So, I had pneumonia last week. I thought that I’d get all sorts of work done while I was stuck at home, but basically had zero energy for anything aside from reading and TV. Even videogames were too much.
For some reason, this lack of hand-eye motor skills meant that I ended up reading criticism for a bit, specifically Geoff Dyer’s new book Zona exploring Tarkovsky’s Stalker, and Drew Daniel’s 33 1/2 entry on Throbbing Gristle’s classic record 20 Jazz Funk Greats. Both Stalker and Throbbing Gristle were pretty important to me growing up, and I’d been really looking forward both of these books.
I first encountered Stalker at a friend’s house when I was a teen. He was a trash horror filmmaker and musician, and one day when I dropped by his place there was this amazing film playing on his TV, full of Russian angst, beautiful industrial landscapes and mystery. I’ve long since forgotten why I was there that day, but I’ve never lost the 20 minutes or so of Stalker that I saw there.
Since then, the film has become one of my favorites, a true desert island pick, and Dyer’s Zona (full, incredibly appropriate title – Zona: A Book About A Film About A Journey To A Room) is the book that Stalker has always deserved. Geoff Dyer is a great writer, and not only is his discussion of Stalker both informative and personal, it is also extremely entertaining and often very funny; something that’s not the easiest thing to do when discussing Tarkovsky and a film like Stalker, which isn’t exactly a laugh fest.
Similarly, Drew Daniel’s 33 1/2 entry on 20 Jazz Funk Greats was equally entertaining and informative, diving into the minutiae and cultural impact of an album that I’ve always enjoyed. Drew is one half of Matmos and has both the musical knowledge and cultural background to really dig into his subject, which, when combined with extensive first person recollections from the band, allows him to document and make vital a record that generally wouldn’t be considered TG’s most important.
I was exposed to Throbbing Gristle and the rest of the early industrial scene at a very young age, and bands like TG and Einstürzende Neubauten have been (and are!) extremely influential to me. I’ve always had a soft spot for 20 Jazz Funk Greats, and I really enjoyed this. Plus, listening to the record at full volume while zoned out on medication was somewhat appropriate, especially Walkabout.
Both of these books are superlative and entertaining bits of criticism, and like pretty much most else I mention here, I highly recommend them. They are available via fine booksellers everywhere.