A Braille Hoax and Some Rockabilly Cancer
Ed Park peered into the strange world of David Berman's drawings for last week's cover story. Park argued that the drawings collected in the newly released Portable February are cut from the same quirky cloth as Berman's poetry and music. One 'rawing that particularly caught the writer's attention: a billboard/projection stating, “Somehow I had offered to deliver bad news to a maniac.”
"You can even imagine Berman’s deadpan, dead-on singing voice delivering that non-punchline punchline on one of his albums with his band, the Silver Jews," Park says.
Ah yes. The now-defunct Joos. That monotonic punchline machine that is Berman's singing voice, delivering zingers over some jangly jangles. It's amazing how much of my life has been spent humming the following:
In 1984 I was hospitalized for approaching perfection.
On the last day of your life don't forget to die.
-"Advice to the Graduate"
We're trapped inside this song where the nights are so long!
Sentimental as a cat's grave. Fuckin' body broke my eyes.
-"I'm Gonna Love the Hell Out of You"
All houses dream in blueprints.
When the sun sets on the ghetto all the broken stuff gets cold.
-"Smith and Jones"
It is autumn and my camouflage is dying.
-"The Wild Kindness"
The sky is low and gray like a Japanese table
-"Time Will Break the World"
What about the stuff we quote believe?
-"San Francisco B.C."
What looks like sleep is really hot pursuit.
-"My Pillow is the Threshold"
Admittedly, I wake up nearly every mornign with Public Enemy's "911 is a Joke" rattling around in my brain, so I may be a tuneless obsessive. But sometimes I feel like these particular tunes have a code embedded in them I'm stupidly susceptible to. I mean, they're so goofy, but I can't help but love them!
Travis Nichols is the author of two books of poetry: Iowa (2010, Letter Machine Editions) and See Me Improving (2010); and he is the author of two novels: Off We Go Into the Wild Blue Yonder (2012) and The More You Ignore Me (2013). He has contributed to The Believer, Paste, The...