01 May 2009

I ended up in search of ordinary things, like how can a wave possibly be

Untitled (Wal-Mart Parking Lot), Radford, VA

I've been really enjoying Bill Callahan's newest album, Sometimes I Wish I Were An Eagle. The opening track, "Jim Cain," is ostensibly about James Cain, author of The Postman Always Rings Twice, but it certainly reflects Callahan's own artistic trajectory. The song also makes me think of "Binx" Bolling, the protagonist of Percy's The Moviegoer, a novel I've been re-reading recently with my American Lit. class. Binx's "search" is for ordinary things, concrete reality, not the abstract truth of science or, often, religion; and the pleasure he takes in the mystery of ordinary things seems similar to photographers like Eggleston or Friedlander.

To me, Callahan's album seems to be dealing with similar issues--a skepticism toward the schemes and concepts we use to prop our lives up, and an acknowledgement that that light and dark (and self/world) is a continuum, not a series of either/or moments. The final song on the album, "Faith/Void," recalls "Permanent Smile" from Callahan's 2000 album Dongs of Sevotion, but whereas "Permanent Smile" dealt with death ("Oh God, by being quiet, I hope to alleviate my death. Oh God, by being still, I hope to lighten your load"), "Faith/Void" seems like an enjoinder to move beyond preoccupations with God and death and dwell attentively in mystery.

Jim Cain

I started out in search of ordinary things
how much of a tree bends in the wind
I started telling the story without knowing the end.

I used to be darker, then I got lighter, then I got dark again.
Something too big to be seen was passing over and over me.
Well it seemed like a routine case at first,
with the death of the shadow came a lightness of verse,
but the darkest of nights, in truth, still dazzles
and I work myself until I'm frazzled.

I ended up in search of ordinary things
like how can a wave possibly be?
I started running, when the concrete turned to sand.
I started running, when things didn't pan out as planned.

In case things go poorly and I not return,
remember the good things I done.
In case things go poorly and I not return,
remember the good things I done.

Or done me in.

1 comment:

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