Thursday, July 2, 2009

David Berman, please go back to poetry or music

In January I lamented the break up of the Silver Jews, David Berman's sad core rock outfit while at the same time expressing a hope that Berman would put out another book. Well, I got my wish. Kind of. He's putting another book out, only it isn't a book of poetry. The Portable February is out now via Drag City.

As Pitchfork describes it, "The slim volume collects Berman's single-panel cartoons/study-hall doodles, and it presents them essentially without any sort of context, one freehand absurdity after another." They also call it "absolutely ridiculous." They provide a sample of the cartoons from the book, including the one I have included here.

My feelings about this project can best be summed up via a discussion on my Facebook page between my sister Laura and Austin musician Nick Hennies:
Laura: Looks like [Berman's] not as good at cartoons as he is at poetry...
Nick: But he's famous... that means he's good at everything, right? No reason we shouldn't publish/release every single little thing he does for the rest of his life.
Laura: I think Pitchfork is being too kind calling the cartoons “absolutely ridiculous.” I mean, if I was hanging out at his house and saw one of these cartoons on like, a doodle pad next to his phone, I wouldn’t pick it up and say, “Dave, did you draw this? This is absolutely ridiculous.” Because if you like to doodle when you’re on the phone, that’s fine! My Grandma Bea used to do it. But now that he’s put them in a book and is actually expecting people to pay real cash money for them, calling them absolutely ridiculous is just too mild.
Nick: I remember seeing an issue of Arthur (I think it was Arthur, anyway) with a bunch of Berman drawings from a few years back and thinking "Nobody would be publishing these if they weren't drawn by David Berman." Thank god there's a whole book now. :P

I am still holding out hope for the poems.