Books

Welcome to Re:Print, the PopMatters books blog

There's a question I find myself forced to answer more of late than ever before. It's about books, and why I cram my living space with so many. Why do I buy books? The answer seems clear: because I like to read. But again they say, why? Usually, I mumble something about using books for research, or reading to cure boredom -- not purely a lie. Because, really, I don't know why I read. I just do. It's the way it's always been. Eat, go to school, hug mum, read: life's essentials.

Perhaps, I figure, I read to be informed. Although the first book I ever memorized was a book of Christmas Carols that's never really helped me in later life, and no amount of explanation would suffice for Jeffrey Goddin's Blood of the Wolf being on my nightstand for educational purposes. I read Erica Jong to be educated, Woody Allen to be entertained, Norman Mailer to be enlightened. Be it Hamlet, The Stand, Night of the Iguana, a pocket-sized Kama Sutra nicked from beneath the parents' bed, a Neil Young biography -- whatever was there had a purpose. It existed to inform, in some way. Intimately, casually, jokingly, junkily beautifully.

I got this question the other day at work: Doesn't reading the book first ruin the movie? That was a question I couldn't answer. I tried my best to fashion an answer in my head before simply sputtering and splurting and looking decidedly unread. The question was in relation to Children of Men, a fascinating film, but an exquisite novel.

'Cause why would we read when we have the movies, the Internet, everything else fighting to grab our attention? Well, because although the readers' life has altered, it's yet to completely change. We've got the eBook option, but we've never had to re-buy our collections or risk never being able to read them again. We don't have to worry about HDs and Blu-Rays and MP3 or AVI compatibility, but we continue to have more choice than ever before. Logging onto eBooks, eBay, or Amazon gives us access to brand new novels from Asia, Argentina, or the Ukraine simply by keying in a credit card number.

We can read interviews with authors, peruse a writer's back catalogue, or check out pictures of Margaret Mitchell's frocks. We can communicate with authors, join their websites, buy their CafePress mugs. We can check out an author's favorite books. We can even download the music an author composed their bestseller to as if it were a Broadway soundtrack. And here's a little secret -- with Amazon's excellent Search Inside tool, wide reading for a post-grad degree has never been easier. Book technology might ruffle some feathers, but most eager readers have to admit it's a better world for the bibliophile.

Re:Print aims to step into that world, to dissect and discuss a large range of book-related topics. Will reading the book ruin the movie? If it does, our diverse, dutiful contributors will let you know. Re:Print is our place (and yours) to discuss everything books, from what's on the bestseller list, to who's making writerly waves across the globe. We'll be chatting with authors and exploring new technologies. We'll be looking at forgotten books that deserve fresh eyes, book art, industry gossip, and provide short reviews of genre fiction from large and small publishers. Re:Print will incorporate PopMatters' Bookmarks, featuring short reviews of new and noteworthy titles. The Reading Room will appear here, too, providing excerpts of upcoming books.

So, why do we read? Jesse Lee Bennett might have the best answer: "Books are the compasses and telescopes and sextants and charts which other men have prepared to help us navigate the dangerous seas of human life." So, let's go...

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

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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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This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

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Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

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Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

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