OThe Michigan Daily
Monday, September 30, 1991
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S4>......7.~ real people, issues
by Kevin Stein
or doing it all ourselves. That's not our schtick. Our schtick is a bout d evoutly doing what we want to do."
*Arizona guitar punks probably aren't members of FE TA A, either
R osellen Brown writes to give voice to those who would otherwise not
be heard, to the people who do not make the headlines. Her subjects range
from the colorful strangers on Brooklyn's Georgia Street (in a book of
short stories called Street Games, reissued this year by Milkweed Press)
to a small-town New Hampshire woman who wants to "understand light
years" in Cora Fry. Brown's novels often deal with the situations that
arise after a tragedy has occurred: Tender Mercies begins just after a
woman is paralyzed by her careless husband, and Civil Wars deals with
civil rights pioneers facing the aftermath of the glorified coverage of the
late '60s and early '70s.
In fleshing out the anonymous people, Brown allows them to speak
some of the most important truths simply in the way they lead their lives.
In Street Games, the incredible patience shown by a woman with a severely
hyperactive child stands in contrast to the brutal frustration of his teachers
and playmates. Sireet Games looks into the thoughts of its characters as if
through a window - perceptive, but not intrusive. The book is filled with
vivid people that are, in part, drawn from Brown's own memory. "The
characters are based on life," she says. "I look at people and squint to nar-
row my vision until they become fuzzy, and then I have to create new de-
Some characters are heard and forgotten, becoming just a whisper over
time. Civil Wars deals with people who are no longer daily considerations
- two civil rights workers living in Mississippi in the '80s who still take
their beliefs and goals seriously. But allowing these chaters tbeherdh
times. Brown's treatment is objective, not ingratiating. She presents the el-
ements that make her characters whole people, and thus their situations be-
come realistic and plausible. Teddy, the white main character of Civil Wars,
is seen as trying to ease his own conscience instead of truly helping Blacks.
The novel was influenced by three years that Brown spent teaching at a
s m l B l c co l e e i M i s s i p i u rin g h e l a e ' 0 s ( t s ) an a tt m p
Mississippi is just one of the many places which find voice in Brown's
stories. The settings in which her characters survive speak as loudly about
social issues as the people themselves. The first Southern integrated
communities in Civil Wars and the nondescript urban block with "the
statue's stone sober sickeyed face" in Some Deaths in the Delta make the
The questions Brown's characters face are sometimes questions that go
unasked because they make people uneasy, and her latest book is no ex-
ception. Before and After, to be published next September by Farer Strauss,
is a story of a teenage boy in a small town who is accused of committing a
murder, and the moral dilemma his parents face in the wake of the crime.
The book has captured the attention of Hollywood, with Meryl Streep, di-
rector Barbet Schroder and scriptwriter Ted Tally of Silence of the Lambs
fame interested in producing it. Brown has mixed emotions about this -
while she doesn't like the idea of having her work redone, she respects the
people involved. It is, however, somehow fitting that the controversial is-
sues dealt with in her books have the opportunity to find voice in such a
ROSELLEN BROWN will be reading from Before and After in Rackham
Amphitheatre today at 4 p.m. Admission is free.
by Annette Petruso
C ris Kirkwood called from a
bowling alley in Nebraska. Was the
band taking in a little on-the-road
amusement? "If I could fuckin'
bowl length-wise down the thing, if
I didn't have to go straight down
the little straight parts. I like the
balls, definitely, they're definitely
*cool. They're really big and they
have holes in them and they're dif-
ferent colored and shit. There's a po-
tential for fun in here, but I just
have to stand here and toss the little
thing down.., that doesn't get me
off," explains Kirkwood, Mr.
Humo an Sa ca m lphilosopher
demented Dr. Seuss, really) and
bassist of the Arizona-based trio the
Meat Puppets. He called me from
the Ranch Bowl (a combination
bowling alley/club) in Omaha,
Nebraska, where the band was slated
to perform that night.
The Meat Puppets is arguably
the tightest, most eclectically cool
"alternative" guitar band, and one
of the most intense three-pieces in
the States at present. Their truly
.,original blend of music cannot be
categorized simply as another major
player on the .college circuit. It's
hardcore, countryish stuff, with a
little speed, maybe some early ZZ
Top or some other unexpectedly
commercial uncommercial music,
topped off with bizarre, fantastic,
earth-based imagery. The band takes
the seemingly mundane, enlivens it
with their own personalities, and
>*transforms it into this music - the
best intense concert experience this
side of Metalli-fuckin'-ca.
The Puppets' new album (their
first on a major label after about ten
years on independent SST) is
Forbidden Places. The sound is
bereft and deft, with the band taking
its varied musical el.ements and
separating them on some cuts. This
creates a different, dare I say more
mature, Meat Puppets. But hey, that
doesn't matter. Just ask Cris,
representing the band, which also
includes his brother Curt as
guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter,
and their friend Derrick Bostram, as
Annette Petruso: So why'd you
Cris Kirkwood: Well, we didn't.
We, because, you know, they had
just wasn't as fun.
The opportunity came up to do
something else that was more fun.
And we tried for years to maintain
it as something equitable and cool.
We were only giving. Fuckin' righ-
teous, we gave and gave and tried to
help those guys out as much as we
could by continuing to stay there
and make records with them
through their less than, you know,
perfect times.., it just never came
together. They just kept being too
A P: How is London/PolyGram
'It's like, 'Oh, what are we going to do with all
this CD reissue money? Well, let's hire this
shit that won't sell and we'll put money into
it.' 'Cause the money, you know, just cir-
Culates around within the industry anyways,
so every ti me it ch ang es ha nds, there's a tax
write-off, so... But that's cynicism and
everyone knows that's not the answer'
with all this CD reissue money?
Well, let's hire this shit that won't
sell and we'll put money into it.'
'Cause the money, you know, just
circulates around within the
industry anyways, so every time it
changes hands, there's a tax write-
off, so... But that's cynicism and
everyone knows that's not the
AP: What happens if you're dropped
after a couple albums?
CK: I'll kill myself. I'll go on a
killing spree and then I'll kill my-
self. No, you know, we'll go pawn
our crap off someplace else or... do
indie releases, or whatever. It won't
kill the band....
AP: What about working in a trio?
What works, making them so loud
and strong and powerful like
Cream, Hiisker Du and you guys?
CK: Oh, throw the Minutemen in
there too. They're real powerful.
But it's the barebones thing. What
more do you need? You know, I
think it takes a lot of commu-
nication between the three people...
It's just magic.
What makes good music? I don't
like to look at it too closely. I think
it has a lot to do with trusting the
music to be something special, be-
cause life in itself is way more spe-
cial... It's such a magical thing, ev-
ery waking instant, and a lot of time
it takes tragedy or war or something
to remind people of that. But some
people are able to be there all the
time and, you know, some three
pieces are, and there are a lot of great
bands that have more than three, but
those are some good three .pieces.
You don't see a lot of good three
pieces cause it's hard.., it's just not
See PUPPETS, Page 7
kind of dissolved and stopped being
the same company that it was. At
one point, it was a lot more fun,
kind of back when the people that
owned it had their own band. Even
then, it was a problem, 'cause the
guys who owned it are the guys in
Black Flag, the guitar player espe-
cially, Greg... the problem back
then was Black Flag always got
preferential treatment, and then
once Black Flag broke up, they still
did, and they weren't even around.
So their reissues were getting
preferential treatment and then
fuckin' Greg went psycho 'cause he
didn't have his band anymore and his
other bands didn't work, and before
you knew it, I mean, you're dealing
with somebody's frustration and it
CK: It's real good. Not too bad.
PolyGram's huge, but it's worked
out fine so far. We've got a lot of
money into this thing, and if it
doesn't sell more or the next one
sells more or something, then we'll
get dropped. That's the main differ-
AP: Are you worried about that?
The Bob Mould syndrome or what-
CK: Those guys (HUsker Dii) wrote
the book on it. It's been obvious
that's what the score was for a long
time. I mean, everyone knew it back
then. Once they started signing
alternative bands.., it just became
apparent that alternative was an-
other name for tax write-off. It's
like, 'Oh, what are we going to do
Ennuyant Years is just a pretty postcard
My Father's Glory
dir. Yves Robert
by Michael John Wilson
Just what you need - a gentle,
nostalgic, turn-of-the-century dra-
ma of childhood memories, set in
the lush French countryside. In
France, My Father's Glory is one of
the most popular films of all time.
But to an American audience, this
blockbuster plays like The Wonder
Years in the Countrv Sans Fred
The film is based on the autobi-
ography of the famed play-
wrig ht/writer/director Mar cel
Pagnol, whose novel Jean de
Florette served as the basis for
Claude Berri's wonderful 1986 film
starring Gerard Depardieu. Though
in the same vein as Florette, My
Father's Glory falls far short of the
Both contain stunningly beauti-
ful views of rural French land-
scapes. But it's a beauty we've seen
before, most recently in Louis
Malle's May Fools and Diane
Kurys' C'est La Vie (both of which
spun tales of childhood memory). In
terms of story, My Father's Glory
pales in comparison to all of these
films - beauty alone isn't enough
to carry its mediocre script.
The plot surveys the first eight
ing, which was the problem with re-
cent nostalgic films such as Avalon
and Cinema Paradiso.
Once we reach the sticks, how-
ever, the film flounders. Its title
refers to the most momentous oc-
currence in Provence, when Pagnol's
father (Philippe Caubere) success-
himself held serious
doubts about the
artistic merits of
cinema... MVy Father's
Glory... would have
done little to persuade
him of film's artistic
Blue train: Miles Davis dies at 65
Jazz lost one of its living legends Saturday with the passing of
trumpeter Miles Davis. He was 65. Davis spent his four-decade long
career on the cutting edge of jazz, creating innovative and
controversial styles that have defined the music's evolution. He was
at the center of the be-bop revolution in the late '40s, he defined cool
jazz and he ushere d in the fusion movement of the 70's. Just last
summer, he headlined at the JVC Jazz festival in New York City. Along
the way, Davis collaborated and played with virtually every major jazz
performer. Billy Eckstine and Coleman Hawkins g ave Davis his first
major gigs, while Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Gil Evans, Max Roach
and Thelonius Monk were his peers. In Davis' bands of the 'S0s and
Yves Robert directing, it's a yawn.
Though primarily a playwright,
Pagnol himnself wrote and directed