Caught by the River

Shadows & Reflections: Adelle Stripe

Adelle Stripe | 10th December 2018

Shadows and Reflections: the annual collection of postings in which our contributors and friends look back on the events that’ve shaped the past twelve months. From Adelle Stripe:

2018 has been a year of reading women. This wasn’t a conscious decision, more a case of staring at my TBR pile and realising that most of the books that have fired me up recently have had female authors – Wendy Erskine’s exceptional Sweet Home (published by Stinging Fly), Eileen Myles’ Chelsea Girls, On Michael by Margo Jefferson, Gwendoline Riley’s Cold Water, and Hilary Mantel’s murky Beyond Black have all provided literary nourishment. Svetlana Alexievich’s The Unwomanly Face of War is perhaps one of the most harrowing books I have read and provides verbatim accounts of women who fought on the front line during the second world war and had effectively been written out of its official history. There have been moments where I have had to stop reading, put the book down, and take a deep breath to stop the tears from falling. I hate to use the word “necessary” when it comes to describing literature, but if any work deserves the title, it’s this.

In the new year I am looking forward to getting my teeth around Oscar Zeta Acosta’s The Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo (the real-life Dr Gonzo) reissued by Tangerine Press, Luke Turner’s Out of the Woods, and Niven Govinden’s This Brutal House.

During the summer months I spent some time working in Newcastle, and made a concerted effort to visit Side Gallery, which always has the most exquisite photographic displays. Sammy Baloji’s Suturing the City: Living Together in Congo’s Urban Worlds was a highlight, and mapped 20th century architecture in Kinshasa, and the complexities of living in a postcolonial city. Another exhibition of note was Bomberg at the Laing Art Gallery which explored his early contribution to pre-war British modernism, his unhappy role as a commissioned war artist in both world wars, his masterly landscapes in Jerusalem and Spain in the 1920s and 30s, and penetrating self-portraits in the final year of his life.

I have been exposing my delicate ears to soundsystems since 1991, and it is finally starting to have an effect. Every live show I see these days is heard through earplugs, which are protecting the last shred of my hearing from further damage. It’s no fun living with tinnitus (as many a musician will confirm) but even playing records at #5 is enough to trigger the ringing. This year I have enjoyed the following records at “granny” volume – it’s mostly spiritual jazz as middle-age rears its head: Alice Coltrane’s Journey in Satchidananda, Pharoah Sanders’ Harvest Time, and Panthalassa by Miles Davis. As far as contemporary records go I have devoured Pinned by C.A.R., BC Camplight’s I’m Desperate, and an honourable mention for Karaoke for One by Insecure Men – who’d have thought Saul Adamczweski’s cover of Peter Andre’s Mysterious Girl could bring so much joy?