Home Sweet Home

My dears, the lease has been signed—and all 3,487 pages lovingly initialed—which means Malvern Books has officially found a home.

Lease signed613 W. 29th Street, to be exact. It’s a great location, not far from UT Austin, and with wonderful neighbors (why, hello there, Vulcan Video, “voted best video store in Austin by the Austin Chronicle for the past millionty years”). The site itself used to be home to a branch of Dreamers, an Austin chain that specializes in meeting all of your, ahem, adult needs. We trust that we, too, can meet your adult needs, assuming your need is for AWESOME BOOKS.

We’ve met with an architect, and we will shortly begin turning this…


… into a beautiful and welcoming bookstore and community space (fear not, that grotty carpet will be dying a horrible death). Stay tuned for regular how-to-build-a-bookstore updates and plenty more before and after pictures. And don’t forget to let us know what you’d like to see between these four walls!

Sounds from the Stone Age

Today Adam introduces us to some rock Queens from California…

Queens of the Stone AgeQueens of the Stone Age is a highly talented rock band formed in Palm Desert, California, in 1996. Queens of the Stone Age was formed following the 1995 demise of the massively influential stoner rock band Kyuss. The group’s founder, Josh Homme, briefly played guitar in a band called Screaming Trees, before deciding to form a new band of his own. Their first release was a two-track EP entitled Gamma Ray, released in January ’96. On their first full-length, self-titled album, Homme played guitar and bass, but shortly after, former Kyuss bass player Nick Oliveri joined the group.

The band’s original line up consisted of Josh Homme on guitar/vocals, Nick Oliveri on bass, and Alfredo Hernandez on drums. Throughout their career, the band would undergo a series of line up changes and as of today, the only member who was in Queens of the Stone Age since their formation is Josh Homme. When the band released their first self-titled album, listeners were thoroughly surprised to hear the significant difference between their new sound and that of the former stoner rock band, Kyuss. Queens of the Stone Age delivered more of a progressive, alternative rock sound that somewhat put off listeners at first. However, it was a sound that slowly became accepted. Their next album, Rated R, pushed the envelope even further and incorporated a pop sound along with a high-energy gusto. Queens of the Stone Age were able to take this sound and manufacture it into an extremely original music style that would soon become their trademark. Their sound was so unique that it became extremely difficult to classify them as belonging to a single genre of music. Throughout their career, the band has been described as hard rock, alternative rock, art rock, psychedelic rock, desert rock, heavy metal, alternative metal, and stoner rock.

After the release of Rated R, Queens of the Stone Age would release their third album, which is their most prominent one to date. This album was entitled Songs for the Deaf. Their frequent touring for their previous albums generated support for the band, which only grew once former Nirvana drummer/ Foo Fighters front man Dave Grohl joined the band on drums in late 2001. He would soon leave the band, however, and would be replaced by former Danzig drummer Joey Castillo. The guitarist of alternative rock band A Perfect Circle, Troy Van Leeuwen, also joined on guitar for this release. Songs for the Deaf was a critically acclaimed and commercial success, reaching gold status in 2003, with record sales of over 900,00 copies. The album consists of classic songs such as “No One Knows,” “First It Giveth,” and “Go with the Flow.”

Thursday Three #1

Welcome to our first Thursday Three, a round up of a trio of odds and sods*, old and new, that have fancied our tickle here at Malvern this week.

First up, a movie recommendation: you really should see Beyond the Hills, the new film from Cristian Mungiu, director of the brilliant 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days:

Set in grimmest Romania in the depths of winter, Beyond the Hills is the story of two friends, Voichita and Alina, who grew up together in a bleak and seedy orphanage (is there any other cinematic kind?), and who are reunited at the beginning of the film after some years apart. The troubled Alina has been working as a barmaid in Germany (this is possibly a euphemism for something kind of gross), and she returns to Romania to persuade Voichita to come and join her. Voichita, however, has found God: she’s now a novice at a remote and austere Orthodox convent, and she refuses to leave. It’s clear the two girls were once extremely close—it’s hinted that they were lovers, though it’s possible the intensity of their relationship has taken on an exaggerated significance in the mind of poor Alina—and Alina is heartbroken to find that her role in Voichita’s life has been usurped by God, and by his representative on earth, the convent’s formidable priest, whom the novices call “Papa.” Stuck in the middle of nowhere, with a distant friend who offers biblical homilies in place of real comfort, Alina becomes increasingly unstable—there’s a seizure, an attempted suicide, and a little light arson thrown in for good measure. Not to give too much away, but if I tell you the movie was inspired by the real-life case of an exorcism gone awry, you’ll see where this is heading.

It’s a long and meandering film, full of lingering, meticulously composed shots, and it’s as austere as the place it portrays: there’s no music, and many seemingly crucial plot details are left vague. What makes the film so riveting is Mungiu’s refusal to take sides: this is not an anti-religious screed, but rather a complex portrait of a murky moral world, where confused and frightened people do whatever they can to hold on to what is dear to them. You’ll want to see it with a friend, so you can have someone to argue about it with afterwards.

Next up, the Michel Houellebecq interview in The Paris Review is maddening and hilarious and well worth a read. Here’s an excerpt:


You’ve said that you possibly had an American side to you. What is your evidence for this?


I have very little proof. There’s the fact that if I lived in an American context, I think I would have chosen a Lexus, which is the best quality for the price. And more obscurely, I have a dog that I know is very popular in the United States, a Welsh Corgi. One thing I don’t share is this American obsession with large breasts. That, I must admit, leaves me cold. But a two-car garage? I want one. A fridge with one of those ice-maker things? I want one too. What appeals to them appeals to me.

And finally, here’s a short and charming clip about a Norwegian man who has been dubbed “the most easily scared guy in the world,” and who should also be declared “the best-natured guy in the world”:

* Do Americans say “odds and sods”? I’ve lived here for seven years now, and I still find myself asking “do you say this?” on a near daily basis.

Poetry, E

And now for the third installment in Malvern Books’ arbitrary and occasional Poetry Month A-Z series…

E is for Eady, Cornelius

Remember Susan Smith, the shitty mom from Union, South Carolina? On October 25th, 1994, she told police she’d been carjacked by a stranger, who forced her out of her Mazda Protegé and drove away with her two young sons still in the back. She appeared on television, pale and twitchy, begging for their safe return: “I would like to say to whoever has my children, that they please, I mean please, bring them home.” But she failed repeated polygraphs—that little blue line always stuttered when they asked, “Do you know where your children are?”—and nine days after she reported the crime, she was arrested: Susan Smith had rolled the car into a lake with her kids inside, and left them to drown.

Susan Smith

So Susan Smith was a Very Bad Mom, and the media loves a bad mom—the story was front page news for weeks. The case prompted a few peculiar strangers to make YouTube tribute videos in honor of her dead children, and the videos all come with a string of comments that pretty much blur into one: “She needs to rot in hell for what she did to those sweet innocent boys.” But keep scrolling down and you find: “A curse to these devils, always placing blame on other races for their own shit… they need to worry about their own race, devils devils devils.” Yes, Susan Smith had been very clear: her imaginary carjacker was an African American, a dark man dressed in a dark shirt and wearing a knit cap. “A black man did it”: the racial hoax. In 70% of cases where someone commits a crime and blames it on a fabricated transgressor of another race, the real criminal is white, and their invented assailant is black.

Brutal ImaginationIn his 2001 collection, Brutal Imagination, poet Cornelius Eady addresses the role of the black man in white America. In the collection’s second cycle, “Running Man,” Eady’s poems draw on the libretto for his 1999 music-drama of the same name (and for which he was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize). But it’s the first, eponymous cycle of the collection that directly addresses the Susan Smith case and the concept of the racial hoax, with Eady adopting the persona of Smith’s imaginary black attacker.

How I Got Born

Though it’s common belief
That Susan Smith willed me alive
At the moment
Her babies sank into the lake

When called, I come.
My job is to get things done.
I am piecemeal.
I make my living by taking things.

So now a mother needs me clothed
In hand-me-downs
And a knit cap.

We arrive, bereaved
On a stranger’s step.
Baby, they weep.
Poor child.

This character, referred to as Mr. Zero, acts as a kind of guide, leading us through this all-too-familiar scenario, where “everything they say about me is true.” The narrator also recalls being summoned by Charles Stuart, the Boston man who shot and killed his wife, then told the police the murderer was a young, black male:

I sat with Charles the way I sit
With Susan; like anyone, and no one,
Changing clothes,
Putting on and taking off ski caps,
Curling and relaxing my hair,
Trying hard to become sense.

In the cycle’s final poem, “Birthing,” words from Susan Smith’s handwritten confession (in italics) are interwoven with the narrator’s voice:

When I left my home on Tuesday, October 25, I
was very emotionally distraught

I have yet
to breathe.

I am in the back of her mind,
Not even a notion.

A scrap of cloth, the way
A man lopes down the street.

Later, a black woman will say:
“We knew exactly who she was describing.”

* * *

I felt I couldn’t be a good mom anymore, but I didn’t want
my children to grow up without a mom.

I am not me, yet.
At the bridge,
One of Susan’s kids cries,
So she drives to the lake,
To the boat dock.

I am not yet opportunity.

* * *

I had never felt so lonely
and so sad.

Who shall be a witness?
Bullfrogs, water fowl.

The poems were written to be performed; this first cycle was adapted for an award-winning off-Broadway play. The language in Brutal Imagination is plain and straightforward, almost disarmingly serene. It’s a powerful collection, unabashedly political, but never preachy: the narrator, this conjured scapegoat, delivers his message in a voice so calm, so quiet, so resigned—it’s utterly chilling.

If you decide to wash your car,
If you decide to mail a letter,

I might tumbleweed onto a pant leg.
You can stare, and stare, but I can’t be found.
Susan has loosed me on the neighbors,
A cold representative.
The scariest face you could think of.

In an interview, Eady says of Brutal Imagination:

It’s an examination of what the stereotypes are made of, the elements that we’ve used to make those characters what they are, our belief system. One thing that fascinated me about the story was how easy it was for Susan Smith to tap into that. She just pulled it out of the ether. I know when it happened. Between the time she sees the car’s taillights go under the lake and when she’s walking from the lake across the highway toward the first house she finds. In that little space of time, she’s thinking, Who did this? Someone’s got to have done this. Someone’s got to be blamed for this. It’s a black guy, and he’s wearing a cap, and he pushed me out of the car. She’s thinking this as she’s walking toward the house. It’s just so easy because it’s plausible. That was the scariest part, how easy it was for her.

Olfactory Entertainments

PerfumesA quick GO READ THIS from me today: go read Perfumes: The A-Z Guide, by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez. And before you can say, “But Tracey, I am a Profound Person! I read books about war, incest, and ennui—not smells,” let me reassure you that Perfumes is no mere collection of lady mag fragrance piffle (“you’ll drive your man wild with this fruity concoction,” etc). It’s an “exemplary” blend of “technical knowledge and evocative writing” (The New Yorker said so), chock-full of erudite, passionate, and hilarious criticism.

The book comes with a sweet-as-Prada-Candy back-story: once upon a time, Tania Sanchez, prolific American fragrance blogger, left a comment on the perfume blog of Luca Turin, European scholar of smells (and the subject of Chandler Burr’s The Emperor of Scent), which led to a correspondence, which led to a working relationship (Sanchez provided Turin with editorial input on one of his earlier books, in exchange for a few rare perfumes), which led, two years later, to marriage.

And they’re a perfect match. Sanchez is whip-smart and funny—her one-liners are the best—and her descriptions of fragrances read like tiny, perfect narratives. Turin, also a very good writer, provides the musings of an esteemed olfactory nerd. Here he is explaining how perfumes are made up of atoms that come from “the Upper East Side of the periodic table, a nice, safe neighborhood”:

Citing a lack of passion for “data entry,” Turin and Sanchez forgo the lengthy lists of notes that occupy so much space in most fragrance reviews, preferring to focus on the impressions those notes create. And they’re fantastic at impressions:

[Ormonde Woman] has the haunting, outdoors witchiness of tall pines leaning into the night—a bitter oakmoss inkiness, a dry cedar crackle, and a low, delicious, pleading sweet amber, like the call of a faraway candy house. Lulling and unsettling in equal measure, and truly great.

[Lancôme’s Magie] brings to mind a pouting model, hands on hips in opera gloves, wearing a hat, a Spencer jacket, and a pencil skirt, with her feet at right angles to each other as if she were going up a ski slope.

[Estée Lauder’s White Linen] is a canonical expression of the American ideal of sex appeal: squeaky clean, healthy, depilated and exfoliated, well rested and ready for the day… the whole thing is comfortable and well lit, like a warm spot on the floor where the cat sleeps…it reminds me of Thomas Pynchon describing the smell of breakfast floating over World War II-era London as “a spell against falling objects.”

But the bad reviews are the most fun:

Givenchy’s Very Irrésistible Fresh Attitude: Hilariously misconceived and loud…if you can ask for it by name without laughing, you’re the ideal guy for it.

Lancôme’s O Oui!: This is a fresh floral in which every blindingly powerful aromachemical has been harnessed to induce a remarkable sensation of bone pain that rises from the roof of your mouth to your forehead, similar to what happens when you eat ice cream too quickly. Chiefly of neurological interest.

Estée Lauder’s Spellbound: Powerfully cloying and nauseating. Trails for miles. Frightens horses. Gets worse.

Benetton’s Sport: Reviewing masculine sport fragrances is a bit like trying to write short stanzas about individual matches in a matchbox.

Calvin Klein’s cK IN2U His: IM IN UR BOTTLE BORIN UR GF.

Accept Refused

Today Adam takes us to Scandinavia for a little hardcore punk…

RefusedRefused is a highly talented Swedish hardcore punk band, which was formed in Umea, Sweden, in 1991. Its five members consist of Dennis Lyxzén as vocalist, Jon Brännström and Kristofer Steen on guitar, Magnus Höggren on bass, and last but definitely not least, David Sandström on drums. Debuting in 1993 with the EP This Is the New Deal, the group delivered a unique sound that rapidly received attention throughout the underground hardcore/punk scene. In 1998, they released the classic album, The Shape of Punk to Come. Sadly, they disbanded soon after this release due to artistic differences, but reunited again shortly after. This reunion would be short-lived, however. In total, they released five EPs and three full-length albums before splitting up in 1998.

Refused are without a doubt one of the most respected bands in the punk rock/hardcore underground scene. Their album The Shape of Punk to Come was a masterpiece, and includes songs such as “New Noise,” “The Deadly Rhythm,” and “Refused are Fuckin Dead.”

The Shape of Punk to Come was placed at number thirteen in Kerrang magazine’s “50 Most Influential Albums of All Time” list. Dennis Lyxzén’s blistering screams serve as a thunderous force over the complex time changes provided by the rhythm section. Refused are known for their powerful lyrics, which for the most part gained a reputation for condemning mainstream music and commercialized entertainment. Their lyrics are often of a non-conformist and politically far-left nature. Refused incorporated radical left-wing and anti-capitalist politics into a sound that paid homage to bands such as Born Against and Black Flag. The band’s sound gradually got heavier with each release, as Lyxzén’s vicious screams replaced his somewhat monotone shouts in the band’s early works. Even though they are no longer a band, Refused have definitely made their mark in the history of music and have captivated millions of fans throughout the world.