05 12 / 2013
I like the newest Pearl Jam single. I realize it’s a bit…cheesy or overly emotional. Yet I feel like I’m in a time of my life where a song like Sirens means something to me that it would not when I was 23.
It got me thinking about criticism, literary and all other sorts. We come to the art we want to discount at an exact point in time. Even later in life that same thing will mean something entirely different to us. So the power of the critic should always be held under that same light—that this is something that is meaningful or non-important to a particular person at a particular point in time. The critic, later aged and with more life experience, may think this thing more or less meaningful.
I read the Pitchfork review of Sirens. I don’t think that song is meant for that reviewer. And I think that person told the truth and did something important. But I don’t think their review reflects my life.
Pearl Jam can disband for all I care. I’m not here to defend a band that successful. But I think it’s important that the things you love, or what you take joy in—if it is something true, good and lovely, should not be varnished by others, professional or personal. I’m going to go eat some fritos. Thanks.
02 9 / 2013
When I read a non-fiction book I’m usually looking for a few things: one, does the tale center on a serious conflict? Two, is its breadth both on the macro and the micro level—I enjoy reading about how the small and the large aspects of society interact and touch, and thirdly I’m looking for humor, which from my experience is one of the hardest styles to implement in print. If a book has one of these, it’s usually something I’ll enjoy, but if it has all three I’m going to make sure to write about it here.
The Ballad of the Whiskey Robber pulled the hat trick for me. I was carousing the local Half Priced books bio section and was intrigued by the cartoon representation of the main character, Atilla Ambrus. I’m pretty easy that way—cartoons make me buy things. It was also on the cheap, three bucks, which even current Kindle Price is still up around 11 dollars, so it was a steal.
The Ballad of the Whiskey Robber involves a real life folk hero, a Hungarian born to a totalitarian Romania, as a child turned juvenile prisoner, and then refugee whose tale which takes place in recently democratized Hungary and is for all purposes: practically unbelievable.
Hungary, a country that had in the early nineties shrugged off the 50+ year Communist rule, was in a bit of a law enforcement vacuum right after the change. The criminals went from being government officials to the ones now vying for power in a free market system. Most banks did not even have recording devices. The police force was laughable, a mockery, and its men were basically paid for the mileage only. And that’s where Atilla stepped in and eventually caught the attention of the world.
He escaped the totalitarian Romania, where he was born and raised, but where his Hungarian blood and his criminal record caused him to flee the country. I don’t want to spoil anything here, of course, but just the escape from an oppressive country to a newly democratic Hungary is worth a book alone. But that’s just the prelude.
Atilla gets a job with a semi-pro hockey team, as a third string goalie. Being a third string goalie in such an establishment means you’re the janitor. And Atilla was a good janitor. But that’s before he turned to robbing banks.
The next six years of his life catapulted this no-talent hockey player to Robin Hood status: and the stories of the money taken, the care spent in making sure no one got hurt during the robberies, and the Budapest police force, which basically had to make up their police procedure as they went, makes for a great read. It’s got sports, crime, and a goofy front-man who loves life but who also loves things that destroy him.