Tag Archives: literature

chromatic on the millions

29 Jan

I was a contributor for Chromatic, a 400-page book on the intersection color and music, published by Alarm Press. Recently Buzz Poole gave it a generous review over at The Millions.

I’m really happy to report that The Millions posted a generous review of Chromatic, that book by Alarm Press I’ve been harping about for several months. The book’s almost 400 pages explore the intersection of music and sound—synesthesia, stage design, album art, symbolism—and Buzz Poole writes, “Chromatic is a first in the way it documents a segment of today’s music scene by favoring exciting and important visual examples that contribute to a sensory overload that better represents the music than words or notes ever could on their own.”

A spread from Chromatic, which includes 400 pages of stuff pretty much like this (with some normal words and pictures too).

It’s weird seeing my own name about halfway down—though it’s now an extinct pen name. Poole singled out the part of book devoted to Jónsi’s set design, though in my opinion there were far better sections (chapter seven and the second part of chapter two come to mind). But I’m grateful for the mention. Here’s what Poole writes:

Take for example Timothy S. Aames’s account of how the charred remains of the Deyrolle taxidermy shop in Paris connect to the set design for a tour by Sigur Rós frontman Jónsi. From a book of photographs to full-blown multimedia spectacle, Aames reveals how Jónsi and Fifty Nine Productions brought to fruition something neither party had imagined until collaborating on the presentation of a narrative arc built of music and color.

A rendering of Fifty Nine's plan for Jonsi's set design, which drew from images of a burnt-out taxidermy shop in Paris.

It’s been a long time since I interviewed Fifty Nine’s Mark Grimmer and Jónsi about all this, but this review and the recently posted online version made me revisit it. And I must say, I still really love the intro. I’ll leave you with that.

A year after On February 1, 2008, one of Paris’ most cherished stores burnt to the ground. When the sun rose, it shed verdant light onto the gray, smoldering shell of an oddity-filled taxidermy shop called Deyrolle. Inside were hundreds of animals, among them a zebra whose stripes dissolved into a black, charred mass and a lion whose disfigured snout gave it a dark, Victorian-era mask. The tragic beauty of the scene caught the attention of a photographer named Martin d’Orgeval, who got permission to shoot the now half-burnt curiosities that had awed generations of Parisians since the mid-1800s.

D’Orgeval published his photos in a book called Touché par le Feu (Touched by Fire), which was purchased as a Christmas present the following year for one Leo Warner, the director of a group called Fifty Nine Productions, which was rapidly altering the landscape of theatre and opera with its video and set-design work. Now the company was working on a new type of project — a music tour.

Read the rest here.

why we write: michael danaher

28 Nov
The following is the second installment of “Why We Write,” a series of personal reflections on the craft of writing. Each installment is poignant in its own way, but in sum the series is a sincere and astounding collection of thoughts, emotions, and ambitions regarding the profession of writing. Take of each what you will.

:: :: ::

Michael Danaher

I’d like to say it’s for some ultimate truth, like digging down deep into the clay of the human condition and unearthing something revelatory, something meaningful and genuine. That’s why I started, I suppose. Carver, O’Connor, Cheever, Vonnegut, O’Brien, Hemingway, Orwell, Salinger, Capote—they moved me, taught me things about myself, about my fellow man, that had been there all along but that I couldn’t see until I had consumed their sentences, digested their words, and attributed some significance to the meal of their works. And I knew, after reading “Cathedral” for my first Fiction Writing class sophomore year of college, that I wanted to be a writer.  Continue reading

416-page prose poem

9 Sep

One of the families written about in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men reads somewhat like a 416-page prose poem. Flip to a random page and this is what you might find:

“This creature, this center, soul, nerve, see he is now born, and I have said, how he is globed round, with what shall make and harm him: what are the constituents of this globe? What are the several strengths of their forces upon him?”

Turns out James Agee was a poet, but I half wish the assignment to write about three tenant families in the Deep South during the Great Depression had gone to a journalist instead. Continue reading

secret handshake

21 Jun

Tonight is the launch of a new journalistic endeavor here in Chicago, and it is the best approach I’ve seen. Do we need another lit journal full of soggy fiction and hyperinflated poems? Do we need another political rag for PC intellectuals? A new hub for citizen journalists’ petty anecdotes and diatribes? I don’t think so. We need a print journal that gives us one conversation, one interview, one essay, one short story, and one road trip—and that’s it.

The Handshake offers just that, and it looks to be head-and-shoulders above some of Chicago’s other independent publications. In its influences, informers, and heroes alone, it impresses: Studs Terkel, Hunter S. Thompson, David Foster Wallace. These are some of the true greats in literary and narrative nonfiction, and if they are the standard, then The Handshake will maintain an excellence unseen in the independent publishing world as well as a spot on my coffee table. Check out what they’re up to, and if you live here, go to the launch tonight at Schuba’s.

If you’re looking for the story of its origins, you can find it, for the most part, in Daniel Duffy’s letter from the editor, which I’ve reproduced in an abridged version below.

:: :: ::

“This past Spring, I interviewed J.C. Gabel, who founded one of my favorite magazines, Stop Smiling, in the mid-‘90s. … [We] met at the Intelligentsia in the Monadnock Building in the South Loop of Chicago. Jackson and Dearborn. The Monadnock—that thing is unbelievable. It’s the tallest commercial load-bearing masonry building ever constructed. It’s made of this purple-brown brick that looks amazing when it rains, and its walls slope gently out at the base and top. Inside, it’s all wood and aluminum and marble. Beautiful and ornate. … I love that Intelligentsia. 

Gabel started Stop Smiling when he was nineteen. He got his first advertisers immediately. He got his first investor shortly after that, and he’s been on salary and working three jobs ever since—one with Playboy. And here I was, thirty years old, bartending two nights a week and living on school loans. And I was hungover. “I’m a piece of shit,” I thought.

But then this funny thing happened. … The brilliant motherfucker basically told me how to start a self-sustaining magazine. I stopped thinking about my faults then, boy. I started thinking about how I was going to do what Gabel had done sixteen years ago. I was going to start a magazine.

My high school English teacher … always called me Phineas, referring to a character in John Knowles’ novel A Separate Peace who was a nonconformist, constantly refusing to follow rules and regulations, doing stupid shit like wearing his tie on his head, and organizing a group called the Summer Suicide Society.

There’s another Phineas out there, as well. At 4:30 in the afternoon on September 13, 1848, a twenty-five year-old foreman named Phineas Gage was preparing a roadbed for the Rutland & Burlington Railroad in the forest near Cavendish, Vermont, when the accidental explosion of a charge he had set blew his tamping iron through his head. The tamping iron was 3’7” long and weighed approximately thirteen pounds. It entered on the left side of Gage’s face, under the cheekbone, demolished his left eye, and exploded out of the top of his skull before flying into the air and landing in the woods a good eighty feet away.

The most absurd part of this story is the fact that Gage not only survived, but also didn’t lose consciousness. He was speaking within a few minutes of his accident. … The thing is, however, that when Phineas was strong enough to return to work, the contractors who had employed him wouldn’t take him back because his personality had changed drastically. … Gage, in effect, reverted to savage-hood.

I want the Handshake Media Project to be our tamping iron. I want it to enter our faces, demolish our eyes, and explode out of the top of our skulls before flying into the air and landing in the woods eighty feet away. I don’t want it to turn us all into a bunch of emotionally-explosive, verbally-abusive assholes, necessarily, but I do want it to be a catalyst for change. I want it to change the way we think about things. The way we think about each other.

Phineas Gage, with tamping iron

titles, voyages

23 Jan

titles have always been something that fascinate me, much like the way trees grow, and how the animal kingdom works, and how some people are extremely wise, and also how certain books seem so right.


but especially interesting lately have been the titles of instrumental pieces of music.

there seems to be so much more of a story in them.

or not more of a story, just a more open one.

such as, “Steps in the Wrong Direction,” a piece by Portico Quartet, from London. it’s a quick, stand-up bass-driven tune. the wire brushes on the snare are like, quick but shuffled steps, perhaps on a sidewalk strewn with leaves, on a brisk afternoon, when the sun is not yet low, but masked by dense clouds.


or “The Big Ship,” by ambient legend Brian Eno. Sailing across a digital sea? Floating above our houses? Anchored off a distant, imaginary shore?


What about “The Supine” by Andrew Bird? It tells the story of movement, but also stationary moments. Almost like a cycle. Like walking in sand, where you take 1 step and slide back 2. Or like history, as things circle around and double-back. The stationary moments, where things seem to be slowing and perhaps giving the appearance of movement without actually moving (much like car wheels, or bicycle spokes) take on a new meaning if you know the meaning of supine: marked by lethargy, passivity, or blameworthy indifference. Or: lying on your back, facing upward.


i appreciate the openness of these titles, more so than lines pulled directly from lyrics. i love their freedom. their potential voyage.