Liseys Story by Stephen King

Chris Barsanti

The book is an unusually careful creation from an author who has too often let himself run on automatic.

Lisey's Story

Publisher: Scribner
ISBN: 0743289412
Author: Stephen King
Price: $28.00
Length: 528
Formats: Hardcover
US publication date: 2006-10
UK publication date: 2006-10
Author website

Earlier in his career, Stephen King famously joked he was the literary equivalent of a Big Mac and fries. The idea being that he was none too precious about his work, which was regularly produced in value-sized editions and was of a consistent and satisfying quality. That was then. At various stages since, the horror author began side-stepping away from the homicidal St. Bernards and paranormal Plymouths upon which he'd built that early reputation and started getting more ... lit'ry. Stories began appearing in which not a single supernatural thing occurred, his books included quotes from the likes of Salman Rushdie, and King even wrote the occasional piece for The New Yorker and the New York Review of Books. While still cranking out the boogeyman tales, King also branched out into fantasy and hard-boiled crime fiction, and published a scrupulously honest autobiographical guide to the writing life. He started receiving awards and more glowing praise from hard-to-please critics, and came to be seen, in his omnivorous delight in all manifestations of literature, as one of the preeminent public faces of American letters.

None of this came easy: there was always a schizophrenia inside King about how populist he should be. From The Dark Half to Misery and multiple other creations, King utilized authorial protagonists caught in a tug of war between their desire to write serious fiction and the need to please their fans. King has usually gotten around this problem by writing mostly in the latter category while occasionally shifting over to the former. Earlier this year, he made a solid entry in the populist category with Cell, a zombie bloodfest and modern technology satirical mashup ala George Romero, which seemed so off-the-cuff that it could signal nothing but a Big Serious Book around the corner. Fortunately, King's newest novel, Lisey's Story is neither too studied or too frivolous; in its weaving together of well-etched character study and phantasmagorical fantasy, the book is an unusually careful creation from an author who has too often let himself run on automatic.

Instead of King's disgruntled writer as hero, the book is told from the perspective of a dead writer's widow. Lisey Debusher Landon is an average Maine woman who landed herself an honest-to-God famous author as husband in Scott Landon. He's "the Pulitzer Prize winner, the enfant terrible who published his first novel at the age of 22", and who inspired packs of self-proclaimed literary experts to come sniffing around his estate in the wake of his death. They come looking for unseen papers, letters which could provide valuable clues for career-making dissertations, and they don't believe for a second that Lisey is doing anything but keeping these materials from them. It's a nonstop flood at times, these "pagan worshippers of original texts and unpublished manuscripts" bothering her for clues to their literary puzzles while she's still trying to figure out, two years after Scott's death, how to live in a world without him. One of the manuscript-hunters turns the corner to full-on psychotic stalker, but that's the least of Lisey's worries.

For Scott, the great writer, had a secret that only Lisey knew about. Writers often talk about the place where they go to get their ideas, a metaphorical wellspring of inspiration; but Scott's was real. It exists in a sort of twilight half-world, where the sun is always setting in a blood-red sky, mad creatures called the laughers lurk in darkling woods, and Scott knows something waits, "that lord of sleepless nights, [which] will turn its unspeakable hungry head." This all wouldn't be a problem if Scott's secret -- one that points to an horrific family past and inner demons of unquenched fury -- had died with him, but it hasn't, and now Lisey has to journey there and complete some unfinished business.

If it were a question of building nightmare worlds and dark hauntings of the soul, then Lisey's Story wouldn't be quite so remarkable as it is. What King does that is so exceptional here is to get out of his comfort zone and dig deep into the skin of his main character until he's conjured up on the page a living, breathing human such as is rarely found in his pulpier creations. Lisey's narrative is an all-too-recognizable inner loop of private jokes and obsessive memories that moves the book forward only in fits and starts. She doesn't just mourn Scott, she repeatedly conjures him without even trying, using all his dumb slang and repeating his awful jokes for no reason other than that, after a quarter-century of connected lives, his ghost is imbedded so deep within her that she couldn't exorcise him with a priest and a gallon of holy water. He's there to stay, as is the sadness of his being gone, and it's that inescapable reality that proves particularly terrifying here.

In Lisey's Story, King finally gets past the preoccupations of his previous books and gets down to exploring true grief:

The kind of hope-ending thing cancer patients glimpse in their bleary bedside waterglasses when all the medicine is taken and the morphine pump reads 0 and the hour is none and the pain is still in there, eating its steady way into your wakeful bones.

This is the sort of thing that would be unendurable were it not for heroic Lisey. With her stolid, quietly sarcastic and salt-of-the-earth manner, Lisey is the sort of woman who keeps civilizations running, and exactly the one you would turn to when all else is lost. She's easy to over-praise, as is this novel. Both deserve it.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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