Monday Earworm: Ed Sheeran

No, no, hear me out.

I’m not a huge fan of Ed Sheeran’s work in general. I admit that I know only what gets played on the radio, and I admit also that I find some of his songs catchy and fun to sing along with in the car or exercise class.

However, I’m in no way a fan of hook-up culture, which I dislike with an intensity that one might fairly describe as rabid. This prevents me from enjoying his work too much.

This video of him singing “Wild Mountain Thyme,” though, kind of classes up his career more than a little.

(Even if one could argue that he’s still singing, at least a little, about the same old thing. But whatever.)

I was reminded of this Scottish folk song, which I rather like, yesterday during the closing conversations of the Moss Wood Retreat, an excellent writing retreat I attended last week and which I will give you more details about soon. (So stay tuned.)

In the meantime, do enjoy this.

 

Monday Earworm: Toto Meets Metal

When I was in college, my freshman year, I put the song “She’s Always a Woman” by Billy Joel on repeat on my CD player for eighteen hours straight. It was a weekend night, and I loved that song, and I was probably thinking about my boyfriend being eighteen hundred miles away at a different school and just got sentimental. Something like that. I no longer remember what truly motivated me to listen to that song nonstop for so long, but I can tell you how much it annoyed everyone in my dorm who was around that weekend. By about hour fifteen, the walls of the building were vibrating with Billy Joel’s piano and vocals.

I didn’t get tired of the song that night, either, if you can believe it. But I didn’t pull that stunt again.

Last night my daughter did. She played “Africa” by Toto on repeat on her iPod all night long. So this morning, I went searching for that video to post here, but the video is such a prime specimen of everything that was clunky and goofy about ’80’s music videos, I’m going to post this one instead. Please enjoy.

 

Whom I’ve Been Reading: Marcus Sedgwick

Although my favorite thing to read is a novel, I also love linked collections of short stories. The forgiving nature of a series of discrete narratives doesn’t make me feel guilty when my schoolwork prevents me from reading a novel straight through.

Sometimes these collections are linked by place; there are many of these. Others are linked by characters, such as Justin Cronin’s Mary and O’Neill. By an object: Susan Vreeland’s Girl in Hyacinth Blue. Some by concept: Her Infinite Variety by Pamela Rafael Berkman. Sometimes by theme: Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by Z.Z. Packer.

And sometimes a collection is linked by all of these.

Printz Award-winning Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick contains seven linked stories which travel backward in time on a remote and unusual island near the top of the world. They explore the themes of love and sacrifice in the myriad ways that love and sacrifice impress themselves on our lives, sometimes obvious and sometimes not. But the writing is never obvious, never predictable. Sedgwick’s work is often, I think, categorized as YA, but even if you don’t usually read in that category, give this one a try.

Eric and Merle are two characters who orbit each other in time, meeting each other in different ways. Sometimes in love, sometimes bound by a family relationship, sometimes tossed together by external forces, their interactions show the breadth of love and sacrifice. The writing is lush without overpowering the reader. The stories are based on an actual historical painting, Midvinterblot, but everything else in the novel comes from Sedgwick’s own imagination.

Honestly, I don’t know what else to say about this book that won’t give too much of the story away. Aside from the writing being enjoyable even down to the level of the sentence, I love the structure, how each story is illuminated by a subsequent one, how the orbit comes around in such a satisfying way, how the island itself is a character, how the names of the characters evolve, how the dragon flowers on the island and the image of the hare anchor the narrative. There is a hint of the fantastical in this book, but I wouldn’t call it fantasy; magic realism is more its purview.

This novel-in-stories accomplishes what the 1994 film Being Human tried to do but couldn’t. Midwinterblood captures two important facets of the immensity of human experience with crystalline clarity. And like a faceted prism, this story reveals a depth of possibility in every interaction, that we are part of something larger than ourselves. That love and sacrifice cannot be contained. It asks the question, is life truly this rich?

And so, it is.