book review: The Tenth Muse

The Tenth Muse by Catherine Chung. Ecco| June 2019| 304 pages | $26.99| ISBN: 978-0-06-257406-0

RATING: *****/5*

–review by Amy Steele

“A mathematical proof is absolute once it has been written and verified: if the internal logic of a proof holds, it is considered unassailable and true. The underlying structure of my family was something I’d never questioned. It had formed the foundation of my life. When it suddenly dissolved, I was unmoored. It had never occurred to me to question my mother’s love for me, or our relationship to each other. I had believed these things were absolute.”

Who would expect a novel about a young math prodigy working on the Riemann hypothesis and uncovering her family history in the process to be so riveting? The Tenth Muse is the best novel I’ve read this year. It’s an engrossing work of historical fiction with gorgeous writing, unforgettable characters and events. It’s a sprawling page-turner set in academia.

Katherine always loved problem-solving and equations and that’s what drew her to math: “Math had always seemed miraculous to me because of the beauty it revealed underlying nature, because of the deep sense of rightness that came over me when I understood something all the way through, as if for a moment I’d merged with the grace I only ever caught glimpses of.” Katherine is a brilliant mathematician working in a male-dominated field. During college and graduate school, her classmates remind her that there are few noted female mathematicians throughout history, notably Emily Noether and Sofia Kovalevskaya. She recalls: “But by then I was resigned to these jokes, to the constant reminder that I was an anomaly, an outsider, a kind of freak. I was aware that even if I contributed to our field, my name would also become a punch line. I didn’t know how to resist, except to make clear that I wasn’t trying to fit in, that I knew I was different and to highlight that difference to make it clear.”

I especially loved all the scenes focusing on Katherine’s academic studies. Reading about books, academia, college and university settings greatly appeal to me. Author Catherine Chung provides plenty of real-life math references and establishes a clear sense of Katherine’s struggles as well as her inspiration. Being one of the few women in a male-dominated field, Katherine is constantly questioned, undermined and often taken advantage of by her colleagues. She has several pivotal love affairs, one with a professor during graduate school.

The novel ultimately centers on Katherine’s identity and I can’t reveal too much. It gloriously unfolds. When Katherine decides to tackle the Riemann hypothesis and it leads her to discover her family story and its connection in World World II. Her Chinese immigrant mother remained an enigma to Katherine throughout her life. Living in Michigan and married to Katherine’s white father, she faced extreme prejudices in post-WWII America. “I heard her called a dirty Jap once, and China Doll, and Red China, and while I flushed red with shame, my mother never so much as flinched at the slurs, so that I was never sure that she heard them.” When Katherine travels to Germany to study abroad, she discovers some shocking information about her family connected to both mathematics and WWII. Don’t think you need to be a math whiz for this book to make sense. There’s so much beauty and bravery within these pages.

 

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Ecco.

 

, , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

new music: Lloyd Cole

Lloyd

here’s a new video for the single “Violins” from Lloyd Cole’s upcoming album Guesswork, out July 26, 2019. When he was looking for ideas for a video, Lloyd Cole found The End of Civilisation by Douglas Gordon. Lloyd says: “It’s perfect for the song. What could be worse than burning a grand piano and filming it?.” Lloyd said: “One of the glorious things about pop is that you have this wonderful uplifting noise which can actually address some fairly challenging issues and sometimes can do so quite elegantly.” He continues, “You realize over time that however much you second-guess yourself or try and pull yourself in whatever direction, it’s still you. If you have a voice, you can’t un-voice yourself.”

“I might just stop breathing
I might just stop keeping time
With the violins
Or I might come out swinging
And what if I sang out of key
With the violins?”
Violins by Lloyd Cole

 

predominantly an electronic album and recorded mostly in his studio in Massachusetts, Lloyd collaborated with three other musicians on Guesswork, including his two former Commotions’ bandmates – guitarist Neil Clark and keyboard player Blair Cowan.

Lloyd Cole discography: ‘Lloyd Cole’ (’90), ‘Don’t Get Weird On Me Babe’ (’91), ‘Bad Vibes’ (’93), ‘Love Story’ (95), ‘Plastic Wood’ (’01), ‘Music In A Foreign Language’ (’03), ‘Anti Depressant’ (’06), ‘Broken Record’ (’10), ‘Standards’ (’13)

 

Leave a comment

new album and tour dates: Chelsea Wolfe

Chelsea Wolfe will release a new album Birth of Violence on September 13, 2019. She’s one of favorite musicians. She writes amazingly beautiful, meaningful, dark and gorgeous songs. She recorded the album in solitude at her home in Northern California. The singer-songwriter said: “I’ve been in a state of constant motion for the past eight years or so; touring, moving, playing new stages, exploring new places and meeting new people-an incredible time of learning and growing as a musician and performer. But after awhile, I was beginning to lose a part of myself. I needed to take some time away from the road to get my head straight, to learn to take better care of myself, and to write and record as much as I can while I have ‘Mercury in my hands,’ as a wise friend put it.”

Catch Chelsea Wolfe on her acoustic tour this fall in support of the album. Dates listed below.

album track listing:
1 – The Mother Road
2 – American Darkness
3 – Birth of Violence
4 – Deranged for Rock & Roll
5 – Be All Things
6 – Erde
7 – When Anger Turns to Honey
8 – Dirt Universe
9 – Little Grave
10 – Preface to a Dream Play
11 – Highway

Chelsea Wolfe Acoustic Tour:

08/31: Pasadena, CA – Pasadena Daydream Festival * (Non Acoustic Set)
10/18: San Diego, CA – Observatory North Park
10/19: Phoenix, AZ – Crescent Ballroom
10/21: Salt Lake City, UT – Metro Music Hall
10/22: Estes Park, CO – Stanley Hotel
10/24: Chicago, IL – Metro
10/25: Detroit, MI – Senate Theater
10/26: Toronto, ONT – Queen Elizabeth Theatre
10/27: Montreal, QC – Le National
10/29: Boston, MA – Royale
10/31: Philadelphia, PA – Union Transfer
11/01: New York, NY – Brooklyn Steel
11/03: Washington, DC – 9:30 Club
11/04: Charlotte, NC – McGlohon Theater
11/05: Atlanta, GA – Terminal West
11/06: Nashville, TN – Mercy Lounge
11/08: Dallas, TX – Texas Theatre
11/09: Austin, TX – Levitation
11/10: Houston, TX – White Oak Music Hall
11/12: Santa Fe, NM – Meow Wolf
11/13: Tucson, AZ – Club Congress
11/15: Los Angeles, CA – The Palace Theatre
11/16: San Francisco, CA – Regency Ballroom
11/18: Portland, OR – Wonder Ballroom
11/20: Seattle, WA – The Showbox
11/21: Vancouver, BC – Vogue Theatre

* All dates with special guest Ioanna Gika except 8/31

, , , , , ,

Leave a comment

book review: The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone

RATING: ****/5*

Although I read this back in March, The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone makes the ideal summer read with its dreamy, cinematic imagery. It reminds me of Jane Campion’s Picnic at Hanging Rock. It’s part mystery and part coming-of-age story.

Raised by religious, strict parents, the three Apfel sisters disappear one summer in Australia in 1992—“We lost all three girls that summer. Let them slip away like the words of some half-remembered song, and when one came back, she wasn’t the one we were trying to recall to begin with.” Were they killed or did they run away? Tikka Malloy was 11 years old in 1992. She and her sister were best friends with the Van Apfel sisters. Tikka returns home because her sister has been diagnosed with cancer. The never-solved disappearance of Ruth, Hannah and Cordelia Van Apfel 20 years ago still haunts Tikka and her sister.

This area of Australia seems one in which children got easily get lost—“Back in those days the valley had only been developed in pockets. It was dissected by a cutting where a skinny, two-lane road wound down and around and across the river and then slithered out again, but the real excavation world had been done long ago by something much more primitive than us. The valley was deep and wide. Trees covered both walls. Spindly, stunted she-oaks spewed from the basin, swallowing the sunlight and smothering the tide with their needles. Higher up there were paperbacks, and tea trees with their camphorous lemon smell. Then hairpin banksias, river dogroses and gums of every kind—woolybutts, blackbutts, bogongs, blue mallets, swamp mallets and craven grey boxes, right up to the anemic angophoras that stood twisted and mangled all along the ridge line.”

Tikka recalls that summer and the sisters. The Van Apfel family has plenty of dark secrets. Maybe these memories of this friendship and growing up will mean something now to adult Tikka that she’d never recognized as a child. The father seems to have most difficulty controlling middle-sister Cordelia, the most beautiful of the sisters and the most independent. That summer, Cordelia falls out of a tree and breaks her arm. That summer, a new male teacher, named Mr. Avery, arrives at their school. He’s the only male teacher. When Cordelia sleepwalks one night, Mr. Avery brings her back home. She’s only wearing her swimming outfit. Cordelia often talks about getting away from her father. She has a plan to leave.

Then there’s Mr. Van Apfel and his suspicious behavior. He seemed to have the most problems with Cordelia. He cruelly killed her pet mice by pouring bleach on them. Another time, when Cordelia was bathing, Mr. Van Apfel held her head under water “to cast away all her sins. Swimming costume sins. Sleepwalking sins. (Cold-car-engines-in-red-hatchbacks sins.) He was careful to keep her cast arm dry, and it protruded like a plaster periscope. While the rest of her shameful body was submerged and washed clean. Baptism among the bath salts and bubbles.” There’s this particularly creepy memory. On the last day of school, Mr. Van Apfel tells Tikka that Cordelia and Ruth aren’t feeling well and won’t be going. She notices that the seats are folded down in the back of the car and she sees “three long black bags zipped securely to the top.” Chills.

Nuanced and more of a character study and a contemplation on memory and experience, it’s quite the page-turner.

–review by Amy Steele

 

I received this book for review from Algonquin.

 

 

, , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

new music: Underworld

credit: Rob Baker Ashton

“Border Country” is the second collaboration with friend of Underworld and DRIFT community member Ø [Phase]. It’s the final part of DRIFT Episode 4 and will be available on all DSPs July 4. Their upcoming album Drift Songs will be out October 25, 2019. It will be Underworld’s first album release since 2016’s Grammy nominated LP Barbara, Barbara we face a shining future.

Rick Smith said: “My relationship with Ashley a.k.a Ø [PHASE] began in Autumn 2017 when I first heard his Submerged Metropolitan release.. it’s not an exaggeration to say I immediately fell in love with his music. There was a sense of journey and mystery and magic to what I heard. Having worked with him for a little while we know he brings that same magic to the table every time, informed by his deep passion and understanding of the lineage of Techno and a thirst to learn and grow. A lovely talented man.” 

 

, , , ,

Leave a comment

new music and tour dates: K. Flay

Grammy-nominated K. Flay released a new single– “Sister”– with a dark driving beat and uplifting lyrics. It’s from her upcoming album Solutions which is out July 12, 2019. Her music combines analog synths with live bass and guitar, infusing pop, rock, hip-hop, and electronica.

Here’s what the Illinois native had to say about sisterhood: “Being a sister isn’t about gender or DNA. It’s about unselfconscious love. About saying I’M HERE, I LOVE YOU, IT’S OK TO BE YOURSELF, and hearing those words echoed back. Not because you asked for them, but because they’re true. Girls are sisters and boys are sisters. Dads are sisters to their sons. Mothers sisters to their mothers too. I’ve come to understand that family is created. Family is a verb. It’s something you build day by day, sometimes in the hot sun and sometimes when everything is going wrong.”

 

About the album title, Flay said: “The solution to almost every problem is usually really simple. For me, it’s so basic: staying connected to the people I love, taking care of myself the way I’d want my friends to take care of themselves, and doing things I know are going to make me happy – not what social media or strangers or society tells me. So many of my past records were about problems. Right now I’m in a place where I’m looking for some light. Balance is important. Life doesn’t have to be chaotic in order to be meaningful.”

NORTH AMERICAN TOUR DATES
6/7 – Las Vegas, NV – The Cosmopolitan
6/10 – Indianapolis, IN – The Vogue
6/12 – Cincinnati, OH – Bogart’s
6/14 – Manchester, TN – Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival
6/15 – New Orleans, LA – Howlin’ Wolf
6/16 – Atlanta, GA – Variety Playhouse
6/29 – West Valley City, UT – LOVELOUD Festival
8/2 – West Allis, WI – Wisconsin State Fair
8/3 – Long Beach, CA – Alt 98.7 Summer Camp
8/24 – Cheyenne, WY – Edge Fest
9/3 – Phoenix, AZ – Marquee
9/5 – San Diego, CA – Observatory North Park
9/7 – Oakland, CA – The Fox
9/9 – Vancouver, BC – The Commodore
9/11 – Seattle, WA – SODO
9/13 – Portland, OR – Crystal Ballroom
9/14 – Missoula, MT – The Wilma
9/17 – Minneapolis, MN – First Ave
9/19 – Chicago, IL – The Riviera Theatre
9/20 – Detroit, MI – The Crofoot
9/21 – Buffalo, NY – Town Ballroom
9/22 – Toronto, ON – Phoenix
9/24 – Brooklyn, NY – Brooklyn Steel
9/25 – Boston, MA – Royale
9/26 – Philadelphia, PA – TLA
9/29 – Washington, DC – 930 Club
9/30 – Charlotte, NC – The Fillmore
10/2 – Nashville, TN – Marathon
10/4-6 – Austin City Limits
10/11-13 – Austin City Limits
10/12 – Denver, CO – The Fillmore

, , , , ,

Leave a comment

book review: I Guess I’ll Write It Down

I Guess I’ll Write It Down by Beth Evans. William Morrow| June 11, 2019 | $14.99| ISBN: 9780062796134

RATING: 4.5/5*

If you follow Beth Evans on Instagram, you know how relatable and supportive her comics can be. Social media can be difficult but it can also provide a particular sense of community, a place to realize that you’re not alone in your struggles. Beth’s comics allow empathy and encouragement. She’s open about her mental health especially dealing with anxiety which can be scary and frustrating and debilitating for many. It’s also especially lonely to be side-lined by anxiety. Fans of Beth’s work will particularly appreciate this journal. This journal contains 28 never-before-seen cartoons which will inspire people to share their thoughts and desires. Writing can be therapeutic and many people understand the importance of writing down our emotions. Carry around this compact and pretty journal or keep it in a bedside drawer to write down all the feelings when you need to reflect or keep a record of events. Beth Evans has more than 280, 000 followers on Instagram. Her comics help people feel a bit less alone and a bit less anxious. She’s the author of I Didn’t Really Think This Through.

 

–review by Amy Steele

 

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from William Morrow.

 

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

, , , , ,

Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: