Nokia album. It's perfect for a hard, angry but healthy workout, a long bike ride, or just dancing around after a great day.


Critic's Corner: A Review of "What's Left of the Night" by Ersi Sotiropoulos tr. by Karen Emmerich

Due out October 2nd. Trust me, you can't wait.

In a mini review on Instagram I described this book as a "Satisfying and sensual slow-burn." For a while, I struggled with whether or not calling this book a slow-burn was accurate. Sometimes people use that word to describe relationships that go flat over a long period time like a bike tire with a patient, yet insistent leak. But, then I remembered the crackle of an early Fall fire and how it feels to sit there, drunk off of too much rum and watch the fire go out at 5 minutes to dawn. How you know that your memories of the evening have already begun to diminish in glamor while somehow you also know more.. about yourself, or whatever. Just more. You're a fuller cup.

That's how you feel when you finish this book. The cover says, "A perfect book!"--some partial from Edmund White that I definitely shook my head at because how could someone brag so boldly and on the cover no less? Yet, here the book is. Whole enough to fill you up and perfect in that. 

On the surface, the book is just a story of two brothers on a trip to Europe. They're both poets and they've got a little rivalry going--though it's apparent they care for each other and that their bond is genuine. The main character, Constantine Cavafy (a real poet born in 1863) struggles with the notion that he's true to his poetry and his brother simply enjoys calling himself an arteest. This tension isn't the bulk of the novel however. Cavafy is a gay man. Just as real-life Constantine Cavafy was. And, he's just received his first poetic rejection from a writer he very much looks up to, not to mention, he's stuck hanging out with Mardaras, a sheep-like man who thinks name dropping = conversation. 

Of course, like any true bourgeois artist of the time, Cavafy complains. Alot. Despite the whining, he's truly a likable fellow. Sotiropoulos' portrayal of him is backed by her intense researching in the Cavafy archive, and while she could have chosen the colder academic side of the man, she illuminates a young, up and coming artist whose complicated relationship with his sexuality is keeping him from success. 

The book is compressed into the three days that free Cavafy from himself and allow him to truly access his work, even if he has to destroy every morsel of writing in the process. Cavafy and John traipse around Paris led by Mardaras and the elegant but cool Madame De and while everyone else is having a frighteningly good time eating at cafes and discussing whorehouses, Cavafy is splintered by the present moment, his work, and his attraction to a young, male ballerina. The novel builds in the "rupture" of the main character--both erotically and artistically. It does so in such an intense and satisfying way that by the end you just want to eat cold plums and smoke a cigarette. It also carefully curates the experience of the poet (or artist or musician) moving through daily life as a ghost for their passion, so entrenched in the creative process that even Theseus can't drag them from it. 

"...and again--to his poem, as if the poem were capable of crystalizing that circular flow, or rather of abolishing it, destroying all distance in a few short lines, allowing an unknown poet just setting out to conceive of this suspended world, to express it in the most economical of ways, because History with a capital H was comprised not of events but of stories--a wealth of new ideas crawled like ants in his head searching for words, for the beginning of a line, behind which lay his ambition, an unquenchable thirst, he couldn't deny it, so many ideas and words and ideas that hadn't yet found their words--it seems, I'll have to write another poem, he thought...and the free flow was broken and he looked ahead. There was no obelisk. This wasn't the Place de la Conorde."

It's real, it's raw, and it's so beautifully lyrical that you feel like you're reading aloud to yourself even when you're reading quietly in a crowded bar. 10/10 would recommend. 10/10 will reread.*

*10/10 is rare for me this book was just truly awesome. 

(the cover, Ersi Sotiropoulos, and the real Cavafy)

- Elysia