I think that the Flaming Lips might be my favourite current American band (I have a complicated system of hierarchies) so I was excited for this new one. If you have ever seen the Lips live – like perhaps their free show at Dundas Square last summer – you get that the experience is all about spectacle: confetti, dancing costumed bunnies, front-man Wayne Coyne bouncing over the crowd in his giant hampster ball.
If you listen to their music, however, you know that their albums can be bleak, dense and grim. Sure, some of their live show exuberance translates to their recordings, but there is a definite darkness running throughout their catalogue. Their new album The Terror might be their blackest yet. It is certainly a heavy, dissonant, and at times, challenging listen. If this is your first encounter with the band, maybe check out some of their earlier recordings like At War With the Mystics or Embryonic.
But if you want a better understanding of how the joy found in the Flaming Lips live experience works with the band’s darker tendencies check out The Fearless Freaks. It’s a wonderful documentary that digs into the band’s music and films (like their science fiction Christmas movie!). It also doesn’t avoid some of the sadder life-stuff that the band has faced throughout the years. Coyne comes from a big, rough, colourful family; some of his brothers have had run-ins with the law. Music genius Steven Drozd struggles with his long-time drug addictions. The scene where he recounts his relationship with heroin – while high – is harrowing and difficult to watch.
Still, I believe the movie perfectly captures both sides of the Flaming Lips experience. The band understands that life’s joys and wonders are so often tempered by its struggles.
Wild: from lost to found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Non-Fiction, Autobiography, American, Coming-of-age, Mental Health, Psychology
Wild is the true story of Cheryl Strand’s adventurous journey into the uninhabited wilderness of the Pacific Crest Trail. A daunting endeavour, the PCT is 2,663 mi (4,286 km) long, running the span of the U.S./Mexico and U.S./Canada borders. Strayed takes on the challenge of hiking the trail alone- at the age of 26 – after a devastating sequence of events leaves her feeling utterly confused and hungry for change. The trail, in all its majestic and ruthless beauty, will show Cheryl what it means to be human again and what it takes to go from lost to found.
Strayed is one of those authors that pulls at your heart strings, revealing both the immense wonder and immense sadness of the human experience. Her courageous decision to upheave her life and embark in a new direction is an example we can all learn from. Instead of becoming paralyzed by a series of heart wrenching events, Strayed uses them as fodder to become her best self – to live, love and set herself free.
I always find it inspiring to read true stories of redemption. Stories about people who didn’t let life knock them done. Stories about people who fought their way out of the trenches. Strayed’s story doesn’t disappoint either. I hope you will join her in the pursuit of life’s most elusive and magical thing – happiness.
Borrow Wild: from lost to found to found on the Pacific Crest Trail from your local Vaughan library.
And also from Strayed: Tiny Beautiful Things: advice on love and life from Dear Sugar. Review to follow!
Adult, Young Adult
Non-Fiction, Memoir, American, Mental Health, Psychology
The year is 1967. Eighteen-year-old Susanna Kaysen has just been sent to a pychiatric hospital based on the recommendation of a psychiatrist she only met once.
Susanna finds herself thrown into the world of psychologically ill youth. McLean Hospital is renowned for its famous clientele, from Syliva Plath to Ray Charles. Susanna details her experiences there, sharing the stories of her eccentric fellow patients.
Kaysen provides a unique account of life in a psychiatric ward, echoeing a similar mood to the Ken Kesey classic One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
Girl, Interrupted will resonant with anyone who has been touched with mental illness. Kaysen even includes the authentic documentation from her hospital stay, providing a rare glimpse into the medical system of the 1960s. Kaysen is a profound thinker despite her young years and readers won’t be disappointed with her real life account.
The movie version, also well done, garnered Angelina Jolie an Academy Award in 1999.
Borrow Girl, Interrupted from your local Vaughan library today!