89. Aimee Mann

What a great show she put on tonight. And I can’t explain it, but how is it that she can string otherwise ordinary phrases together in such a way that just rips your guts out (in a good way)?

Two things made the night even better than I expected:

1. Her latest CD, The Forgotten Arm, is kind of a concept album, telling the tragic story of doomed lovers. I already knew that part. What made this show extra cool was the way she provided context for the songs that make up the CD. I mean the CD stands up fine on its own but hearing her fill in some of the fuzzy details really took the concert experience to another level (as well as the CD which I’m looking forward to reviewing).

2. I didn’t think she’d do it but she did. She went WAY back and sang a very cool version of the song that put her on the map, “Voices Carry.” Completely unexpected. And though it doesn’t stand up to the strength of her later work, it’s still fun to visit an old friend.

Going back to point number one, what is it about story that’s so important to us as humans? You’d think that after centuries of storytelling that we’d have tired of it by now but it’s as vital and important as ever. Compounding this mystery is the fact that there are only a handful of stories that get repeated over and over again – only the setting and the characters really change. For example, you have the guy-meets-girl, guy-looses-girl story, you have the man-overcoming-hardship story, you have the journey story, and you have the good-versus-evil story. That’s kind of it isn’t it? I mean just about every story ever told can fit into one or more of those conventions.

But we still love stories. Why is that? And what is it we look for in new stories?

I can only speak for myself, but one of the things that I look for is new ways of using language – new and surprising metaphors and similes are always a plus. And I’m looking for a world that I recognize. I know some people love fantasy because of the way it allows them to escape into another world, but as for myself, I have a hard enough time figuring out this world and so I always appreciate it when an author paints a picture of the world I live in in a way that I can understand because that makes the world a more manageable place – it puts the chaos of change into context (oooh, alliteration!).

I’m not one for plot twists or character studies. I don’t like mysteries and I don’t like fantasy (although I do love Barry Yourgrau, but that’s more fancy or whimsy than fantasy, although I can see how one might put him into that category). I don’t like history. I don’t like biographies, but I do enjoy memoirs (Donald Miller, Anne Lamott, Kathleen Norris, and Chuck Klosterman). Oh and even though I have a BA in English Literature, I don’t like the classics. And in general, poetry just twists my brain up in knots. I like listening to recited poetry, but reading it (or even reading it aloud to myself) makes my head spin.

Oh (and now for something completely different), I also like reading super geeky books about theoretical physics and cosmology – Brian Greene is good but Michio Kaku is more accessible. Now, I don’t understand a lot of what they’re talking about but I love how even the little that I do grasp completely blows apart my view of reality and makes me all the more amazed at the wonder of God’s creation (see blog 66). And I’ve also enjoyed the work of Dr. Oliver Sacks.

Anyway, I’m not sure how I went from writing about an Aimee Mann concert to listing my reading habits, but such is my blog.

Until next time…

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