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Unstrung: Rants and Stories of a Noise Guitarist

Unstrung: Rants and Stories of a Noise Guitarist

by Marc Ribot


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Iconoclastic guitar player Marc Ribot offers up essays and stories in this darkly funny and subversive debut collection.

"Ribot is an all-American original, and this collection provides plenty of insight into his fascinating mind."
Kirkus Reviews

"Unstrung has all the honesty, original angles, beauty, and clangor found in Marc Ribot’s playing. His compassionate writing about Frantz Casseus gives a human face to his calls for artists’ rights. Like life itself, this book is bloody, funny, and bloody funny."
Elvis Costello, musician

"An insightful tour through the razor-sharp mind of one of the world's most original and influential guitar masters. Ribot's acerbic wit, self-deprecating humor, and profoundly vexing love-hate relationship with all things guitar make for a fun and stimulating read."
John Zorn, musician

"Ribot writes with great care for words, for sounds...A good writer, like a good musician, and Ribot is both, needs to know what they're composing to be able to understand it, maybe even do it better the next time. His stories are moving and compassionate...revelatory, honest, and insightful..."
Lynne Tillman, from the Introduction

"In the beginning, we may have thought Marc Ribot was a full-time Lower East Side tenants rights activist who moonlit as an ubiquitous downtown noise guitarist. Now we come to find out he's a phenomenal essay writer who has the nerve to be one of our loudest and most beloved electric jazz improvisers...[Ribot] composes essays about music and life of sublime wit, probity, and severe self-reckoning..."
Greg Tate, author of Everything But the Burden: What White People Are Taking from Black Culture

Throughout his genre-defying career as one of the most innovative musicians of our time, iconoclastic guitar player Marc Ribot has consistently defied expectation at every turn. Here, in his first collection of writing, we see that same uncompromising sensibility at work as he playfully interrogates our assumptions about music, life, and death. Through essays, short stories, and the occasional unfilmable film "mistreatment" that showcase the sheer range of his voice, Unstrung captures an artist whose versatility on the page rivals his dexterity onstage.

In the first section of the book, "Lies and Distortion," Ribot turns his attention to his instrument—"my relation to the guitar is one of struggle; I'm constantly forcing it to be something else"—and reflects on his influences (and friends) like Robert Quine (the Voidoids) and producer Hal Willner (Saturday Night Live), while delivering an impassioned plea on behalf of artists' rights. Elsewhere, we glimpse fragments of Ribot's life as a traveling musician—he captures both the monotony of touring as well as small moments of beauty and despair on the road. In the heart of the collection, "Sorry, We're Experiencing Technical Difficulties," Ribot offers wickedly humorous short stories that synthesize the best elements of the Russian absurdist tradition with the imaginative heft of George Saunders. Taken together, these stories and essays cement Ribot's position as one of the most dynamic and creative voices of our time.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781617759307
Publisher: Akashic Books
Publication date: 08/03/2021
Pages: 226
Sales rank: 415,588
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Marc Ribot has released twenty-five albums under his own name over a forty-year career, exploring everything from the pioneering jazz of Albert Ayler to the Cuban son of Arsenio Rodríguez. Rolling Stone points out that "Ribot helped Tom Waits refine a new, weird Americana on 1985's Rain Dogs, and since then he's become the go-to guitar guy for all kinds of roots-music adventurers: Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Elvis Costello, John Mellencamp." Additional recording credits include Neko Case, Diana Krall, Elton John/Leon Russell’s The Union, Solomon Burke, John Lurie’s Lounge Lizards, Marianne Faithfull, Joe Henry, Allen Toussaint, Medeski, Martin & Wood, Caetano Veloso, Allen Ginsberg, Madeleine Peyroux, Norah Jones, the Black Keys, and many others. Ribot works regularly with GRAMMY Award–winning producer T Bone Burnett and New York composer John Zorn. He has also performed on numerous film scores such as Walk the Line, The Kids Are All Right, and The Departed.

Table of Contents

Introduction Lynne Tillman 9

Part I Lies and Distortion

Lies and Distortion 15

Guitars 23

Frantz Casseus 25

Horn Section 35

Robert Quine 41

The Attack on Artists' Rights … and Me 45

Maybe There's Something There: Three Short Riffs on Derek Bailey 51

World Music: Time and Money 57

Still Things That Move: The Poetry of Henry Grimes 71

Songs of Resistance 77

Playing Hal Winner Home 81

Part II Everybody's A Winner

We Tell Children the Cow Says Moo 87

A Portrait of the Poet as a Young Asshole 91

I Watched from My Room as the Bicyclist Was Run Down 97

Everybody's a Winner 99

Pale Blue Eyes 103

It Was Almost Like Paris 107

O Say Can You See 109

The Lido of Something, Near Ravenna 115

Kaddish for Joan 117

The Twenty-Three-Day Tour 123

Putting Your Arms around a Memory 127

Today I Did Something Remarkable 137

Part III Film (MIS)Treatments

Party Boat [unfilmable treatment #1] 143

Three-Star Desperadoes (or, Biting the Hand) 145

Hungry: A Thirty-Minute Real-Time One-Take Disaster Film 155

Dialogue of the Sushi Eaters 157

Death in Venus 161

The Club-Date Musician (or, Saturday Night Nausea) 163

Whale Watching [unfilmable treatment #17] 167

Shark Watching: A Series [unfilmable treatments #18-?] 169

Bates Airbnb 171

Part IV Sorry, We're Experiencing Technical Difficulties

The Man Who Didn't Know How [tech failure #1] 175

Once There Was a Man Named Harry Who Couldn't Tie His Shoelaces 177

The Man with the Fun Job 183

Botox [tech failure #2] 191

The Boy Who Grafted Himself to a Tree 193

For Mauritzio 197

Wilderness [tech failure #3] 201

Bird 203

Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone 205

The Activist (on Twistin' Time Is Here) 207

IRL 211

Acknowledgments 215

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