Author Archives: jtsullivan

About jtsullivan

I'm a fiction author, a poet, a magazine editor and a sax player.

Idiocy

I’ve come back to Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot after more than 20 years away. It’s a total pain in the ass to read. I’ve read his other big ones more recently and found them riveting. I suppose my problem with this one is I don’t find Petersburg’s interpersonal intrigues among its 19th-century elites as intriguing as I once did. I find them frustrating, like adolescents. Still, there’s something in The Idiot that makes me keep going, and it’s the Prince, who’s at the center of it all but who’s also the book’s main observer. He’s presented as the pure-of-heart innocent, “the idiot” who’s not really an idiot at all. What’s the most interesting to me now, after all this time away, is the insight into the Prince’s mind’s workings written sometimes across several pages. This is something that influenced me, and stayed with me for a few years after the initial reading, but I guess I’d forgotten. Now, it reappears like an old friend reminding me: You can go in-depth into a character’s consciousness, and it can be more interesting than the physical action around him.

Also I’m reminded of this masterpiece, maybe not as pure of heart:

A Red-Tailed Hawk in Brooklyn

A red-tailed hawk
Mark Bohn of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region – Red-tailed Hawk (from Wikipedia)

Yesterday I spotted a red-tailed hawk perched on a tree near Marcy Playground, Myrtle Ave. in Brooklyn. The bird was a few feet long and at least a foot wide. I thought, from the back, it was an owl, until I looked at its face. I also wondered why an owl would be out in the daylight. I’ve become more interested in the birds around town since being at home for most of the past two years. I had no idea a hawk would reside in my neighborhood. I also thought, at first, it was clutching a rat in its talons. I’m told rat poison can kill the birds inadvertently.

The Vibrojets, Live at Pete’s Candy Store

Last night in Williamsburg, I went to see live music for the first time since March 2020. My friend Tommy Mattioli was in town from Wisconsin to play vibes. The band had about eight gigs scheduled for this week, but all but two were cancelled. Their next is at An Beal Bocht in the Bronx on 10/29. The Vibrojets at LIC Bar was the last show I saw before the pandemic hit, so I was glad to get back into it with them. Pete’s is a vaxx-only space, and the back door to the garden was open. The sound, I have to say, was excellent.

The Savage Detectives Redux

Have you read this one, yet? I’m on my third reading of it since 2016. It’s long, and this is unusual for me to re-read anything. But there’s something about it that’s so compelling. His other books are great, too, but I had a hard time with his other big one, 2666. I made it through the violence of its midsection. I enjoyed The Third Reich, especially, and most of the others. But The Savage Detectives is still my favorite Bolaño. I know many others have said the same.

Some Unruly Sax-Playing

This comes from the most recent Twin Peaks soundtrack, and I think the trio came together as a one-off. I like the sax here from Alex Zhang Huntai of Dirty Beaches and Last Lizard. It goes off and come comes back to a percussive line, then goes off again. The studio effect on it is cool, too. The guitar sound (from David Lynch’s son Riley Lynch) is heavy, and Dean Hurley’s drums keep it all grounded.

New Track on Frayed Moon’s Uprock Film Themes

I’m playing some sax (pitched up an octave) on this Frayed Moon track “Bad Lament” on his new album Uprock Film Themes. I’m grateful to have collaborated on this, especially during the pandemic. Great musician, great guy. Check out the album and all his albums here.